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An Appeal to Our Students of Knowledge and Future Du’aat

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910927_school_busWe are activists, community members, families, youth, elders, and volunteers.

We are the ones who will be on the receiving end of your dawah, and your vision for our communities when you come back from your studies.

We are the ones who you will depend on (after putting tawakkul in Allah(swt)) to help you organize your projects and activities.

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We are the ones who will help you struggle with the community. We are the ones who will listen to your khutbahs, attend your halaqaat, and then try to implement what we learn.

We are the ones who will approach you with our academic questions, our ethical concerns, and our personal problems.

We are the ones who will come to you seeking not only spiritual guidance, but guidance for those whom we love more than our own selves – our families and children – so that they can be like the one who we insha’Allah love even more than them (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam).

We wish we had the knowledge you are now pursuing, because we see on a daily basis where it is most desperately needed.

It is because of this, that we have such high hopes and expectations for you when you return.

Cherish this opportunity that Allah (swt) has given you. Forget not only the sacrifices you had to make in order to tread the path of knowledge, but also those who were willing to sacrifice more but could not go.

So while you are there, please take these concerns and advices to heart – they come from us, your future community that we hope you will lead.

Keep your goals front and center. Keep our goals front and center.

Organize yourselves while you are studying and split up responsibilities. Have some focus on advanced issues of Islamic knowledge. We need the aspiring fuqaha and muhadithoon. But we also need those people who can come back and aid with Islamic family counselling. We need some of you to be specialized in successful outreach to our non-Muslim community. We need some of you to help focus education and retention of the convert/revert community. We need some of you to learn the leadership and organization skills needed to run our masaajid and be their Imams.

We know full well some of these positions lack the allure of your present hopes and dreams, but please be realistic about where you will end up when you come back. How many have gone overseas, specialized in fiqh and hadith, only to come back and teach tajweed to 12 year olds full time?

Do not think we are oblivious to the fact that you oftentimes are more talented than the positions you end up with. But at the same time, do not let yourself become oblivious to what your future community actually needs.

We need some of you to focus on education. And by education we mean actual educational psychology. Learn how to teach children at an early age, elementary, middle school, and high school. We need knowledgeable people with input on how to improve our Islamic schools.

We need some of you to come back and work with our community members who have addictions to alcohol, pornography, and drugs.

We need some of you to learn politics and dawah, and give us guidance on how to affect society in our time and place.

We need some of you to specialize in finance, and come back and teach us about how to live a halal life. Teach us how to create community ventures that will enable people to live without debt and interest, and have halal alternatives to things like insurance.

And please realize, we know full well that many of these advices go against your dreams of being the next great world reknowned scholar. But please also realize, this is where we need you the most.

We want for you students to learn to  come together amongst yourselves, and divvy up these responsibilities. We need you to move past your petty differences and work together towards the goal of enabling your communities to be active and practicing families all living their lives in a complete sense for the sake of Allah (swt).

We need for you to work with the situation dealt to you when you get back. We, your supporters, are tired of everyone coming back and reinventing the wheel. We don’t need you to form a new dawah organization because you will do 3 things differently from the existing one. We don’t need you to abolish our sunday schools because they are teaching deviant books. We don’t need your my way or highway attitude with the masaajid no matter how much we agree with your distaste and distrust of those masjid administrations.

We do need you to collaborate with those who have been here. We need you to work with them no matter what you think of them. We, on the ground, know that the community will never move forward if we have to start from scratch, grow with you in isolation for 5 years, and then start over from scratch with the next guy because you left when you got frustrated.

We’re pretty sure that no matter what you think of our present du’aat and organizations, that ignoring them or making a new organization is not going to work. We’ve been there and done that, and the lack of remaining acronyms for new organizations shows it.

Your communities and those students and Imams who have been here longer will see you as zealous – probably because you are. Don’t let it be a negative. Embrace that drive and motivation, but please, for the sake of Allah, channel it properly.

The 95% of Muslim children struggling in public school, the 95% of Muslims who don’t even attend the masjid more than twice a year, the 90% of Muslims who don’t pray more than once a week are not in need of your ideological sectarianism. We’re pretty sure these issues are high on the priority list, and we’re pretty sure you can agree on this issue with those you might have been taught are heretical innovators. So please, help us work on fixing it.

We’re not saying for you to hide the truth or even not to teach it. But what we are asking you to do is to know your audience and speak to them at their level. We all appreciate and ask for you to come back and teach us the truth, the principles of our deen, and to not compromise in it. This is why we supported you when you left for Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Malaysia, or wherever you ended up.  But we need you to not lose sight of the situation at hand.

