Knowledge is an essential key to practicing Islam correctly, building a strong relationship with Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, and increasing one's imaan overall. In fact, seeking Islamic knowledge is a duty upon the believers. Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, "seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim" (source). Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala has also encouraged us to seek knowledge in several verses of the Qur'an, such as Surah Al-Mujadila Ayah 11 (58:11), Surah Taha Ayah 114 (20:114), and Surah Al-Hajj Ayah 54 (22:54).
With all that being said, though, there is still a lot of incorrect information on Islam that is carelessly spread online/offline by non-Muslims AND Muslims. Thus, it's even more important today for people to be extra cautious of the way they learn about the deen, which is why I've created a list of different paths you can take to gain [correct] knowledge of Islam. Let's get into it.
1. Make the Intention to Seek Knowledge
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, "The deeds are considered by the intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention" (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Ergo, make sure your intention(s) for seeking knowledge is sincere and specific.
Examples of good intentions:
- To learn how to do a certain deed correctly (e.g. pray, fast)
- To increase your imaan
- To raise your rank in Jannah/the Akhirah
Examples of bad intentions:
- To gain fame
- To show off
- To argue with others
Take Action: Renew your intention(s) often by listing out the reason(s) you're embarking on this journey.
2. Attend Classes at a Masjid/Mosque
Masājid usually offer free classes on Islam, so be sure to take advantage of it at your local masjid! These classes equip you with the fundamental beliefs of Islam (as well as advanced materials) and provide a great opportunity for you to ask questions/clear up any misconceptions on the spot if the teacher knows the answer.
Although these classes are free and you most likely won't be given a test on the material covered in each (depending on the class level and masjid you attend), it's wise to treat these classes as you would treat college courses. Meaning, arrive early/on time to class, take notes, ask questions for clarification, participate as much as possible, give your full attention to whoever has the floor, and go prepared as best as you can. Doing so will help you to get the most out of each class and to earn respect/gratitude from your teacher.
Examples of classes you can attend:
- New Muslim Class/Intro to Islam — learn about the history of Islam, pillars of the deen, how to pray, etc.
- Intermediate Class — learn about the meanings of each ayah/surah
- Seerah Class — learn about the history of the Qur'an: when and where each ayah was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam)
Take Action: Visit your local mosque/masjid and sign up for one of their classes. If you're not sure which masjid is nearby, then search for options online or ask fellow Muslims in your community for recommendations.
3. Listen Attentively to the Jumu'ah Khutbah
It was narrated that Aws ibn Aws said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever washes his head and his body (ghusl) on Friday, then sets out early, is present at the beginning of the khutbah and is close (to the imam), then listens attentively, for every step he takes he will have the reward of fasting and praying qiyaam for one year” [Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (496)].
Despite your feelings towards the khateeb, the khutbah is an essential part of Jumu'ah and should be treated accordingly. It's usually centered around current events and filled with practical & spiritual advice from the Qur'an and Sunnah on how to approach those situations. This is important because it informs Muslims of how they can use the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah to navigate through their everyday lives, and it shows that the Qur'an and Sunnah do in fact apply to every nation/generation (i.e. the teachings are timeless).
Here is an example of a powerful khutbah that was delivered by Imam Omar Suleiman:
- Leave early so you can arrive early/on time to the masjid
- Put your cell phone on silent (or turn if off) to prevent disruptions
- Sit as close to the imam/khateeb as possible (for brothers)
- Allow your children to spend time in the "play area" to avoid running after them or shushing them during service
- If you choose to have your children with you in the prayer area, tell them they have to be quiet when the imam/khateeb is speaking
- Discuss the khutbah with fellow Muslims after salah to improve retention of the main takeaway(s) and to clear up any questions/concerns you may have
Take Action: Take care of all your [necessary] business before going to the masjid/before sitting down in the prayer room so you won't be distracted during the khutbah. Discuss the key lesson(s) of the khutbah with fellow believers (of the same gender/mahrams) for better retention.
