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IlmSummit: I came, I saw .. I Can’t Believe its Over – Part 2


First see Part 1, Siraaj’s post, and this comment.

What was Taught?

Everything being written about IlmSummit and posted has more or less focused on the other memories of IlmSummit – which priceless for those attending, don’t offer much for people who were not there. I hope to give people a small glimpse of the 2 week curriculum along with a few of the lessons learned.

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Adab al-‘Ilm

Every morning for 15-20 minutes the etiquettes of seeking knowledge were covered. This was from about 845am-9am, and was immediately followed by reading from Mukhtasar Sahih al-Bukhari. These sessions were daily and alternated between Sh. Yasir Qadhi and Yaser Birjas. Yasir Qadhi did his lessons from Nawawi’s introduction to his Majmu’. I will leave the details from this session aside as I plan to insha’Allah turn the lessons from this into a series of posts for MM.

Sahih al-Bukhari

The objective of this class was to have some daily review of hadith. It gave us an introduction to Imam Bukhari, and some of the methodologies he used in compiling his book (for example the Fiqh found in his chapter headings). One thing that I learned was the method students use to formally review texts with their teachers and the correct way of reading them back. One of the main motivators that many students went home with was to try and implement a daily dose of hadith into their lives. As I will expand on more below when talking about Uloom al-Quran, we are really lacking in a daily connection to the “Quran and Sunnah.” We all give lip service to this phrase, and claim to follow it, but it is vital to have a daily relationship with them, otherwise how will we ever know what they actually say?


Otherwise known as Taharah overload :)

We covered the fiqh of purification from all 4 madhabs as well as detailed comparative fiqh sessions on selected issues. Although the topic itself is dry (even though it deals with water), this was an important issue to cover in the manner it was done. The way each madhab was presented was with a teacher who specialized in each school presenting the introductory level text in each madhab. For example, Matn Abi Shujah for Shafi’ee fiqh and Mukhtasar al-Quduri for Hanafi fiqh.

Covering the fiqh in this manner gave us a great appreciation for the depth of the topic, and the scholarship that comes behind it. Although, I will mention this. Before this, I used to think this was the ideal way to study fiqh – learn each madhab, then do comparative on the issue to arrive at the right opinion. If studying 3 issues that come up in Taharah took this long, I can’t imagine going through all the other masaa’il of fiqh in such a manner – especially for someone like me who is not a full time ‘student.’

I do wish though, that some kind of detail fiqh be taught on a wide level. It seems to me, that one of the primary ways of building tolerance and understanding in our communities on these issues, is by having formal academic study of these topics so we learn to properly respect the (valid) differences that come up. I’m also campaigning from now that the Fiqh of *Business Transactions* be the fiqh topic for 2 weeks at Ilm Summit ’09.

Maqasid ash-Shari’ah

This was one of my favorite classes by far, and I really wish that we had more sessions. Shaykh Yaser Birjas tackled this very contentious issue and laid out the framework from which to approach this subject. The issue of maqasid and maslahah and mafsadah has been misused greatly by many in our times to play with the deen and make things halal under the guise of these terms.

Some of the gems from this class,

  • Maqasid cannot be misused, for example – saying that one of the objectives of the Shari’ah is ease, and that it is flexible, and therefore we should pray only twice a day to accomodate work schedules.
  • Any maslahah (benefit) must include the maslahah of the Akhirah.
  • Maqasid cannot be applied to transgress limits set by the Shari’ah.
  • The Shari’ah does intend ease for the servant – but the mind of the servant will not always perceive the ease. Proper practice of the Shari’ah results in ease.


IlmSummit had tafseer of Surah Fatihah, Naba, Mutafiffeen, Thematic Tafseer – and my favorite: Tafseer Surah ‘Abasa by Sh. Waleed. These sessions helped us realize how little we know even of Surah’s most of us have memorized. The number of points that can be derived even from just the first ayah of Surah ‘Abasa was simply mindblowing (and took about 45 minutes!), and was the type of thing needed to help us to establish a stronger relationship with the Quran.


