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July 14, 2012

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Ramadan 2012 Prep Tip #1: Seek Knowledge… – Part 8

by Umm Muawiyah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum.

[Here are Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.]

[Important note: I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll mention this one more time. I do not like any men unnecessarily submitting comments. By “unnecessary” I mean anything other than offering required constructive criticism or a needed clarification on a post. As for advice or resources, then they should ask another brother. This should have been obvious but it seems that some people need to be told before they can understand. 

From now on, I’ll delete all comments from those who are obviously brothers (sometimes their usernames don’t hint at the gender) unless, as mentioned above, it is required constructive criticism or a needed clarification on a post. This is to avoid any sort of fitnah (trial).]

Some examples of how knowledge benefits us during Ramadan

[Okay, so this part is where I finally link the “Ramadan” to the “Seek knowledge” part.]

So here are some different ways that knowledge can change a so-so Ramadan into a great Ramadan:

[Note: Once again, I’ll be summarising the issue and won’t be mentioning some of the proofs due to time constraints. I have linked to some fatwas though. If you need a particular proof, please do ask.]

1) A “normal” act can be changed to an act of worship by changing one’s intention.

– The intention can make or break a good act.

[Please note: I said “good” act. We can’t disobey Allah and say “But our intentions were good!” Disobedience is disobedience. Allah does not accept evil actions, rather he only accepts the good ones.

إن الله طيب لا يقبل إلا طيبا

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Allah the Almighty is Good and accepts only that which is good.” [Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 2214]

So, I am only referring to halal (lawful) acts and not haram (unlawful acts) when I say “normal” act.]

إنما الأعمال بالنية ، وإنما لامرئ ما نوى ، فمن كانت هجرته إلى الله ورسوله ، فهجرته إلى الله ورسوله ، ومن كانت هجرته إلى دنيا يصيبها ، أو امرأة يتزوجها ، فهجرته إلى ما هاجر إليه

Narrated by Umar ibn Al-Khattab (radiallahu anhu): Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said, “The reward of deeds depends upon the intention and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for Allah and His Messenger, then his emigration was for Allah and His Messenger. And whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 1, Hadeeth No. 51]

Notice that the SAME act is being mentioned here (i.e. hijrah – migrating for the sake of Allah). However, the reward for each act differs due to the difference in intention.

– Acts of worship done for other than the sake of Allah, are going to get the doer into hot water – to say the least.

[Note: If a person does a worldly deed e.g. cooking, for other than the sake of Allah (e.g. to please one’s mother in law) then it is acceptable but it is better to do even these acts for the sake of Allah.]

قال الله تبارك وتعالى : أنا أغنى الشركاء عن الشرك . من عمل عملا أشرك فيه معي غيري ، تركته وشركه

Abu Hurairah (radiallahu anhu) reported the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) as stating that Allah the Most High and Exalted said: ‘I am the One, One Who does not stand in need of a partner. If anyone does anything in which he associates anyone else with Me, I shall abandon him with one whom he associates with Me.” [Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 7114]

– The intention needs to be kept in check even after the deed i.e. no advertising one’s deeds!

‏ “‏ مَنْ سَمَّعَ سَمَّعَ اللَّهُ بِهِ، وَمَنْ يُرَائِي يُرَائِي اللَّهُ بِهِ ‏”‏‏‏

Narrated Jundub (radiallahu anhu): The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said, “He who lets the people hear of his good deeds intentionally, to win their praise, Allah will let the people know his real intention (on the Day of Resurrection), and he who does good things in public to show off and win the praise of the people, Allah will disclose his real intention (and humiliate him).” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 8, Hadeeth No. 506]

– The intention can make a HUGE difference in the amount of reward that one gets for doing that act.

إن الله كتب الحسنات والسيئات . ثم بين ذلك . فمن هم بحسنة فلم يعملها كتبها الله عنده حسنة كاملة . وإن هم بها فعملها كتبها الله عز وجل عنده عشر حسنات إلى سبعمائة ضعف إلى أضعاف كثيرة . وإن هم بسيئة فلم يعملها كتبها الله عنده حسنة كاملة . وإن هم بها فعملها ، كتبها الله سيئة واحدة . وفي رواية وزاد : ومحاها الله . ولا يهلك على الله إلا هالك

The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Verily Allah the Most High has written down the good deeds and the evil deeds, and then explained it [by saying]: “Whosoever intended to perform a good deed, but did not do it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as a complete good deed. And if he intended to perform it and then did perform it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds up to seven hundred times, up to many times multiplied. And if he intended to perform an evil deed, but did not do it, then Allah writes it down with Himself as a complete good deed. And if he intended it [i.e., the evil deed] and then performed it, then Allah writes it down as one evil deed.” [Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 237]