4. Take Arabic Classes
It's vital as a Muslim to learn Arabic. Why? Because the actual Qur'an is in ALL Arabic as stated in Surah Al-Zumar, Ayah 28 (39:28), and the books of hadith were written in Arabic as well. The Qur'an and Sunnah (ahadith/life of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) are the ultimate guides for mankind, so it's essential that we learn Arabic to understand & use these gifts properly. Fortunately, Arabic classes are free at masājid.
If for some reason, these classes are not free at your masjid, then I'd recommend either looking for another masjid to take these classes at (while still attending your regular one for Jumu'ah & other services) or investing some money into these classes at your local masjid. Another option is to take Arabic classes at a university. This is perfect if one of the class requirements for your major is to take a language course—that way you'd get credit towards your secular education and Islamic education at the same time.
The value you will get out of each class will be greater than the monetary price you'll have to pay for it (in-sha-Allah), as well as the blessings/rewards you will receive from Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala for investing in your akhirah.
- Always take notes: write down points/phrases that your teacher repeatedly says, record the lecture (with permission from your teacher), take pictures of the examples on the board (with permission from your teacher), etc.
- Review your notes every day: set aside some time every day to go over your notes. It's also wise to make your notes easily accessible/easy to carry around by making flashcards or keeping a copy of it on your electronic device(s). That way, you can study/review your notes anywhere and at any time.
- Ask your teacher if they can pair you with a mentor/study buddy who already successfully completed the class level you're currently in.
- If you don't understand something, ask your teacher (or a classmate) to clarify it for you.
- Participate in class: voluntarily or not, this will help with increasing your critical thinking skills and rate of retention.
Learning a new language can be difficult for some more than others. Thus, don't make this journey more unnecessarily difficult by being too hard on yourself for not learning at the same pace as others. Also, don't be discouraged if there are people in your class who are younger than you. Although it is best to learn the language as young/early as possible, there is no shame in learning Arabic at the age of 20, 35, 48, 56, or older.
Take Action: Sign up for an Arabic class at your local masjid or university.
5. Attend Halaqahs
Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “People will not sit in an assembly in which they remember Allah without the angels surrounding them, mercy covering them, and Allah mentioning them among those who are with Him” [related by Muslim].
Halaqahs are good complements for path #2. They're mini classes/lectures that are filled with lots of valuable information, a means for forming and solidifying a brotherhood & sisterhood with those in your community, and a source of immense barakah as the hadith above states.
Halaqahs are generally held once per month, once per week, or more frequently depending on who hosts it, and it's usually free to attend. If you've never attended one, I highly recommend that you do as soon as possible whether that means going to one at the masjid, your university, or another provincial location. As further encouragement of this option, check out this article on MuslimMatters.org that lists out seven reasons it's advised to attend a halaqah. The article is geared towards sisters but it's also relevant to brothers.
Take Action: Find out when and where the next local halaqah will take place. Plan ahead for it by blocking out time in your schedule to attend it, putting a reminder of it in your phone/on your calendar, and inviting a friend or family member to attend it with you.
6. Attend Seminars
Seminars are also excellent complements for path #2. In contrast to halaqahs, seminars are much longer—it can last for several hours or even several days. Breaks are provided, though, for salah and dining. Also, you are most likely to pay to attend a seminar. The money is worth it in the long run since you'll leave with a new/better understanding of the deen, a boost in your imaan from the stories and lessons provided throughout the presentation that are derived from the Qur'an and Sunnah, and a positive attitude consequently of all that oohing & ahhing, smiling and laughing you did during the seminar (seminars are quite entertaining).
Below are [posters for] two seminars hosted by AlMaghrib Institute that I'd like to attend, in-sha-Allah. As a disclaimer, these are old posters, so please check their website for the most current dates for these seminars.
I've attended a few seminars in my lifetime (such as Sweetness of Salah), and I have been pleased with all of them so I'm planning to attend more soon, in-sha-Allah. Some of those seminars were/will be hosted by AlMaghrib Institute, which you're probably familiar with. I'm interested in attending two of their seminars that are shown above, plus the Fiqh of Fashion and Clothing seminar that is also taught by Shaykh Saad Tasleem, in-sha-Allah. Have any of you attended any of those seminars? Are any of you students of AlMaghrib Institute? Let me know via Twitter @jessicadukharan or in the comments section below, in shaa Allah!