Another memorable session. Nouman Ali Khan taught examples of the miracle of eloquence in the Quran. This is material that will be later taught in Bayyinah classes – and will be in some upcoming articles exclusive for MuslimMatters :) I will mention just one gem that I wrote down – the others would just simply require too much explanation:

Nouman’s definition of irony: A person in a rush to finish his salah recites Surah al-‘Asr :)

Check out the MM Eid Gift for more of this type of material.

Uloom al-Quran

This was one of Yasir Qadhi’s main series, and it focused on the issue of miracles (i’jaz) in the Quran. It covered the history of how the science of i’jaz started, and how different groups defined it and discussed it. We covered the ayaat of tahaddi (challenge) in detail, along with many of the miraculous aspects of the Quran in detail. The Balaghah session actually intersected with this class nicely giving a full 3 hour session discussing just one of the examples of the miraculous qualities of the Quran.

One of the main benefits of this class was it reconnects you with the Quran in both an academic manner and a spiritual manner. This is really something I hope that we build on in general. Too many masaajid and programs in the West have detached from the Quran. It is fine to have halaqahs and seminars and conferences on spirituality, politics, fiqh, aqeedah, etc – but when is the last time you saw, for example, a big national conference on Tafseer? Or a big convention based on how to be connected to the Quran? I strongly feel that the Quran and its sciences (like tafseer) are the most vital to be taught, yet often the most neglected. I have books on my shelf – in English – about the scientific evidences validating the prohibition of pork, an entire book on the legality of praying in shoes, theoretical books about Muslims and Americanization, detailed criticism  of hadith narrators, books detailing fiqh of niqab vs. hijab, inheritance… all these subjects, but when I look at my Quran section I barely found a few surahs being done anything resembling justice in Tafseer. We can talk about Islam, and revival, and the future of Islam, Masaajid, Islamic schools, politics, and all those other subjects, but the bottom line is without a revival of deep Quranic study, all those other issues fall by the wayside.

Orientalists and Hadith

East meets West. West meets East.  I think it’s safe to say this was the first time Muslims from the West, actually learned about Islam (properly) from someone trained in the West. Dr. Jonathan Brown blew us away with his history of Orientalist critiques of Hadith literature. Most of us are used to just bashing Orientalists, and taking pride in the way M.M. Azami rips apart people like Schacht in his books. However, this class taught us the foundations upon which the orientalist ideals are founded, going back all the way to Greek Mythology and discussing the science of textual criticism on its own (i.e. not specifically applied to Islamic texts only). What I liked most about this class was gaining appreciation for different kinds of scholarship. Also, I like that I now have ijaazah in all the hadiths of Dr. Brown :)


This was the primary aqeedah class taught by Yasir Qadhi and it too spanned quite a few sessions. One of the main things I learned was the true purpose of the fitrah, and how to utilize it in dawah. For Muslims, the existence of God is already assumed, there isn’t much to debate on this issue. We move past this and focus on actually worshipping Him. With other religions, and groups of kalam though, they are so mired in this issue that they never progress past that point. The paradox that the groups of kalam create for themselves is also interesting. They say that you must have doubt and then prove the existence of God since it is not something inherently known. To put it another way, according to this method, a person actually must commit kufr in order to believe!

The best part of the class though, was learning about the role of logic in regards to revelation. Ibn al-Qayyim refutes the concept of using rational over revelation when the two contradict in a sarcastic passage in his book al-Sawaa’iq al-Mursalah. I couldn’t come up with a good way of summarizing it, so I have pasted the passage here. Basically, he is saying that this concept comes from a well known madhab, and it was expounded upon by their Grand Shaykh (Iblees)- who was the first to employ the use of logic to oppose revelation:

The big shaykh was the first to start the madrassah and said ‘I am better than him (Adam)’.  There was a naql (ie, a direct order from Allah) and Iblees preferred aql over naql.  This is the founder of the school of preferring aql over naql.  Ibn Al Qayyim has a detailed discussion on this and talks about the madhab of the shaykh.  He deconstructs the madhab of the shaykh and said to examine the usool of the madhab.  He said the madhab is based upon 2 premises:

1)  I am better than Adam

2)  The one who is better does not do sajdah to the one who is inferior.The conclusion is: I am not going to prostrate to Adam.