We really don’t care what you think of Da’ee X, or Da’ee Y. Before you came back from studying, Da’ee X and Y were the only ones here teaching us our religion. Hating on them is not scoring you points with anyone. If you want our respect, get your hands dirty and make a difference. We are here for you. We are waiting for you. We are ready to do the work you need. We are here to volunteer at your conferences. We are here to bring people to your activities. We are willing to fight on your behalf in front of the masaajid, the media, and anyone else who is going to try and impede your positive changes.

Know also that when you come back, you will be judged – rightly or wrongly. If you are lacking in basic akhlaq and adab – if you have inherited a culture of calling people names, looking down on others, backbiting, being suspicious of others, being rude, thinking you know more than everyone else (even if you do), and thinking you are better than anyone else (even if you are) – then please, stay there. We don’t want you. We don’t need you. We have enough people running around exhibiting these qualities in the name of Islam.

We do need you to come and help us move forward. We need you to show us the type of person that you become as you learn more about the religion.

We’re tired of taking one step back or two steps back and never moving on. Do it by engaging what is established, by assessing the needs and desires of the community, and then applying the knowledge Allah (swt) blessed you with.

See also:

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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 ibnabeeomar.com.

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    January 28, 2009 at 12:12 AM

    mashaAllah, Omar, i hope that the intended audience has the patience to make it through to the end of that letter. some of them may be more familiar with rulings on sabr than they are with sabr itself. ;)

    may Allah grant all the seekers of knowledge the hiqmah to seek out what is beneficial and the sabr that will encourage others to learn from them, and, through their passing on knowledge with rahmat, be even more pleased with them.

  2. Skeptical

    January 28, 2009 at 12:26 AM

    MashAllah! Excellent, well written, humble article! A bit lengthy, but nevertheless a wonderful appeal!

  3. bintwadee3

    January 28, 2009 at 12:48 AM

    Masha’Allaah! An excellent article.

    JazaakAllaahu Khayran brother for writing this much needed plea. I hope the audience will take it to heart as I did. I feel as if it was addressed to me specifically.

  4. Abd- Allah

    January 28, 2009 at 1:11 AM

    “And please realize, we know full well that many of these advices go against your dreams of being the next great world reknowned scholar.”
    The people you addressed here, the “students of knowledge”, don’t seem to have the qualities that students of knowledge should have. If they are learning more Islamic knowledge for the sake of being known among the people as great scholars instead of having sincere intentions for the sake of Allah, then that is a big problem. We all know the first people who will be brought to account on the day of judgement, and one of them is a scholar who wanted to be called knowledgable by the people but didn’t have sincere intentions and so he gets thrown into hell. They shouldn’t have those “dreams of being the next great world reknowned scholar” to begin with.
    You also might want to forward this appeal to SOME of our local imams and du’aat that are already in business.
    Allah knows best.

  5. MM Associates

    January 28, 2009 at 1:15 AM

    Jazaakum Allahu khayran.

  6. Basil Mohamed Gohar

    January 28, 2009 at 2:20 AM

    This is a great naseeha that, in general, can be adapted with only slight changes to so many members of our community, not just the students of knowledge. But you underscore what’s most important, and that is we have to always be struggling to move forward.

    Jazaak Allaahu khayran for the insightful article, akhee.

  7. mofw

    January 28, 2009 at 4:17 AM

    I’m a jerk so that means that I can give constructive criticism in an abrasive manner and live with myself. Try and extract from this any good and forgive me for the rest.

    Ahem … It took you 10 paragraphs to get to the point. I know they were a little short for paragraphs, but technically speaking, paragraphs nonetheless. After I noticed your clever little pattern I skipped ahead to see where it changed. That was the eighth paragraph. But still you hadn’t gotten to the point! Two more and there we had it. Then I was like, let me see how long this is. I scrolled down to see an ominous wall of text, unbroken by subheadings, lacking in any list type of structure or even italics.

    I did see some bold face, whose use eluded me as I did not read anything else. I was like let me leave a comment and discuss my severe irritation with this post. I’ll admit, you are the one suffering my wrath at this point though there are many at MM who need to learn how to write riveting material.

    So here are some random rules I suggest all of you read:

    1. Draw me in with the intro. Don’t bore me. I suggest an interesting anecdote or a funny joke or something. You gotta hook me in, man. How many articles have I read where the first sentence shooed me away.

