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Quran and Sunnah

Bringing Sunnah Back: The Proper Steps of Seeking Knowledge



It’s the year 1244; a group of children go to see their friend to ask him to join them in playing games. This young boy, at the tender of age of ten, turns them down. They continue to probe him, and even attempt to force him to play, but this boy refusesand returns to what he was doing before they interrupted him: reciting the Qur’an.

This young boy was Yahya ibn Sharraf, otherwise known as Imam an-Nawawi (rahimahullah).

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Fast forward hundreds of years later to 2010. Knowledge is readily available and easily accessible. A quick search on the internet will easily produce more knowledge for us than was available to Imam Nawawi (rahimahullah), yet we do not have the likes of Imam Nawawi walking amongst us. Rather, what we see now is a methodology of seeking knowledge that is strange and backwards.

In this day and age, our young generation of students are proficient in the most minute details of Fiqh and Aqeedah, yet they are unable to recite Surah Fatiha with the same level of proficiency. These same youth have the opinions of various scholars memorized, yet they have not memorized more than a few chapters of the Speech of Allah. Even more so, they can debate in great detail why a certain group has incorrect Aqeedah, but they do not understand Arabic and when they stand to pray before their Lord, they do not understand His Words.

Strange, isn’t it?

Imam ibn AbdulBarr (rahimahullah) said,

“Seeking knowledge is in consecutive levels and ranks, it does not befit that they should be bypassed. Whoever bypasses them at once, then he has bypassed the path of the salaf. Whoever bypasses them intentionally will go astray and whoever bypasses them with sincere effort will fall into error.”

Just as becoming a doctor involves stages and methods, knowledge should also be sought through a process with stages. Today, these stages are mixed together and reversed like a person with no formal education entering medical school.

Analyzing the Problem

What is it that differentiates the students of the past from the students of today? There are a few major issues, but the most critical mistake, we as students commit, is making knowledge the goal and not the means to the goal. Historically, knowledge was not a goal that was completed after a few years of study, rather the Salaf viewed it as the means to reaching Jannah. When the students of the past began their search for knowledge, they made it a lifelong pursuit because their goal could only be reached in the hereafter. Abdullah ibn Mubaarak (rahimahullah) was asked, “How long will you seek knowledge?” His response was, “Until I die, for probably I have not yet learned the things that will benefit me most.” We must realize that knowledge of the religion is a lifelong quest; it does not end after a weekend, or a few years or even twenty years.

The scholars and students of the past sought knowledge as a means to Jannah because beneficial knowledge leads to righteous actions. Sufyan Ath-Thawri (rahimahullah) said: “The excellence of knowledge is due only to the fact that it causes a person to fear and obey Allah, otherwise it is just like anything else.” Our predecessors did not seek knowledge for the sake of seeking knowledge, rather it was so they could act upon what they learned. It should be clear in our hearts and minds that knowledge is action; and without action, knowledge will not benefit us in the least.

The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) narrated to us that, “The two feet of the servant will not cease (from standing before Allah) on the Day of Judgment until he is asked about four things: about his life and how he spent it; about his knowledge and what he did with it; about his wealth and where he earned it and how he spent it; and about his body and in what way he utilized it.” [Saheeh, reported by At-Tirmidhi] Shaykh Husayn Al-Awaa’ishah said in regards to this hadeeth, “Check yourself before you try to seek increase through reading and listening to lectures and convert the knowledge that you already have into actions that accompany you as you live.” Imam ibnul Jawzi (rahimahullah) stated, “And the miskeen (poor person), the true miskeen is the one who wasted his life learning what he does not practice, thus he loses the pleasures of the dunya and the goods of the aakhirah. (In addition to) coming forth bankrupt (on the Day of Judgment) with strong evidences against himself.”

The second mistake we fall into is in focusing on the knowledge but not on how it is sought. We must realize that ilmis of levels; if it is not sought with the right steps, it will bring you down. The Messenger of Allah (alayhi salaatu wa salaam) gave us the description of the Khawaarij; they recited the Qur’an throughout the night and day, but it did not go past their throats. The scholars state that even though their worship seemed to be superior to the worship of the Companions, the Khawaarij did not have knowledge of the sunnah so they were deprived of proper understanding and reward for their deeds.

One of the direct results of not seeking knowledge in the proper steps is the lack of basic adab amongst students. This is also connected to the problem of seeking knowledge without acting upon it, because it is impossible for a student to truly learn the Qur’an and Sunnah and continue to have manners that contradict that knowledge. The scholars and students of the past emphasized manners so much so that manners were considered half or a third of knowledge. Knowledge is a tool that needs adab along with it. The ayaat and ahadeeth regarding manners are numerous, but one narration of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) sums up why every Muslim should strive to perfect their manners, he (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “Nothing will be heavier on the Day of Resurrection in the scale of the believer than good manners.”  [Saheeh, Narrated in At-Tirmidhi]

What we also see today is the ‘talibul ilm superstar syndrome‘. ‘Student of Knowledge’ has become a trendy title, turning this sacred knowledge of the Deen into a mere adornment and degrading it to something that is superficial and fake. By treating this knowledge as a commodity, we have reduced its value and stripped it of its rightful honor. This lack of honor is one of the reasons why we don’t have barakah in our ilm today. Habeeb ibn Ubayd ar-Rahbi (rahimahullah) said,

“Acquire knowledge, comprehend it and use it. And do not acquire it in order to adorn yourselves with it, for indeed, it is imminent – should your life-spans be prolonged for you – that knowledge will be used as a means for adorning oneself, just as a man adorns himself with his garment.”