Take Action: Check with those in your community to see if there are any upcoming seminars nearby. Invite a friend or family member to attend it with you.
7. Read the Qur'an
As stated in path #4, the Qur'an is in ALL Arabic, so those Arabic lessons will come in handy for this path. The Qur'an is the direct word of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala so it's full of wisdom and gems that are imperative to learn and use as guidance for our journey in this life and our destination in the next. After all, Allahu Alam. ❤️
You don't have to wait to learn Arabic before building a relationship with the Qur'an, though. You can start now—today—by reading a translation of it. I recommend selecting a translation that includes the history/background of the verses—i.e. what year, place, & event the verses were revealed in—and detailed explanations of the verses. It's *highly important* to learn the context of the verses of the Qur'an (as well as ahadith) so you can truly understand what was revealed. Thus, don't go about interpreting it on your own.
- If you don't know Arabic or if you haven't mastered it yet, start with a translation of the Qur'an.
- Ask a [trusted] person of knowledge for recommendations of the best translations of the Qur'an.
- Surround yourself with people who are at good at reciting and translating the Qur'an.
Take Action: Set aside a specific amount of time every day to read the Qur'an.
8. Study Alongside a Scholar, Shaykh, or Imam
Abu Darda (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “The scholars are the successors of the prophets. Verily, the prophets do not pass on gold and silver coins, but rather they only impart knowledge” (Musnad al-Bazzār).
Our scholars, shuyookh, and a'immah are valuable resources for attaining knowledge of the deen. They are equipped with years of knowledge, training, and experience in learning & sharing information on Islam with others in a way that is digestible and will help them find the best solutions for their situations. Therefore, it's vital for us to take advantage of every opportunity we get to learn from them. So, how can we go about doing so?
Start by reaching out to your local Imam. Ask them if it's possible for you to meet with them a certain day/time once a week (or once every two weeks) to learn about a certain aspect of Islam. Be sure to explain to them that you're interested in learning more than just the basics of the deen and that you are seeking a teacher who can explain rulings and information in a way that is applicable & relatable to your generation/lifestyle/situation.
If they agree to hold study sessions with you, then alhamdulillah. If they don't have time or don't think they're the right teacher for you, then ask them if they know of any shuyookh/scholars who live in your city/state and if they can help you can get in contact with them. Then, reach out to the person they recommend and try to set up study sessions with them instead. Keep trying until you a find a qualified teacher. Persistence is key!
- Your local imam should be the first person you reach out to to set up study sessions with.
- Always adhere to the boundaries set by Islam when interacting with someone who is not a mahram.
- Contact shuyukh/scholars who live in your city/state to set up study sessions with them.
- Read this article to learn about the qualities one must meet to be considered a scholar.
- Remember to be respectful of their time and privacy. They already have a lot on their plate, so don't be hasty with setting up your study sessions with them.
- Always take notes during your study sessions and be sure to review your notes afterward.
- Don't jump from one teacher to the next because you don't like one person's answer/explanation of something. If you decide to switch teachers, it should be because the next person has more time to teach, more knowledge & experience to share with you, or is better at explaining things in a way that you can understand.
- Remember that they are also human beings/creations of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, which means they are not infallible. Forgive them for their mistakes and refrain from putting them on a pedestal.
Take Action: Reach out to a local person of knowledge and set up study sessions with them.
9. Take Online or In-person Courses
There are a variety of free & paid courses you can take online or in person. Here are some options to look into:
Introduction to Islam: What It Means to Be Muslim by Ustadh Amjad Tarsin ($0)
- Essentials of Islamic Belief: What Muslims Believe and Why by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Mohammed Tayssir Safi ($0)
The Sunna of Speech: Prohibitions of the Tongue by Shaykh Rami Nsour ($0)
Essentials of Islamic Spirituality: Part 1 How to Use Your Time to Prepare for Your Afterlife by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus ($0)
Marriage in Islam: Practical Guidance for Successful Marriages by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadha Shireen Ahmed ($0)
Essentials of Halal and Haram: Practical Guidelines for Godfearingness in Everyday Life by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Tabraze Azam ($0)
All of their courses are free, alhamdulillah, and each is taught by “experienced, qualified and mainstream scholars who are authorized to teach the Islamic sciences.” The courses are categorized by different levels (i.e. step one, step two, step three), and some courses are based on a specific madhab (e.g. Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki). All in all, they have a good range to choose from & you're allowed to register for up to three courses at once.
