Question: I am 25 years of age and many of the Islamic institutes have an age limit where should I go to begin my study of Sacred knowledge?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
Seeking Sacred knowledge is of the highest intentions one can make in the Religion and one’s desire to seek it is a sign of Allah’s favor upon them.
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever Allah intends good by He gives them a deep understanding of the Religion” [Muslim].
Who to Seek Knowledge From
Seeking Sacred knowledge does not need to be through a formalized seminary; although such institutes have great benefits. One should focus their initial efforts on finding true ‘People of Knowledge’ (Ahl al-Ilm).
Imam Muslim, in the preface of his Sahih collection, brings the narration of Muhammad bin Sirin (Allah’s mercy be upon them both), “Indeed this knowledge is the Religion. So be careful who you take your religion from” [Muslim; Muqadima Sahih Muslim].
With the advent of easy modes of transportation and the internet, one can easily gain access to a plethora of sources. There are numerous orators and teachers, countless classes and lectures available, all at one’s fingertips. However, it is of the utmost importance that one seeks out authentic scholarship.
The Chain of Transmission
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets. The Prophets did not leave behind gold or silver; they merely left behind knowledge. So whoever takes of it takes a large share” [Tirmidhi].
The idea of inheritance is important. Inheritance indicates a bond. A relationship of sorts. A chain. The Prophetic legacy is not merely a passed down compendium of rulings, rather revelation containing transformative guidance that must, first and foremost, be lived.
It is by this implementation, that a true inheritor of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) be distinguished from a mere memorizer of rulings.
What to look for
When looking for a teacher, look for the following qualities:
(1) A firm grasp and understanding of the Religion taken from authentic scholars
(2) Mindfulness (Taqwa)
(3) Humility (Tawadu’)
(4) A great sense of responsibility
(5) Importance of following the Sunna
(6) Preferring the Hereafter over worldliness
[Ghazali; Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din]
What to watch out for
The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) sought refuge from knowledge that does not benefit and warned his community from evil scholars.
Be cautious when seeing the following signs:
(1) Excessive argumentation
(4) Bad etiquettes with the Imams and righteousness of the Religion
(5) Corrupt behavior and character
I would advise starting your journey to seek Sacred knowledge by looking in your area for authentic scholars who meet the above characteristics. In the meantime, SeekersGuidance.org has a large variety of courses on many levels from authentic scholars of great character and humility.
Although studying online can never be a substitute for sitting at the feet of a scholar and studying in-person, it does prove as a great start. I would recommend the Islamic Studies Curriculum.
Most importantly, make sincere intention and ask Allah Most High to increase you in beneficial knowledge – Allah Most High will connect you to the true inheritors.
Hope this helps.
Allah knows best
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a graduate from Tarim; a student of Habib Umar and other luminaries; and authorized teachers of the Qur’an and the Islamic sciences