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June 26, 2012

Ramadan 2012 Prep Tip #1: Seek Knowledge… – Part 5

by Umm Muawiyah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

[Here are Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.]

Some of the problems with the way knowledge is sought today (contd.)

4) Seeking knowledge in the 21st century way and not the way of the salaf (predecessors)

Okay, I wasn’t sure how to phrase this.

First, let me explain how the earlier generations used to seek knowledge and then I’ll mention what we (21st century humans) do instead.

[Please note: I’m NOT referring to using the Internet and such stuff. What I’m referring to is the mentality that we have today towards seeking knowledge.]

a) They learnt the knowledge of Islam in ARABIC because the Quran, Sunnah and books of the scholars are in ARABIC.

What do many of us do today? We wait for the books to get translated so that we can study them!

Listen, I have to say this. It’s going to sound nasty and rough but it’s for your own good:

Please learn Arabic. If you don’t then it won’t matter if all the books of Islam were translated, because they are ALL dependent on the language.The Quran, for example, is a linguistic miracle. The language that carries this miracle is Arabic. How can you translate that??? Ever heard of the term “lost in translation”?

You don’t have to be able to speak or write but you should be able to read books and listen to lectures. It’s okay if the whole process takes two decades. Let it. How many years have you wasted just dreaming about learning Arabic and waiting for books to get translated?

And no, Arabic is not hard. Allah said it was easy so that’s that.

وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْ‌نَا الْقُرْ‌آنَ لِلذِّكْرِ‌ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ‌

“And We have indeed made the Quran easy to understand and remember, then is there any that will remember (or receive admonition)?” [Surah Al-Qamar (54) :17]

If the Quran is easy to understand, then obviously the language of the Quran is also easy to understand. [By the way, Allah repeats this ayah (verse) FOUR times in this Surah. Ponder away.]

[I’ve already proven this silly notion (about Arabic being difficult) wrong in this post.]

b) They studied under a teacher (or more than one teacher)

Today, you will find many people who are self-taught in terms of Islam – and that’s not too good.

[I realise that this part will make all self-taught people very angry. However, please be patient and hear me out.]

About 5-6 years ago, I was reading a book (can’t remember which one) and the author stated that nearly all the scholars were against self-study and believed that a student of knowledge should study under a teacher.

Although, by the Mercy of Allah, I was not self-taught and had studied (and continued to study) Islam under various teachers, I wasn’t convinced with this argument. What was wrong with being self-taught anyway?

As the years went by, I began to realise that the scholars were right. I noticed quite a few deficiencies in the understanding of many (not all) of those who were self-taught.

Then I came across a statement in another book about how the knowledge was locked in the books but the scholars were the keys to opening the locks i.e. the knowledge was preserved in the books but one’s teachers will help him understand what the authors of the book meant.

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) himself had a teacher: Jibreel (alaihissalam). He then taught his Companions (radiallahu anhum), and then they passed on that knowledge and so on, until it reached us.

One of the fields in which one MUST have a teacher is tajweed (the rules of reciting the Quran correctly). One needs a teacher to correct one’s pronunciation. [I’m not going to discuss this issue in this post but I will give examples in a future post on my Haafidh blog, insha-Allah.]

So, I would really advise against self-study.

Note #1: That doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t do research and other stuff. Yes, you should. What I mean, by not self-studying, is that one should not try to teach oneself all the Islamic sciences without a teacher because then he will have many mistakes in his understanding of these sciences.

Note #2: What if there are no Islamic classes to attend or what if a person isn’t able to attend them?

Well, if this is really the case, then Allah has made things easy for us in this time. We can now connect to the people of knowledge online.

Alhamdulillah, there are lots of online classes.In addition to that, we have the tapes of the scholars where they have explained many books. So I don’t think that lack of onsite classes is the killer that it once was.

c) They put a lot of importance on memorisation.

Today, we seem to attach importance to understanding, whilst forgetting that memorisation is important as well.

Memorisation of what, you ask?

Well, memorisation of:

1) The Quran

2) The ahadeeth

3) Short texts (called “mutoon”)

[Note: These are memorised in Arabic and not in English!]

4) Memorisation of the proofs (this obviously includes the Quran and ahadeeth)

5) Memorisation of relevant information

For example, the salah (prayer) has conditions, pillars and obligations. We need to learn the meaning of these terms, understand the rulings pertain to them and memorise which acts of the salah fall under which category.

So, if you’re praying and you forget the dhikr (remembrance) that is recited during rukoo (bowing), what will you do if you don’t know which category this act belongs to? You can’t break the prayer and go running towards your notebook!

People don’t memorise the required information which is why many of them run to others for even the simplest of matters.