قَالَ أَنَامُ أَوَّلَ اللَّيْلِ فَأَقُومُ وَقَدْ قَضَيْتُ جُزْئِي مِنَ النَّوْمِ، فَأَقْرَأُ مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لِي، فَأَحْتَسِبُ نَوْمَتِي كَمَا أَحْتَسِبُ قَوْمَتِي‏.‏

Narrated by Abu Burda (radiallahu anhu): Muadh (radiallahu anhu) said, “I sleep in the first part of the night and then get up after having slept for the time devoted for my sleep and then recite as much as Allah has written for me. So I seek Allah’s Reward for both my sleep as well as my prayer (at night).” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume no. 5, Hadeeth No.630]

Muadh (radiallahu anhu) wanted to sleep so as to gain strength for the prayer – hence turning his sleep into an act of worship.

What if you intended to worship Allah with the things that you regularly do? Imagine how much reward you can get!

So many people complain that they want to do so much in Ramadan but they can’t. Why don’t they then improve their intentions for the acts that they already do??

We need to try to remember the importance of the niyyah so then we would try to only involve ourselves in lawful activities and would gain lots of reward from seemingly mundane acts.

2) Worshipping Allah throughout the year.

Yes, Allah is the Lord of the Worlds, not just the Lord of Ramadan.

One of the reasons that many people allow themselves to forget this fact, is that they haven’t done themselves a favour and learnt His Names and Attributes. If they had, they would have worshipped Him all year round, saving them from the usual Ramadan routine (no worship to loads of worship only to return to no worship).

So many people try to go from zero to hero in the space of a month. I’m sorry but that’s not at all feasible. Most of us cannot completely turn our lives around in a month. This month is there to recharge us and give us the strength to worship Allah the rest of the year – because that’s what we need to do to become “heroes”.

3) There are so many acts of worship that one can focus on.

Sometimes, we tend to think of Ramadan only in terms of fasting, praying and reciting the Quran. And when we have some deficiencies in those, we get very frustrated.

The reality is that there are many acts of worship to choose from. Yes, those three are the most important ones but there are many others like:

– Actions of the heart like tawakkul (relying upon Allah alone), hoping in Allah’s Mercy, fearing His Wrath, loving Him, etc

– Keeping family ties

– Taking care of guests

– Preserving the rights of the neighbours

– Being patient

– Saying good words and trying to avoid bad speech

– Pondering over creation

– Dawah (calling to Islam)

– Dhikr (remembrance)

أن رجلا قال يا رسول الله إن شرائع الإسلام قد كثرت علي فأخبرني بشيء أتشبث به قال : لا يزال لسانك رطبا من ذكر الله

Abdullah ibn Busr narrated that a man said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, indeed, the legislated acts* have become too much for me, so inform me of a thing which I should stick to.” He said: “Let not your tongue cease to be moist with the remembrance of Allah.” [Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Hadeeth No. 3375. Graded ‘sahih’ by Al-Albani in Saheeh Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Hadeeth No. 3375.]

[*He is referring to the voluntary acts, not the obligatory ones.]

– Giving charity

This would include being involved in any sort of charity project.

This would also include doing the acts which are included under sadaqah (charity):

أن ناسا من أصحاب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم قالوا للنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم : يا رسول الله ! ذهب أهل الدثور بالأجور . يصلون كما نصلي . ويصومون كما نصوم . ويتصدقون بفضول أموالهم . قال : ” أو ليس قد جعل الله لكم ما تصدقون ؟ إن بكل تسبيحة صدقة . وكل تكبيرة صدقة . وكل تحميدة صدقة . وكل تهليلة صدقة . وأمر بالمعروف صدقة . ونهي عن منكر صدقة . وفي بضع أحدكم صدقة ” . قالوا : يا رسول الله ! أياتي أحدنا شهوته ويكون له فيها أجر ؟ قال : ” أرأيتم لو وضعها في حرام أكان عليه فيها وزر ؟ فكذلك إذا وضعها في الحلال كان له أجرا

Abu Dharr (radiallahu anhu) reported: some of the people from among the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said to him: Messenger of Allah, the rich have taken away (the) reward. They observe prayer as we do; they keep the fasts as we keep, and they give sadaqa (charity) out of their surplus riches. Upon this he (the Prophet) said: Has Allah not prescribed for you (a course) by following which you can (also) do sadaqa? In every declaration of the glorification of Allah (i.e. saying Subhan Allah) there is a sadaqa, and every Takbir (i.e. saying Allahu Akbar) is a sadaqa, and every praise of His (saying al-Hamdu Lillah) is a sadaqa and every declaration that none has the right to be worshipped except Him (Laa ilaaha illallah) is a sadaqa, and enjoining of good is a sadaqa, and forbidding of that which is evil is a sadaqa, and in man’s sexual intercourse (with his wife,) there is a sadaqa. They (the Companions) said: Messenger of Allah, is there reward for him who satisfies his sexual passion among us? He said: Tell me, if he were to devote it to something forbidden, would it not be a sin on his part? Similarly, if he were to devote it to something lawful, he should have a reward. [Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 2198]

This hadeeth is really quite amazing. It informs us of the different kinds of charity out there (so we can no longer use “recession” as an excuse when the word “sadaqah” is mentioned). It also tells us that there is a reward for doing things the halal (lawful) way.