    2. This is the internet, with posts like these you gotta write in internet friendly ways. Google scannable content and “how to write for the internet.’

    3. The internet is vast, our patience is not. Have mercy on everyone and make it as short as possible. You remember in highschool when your retarded teacher asked you to write an 800 word essay and everyone moaned. Well, that’s because they were stupid. The shorter your piece is the more difficult it is. A short speech is notoriously more difficult to write than a long one. If you are not making torturous decisions about what to leave in and what to take out then you are doing it wrong.

    4. For God’s sake do some work. Don’t just rattle off a rant and call it a day. Do some research, quote somebody, ANYBODY. Try and provide REAL value in your post.

    5. I’m a hypocrite. If you go to my blog you will notice I violate many of these rules regularly, but you know what it’s ok because it’s my dinky little rant lab. This is MuslimMatters and it has a reputation to uphold. It has as certain quality that we have come to expect. You write along side the likes of Sh. Yaser Qadhi, Dr. Shehata, Nouman Ali Khan and Sh. Yasir Birjas.

    No listen, I am a jerk but don’t take these words as discouragement. Rather, this is my perverted way of exhorting you to be better at what you do. For example, the MM crew asked me to write a post for them a while back. I banged something out in a few hours and then they sent it back after the editorial board chewed it up and spit it out in my face. They really tore into it with luminescent comments like, “these are the ravings of a lunatic” and “this loaded with juvenile, anti-intellectual stereotypes.” I must admit I was thrilled. Not only was it highly amusing, I really did appreciate the honesty. Honesty, that I would probably not have gotten without the anonymity of the internet. I on the other hand am equally scathing in person or online. Those who know me can attest to that.

    The point is, my article was WAY better for their criticism, as harsh as it was. I didn’t take it personally, though I probably should have, and in the end it was a public service as the internet was pleased.

  8. Hidaya

    January 28, 2009 at 10:33 AM

    lol..mofw needs to learn how to be a bit more honest, he sounds very diplomatic..

  9. Pingback: An Open Letter to Students of Knowledge Overseas | DeenDriven

  10. ibnabeeomar

    January 28, 2009 at 11:15 AM

    mofw, jazakallahu khayr, i love you man :)

  11. ibnabeeomar

    January 28, 2009 at 11:19 AM

    abd-Allah – i dont think its fair to question the *intention* of someone going to study with that ambition, because thats what it is – ambition. you aim to be the best, and then you sometimes fall a bit short of the mark. its like the hadith saying when you ask for jannah, ask for the highest part of jannah.

    while some people do seek knowledge with diluted intention, this post isnt aimed at that. you can however, read this previous one :)

  12. mbslrm

    January 28, 2009 at 11:47 AM

    The mofw never fails to crack me up. he does, however, have a point; I skipped most of the article since it was so long. You should try putting an abstract or something….

  13. ibnabeeomar

    January 28, 2009 at 11:54 AM

    if this is long.. ill have to split my next article up into 3 parts :(

  14. MM Associates

    January 28, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    Our attention span keeps shrinking and shrinking….

  15. Joyhamza

    January 28, 2009 at 12:10 PM

    Assalaamu ‘Alaikum,

    Bro. Omar excellent advice.

  16. mofw

    January 28, 2009 at 12:14 PM

    I’ll tell you what would be a nice read. Write about what we need and give examples of people Muslim and Non-Muslim that have successful things going. But this of course will require a lot of work and quite a bit of research. Splitting up the article to three ‘what we needs’ at a time would be a good idea.

    But to be honest, I skimmed the list and you are asking way too much. A lot of things can be handles by plain old Muslims. An Imam is not a savior.

  17. ibnabeeomar

    January 28, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    mofw – that’s true, but the plain old folks do need the leadership of someone with knowledge (in my opinion anyways :) )

  18. MR

    January 28, 2009 at 3:33 PM

    Good post bro!

    But we need to produce our own du’at in this country right here without sending them overseas. We have enough strong scholars from the all types. Zaytuna is building its college. Al-Maghrib is building its university. We need to support them. We need to realize that overseas is not good enough for us Americans or Canadians or Europe. We need our own institutions!

  19. baleelah

    January 28, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    I really liked the article, even though it was long. It actually reminded me of letters and essays I had to read in my Early American Writings class.

    The content is great too.

    Jzak Allah Khair!

