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Review of “The Rise of the Scholarly Gig Economy and Fall of Community Development” – Nurulain Wolhuter

In a recent article in Muslim Matters, Shaykh Osman Umarji highlights the plight of many scholars of sacred knowledge who give up their careers and livelihoods to study abroad and subsequently return to the West to teach the Muslim community. Instead of being honored and respected for their sacrifices, they face criticism and complaints. Instead of being compensated generously for their services, most of them do not receive a living wage. They are not able to provide sufficiently for themselves and their families, many living in cramped one-bedroomed apartments. As a result, many of them are forced to forsake their teaching and service to the community. They retrain, take up secular work, or brand themselves as the providers of specialist services to the community, usually in exchange for a considerable fee. So spiritual growth and religious knowledge become the domain of the elite of the community, and the poorer members are marginalised.

Muslims Should Rethink the Value of a Religious Scholar

Shaykh Osman takes the view that we must “rethink the value of a religious scholar in our community as an investment, not a charity cause”. Scholars should be regarded as professionals who bring specialist skills to their positions. They should be paid a market-related wage that takes account of their levels of education and experience, as well as differences in the cost of living in different areas. They should also be given medical insurance and retirement plans. In addition, consideration should be given to the establishment of a scholars’ union that provides guidelines for remuneration.

He concludes by pointing to the spiritual and intellectual crisis that is besetting the Western Muslim community, with the incursion of un-Islamic world-views, and emphasizes the importance of sound scholars. If the community is not willing to value its scholars by paying them a reasonable wage, this crisis will cement into a permanent dearth of sacred knowledge.

Commendable Work By Muslim Matters

Muslim Matters is to be commended for highlighting one of the most fundamental challenges facing the contemporary Muslim community in the West. The community’s lack of support for its scholars, at an individual level, is replicated by its lack of support for organisations and initiatives that seek to raise funds to support such scholars. The Islamic Scholars Fund at SeekersGuidance, and many other organisations like it, struggle to raise funds for their scholars precisely because they are not valued and respected. A change of attitude is necessary to protect the community from sliding into the secularism and materialism that is the fabric of the broader American society, and which is at odds with the Islamic way of life. May Allah Most High transform all our hearts and open our hands this Ramadan to give generously to those without whom the Muslim community cannot continue to exist.

 

To read the Muslim Matters article, click here.


The Islamic Scholars Fund at SeekersGuidance aims to create an infrastructure to support the scholars’ efforts to attend to the community’s pressing needs: by researching, writing, teaching, and responding to questions. Please take a moment of your time this Ramadan to make a generous contribution to the Zakat fund at SeekersGuidance.com/donate. Whatever you give is worthy. As God reminds us in the Qur’anic verse, “…whatever good you may spend will be repaid unto you in full, and you shall not be wronged” (Qur’an, 2:272).


 

The SeekersGuidance Steps Curriculum Explained

The SeekersGuidance Steps Curriculum allows you to navigate your journey from an absolute beginner in the Islamic sciences to scholarship and mastery.

The curriculum is modelled on the traditional method of teaching the Islamic sciences in large mosques, as Imam As-Shafi did in Cairo, Imam Abu Hanifa in Kufa, and other great scholars all over the Muslim world.
Students who attended these classes were arranged into a small inner circle of close and serious students,and much larger outer circles of less serious students, who flocked from all over the city, often even from all of the world, to listen to the great scholars.

The teacher interacted with the two circles in different ways. The inner circle was allowed to ask questions. The outer circles were only sometimes allowed to ask questions during class, and sometimes not allowed to ask any questions at all, but would be reminded of Allah by listening to a great teacher. Everyone had the opportunity to benefit from great scholars like Imam al-Shafi’i or Imam Abu Hanifa. The inner circle were nurtured and mentored towards scholarship; the outer circles were guided towards veneration of the divine command.

At the SeekersHub Islamic Seminary, our students are divided into three circles.

