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The Passing of Mufti Umer Esmail

We are deeply saddened at the news of the passing of one of our beloved teacher’s, Mufti Mohamed Umer Esmail. A religious scholar, community leader, and loving father and husband, he is survived by his wife and three daughters.

Let us pray for Mufti Umer and his family, may God grant him the highest levels of Jannah and may God’s Mercy shower his family and may the Razzaq, the Provider, provide for his family.

“Mufti Umer Esmail was a wonderful person, of gentleness, and good akhlaq. Much beloved by all those who knew him.”

– Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Help us raise $100,000 by the end of the week to support his estate in this challenging time. The funds raised will be through our Islamic Scholars Fund initiative and 100% of the proceeds will go directly to his family.

Advice of Leading Muslim Scholars on Seeking Islamic Knowledge

Shaykh Faid Muhammad Said, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Shaykh Salek bin Siddina and Habib Ali al-Jifri: the keys to succeeding on the path of knowledge, the adab of gaining Sacred Knowledge, and the blessing and high rank of this path.

 

Resources for Seekers

Can My Daughter Give Gifts to Her Teachers During the Holiday Season?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Assalamu alaykum

My daughter goes to a local school and during the holiday season — few days before the actual Christmas date, because of the custom, students give gifts to their teachers. Is is allowed for us to do that?

Answer:  Walaikum assalam,

I hope you’re doing well, insha’Allah. There would be great merit in giving gifts to teachers, neighbours, and others—even at the end of the year. Make it an expression of gratitude, and maintaining good relationships.

It is, in fact, a sunna of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk) to give gifts, and to express gratitude to those who do good to us.

He said (peace and blessings be upon him), “Give gifts, and you will grow in love for one another.” [Bukhari]

And he cautioned, “Whoever is not thankful to people is not thankful to Allah.” [Ahmad, and Bukhari in Adab al-Mufrad; rigorously authentic]

As for the concern of “celebrating” the end of the year: the aspect of giving gifts is a good social custom.

The guidance of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him & his folk) teaches beautiful balance. This balance is manifest in how we deal with social customs of non-Muslims: only those customs that relate to disbelief, moral corruption, or sin are prohibited. As for good customs and practices, these are upheld—with sincere intentions and in accordance with Prophetic teachings.

And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.

[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is a scholar and researcher of Islamic law and Executive Director of SeekersHub Global After ten years overseas, Shaykh Faraz returned to Canada in the Summer of 2007. In May 2008 he founded SeekersHub Global to deal with the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge—both online and on the ground—in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He has been repeatedly listed as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims (The Muslim500).

How To Avoid Being A "Know-It-All", by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

You should be involved in Islamic learning, argues Shaykh Shuaib Ally. A large reason for that involves a trait that, when lacking, cripples a person’s ability to develop their knowledge base: intellectual humility.

A lack of intellectual humility manifests itself, in discussions related to the Islamic sciences, in various forms. A common expression is for me to arrive at a certain opinion, say, related to a legal matter. I then imagine that I alone understand what the ruling ought to be, and that none others hold a correct view.
However, it is unlikely that my opinion finds no precedent whatsoever in an academic history that spans over 1400 odd years and large swathes of the globe. Such a belief instead derives from my misguided belief in the unique and special nature of my own outlook.
It would be bad enough if this were the lone result of this form of intellectual arrogance. Worse is the nefarious corollary of such a belief, my belief that the fact this unique understanding is not being currently championed must be due to one of two reasons.
One is that the vast majority of scholars are being academically dishonest and are hiding what is the correct opinion for their own ends. The other is that it really is the fact that the understanding I have arrived at has no precedent whatsoever in the inherited tradition. I then take this to be demonstrative of the fact that established scholarship has nothing serious to offer.
This is, of course, wrongheaded.
It is unlikely that there is some sort of conspiracy to cover up aspects of scholarship in Islamic history; in fact, scholarly works are quite good at recording non-mainstream opinions, if for no other reason than academic curiosity. It is simply more likely that scholars have chosen another opinion for other reasons, and that is the one that people are most familiar with.
Moreover, my being unaware of a certain opinion within a body of scholarship hardly indicates that the community of scholarship itself is somehow compromised. More often than not, it simply reflects a gap in my own knowledge base. That is, it says more about me than about the discipline I am considering defective.
In this regard, the late 3rd C Shāfiʿī jurist poet, Mansūr b. Ismāʿīl al-Tamīmī, recited:

Those of diminished intellect critique the study of law
Yet their blame does not affect it in the least
The morning sun rising in the horizon remains unharmed
By those without sight remaining oblivious to its light

Let me give you an example. Imagine I believe that astronomical calculations should be used in lieu of naked eye sightings to determine the beginning and end of months in the lunar calendar. I could have very good reasons for arguing this. Classical scholars, I might argue, worked in a medieval period in which the sciences were not as developed, and therefore did not consider astronomical calculations as possible. I might go on to argue that in the modern age, we have precise methods of measurement, and that this should allow for the formulation of new rulings.
This would be an example of intellectual arrogance because classical works do consider astronomical calculations being used for this purpose; these discussions are alluded to in even fairly elementary works of law. When I make such a claim, I am arrogantly making claims about the absence of a discussion in a certain literature, betraying my lack of knowledge of preceding discussion.
My viewing scholars at large with suspicion, and believing them to be unwilling to entertain this discussion, would likewise be intellectually arrogant. This is because they are skirting an issue; they have simply chosen another opinion for other reasons.
The intellectual arrogance here is born out of a misguided sense of my own academic breadth. This arrogance is criticized famously by Abu Nuwas, the 2nd C Abbasid poet famous for the licentious content of his work, who recited:

Say to one who claims a special understanding:
You have gathered a little bit, but even more escapes you!

This lack of knowledge is therefore exacerbated by my lack of intellectual humility. Had I bothered to engage in the disciplines that purport to deal with the subject matter under consideration, I might have found at the very least a suitable starting point for their research.
However, rejecting at the outset anything a scholarly class busies itself with as having little intellectual worth has necessarily restricted me from benefiting from it. Due diligence demands being thorough in researching my claims prior to making them, but my preconceived notions about the undeveloped nature of the Islamic disciplines have led me to bypass that.
These preconceived notions are often coupled by an actual inability to access scholarly discussions on a given subject. That is, intellectual arrogance has blocked me from acquiring the requisite knowledge of the Islamic disciplines, primary or supporting, such that I can actually engage the textual tradition on the issues I purports to have special knowledge of. Indeed, there is often a correlation between lack of learning and intellectual arrogance.


A lack of intellectual humility can also express itself in my conception of others and their practice. Part of intellectual humility is understanding that while I believe and act in a certain manner, others may have good reason for doing or believing something that is at odds with this. Intellectual humility demands coming to terms with this, even if I do not understand the reason for others choosing another course, or even if I have never come across the rationale underlying their chosen course.
When I am intellectually arrogant, however, I am unable to do this. Instead, I presumptuously think that knowledge begins and ends only with what I myself has come across and understand.This allows me to pompously insist on my own position at all costs, assuming it to be the only correct position. It also allows me to judge others, believing their positions to be inadequate without having actually assessed their merit, and rejecting from the outset anything they could have to say in response as having intellectual worth.
Rejecting something simply because it is unfamiliar is, however, behaviour the Qurʾan criticizes as unbecoming. Imam al- Qurtubī, the famous 7th C Andalusian exegete, mentions that al-Husayn b. al-Fadl, a 3rd C Nishapuri exegete, was asked, Does the Qur’an contain the idea that whoever is ignorant of something opposes it? He said: Yes, in two places: They disbelieve in anything their own knowledge does not encompass (10:39); and If they have not been guided to something, they say, this is an ancient lie (46:11).


Another form of intellectual arrogance can manifest itself when I have acquired some knowledge, and suddenly consider myself intellectually superior to all others, even those who are far above me in their level of scholarship, including my own teachers. Al-Jāhiz, the 3rd C Abbasid polymath, recited these famous lines from the perspective of a teacher complaining of such a situation:

How curious, the one I reared from childhood; I would feed with the tips of my fingers
I taught him to shoot; when his arms became strong, he fired at me
How often I trained him in verse; when he began to recite, he attacked me
I taught him manliness, daily; when his mustache began to grow, he abandoned me
When I act in such a manner, I become the instantiation of the warning that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, as it has contributed to my inflated sense of worth, instead of increasing my humility.

