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The Methodology of Seeking Knowledge (How should we learn)

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How many doctors, accountants and engineers you know have studied medicine, accounting and engineering thru emails and random websites? None!

How many people claim / think they have studied Islam by reading some emails and random websites? A lot!

Can I become a doctor / physician first, and then study each ailment, disease, etc as and when the patients come? Nope!

How many Muslims don’t know the basics of faith, basics of prayer, basics of marriage and divorce laws, etc and then want quick answers, rather than learning the fundamentals? A lot!

How do we learn Islam:

Jumping around: Google for some topics, Fatwa from some sites, lectures from some other sites, a few books, occasional conferences, and very few people talking to Scholars. The topics go from Aqeedah (Islamic creed) to Zakath to Raising hand while making Du’a to authenticity of Hadeeths to Hajj to whatever. While all these are good, have we ever stopped  to think: Am I following the right way of seeking knowledge? Are these methods really effective? Is my  understanding of Islam really increasing?

Focusing on one item: A few people, with the intention of mastering a subject, read volumes of books on that subject. There are also halaqas (circles of knowledge) on a single subject popular in Arabia (According to a Madeenah University students’ booklet. I’ve no personal knowledge). Halaqas are popular in US & UK too, but they don’t talk the same subject for years. These days, you can attend halaqas via webcasts and podcasts

This random / haphazard method gives us only bits and pieces of information. Some serious drawbacks of our methodology are

1) Shallow understanding: It gives us no strong foundation, and we can be easily confused with a few tricky questions or comments

2) We forget things pretty quick

The problem with the single subject approach:

3) We don’t get the capacity to “link” topics: A critical piece. There’s a strong link among Aqeedah <–> Seerah <–> Fiqh <–>

Tafseer <–> Hadeeths <–> other Islamic Sciences. They all have one objective: Worship God. You can never fully comprehend one subject without the help of others. Scholars say “If you don’t learn the History of Prophet Muhammad (Seerah), you don’t understand Islam”

An example on #3: To make a ruling (Fatwa), a Mufti needs to know the history/background of the relevant hadeeths, related verses from Quran, rulings of early Muslims, and many more. Now ask yourself: What is the point of reading Saheeh Bukhari from cover to cover? I’m not saying don’t read Hadeeths books. The point is: We need to study Islam in a structured, integrated and comprehensive manner.

Suggested Solutions:

Prophet (SAWS) said, “He who treads a path in search of knowledge, Allaah will direct him to tread a path from the paths of paradise. The angels lower their wings for the student of knowledge …” [Musnad 5/196. Also related by Aboo Daawood 3/317; atTirmidhee 5/49]

1. The kids can be enrolled in Madrasas, where they learn a variety of topics (Aqeedah, dua, Seerah, etc)- in a gradual fashion. You may also try or the (Available in India too. Check

2. The non-working Women can join the part-time courses in Arabic/Islamic colleges

3. A few options for working adults:

A) Al-Irshaad (Chennai, Trichy, Bangalore) Correspondence course [ 1 year ]

B) Free IOU Courses: [ Start with Foundations of Islamic Sciences ]

C) KIU – B.A. Islamic Studies [ BAIS – an 8 Semester Course]

D) Some recommended books on a few foundational subjects are

Aqeedah: Bilal Philips, Fundamentals of Tawheed 2nd Edition

Fiqh: Bilal Philips, The Evolution of Fiqh

Seerah: [Focus on getting guidance from the life of Prophet. Unfortunately many books don’t focus on the lessons for us]

Dr. Ali Muhammad As-Sallaabee, “The Noble Life of the Prophet” (3 volume set)

Muhammad Al Ghazali, “Fiqh-Us-Seerah: Understanding the Life of the Prophet Muhammad”

S. Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, “Muhammad The Last Prophet”

Tajweed: Learning how to recite the Qur’an correctly is an obligatory act upon EVERY Muslim.

Add to these, books on “Understanding”, “Sciences of”, “Evolution / History / Compilation” of Quran, Hadeeths etc.

Important Characteristics of learning:

1. Sincerity: We should have the sincere intention that we seek knowledge only for the pleasure of Allah. Seeking knowledge is Ibaadah (i.e. worship) and the noble angels lay down their wings out of respect for the student [Sunan Abu Dawud – Abu Ad Dar’daa 2/341]

2. Moderation: “Whoever seeks to acquire knowledge all at once, then it will go away from him all at once, rather knowledge is sought by the passing away of many days and nights.”(i.e. in time) – Imam Az Zuhri. Consistency is the key. Resist the temptation to keep moving fast.

3. Time: Give knowledge the best of your time, the time in which your mind is free and your comprehension level is high. Don’t multi-task (chat, watching scores, reading emails etc) while learning Islam. Remember, learning is worship.

4. Active Learning: Take notes, Revise (re-read the chapters after a week, listen again etc), ask questions, discuss with participants, try to apply your learning in your life, convey to your spouse/family and friends, and do anything that will internalize the learning. Revising may not be an interesting task, considering that we need to learn a lot (Remember #2: You can’t gulp knowledge), but you will forget a vast majority of what you learned without revision

A bit of History on Imams:

Imam Abu Haneefa studied Fiqh and Hadeeth for EIGHTEEN (18) years under Hammad Ibn Zayd. Even as his teacher wanted him to take classes, he remained a student, until the teacher died in 742 CE.

Abu Abdur Rahman Ibn al-Qasim (745-813 CE), was born in Egypt, travelled to Madeenah, and studied under Imam Malik for TWENTY (20) years. He wrote Malik madhab’s famous book al-Mudawwanah

Imam Shafi (Muhammad ibn Idrees ash Shaafi) travelled to Madeenah and studied under Imam Malik, then travelled to Yemen and taught there. Then to Iraq and studied under Muhammad Ibn al-Hassan, and then to Egypt to study

This is post #1 in the “How  to Learn” Series. The next one is Whom Should We NOT Learn Religion From?

Note: The contents for this post came from many sources: Books, emails, classes, discussions etc. Short URL for this post:


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