We should never forget that any good deed, no matter how “little” we think it is, is of great value.

لاَ تَحْقِرَنَّ مِنَ الْمَعْرُوفِ شَيْئًا وَلَوْ أَنْ تَلْقَى أَخَاكَ بِوَجْهٍ طَلْقٍ

Abu Dharr (radiallahu anhu) reported: Allah’s Messenger (radiallahu anhu) said to me: “Don’t consider any good deed insignificant, even if it is meeting your brother with a cheerful face.” [Sahih Muslim, Hadeeth No. 6359]

Also, don’t forget that the little things add up.

4) Quality is more important that quantity.

The hadeeth mentioned above (about the reward for good deeds being multiplied by ten to seven hundred times) is just one proof that quality is more important than quantity. [However, if we can increase in both, then that would be better!]

[Here I’m referring to the voluntary deeds. As for obligatory deeds, we have to do them. We can’t leave them at any cost.]

Another proof is in the following ayah (verse):

تَبَارَ‌كَ الَّذِي بِيَدِهِ الْمُلْكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ‌

الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ‌

“Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the dominion, and He is Able to do all things. Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed. And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.” [Surah Al-Mulk (67) : 1-2]

Shaikh Saleh Al-Fawzan mentioned in one of his lectures (I can’t remember which one, all I remember is that I was driving at the time. Sorry.) that Allah said “ahnsanu amala” (best in deeds) and did not say “aktharu amala” (most in deeds).

Subhan Allah, that was an eye opener, because it’s not just about racking up the deeds. Yes, we should try to do as much as possible but we also need to focus on the QUALITY.

What improves the quality of a deed? Well, improving in sincerity or increasing in following the sunnah –  the two conditions that are required for any deed to be accepted by Allah.

Let’s take the example of the prayer. Some people are unable to do more than the fard (obligatory prayers). Others can only do some of the voluntary prayers.

If this is the case, then they need to work on their khushoo (humility) during prayer so that they can get more reward from their prayers.

إن الرجل لينصرف ، وما كتب له إلا عشر صلاته ، تسعها ، ثمنها ، سبعها ، سدسها ، خمسها ، ربعها ، ثلثها ، نصفها

Ammar ibn Yasir (radiallahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “A person leaves (after having prayed) and nothing is written for him except a tenth of his prayer, (or) a ninth of it, (or) an eight of it, (or) a seventh of it, (or) a sixth of it, (or) a fifth of it, (or) a fourth of it, (or) a third of it, (or) a half of it.” [Sunan Abeed Dawood, Hadeeth No. 796. Graded ‘hasan’ by Al-Albani in Sahih Sunan Abee Dawood, Hadeeth No. 796]

So, remember: If you cannot do more, then improve the quality of what you are currently doing. You’ll be surprised at what a big iman (faith) boost that gives you.

5) Understanding the reality of recreation.

A friend of mine (you know who you are), may Allah reward her, pointed out something amazing. She said that what she loved about Islam was that you had to live every minute of it. She also pointed out that this was why the Companions of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) did so much but never suffered burnout, whereas we get burnt out so easily and then need to go for holidays (something that they NEVER did). They lived every minute so they didn’t feel any burnout.

What if we focused on all our acts and “lived” them? What if we changed our intentions and turned them into acts of worship? I think we’d find real pleasure in all our activities and then we wouldn’t need to wait for the summer holidays any more so that we could “relax” and “take a break”.

Think about it.

Apart from the above, knowledge also makes one understand that one’s whole life is meant to be spent in worship. So, this would cause one to turn all their activities (even the recreational ones) into acts of worship by changing one’s intention (as in the case of Muadh (radiallahu anhu) above when he expected the reward for sleeping).

