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Reflections on Seeking Knowledge: A Student at Seekers

Reflections on Seeking Knowledge: A Student at Seekers

Zain Ali

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

 

The Beginning 

Let’s take it back maybe ten years. If you were to tap me on the shoulder and ask me, “what do you want to do when you’re older Zain?” I’d give you the same answer I gave everyone at that young age not yet a teen; “Islamic studies.”

 

Now, the answer to the question was not because I understood the weight of that bold answer, nor because I deserved it, but rather, because of what was instilled in me from a young age.

 

Since those young days, one of my favourite verses (aya) from the Qur’an was (and is) Allah’s saying, I did not create jinn and humans except to worship Me” (Quran, 51:56), partly because it was one of the only verses (if not the only verse) in the Qur’an that I knew the meaning for, and partly because it had such a straightforward, logical, black and white meaning; my job on this earth is to worship God, how can I do it? 

 

What is the best way? What would make God most pleased with me? I found my answer with my Qur’an teacher, he would always encourage us to study Islam because that was the greatest thing we could do for our afterlife.

 

Thus my wanting to study islam was not because of who I was or anything great about me, rather it was the wisdom of my teachers Allah bless them and enable them all.

 

Fast forward some years: It was a pleasant Monday night, 7:30 pm July 17, 2017, I came into SeekerGuidance for my first class. I sat on the lush pillowy carpet ready to listen and take notes in my notebook. 

 

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani started the lesson, I had never taken a law (fiqh) class in my life, all I knew about the rulings of prayer and worship was taught to me informally. Shaykh Faraz was teaching Nur al-Idah, an intermediate book on the laws (fiqh) of worship (way above my level) and he was reading the chapter of “The Conditions of Prayer.” I remember taking notes and thinking to myself, “wow, I’ve never even thought of so many possibilities in this scenario!” Just sitting in that class was such a benefit because it was answering thoughts and questions I had that I didn’t ever bother to ask. 

 

From that day onwards, I never looked at the subject of law (fiqh) in the same way and it quickly became one of my favourite things to read and think about. 

 

I finished school and started attending full time at Seekers, and it was and is to this day truly life-changing. My attendance at Seekers has been nothing but a blessing to me to this day. I had no idea what I was truly entering into, I just really wanted to do something that would bring me closer to my Lord and I pray that he accepts it from me. 

 

The Weight of Seeking Knowledge

Seeking knowledge is in no way all easy, fun and games or a “shoot in the breeze” as commonly thought by many people. Many peoples idea of islamic studies is like weekend madrasa, come in, read some Qur’an, mess around and go home. I even remember someone I knew saying, “if I don’t get into a good university program I’ll just take a year off and do some islamic program or something.” We want our teachers to be the most brilliant, smartest and best of people. Sacred knowledge is of the greatest of things one could seek! 

 

Shaykh Faraz once mentioned to us that a scholar from the early predecessors (salaf) said, “If the kings knew the pleasure we have (in seeking knowledge), they would fight us for it.” And I remember hearing Shaykh Hasan al-Hindi say in one of his lectures on Tadhkirat al-Sam’i fi Adab al-’Alim wal-Mut’alim; a book on the etiquettes of seeking knowledge, “All that increases you in honour increases you in responsibility,” (كل ما تزداد شرفا تزداد تكليفا). I remember the first time Shaykh Faraz mentioned that a true student has to minimally be studying ten hours a day, I thought he was joking! 

 

I had the blessing at this time to be around Ustadh Amr Hashim and Ustadh Sufyan Qufi, two of our instructors at SeekersGuidance and both amazing personalities and examples to be around. One, the epitome of balance, patience and overall; amazing character. The other the pinnacle of striving and hard work. Both of these men had a deep impact on me in my early time at SeekersGuidance before they both moved abroad for their studies. 

 

A Humbling Experience

I used to carpool with Ustadh Sufyan, and if there was one thing I learned from him it was his drive and love for seeking knowledge. He would be studying any time I was with him to the point that even in our drives to classes he would be listening to the khutbas of Shaykh Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti (Allah have mercy on him) and be taking notes. There was nothing that seemed to be able to deter him from seeking knowledge. I once saw him go through what I would consider hardship and when I asked him about it he told me, “I don’t care, nothing can prevent me from seeking knowledge.” I observed the value and importance of time at his example and the embodiment of hard work. 