The first premise is a conclusion of another argument that is based upon a fact and two more premises.  The fact is Iblees is created from fire and Adam from clay.

Premise #1:  Fire is better than clay.

Premise #2:  That which is created from something better must always be better from that which is created from something inferior

Looking at these premises, they are both wrong.  If you look at the premises of the shaykh of the madhab, they are stronger than the talameedh of the madhab.  Iblees is a stronger shaykh than his students.  He says this entire argument is false for a number of reasons:

1) It is not allowed to do qiyas when there is an explicit text (from the Quran and Sunnah). When there is an explicit text, qiyas is void, and is called qiyas ibleesi [satanic analogy]. It includes a contradiction between truth and falsehood, and therefore would lead to destruction of the persons mind, religion, and hereafter. If anyone opposes a part of revelation with reason, Allah will ruin his intellect to the extent that anyone with intelligence would laugh at him.

2) His statement [I am better than him] is a lie. It is not necessary that because the origin of object A is better than the origin of object B that object A is better than object B , so Iblees is not necessarily better than Adam.  Example:  by unanimous consensus, the prophets such as Muhammad (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam), Ibrahim, Musa, Isa, Nuh, and all the messengers are better than the angels. The madhab of AhlusSunnah is that the righteous humans are better than the angels.

Being better is not dependent on the origin of the individual. For this reason, servants and freed-servants who believe in Allah and His messenger are better in the sight of Allah than those who are from Quraish and Bani Hashim.

This satanic argument became a principle for exalting a person’s status based on origin over eman and taqwa. Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) voided this argument by His statement:

O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware. (Hujurat:13)

The Prophet (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) said, “Allah has put in you jahili arrogance and glorification of ancestors. People are pious believers and wretched sinners” (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi).

And the Prophet (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) said, “There is no preference of Arabs over non-Arabs, nor  non-Arabs against Arabs, nor whites over blacks, nor blacks over whites, except with taqwa. Humans are from Adam, and Adam is from clay” (Musnad Ahmad, Abu Nuaym).

So look at how widespread is this satanic issue of preferring people over others due to their origin.

3) The idea that fire is better than clay is false. It is based on the idea that fire is bright and weightless, whereas clay is heavy and dark. However Shaykh Iblees forgot that fire is careless and foolhardy. It seeks superiority and destruction by its nature. If the tiniest flame starts in a great city, it will destroy everyone and everything. Rather, clay is better than fire due to a number of reasons:

1-     Its nature is peaceful and calm, while fire is the opposite.

2-     It is the substance of animals and plants, while fire is the opposite.

3-     There is no way for anyone to live without it or things created from it, while people can live for long periods without fire. Aisha RA said: “A month or two passed without any fire being lit in our house, or we did not see any fire.” Urwa [her nephew] said “What did you live on?” She said “The two black things: dates and water” (Bukhari).

4-     The earth produces far more blessings than the human puts into it (ie, sowing seeds). It increases [food and blessings] for you, while the fire destroys and removes blessings.

5-     The earth is the place of revelation to be sent down to, the area upon which Messengers, Prophets, and awliyaa lived. It’s the place in which they lived and were buried, whereas the fire is the abode of their enemies.

6-     Allah placed His house on the earth, and it is the direction of prayer. He made Hajj to His house an eraser of sins, and an action that increases good deeds.