Note: I’m not asking everyone to memorise ahadeeth and short texts. That’s not for everyone, just for students of knowledge. However, you should memorise the knowledge that pertains to YOU, like the example I gave of the conditions, pillars and obligations of prayer. Another example would be knowing the rules of fasting. Yes, you could write everything down in a notebook but what happens if the notebook isn’t with you when an issue arises?

d) They took down notes during their classes.

Yes, really. They travelled with pens and papers.

As for today’s students…well,many of them just stare at the teacher. And some of those who wish to write borrow pens and paper from others. Sorry, but why did you come to the lecture?

[Okay, we can travel with One Note and a tablet PC and get the job done so the point is not about travelling with paper and pens but rather with something to capture the information. And yes, I will explain this part on my Random Thoughts blog, insha-Allah. Keep a look out.]

Taking notes is a sunnah:

قيدوا العلم بالكتاب

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Trap Knowledge by writing (it down).” [Sahih Al-Jaami, Hadeeth No. 4434]

For those who want to be real students of knowledge: If you’re seen listening to a lecture without taking down notes, then there are only two options: 1) You’re driving, cooking, etc 2) You’re listening to the Friday khutbah (lecture).

Note: Here’s an interesting article on what happens when we listen to a lecture that we know is being recorded.

e) They started from the basics.

Today, we have the following:

1) People who are ignorant and they do not know that they are ignorant.

And this is the worst type of ignorance. It’s better to be ignorant and be aware that one is ignorant because then one will strive to raise this ignorance from oneself.

[So, for those who feel like they don’t know anything: That’s good because that means that you’re learning.]

Ignorance is a terrible disease. It’s so terrible of a disease that a person doesn’t even realise that he is infected with it, until the cure (knowledge) comes to him.

[Just ask yourself how many times you’ve been stunned to find out new information and gasped “I didn’t know that!” You didn’t know that you were ignorant about that issue until after the knowledge of that issue came to you.]

2) Asking about matters which have no benefit or are above one’s level.

As for those matters that have no benefit, we keep away from them. I’ll talk about this in more detail in the next part, insha-Allah.

As for matters that are above one’s level, obviously one should not approach them until one has studied the basics. For example, you find people asking about political issues when they cannot even recite Surah Al-Fatihah properly! We need to make sure that we have our priorities straight.

Note: One of the things that we must avoid is asking about the religion of Islam i.e. wanting to know about matters of the unseen or why certain things have been legislated. This is not beneficial knowledge. In fact, it is a trick of Shaytan (Satan) to mislead us.

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ لاَ يَزَالُ النَّاسُ يَسْأَلُونَكُمْ عَنِ الْعِلْمِ حَتَّى يَقُولُوا هَذَا اللَّهُ خَلَقَنَا فَمَنْ خَلَقَ اللَّهَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَهُوَ آخِذٌ بِيَدِ رَجُلٍ فَقَالَ صَدَقَ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ قَدْ سَأَلَنِي اثْنَانِ وَهَذَا الثَّالِثُ ‏.‏ أَوْ قَالَ سَأَلَنِي وَاحِدٌ وَهَذَا الثَّانِي ‏.‏

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) observed: People will constantly ask you questions pertaining to knowledge until they would say: Allah created us, but who created Allah? He (the narrator) says: He (Abu Hurairah) was (at the time of narrating this hadith) catching hold of the hand of a man and he said: Allah and the Messenger told the truth. Two persons have already put to me this question, and this is the third one, or he said: One man has put to me this question and he is the second one.” [Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 246]

So, we should be careful as some of these questions about the religion could lead to kufr (disbelief).

f) They studied the same book several times.

Today, when a person studies one book or one subject and he is asked to study it again, he would probably say: “But I already know all of this.”

This statement is really not befitting of a student of knowledge.

Compare this attitude to the attitude of an acquaintance of mine: She was attending the Fiqh of Taharah (Jurisprudence of Purification) lessons of our masjid’s imam. She told me that she had studied this topic TEN times already but it was something else (i.e. excellent) studying it under him!

TEN times? That means that she was studying it for the 11th time, subhan Allah. May Allah reward her with the greatest of rewards and raise her status in this world and in the hereafter. This is a true student of knowledge.

g) They studied the basics of the all the sciences.

Today, many people seem to stick to only one or two topics.

Some people only study aqeedah (creed) and don’t touch anything else.

Some others only study fiqh (jurisprudence) and don’t touch anything else.

Yet others only study tafsir (explanation of the Quran) and don’t touch anything else.

Why is that? We need to study the basics of all the sciences. They all relate to each other.

h) They were patient in seeking knowledge, even if it took them years.

As I mentioned in Part 3, many people don’t realise how vast Islamic knowledge is, so they think that they can learn all there is to learn in that one week crash course.