The first, outermost circle, are the beginner students, who listen to our teachers’ lessons for religious benefit and for the spiritual blessing (barakah) of being connected to gatherings of sacred knowledge.
The second, middle circle, are the intermediate students. Intermediate students are fewer in number than the beginner students. They have demonstrated a commitment to studying sacred knowledge, memorising, reviewing, and sitting exams. They can thus benefit from our teachers in a way that beginner students cannot, and interact with them at a closer level than the beginner students.
Finally, there is the third, inner circle of advanced students who have demonstrated an even higher level of commitment to studying sacred knowledge, and are on their way to scholarship and mastery of the Islamic sciences.  
These three kinds of students work their way through our five-step curriculum of Islamic sciences and our Arabic curriculum.
All students begin with Step One, as well as some basic Arabic courses, as beginner students.
Step 1 consists of eight courses that comprise of the personally essential knowledge that every Muslim must know. The basic Arabic courses teach basic Arabic reading proficiency, how to make a simple sentence, and some simple Arabic vocabulary. 
When they successfully complete all of these courses, they commit themselves to praying all five of their daily prayers on time, and earn the Essentials certificate.
Once they earn this certificate, students can choose to become intermediate students by completing a comprehensive exam that tests them on their Step One courses, as well as their knowledge of the life of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), of the proper recitation of the Qur’an, and of the memorisation of some short Qur’anic suras.
Going into Step Two, we now have two circles of students: beginner students and intermediate students. There are no advanced students yet.
These two circles of students move forward by completing Step Two along with the SeekersHub Arabic program. (Arabic is not a prerequisite for Step One or Step Two, but it is for Step Three and Step Four).
Beginner students compose the outer circles of learning; intermediate students compose the inner circle. Both complete the 15 courses in Step Two, one in each of the Islamic sciences. The goal of Step Two is to introduce students to each of the Islamic sciences using translations of traditional mutun–concise teaching texts that have been used for centuries to take students of sacred knowledge step-by-step through their study of the Islamic sciences. As they complete these courses,
  • They learn the technical terms of each Islamic science.
  • They learn the key questions of each Islamic science.
  • They learn about the historical development of each Islamic science.
  • They learn about important contemporary issues tackled by that science today
The outer circle of beginner students listen to the lessons, complete carefully designed automated assessments, and ask questions.
The inner circle of intermediate students receive closer personal attention, collaborating with their teachers as they complete case-studies in order to understand the course material at a higher level. If these intermediate students successfully complete Step Two and the SeekersGuidance Arabic program and make a commitment to a higher level of religious practice, they receive the Foundations diploma.
They now have the choice of rising to become advanced students by completing a comprehensive exam that tests them on Step Two, as well as several courses of independent study.
There are now three circles of students: an outer circle of beginner students, a middle circle of intermediate students, and an inner circle of advanced students.
Steps Three and Four are geared towards this inner circle of advanced students—Step Three initiates them into the books of the Muslim scholarly tradition, and Step Four takes them to a level of general scholarship in the Islamic sciences. In Steps Three and Four, the beginner and intermediate students are grouped together into an outer circle–these students can join any course but their interaction with teachers is limited. The teachers focus their attention on closely mentoring the advanced students as they progress towards scholarship.seekershub steps curriculum
It appears at this point that Steps Three and Four will comprise of over 50 online courses. But advanced students will complement their online learning with in-person studies with teachers in their local area, or with in-person studies by travelling to learn with teachers at the SeekersGuidance Toronto Islamic seminary, or elsewhere in the world. Teachers, institutions of learning, and time for study are now scarce everywhere, and most full-time students of sacred knowledge are unable to complete a full curriculum in the Islamic sciences anywhere in the world. Through Steps Three and Four, students all over the world can fill the gaps in their learning by studying online whatever they are unable to do in-person.
Students in Steps Three and Four study traditional commentaries on the mutun that they studied in Step Two. They now study all texts in their original Arabic. They learn how to understand the commentaries, use them as references, and apply what they reference to contemporary issues in a way that is consistent with the method and spirit of traditional Islamic scholarship.  

Advanced students who successfully complete Steps Three and Four will receive a degree of scholarship in the Islamic sciences. Full-time students who are on the SeekersGuidance learning scholarships are required to earn this degree in order to complete their studies.