Also, one would know that there are many acts in the sunnah that pertain to “recreation”. An example of this would be archery:

خَرَجَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم عَلَى قَوْمٍ مِنْ أَسْلَمَ، يَتَنَاضَلُونَ بِالسُّوقِ، فَقَالَ ‏”‏ ارْمُوا بَنِي إِسْمَاعِيلَ، فَإِنَّ أَبَاكُمْ كَانَ رَامِيًا، وَأَنَا مَعَ بَنِي فُلاَنٍ ‏”‏‏.‏ لأَحَدِ الْفَرِيقَيْنِ، فَأَمْسَكُوا بِأَيْدِيهِمْ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ مَا لَهُمْ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالُوا وَكَيْفَ نَرْمِي وَأَنْتَ مَعَ بَنِي فُلاَنٍ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ ارْمُوا وَأَنَا مَعَكُمْ كُلِّكُمْ ‏”‏‏.‏

Narrated Salama (radiallahu anhu): Allah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) passed by some people from the tribe of Aslam practicing archery. He said, “O children of Ismael! Throw (arrows), for your father was an archer. I am on the side of Bani so and so,” meaning one of the two teams. The other team stopped throwing, whereupon the Prophet said, “What has happened to them?” They replied, “How shall we throw while you are with Bani so and so?” He said, “Throw for I am with all of you.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume No. 4, Hadeeth No. 710]

So, if one was really “bored” in Ramadan (??) and wanted to do something “fun”, they would do an act from the Sunnah.

Also, they would stay away from seemingly “innocent” games which are not permitted like games using dice or games whose permissibility are a matter of dispute like chess.

In addition to all the above, a person who seeks knowledge will understand a simple yet important point: That the ultimate “recreation” is Paradise and that we only have one chance (i.e. this life) to earn the deeds that will give help us enter it. So this person really wouldn’t be obsessed with resting in his world, and especially not in Ramadan, because he would know there will be enough time to rest in the Hereafter. Eternity, in fact.

6) Understanding the value of time

When one seeks knowledge, one will understand that the Day of Judgement is coming closer. And they will understand that they will definitely be questioned as to what they did in this world.

So, the one who is aware of this, will definitely try to utilise every minute and try to stay away from useless, silly, activities (Movies, music, backbiting, shopping – I’m talking to YOU.)

And this person would obviously be MORE concerned with their time during Ramadan.

So what would that lead to? My guess would be: A totally awesome Ramadan.

7) Using the present situation to your advantage rather than complaining about it.

“If only I didn’t have so much work in the office, I could have had a great Ramadan.”

“If only I didn’t have all these guests, I could have recited so much more Quran.”

“If only this pregnancy wasn’t so difficult, I could have made something of this Ramadan.”

Sound familiar?

We always seem to be complaining about how our present situation stops us from having our “perfect” Ramadan.

There are quite a few problems with this, including making excuses and trying to shift the blame off our selves. Also, we aren’t supposed to say “if only“.

What we should be doing is accepting the situation and trying to use it in our favour.

For example, a person spends a lot of time at work. In Ramadan, this would obviously have an impact on his ibaadah (worship).

Well then, he would first need to see if he could take a vacation during Ramadan. If not, then he could try to increase in dhikr (remembrance) with this tongue even if it is just saying “subhan Allah”. He could also utilise the time spent going to work and back by listening to a beneficial lecture.

He could change his intention for going to work i.e. going to support his family, as has been commanded by Allah. So his work itself (assuming that it is halal) will be an act of worship.

Let’s take another example. A woman is 8 months pregnant. She fasts with great difficulty and can’t do much. Her doctor has ordered her with those two dreaded words (“bed rest”).

Well, she could still increase in dhikr, recitation of the Quran, reading Islamic books, listening to Islamic lectures, etc. There are so many things that she could still do whilst huddled up in bed.

Let’s take one more example. Some women have so many guests during Ramadan. Due to this, they end up living in the kitchen during this month.

What can they do? Well, the first thing to do would be to do dua (supplication) to Allah to ease this problem (and dua itself is an act of worship). They should then approach their husbands in a wise manner and mention this issue. If that works, then that’s great.

If not, then they should understand that obedience to the husband is itself an act of worship, as is taking care of guests.

They can listen to the recitation of the Quran or lectures whilst cooking. They could also do lots of dhikr.

So, seeking knowledge helps one to get the best out of one’s current situation.

Some tips on how to seek knowledge

1. Do dua

Yep. We too often forget this very simple step. We need to ask Allah to increase us in knowledge.

2. Have good thoughts about Allah and put your trust in Him

Sadly, some people give up the journey before they even begin, because they have bad thoughts about Allah and they fail to put their trust in Him.

3. Search for the proper places from where you can obtain the knowledge of the Quran and the Sunnah.

What are “proper” places? Well, it would be those places (centres, websites, etc) that follow the proper aqeedah (creed).

What if you’re not sure what the proper aqeedah is and you want to learn it?

Well, in that case, I would advise you to do lots of dua asking Allah to guide you to a good place. You should also do istikharah (the prayer or guidance) before joining a class.