Ustadh Amr taught me more purely through his character than his words. I cannot remember a single time when he told me “no,” or “why did you do that?” 

 

Even though he was much more senior to me in knowledge, wisdom and age. I was younger than I am today and definitely less mature, yet he always turned a blind eye to my faults. Whenever I asked him for advice he would never say “no, don’t do that,” or “why would you do that?” But rather always suggested a better thing to do without chastising or telling me what I did was wrong. 

 

I remember the first week or two of my studies as a full-time student at Seekers, there was a new Arabic class and Ustadh Amr and I were both attending the class. After the first class, we had some homework, I barely knew any Arabic whatsoever and didn’t really understand how to do the homework. I came to class and Ustadh Amr asked me, “did you do the homework?” “I tried but I don’t really know what I was supposed to do,” he then proceeded to ask me to help him. 

 

I tried to refuse but he pushed me to advise him how to do the Arabic homework. He didn’t tell me he knew Arabic nor that he was Arab, I found out several weeks later when I heard him talking in Arabic. And that was the first time I tried to teach an Arab how to do morphology of Arabic words. Such was his humbleness. I observed good character, humility and patience at his hands.

 

Achieving Excellence and Mastery 

When I first started at Seekers, I wasn’t fully cognizant of what I had been blessed to enter into. SeekersGuidance embodies a traditional method of teaching with taking modern means. 

 

The program at SeekersGuidance expects mastery in your studies, and mastery requires diligence and hard work. If someone in university or high school wanted to pass their course, the only thing they needed to make sure was that they got 50% of their questions right on their tests and exams. 

 

It was after starting my studies at Seekers that I realized that there was no option for someone studying the Islamic sciences to get short of 100% in anything related to their studies. If someone were to ask me a question and I made a mistake in my answer, I would have indirectly claimed that the ruling of Allah was A when it was actually B. As Shaykh Faraz says, “you either know the subject matter or you don’t, there’s no in-between.” Would you allow a surgeon to do surgery on you when you knew he wasn’t completely sure how to do a surgery? No, nobody would! 

 

The scholars of this religion are God’s doctors whose job is to treat you and I, to teach us to be better servants of God most High. 

 

This is what I’ve observed from the example of Shaykh Faraz and this is the way of the great scholars of our religion, Allah bless them all. The method of the scholars is very unlike many modern ways of schooling. 

 

A student has to master a science before he can even be considered as knowing the subject matter, let alone a teacher in that science. Students repeat study of each science several times, at a basic foundational level, then studying that foundation a second time while building upon it with some derivative discussions, then studying it again but with a focus now on the reasoning or the “why,” and “how.” 

 

There are levels of study and mastery in the way of our great scholars and teachers, something that appears to be fading into the background here in the west but SeekersGuidance is striving to uphold that standard.

 

If you were to ask me what is one thing I’ve realized whilst studying with SeekersGuidance, I’d say the intense blessing there is for someone to be able to study islam. It’s a great blessing and we should all try to take advantage of it. It’s not a light matter either, it’s crucial to the lives of all people, without knowledge we are blinded; bumping, stumbling and tripping yet without knowing! May Allah protect us all. 

 

SeekersGuidance is like a well in the middle of the desert, you have an opportunity today which was never available in history. Wherever you are, whatever state you are in, you can access absolutely free life giving water in your state of thirst. You can drink ten buckets of water or take one sip, do not let this opportunity go to waste!

 

Our communities need people who have drunk from this well today more than ever, they are in need of guidance and help, you can help by seeking knowledge – completely free of charge!

 

Sidi Zain Ali

 

 


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Related SeekersGuidance Resources

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Islamic Studies Course (Five Levels)

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Scholarly Writing: Applying Logic and Dialectic in Writing

The Essentials of Belief for Muslim Youth

 

 

Articles

“From knowing nothing to becoming a student of knowledge” by Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

The Importance of Seeking Knowledge – Shaykh Salih al Gursi

Counsels for Students of Knowledge – Shaykh Salih Al Gursi

Seeker’s Expectations – How to Seek Knowledge

Steps to Success on the Way to the Light of Knowledge – Nur Sacred Sciences

The Aim, Purpose, and Consequence of Consistent Spiritual Routines – Imam al-Haddad, with Commentary from Faraz Rabbani