The learning of sacred knowledge never stops, and students can continue to acquire mastery and specialisation in particular sciences through Step Five of the SeekersGuidance curriculum.

We pray that you are able to be a part of the SeekersGuidance Steps curriculum, and take a portion of the Islamic sciences and benefit at whatever level you are in.
Registration is completely free. Click here to register. 

 

The SeekersHub Steps Curriculum Explained

The SeekersHub Steps Curriculum allows you to navigate your journey from an absolute beginner in the Islamic sciences to scholarship and mastery.

The curriculum is modelled on the traditional method of teaching the Islamic sciences in large mosques, as Imam As-Shafi did in Cairo, Imam Abu Hanifa in Kufa, and other great scholars all over the Muslim world.
Students who attended these classes were arranged into a small inner circle of close and serious students,and much larger outer circles of less serious students, who flocked from all over the city, often even from all of the world, to listen to the great scholars.

The teacher interacted with the two circles in different ways. The inner circle was allowed to ask questions. The outer circles were only sometimes allowed to ask questions during class, and sometimes not allowed to ask any questions at all, but would be reminded of Allah by listening to a great teacher. Everyone had the opportunity to benefit from great scholars like Imam al-Shafi’i or Imam Abu Hanifa. The inner circle were nurtured and mentored towards scholarship; the outer circles were guided towards veneration of the divine command.

At the SeekersHub Islamic Seminary, our students are divided into three circles.

The first, outermost circle, are the beginner students, who listen to our teachers’ lessons for religious benefit and for the spiritual blessing (barakah) of being connected to gatherings of sacred knowledge.
The second, middle circle, are the intermediate students. Intermediate students are fewer in number than the beginner students. They have demonstrated a commitment to studying sacred knowledge, memorising, reviewing, and sitting exams. They can thus benefit from our teachers in a way that beginner students cannot, and interact with them at a closer level than the beginner students.
Finally, there is the third, inner circle of advanced students who have demonstrated an even higher level of commitment to studying sacred knowledge, and are on their way to scholarship and mastery of the Islamic sciences.  
These three kinds of students work their way through our five-step curriculum of Islamic sciences and our Arabic curriculum.
All students begin with Step One, as well as some basic Arabic courses, as beginner students.
Step 1 consists of eight courses that comprise of the personally essential knowledge that every Muslim must know. The basic Arabic courses teach basic Arabic reading proficiency, how to make a simple sentence, and some simple Arabic vocabulary. 
When they successfully complete all of these courses, they commit themselves to praying all five of their daily prayers on time, and earn the Essentials certificate.
Once they earn this certificate, students can choose to become intermediate students by completing a comprehensive exam that tests them on their Step One courses, as well as their knowledge of the life of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), of the proper recitation of the Qur’an, and of the memorisation of some short Qur’anic suras.
Going into Step Two, we now have two circles of students: beginner students and intermediate students. There are no advanced students yet.
These two circles of students move forward by completing Step Two along with the SeekersHub Arabic program. (Arabic is not a prerequisite for Step One or Step Two, but it is for Step Three and Step Four).
Beginner students compose the outer circles of learning; intermediate students compose the inner circle. Both complete the 15 courses in Step Two, one in each of the Islamic sciences. The goal of Step Two is to introduce students to each of the Islamic sciences using translations of traditional mutun–concise teaching texts that have been used for centuries to take students of sacred knowledge step-by-step through their study of the Islamic sciences. As they complete these courses,
  • They learn the technical terms of each Islamic science.
  • They learn the key questions of each Islamic science.
  • They learn about the historical development of each Islamic science.
  • They learn about important contemporary issues tackled by that science today
The outer circle of beginner students listen to the lessons, complete carefully designed automated assessments, and ask questions.
The inner circle of intermediate students receive closer personal attention, collaborating with their teachers as they complete case-studies in order to understand the course material at a higher level. If these intermediate students successfully complete Step Two and the SeekersHub Arabic program and make a commitment to a higher level of religious practice, they receive the Foundations diploma.
They now have the choice of rising to become advanced students by completing a comprehensive exam that tests them on Step Two, as well as several courses of independent study.
There are now three circles of students: an outer circle of beginner students, a middle circle of intermediate students, and an inner circle of advanced students.
Steps Three and Four are geared towards this inner circle of advanced students—Step Three initiates them into the books of the Muslim scholarly tradition, and Step Four takes them to a level of general scholarship in the Islamic sciences. In Steps Three and Four, the beginner and intermediate students are grouped together into an outer circle–these students can join any course but their interaction with teachers is limited. The teachers focus their attention on closely mentoring the advanced students as they progress towards scholarship.seekershub steps curriculum
It appears at this point that Steps Three and Four will comprise of over 50 online courses. But advanced students will complement their online learning with in-person studies with teachers in their local area, or with in-person studies by travelling to learn with teachers at the SeekersHub Toronto Islamic seminary, or elsewhere in the world. Teachers, institutions of learning, and time for study are now scarce everywhere, and most full-time students of sacred knowledge are unable to complete a full curriculum in the Islamic sciences anywhere in the world. Through Steps Three and Four, students all over the world can fill the gaps in their learning by studying online whatever they are unable to do in-person.
Students in Steps Three and Four study traditional commentaries on the mutun that they studied in Step Two. They now study all texts in their original Arabic. They learn how to understand the commentaries, use them as references, and apply what they reference to contemporary issues in a way that is consistent with the method and spirit of traditional Islamic scholarship.  

