Top Ten Things Every Student of Knowledge Should Know

Many times young Muslims decide they want to become scholars and embark on the path of knowledge with little knowledge of what to expect. I was such a youngster who signed up for an “‘alim” course with no idea what an ‘alim is or where it would lead me.

In order to help my fellow Muslims prepare themselves psychologically and not repeat the mistakes I made, I present to you ten things I feel every student of knowledge must know (in no particular order):

1. A few years of study does not make one a scholar:

Too often, young Muslims study a few books or for a few years and then develop a “scholar” complex. They begin to force their opinions on others as if they can’t be wrong. They become intolerant to other views, and they write anybody off who disagrees with them as deviant.

We need to realize, before we even begin our journey of knowledge, that the sciences of Islam are many and deep; the variety of opinions in fiqh are multiple, and the chances of always being right are slim. I advise all of my fellow young Muslims to tread carefully, keep egos in check, approach differences with the possibility of being wrong, and never forget to say “Allah knows best”.

2. Manners come first:

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In the past, most scholars would train their students in good manners before teaching them Islamic knowledge. Parents, too, would encourage their children to learn manners before the Islamic sciences.

Sadly, today many institutes do not teach good manners to their students, expecting them to automatically gain them through their study of Islam. This leads to Islamic teachers with bad manners, which in turn chases people away from Islam.

In this regard, anybody who is studying or teaching Islam must learn the proper manners of dealing with people, mercy, tolerance, and being non-judgmental and must possess a personality that attracts people; otherwise, we might do more harm than good.

3. Studying Islam does not make one immune to sin:

Some people have the misconception that if they study Islam, they will reach a level of piety from which they can’t slip. The reality is that Shaytan tries even harder to lead people of knowledge astray as it has a more detrimental effect on the community as a whole.

So instead of temptations growing less, they are more likely to increase and intensify as Shaytan tries to use every means at his disposal to lead us astray. We need to realize this, prepare for it, and never let our guard down as the Shayateen try very hard to make a knowledgeable Muslim fall astray.

4. People will judge you:

While we should not be judgmental to people as Islamic teachers, the reality is that people will still judge you. Many people are intimidated by practicing Muslims. When they see a practicing Muslim, they see their own flaws and deficiencies and so they search for fault in that individual. We should not be surprised if people judge our clothing, mannerisms or weaknesses; it is their way to try and console themselves or justify their sins. We need to always keep this in mind and be able to respond appropriately.

5. You represent your Faith:

When a person chooses to study Islam, especially once they earn a title, they automatically become a representation of the deen. When people see an Imam or a Shaykh, they expect to see a living example of Islam. If people see such a person sinning, they will either lose respect for him and become disillusioned about Islam, or they will take it as proof that it can’t be that big a sin. Either way, for an Islamic teacher, our lives represent our deen, so we should always be careful not to give a wrong impression of Islam.

6. You will be tested:

Undoubtedly, life is a test and every human is being tested all the time in different ways. However, one should not think that because one is studying Islam and teaching it, Allah will grant a life of ease and comfort. Rather, history proves that those closest to Allah are the most severely tested. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The most severely tested people are the prophets, then those closest to them in piety then those closest to them.”

Be prepared to be tested and take it as a sign that Allah loves you and wants to test your love for Him. Remember that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever embarks on a path to study Islam has embarked on the path towards Paradise.” It is not the information alone that takes a person to Paradise; it is his fulfillment of its rights by understanding, practicing and preaching it to others and dealing with all the problems that go along with this that ultimately leads to Paradise.

7. Studying should not be an end; rather it should be a step to a higher goal:

I have met many Moulanas, Imams and Shaykhs with no goals or aspirations. Despite the ummah having so many issues that need dealing with, these men don’t seem to care. Upon further analysis, I realized that they set out to study with one of the following goals: to please their parents, to get a title, or to get the knowledge. Once they obtained the knowledge, they did not know or care about what to do next, so they carried along with their lives like donkeys carrying books.