We may think that seeking a title is harmless, but this wrong intention can deprive one of Jannah. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whoever acquires knowledge not learning it except to achieve some worldly gain will not perceive the fragrance of Paradise on the Day of Judgment.” [Saheeh, Narrated in Ahmad] The proper intention for seeking knowledge (and any good deed in Islam) is so important because having an incorrect intention can take one to Hell-Fire. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) told us the example of a scholar who will be amongst the first thrown into Hell-Fire because he sought and taught knowledge to be known as a learned person. Imam Ahmad (rahimahullah) said, “There is nothing equal (to the reward) of knowledge, for the one who rectifies his intention.” The success of a student of knowledge, in this life and the next, lies in their intention.

The Neglected Book and Language

Know that we will never be true students of knowledge without the Book of Allah, and we will never taste any sweetness from it without the Arabic language.

When we as students seek knowledge today, we do not begin with the Qur’an or Arabic. This is not only contrary to the sunnah of the past predecessors, it is contrary to the sunnah of Allah (azza wa jal). A’ishah (radi Allahu anha) said,

“If the first ayah revealed in the Qur’an was telling people do not drink, they would have rejected that order. If the first verse revealed was telling people not to commit fornication, they would have rejected that order. But the first verses revealed were about Paradise and Hell-Fire until the hearts became attached to Allah then the orders of haram and halal were given.”

The best way of teaching is the way of Allah (azza wa jal), so it is more befitting for us to begin our studies with the Qur’an. In doing so, we will attach our hearts to Allah and empower our remembrance of Him.

There is a serious state of emergency in our ummah with regards to the Qur’an. We are a part of a destructive cycle that has been repeating, generation after generation; we have no bridge towards the Qur’an so we are not motivated to learn it, we are not motivated to learn it because we do not understand it, and we do not understand it because we do not know the language.

The scholars of the past emphasized this point of beginning with the Qur’an when seeking knowledge. Imam Al-Baghdadi (rahimahullah) said, “It is fitting for a student that he begins with memorization of the Book of Allah – since it is the greatest of the branches of knowledge and that which should be placed first and given precedence.”

We must realize that memorizing the Book of Allah is a great virtue, but acting upon it is obligatory. Contrary to this, in this day and age, we have made its memorization obligatory and have made acting upon it a virtue. Knowledge of the Qur’an is not enough, rather this knowledge needs to be beautified with deeds.

It is important for us to memorize the Qur’an, learn the language of the Qur’an, the tafseer of Qur’an, the sciences of Qur’an, the grammar of Qur’an, tajweed of Qur’an—but the most important of all of these is reflecting upon the guidance of the Qur’an. The first purpose of the Qur’an is not to educate, rather it is to remind. Even more so, the reminder is not the main goal of this Book, but the main goal is guidance. Tying these two together, the means to this guidance is in the reminder itself. Allah (azza wa jal) says,

فَذَكِّرْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مَنْ يَخَافُ وَعِيدِ

And remind by the Qur’an, him who fears My Threat. (50:45)

Allah ta’ala speaks of people who were very knowledgeable yet in the same passage, He tells us that they rejected the Messenger and changed their books after they understood them. They did not change the book because they did not understand, but Allah says:

يُحَرِّفُونَهُ مِن بَعْدِ مَا عَقَلُوهُ

They altered it even after they understood it (2:75)

They were not missing knowledge, but they were missing the guidance of the Book.

Our intention when learning the Qur’an and Arabic should be to remember Allah (azza wa jal) by means of His Words. We need to look at the Qur’an and Arabic as a means to increase us and empower us in the remembrance of Allah.

The first step in gaining this relationship with the Qur’an is learning the Arabic language. Just as Allah ta’ala chose Muhammad ibn Abdillah as our Messenger (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), He chose Arabic as the language of His revelation. Allah states eleven times that He chose Arabic for the Qur’an for our own benefit:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

“We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an, in order that you may gain understanding.” (12:2)

It is a sad contradiction that one claims to be a student of knowledge, yet he or she does not understand the Qur’an nor affords the Qur’an its due right. Rather, one may seek to gain knowledge of secondary sciences, and give these sciences a primary role. The scholars of the past have warned against this mindset. Malik ibn Dinar (rahimahullah) said, “Whoever does not find delight in the speech of Allah and instead finds it in the speech of people, then surely his knowledge has taken a plunge, his heart has become blind and his life has become wasted.”

We see in the Qur’an that Allah azza wa jal connects having emaan with having a Qur’anic relationship:

الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَتْلُونَهُ حَقَّ تِلَاوَتِهِ أُولَـٰئِكَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ

Those to whom We have given the Book recite it as it should be recited, they are the ones who believe therein. (2:121)

Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radi Allahu anhu) swore by Allah and said that, haqqa tilaawatihi, the proper reciting, is to treat permissible as what it states is permissible, to treat as impermissible what it states to be impermissible, to recite it in the way Allah revealed it, not to distort a word from its proper meaning, and not to interpret it in a way it is not to be interpreted.