Advanced students who successfully complete Steps Three and Four will receive a degree of scholarship in the Islamic sciences. Full-time students who are on the SeekersHub learning scholarships are required to earn this degree in order to complete their studies.

The learning of sacred knowledge never stops, and students can continue to acquire mastery and specialisation in particular sciences through Step Five of the SeekersHub curriculum.
We pray that you are able to be a part of the SeekersHub Steps curriculum, and take a portion of the Islamic sciences and benefit at whatever level you are in.
Registration is completely free. Click here to register. 

http://seekershub.org/articles/7-student-testimonials-inspire-2/

 

Empowering Women’s Voices & Scholarship. Anse Tamara Gray & Ust. Zaynab Ansari

Women have always played important roles in Islamic learning, but their path to scholarship is not without its unique challenges, as Shaykha Tamara Gray and Ustadha Zaynab Ansari discuss.

In part 1 of their conversation on ImanWire, Shaykha Tamara Gray of Rabata and Ustadha Zaynab Ansari of Tayseer Seminary discuss the future of female scholarship, facing misogyny in the community, and how to facilitate more open platforms for feminine voices in the teaching of sacred knowledge. The two scholars consider the role of feminism, the need for gender-equitable spiritual spaces and discourse, and other contemporary issues. Our thanks to ImanWire for this podcast.

Photo credit: Hernán Piñera

Urgent Support Needed for Scholar and Family Facing Death Threats

Click the video below for a brief update from Shaykh Faraz Rabbani on the urgent need for support. Once you’ve donated, please email us here indicating the amount donated for the urgent scholar appeal.


A respected scholar has received repeated death threats from extremists and needs to move to a safer country with his wife and young children.
His country’s authorities confirm the gravity of these threats, but aren’t able to offer significant protection.
Give through the SeekersHub Global Zakat Fund (whether zakat or charity), to help us raise the moving and relocation costs for this inheritor of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
We need to raise at least $10,000, so give generously — and please forward this to friends and family encouraging them to give.
donate

Why Do We Need Scholars When There’s Quran And Sunnah?

Quran and Sunnah?

Why do we need scholars? Why can’t we directly go to the Quran and Sunnah?  Shaykh Walead Mosaad talks about the central role of scholars in transmitting, contextualizing and teaching Islam. He gives a relevant example of the role scholars had in the preservation of the Quran.

Ever get caught out on these issues? Deepen your understanding by taking a short course with SeekersHub.

Resources for seekers:

Cover photo by Van Karsten.

Explaining the Caravan Raids by Early Muslims

Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: Can you please tell me the Islamic point of view on early Muslims attacking caravans? I get this a lot from non-Muslims and I wish to give them a proper response. Unfortunately, militants also use this reasoning as an excuse to do their militant attacks.