Any person who studies Islam should be introspective and find a good motivation to study. Perhaps you would like to become a da’ee and a means of guidance for non-Muslims. Perhaps you would like to establish an Islamic centre in an area that needs one. Perhaps you would like become a mujtahid in a field that is lacking many quality scholars. Whatever you decide, it should be something noble that you wish to do for the sake of Allah after completing your studies. In short, studying should not be a goal but a means to help accomplish higher goals.

8. You can’t change everyone:

In life, we do not always get what we want. Similarly, in Islamic work things don’t always go our way. Remember that not everybody you meet will agree with you, listen to you or accept your message. Rather, there will always be people who will disagree with you or flat out reject you. This is reality and we have to be prepared for this by realizing guidance is only in Allah’s Hands, and we are only responsible for conveying the message.

9. You will make mistakes:

Many of us study Islam to make up for the sins of our past. Yet, being humans, we are never free from sins and mistakes and so some people become depressed and give up Islamic work when they realize that they are now knowledgeable but still occasionally fall into sin.

The truth is that the Shaytan wants us to quit and by doing so we are just playing into his hands, but Allah is Most Forgiving to those who repent. Every time you fall down and make a mistake, pick yourself back up, turn to Allah in repentance and try again to be a good Muslim, and never EVER allow your sins or mistakes stop you from doing Islamic work. Rather, it should motivate us to do more Islamic work so that our good deeds outweigh our sins on the Last Day.

10. The reward for studying and teaching Islam is worth it:

While most of the above make it seem like Islamic Work is a difficult field, that is not the purpose of this article. The purpose was solely to prepare for the many challenges and responsibilities we face while trying to serve Allah.

The reality is that the reward of dealing with all of the above is truly worth it, whether it is the rewards in this world or in the akhirah. As far as the akhirah goes, we know that the path of knowledge leads to Paradise but additional to that is the fact that insha’Allah you will get the rewards for the good deeds of those you teach or inspire to do good.

In this sense, it is one of the only good deeds we can do where the reward keeps multiplying. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “When a person dies, all their deeds end except three: charity which continues to benefit, knowledge he left behind which people benefit from, and righteous children who pray for him.”

As far as this world goes, the greatest reward an Islamic worker can receive in this world is seeing the fruits of his efforts. When a person tells you they changed and became a better Muslim because of your influence or when a person takes their shahadah at your hands, there is no feeling equal to it, and any sacrifice you have being through for the deen feels worth it.

So, my beloved brothers and sisters, let us study Islam, seeking its rewards yet knowing the responsibilities and trials that go along with it. I wrote this firstly as a reminder to myself as well as to anybody else involved in the field of Islamic Studies. May Allah keep us all steadfast on His deen. Ameen.

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68 responses to “Top Ten Things Every Student of Knowledge Should Know”

  1. Avatar Muhammad says:

    Jazakallahu Khairan for this advice. I really appreciate this. May Allah accept this and give you more good deeds as a result of it.

  2. Avatar Iman says:

    This is quite possibly the shallowest writing I’ve ever seen on this website. You seem to have a chip on your shoulder about your past and make generalizations based on it.

    • Bismillah,

      I re-read the article after reading your comment. I can not reconcile your coment with the article.

      Please re read it again with less emphasis on who the author is and more on what the overall message is calling to.


    • Avatar Umm Aman says:

      assalamu alaikkum warahmathullahi wabarakathuhu,

      On the contrary to what u have said above, i thought that this is one of the best articles as each pointer the author has given is absolutely true and what most of the students of knowledge go through.
      May Allah,subhanata’ala reward all those who work in His cause immensely and keep all of us in the straight path.

      -umm aman

    • Avatar MR says:

      This comment just proved the necessity of articles like these.

    • Avatar Jamshed says:

      I just wanted to echo what the others have mentioned… your comment seems to bear no relation to the article. I found it to be quite accurate myself, and I’ve seen people fall into the traps that it highlights many times.