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

فمرت بهما سفينة ، فكلموهم أن يحملوهما ، فعرف الخضر ، فحملوهما بغير نول ، فجاء عصفور فوقع على حرف السفينة ، فنقر نقرة أو نقرتين في البحر ، فقال الخضر : يا موسى : ما نقص علمي وعلمك من علم الله إلا كنقرة هذا العصفور في البحر

In the meantime a boat passed by them and they requested the crew of the boat to take them on board. The crew recognized Al-Khidr and took them on board without fare. Then a sparrow came and stood on the edge of the boat and dipped its beak once or twice in the sea. Al-Khidr said: “O Musa! My knowledge and your knowledge have not decreased Allah’s knowledge except as much as this sparrow has decreased the water of the sea with its beak. [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 1, Hadeeth No.124]

[You can read the entire story and the lessons derived from it in this post on my Tafsir blog.]

نَرْ‌فَعُ دَرَ‌جَاتٍ مَّن نَّشَاءُ ۗ وَفَوْقَ كُلِّ ذِي عِلْمٍ عَلِيمٌ

“We raise to degrees whom We please, but over all those endowed with knowledge is the All-Knowing (Allah).” [Surah Yusuf (12) : 76]

So, it doesn’t matter how much we learn, there will always be more to go and there will always be someone more knowledgeable than us.

Today, many people expect to learn things overnight. Part of this is the “fashion” mentality that I spoke about in Part 3.

We have to be patient when seeking knowledge. It might be slightly tough in the beginning but it will get easier later.

إنما العلم بالتعلم ، و إنما الحلم بالتحلم ، و من يتحر الخير يعطه ، و من يتق الشر يوقه

The Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Knowledge comes by learning, and patience comes by trying to be patient. Whoever seeks goodness will be given it, and whoever fears evil will be protected from it.” [Sahih Al-Jaami, Hadeeth No. 2328]

أن ناسا من الأنصار سألوا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فلم يسأله أحد منهم إلا أعطاه حتى نفد ما عنده ، فقال لهم حين نفد كل شيء أنفق بيديه : ( ما يكون عندي من خير لا أدخره عنكم ، وإنه من يستعف يعفه الله ، ومن يتصبر يصبره الله ، ومن يستغن يغنه الله ، ولن تعطوا عطاء خيرا وأوسع من الصبر

Narrated Abu Said (radiallahu anhu) : Some people from the Ansar asked Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) (to give them something) and he gave to everyone of them, who asked him, until all that he had was finished. When everything was finished and he had spent all that was in his hand, he said to them, ‘”(Know) that if I have any wealth, I will not withhold it from you (to keep for somebody else); And (know) that he who refrains from begging others (or doing prohibited deeds), Allah will make him contented and not in need of others; and he who remains patient, Allah will bestow patience upon him, and he who is satisfied with what he has, Allah will make him self-sufficient. And there is no gift better and vast (you may be given) than patience.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 8, Hadeeth No. 477]

So, one should not think that knowledge can be attained over the weekend, rather it is a lifelong journey.

i) They worked very hard to attain their knowledge.

As I mentioned above, it is difficult in the beginning.

Seeking knowledge is not the “cool” stuff that many have made it out to be.

These individuals claim that they want to be students of knowledge, yet they have difficulty reading long blog posts or books that are full of Quranic ayaat (verses) and ahadeeth.

I’m sorry but you’re not getting anywhere if you aren’t able to read. You won’t gain much information and you won’t be able to research anything either.

j) They would try to seek knowledge as much as possible i.e. they devoted their time to it

They used to continually attend circles of knowledge.

Today, many people just show up when there’s an “intensive” (i.e. popular and light) seminar. Even attending a lecture once a week is too much for some of these individuals.

Look, there is a big difference between being a full time and a part time student.

Do you know who “Abu Hurairah” is? He is the Companion who narrated the most from the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). Yet, he only accepted Islam three years before the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) died!

يقولون : إن أبا هريرة يكثر الحديث ، والله الموعد ، ويقولون : ما للمهاجرين والأنصار لا يحدثون مثل أحاديثه ؟ وإن أخوتي من المهاجرين كان يشغلهم الصفق بالأسواق ، وإن إخوتي من الأنصار كان يشغلهم عمل أموالهم ، وكنت امرأ مسكينا ، ألزم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم على ملء بطني ، فأحضر حين يغيبون ، وأعي حين ينسون ، وقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يوما : ( لن يبسط أحد منكم ثوبه حتى أقضي مقالتي هذه ، ثم يجمعه إلى صدره فينسى من مقالتي شيئا أبدا ) . فبسطت نمرة ليس علي ثوب غيرها ، حتى قضى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم مقالته ، ثم جمعتها إلى صدري ، فوالذي بعثه بالحق ، ما نسيت من مقالته تلك إلى يومي هذا ، والله لولا آيتان في كتاب الله ، ما حدثتكم شيئا أبدا : { إن الذين يكتمون ما أنزلنا من البينات – إلى قوله – الرحيم } .