Answer: Wa alaikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

The question of caravan raids by early Muslim and their justifications is an important question with serious modern implications. This is why sound Islamic knowledge, both the letter and spirit of the law, is so important to attain.

The caravan raids that took place during the early Migration period can never be used [and abused] to justify modern terrorist attacks on civilians, or cowardly assaults on one’s own countrymen Muslim or non-Muslim, or rebellion against one’s own governments whether Muslims or non-Muslims, or to conduct vigilante operations to fulfill one’s ambitions of bloodlust and revenge.

The Reason Why the Caravan Raids by Early Muslims Took Place

The early Believers of Makkah were mercilessly persecuted for their faith, in their own hometown, by their own kinsmen and countrymen who could not tolerate their call to fix the injustices in their society, which spanned from the spiritual to societal. For thirteen years while the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived in Mecca, he was forbidden by God Most High to do so much as lift a finger in self-defense against his persecutors.

The early Muslims were powerless, outnumbered and boycotted. Still, they did not resort to guerrilla tactics, coup d’etats, terrorist methods nor assassinations, when all of that could have easily been attempted. The command on them from God Most High to keep the peace and order within their society and respect its laws, even uphold the trusts and contracts they had, is telling for how Muslims who perceive themselves in similar situations today should behave. Their only response was to increase themselves in devotion to Allah, and pray for ease. This attracted even more people to the message of Islam.

After the order by God to migrate to Madina, the Muslims had their own state, but the Makkans still sought to vanquish them. Thus, the raids were in self-defense, fully conducted within the laws of Islam which forbade the killing of innocent civilians or even the harming of people with whom you have covenants of peace. Even if the early raids were pre-emptive, the trade being conducted by the hostile Makkans was the selling, at times, of the stolen properties of the exiled Muslims, in order to amass materials and weapons to exterminate the nascent Muslim community of Madina in a looming war they were planning.

What took place after the migration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to Madina with regards to the caravan raids were actions between two independent states with rulers and laws, not guerrilla leaders, militias or vigilante terrorists. They did not occur on any one state’s land- rather, on the no-man’s-land of the vast Arabian desert. There were no international laws, no government relations, no treaties of peace and diplomatic ties, nor accepted rules of engagement like there are today in our times. There were no covenants of citizenship, but even then, there was the concept that a visitor from a hostile that entered the city legally was never to be harmed.

There was also no “khiyana”, or treacherous deception, even though the migrants were Makkans and looked just like their aggressing countrymen [even being from the same families], yet they clearly declared the renunciation of their citizenship, identified themselves openly and separated before they defended themselves, and never harmed civilians or acted as an “enemy from within” in Makkah. They were never a fifth column in their countries, nor attempted assassinations, overthrows, or terrorist attacks to force Makkan to accept their demands when it was possible to do so, even under the worst persecution.

It is clear from this that the terrorists of today do not have a moral [therefore Islamic legal] leg to stand on.

History is Not the Same as Islamic Sacred Law

Historical events in the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) are not Islamic legal rulings. One cannot pick up a book of Prophetic biography by themselves and come to conclusions on how to deal with complex modern-day issues of international gravity. Rather one returns to the mainstream scholars, both for guidance on how to view past and new incidents in an Islamic light, and for rulings on how to behave in contemporary contexts.

When a Muslim is supposed to return to mainstream scholars on minute issues of personal law rather than go into the primary texts to find their own whimsical solutions, isn’t it more obvious that people should return to them for clarity on major issues which hold innocent life and millions of people’s safety in the balance?

Likewise for those outside of Islam looking in, they should know that any wars and violent resistance in the prophetic biography should be seen in the same light as any mention of war in the holy books of other world religions, such as the Battle of Jericho and those fought by Moses, David and Solomon in the Old Testament, or the wars between the Kauravas and Pandavas in the Hindu Gita, or stories of self-defense which are the cornerstone of Sikh history.