    • Avatar Nur says:

      I would love to read your article iman. You seem to know what would be the best advice to give students of knowledge. Alhamdulillah

    • Avatar Huda Abdi says:

      Jazak allah Khayr, this is exactly what I needed to read…..May Allah SWT multiply your efforts

  3. Avatar Fahd Abdal Wahhab says:

    As Salaam Alaykum,

    Greatly appreciate this article. I’m a new Muslim and though, not yet a full fledged student of knowledge, I’m putting up an effort to learn, Alhamdulillah. Therefore, I can totally relate to your points here. May Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon you and may Allah make it easy for you. May Allah bless us all with beneficial knowledge.

  4. Avatar salih says:

    MashaAllah! I like this article very much because the author speaks the truth. Many times, muslims can’t differentiate between literacy and scholarship. When this happened, ignorance take over.

  5. Avatar Aisha says:

    Very good one !! Masha Allah. We should read this article EVERY day to remind ourselves.

  6. Avatar Sister says:

    Jazakallahu khairaan kaseera brother ..Mashaallah .One of the best article. One of the biggest blessing from Allah subahanawtala is understanding of the deen . If you are a student of ilm ,never ever take this naima [blessing ] lightly..

  7. Avatar Khader Ali Khan says:

    Salam Alaikum Br. Ismail,

    Good article… may Allah reward you. How do you manage to do so many things?

    • Wa Alaikum Salaam Akhi Khader

      I can give a few pointers:

      1. Make time to fulfill the rights of everyone
      2. Plan yourself and make a schedule
      3. Make dua for barakah in time
      4. Make time for fun and relaxing but stick to your times

      Allah knows best

  8. Avatar forever a student of Islam says:

    subhanaAllah such a truthful and beautiful article. jazakaAllah kul khair for taking the time and effort in opening the eyes of those who are studying the Deen, those who will study the Deen and those who are not studying at all but try to be good Muslims.

  9. Assalamu’Alaikum:

    Jazak’Allah Khairin for this. I can relate to this article and it serves as a reminder to monitor oneself from falling into these “traps”.


    The DiscoMaulvi Page :
    DiscoMaulvi on Twitter :
    DiscoMaulvi’s Blog :

  10. Avatar Syed J. says:

    Assalam alaikum,

    I guess we can add these two also:

    1. The knowledge you have gained is not something you own but it was something that was GIVEN to you.

    2. Humble one’s self, as that is a KEY for true people of knowledge.

    And Allah SWT Knows Best.

  11. Avatar ghabe says:

    – a very good reminder

  12. Avatar Mehdi Sheikh says:

    Alhamdulillah very nice article.

    and No. 1 is indeed the most important. I see many people who have studied overseas and gotten a few degrees who love to show themselves off as “scholars” even though they are just “students of knowledge”. Even Shaykh Abdul Muhsin Abbaad said regarding those who graduate from Madeenah that they are to be considered only beginners on the path to knowledge. Yet I see people satisfied when others call them “Shaykh” and scholars which only increases their arrogance and riyaa.

    The primary objective of these “tullabul ilm” and “daees” apart from teaching people the basics of the deen is to be mere signposts to the real scholars of Islaam. There are no scholars in the West and we should not delude ourselves into thinking so.

  13. Avatar Mansoor Ansari says:

    Awesome, I really enjoyed & benefited from this article.

  14. Avatar nayma says:

    An article full of wisdom. Jazak Allahu Khairan. I will definitely share it.

  15. Avatar A Muslimah says:

    Jazak Allah khair. Excellent reminders.

  16. Avatar Tariq Ahmed says:

    Point 8 cannot be overstated:

    None of us actually guides anyone. If we, or even our arguments, were what guides people then repeating the best arguments should always work. But Allah reminds us (eg surah al layl) “inna alayna lalhuda.”

    The most a student of knowledge can be is a good reminder: well mannered, strong of character, mind, and body — and thus a good conveyor of dawah and naseeha.