  20. anon

    January 28, 2009 at 6:32 PM

    salam

    why do you have to sound so condesceding in the article?

  21. Abd- Allah

    January 28, 2009 at 6:33 PM

    “abd-Allah – i dont think its fair to question the *intention* of someone going to study with that ambition”
    brother ibnabeeomar, I am not saying that we should question their intentions, every person deals with his/her own intentions and Allah will judge them for their intentions on the day of judgement. But if that ambition IS the student’s intention, then that is a problem. Being ambitious is important for most things in life, but having that ambition as your intention is not good, and Allah knows best.

  22. Ibn Masood

    January 28, 2009 at 7:26 PM

    Assalamualaikum

    Great article and very relevant!

  23. AnonyMouse

    January 28, 2009 at 8:17 PM

    Fantastic post, jazaakAllahu khair. It is indeed relevant, especially since these days masha’Allah there are many brothers (and even sisters) from the West who are studying at Islamic universities and will insha’Allah be the leaders of our communities in a few years.

    BTW this reminds me of my old post: A Tribute to My Father and Grassroots Activism (yes, shameless self-plugging, I know! :) )

  24. FearAllah

    January 28, 2009 at 11:10 PM

    Allahu Akbar! How very true….

    P.S. Didn’t feel long at all…

  25. adisadiani

    January 29, 2009 at 12:28 AM

    Salaamu Alaykum,
    I have been a frequent reader of MM Alhamdulillah, but have never added any comments or concerns so far. Firstly, I’d like to say that Alhamdulillah I can rely for Muslim matters on MM. MM has been fullfilling its job of keeping us muslims posted about the matters and issues of the Muslims around the world. After praising Allah, I would like to thank the dedicated and knowledgable shooyukh and writers who by the help of Allah has created this avenue to cover the matters of the Muslims. With that said, I really loved the above letter and it somewhat inspired me today to finally write on MM after being a quiet audience for, I do not even remember how long, a while.

    Although this will be a sort of advertisement, however, I think it addresses one of the points you make in your letter, brother ibnabeeomar, “The 95% of Muslim children struggling in public school, the 95% of Muslims who don’t even attend the masjid more than twice a year, … So please, help us work on fixing it.”
    In an attempt to do something about this I am attempting to make a small effort through the following advertisment inshaAllah. And the reason I post here is as you mention Brother ibnabeeomar “We are here to bring people to your activities.” and this is to address not to just Brother ibnabeeomar, but others who share similar views to help each other in dawah and are reading this inshaAllah .
    With that said, anybody reading my comment living around or know anybody in Houston area, Mission Bend (Humza Masjid) Sunday School has been planning for sometime and finally now starting a class for the youth, mainly brothers and sisters between the age of 13-18 (middile and high school students), It is a research based class where we will be looking through issues, we as muslims face everyday, such as intermglinging between the genders, Homosexuality prevailing in the west and in the muslim communities, etc…What’s new about our class? I admit this is a regular sunday school class and the topics are very common in Islamic conferences, MSAs, and so on, and in that way nothing new. However, we are trying to target this age group (middle-high school) and inshaAllah help them develop ideas about such topics in the light of Islam so they are able to look at the world with a proper Islamic perspective inshaAllah. I could say a lot more about this program, however, if any of you are interested to find out more or enroll your children, younger siblings or even yourself (if you fall in that age group ofcourse) inshaAllah you can find out more by contacting Humzah Masjid Sunday School. And btw: the clas is FREE! Introduction to the class is This Sunday inshaAllah, the 1st of February 2009.
    JazakAllahu Khair for taking the time to read it.
    was salaam

  26. sis

    January 29, 2009 at 1:54 AM

    Jazakallahu khayran for this article. It has some great points to keep in perspective.

  27. Arshada

    January 29, 2009 at 8:18 AM

    as salaam alikuim,

    The timing for such a post couldn’t be better.

    I packed up my life in the US and just landed in Alexandria, Egypt few days with the intended to study long-term & get a degree in Shariah, bidiniallah.

    A post like this gave a good snapshot of the Muslim landscape in the US & its needs from the people who’ll return. Great job akhi…loved it

    Arshada,

  28. Ameera

    January 29, 2009 at 12:47 PM

    Jazakillah! I think we ALL needed this direct, if I may use the word, “attack” on our future plans and not just the scholars and Imams of tomorrow. I like the fact that every person who reads this gets to walk away having learnt something relevant to his or her ownself. Maybe there’s a teacher with basic knowledge of Islam and she decides to change her perspective, continue to seek Islamic knowledge and incorporate its ideals into her profession… or a doctor or an engineer likewise. :)

  29. Iftikhar

    January 29, 2009 at 1:55 PM

    The demand for Muslim schools comes from parents who want their children a safe environment with an Islamic ethos.Parents see Muslim schools where children can develop their Islamic Identity where they won’t feel stigmatised for being Muslims and they can feel confident about their faith.
    Muslim schools are working to try to create a bridge between communities. There is a belief among ethnic minority parens that the British schooling does not adequatly address their cultural needs. Failing to meet this need could result in feeling resentment among a group who already feel excluded. Setting up Muslim school is a defensive response.

    State schools with monolingual teachers are not capable to teach English to bilingual Muslim children. Bilingual teachers are needed to teach English to such children along with their mother tongue. According to a number of of studies, a child will not learn a second language if his first language is ignored.

    Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. Muslims have the right to educate their children in an environment that suits their culture. This notion of “integration”, actually means “assimilation”, by which people generally really mean “be more like me”. That is not multiculturalism. In Sydney, Muslims were refused to build a Muslim school, because of a protest by the residents. Yet a year later, permission was given for the building of a Catholic school and no protests from the residents. This clrearly shows the blatant hypocrisy, double standards and racism. Christians oppose Muslim schools in western countries yet build their own religious schools.

    British schooling and the British society is the home of institutional racism. The result is that Muslim children are unable to develop
    self-confidence and self-esteem, therefore, majority of them leave schools with low grades. Racism is deeply rooted in British society. Every native child is born with a gene or virus of racism, therefore, no law could change the attitudes of racism towards those who are different. It is not only the common man, even member of the royal family is involved in racism. The father of a Pakistani office cadet who was called a “Paki” by Prince Harry
    has profoundly condemned his actions. He had felt proud when he met the Queen and the Prince of Wales at his son’s passing out parade at Sandhurst in 2006 but now felt upset after learning about the Prince’s comments. Queen Victoria invited an Imam from India to teach her Urdu language. He was highly respected by the Queen but other members of the royal family had no respect for him. He was forced to go back to India. His protrait is still in one of the royal places.

    There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools with bilingual Muslim teachers. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.
    Iftikhar Ahmad
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

  30. usman

    January 29, 2009 at 2:19 PM

    Salaam, the post was good, it was inspiring, but it was a little condescending…or mabye its just me

  31. mofw

    January 29, 2009 at 11:07 PM

    Boo! Muslim Schools Suck! Muslims are doing it wrong!

  32. Shirtman

    January 29, 2009 at 11:46 PM

    IbnAbee,

    Good post, I totally agree, this goal is being implemented by Arees Institute. The school is taking full time workers and creating students of knowledge. Insha’Allah batch by batch experts in various fields will be experts in Islam as well, as long as the students keep striving to learn and teach what they have learned.

    Shirtman.

  33. mms

    January 30, 2009 at 12:08 AM

    Jazaak Allahu khairan. Very well written.
    Hopefully those who come back will fulfill the needs of the community.

  34. Yaqeen

    January 30, 2009 at 2:44 PM

    I often feel that many students of knowledge are put on pedestals that only bring them fitnah instead of propelling them forward. A much needed article, Jazak Allahu Khair.

  35. Atif

    January 30, 2009 at 5:57 PM

    I’ve summarized this post by making a checklist for the students of knowledge and future du’aat:

    Topics to study:
    * Family Counseling
    * Non-muslim Outreach
    * Education and Retention of Converts
    * Leadership/Organization skills to run masaajid and be Imams
    * Education of children from elementary to high school
    * Counseling people with addictions to alcohol, pornography, and drugs.
    * Learn about politics and da’wah, and how to affect society in our time and place.
    * Educating muslims about Islamic finance/economics in the West

    Advice:
    * Be humble and be prepared to be over-qualified for positions you end up with.
    * Work with existing organizations and overlook their smaller deviations
    * Know your audience and speak to their level.
    * Basic Adab/Akhlaq is a must

    • Arif

      January 27, 2010 at 5:08 PM

      Wow, JazaakumAllahu Khayran for this article!! It’s a very necessary article and something that should be framed in everybody’s living room mantle!

      @Atif JazaakumAllahu Khayran for summaring this :)

  36. Yousuf

    October 2, 2009 at 4:09 AM

    simply awesome!!

  37. Pingback: Finding My Purpose | MuslimMatters.org

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