Realize that knowledge can go both ways —it can either be something beautiful that brings one closer to Allah or it can be something harmful that can ruin one’s hereafter. It is upon us to reform ourselves and seek the help of Allah to gain that knowledge that will guide us to success in this life and the next.


InshaAllah in Part two, we will cover the “how”; how can we as modern students follow the classical method of seeking knowledge? How can we return to the Qur’an and its language? We will share resources and answer those excuses we come across as well as share the example of a western scholar who did not study overseas but gained his knowledge in North America.

It is time for the students of the West to return to the sunnah of our past predecessors and raise this knowledge back to its honorable position.

[Stay tuned this week for more advice to students and community workers. ibnabeeomar will share is advice tomorrow inshaAllah on getting back into the swing, and Siraaj will give his analysis on how to beat inaction on Wednesday inshaAllah.]

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Amatullah is a student of the Qur'an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta'leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur'an, Tajwid (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and will be completing the Masters program in 2014 inshaAllah. Her experience includes working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement and accessibility for people with disabilities.



  1. AbdelRahman

    January 18, 2010 at 1:42 AM

    Thank you and Jazak Allah khayr! This article hits the nail right on the head and should be included with every AlMaghrib class notebook.

    • almaghribStudent

      January 18, 2010 at 11:30 AM

      I know i thought about that too, they should have that as a disclaimer, my god were all rushing to take one class after an other but what about those we already took. Its serious note , when it comes to classes like Fiqh of Salah and the tafseer classes i ‘ll be reviewing my notes on a daily basis, since that’s a such a beneficial class for me.However other classes that is not the case. I think we should really take a moment and think about this, we will be held accountable for the knowledge. Eye opening, really

      the true miskeen is the one who wasted his life learning what he does not practice, thus he loses the pleasures of the dunya and the goods of the aakhirah

  2. Abu Maha

    January 18, 2010 at 2:08 AM

    mashallah..this really made a difference

  3. anon

    January 18, 2010 at 2:16 AM



    it is the students of the likes of al-maghrib institute who think that they can learn the deen with a few weekend classes and then after a weekend aqidah course will easily declare takfir on muslims!!!

    but this was a beautiful reminder and like brother AbdelRahman said the students of Al-Maghrib shud be reminded of this regularly as well as the rest of us.

    • Abd- Allah

      January 18, 2010 at 4:23 PM

      Brother anon, you should fear Allah and not accuse those students of declaring takfir on Muslims. This is called buhtaan and it is worse than gheebah. I know many students of such institutions, and none of them go to the extreme of being takfiris.

      May Allah remove any ill feelings that we might have in our hearts towards our fellow Muslims.

  4. Associates

    January 18, 2010 at 2:28 AM

    Excellent article, Masha Allah, but sadly it is very true.

    I know of many people today who go around talking like they are authorities on Islam yet they can not recite the Quran properly nor understand it. Reading a translation of the Quran and a few translations of books of Hadith does not make a person a scholar, it takes years of hard work.

    Shaykh Salman Al-Oudah said to become a scholar of Islam, six qualities are necessary:

    1. Sincerity
    2. Good Memory
    3. Intelligence
    4. Good manners
    5. The right teachers
    6. A long period of time (Ma’al Ilm – Salman Al-Oudah)

    We should focus on the last point and realize that Islamic knowledge is not so simple a science to be grasped in a few Al-Kauthar or Al-Maghrib courses, rather these courses are just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg compared to what lies ahead for the serious student.

    Abu Muawiyah

  5. Amatullah

    January 18, 2010 at 3:03 AM

    wa alaykum salam wa rahmatullah,

    jazaakum Allahu khayran for the comments. I would like to say first and foremost that this article is not meant in any way shape or form to bash our students or disrespect anyone. If I have said anything that rubbed you the wrong way, I ask you for your forgiveness and that you overlook my faults.

    The reason why I wrote this article is because I am truly scared for our Ummah, our young generation of students, and where we are heading. The Book of Allah has been abandoned and it seems no one has noticed.

    I would like to give a disclaimer here [this is not a direct response to any comments posted but just to clarify] that this article was not geared only towards AlMaghrib students. If it was, I would have stated so. Please give your brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt and husn adh-dhann. It troubles me to see that we immediately decide who this article is for. SubhanAllah, it’s for myself first.

    AlMaghrib institute has done so much good for the communities in the US, Canada and UK mashaAllah. These classes have been the reason – after the guidance of Allah – for many Muslims to turn back to Allah, to His Messenger and to His Book. Having 200 Muslims, from various backgrounds, ethnicities and ages, in one place for the sole purpose of learning is amazing. Realize that we have also lost the process of teaching students HOW to seek knowledge, so you cannot blame someone who takes a class to benefit themselves when they were not taught how to treat this knowledge to begin with.

