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Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Importance and Search for Knowledge

As you may have already read before, this blog is based on the spread of knowledge. This is its primary and most important function. We have posted on many topics about knowledge and its acquisition, this is no different but with an important difference, now we want to look at the importance and search for knowledge.

Many people ask us about which group is the best, confused with the claims of many of groups that theirs is the best group on the right path. And that all others are astray. This claim is really confusing for many Muslims who have either just come into Islam or those who are beginning their journey.

The first revelation was إقرأ which can be translated as "Recite or read" this is in the imperative or command tone. In other words, you do not have an option, you have to read. This is the first word of the last revealed book and it is not for naught that this word was revealed first. Through this word came the Quran. All the knowledge of Islam began at this point. What else were you going to do with a divine book but read it! All the knowledge of the known universe began to find its place in the world from this one command. From this one command we benefit, daily as our lives would not be the same without it.

Any group who calls to itself, the group, then you must know that there is an immediate problem as they should be calling to the religion not their group. You will now know that they are not calling to the Islam, rather they are trying to increase their membership. Then you must investigate whether they are basing their call on knowledge or something else. If they are basing their group on anything other than knowledge then know that there is something not quite right. As it does not matter how many hospitals that the group builds, the most important point is are they building teachers or scholars. I am not talking about the kind that you could call a "evening" or "weekend" teacher in other words someone who knows one subject and can teach that. I am talking about a teacher who can teach a myriad of different subjects, that's the kind of teacher that interests us.

All groups are calling to light but for many it's like calling to a lamp that is not plugged in, switched on or working. They are calling to the same thing but in their different ways and some are better than others!

Who do I study with?

There are some things that you must bear in mind when studying with a scholar in the West. Is the person who you are studying possess a chain of transmission back to the source of knowledge? If not then they are the same as those calling to knowledge without being plugged in.

Sunni Islam is defined as someone belonging to one of the four schools of jurisprudance, Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hanbali. Then belonging to one of the following schools of doctrine: Ashari, Maturdi or Athari. The final school of doctrine has very few followers in our time. This definition is for the scholars and not the average person. Any school other than the ones mentioned is outside the scope of Sunni Islam.

Using the above description you can find which groups are truthful. Many have slogans which sound amazing but when you actually go into the nitty gritty of the group you can find it to be illogical. Some are worse than others and others are better than some.

Abu Yazid Al-Bistami once said to a man who relied on books, "You have taken your knowledge from something dead - but we have taken our knowledge from the Living, who never dies." (Islam in Andalus A.Thomson and M. Ata ur-Rahim p.36)

What should I study?

The basics are how to pray, fast, recite the Quran, basic doctrine and any knowledge that pertains to your situation or what's called 'Ilm Al-Hal. So if you are involved in buying and selling then you should study that so you know what you can do and what you cannot.

You can get most of these knowledges from deen intensives which are a good taste for anyone wanting to study. Although it may take more than one full course to understand the basics. It is a real problem that people have to learn the basics later on in life and not early on in life as it should be. Why? We did not learn the basics until later in life because it was simply not available to us.

What to do with knowledge once it has been acquired?

The most important thing that knowledge must show you is guidance and then once you have the knowledge does it becomes necessary to follow up on it. The stages of knowledge are three: one learning, two practicing and three teaching. They are in order of implementation, so bear that in mind.

To act upon knowledge takes time, energy, effort and is not always easy. It can take several weeks or even months to work on a part of practice until you have got it correctly. It is worth the effort so keep trying, forty days is normally the time when you are able to secure yourself that trait or action that you seek to rectify.

In the UK you may have to take your knowledge from more than one teacher. What I mean is that you may have to take different parts of your knowledge from different teachers. As we all know that every teacher will improve the student but you may not have the luxury of taking all your knowledge from one source.

Do we respect knowledge?

I do not think we do and here are my reasons for saying so. We do not respect those who study when we deem it a trivial matter to argue with those who have studied the religion. Not just for a while but for several years. How can we argue when we do not possess knowledge? For scholars arguing is disliked what about the average person? It is prohibited but does that stop us?

We import Imams from abroad not because we are unable to get them here but just for the fact that the masjid committees can control them; because if he says something that they do not like then his visa is "lost."

We do not pay teachers a good wage which means many have to do other jobs, if they are truthful, and they may need to use other means to get by. We have masjid committees who are not interesting in spreading knowledge or getting good teachers or anything other than opening ever bigger masjids, which are empty for most of the year.

Lets be fair there are some committees who have committed themselves to getting the best teachers and helping spread knowledge but the vast majority of masjid committees are not interested, for whatever reason, in spreading knowledge. Thus preserving Islam for the next generation, the less we do is the least they will. So is it not high time that we began to spread knowledge instead of building great empty buildings, lets build men who can change towns and cities. Many slaves that America imported during the slave trade were Muslim and the reason that Islam did not spread was because outside forces did not allow the transmission of knowledge. So the next children would be Muslim but just in name. This continued until Islam left them and there were people whose ancestors were Muslim and they were not.

One brother, on the our mosques our future lecture, commented on how he did not understand the friday sermon in his local masjid because it is in Urdu. This to me is an ongoing nightmare for many new Muslims and others who do not understand Urdu because they do not have access to the language. So all they can do is sit their as the Imam screams and shouts something that they have no access to. (

Why don't we get an English speaking person to summerise the sermon? Or better still have some English speakers to deliever a Friday sermon now and then. In Islamic history people who have gone to lands of predominately non-Muslim population made an effort to speak the language of the people. Allah informs us in the Quran that he sent every Prophet (upon them peace) on the tongue of the people.

"We have sent no Messenger save with the tongue of his people." (14:4).

Yes, we do have people who cannot access the English but shouldn't we make an effort for everyone to access what we have? How can we be serious about reaching out to people to give them Islam, if they cannot understand the language we speak? Some groups take advantage of this and use it against us. We must be proactive and change the status quo.

Sometimes I think that people are not serious about spreading Islam in the Europe and the US. If they were serious then they would speak English and not another language. How can you expect people to come to Islam when all you speak is Urdu? This approach only works for those who understand the language not others. We need to update ourselves with our environment. We are in England and people need Islam more than we know. It is about time that people woke up to these facts because one of the ways that dissidents enter a community is by speaking English.

I wonder now if the only way knowledge can be spread if young Muslims open masjids or teaching schools. Is this the only way? To break away?

The greatest respect that knowledge is shown, is when someone acts upon it and the greatest disrespect that knowledge is shown when people know and do not care. Know that a person who refuses to learn gets two punishments and the one who is weak in following up on his knowledge gets one.

Know that seeking knowledge is lifetime occupation and not something one can do every now and then, all your time must be taken up by seeking, finding, reviewing, sourcing and reading.

We hope that this proves useful to those studying and those about to study, this is a serious affair and not something to be taken lightly.

If we are complacent in this affair then our children will not be saying what we do and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Please click here on the Student files label for other student of knowledge resources.

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