Narrated by Abu Hurairah (radiallahu anhu) : The people say that Abu Hurairaا narrates too many narrations. In fact Allah knows whether I say the truth or not. They also ask, “Why do the emigrants and the Ansar not narrate as he does?” In fact, my emigrant brethren were busy trading in the markets, and my Ansar brethren were busy with their properties. I was a poor man keeping the company of Allah’s Messenger and was satisfied with what filled my stomach. So, I used to be present while they (i.e. the emigrants and the Ansar) were absent, and I used to remember while they forgot (the Hadith).

One day the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said, “Whoever spreads his sheet till I finish this statement of mine and then gathers it on his chest, will never forget anything of my statement.” So, I spread my covering sheet which was the only garment I had, till the Prophet finished his statement and then I gathered it over my chest. By Him Who had sent him (i.e. Allah’s Messenger) with the truth, since then I did not forget even a single word of that statement of his, until this day of mine. By Allah, but for two verses in Allah’s Book, I would never have related any narration (from the Prophet). (These two verses are):

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالْهُدَىٰ مِن بَعْدِ مَا بَيَّنَّاهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِي الْكِتَابِ ۙ أُولَـٰئِكَ يَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّـهُ وَيَلْعَنُهُمُ اللَّاعِنُونَ

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ تَابُوا وَأَصْلَحُوا وَبَيَّنُوا فَأُولَـٰئِكَ أَتُوبُ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ وَأَنَا التَّوَّابُ الرَّ‌حِيمُ

“Verily, those who conceal the clear proofs, evidences and the guidance, which We have sent down, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, they are the ones cursed by Allah and cursed by the cursers. Except those who repent and do righteous deeds, and openly declare (the truth which they concealed). These, I will accept their repentance. And I am the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.” [Surah Al-Baqarah (2) : 159-160]

[Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 3, Hadeeth No. 540]

[Too scared to do dawah (calling to Islam) due to fear of people? Just reflect over the two ayaat (verses) above.]

k) They would search for the people of knowledge of their time so that they could benefit from them.

Today, many people only show up when there is a celebrity shaikh in town.

And they only attend the lecture if they like the way the speaker talks. Otherwise…..

Compare this attitude with that of Salman al-Farisi (radiallahu anhu).

Today, many people don’t even know who the scholars are. They think that every shaikh is a scholar!

[Forget about the shaikhs. Four people even asked me if I was a scholar! Allahul mustaan. How did people become so ignorant??]

l) They refrained from talking without knowledge.

As the scholars said, saying”I don’t know” is half of knowledge.

Today, the fashionable term is “I think…” and then one proceeds to talk without knowledge!

قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّ‌مَ رَ‌بِّيَ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ‌ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَالْإِثْمَ وَالْبَغْيَ بِغَيْرِ‌ الْحَقِّ وَأَن تُشْرِ‌كُوا بِاللَّـهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَأَن تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّـهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

“Say: “(But) the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are Al-­Fawahish (great evil sins, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.) whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds), unrighteous oppression, joining partners (in worship) with Allah for which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.” [Surah Al-Araaf (7) : 33]

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) pointed out that based on this ayah (verse), the worst thing was talking about Allah without knowledge.

إني لا أسمعك تحدث عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كما يحدث فلان وفلان ؟ قال : أما إني لم أفارقه ، ولكن سمعته يقول : من كذب علي فليتبوأ مقعده من النار

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Az-Zubair (radiallahu anhuma): I said to my father, ‘I do not hear from you any narration (hadith) of Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) as I hear (his narrations) from so and so?” Az-Zubair (radiallahu anhu) replied. l was always with him (the Prophet) and I heard him saying “Whoever tells a lie against me (intentionally) then (surely) let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire. [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 1, Hadeeth No. 107]

Who is Az-Zubair ibn Al-Awwan? He is one of the ten best Companions of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), one of those who got the glad tidings of Paradise in his lifetime!

Subhan Allah, if he was so scared to say the wrong thing, then what about us?

Remember brothers and sisters, we will be asked about everything that we have said.

وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ‌ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَـٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا

“And follow not (O man i.e., say not, or do not or witness not, etc.) that of which you have no knowledge (e.g. one’s saying: “I have seen,” while in fact he has not seen, or “I have heard,” while he has not heard). Verily! The hearing, and the sight, and the heart, of each of those you will be questioned (by Allah).” [Surah Al-Isra (17) : 36]

And Allah knows Better.

To be continued…

PS. Sigh. This one was supposed to be a 4-parter and now it’s going to be a 7-parter….

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