    I am currently overseas and the same issues you see in North America are also here. These issues with talibul ilm are not new; The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam spoke of the scholar with the wrong intention and taught us a duaa for beneficial knowledge. Look at the quotes from the Salaf that I used, these issues plagued their generations as well because with knowledge comes fitnah. Students of the past had issues with intention, with priorities, with fame, but the difference between us and them is that they sought to rectify the fitan that came with knowledge, (and Allah knows how many of them succeeded) while our generation doesn’t seem to notice that there is a problem in the first place.

    The issues we see today with students is not an AlMaghrib problem dear brothers and sisters…It is an Ummah problem. This article was not meant to air out our issues, but I honestly hope and pray some benefit will come from it and that we can be the cause of a change bi’ithnillah. So, let’s stop pointing fingers at who or what is to blame and work on reforming ourselves inshaAllah.

    Allah knows best.

    • Associates

      January 18, 2010 at 4:22 AM

      Jazakallah Khair for this Ukthi.

      For the record, I did not intend to bash Al-Maghrib or Al-Kauthar students, I mentioned those two since they are the most famous and accessible platforms of Islamic knowledge and as such I used them by way of example, what I was emphasizing is that a weekend course on Tawheed is suppose to be the beginning of our study of the subject and should not delude us into thinking we know Tawheed.

      Hope that clears that up. :)
      Abu Muawiyah

      • Amatullah

        January 18, 2010 at 4:39 AM

        of course I completely understand, I apologize if my comment gave off that impression–I wasn’t responding directly to anyone. I was basically getting ready for what seems to be the beginning of an onslaught on our weekend institutes :) (I hope it doesn’t get to that inshaAllah) My comment was just a reminder, as was yours, and I hope it is seen as such.

      • Leo

        January 18, 2010 at 11:58 AM

        But you were right though. I’ve heard of some brothers after a couple of weekend courses say they no longer consider themselves as a lay person. Many more feel qualified to give fatawaa too. This is not a jab at almaghrib/ alkauthar as I am one of their students too. However after attending over a dozen courses I have never heard the tutors or otherwise tell the students these courses does not make them a faqih. Please forgive me this is not an attack but a reminder just like your comment.

        • Qas

          January 18, 2010 at 3:21 PM

          I thought people would be smart enough to know that the courses don’t make them a faqih.

          • Abu Rumaisa

            January 18, 2010 at 3:52 PM

            I have heard Sh Yasir Qadhi say this in the two classes I took with him.

        • Faiza

          January 20, 2010 at 11:40 AM

          Well, I’ve attended half a dozen Alkauthar courses and in ALL (3 of those 6) his courses, Shk. Tawfique Chowdhury did tell us that the classes do not make us faqihs or eligible to give fatwas.

          • ummaasiyah

            January 21, 2010 at 1:59 PM

            Precisely. If anything, it makes us more vulnerable to giving out the wrong information to people who actually REALLY need to see a scholar about their problems.

  6. Ibrahim

    January 18, 2010 at 6:50 AM

    Assalaam alaykum. May Allah reward you for this well-written article. This is one of a few posts that I have read anywhere that provides for me, a lay Muslim, a foundation for which I seek to learn more about my deen, my worship and setting objectives for improving my state as a Muslims in this life.

    Thank you for your contribution.

  7. Muslim Apple

    January 18, 2010 at 7:36 AM

    Very beneficial reminders, learning the book of Allah is much overlooked in our time. I’ve heard of some people that love to learn about issues, which they can debate endlessly but cannot bear to sit in a tajweed or tafseer class because it’s not considered a “hot topic”. The book of Allah is the core of our deen, without it and its proper recitation and understanding and implementation…may Allah protect us.

  8. Holly Garza

    January 18, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    Assalaam alaykum.waramatulahi wabarakatu very well written and great points! I like how you laid it all out and not wrote only of the issues but solutions and steps to take, such as reading the Quran and learning Arabic. May Allah reward you for this very well-written article =)

  9. Siraaj

    January 18, 2010 at 8:19 AM

    Alhamdulillaah, I believe this article has done an excellent job of not only pointing out some of the specific problems our western students of knowledge are facing. However, I believe some of the comments in the comments section are curious, to say the least.

    The problem of arrogance and argumentation among young students of knowledge, armed with tajweed ijazas and full hafidhs, is nothing new. Even now, in institutes like Madinah U or Al-Azhar U, it’s not uncommon to hear about first year students debating minor issues of fiqh or esoteric points of aqeedah, forming groups and alliances, and getting into nonsensical debates in lieu of higher priorities.

    Mastering Arabic and tajweed will not mitigate the problem – if nothing else, it actually aggravates it by adding more fuel to the fire because now I have the evidences for my position memorized in Warsh, so whatchu gonna do about that, huh?

    I say this as someone who has dealt with a number of legitimate students of knowledge who have memorized the Qur’aan, who have ijaazahs, and so on – some are amazingly humble, and you will benefit from their knowledge and manners, some you will benefit only from their knowledge and hope that with time their manners get better, and some neither and you wish they would leave the field of daw’ah altogether because of the poor example they set.

    The point of this article is not that the Arabic mastery and Qur’aan memorization will fix one’s manners – like all other types of knowledge, you can use it to benefit or harm. The point is simply clarifying the process by which one seeks knowledge (it’s long, and it doesn’t end), and the priority one gives to the different fields of study (arabic and qur’aan being the foundation).