While all of these religions’ stories of struggle have been twisted by extremists to justify expedient political ends and even terrorism, the main purpose of remembering those events should be to teach good values and condemn oppression, not to justify terrorism.

This space is too short to get into the nitty-gritty legal details of how and why senseless violence, terrorism and traitorous vigilante attacks are impermissible and completely against the spirit of Islam. If one is interested, a 600-page fatwa by a scholar named Shaykh Tahir al Qadri can be read which elucidates more or less what the position of the mainstream scholarship is. It is clear from that that the caravan raids of Islamic history can never justify the terrorist attacks that take place today.

Violent Interpretations Must Be Refuted and Marginalized, By All Sides

This seems obvious when it comes to terrorists and extremists justifying their hideous actions through distorting religious teachings.

However, the misconceptions of some people who fanatically criticize and negatively portray prophetic history are the other side to the same coin that bears the warped understandings of modern day terrorists and militants

Both groups actually employ the same misunderstandings of the same past events and push it on one another to fuel each other, except that the terrorists claim to be believers and use these misinterpretations to justify their heinous actions today, and the Islamophobes do not believe, and use their misinterpretations to justify fear-mongering and demonization of the Muslim communities in their countries, which are by-and-large peaceful, moderate, loyal and law-abiding. No doubt, the side of the terrorists is inexcusable however, while the Islamophobes still have a right to their opinions.

Both sides blame the other for their own existence and need to struggle; furthering violent misinterpretations of Islamic history on either side then, only leads to “self-fulfilling prophecies” which convince misguided and uneducated Muslim youth that these Islamophobes represent the majority of the “other” and rather than refute their misinterpretations logically through the religion, they accept them and actually make them their own while being rebelliously proud of it. While the chicken-or-egg blame-game continues (was it terrorism or aggression?), its consequences distract the mainstream good people of both sides from reaching lasting solutions for peace.

Hence, we as those who call ourselves Muslims and claim to follow the highest moral example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) need to speak up first, to break this vicious cycle, and clarify the truth for ourselves and instruct our own people in it before anything else, and trust that good people of all walks of life will notice, listen and thus marginalize those who propagate misinterpretations from their side.

How Muslims Should Deal with These Types of Historical Incidents

Although an event-by-event exercise in apologetics has its place, if you are looking to answer these types of questions it will never end because the heart of the matter is not being discussed – the greater context. It is easier to adopt a general approach unless you, or the questioner, have time to delve deeply into history and fair sources.

One must look at the over-arching teachings through source texts, in this case Qur’an and prophetic narrations, which will clearly show the sacredness of life and the importance of respecting covenants and legal systems. Also, the prophetic biography, taken as a whole with Makkan and Madinan periods considered, will show us this. This should teach us the spirit of the law. Then, for the law itself, we must return to the mainstream scholars, who follow the way of the majority, preferably those from the same land as the questioner so language and mentalities are clearly understood and communicated, all of whom would condemn the types of modern-day militant attacks you are asking about.

One cannot compare between a prophet who is directly instructed by God on what to do, and modern-day followers who claim to draw lessons from that prophet, while completely violating known and set-down principles of the sacredness of life in their religious teachings taught explicitly by that prophet. Today, we have limited knowledge of exactly what took place and how in religious history. Thus, we accept that because God sanctioned these events, they fully took place within the context of the broader moral teachings of respect for life and justice, though we may not understand. This applies in the life stories of Moses, David, Krishna, and Muhammad (peace be upon him), to name a few across various traditions. Then, we return to the greater teachings that the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself laid down for our own actions, and emphasize historical events in a positive light that reflects the lessons of those greater teachings.

Patience, being peaceful and just, and taking the higher road has always been hardest to take, but this cannot be explained to those who follow what suits them or their situation, because they did not imbibe the compassionate teachings in their own faith before acting in its name.

In any case, it is obvious that people who violate Islam’s teachings on the sacredness of life will never win their struggle. While they continue with their misguidance however, it is the duty of Muslims before any other people to stop them, through force of arms and education and prayers for guidance, because the way to help your oppressive brother is to stop his hand from committing oppression, regardless of whether he feels oppressed.