Apart from this, you should also take note of the teacher/shaikh/scholar whose classes you are attending (or whose books you are reading). Do they talk about tawheed (worshipping Allah)? Do they use proof from the Quran and the authentic ahadeeth*? Do they apply their knowledge? Are they humble? Do they call to Allah and His Messenger or to themselves and their own groups?

[*I should point out that even the innovators use the Quran and ahadeeth. They just happen to mix lots of inauthentic ahadeeth along with the authentic ones and also try to reinterpret the meaning of the Quran and Sunnah.]

The more you learn, the more you will be able to distinguish between truth and falsehood, so be patient.

And please don’t assume that just because you like somebody and “feel” that they are right, it does not necessarily mean that they are following the Sunnah. We need to learn the Sunnah before we can figure who is following it. We can’t figure that out with our emotions.

I’d also advise against sticking to one teacher or one centre because, from what I’ve seen, that leads to hizbiyyah (partisanship).

So, if you just go to one centre or just attend one person’s classes, you need to ask yourself why that is so. Is it a valid reason (e.g. it is the only centre in your area) or an invalid reason (you think your centre or teacher is the “best”).

Be careful, brothers and sisters. Hizbiyyah is a very big disease in our time and many people don’t even know that they are affected by it.

The only time I would advise anyone to stick to a teacher is in the case of tajweed (learning to recite the Quran). In this case, it would be better to stick to one teacher as jumping from teacher to teacher can really drive one up the wall. Trust me.

4. Read books and listen to audios on how to seek knowledge

I wish I knew that these existed when I first started to seek knowledge. I only found out about them a few years down the line and then I realised I had been trying to seek knowledge based on my American/British system based education (I did both) instead of the way of the classical scholars!

“Could you please put up some resources on how to seek knowledge?”

No, I will not. I want YOU to search for them. That’s part of how we need to seek knowledge: put in the hard work and not just expect things to just come to you.

It’s very sad to see that these days many people don’t want to take any responsibility. They just ask others to provide resources for them (whilst making excuses like “Oh I have no idea where to look!”), instead of exerting any effort themselves. And they’re not going to get anywhere with that kind of attitude.

5. Attend classes and work hard.

– I would suggest that you physically attend classes, if you are able to. That’s because there’s a big difference in learning onsite vs. learning online.

From personal experience, I think that the BARE MINIMUM that one needs to attend is one class per week. and even that is too little.

4-5 classes a week (one per day) is ideal.

– Start with the basics and don’t worry about more advanced subjects or issues that don’t concern you.

– Should you study for a degree in Islam? Well, firstly, one should understand that the degree itself is NOT important.

Studying in a good degree program though is nice as that gives you a chance to follow a proper methodology for your studies. It also gives you an overview of all the sciences.

However, if you can study the various sciences by joining different classes, rather than taking a degree program, there is no issue with that. Hey, it worked for all the scholars of the past.

– You should also join a hifdh (Quran memorisation) class along with your regular classes.

– Make sure that you study aqeedah (creed) as it is the most important subject. You should also make sure that you study fiqh (jurisprudence).

– Learn Arabic. Learn Arabic. Learn Arabic.

[I’m going to repeat that again and again any chance I get, so that these words torment you causing you to learn Arabic!]

– Remember that when your Arabic improves, you should try to take classes in Arabic, and try to slowly leave English (or whatever your language is) behind.

You need to aim to fully study in Arabic one day, because you can only study the basics in English. If you truly wish to understand the beauty of the Quran and gain advanced knowledge, you HAVE to learn Arabic.

And no, it is not impossible. Trust me.

– Make sure you study the things that you need for the moment.

For example, as Ramadan is approaching, we need to study the fiqh of fasting and other issues pertaining to this month.

If someone is going for Umrah or Hajj, then they need to study the fiqh of Umrah and Hajj before going.

If someone is getting married, they need to study the fiqh of marriage and divorce BEFORE getting married.

If someone is starting a business, they need to study the fiqh of business transactions before they do that.

– Be prepared to work hard.

Yep. Seeking knowledge is not a walk in the park.

– If you don’t understand something, study it over and over again.

It took me 5 tries (and 7 years) before I understood Usool Al-Fiqh (Principles of Jurisprudence).

It took me 4 tries (and 6 years) before I understood a bit of the Fiqh of Zakaah.

It took me 3 tries (and 6 years) before I understood Iraab (Arabic syntax).

[Year 2012, I do indeed love thee.]

So, please don’t think that you’ll understand everything the first time round. You won’t.

[And please don’t think that it’s more than enough to study a book or a subject once. That’s only for people who are not serious.]

6. Take advantage of the resources around you.

When I first started taking Islamic classes here in the UAE, I kept dreaming about going to Madinah, Yemen, Egypt, etc so that I could “really” study.

Then one day, I heard a lecture where the brother advised the listeners to take advantage of the classes that they had around them. He had brothers who would come to him and tell him that they wanted to study abroad and year after year, he found them just day dreaming and not taking any classes in their area.