    As for the criticism of the students of other institutes, subhaanallah, how many thousands of people can you stereotype in one fell swoop? the students of these programs are made up of various cross-sections in the community, the majority of whom are not looking to walk the path of knowledge, but are still missing requisite knowledge just to be your everyday Muslim. The knowledge they take is critical whether you know arabic or not, and indeed, many of our young da’ees take that knowledge from the institutes and spread it within their communities, alhamdulilllah, and I can guarantee those brothers are not huffadh or arabic masters themselves, yet the work must be done due to gaps in the community, due to who is best equipped to reach a specific age or cultural segment (it’s not always the imam, no matter how western he is, he can’t be everything to everyone), and so on.

    I was just at the Orland Park masjid two nights ago, and one of the brothers was explaining how he will take his best high school students, teach them one small piece of aqeedah, and then that group will teach all the younger ones in the youth groups – I know I needed that growing up, my aqeedah and that of my family contained elements of shirk (calling out to dead people to assist us occasionally with specific tasks, and no, not asking them to ask Allah, asking them directly).

    The institutes serve a purpose, and it isn’t to churn out scholars, while the students of such programs are not of one type, they are of many types, and their needs come in priorities, the same way you give naseeha to different types of people who come to your masjid – one may come five times daily and make certain mistakes, and you correct that person one way, and another may come covered in tattoos and emo eyeliner, and you deal with that one differently.


    • Amatullah

      January 18, 2010 at 8:37 AM

      The knowledge they take is critical whether you know arabic or not, and indeed, many of our young da’ees take that knowledge from the institutes and spread it within their communities, alhamdulilllah, and I can guarantee those brothers are not huffadh or arabic masters themselves, yet the work must be done due to gaps in the community, due to who is best equipped to reach a specific age or cultural segment (it’s not always the imam, no matter how western he is, he can’t be everything to everyone), and so on.

      Exactly, baarak Allahu feek for eloquently saying what I could not!

  10. Mohammad

    January 18, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    Assalam uAlaikum

    May Allah reward you for the excellent article. I have a few pointers that I hope you will add in the next article:

    1. Almost every article regarding seeking knowledge mentions sincerity. What exactly is sincerity? What should a person’s niyyah be for seeking knowledge? Also, it was mentioned that knowledge should not be used to seek the dunya. Umm…does that mean a guy studying 10-15 years in an islamic university shouldn’t seek to become an imam or paid instructor? Because if we get into the nitty grittyness of this, he’s essentially using the knowledge to make living and buy things? Is this seeking the dunya and is this part of sincerity? I’m not rebuking or anything. Honestly, I’m just curious and want to know the right thing.

    2. Secondly, I don’t understand this term acting on the Quran (this may seem very naive on my part but just hold up). An average praticing Muslim what knows the basics of his deen and who has memorized the Quran vs. a practicing scholar who has memorized the Quran. Aren’t they both acting on the Quran? What exactly is the criteria for this?

    • Amatullah

      January 18, 2010 at 12:57 PM

      wa alaykum salam wa rahmatullah,

      jazaak Allahu khayran for the points, yes inshaAllah those will be added.

      With regards to sincerity, Imam Ahmad rahimahullah was asked this question (i.e., what should your intention be when seeking knowledge) and he said: to remove ignorance from yourself and others.

      Also you do not need to have the Qur’an memorized to act upon it. Only a handful of Sahaba (some narrations say four) memorized the Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, yet they were the best generation.

      For the sake of brevity, this article was cut short but inshaAllah the second part will include more details. May Allah grant us tawfeeq.

      • Mohammad

        January 18, 2010 at 3:56 PM

        JazakAllah Khair :)

  11. abu Rumay-s.a.

    January 18, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    What is it that differentiates the students of the past from the students of today? There are a few major issues, but the most critical mistake, we as students commit, is making knowledge the goal and not the means to the goal.

    SubhanAllah, I was contemplating about this point just a few days ago…jazakie Allahu khairun katheerun..

    Second, as the salaf used to say, that sincerity was the hardest thing that some of them struggled with. Next is good manners and right teachers as mentioned above…these are probably the greatest challenges for us today..

    Your point about going back to the Qur`an and Arabic is so so crucial…people who are are fairly serious with gaining knowledge will soon realize that without a solid foundation (learning Qur`an and Arabic), seeking knowledge can become academic and may loose its sense of “spirit” for which it is intended for….and therefore ppl may start to argue/dispute, loose focus, and actually stray away with the knowledge that they gain (may Allah ta`ala protect us from knowledge that does not benefit..)

    So I think (as you mentioned) the focus needs to be on prioritization of knowledge, the quality, and practice….

    One last point is that the institutions and educators have to drive the “knowledge market” in this direction by structuring their programs to suit this methodology….I understand that there are practical obstacles in doing that, however, even if it slows us down, I believe it will be well worth it in the long run…wallahu A`lam….

  12. Yus from the Nati

    January 18, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    Beautiful. Jazakillahukhair

  13. Abd- Allah

    January 18, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    JazakumAllah khayr for this article. I have a few things to comment about regarding this issue.