The Intentions for Seeking Knowledge – Imam Abdullah al-Haddad

The Way of The Seeker: How To Seek Islamic Knowledge Successfully
Student Assembly: The Way of the Seeker – Student Notes by Sr. Haleema

The Struggles and Concerns of Sincere Seekers – Video and Notes from the Student Assembly

Why Learn From a Teacher? – Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Studying Tips for SeekersGuidance’s Student

The Importance of Study in One’s Spiritual Development – Imam al-Ghazzali

Embracing Knowledge, an Introduction to Ustadh Abdullatif Al-Amin – Seekers Highlight

The Intentions for Seeking Knowledge by Imam Abdullah al Haddad

Ten Adab of Seekers of Knowledge by Ayaz Siddiqui

Five Counsels for Seekers of Islamic Knowledge from Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Seek, Act and Strive – Advice From Habib Ali al Jifri For Seekers of Knowledge

Pursuing Islamic Studies but Worrying About Provision

Question: Assalamualaykum, I wish to partake in studying for quite a few years with Allah’s blessing, but I am afraid that I will not have the income to do so.  I have full trust in Allah, but I’m also trying to see how I can also ‘tie the camel’. What should I do in my situation? 

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

May Allah reward you for your intention to seek sacred knowledge and may He give you ease in your path.

Virtues of Seeking Sacred Knowledge

The path to seeking sacred knowledge is of the most exalted deeds and one of the most rewarding and most beneficial actions that the servant can partake in.

Allah Most High says, “Can those who have knowledge be equal to those who have not knowledge?” [Qur’an; 39:09].

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever Allah wishes good for He gives him a deep understanding of the religion” [Bukhari].

Also: “Whoever travels a path, seeking therein (sacred) knowledge, Allah will facilitate a path for them to Paradise” [Bukhari].

Tying the Camel

With that being said, it is important not to jump hastily into anything no matter how virtuous that thing may be. Take the following steps to ensure that this is truly the path you want to take.

(A) Pray the Istikhara prayer (the prayer for seeking good).
(B) Consult respected people of your family/community or possibly the Imam of your local mosque.

If after these steps you are determined to seek sacred knowledge then you should make a plan. Where will you study? How much will it cost? Who can you get to sponsor your studies? Etc…

Having a Good Opinion of Allah

One should not let others drive them to have a bad opinion of Allah Most High.

Allah Most High says, “O you who believe, if you help (the religion of) Allah,  Allah will help you and make firm your feet” [Qur’an; 47:07].

Also: “…and whoever is mindful of Allah, He will make for them a way out (of every difficulty), and provide him from where he can not imagine and whoever puts their trust in Allah then He is sufficient for them…” [Qur’an; 65:02-3].

It is inconceivable that a person has high intentions of seeking sacred knowledge of the religion, takes the proper steps of praying the prayer of seeking good (istikhara), and seeking counsel (Mushawara) – which are Prophetic teachings – that Allah would not look after their needs thereafter.

Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that there were two brothers at the time of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace). One of them used to come to the Prophet (i.e. to learn) and the other would earn a living. Then the one who earns a living complained to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) about his brother. So He (the Prophet) said, ‘Perhaps you are being provided due to him” [Tirmidhi].

Sacrifice

The seeking of sacred knowledge often does entail great sacrifice. But like all sacrifice, it proves to have been worth it in the end.

Take the steps mentioned above, make lots of du’a to Allah, see where your heart inclines, and place your trust in Allah Most High.

Check the link below for more advice:

Istikhara: The Prayer of Seeking Guidance
How Does One Perform The Prayer Of Need (salat al-haja)?
The Intentions for Seeking Knowledge – Imam Abdullah al-Haddad

May Allah increase you and all of us in knowledge and understanding of the religion and make us of his righteous servants who are beacons of light in times of darkness.

Hope this helps
Allahu A’alam

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch

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 Qur’an and the Islamic sciences.

I Want to Stop Working So I Can Study Islam

Question: I’ve worked most of my married life but have always longed to study Islam. I’ve decided to study next year but my husband says I am unfair and impulsive. There will be pressure on him but I plan to sell things to supplement the income. Will I be rejecting sustenance by giving up my job? 

Answer: Assalamu alaykum sister,

I want to congratulate you on your intention and plan to study Islam. We don’t have enough female scholars, let alone enough women who know the basics of their religion.

