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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.

The Necessity of Islamic Institutions in the Modern Age – Imam Khalid Latif

The Need

“With modernity, people lose a depth of perspective that you can only see in one direction, either outward or inward… we’re supposed to be people who can see in both directions.”

Qualified Teachers

“Where you move from having somebody who is just a professor to a teacher: that they embody a sense of ethics, a sense of values, that you’re able to now recognize that they’re not just talking at you, but they live what it is that they’re inviting you towards.”

Traditional Learning

“You build and you grow and you increase through a systematized method of learning because it has an ends—that is not just about the learning itself but what the learning brings you towards and what it allows for you to do.”

Scale

“But the beauty of light is that it just takes a little bit of it to push away darkness.”

Global Impact

“You have men and women like those who run this facility… people have come up to me and mentioned them by name, saying that if not for them and what it is that they speak about and what it is that they give us access to and what it is that they teach us about religion—in countries where religion is heavily corporatized—I wouldn’t know how to deal with the depression that I had that was bringing me to a place where I was thinking of ending my life in this world, because I couldn’t find any way of getting out of it until I learned about God through a different prism.”

“They help us to deal with the challenges that our students bring us, our community brings us every day, rooted in realities that require us to see what it was that we were taught through a different prism through a different perspective. That’s the kind of work you’re being invited to support today; those are the kind of individuals who are building institutions that are set to live much much more beyond them… but where you have benefited become the means through which others can benefit, and to allow and understand for yourself that the house of God, the path of God, the book of God, anything that is qualified of God, is meant to not draw attentiveness to it but to draw attention towards God.”

Beautiful Facility

“You can come to places and spaces like this, and you walk into it and the remembrance of God is not something that gets forced upon you but you just feel it all around you. I walked in the SeekersGuidance facility today—and it was the first time that I’ve ever been in it—and every part of it just made me feel a familiarity and a recognition that turned me towards the Divine. There’s not a lot of places like that, especially in the world that we live in today. And it’s a testament to those who built it, but also those who frequent it. And what you have is unique, but you have to care for it, and you have to build it and grow it, so that it reaches beyond what even you can imagine it to become.”

 

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Commemorating The Life and Legacy of Imam Abdullah Haron – Shaykh Sadullah Khan (Video)

In this Pre Khutba talk, Shaykh Sadullah Khan reflects on the life and legacy of one of South Africa’s heroes, Imam Abdullah Haron. As a religious scholar and a concerned community activist, Imam Abdullah Haron opposed and resisted the tyrannical Apartheid regime. After imprisonment by the apartheid government, Imam Abdullah Haron was martyred. Shaykh Sadullah reminds us of the struggle of Galiema Haron (Imam Haron’s wife) and the various challenges she and her family faced, and how the Muslim community abandoned her during her time of need. Her support and perseverance should never be forgotten, and as we remember and commemorate the life her husband Imam Haron, we should equally remember her life and struggle in support of her husband.

When Zubair Met Zubeida: A Snapshot of Learning at SeekersGuidance – Saad Razi Shaikh

A year and a half ago, I started learning at SeekersGuidance. Here’s why you should start too.

A few weeks into the year 2018 found me by my desk, staring at the blank screen of my computer, not unlike an oracle staring at her orb. A string of lows in life had found me bewildered and lost. My university days were drawing to a close, the career opportunities were not heart-warming, and I was at a loss at what to do next.

Winter was receding, spring was due in a couple of weeks. In February of that year, I began my first term at Seekers Guidance. I had signed up, not sure what was to come next. I was auto-enrolled for the two foundational courses, the ‘Absolute Essentials of Islam’ and the ‘Essentials of Islamic Tradition.’ Before starting on those, I had heard a short clip on how to gain the most from seeking sacred knowledge, the tips and practices, the points of caution.

Back then, I was not aware of the teachers at Seekers. But when I heard the short clip, I took notice. I paused and took detailed notes, something I rarely ever did. Both the style of the teacher and the substance of the lesson taught hit the right wavelength for me. In between jotting down notes and nodding at the screen, I thought of how wonderful it would be if the same person would be teaching the courses I had enrolled in.

And lo and behold! When I first tuned into my first ever lesson, I found the same teacher teaching. I learned his name was Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. He would be guiding the students into their first steps into the learning of the sacred sciences.

The courses were taught in English, the language that had been my medium of learning lifelong. The courses were structured according to levels, starting with the foundations, eventually progressing to Mastery. Both live sessions and term-long Q & A were offered. All of this, for absolutely no cost. Here was guidance that would measure in gold, yet for free? I was intrigued, dumbfounded. Eventually as the year passed, the lessons revised, and the learning put to practice, my intrigue gave way to gratefulness.

What made me most happy was Shaykh Faraz’s manner of teaching. The subject at hand was the building blocks of our faith, the keys to the happiness of this world and the next. As necessary it was to get the basics of it right, the task was overwhelming to picture too. I was nervous at the start, not sure if I would be sincere enough or plain simple good enough to learn it.

This is where Shaykh Faraz’s light-hearted style, his jovial way of teaching came to the rescue. Rarely ever had I seen an Islamic scholar so approachable and fluid in his teaching. The neat structuring of the lessons, the soundness of the classical texts it was based on, the unbroken chain of learning the teacher taught it with, all added up to the learning experience I was happy to partake into. I found myself hurrying through the lessons at first, eager to absorb as much as I could. Later, I slowed down, listened more carefully, took detailed notes and revised them before handing in the assignment due before the close of term.

Those who have heard Shaykh Faraz’s lectures know the characters of Zubair, Zubeida and Uncle Jamil. They are something of a regular, the hapless Zubair wanting to marry Zubeida, with her father Uncle Jamil throwing tests at Zubair. Shaykh Faraz uses them to illustrate the finer points of the lessons. These playful additions bring them to life. I have often wondered if someday, on walking into a Toronto wedding, I may bump into these characters!

As I became more comfortable with the routines and rigor of online learning, I started to explore Seekers more. In between terms, I would tune into the On-Demand courses. I would listen to podcasts, I would swap the time I could have spent reading the news feed for reading through the Answers service. Eventually, I started listening to other teachers, and Alhamdulillah, I felt both their knowledge and their states influence me for the better.

Ustadh Anik Abdullah Misra said in an interview that through the internet, ‘Allah has made believers connect to each other in an age of disconnectedness.’ The more I reflected on this, the more I realized how true it was. For how did I come to SeekersGuidance in the first place?

Back in early 2018, when I had been staring at my desk, I was at a loss at what to do next. At some point, I knew I wanted to study Islam, to at least get the basics of the Deen right. But how was I to pursue this? Drop my academics and head to a local seminary? Do a Masters in Islamic Studies? Study with local madrasah students? I had options but not the clarity to pursue which one.

It was then it dawned on me, I need not break my head open to figure things out. I could ask Allah directly. I decided to offer the Istikhara prayer to seek the way ahead. I took out my phone, googled the Istikhara dua, and opened the first link that felt right. Once the Arabic text appeared, I kept the phone aside, offered the two rakats, before picking the phone again and reciting the dua. Later, I saw the browser tab still open. I read the entire web page, I scoured through the website. I had never seen it before. At the top, I saw the ‘Courses’ section. Before I knew it, I had signed up.

The website was SeekersGuidance. My prayers had been answered, the dilemma cleared up. The road to seeking knowledge was now wide open.


Saad Razi Shaikh is a journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives. He can be reached on Twitter @writweeter


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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).


 

Support SeekersGuidance’s Islamic Scholars Fund – Ibn Ali Miller

Ibn Ali Miller urges you to support SeekersGuidance’s Islamic Scholars Fund.

He laments that many people only donate in Ramadan, while the Fund supports scholars and students work year round.

Ibn Ali explains that if we donate now, these scholars and students will be able to do their jobs during the holy month. “You should never make the teachers ask,“ he reminds, “and you should never make the students beg.”

If we can keep the dignity and honour of the scholars and students, our deen and the message of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) will continue to move forward.

Ibn Ali closes calling on all of us—before the distractions of Ramadan set in—to donate today.

 

“When You Can’t See The Vision, Trust The Visionary” – Imam Siraj Wahhaj

Alhamdulillah, we were blessed to have Imam Siraj Wahhaj join for a special fundraising iftar in Toronto for the SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary. We need to raise $75K/month to make the Global Islamic Seminary a Reality. Give now – may Allah reward you and increase you!

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Why I Support SeekersHub Global – Sr. Erin Rutherford


Assalaam Alaikum Seekers and Friends,
Ramadan Mubarak! I pray that you are in the best of health and faith.
I seriously love the work that I do for SeekersHub Global!
It is motivating to see how many people join us each term. Since our humble beginning over 25,000 students have studied with us– to improve their relationship with Allah, studying to become closer to the Beloved, studying to be better husbands, wives, parents, and humans beings.
Our team of Directors, teachers, and volunteers, are tirelessly working around the clock, literally, to make this organisation the best that it can be. They are also trying to find new ways in which we can continue bringing you events, classes and courses for free through Knowledge without Barriers, no matter where you are on this Earth.
With learning centres in places like Buenos Aires and Melbourne, SeekersCircles in over 40 countries and two active hubs with almost daily events, we are endeavouring to take knowledge to the Ends of the Earth.
This is why I support SeekersHub Global. I believe we are really making a difference in allowing easy access to sound islamic knowledge to the global Muslim community.
This Ramadan I humbly ask that you give a donation, no matter how small, towards supporting SeekersHub Global-if you have the means.  This small (or large) donation will be YOUR contribution towards another students education and helping to support your teachers to focus on what they do best–teaching. Reap the rewards, not only in this life, but the next. Your donations will be a sadaqa jariya, a charity for which the reward will outlive you.
Please visit https://seekersguidance.org/donate
Or you can join the call for the 1000-Person March! Find out more here.
Please support SeekersHub Global and Knowledge without Barriers, because it is powered by YOUR generosity and we couldn’t continue without YOU.
Registration for Term 3 2014 is now open! Take a look at the SeekersAcademy page for what we have on offer!
Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about Knowledge without Barriers, or SeekersHub Global.
May Allah reward your generosity and grant you success in your seeking!
Requesting your prayers,
With much peace and blessings,
Erin Rutherford, Outreach Director, SeekersHub Global