 


The good news is that the cure to intellectual arrogance is fairly straightforward. It is to actually engage in sincere learning. This is why I think you should engage in Islamic learning.
The bad news is that doing so isn’t particularly easy, in that it is much easier to simply be pompous. Acquiring real knowledge takes work.
There is an indication of this difficulty in that the Prophet Muhammad – peace and blessings of God be upon him – said that whoever embarks upon a path of knowledge, God facilitates for them a path to Paradise.
He does this, scholars say, in two ways. One is worldly, in that he makes it easy for them to do good, and difficult for them to do otherwise. The second is a reference to the afterlife, in that he facilitates for them their crossing of the bridge to Paradise, a task otherwise fraught with difficulty.
There is a general principle when it comes to how reward and punishment is meted out for a specific action; it tends to be commensurate, or similar in kind, to a person’s action, good or bad. This is encapsulated in the maxim: actions are rewarded in kind.
In the case of our knowledge seeker, he has undertaken what is actually an onerous task – knowledge seeking can require, beyond cost, countless hours of attending classes, listening to lectures, recording and reviewing notes, and putting up with teachers with different personalities and teaching methodologies that may not accord with his own.
All of this is near impossible for the intellectually arrogant, as he cannot see why he needs to humiliate himself before knowledge in this manner. But for one who does take it upon himself to traverse this difficult path, they are rewarded in kind, in that God facilitates for them what would have otherwise been an intractable journey.


It has been said that whoever has not tasted the humility of learning for a short time, tastes the bitterness of ignorance for a lifetime. That is, humbling oneself to a sincere knowledge quest can serve to quell many of the pitfalls that come with being intellectually arrogant.
One who does so sincerely will become aware of the kinds of discussions that scholars are engaged in, their range and extent, and the methods they employ to reach their conclusions. A large part of this is because engaging sincerely will provide one with the tools to properly participate in scholarly discussions.
Being apprised of this intellectual heritage protects one from thinking that an entire tradition is undeveloped in that it has little to offer. This awareness also prevents one from viewing the scholarly community with disdain or suspicion, even if one disagrees with their conclusions.
The knowledge that one gains will allow one to develop their intellectual humility in other ways too. At the personal level, it allows one to realize the contours of their own knowledge base; that is, an awareness of what they know and how that roughly fits into the available body of knowledge. For the vast majority of people, this is a humbling experience, as one realizes the limited nature of their grasp, even after years of study.
At a larger level, this humility forces a certain level of tolerance for others’ beliefs and practice, as one no longer pompously believes themselves to have an exclusive grasp of truth in the Islamic tradition. Such a person no longer has the internal urge to object to what others are doing or saying, as he knows that there can be schools of thought or credible scholarship that holds as such. This is why many scholars say: the more one’s knowledge grows, the more his objections diminish.


This is – to finally get to the point – why I think you should be involved in Islamic learning. Aside from the normal reasons for pursuing what is generally considered ‘religious’ knowledge – which are themselves good enough – doing so will allow one to pursue this special knowledge related virtue, that of cultivating intellectual humility.
A community that demonstrates knowledge related virtues, premier among them being a healthy dose of intellectual humility, is the kind of knowledge community we want to build. This is the kind of community that, aside from simply being engaged with knowledge, can build a native tradition of scholarship.
This is because its collective intellectual humility and academic integrity has allowed for the raising of intellectual discourse across the community, beyond the clamor of theories divorced from preceding scholarship and the vague insinuations that often pose as informed comment in popular discourse today.
I want you to be part of this building process, even if in a small way.
It is difficult to approach a knowledge quest sincerely. Yet I encourage you to approach it as sincerely as you can, and pray that your sincerity, even if somehow currently compromised, is perfected over time. Some past scholars used to say, musing on their intentions becoming corrected over time: we started out seeking knowledge for reasons other than God, yet it refused in the end to be for any cause other than God.
The method for participating in this process is up to you; it can and should involve a number of different options. These include attending classes on the ground with those who do embody intellectual humility; taking online courses (such as those offered through Seekershub), listening to lectures, and reading widely.
We don’t lack for resources in learning. We do lack for commitment to learning, a problem that derives largely from arrogance of the intellect.
This is why, in a roundabout way, I think you should involve yourself in sincere Islamic learning.

[cwa id=’cta’]

Beneficial Knowledge and Intentions, a khutbah by Habib Hussein Al Saggaf

Making the intention to gain beneficial knowledge through daily readings of the Qur’an and hadith collections is the key message in this Friday Sermon given by Habib Hussein Al Saggaf. He goes on to encourage us to make sincere intention to do good deeds because Allah rewards us for good intentions even if were unable to carry it out later due to unforeseen circumstances.