He pointed out that if they were unable to take advantage of what they had around them, they wouldn’t be able to do anything when they went abroad.

That woke me up. I looked around me and I saw a treasure.

Dubai, Land of the Fancy Buildings and Flashy Projects, and its surrounding cities (Sharjah and Ajman) were a gold mine of Islamic information. When I entered the Arabic speaking world, I realised that we have SO many classes here and SO many people of knowledge.

In addition to that, many shaikhs from the other Gulf and Arab countries visit the UAE to give lectures and short courses.

After that, I haven’t had much desire to go trotting around the world because I know that it will take me many years before I’ve taken full advantage of the resources around me. [Of course, I couldn’t trot around around even if I wanted to but that’s another story.]

I think that part of the reason that we want to travel to seek knowledge is because it’s “exotic” and “cool”. It’s quite the fashion these days.

What would be better for many people to do would be to seek out the people of knowledge in their area and take advantage of them while they’re still alive. They could also take advantage of the shaikhs who teach online.

Remember: The people of knowledge are alive today. Perhaps tomorrow they won’t be, so take from them whilst you can.

7. Remember the virtues of seeking knowledge.

It has many virtues, one of which is that it is the best voluntary deed.

If you ever feel like giving up, remember the immense virtues of this act.

8. Keep making progress and have high ambitions.

What level do you want to reach? Have high ambitions.

Yes, you don’t have to become a scholar, but why can’t you at least TRY to become one?

[If you say “I can’t”, I just want one definitive reason that you can’t. You won’t be able to come up with a single reason because all those hurdles that you’ve invented can be brought down.]

Even if you never become a scholar, you’ll still have spent your life on a great act of worship.

9. Try to learn all the time.

Listen to audios while you’re driving or walking or read a book while you’re waiting for your doctor.

You shouldn’t be able to live without seeking knowledge.

10. Always refers back to the people of knowledge

We need to always refer back to the people of knowledge because that is what Allah has ordered us to do:

فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ‌ إِن كُنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

“So ask of those who know the Scripture if you know not.” [Surah An-Nahl (16) : 43]

In today’s time, we have two extremes with regards to the people of knowledge.

One group will blindly follow a single scholar and accept every single thing he says.

Another group refers to the scholars as “those who misguide the people” and “those who try to keep the people away from Islam” (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), may Allah save us from such misguidance. They just flip open the Quran and books of ahadeeth and try to “figure” things out on their own, because in their own delusional mind, they are qualified to do so.

They won’t ask for fatwas (rulings) because the matter seems “logical” to them so they mess up in that area as well.

وَإِذَا جَاءَهُمْ أَمْرٌ‌ مِّنَ الْأَمْنِ أَوِ الْخَوْفِ أَذَاعُوا بِهِ ۖ وَلَوْ رَ‌دُّوهُ إِلَى الرَّ‌سُولِ وَإِلَىٰ أُولِي الْأَمْرِ‌ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَنبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ ۗ وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّـهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَ‌حْمَتُهُ لَاتَّبَعْتُمُ الشَّيْطَانَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

“And when there comes to them information about [public] security or fear, they spread it around. But if they had referred it back to the Messenger or to those of authority among them, then the ones who [can] draw correct conclusions from it would have known about it. And if not for the favor of Allah upon you and His mercy, you would have followed Satan, except for a few.” [Surah An-Nisaa (4) : 83]

Ahlus Sunnah, on the other hand, refer things back to the people of knowledge and ask them for the rulings on various issues.

Someone might ask “Why?”

Well, because in every field, we refer to the people of that field. When we want a health check up, we ask a doctor not a carpenter.

Imagine if a carpenter came in and said that he knew better than all the doctors in the world? Would anybody accept it? Obviously not.

So I wonder why people accept the words of those individuals who have no knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah over those who have knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah???

It’s because people don’t refer back to the explanations of the scholars, they have many misunderstandings.

Let me give you a simple example: fasting three days a month and fasting ayam al-beed (the white days i.e. the 13th, 14th and 15th of the Islamic month).

Are they the same? Many people would say yes.

And they would be wrong.

The ahadeeth about fasting three days in a month refer to ANY three days, not just ayyam al-beed. However, the BEST three days to fast are ayyam al-beed.

See the difference? The first is general and the second is specific. They are not the same.

11. Don’t forget to focus on your soul.

As I mentioned in a previous part, we need to APPLY the knowledge not just go on an information gathering binge.

How are your prayers? Your fasts? Your charity? Your manners? Ask yourself what the knowledge did for you.

12. Be socially active

Too often, we find that many seekers of knowledge do just that: seek knowledge. They seem to be unaware of the world around them.