Wasalam,
Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Differences of Opinion & Determining Sound Scholarship

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: If we do whatever Allah asks us to do without questioning, why do different scholars have different opinions about different aspects of our religion? The permissible and impermissible is not clear and there are many different ways of interpreting something. Some scholars say watching Hollywood movies is impermissible, some say it is not. Some say music can be permissible or impermissible and different Islamic deeds have different levels of priority. Why didn’t Allah make his religion clear-cut to us so that we do exactly what He tells us to do? I know of some female Islamic scholars like Laleh Bakhtiar, Leila Ahmed and Amina Wadud who are very different in their opinions regarding many Islamic issues. They are also highly educated and against wearing hijab. Now, I am really confused about the image of Islam. Who should I consider to be trustworthy or a reliable scholar?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those who follow them.

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question. I pray you are in good health and iman.

Your questions are hugely important and I’m not sure I can do them justice in a brief response.

I disagree with your contention that Allah Ta’ala has not made this deen clear. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart.”

One important lesson from this hadith is that one can safeguard her religion by avoiding what is doubtful. Much of popular entertainment falls into this category, while much of it is clearly unlawful. You bring up music and movies.  Most scholars concur that music, in its current form, is unlawful. However, they might also point to alternatives, such as traditional Islamic nasheeds, qasa’id, na’at, and mawlids. Similarly, with movies. I cannot think of too many qualified scholars who would encourage Muslims to watch movies, although there might be some exceptions. The bigger point here is that our scholars are in agreement on the essentials of our faith. But they might disagree on cultural issues and this disagreement can be healthy. Indeed, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said that the disagreement of the scholars is a mercy for our community.

Last but not least, you need to be very careful about your exposure to media. The internet has given everyone a platform and not all who speak for Islam are the most qualified. Qualified scholars have a chain of transmission, or isnad, going all the way back to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. They do not contravene the generational consensus of the knowledgeable men and women of this deen. They are not swayed by pop culture trends. And they direct their students to that which is beneficial.

At the end of the day, which time is better spent? That listening to music and watching movies, or that spent seeking and spreading knowledge which is truly beneficial to ourselves, our families, and our communities?

I highly recommend you look into classes at SeekersGuidance and SunniPath. These classes are taught by highly qualified, God-fearing, balanced men and women. I can say this because I have worked with these people and can vouch for the way they present Islam.

May Allah Ta’ala bless you with beneficial knowledge,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq
May 18, 2010/Jumada al-Thani 5, 1431

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

1st Annual Fawakih Essay Contest

Fawakih is an Arabic and Islamic studies institute that aims to provide accessible and excellent outlets for study across America through the best teachers, so students may gain access to primary sources (Qu’ran, Hadith, etc.) through Arabic and develop a strong foundational understanding of Islam, without ever having to leave the U.S.

The First Annual Fawakih Essay Contest invites everyone interested in learning Arabic & Islamic Studies at Fawakih this Summer to write an original essay (500 words or less) on the following topic:

TOPIC: Describe a class (religious or non religious) that you think should be required of all American Muslims and explain why it is important.

PRIZES: Winning essayists will receive scholarships for Fawakih 2010 Summer Program Tuition in the following amounts:

  • First Place: $750
  • Second Place: $500
  • Third Place: $250

To encourage student engagement, referring organizations (Masjids, Islamic Schools, MSAs, etc.) of the winning essayists will receive matching Fawakih 2010 Summer Program Tuition awards, which may be distributed to the student(s) of the organization’s choosing.

The first place entry will be featured in the “Fawkih Quarterly.”

Click Here to Access Summer Programs

RULES:

  1. Must be 16 years or older to enter.
  2. Essays must be original and written by the contestant.
  3. One entry per contestant.
  4. Deadline – March 28, 2010 at midnight PST.

SUBMIT ENTRY:

  1. Apply at Fawakih.com for the 2010 Summer Program(s) of your choice.
  2. Submit your essay by e-mail to [email protected] with your full name, referring organization, and “Fawakih Essay Contest” in the Subject line.

    APPLY TODAY! www.fawakih.com