    If there is a good reciprocal for point 8, for the person who has cultivated patience: “only Allah decides when someone has had enough reminders or opportunities to repent.” If you truly wish good for the person to whom you give dawah or naseeha, then realize that today’s denier of the deen may be tomorrow’s reviver of Islam. it helps to remember and be grateful to Allah for His patience with you during your own weakness(es).

  17. Avatar Abdur Rahman100 says:

    i think it would have been beneficial if there was a reminder for the dangers of Riya (showing off).
    Otherwise good article

    • You are right, I should have mentioned Riya specifically.

      Although the first point does deal with Riya, it would have been better to mention it by name as it is one of the major diseases that students of knowledge can easily fall into.

  18. Avatar Ahmad says:

    As Salaamu Alaikum Sheikh,

    This is by far one of the best articles in recent times published at muslimmatters. Your lessons hit me right in the heart, and I felt some parts of my life being reflected in these words. I am by no means a scholar, not even that good of a student of knowledge. I try, but have the capacity to do more…and May Allah guide us all and unlock for us the strength and endurance to learn and strive for the truth as he unlocked these abilities for the nabi’s, and the saliheen of the past.

    I have one question regarding this article. On number4 you said that we would be judged. Subhanallah, your explanation popped right out of the paper, and I felt it in my life. When I started to practice Islam (as before religion was not a concern of mine) my family first of all started to judge me. My family saw me keeping a beard, and they saw me reading qur’an late into the night – and all of a sudden I became sort of an outcast. More ofen than not my parents would tell me to shut of the lectures, as they were effecting my studies (which they were not as my grades were fine) and they told me to stop going to the masjid so often as it was effecting my studies (again, my grades were fine)…and it was okay until I once, just once, never after that – I told my sister who is in her mid twenties, “aapi (as we call sisters in our language) allah commands the believing muslim women to cover themselves, (i.e. Hijaab).” The words were not even completely out of my mouth that I heard a barrage of judgement. “You’re not perfect. Look at all your mistakes. You are this and you are that. You don’t at once always listen to your parents (which is for a small part a true statement yet I am trying.) She goes on…” How many verses does Allah balance, and you aren’t you becoming extreme? You think you’re a know it all now? How much of that do you follow? Don’t talk about religion to me! If I want to learn more about it, I will go research it myself.” I promise by Allah that this is a lot of my recollection of what she said. My parents whom may Allah bless with al Firdaus, were also a little judgmental. He, my father told me, Son – you speak a lot about what you don’t know. I used to be part of tabligh, and I have seen those maulanas to whom you listen to in all those lectures. On one hand they speak nice – but they are lying, mean people. They will tell you to do good, but do evil themselves. My father, may Allah bless him, is in his 60’s and comes from a gangster part of the world where he has nearly been killed many times – in part because of some corrupt maulanas, and people he used to hang with. Now he paints all those “sheikhs, and maulanas” with the same “gangster” picture.

    Anyways, I know that this is a long post, and I am sorry for that, but for number 4 you mentioned we should deal appropriately with this judgement. That is really bugging me, because I would love to know what and how a student of knowledge should deal with judgement – especially from those closest to us. This is especially important since many of our parents are immigrants to this country who fled the in essence corrupt muslim rule of other countries. Now they stray from their deen after coming to this country, and judge those reverting to their deen as extremist – or hypocrites. How should we deal with them, sheikh? Please if you find the time – reply, as this would greatly benefit me, and some other people. Once again, may Allah bless you for this article – it is a wonderful reminder, and may Allah bless me, you, and the believing men and women with Jannatul Firdaus, the best of the best of Jannah.

    • Avatar Hira says:


      Excellent article- and subhan Allah all the points were great but number 4 especially hit me too. I think this is a similar case across the board when one family member becomes practicing the other members start to judge. In my opinion being judged by outsiders is soo much easier to deal with but when it is your family it really hurts. Recently a member of my family told me to be “take my hijab off and lead a normal life!”

      I have found that the best dawa with family is to be an example rather than verbal preaching.