Habib Hussein Al Saggaf

Seeking Beneficial KnowledgeHabib Hussein Al Saggaf is a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1971. His father raised him on the love of seeking knowledge, love of the spiritual scholars, love of the righteous and saints of Allah. He memorized the Holy Qur’an before reaching his teenage years. He spent much time in the company of the people of knowledge, religious scholars and the righteous. It was with these kind of people that he was raised, nurtured, and protected under the guidance of Al Habib Al Imam ‘Abdul Qadir bin Ahmad As-Saqqaf, from whom he was given the ijazah (permission to carry on the knowledge attained). He was also given special attention by and received ijazah from Habib al-Imam Ahmad Mash-hur bin Taha Al Haddad, through whom more than 500,000 individuals came into Islam. He was also given ijazah from Al Habib Al ‘Alamah Yahya bin Ahmad Al ‘Aydrus, Al Habib Omar bin Zain  ‘Aydid, Al Habib Abu Bakr bin ‘Ali al-Mash-hur and the respected Habib Omar bin Muhammad bin Salem bin Hafith, who gave him permission to teach and call people to Allah. Habib Hussein then went on to study at Al-Azhar University in Egypt in 1992 for six years in the faculty of Shari’ah, Islamic Law, from where he graduated with a degree in Islamic Shari’ah. After his graduation he traveled to the city of Tarim in the Hadramawt valley of Yemen, which is known as the city of scholars and saints. There he became a student of Habib Omar bin Hafith, and studied in Dar Al Mustafa Institute in various Islamic sciences.

Resources on Beneficial Knowledge and Intentions:

Cover photo by Maica Pineda.

 

Should I Keep Studying Fiqh With a Teacher Who Doesn’t Follow One Single School of Law?

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaykum,

I really like my teacher who is a learned person who has studied in Al Azhar but in teaching Fiqh he sometimes mix the opinions of different schools. Should I continue to study with him even if he doesn’t follow one school?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

Studying with a Teacher who does not follow a Single School of Law

It is better to stick with a teacher one trusts, even if this teacher does not necessarily follow a single school of thought in all legal issues. Normally, a layperson would simply do this, as they likely would not have the tools (or time) to adequately assess this teacher’s rationale for choosing an opinion.

Choosing Opinions from without one’s Chosen School

It is, generally speaking, permissible to prefer non-authoritative positions from within one’s own school, or valid positions based on sound scholarship from other schools.
A scholar might do so for any number of academic or personal reasons. He might feel, for example, that another opinion more closely accords to modern or situational circumstances; or that it is truer to the available evidence; or that another’s legal methodology on a certain matter is sounder. Alternatively, he might simply find it easier to implement.

Studying one School before Delving into Others

A student of knowledge would normally seek grounding in one school of thought before branching out into others. This prevents one from getting confused between schools and conflicting opinions, and allows one to reasonably ensure that their practice is logically sound and internally consistent. It is not uncommon, however, for a person to come across other opinions during one’s course of study, and it is not, generally speaking, blameworthy to follow them.

Shuaib Ally

What is Required in Order to Become a Teacher in Islam?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalaamu ‘alaykum
What does it take to be an Ustadh? I am interested in teaching Islamic classes one day inshallah.
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
Titles are irrelevant. What matters is ​gaining ​mastery over the material, taking it with complete understanding, and then passing it on as you received it​, with sincerity, humility, proper manners, and gratitude. ​
Knowledge is a light and sustenance granted by Allah​, and its primary purpose is to fix your relationship with your Creator.
​​The true scholar knows that the next life is better, weightier, and of far greater importance than this life. ​​The one who truly knows is the person who acts according to his knowledge.
Ghazali said, “the reality of deep understanding is what falls upon the heart, then manifests upon the tongue, which leads to action bequeathing awe (khashya) and Godfearingness (taqwa).”
As such, make Allah your point, begin with the knowledge which is personally obligatory (fard `ayn) upon you to know, and build from there, seeking counsel and guidance from living heirs of the Holy Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Allah does not look at your forms and wealth, rather He looks at your hearts and actions.” [Muslim]
Allah looks to hearts to see what is in them of certainty, genuineness, sincerity, and all praiseworthy traits.
And Ibn `Ata’illah al-Iskandari, one of the masters of the inward sciences, wrote, “Knowledge, if coupled with reverential awe, is for you; otherwise it is against you.” ​
Please see: Can I Become a Scholar By Studying With SeekersGuidance? 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.