Your job

It is not rejecting your sustenance when you are leaving a job that involves interest. Rather it is choosing your Lord over something that He dislikes. It is obligatory for you to learn your religion correctly and not obligatory for you to contribute to household expenses. Rest assured that your sustenance (rizq) is guaranteed for you, and you don’t know whence it will come. Quitting a job does not at all mean a change in Allah’s provisions for you. I also commend that you’re taking the means to supplement by selling things from home.

Pressure on your husband

You may find that the pressure on your husband is correctly placed. Allowing him to solely take on the position of a breadwinner can be very beneficial for the family. The money will be treated more consciously and carefully. Spending wisely with a budget can still ensure a comfortable lifestyle. And most importantly, the self-respect and confidence that he will have will surely boost him up. Just be sure to constantly remind him what a wonderful job he is doing and thank him profusely for taking the stress off of your back.

Transitioning

The transition for the first year won’t be easy. Have a plan to live on a thought-out budget, be very organized in the home now that you will be home, and provide him with fresh homemade food often so that he can feel the tangible benefits of this transition. Instant pots and crock pots are key. Remember to still make time for him when he comes home despite your studies. Be patient in the beginning and make du`a that Allah put blessings (barakah) in everyone’s time and money.

See the following link for more excellent information:

Can a Husband Prevent His Wife From Working?
Reflections from the SeekersHub Retreat: “I Want to Study to be an Islamic Scholar”

May Allah rewards you for your intentions and give you success.

[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafseer and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.

In What Order Should One Study the Shafii Madhab, and Which Books of Fiqh Should One Study?

Question: In what order should one study the Shafii madhab, and which books of fiqh should one study?

Answer: Wa alaykum assalamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Dear questioner,

Thank you very much for your poignant question.

What is generally observed across the Shafii world is that they study Matn Abi Shuja, Fath al Muin, and then Minhaj al Talibin.

Stages of Learning

The great late Shafii scholar, Imam al Bajuri mentions that there are three levels of learning.

The first is when you do not have an idea about the general discussions of the given science. Such a person is trying to acquire that basic picture.

The second is the student who has an overview of the discussions, but not in much detail or much mastery. Such a student then needs to achieve mastery and detail.

The third is he who has the mastery of the details and is able to decisively prove (or debate) them. This the final stage of learning, and the goal of studying fiqh. (Hashiya Bajuri ala Ibn Qasim, Bajuri)

With this in mind, what is generally observed across the Shafii world is that they study Matn Abi Shuja, Fath al Muin, and then Minhaj al Talibin, with the three books covering the three levels above.

Many will add many other books in the first and second stages, and this generally brings about better results. That said, Ibn Khaldun was critical of students reading lots of primers. (Prolegomena, Ibn Khaldun)

Self Study

Imam al Nawawi seems to have studied three books in fiqh: the Tanbih of Shirazi, the Wasit of Ghazali, and the Muhadhdhab of Shirazi. With each, he spent a long time with his teachers clarifying the meanings, implications, and details of the rulings within.

That said, he didn’t just read with his teachers, but when he reached a certain level, he read very, very extensively. This is what made Nawawi so significant.

And this is the case with all big ulema. None of them simply sat with their teachers and took down notes. Rather, they sat, took notes, researched, debated, etc, until they reached the level of their own teachers.

One of my own teachers actually forbade me to ask any questions that didn’t stem from my own reading. He told me that for every one hour of class time, I had to do nine hours of reading.

That said, doing the extensive reading before the first stage mentioned above is not a good idea at all, and one should always refer back to one’s teachers and not just go off on one’s own path.

Conclusion

In view of the third-level learning stage, any well-known primers that enable the student to achieve the learning goals are good. Matn Abi Shuja, Fath al Muin, and then Minhaj al Talibin have been a mainstay of many Shafi’is for about four hundred years.

I pray this helps.

[Ustadh] Farid Dingle

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language

Interview: Defining Knowledge – Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Cori Mancuso interviews Shaykh Yahya Rhodus on the importance of seeking obligatory knowledge, balancing religious and worldly affairs, and engaging in traditional and western approaches to education.

 

CM: For Muslims who are seeking a foundational knowledge of Islam, or their fard ayn, what knowledge should be obligatory for them to learn? Why is it important to learn this knowledge?