      I think it would be great to have more detailed articles based around these points insha Allah.


      • Wa Alaikum Salaam

        I agree with Hira.

        When it comes to family, it is best to first lead by example. Many of us make the mistake that when we first start practicing, we become harsh towards family members who do not, this just makes things worse, chases them away and makes them think that Islam makes peopel harsh and rude.

        Rather our practice of the Deen should increase our good manners and kindness towards them.

        Be a role model, and find wise and friendly ways to get your message across to them without coming across as judgemental. The book “Enjoy Your Life” by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Arifi is a good guide on how to do so, you can find it online by clicking here.

  19. Avatar Chocolate Addict says:

    Jazakum Allahu khayran…a very thoughful,educational and enjoyable read :)
    @Iman plz reread the “Manners come first” bit then try again

  20. Avatar Javed says:

    Jazak Allah Khair Ustad Ismail,

    Excellent article. A must read for all students of ilm. May Allah make us all humble in the path of ilm and sincierly work for His sake while being patient with the tests along the way. Ameen.

  21. Avatar Rafia says:

    Masha Allah! Sheer words of wisdom! May Allah reward you.

  22. Jazakallah Khair to everyone for your kind comments. :)

  23. Avatar F. says:

    A Really Good Article, masha Allah. may Allah accept it from u. I found the first three points the most beneficial.

    Just one thing though: Didn’t really like the point 7. Referring to moulanas, shaikhs as “donkeys” carrying books. If not only being disrespectful, that’s kind of being judgmental about them. And as far as I know the purpose/intention behind seeking knowledge should be the worship of Allah…

    baarak Allahu feekum. please remember me in ur du’a. may Allah guide me and all muslims. ameen.

    • The comment about donkeys carrying books was referring to Surah Jumuah (62:5) in which Allah describes those who know the Torah but do not practice or preach it to be like donkeys carrying books, the same applies for anyone with religious knowledge who does not benefit from it. So this was not meant to offend anyone, rather it was meant to be a warning to myself and other students not to go against this Qur’anic warning.

  24. Avatar Noor says:

    بسم الله رحمن رحيم
    أسلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته

    We must remember that علم belongs to الله alone & what ever man acquires is بي إذن الله
    In that case what right has man to be haughty!!
    If Khidr AS said that his knowledge is not even as much as the drop of water held in the beak of a bird & remembering that الله S W T sent His Prophet Musa A S to seek knowledge from him
    How humble should we be!!!

  25. Avatar Noor says:

    Isn’t حكمة wisdom?
    علم is knowledge

  26. Avatar Lemon says:

    Barak Allahu Feek, great article.

  27. Avatar Hussain says:

    Jazakallah Khair for sharing the article.
    Insha Allah, it will be beneficial for all brothers and sisters

  28. Avatar ahsan ali says:

    Important Points particularly point no. 1, may Allah keep students of knowledge on correct islamic intentions. Also, since students of knowledge are more susceptible to satanic traps, one has to elevate themselves more than before (when they were not a student of knowledge) and keep on guard

  29. Avatar shiney says:

    Jazakallah Khair for this wonderful article! i was really in need of it. May Allah Bless you for sharing your expreiences and advice. May Allah make us all learn from our past mistakes and may He make us sincere seekers and protectors of authentic knowledge. Ameen.

  30. Avatar Amina says:

    JazaakAllahu khairan. A timely reminder indeed!

  31. I have written in details about point number two last year.

    Here is the link:

  32. Avatar omar says:

    great article mashallah barakallah feekum all
    good points to ponder about as students of knowledge

  33. Avatar BintMohammad says:

    Jazakallah Kheyran & Allah Barik Fyka for such an informative article. May the Almighty Allah grant us Goodness & in this Life & Hear after & May he Grant you more knowledge to guide us . Amin

  34. Avatar Abdur Rahman Ridwan says:

    Salam Alaikum. Brother ismail kamdar. Really love your articles. They are so informative and inspiring. May Allah Azza Wajjal enrich you with more authentic knowledge and make it of benefit to yourself first for this world and the hereafter and make it of benefit to Muslims.

