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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.

Trust in Allah and Provisions for Seekers of Knowledge

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalamu alaykum
(1) Has Allah promised that if a person busies himself with seeking and teaching sacred knowledge and worship, He will provide for him and those dependent on him without them having to look for provision, neither by asking to people nor by finding a job (since the job would divert their efforts from learning)?
(2) In alternative, would finding someone to sponsor our studies be considered disliked or against tawakkul?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
(1) No, it is obligatory for you to support your family. Find a lawful source of income and study hard on the side, filling your life with blessing and sincerity, and insha’Allah you’ll see the benefit. Knowledge, too, is sustenance, and Allah gives to whomsoever He wishes.
(2) Trust in Allah is for one’s heart to be at rest and confident with the Divine Promise. [see: Saving for Retirement & Trust in Allah] The sunna is to take the means whilst relying upon Allah, and not upon the means themselves. And as such, there would be nothing wrong in seeking a scholarship in order to fulfil your goals.
Please see also: A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah and consider taking: Faith in Divine Unity & Trust in Divine Providence
And Allah alone gives success.
wassalam,
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by 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