SYR: Unfortunately, there is a lot of deep seeded ignorance around the community and the world regarding this topic. There are people who simply don’t know what they need to know, and then there’s something called compounded ignorance, when someone sees the basics as something that doesn’t really mean anything. The greatest scholars, who have reached the pinnacle of scholarship and piety, not only do they do the basics but they do them in the most excellent manner. There could be two people who are outwardly performing the prayer correctly, but they each have very different inward states in terms of concentration, meanings in the heart, and witnessing of the divine impact on creation. We learn the basics and reinforce them throughout our lives, and in the end, we hope to reach the highest degree of spiritual realization. One of the early imams, al-Junayd, was seen after his death in a dream and was asked “What did Allah do with you?” He said, “‘All the expressions have gone, and all of the subtle indications have vanished, and all that benefited me was small cycles of prayer that I prayed during the night.’”

What remains is for us to figure out what is obligatory knowledge? How can we acquire it and put it into practice? How can we reinforce it and increase it? Any knowledge that is not based on revelation, or meant to preserve revelation, is an inferior type of knowledge. These other types of rational sciences are very popular now, but we must remember that revelation is a higher source of knowledge. We are required to study knowledge throughout our lives. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, told us that whoever treads a path to seek sacred knowledge, Allah will facilitate for him to enter paradise. We cannot fulfill the duty our time by rooting ourselves in our unchanging principles and wisely deal with the challenges of our time, without the foundational knowledge. When the winds of tribulation blow through, if one is not grounded, then they are going to get blown with the wind.

Scholars have long discussed the concept of fard ayn knowledge, which is obligatory for every male and female of age. In Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya Ulum al Din, he describes this knowledge as knowledge of what is obligatory in the moment. Everything one does in their life, must be based on knowledge. Although everyone of age should learn the basics of purification and prayer, creed, and the attributes of Allah, one must also look at their own circumstances and learn accordingly. If someone is married, engages in financial transactions, or has a death in the family, they must know the law. It is shocking to see how many Muslims get involved in complicated matters while neglecting even the basics of prayer and purification. The obligatory knowledge is what we need to know for our beliefs to be correct, our practice to be right, and  our heart to become clear before Allah.

CM: In your opinion, how does one balance between seeking knowledge and seeking sustenance in worldly affairs?

SYR: The first thing is to not see the two as mutually exclusive. Imam Malik was once asked about seeking sacred knowledge. He said it is a great thing, but one should also look at their own circumstances and circle of responsibility. If someone is required to do something, whether it is to take care of a family member or a loved one, and they are not able to free themselves up for sacred knowledge, then they must give precedence to the responsibilities on their shoulders. We should not see this as all or nothing, everyone must do what they can. I want to see a rebirth and a revival around talib al-ilm, of seeking knowledge, for the young and old. For most people, it is mainly a matter of priorities. We must make knowledge a priority in our lives. As I was leaving Mauritania, and heading to Tarim, one of the scholars, Shaykh Muhammad Zayn, said, “Make knowledge an excuse for other things and do not make other things an excuse for knowledge.”

Every Muslim should be taking at least one class per week. Anything less than that is falling short of the mark. With a strong intention to learn, and dedication, one can still learn quite a bit by seeking knowledge part-time. This includes informal and formal ways of learning. Some small ways include putting a book in the car to read, playing something in the car during a commute, and reading a book with one’s spouse or children. Most people have time for these things, and this is considered seeking sacred knowledge. Any sacrifice one makes in their career, to free oneself up a little bit more to study and learn, will never be lost with Allah. Everyone should benefit from their local resources, utilizing weekend learning and vacation time. A good way to track activity is to keep a notebook, so that every time one attends a conference, retreat, or lecture, they can fill up this notebook with benefits. This enables us to teach this knowledge to others.

CM: As a student of knowledge in both the traditional Islamic sciences, and western academic institutions, what are the benefits and challenges to both approaches?

SYR: In a traditional setting, the focus is devotion. One is studying this knowledge to get closer to Allah and prepare for the hereafter. In a traditional setting, a student gets very close to their teachers and a profound love is developed through mentorship. The students try to emulate and follow the teacher. There is emphasis on the chain of narration back to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. Those are some of the strengths of the traditional method. The purpose of studying sacred knowledge is to transcend the self and benefit others.