  35. Avatar zainab Ho says:

    Jazakallah khair wa ameen!
    ‘Allāh loves you and wants to test your love for Him’ – really love this!

  36. Avatar Ashaazi says:

    Assalamulaikum Sheikh Ismail,A very thoughtful article that resonates with many of us. May Allah grant us all guidance. Aameen.

  37. Avatar Taha fatima says:

    JAZAK ALLAHU KHAIR shaikh very nice article..thanx for your advice

  38. Avatar Afreen says:

    jazakallah khair very nice n informative alhamdullilah…..

  39. Avatar Nazakat says:

    its really nice site to help not only students but to all Muslims in general. MASHALLAH, JAZAKOMULLAH, …but is there any way to propagate and project this side to as many Muslim as we can …so that every body could be benefited of it…..i think it should be advertised on all major websites which are visited the most on daily bases.

  40. Avatar Naz khan(pakistan) says:

    gr8 work done! MASHALLAH ..The Mukharij topic really helped me to good extent but..i think the way English phonetics worked out …we need to work more on ARABIC mukharij…the pronunciation of arabic alphabets in sounds and with different words is not available. one can understand the it may take time…never the less its good initiative. i want udru mukharij …or udu pronunciation….can any one help me out???

  41. Avatar Naz_khan(pakistan) says:

    urdu mukharij …urdu pronunciation…..yes

  42. Avatar Muna Bushra says:

    Interesting article with many good tips to remember.

  43. Avatar Your akh says:

    Assalaamu ‘alaykum. Jazaakallaahu khair for the informative article and may Allaah make it an evidence for you on the Day of Judgement.

    I just wanted to add and ask – financial stability is pretty hard to maintain when seeking knowledge and teaching and this is a big put off for many people I know. How do the students of knowledge and daa’ees provide for themselves and their families given that they’ve only studied Islaam? We know that Allaah provides from where we do not expect if we fear him and keep our duty to him but how do these daa’ees provide for themselves if Islaam is all they have studied?

    Baarakallaahu feekum.

  44. Avatar ADAM SHAABAN says:

    Dawud :: Book 41 : Hadith 4862
    Narrated AbuBarzah al-Aslami:

    The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: O community of people, who believed by their tongue, and belief did not enter their hearts, do not back-bite Muslims, and do not search for their faults, for if anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault, and if Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces him in his house.

  45. Avatar reem says:

    Ma sha Allah..Jazakalllah khair for such an informative article..May Allah grant us beneficial knowledge..Ameen

  46. Avatar Musleh Khan says:

    Fantastic article. Allah swt reward you. Please keep writing more. Very beneficial.

  47. Avatar Kahan. says:

    I have seen many shuyuk, imams etc comment so i am hoping to get a response from them. I study at a western university in Australia and am studying a BA. of Islamic studies. One day, someone told me that “you are not going to become a scholar, your just an academic, your input to the deen is not one that is weighted”. this got me kind of confused. and i was wondering, where is the dichotomy in what i study with the traditional student in the madrassa? Isn’t it enough for me to study all of the Usuls, advanced usuls, advanced arabic grammar, reading, writing, Fiqh, Sirah, Mantiq, Family law, etc? how does one test the veracity of my knowledge in comparison to the one who studies abroad in the lands were islam is prominent? I mean, i have one day in my weak called “Arabic day”, tuesday, because in the mornings i will have my arabic classes at university, and at night i would have my arabic classes at the local madrasa. please keep in mind all of my lecturers are Muslim.
    i’d really like your thoughts (O respected shuyuk and imams) on studying Islam in the west.

    • Avatar Kahan. says:

      i would also like to add that i most definitely plan on doing a masters of islamic studies and then seeing where i take it from there. i will never consider myself even a up-and-coming scholar or a academic until a minimum of 6 consecutive years has passed with me studying the deen. may allah reward the composer of this article, it really hit home.

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