    This problem is present in the entire world and not just here in the west, so to blame it on certain types of institutions would be naive. Those who comment with such claims to criticize institutions probably have that same problem themselves as well.

    This issue really needs to be addressed because it plagues the entire Ummah, and you don’t find many scholars talking about it. Shaykh Al-Albani rahimahullah has a very nice discussion of this issue and addresses its problems.

    One of the main pitfalls of seeking knowledge that many students fall into is just acquiring more and more knowledge for the sake of being “knowledgeable” but without putting most of this knowledge into practice and performing good deeds. Two things that Shaykh Al-Albani rahimahullah always emphasize in his books and lectures are beneficial knowledge that is accompanied by good deeds. Missing any one of those two aspects will lead a person astray.

    Another issue is the lack of manners, and that is because knowledge is so “accessible” over the internet in this age, where students of knowledge get to pick and choose what they want to learn and what they don’t. Seeking knowledge is something which is comprehensive, and any deficiency in one area leads to a deficiency in everything else.

    A main problem currently in the Ummah is the number of shuyukh each calling to his own way and to his own understanding of Islam rather than calling to the Sunnah and the understanding of the companions of Islam. This causes many different groups and divides the Ummah, where each shaykh has his own group of followers that take everything he says for granted as the truth regardless of whether he is right or wrong on that specific issue, and then they view anyone who disagrees with them as being misguided. There is a big number of ignorant shuyukh who are misguiding many Muslims (who are sincere but ignorant) by inventing new ways of understanding and practicing the deen.

    As the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam said: “Indeed Allah does not take away knowledge by stripping it away from the servants. Rather He takes knowledge away by taking away the Scholars by way of death, until there does not remain any scholars. Then the people will take the ignorant as leaders and ask them religious verdicts, and they will give fatawa without knowledge, so they themselves are astray and lead others astray.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari # 100, and Sahih Muslim # 2673]

    As the article mentioned, the Quran has been abandoned by many, and as the scholars have mentioned, this has different levels or stages. Some don’t recite the Quran while others don’t act upon it and others don’t reflect on its words and try to understand its true tafsir. You see each shaykh having his own views and interpretations of the verses without going back to the classical sources and earlier scholars to see what they have said about those verses and how they understood and interpreted them. SubhanAllah, the following athar amazingly describes that situation:

    Mu’adh bin Jabal radiyallahu anhu said: “There will come afterwords fitan (trials) where wealth will become abundant, and the Quran will be opened until it is taken (recited) by the believer and the hypocrite, the man and the woman, the young and old, the slave and the free, until a time almost comes when some one would say, ‘Why aren’t people following me and I have recited the Quran?! They will not follow me until I innovate for them something else!’..” [Sahih Sunan Abu Dawud # 4611]

    So this is why people are abandoning the Quran and not giving it the time and attention it deserves, because it is very accessible and easy to learn that it seems like everyone can learn the Quran, to the extent that it isn’t anything “special” anymore because many are only seeking to learn knowledge for the fame and to show off so that others see them as “knowledgeable”. This is one of the root causes of this issue, and it is due to having the wrong intention for seeking knowledge, regardless of whether the person realizes that his/her intention is wrong and needs to be rectified or not.

    May Allah purify our hearts and rectify out intentions and make them sincere for His sake alone.

    La ilaha illa Anta Subhanaka inni kuntu min adhalimeen.

  14. Muna

    January 18, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    Imam ibnul Jawzi (rahimahullah) stated, “And the miskeen (poor person), the true miskeen is the one who wasted his life learning what he does not practice, thus he loses the pleasures of the dunya and the goods of the aakhirah. (In addition to) coming forth bankrupt (on the Day of Judgment) with strong evidences against himself.”

    JazakiAllahu kula khair for this insightful, well thought-out article. Truly the best and most beneficial one I have read on this blog so far. Reading that quote in particular struck painfully close to home for me, as someone who loves to learn out of curiosity and relishes reading the Quran mainly for the beauty of its Arabic without being able to feel anything, well that quote was kind of like a slap in the face! Thank you for including it and for the piece, you helped one fellow Muslimah realize the urgency of action, there’s nothing more contemptible than a miskeen!

  15. AbdulHasib

    January 18, 2010 at 6:09 PM


    Excellent article and just a few scattered observations

    – we see a lack of emphasis of Tarbiyyah: education in terms of developing and rearing students.
    Now “question and answer” type relationships has led to that emphasis of ‘information’ sharing rather than developing students. Other than ‘retreats,’ institutions have lost ground in the area of Tarbiyyah. From taking students and developing them based on that personal interaction with their teachers to having them simply be ‘informed’ and forgetting that more than anything – the PERSONAL interaction with students is what changes and ingrains that knowledge within people rather than simply information – that may or may not be reviewed later and perhaps forgotten by some.

    And also in some terms students themselves choose sometimes those opportunities as opposed to others.

    – The emphasis of ‘being a student of knowledge’ as the article mentioned. The more the person doesn’t make it his/her aim to BE a ‘student of knowledge’ the more they’ll benefit from the actual knowledge rather than attaining information be the goal of that knowledge. By this we mean that knowledge and implementing it raises one’s honor and having the adab of a student of knowledge – the adab and knowledge shows on the person itself if he/she were to strive against themselves to implement and doens’t need to be worn like a badge of “i’m a student of knowledge.”

    – The actual material taught. There is no Tadarruj – no tiered learning. from the above statements of the salaf who emphasized so much having grounding foundations in one science and developing from the bottom up. Students are exposed to 10 opinions in fiqh and 13 principles in usul, and refutations of 10 different methods in ‘aqidah that it causes Tashatut – conflict and confusion in the students learning process.

    We see a vast amount of students arguing about halal meat and beard opinions and if asked the shurut of salah and it’s arkan and wajibat cannot do so or stumble after mentioning 8. Or as some teachers mentioned, students begin with the Book of Taharah, and drown in it.

    But they feel more than comfortable discussing which opinion of “safar – qasar and jam’ is “more correct.”

    – and importantly as well, There is no Ta’sil – grounding students in the foundations. And is done in a method that can be detrimental to students in exposing them to advanced level courses when they don’t even know the definitions of what is to be discussed in that field.

    – a heavy heavy lack of emphasis given on priorities – and the excuse given that if we emphasize on learning systematically it ‘takes too much time.’

    We fail to realize that perhaps that THIS particular approach of the long path focused seeking of knowledge isn’t for everyone if that’s the case. And we cannot, due to fearing the consequences of people perhaps being ‘turned off,’ refuse to acknowledge that and therefore misguide people.

    It’s a serious problem when students have a false perception. Knowledge must be ingrained that is something sought literally one’s entire life as the Prophet salAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam mentioned as being a Faridah on every muslim and muslimah, and this Faridah is not Muqayyad – it’s not constricted to time or place! It is to be done throughout one’s life. But giving the false perception that EVERY person can reach the status without putting in the time and focus and effort, could perhaps give people not only false perceptions, but false hopes.

    We cannot out of fear of consequences, at least have people understand properly the steps in achieving higher levels of learning.

    People need to simply understand their role and if they wish to simply work in da’wah and increase their knowledge to better worship of Allah – then there is no need for people to discuss the minutiae issues of fiqh, usul, or even ‘aqeedah. And simply go about learning systematically throughout their life

    and i Hope and pray that in the next part
    the strict emphasis is placed on the 2 Pillars of learning
    Arabic and Qura’n.

    I cannot emphasize more than anything and something i’ve personally realized; long lists of “book recommendations” or “article MUST READS” which are continuously posted …. to be read and libraries consisting of books read in English that are collected

    are definitely not steps forward in the LONG run in terms of properly seeking knowledge.

    The more it’s ingrained that Arabic must be learned by any means neccessary, that this religion is learned in Arabic, that we swallow our ego’s and prides and take real steps in attaining it, the more we have understood our real problem in seeking knowledge

    We’re not even seeking it in the right medium, without the foundations, and doing it with the wrong syllabus.

    Having said all of that – it is of course vital we increase in our iman and take up the means we have now in order to have that connection and increase ourselves – but if one wishes to enter into the realm of seeking knowledge then there is a tradition in place that is set to be followed, and not reinvented.

    Many have tread the road of “monster size” libraries in english, avoiding Arabic classes, having not memorized more than Juz ‘amma and Tabarak – spending YEARS of money, time, and travelling expenses to realize that although the information they gathered and the time spent was not in vain

    it wasn’t REAL talabul ‘ilm. It consists of many years going in circles, making mistakes, spending money, and having to get straight answers in terms of how to seek knowledge properly before some people come to those conclusions of swallowing the past – and dipping in from step 1 – and treading in the same path of knowledge that rectified the Ummah in the past, it will rectify the Ummah today

    As Imam Malik rahimahullah mentioned,

    «لا يُصلِح آخر هذه الأمة إلا ما أصلح أولها»

    And a suggestion might be in terms of “how” to discuss what the ‘ulama mentioned as the 5 “ta’s” of Learning knowledge

    التاءات الخمس
    التدرج، التركيز، التكرار، التتابع، التكامل،
    1. Tiered learning – from one stage going to the next and not idling in one stage or one science and jumping to another without having been grounded it.
    2. Focus – on that knowledge and not having “oh i’m going through 4 books on my shelf, i get bored reading one subject” syndrome and never finishing one properly.
    3. Repetition – it’s heavily heavily emphasized to repeat and repeat and review and review what one has learned to ingrain it. If the qur’an was described as “fleeing” if not ingrained with repetition what about other sciences?
    4. Continuity- Commitment – sticking to it, not missing a single class, EVER. There’s a statement that انقطاع تميت الطالب that Severing (of a class) kills the student. We face serious commitment issues with knowledge to the point that if we married knowledge, knowledge would ask for a divorce because of our lack of importance to it, our lack of spending time with it, and emphasizing how much we care for it even though it knows it’s importance, etc.
    5. Completion with Excellence – to complete what we start and completion here is emphasized with EXCELLENCE. not with just ‘oh i got through the class… C status, score’

    and some added the sixth
    وأضاف بعض أهل العام تاء سادسة وهي
    تقوى الله تعالى

    6. Taqwa of Allah – of which books were written..

    May Allah grant us sincerity in learning for His sake and make it a means for Him to forgive us. Ameen.