On the other hand, for the vast majority of people studying in western academic institutions, the goal is to get a degree. Some people are interested in the topic they study, but it is a different experience. A student will not develop the same type of relationship with the teacher. Knowledge is respected, but in a secular sense. The western academic institution has strengths in that it concentrates on the context of a text. In my field, I study the life of Imam al-Ghazali, who was he? How did the circumstances of his life affect his scholarship? What led outwardly to him writing Ihya Ulum al-Din? If one is grounded in traditional scholarship, they can more easily sift through the bad western scholarship and benefit from the good western scholarship that exists. This enhances one’s learning, without contradiction to the traditional understanding of the text. Although there is some benefit in studying Islamic Studies in a western academic setting, there is also a lot of ignorance surrounding the texts. They make a lot of mistakes and assumptions based on their limited understanding. Western scholarship is based on imitation, scholars will quote previous writers without confirming the validity of their sources. We must critique western scholarship. Most academics believe they are objective and that this is the only way of knowing this information.

Unfortunately, I have found the vast majority of Muslims involved in western academic institutions do not have the tools necessary to navigate these distinctions, and it becomes a little bit overwhelming. This is not to say that we should not be involved. We do not have the luxury of remaining completely isolated. We need scholars who have the proper training, who are able to find answers within the tradition, who know what to do in different circumstances, and are able to find real solutions to the problems people are facing in their lives. This is an enormous task. Everyone is affected by the society in which they live. There is a philosophy behind everything which we are exposed to. It necessary that we engage academia and have Muslim academics teaching Islamic Studies. Muslims should be contributing in all types of disciplines. We want to them to make principal contributions which reflect our values and character. This is one of our greatest challenges, to root Muslims in knowledge, devotion, and service, and train them to make principled contributions in society.

 


Cori Mancuso is a graduate in Religious Studies at Lycoming College. While seeking sacred knowledge, she develops content for SeekersHub and Sabeel Community.

What Job Opportunities Can I Pursue After Finishing My Islamic Studies?

Answered by Shaykh Umer Mian

Question: I am a recent graduate of a traditional Darul-Uloom in the UK and I find myself unsure of what career path to pursue. Salaries offered in mosques are low in relation to the current cost of living in the UK. Essentially, I would like a job whereby I can help people and benefit them with what I’ve studied. What do you recommend?

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

It seems that you are already aware of the opportunities to be the imam of a masjid or teacher in an Islamic school or madrasah. These are perhaps the most common careers pursued by graduates from Islamic seminaries such as the Darul Ulums. If you don’t find yourself inclined towards such opportunities or don’t feel they would be practical for you, then you may want to consider the following possibilities:

1) Chaplain. I cannot speak for the U.K., but in the U.S. and Canada, Muslim chaplaincy has really taken off in the past decade or so. Large institutions such as universities, hospitals, etc. are hiring Muslim chaplains to act as advisors, teachers, mentors, and administrators of Muslim activities. Your studies at the Darul Ulum could provide a strong foundation to fulfil these roles. However, you’d probably need to complete a chaplaincy course in order to be best prepared for the job. This career provides a great opportunity for da’wah and serving the Muslim community.

2) Arabic language instructor. Your studies at the Darul Ulum probably included significant exposure to the sciences of the Arabic language. Universities and other institutions in the Western world are in need of Arabic language instructors. Teaching in such places can provide great opportunity for da’wah. Many of one’s students would likely be Muslim, and there’s nothing better than connecting Muslims with the language of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

3) Graduate student/Researcher. Some students of sacred knowledge choose to pursue graduate studies in Western universities. The curriculum of a Darul Ulum has overlap with numerous academic fields, such as Near Eastern Studies, Religion, Law, History, etc. Obtaining a Ph. D. in one of these fields opens doors to the roles of academic researcher, professor, author, etc. Prior to pursuing this path, one should consult with trustworthy, knowledgeable Islamic scholars, in order to avoid the many pitfalls and challenges present in academia.

The above are some ideas of paths you could take to work your Darul Ulum education into a sustainable career. Of course, there are many other opportunities that are not directly related to the religious education you received at Darul Ulum. Some people choose to go back to school to study a profession such as medicine (doctor or nurse), information technology (programmer, systems administrator, help desk technician, etc.), business (small business owner, real estate agent, etc.), and so on.

With the financial independence offered by one of these careers, a person could be free to teach and serve the Muslim community on their own terms. Ultimately, choosing a career will depend on a number of personal factors such as education, experience, talents, natural inclinations, job market, family situation, etc. One should be sure to consult with trusted elders and Islamic scholars, and also pray istikhara.