Remember, a seeker of knowledge needs to be useful wherever he is and that means being socially active i.e. giving back to society.

Try to volunteer for charities, Islamic events, etc and make sure to take care of the poor and needy in your area.

13. Continue being a student until you die.

Yes, there’s a lot to study. We need an entire lifetime for it.

And don’t think that you know everything.

Remember: If you feel like you don’t know anything, you’ve started to learn. If you feel like you know everything, then you’ve stopped learning.

An overview of the different subjects that one should study

[This will just be a brief overview due to time constraints. Sorry.]

1. Aqeedah (creed)

Our aqeedah is the aqeedah of tawheed (singling out Allah for worship). This is the most important science as it pertains to the reason for which we were created. All the other sciences revolve around it.

This subject includes Tawheed Al-Uloohiyah (singling out Allah in His worship), Tawheed Al-Asmaa was-Sifaat (singling out Allah in His Names and Attributes), the pillars of Iman (faith) i.e. Belief in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, The Last Day and Qadr (Predestination), shirk (associating partners with Allah i.e. the opposite of tawheed), sunnah and bidaa (innovation), the history of the various sects, etc.

Everyone HAS to study this subject.

2. Fiqh (Jurisprudence)

Aqeedah deals more with the inner actions, whilst fiqh deals more with the outer actions. It is divided into two parts: Ibaadaat (acts of worship) and Muamalaat (transactions).

Ibaadaat deals with Tahaarah (purification), Salah (prayer), Janaaiz (funerals),  Zakaah (obligatory charity), Fasting, Hajj and Umrah, and Jihaad (fighting in the way of Allah) according to a group of scholars. [Others put Jihaad under “Muamalaat”.]

Tahaarah itself includes water, impurities, utensils, sunan al-fitrah, wudhu (ablution), ghusl (full bathing), tayammum (dry ablution), haidh and nifaas (menstruation and post-partum bleeding). And that’s just a summary.

Salah includes times of prayer, adhan (call to prayer), conditions, pillars and obligations of prayer, how prayer is performed, sujood as-sahu (prostration of forgetfulness), Friday prayers, Eid prayers, Eclipse prayers, prayers for rain and the Fear prayer. And that’s just a summary.

Muamalaat includes business transactions, inheritance, marriage and divorce, qisas (legal retribution), hudood (prescribed punishments), food and drinks, oaths and vows, and qadhaa (judiciary). And that’s just a summary. [Oh and wait until you see the subsections in each of these!!!]

These days, Islamic banking (which is part of business transactions) seems to have branched out as a field of its own.

Why do we need to study all of these? Well, the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) was sent to show us that we need to worship Allah alone. He was also sent to show us HOW to worship Him, so if we want to please Allah, we need to follow this way.

There are two ways fiqh is studied: either via madh-habs (schools of thought) or studying it via the ahadeeth (e.g. with a book like Umdah Al-Ahkam which contains the ahadeeth which relate to fiqh).

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not wrong to study via the madh-habs, nor is it wrong to follow one (but it’s not obligatory to follow one). What is dispraised is blindly following a madh-hab when a proof (contrary to the madh-hab) comes to you.

You can study any of the four madh-habs. Each one has different principles and they all have their own books. You need to start with the basics and work your way up.

3. Usool al Fiqh (Principles of Jurisprudence) and Qawaaid Al-Fiqhiyyah (Fiqh maxims)

These two are hard to explain. The former deals with the principles used to derive rulings from the Quran and Sunnah and tells us what constitutes as proof. [I’ve given some examples in this post on my Haafidh blog.]

The latter deals with principles or maxims that are derived from the texts like “Doubt does not overcome certainty”. These principles are then applied to various circumstances. For example, if you aren’t sure whether you’ve prayed 3 or 4 rakaahs (units of prayer), you assume that you’ve prayed 3 because you are certain of that and doubtful of the 4th.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve done 5 rounds in your tawaaf around the Kaabah or 6 rounds, you assume that you’ve done 5 as you’re sure about that and doubtful of the 6th.

If you did wudhu and then you’re not sure you broke it, you still have your wudhu, because you’re sure you did your wudhu but you are doubtful that you broke it.

4. Usool Hadeeth (Principles of Hadeeth) and Hadeeth

As I mentioned in an earlier part, Usool al-Hadeeth is the science which shows us how to distinguish authentic ahadeeth from weak ahadeeth (plural of hadeeth). [The ahadeeth are the sayings and actions of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). His Sunnah (way) has been transmitted to us through the hadeeth.]

Every hadeeth has a matan (text) and a sanad (chain). [What we usually read is the matan, because the sanad is deleted.]

Usool Al-Hadeeth mostly deals with the sanad. Basically, if Imam Bukhari has narrated a hadeeth, it means he heard it from his teacher who heard it from someone who heard it from someone and so on until the person higher up the chain heard it from a Companion (radiallahu anhu) who heard it from the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam).

The scholars’ have gathered the biographies of all these narrators (of ahadeeth) and compiled them into books. Why? Well, if one of the narrators had a deficiency in creed, character or memory, it affects the authenticity of the ahadeeth he narrated.

Subhan Allah, when I first studied Usool Al-Hadeeth, my eyes opened. Some people try to cause confusion by stating that the ahadeeth have not been preserved properly. However, anybody who studies the basics of Usool Al-Hadeeth will know that such a thing is IMPOSSIBLE.

Believe me, this is a subject that strengthens one’s connection to Allah because He revealed both the Quran and the Sunnah. Many people don’t fully accept the Sunnah so when they study this subject, they will realise how He has preserved the Sunnah as well as the Quran. After this, they will accept the Sunnah.

Islamic Online University offers a free online course on this. [Go to the Diploma courses and register for a free account and then add the Usool Al-Hadeeth class.]

As for studying the ahadeeth itself, there are different books that are studied like An-Nawawi’s 40 hadeeth, for example.

5. Usool At-Tafsir (Principles of Quranic Exegesis) and Tafsir (Quranic Exegesis)

[Exegesis is a fancy term for “explanation”.]

Usool At-Tafsir discusses the methods by which the scholars did the tafsir of the Quran. This is a very important subject because today, we find that many people misinterpret the Quran to suit their own agendas.

The problem is that the masses don’t understand that, because they don’t realise that we don’t just invent the explanation of the Speech of Allah!

Tafsir discusses the explanation itself from various books like Tafsir Ibn Kathir. 

6. The sciences of Arabic

Yes, Arabic itself has many sciences and I have no idea what most of them are. The ones that need to be studied first are sarf and nahu.

I’ve given a brief explanation of them in this post.

7. Tajweed (rules of Quranic recitation)

This science tells us how to recite the Quran properly (and is usually included under the Sciences of the Quran). Yes, we learn the rules but this science is practical. It’s not enough just to know the rules, one needs to recite with them.

And this is why, one HAS to study this with a teacher.

Many people think that this subject is just about noon ghunnah and madd. They obviously haven’t studied it because then they’d be in for a huge shock as to how vast it really is!

8. Seerah (Biography of the Prophet) and Tareekh (Islamic history)

Everyone loves stories, right?

Well, that would explain the Agatha Christie craze but it does not explain why many people know next to nothing about the life of our Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam), or his Companions, the Sahaabah (radiallahu anhum) or the earlier Prophets from Adam to Isa (alaihimissalam).

Want to take a break? Cuddle up with a nice book on Islamic history. It’s way more exciting than anything Aggie cooked up.

9. Morals and manners and heart softeners.

This one is also called “heart softeners” sometimes, depending on where you study. This is important because many times, our hearts end up becoming hard and we need to soften them again.

10. Usool Ad-Dawah (Methodology of calling to Allah)

Like the one above, this is not a science per se. However, they do teach this as a separate subject in many institutes.

This discusses the methodology that we need to follow in order to call to Allah and His religion.

There are more subjects but this was just an overview.

A little note: I’m going to say it again. You can study all the above in English but believe me when I say that there is a HUGE difference between studying them in English and in Arabic. I realised this after I studied them in Arabic after having studied them in English. It was like visiting another galaxy….

I’m not asking you to not study them in English. All I’m saying is that you should study them again in Arabic after your Arabic improves.

So, that’s it for Tip #1. As always, if you spot any errors, please let me know ASAP.

Want to read more Ramadan Prep Tips whilst waiting for Tip #2?

Here are the tips of Ramadans past:

Ramadan 2010 Prep Tips

Ramadan 2011 Prep Tips

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. fulana
    Jul 14 2012

    Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
    pls don’t mind…
    You know your posts are really long, and i feel not everyone might be able to read them..
    pls don’t mind…

    Reply
    • Umm Muawiyah
      Jul 15 2012

      Wa Alaikum Wa Rahmathullahi Wa Barakathuh.

      How are you?

      Yes, I know that some of them are really long especially in today’s world of people clamouring for “short posts”.

      My view is simple: This is my style and I know it’s not for everyone. Those who want to read it can read it and those who don’t want to read it, don’t have to read it. There are other blogs that offer shorter posts.

      I don’t mind what you said, because I know it already. This post was very long and it was meant for people who are really interested in seeking knowledge.

      Baarakallahu feek.

      Reply
      • fulana
        Jul 16 2012

        Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
        wa feeki baarakAllah
        i m al hamdulillah good,
        yes you are right actually..
        jazakillahu khayran for replying
        baarakAllahu feeki

        Reply

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