    WAllahu ‘Alam

    • Amatullah

      January 19, 2010 at 3:11 AM

      wa alaykum salam wa rahmatullah

      baarak Allahu feek for this comment, if you don’t mind, inshaAllah i’d like to include parts of it in the second part. You covered everything I was going to mention ..from tadarruj to tarbiyah.

      • AbdulHasib

        January 19, 2010 at 8:24 AM

        yeah sure no problem insha’Allah

        If you’re going to use sections, it’d have to be with spelling, grammar, run-on, and sentenced that are too wordy – corrections. Just typed off my head and usually I don’t go back and do too much editing. Otherwise feel free to take just the info and re-word or re-write anything.

      • FearAllah

        January 19, 2010 at 3:13 PM

        Amazing…. barakAllahu feeki for outlining this crucial topic for us!

        And barakAllahu feek for the insightful comment –gives a nice summary to the whole thing masha’Allah

      • KM

        July 8, 2014 at 5:34 AM

        Where is part 2 sister?

      • Abu Abdillah

        January 7, 2017 at 12:44 AM

        Assalaamu Alaikum,
        Good article… barakallah feek
        Where could i get the other parts of this article.
        Jazakillah Khair

    • Holly Garza

      January 19, 2010 at 9:55 AM

      good comment

  16. ummfatima

    January 18, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    Assalamualykum dear ukhti,

    Subahanallah.Excellent article.May Allah give us towfeeq to seek beneficial ilm.

  17. Sadaf Farooqi

    January 18, 2010 at 10:29 PM

    This article is a gem! A much needed reminder for us all. Truly, knowledge should be accompanied by action, and changing our actions according to it is what we should intend when we seek knowledge.

    We must realize that memorizing the Book of Allah is a great virtue, but acting upon it is obligatory. Contrary to this, in this day and age, we have made its memorization obligatory and have made acting upon it a virtue. Knowledge of the Qur’an is not enough, rather this knowledge needs to be beautified with deeds.

    This hit the nail on the head!

    May Allah reward you in both worlds, Amatullah, for this beautiful article (series). A great reminder.

  18. Junaid

    January 19, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    Mashallah, a fantastic article. I think the importance of learning arabic (not only reading it) is important beyond words. There is a special genius in the Arabic language used back in the time of Prophet (saw) and when you understand even just a little bit of it, doors open that you never thought were there….

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  21. Faraz Omar

    January 19, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    Ukhti Amatullah. Write this down: Please remember me in ur du’aa. Please ask Allah to guide me, increase my knowledge, eemaan, amal, and ikhlaas.

  22. Zuhayr

    January 23, 2010 at 1:00 AM


    Does this mean that a person should not learn any Islamic knowledge before he learns how to recite the Quran.

    • Amatullah

      January 24, 2010 at 5:38 PM

      No of course not, continue to learn the Deen but remember to give priority to the Qur’an first. Learn how to recite it correctly with tajweed, learn Qur’anic Arabic, read up on its tafseer and related topics. You can do this while seeking knowledge in other subjects/classes etc as well, but the Qur’an and Sunnah is the foundation to knowledge. Some scholars say that if one does not recite surah Fatihah correctly in prayer, then their prayer is invalid. Allah knows best.

      • Zuhayr

        January 29, 2010 at 10:14 PM

        JazakAllah for the answer.

  23. BrownS

    January 27, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Jazakillahu khair. Such reminders are always beneficial for me, in that priorities tend to be very volatile, especially when – like you said – there is a variety of knowledge and sources available to us. A part of the problem is that it’s the secondary and tertiary branches of knowledge (say beyond Qur’an, Arabic, and adab like fiqh or advanced aqeedah) that seem to be more easily accessible and available. Or maybe we just make it that way, I don’t know. I do realize now, after reading this article, that sometimes I de-prioritized reading articles/books on adab and akhlaaq in favor of other topics.

    I’m looking forward to part 2. May Allah reward you for writing this motivational piece, and I pray that He makes it easier for us to develop and maintain proper niyyaat.

  24. Bint'Athar

    February 22, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    “Reminders Benefit the Believers”

    may Allah make us among those. who benefits from these reminders.

    جزاك الله خيرا

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  28. Jawaad Ahmad Khan

    June 12, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    MashaAllah this is a beautiful article which has cleared up some very scattered thoughts I’ve been having lately. I knew that there’s a large issue of just random knowledge, (online lectures, weekend courses, etc.), which I personally have been gaining but it hasn’t come together. I know there needs to be a change.

    Another issue was that I think many like myself start to depend on the 4-times-a-year AlMaghrib classes or the national educational institutions to provide us with all our knowledge, when we save enough to attend their two-week IlmSummit or Bayyinah Dream or whatever, but when we depend so heavily for them to act somewhat like the be all and end all organizations, we neglect those of knowledge most close to us, our own local Imams or scholars.

    We seek to learn from internationally known shuyookh, but neglect those ten minutes from our homes (who probably hold regular classes, but we don’t attend b/c there’s not that shiny marketing appeal). The path of knowledge leading toward Jannah requires regular classes and teachers, not an eman boost every few months when the next seminar comes into town.

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