7-     Fire’s nature is arrogance and destruction, and Allah does not like the arrogant and destructive [والله لا يحب المستكبرين ولا يحب المفسدين]. Earth’s nature is humility, which Allah loves. This is obvious from the fact that Allah created Ibrahim, Muhammad, Musa, Isa, and all the messengers from earth, while He created Iblees and his offspring from the fire. It is true that disbelieving humans were created from earth, and believing jinn were created from fire; but disbelieving humans are not like Iblees, and believing jinn are not like the messengers.

8-     Fire does not exist by itself; it requires a place to exist in. In fact, it needs some type of earth to exist. However, earth does not need any place and is not in need of fire in any way.

9-     Clay puts out fire if thrown on it.

Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) created the creation from clay with His own Hands. He ordered the angels to make sajda to it and taught it the names of all things [Baqara 31].  Did any creation of fire get anything similar to this?

At the end, he says:  we realize from this that the shaykh was misguided in his basic premise and conclusion

Ibn Al Qayyim dealt with the first issue of saying “I am better than Adam” but did not get to the second premise.  The second premise can be challenged through the story of Yusuf (‘alayhi Salam) in that Yusuf showed respect to his father in one sense by putting him on the throne and was shown respect from them because they prostrated to him.  It is not possible to say that Yaqub is better than Yusuf in all respects because each has its blessings.  Qiyas can be made upon imamah and who is to lead. There is unanimous consensus, it is allowed for the one is less superior to be the ruler of one who is superior.

So anyone who likes to subject the texts of Quran and Sunnah to their own rationale should be aware of where this methodology came from :)

The main thing that many people took from this was learning that the fitrah is not something we can rationalize. It’s the ultimate da’wah trump card because learning about the fitrah properly helps us realize we don’t need to dedicate books and hours of discussion on proving the existence of God. We already know that, let’s learn how to worship Him properly :)


Really, there is nothing I can write about Andalus here. This was probably the one class I came out of with a strong resolve to study more about. In fact, the exam for this class is the one I am looking most forward to because it’s going to force me to get into the DVD (Sulayman Nyang) and 2 books (the LP Harvey ones) I just ordered on Muslim Spain :)

Just as I am writing this, it turns out AlMaghrib is going to actually start a class on Muslim Spain in 2009 with Shaykh Yaser Birjas, so watch out for it!

I leave you with this tribute to Andalus that we watched in class, and a nasheed by Sh. Yaser right after :)

[youtube eno8wT5oSuQ]

Eulogizing the Lost Civilization of Spain, by Abu Al-Baqa Al-Rundi (poet) – this contains a lot of relevant lessons to today

[youtube fBBqEdmY2s4]

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at



  1. Hidaya

    October 20, 2008 at 1:15 AM

    Alhamdulillah, it was about time =) Too tired to read it right now, inshaAllah tomorrow lol (I had to comment)-

  2. AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 20, 2008 at 2:50 AM

    innalhamdolillah. bismillah. inshaAllah, that leaves me the first commentator to have actually finished the whole article! i don’t know whether to cry in pain for what i have missed out on, for joy for my brothers and sisters who were there, or in relief that inshaAllah we will get more content from ilmsummit here at MM.

    so, i will not shed my tears, fasabrun jameelan. and how jameel the garden of knowledge which was ilmsummit, and continues to bear fruits by the Mercy of Allah for its attendees and those who pay heed.

    mashaAllah, laa hawla wa laa quwata illa billah.

  3. Gohar

    October 20, 2008 at 8:20 AM

    I wonder whether the reasoning is correct in the quoted article. On a brief reading of it, and with Lang’s book in my mind, it seems that the Iblees’ INCORRECT logic has been refuted rather than the idea of logic itself. In other words, you have good logic and bad logic. By refuting bad logic, you haven’t refuted all logic.

    I’m not saying i agree with using logic in the way modernists do, i certainly do not.

  4. MR

    October 20, 2008 at 10:03 AM

    Nouman’s definition of irony: A person in a rush to finish his salah recites Surah al-’Asr :)

    That is so true, haha.

  5. Nihal Khan

    October 20, 2008 at 10:28 AM

    inshaAllah…IlmSummit 2009, here I come!