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “No one ever ate any food better than that which his own hands had earned, and the Prophet of Allah Dawud (upon him be peace) used to eat from what his own hands earned” (Bukhari).

Wassalam,

[Shaykh] Umer Mian

 

What Are the Best Ways to Retain Knowledge?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Salam,
What are the best ways to retain Knowledge? Especially when studiying online…

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
The scholars mention that of the greatest of ways of retaining knowledge is acting upon it.
Beyond that, start with what is personally obligatory for you, study step by step– don’t jump to advanced texts and material before truly understanding simpler, and usually, more practical matters– review regularly, and consult your teachers often. And don’t take too much on at once– a little understood and acted upon is far superior to much taken and forgotten.
Remember that the point is worship; knowledge is a means and not a goal in and of itself.
Please see: What is Required in Order to Become a Teacher in Islam? and: Advice Regarding Being a Student of Knowledge and Taking Notes
And Allah alone gives success.
wassalam,
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Advice Regarding Being a Student of Knowledge and Taking Notes

Answered by Sidi Tabraze Azam

Question: I have problems with taking notes in Islamic lectures and classes. What methods would you recommend using? Or what advice could you give in order to improve this problem?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I hope you are in the best of health and spirits insha’Allah. Jazakum Allahu Khayr for your excellent question.

The Proper Etiquette (Adab) of the Seeker

Our tradition is deeply rooted in proper manners (adab); or the right way of doing things. For this reason, the scholars have always stressed its importance in training new generations of students in order that they may be fit to receive the Prophetic light.

Imam Zarnuji (Allah be pleased with him), the author of the excellent work Instruction of the Student and the Method of Learning (Ta`lim al-Muta`allim fi Tariq al-Ta`allum), writes that it is of the utmost importance that one has deep respect for the knowledge one is studying and its people.

It is narrated that Sayyiduna `Ali (Allah be pleased with him) said, “I am the slave of the one who teaches me a single letter.”

Imam Ghazali (Allah be pleased with him) mentioned that, “We didn’t attain unto this knowledge except by way of humility”. Similarly, Imam al-Halwani (Allah be pleased with him), a great Hanafi, is reported to have said, “We didn’t attain unto this knowledge except by way of exaltation (i.e. of the knowledge and deeming it something great); for I have not touched a single piece of paper except in a state of ritual ablution (wudu)”.

Furthermore, Ibn Jama`ah (Allah be pleased with him) noted in his work, Memoir of the Listener and the Speaker in the Training of Teacher and Student (Tadhkirat al-Sami` wa’l Mutakallim fi Adab al-`Alim wa’l Muta`allim), that one should appear before one’s teacher in a state of purity, of clothing and body. One should be focused in one’s state, not tired, hungry, or otherwise. This is in order that one can fully benefit from the teacher and his instruction.

When one realizes the greatness of that which is being sought, those it is being sought from and that one is seeking to attain a portion of the Prophetic inheritance, one humbles oneself, is in awe of knowledge and its people and gives one’s all.

The etiquettes (adab) to follow are many. The more one adheres to them, the greater the benefit one attains. “Act upon that which one knows, and Allah will grant one knowledge of that which one knows not.”

Taking Notes

Below are some general guidelines which may be of benefit:

[1] Jot down key topics/words;

[2] Divide one’s paper into sections;

[3] Use headings and bullet points to organize one’s notes for each particular topic;

[4] It is useful to have a different coloured pen, or a highlighter, available to highlight key points;

[5] Write up one’s notes as soon as one can (with detail);

These are simply general guidelines. Here are some useful links related to note-taking and “systems”:

[i] How to Take Notes like Thomas Edison

[ii] How to Take Lecture Notes

[iii] Geek to Live: Take study-worthy lecture notes

Some Recommended Readings

[1] Instruction of the Student: The Method of Learning

[2] Memoir of the Listener and the Speaker in the Training of Teacher and Student

[3] Imam Ghazali’s Book of Knowledge

[4] The Book of Knowledge from The Gardens of the Righteous (Riyad al-Salihin)

[5] The Path of Muhammad: A Book on Islamic Morals and Ethics

[6] Ten Adab of Seekers of Knowledge – Notes by Ayaz Siddiqui

May Allah grant us all the divinely granted success (tawfiq) to benefit from the knowledge we learn and its people. Amin.

And Allah alone gives success.

Wassalaam,

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani