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Knowledge Without Barriers: A Heartbreaking Story About A Student in Need

I just wanted to share a quick story that reflects the importance and blessings of SeekersGuidance and the Knowledge Without Barriers initiative.

This is a short story about one of the sharpest students in our class, who always looked exhausted. Every half an hour or so, he would stand so that he wouldn’t doze off in class.

Every chance he got, he would ask me about the ‘ulema in Pakistan and Canada. He would lament about the state of his people but was hopeful that one day they would reclaim the legacy of the likes of Imam Bukhari, Baha’udin Naqshaband and Imam Tirmidhi.

One morning, I saw him sitting on a bench outside the masjid waiting for Fajr to come in. As I greeted him and saw the exhaustion on his face, I wondered how many nights he had spent on a park bench, and if that was the reason he was always so tired… That was also the last day I saw him in class, he stopped attending.

I ran into him today, and asked him where he’s been… He smiled and said he’s been attending a reading of Sahih al Bukhari. I asked him when he’ll be returning to class… Sadly, he informed me that he wouldn’t be able to, and that he plans to start at another mahad(institution). Why? I asked, ‘this mahad is known to have a much better program and teachers’… He looked down and said ‘I know, but its too much money.’ I asked, how much? ‘200 lira per month ($35 USD), but the other one I can study for free.’ I told him not to worry, let’s figure something out’, he just smiled and said ‘it’s difficult.’

Often times I hear people referring to programs that cost thousands of dollars. It’s not a lot of money! If people really valued knowledge they’d make it a priority!

This brother left his country to seek knowledge, he likely often sleeps on a park bench, doesn’t own a cell phone.. $35/month is his barrier to entry… $35/month. We may lose a future ‘Alim, one who shows deep concern for the umma, loves the ‘ulema and the tradition, and is more than capable, for just $35/month.

Knowledge Without Barriers is critical.

10 Steps to Firm-Footedness in Seeking Knowledge of Fiqh

In this brief podcast, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani provides 10 genuinely useful tips on gaining and retaining a firm grasp of your knowledge of fiqh.

See also:

“From knowing nothing to becoming a student of knowledge”
Advice from Habib Ali Al-Jifri for Seekers of Knowledge
The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge

Habib Umar’s Advice to the Seekers of Sacred Knowledge
Shaykh Áwwamah’s advice for Students of Sacred Knowledge
Importance of Intention in Seeking Knowledge

 

"He Came With a Blanket that Smelt Like Baby Urine"

Why did Habib Umar bin Hafiz give his students a blanket that smelt like baby urine? Habib Mundhir al-Musawa gives the answer and talks about his relationship with Habib Umar in an interview given shortly before his death. With genuine humility, he describes his early days seeking knowledge and then his first steps in calling to Allah.

He talks about the key to his success, his immense attachment to his Shaykh, Habib Umar bin Hafiz. The film is interspersed with footage of Majelis Rasulullah, the intense gathering which he established in Jakarta, Indonesia.
This short film titled ‘The Shaykh and the Murid’ gives a unique insight into the life of one of the heroes of our times, Habib Mundhir al-Musawa, may Allah have mercy upon him. In his short life, Habib Mundhir had a huge impact on thousands, if not millions of people and was a cause of many people returning to Allah.  Our thanks to Muwasala for this video.

Resources for Seekers

blanketsCover Photo by Daniel Orth

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Learn to Live… with Balance – Sister Heba #GiveLight

Learning to Live, with Balance

Heba didn’t think she had any problems. But when she started attending classes at SeekersHub, she just realized how much she was missing out on.

Help SeekersHub change the lives of more people like Heba
Millions of Muslims already turn to SeekersHub’s online courses, answers service, on-ground classes and retreats, and growing library of multimedia resources to connect with the guidance of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him).
But there are still millions more who desperately need the guidance of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him).
Become a monthly donor to help SeekersHub spread the beautiful message of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) millions worldwide.
Become a Monthly Donor, Change Lives

The Greatest Reward: Fulfilling The Urgent Need Of Others

A fund like no other

Alhamdullilah, last year we established the SeekersHub Global Zakat Fund, a fund like no other, supporting deserving scholars and students of knowledge, both locally and abroad.

We distributed over $350,000 in zakat funds in 2015.
This year, it is our mission to raise $1 million in zakat funds.


zakatThe impact of your zakat

Your zakat has the power to transform the world. War, poverty, injustice – the world is losing touch with Divine Wisdom. Many Muslim scholars who have dedicated their lives to preserving this wisdom are under great duress – at home and abroad.

The need is great — Shaykh Faraz explains why you shouldn’t wait till Ramadan to give.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VxeSh2-QGc

The urgent need

The SeekersHub Global Zakat Fund addresses an urgent, critical need:

  • Continuing to support deserving and needy scholars and students of knowledge — the teachers of today and tomorrow.
  • Supporting displaced mainstream Syrian scholars, given the turmoil and political instability in the region.

This is a communal responsibility and critical to the preservation of authentic Islamic scholarship for our children’s future.


zakatMay Allah reward you and your families manifold for your generosity.

Good News For a Change

How about some good news for a change?

At SeekersHub Global, we want to take a moment to celebrate some of the good news Allah blessed us with in 2015. Watch the one-minute video below.

  • 400 million Spanish speakers can now learn about Islam in their language. SeekersHub Espanol went live in 2015. There are already hundreds of articles and answers about Islam in the Spanish language live on the site — with much more on the way.
  • Thousands of questions about Islam answered by qualified scholars. You wouldn’t believe how many questions we get on a daily basis. Alhamdulillah, we have an entire team of scholars dedicated to providing practical answers for people struggling with everything from Shafi’i fiqh to guiding their wayward parents.
  • Over $350,000 in Zakat funds distributed to scholars and students. The political instability in the Middle East has displaced a number of scholars. Your zakat contributions have helped them continue to spread sound, reliable Islamic knowledge and Prophetic guidance.
  • 1,000+ hours of instructional videos produced on every topic you can think of. Take a stroll through our YouTube channel and you’ll find an overwhelming volume of engaging multimedia content on virtually every topic.
  • 120 online classes delivered to 30,000+ students globally. Our Online Academy is powered by a team of 40 teachers, teaching assistants and staff members who work extremely hard to make sound knowledge from reliable scholars available anywhere, free of charge.

Let’s make some more good news in 2016…together.

We are very blessed to have people like yourself who support us at every step of the way in making this all possible.

We look forward to sharing more blessings with you in 2016 Insha’Allah.

 

Become a monthly donor, for as little as $15/month.
Give your zakat to deserving scholars and students of knowledge.
Share this with friends and family on social media and spread the benefit.

American Prisoners are Training in Islamic Scholarship – Can You Support Them?

Wailing sirens introduce the opening of Tayba Foundations’s documentary, “Forgotten Believers” as the camera zooms in on endless coils of barbed wire, viciously encircling the tops of tall fences surrounding grey compounds that seem to stretch on for miles and miles. From state to state across the US, they confine approximately 90,000 Muslims who are more than just faceless bodies, but hearts so expansive that they can encompass what’s truly real.

“Neither the earth nor the sky can contain Me,” Allah SWT tells us, “but only the heart of my believing servant.”

studying-prison

Lives Transformed by Faith Behind Bars

Tayba Foundation provides quality, college-level courses on the Islamic sciences to hundreds of inmates across the United States, focusing on refining thinking and behaviour in order to improve their transition from inmates to members of society. As the inmates have little access to learning about their faith behind bars, Tayba fulfills a vital fard kifaya (communal obligation).

So far, Tayba has changed the lives of so many people, like Anthony, who signed up for Muslim services in his Michigan prison so that he could meet his friend, but ended up becoming Muslim and now leads to Jumah prayer there. He has since learned Arabic and fiqh of two madhabs (schools of jurisprudence).

Or Stephan (Mujahid), who, after becoming Muslim in South Carolina, endured hardship from the other inmates who couldn’t accept a covert of his racial and criminal background, but still persevered and is a beautiful example of character reformation.

Or Aseem, who spent twenty years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murder because of dubious witnesses and gang loyalty, and gained hope through Tayba.

Or Sajad, who was convicted while still a teenager, ended up with a 25-years-to-life sentence, but then pursued studies with Tayba and is now the second prisoner from San Quentin to complete a university degree.

These are just some of the many hearts who have been transformed by Tayba. However, there are so many others who are still waitlisted, such as DeAndre. Below, he expresses himself beautifully as he explaines why he would like to study with Tayba.Tayba-Foundation-Letter

Shaykh Rami Nsour, founding director of Tayba, has files upon files of such letters, written to him from inmates who want to access Tayba’s services.

“At the end of every one of these letters is a human being, with a heart, with feelings.”

After Years of Empty Promises

“Did you feel, when you were writing those organizations, like you were stuck on a desert island putting a message in a bottle, throwing it out there, and just hoping that it would flow out to somebody?”

In the documentary, Shaykh Rami recalls asking his student about how he tried to access his faith behind bars.

“That’s exactly what it felt like,” the student replied.

Tayba sprouts from dedicated roots. Yusuf and Ansari were part of a group of inmates who were doing their best to study their religion in prison. They wrote letters to countless mosques and organizations, asking for resource material, but had only ever received one response, which had been from Zaytuna Prison Outreach. When it was time for Ansari to get paroled, Yusuf told him, “Brother, make sure you get down to Zaytuna, and find the brother.”

“I’d seen brothers (among the inmates) come and go,” recalls Ansari. “We saw Muslims leave us from that prison. They knew our dilemma, that we didn’t have no outside contact with a lot of the masaajid, so we were seeking this knowledge man, we was hungry for this knowledge, and we couldn’t get it from nobody!

“And so all these brothers they get out, they were like, ‘yeah man, I’m gonna go to this place, and I’m gonna hook you guys up, and I’m-a have people come back here, and write you and get you the material that you need’, and we says okay…and all these empty promises. Brothers got out, and nothing happened.

“Out of the core, I was the first one to get out,” he continues, “and (Yusuf) just said, ‘Brother, it’s up to you now,’ and I’m like, ‘InshaAllah, I’m not gonna let us down.’ And then,” he says, a smile breaking over his face, “I got out.”

This was in 2002, when Ansari met Shaykh Rami, and told him about the Yusuf, left behind in prison. “You really need to help this brother further his quest for Sacred Knowledge,” he told him.

So Shaykh Rami started teaching Yusuf via collect calls, where they studied various texts by famous scholars such as Muhammad Mawlud and Imam al-Zarnuji. In 2008, they founded Tayba Foundation.

Donate Today!

Taybe is a registered charity, so all donations are tax-deductible.

  • With a donation of US$25, you will be sent a unique hand-written thank-you note from a Tayba student.
  • With a donation of US$50, you will receive a thank-you note from a student, as well as five Eid cards designed by an inmate student.
  • US$150 will completely sponsor one student, and you will receive 10 Eid cards.
  • With a donation of US$300, you will be sponsoring two students and will receive a 2016 calendar, featuring Islamic art by Tayba inmate students.

Support Tayba today, and remember that you’re investing in the future.

by Aisha Hollyer

200 Prisoners Eager to Learn Sacred Knowledge

TaybaFoundation-Prisoners-Praying
“People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book” – Malcom X

Tayba Foundation comes to solve the problem of lack of sound Islamic education and sacred knowledge inside prisons. There is an increase of conversion to Islam inside prisons but very little access to knowledge and teachers. Tayba have over 12 years experience in educating Muslim inmates and 400 students registered in their Fall 2015 Semester Islamic correspondence program. The number of application requests are growing every day and they need funds to embrace these students.

This is a worthy and noble cause. Want to share in the reward? Donate on their LaunchGood page today.

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

“Br. Dawoud, I have to ask you a question…” I said without looking up.  I had to gather up the courage, and really force myself to ask.  I knew I needed to know, and it was time to stop pretending that I already knew the answer.

“This is a really dumb question, but… you all keep mentioning the ‘Khulafa ar-Rashideen’ from time to time and their example in our meetings, but I actually have no idea who or what that is.”

There.

I had finally voiced one of many questions I had as a young university student, who had recently joined the Muslim Students Association for the first time.  I had grown up in a small town, and honestly speaking there were not many practicing Muslims around during my teenage years.  My mother had used to try and take us to weekend ‘Islamic’ classes, however my understand of Islam was still very sparse and fragmented.

There is no such thing as a dumb question

Br. Dawoud looked back at with me with concern, and then gently said, “Sister Shireen, I want to tell you something.  There is no such thing as a dumb question.  If you don’t know what something is, all you have to do is ask.  The only ‘dumb’ question is the one that is never asked.”  He told me the Khulafa ar-Rashideen are the rightly guided caliphs, which refer to Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them all).

I would later learn that there are only two kinds of students who are unable to grow and benefit in their Islamic studies, one being the student who is too shy to ask their questions, and the second being a person who doesn’t ask their question out of arrogance (i.e. by not admitting to what they don’t know).

My experience that day left a lasting impression on me. Years later, I would remember how Br. Dawoud answered my question, and how he encouraged me to keep seeking knowledge.  To always remember that I can do better, and not to be shy to ask what I wanted to know.  It had always bothered me that I couldn’t answer basic questions about Islam that I wished I could answer.  I had finally met other Muslims who I was really impressed by at university, people who were really humble and sincere, who would encourage me time and time again to seek knowledge and strive for improvement.

Two years later, I was married, and my husband and I had decided to fly to Syria to pursue seeking sacred knowledge.  It was a very thrilling experience for me, to finally make up for years of knowledge that were just missing.  To fill a certain void in my life, as the little fragmented knowledge I had was now growing rapidly on a daily basis.  I would learn from the teachers who patiently taught us Arabic, and then alhamdulillah was able to move on to higher studies in the Arabic language itself.

Every single teacher declined money

What always amazed me about the experience was that every single teacher I studied with would decline money when I tried to pay them for their time.  And we’re talking about many Syrian teachers.  They would always have the same response, that when I return to Canada, they wanted me to teach others and they would take their reward from that.  That answer would always amaze me as someone growing up in the West where “nothing is for free”.  They had such good character, humility, and sincere concern for my studies with no ulterior motive.  It would really drive me to work much harder, as it was impossible to show up to class not doing your homework when the teacher was that selfless.

 

We spent several years overseas, and then returned to Canada.  Shortly after, my husband (Shaykh Faraz Rabbani) founded SeekersGuidance, which is now known as SeekersHub, an online website dedicated to teaching students in the West their religion.  To answer their many questions through the Answers Service.  To offer online courses, so that students could download classes with a qualified instructor and ask the questions they have.

The service initially started out with students having to pay for the courses.  I had been encouraging Shaykh Faraz to consider offering a certain segment of courses for free so that students could at least obtain their fard ‘ayn (personally obligatory knowledge) without charge.  I still remember the day when he told me that he decided to make the courses for free.  I was happy he had taken my advice, until he clarified he meant take any class for free.

“But how will we survive?” I asked him. 

At that point we had three young children, and he was talking about giving up the main salary that was paying our bills.  He explained that there are many people out there in the world who cannot afford to pay for classes, and there are many others who are able to donate to support causes like this.  To spread knowledge on a global level, so that attaining knowledge was not limited to one’s income level.  Historically, students would not pay for classes, rather teachers would be supported so that they could teach without worrying about providing for their families.

This new turn of events, which would later be called Knowledge Without Barriers, also resonated with me as it was the way of my teachers in Syria, to teach purely based on seeking the good for another person.  That perhaps the reward of helping that person to grow in their religion and become a better person is sufficient as a reward.  There is a way to donate financially so that supporters can keep the movement of spreading knowledge at no cost going, and so far it has been working for us as a model.

Your past does not have to dictate your future 

I want to sincerely advise students, especially the sisters, to now seek knowledge.  I have given you a glimpse of what it was like to go from someone who barely knew anything about the religion, to becoming a student of knowledge.  I understand that there are many sisters out there who still have a sparse, fragmented understanding of religion, because our parents are only capable of giving us what knowledge they know.  I was there, so I know what that feels like.  Many of our parents have not had an opportunity to study, but they did their best in raising us.  Your past does not have to dictate your future.

By just spending even an hour or two weekly listening to classes, you can steadily grow in understanding in a variety of Islamic subjects.  You can even choose which subjects you feel weakest in, or consult our staff as to what courses are best suited for you given your history.  I know for a lot of mothers, attending classes is very difficult because their children are not able to sit quietly for public classes.  However, with an online learning platform, even mothers with energetic young kids can regularly attend classes, so that in turn they are better able to educate their own children, which are the next generation.

The remedy for ignorance is to spread sound Islamic knowledge

Seeking knowledge helps one to become a better Muslim, to seek Allah Most High sincerely, to turn towards Him with the core of your being in prayer, and to become a better decision maker when weighing one’s actions with what will benefit one most in the Afterlife.  Especially in this day and age, we see many atrocities being done in the name of religion – when in reality they are being committed out of lack of knowledge about the religion.  Part of the remedy for ignorance is to spread sound Islamic knowledge from teachers who are qualified to teach, who have a chain of transmission from their teachers back to the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him).

We pray that these efforts are accepted, and that students across the globe can benefit by being able to study.  That they in turn are able to become contributors to their own communities.  Now no one needs to feel shy about asking questions about Islam, even if it is “who are the Khulafa ar-Rashideen?”

 

Ustadha Shireen Ahmed is the Course Development Manager at SeekersHub. There are over 35 courses on offer across all major disciplines, for beginner and advanced students – find out more here.

Study Guide for Seekers of Knowledge

al Muntannabi said: he who seeks pearls, immerses himself in the sea.

To be a successful student of knowledge, one should understand all aspects of studying, teaching, and learning.
We have included links that will help seekers take their learning to the next level:
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
Ten Adab of Seekers of Knowledge – Notes by Ayaz Siddiqui
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 Students
The Importance of Study in One’s Spiritual Development – Imam al-Ghazzali
Embracing Knowledge, an Introduction to Ustadh Abdullatif Al-Amin – Seekers Highlight