  6. ilmsummitee

    October 20, 2008 at 10:29 AM

    Thanks for the continuation…………mashallah la quowata ela billah.

    Brought back floods of memories; subhanallah how I miss those eman-filled days of just ibadaah, ilm and ukhuwah.

  7. h!

    October 20, 2008 at 6:38 PM

    Nouman’s definition of irony: A person in a rush to finish his salah recites Surah al-’Asr :)

    Could you explain this bro…

  8. AsimG

    October 20, 2008 at 8:40 PM

    Imam Shafi (R) said that if people were to only reflect on Surah Al Asr, it was enough to guide humankind.

    “If two men from the companions of the Prophet [may peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] met, the would not part until they recited surah al-Asr, then they would give each other the greetings.”

  9. Muhammad

    October 20, 2008 at 9:52 PM

    AbuAbdallah, is your first name by any chance T. Ahmed?

    -Edited. Yes to your question. First name is privileged informatoin :)

  10. AmatulWadood

    October 21, 2008 at 1:05 AM

    To h!, although I did not attend Ilm Summit (unfortunately), alhamdulillah br Nouman shared this example of Suratul ‘Asr with us…I’m sure I’m missing something since I know they covered it more in detail at Ilm Summit.

    Suratul ‘Asr begins with what is known as a “qasm”, an oath (oaths in the Qur’an is a huge study in and of itself). In simple terms: these oaths elevate the status of what is being sworn by and also bring to attention what will be mentioned after it. In this seemingly short surah, Allah ta’ala sends to us a heavy message:

    And by the fleeting passage of time! We usually read the translation: ‘by the time’, why is the translation I wrote more detailed? Because (as usual) there is a huge aspect missing from the translation that is very clear in the Arabic…

    Allah ta’ala swore by ‘Asr, which doesn’t only mean “time” because the word for “time” in Arabic is “dahr” (دهر – like suratul Insaan). What’s the difference? ‘Asr is the time that has run out or is about to run out. Think about ‘asr prayer: we pray ‘asr when the day is JUST about over, the last portion of the day is almost done.

    this ayah, وَالْعَصْرِ , is creating a sense of urgency, a state of emergency.

    Furthermore, when Allah ta’ala uses a qasm (oath), He uses what He swears by (in this surah, ‘asr) as a witness and a proof.

    Allah ta’ala continues after this strong oath:

    إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ
    No doubt, the human being is in an utter state of bankruptcy and doom!

    In this life, people run after what they think is success…they get the salary, get the spouse, get the car, get the house…THAT is their success, and they left this earth and FAILED. This cycle has been continuing since the dawn of man, and their followers did not learn the lesson from their mistakes.

    So now we see how al-‘asr is a witness and proof: Time is seeing this over and over again, time is a proof that men and women are in loss.
    The thing that we all lose is time: it’s the one thing we have in common, every last human, we all share it, young, old, women, man, ALL.

    The best way to reflect upon man’s loss is looking at the time….the fleeting passage of time that Allah ta’ala swore by.

    Every oath in the Qur’an shows us two things:
    1- There is a powerful introduction to a subject–the whole surah is tied to the oath.
    2- Every oath is an evidence; worldly or religious, that anyone can see and understand if they reflect.

    So this is a small taste of the irony of people reading this surah to quickly finish their salah….may Allah ta’ala make us companions of the Qur’an, and save us from being amongst the losers, Ameen.

  11. AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 21, 2008 at 2:24 AM

    innalhamdolillah. bismillah. all of you! come (back) to Houston for this class.

  12. imtiaz

    October 21, 2008 at 9:03 AM

    MashAllah –

    a suggestion to all ILMSummit – ers

    you are back home – TEACH THIS NOW !
    WE NEED SOME OF THE KNOWLEDGE YOU RETAIN ….Write Articles, (like this mashAllah) … on particular topics, delve into it…

    Jazzak Allah Khar

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