- No Doubt: God, Religion, and Politics by Shaykh Dr. Yasir Qadhi ($85)
- Complicated: The A-Z of Women's Modern Fiqh by Shaykh Waleed Basyouni ($85)
Unlike the previous option, these courses cost money. As stated in path #4, though, the value you will get out of each course will be greater than the monetary price, in-sha-Allah. Your Akhirah (Hereafter) is worth investing in, so if you have enough money to pay for one of these courses, then I recommend spending it on the one that would be the most beneficial for you. You'll get lifetime access to it + access to new material at no extra cost.
- Life Lessons from Prophetic Traditions by Imam Shadeed Muhammad ($300)
- How to Get Married and Divorced in Ten Weeks by Imam Shadeed Muhammad ($500)
As you can see, both of these courses cost a lot more than the other courses listed in this path. However, unlike the other options, these courses are held online AND in person. So whether you're watching the livestream or attending a class in person, you'll get the chance to participate & ask questions *in real time on a consistent basis.* Additionally, we spend way more money in the pursuit of a college certificate, diploma, or degree, so if we have money to pay for dozens of secular courses, then we have money to pay for one Islamic course that will equip us with the knowledge and skills needed to improve our imaan, worship, and ourselves altogether.
Take Action: Read over the description of each course & sign up for the one that will be the most beneficial.
10. Attend an Islamic University
We go to secular colleges/universities to specialize in a specific field, such as medicine, law, art, engineering, business, etc. Similarly, we can attend an Islamic university to specialize in a specific field of Islam such as Islamic Law, Qur'an, Hadith, Arabic, and Daw'ah. Although this is one of the best ways to seek knowledge of the deen, this path is not for everyone. It requires a lot of time, dedication, sacrifices, patience, and hard work.
This is best to do if:
- you have enough money to pay for the tuition & fees
- you have a mahram to travel with if it's out of state/out of the country
- you don't have any children
- you have someone reliable who can take care of your children while you're in school
You will most likely have to pay to attend an Islamic university since there are tuition & fees associated with it. One exception to this norm is the Islamic University of Madinah. It offers free tuition, travel, and a monthly stipend to its students (only males at this time), so you should definitely apply there if you cannot afford to pay to attend a different university. If anyone who's reading this knows of any other universities that offer free or affordable tuition, please share the names and costs with us in the comments section below (in shaa Allah)!
As for the part about children . . . if you knew me in real life, then you would know that I'm a big advocate of parents going back to school to get their college degree. However, I said that this path is best to follow if you don't have any children or if you have reliable childcare options, because it's a huge responsibility to have and take care of a family. School is another huge responsibility by itself. Combine the two and a can of worms will be released throughout the journey. Furthermore, despite a parent's superhero abilities, this path may not be feasible for every parent. It all depends on your individual situation and what you and your spouse agree on.
Take Action: Research various Islamic universities and apply to the ones that are the best fit for you.
11. Read Islamic Books
Confession: I'm a bookworm ☺️📚. That's because I love to learn [in general] and reading books is one of my favorite ways of gaining knowledge. The Qur'an is hands down the best Islamic book to read, but it's not the only Islamic book you can read to gain knowledge of the deen. Books of hadith, aqeedah, fiqh, etc. are the next best options and then books by other people of knowledge after that. Here is a detailed list of books you can get/study.
It's wise, however, to start with books that correspond to your level of intellect. Meaning, you shouldn't start with a book of fiqh if you haven't mastered Tawheed yet.
Here are a few of my suggestions:
- The Ideal Muslim by Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi
- The Ideal Muslimah by Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi
- The Ideal Muslim Society by Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Hashimi
- The Productive Muslim by Br. Mohammed Faris
- Enjoy Your Life by Dr. Muhammad Al-'Areefi
Remember that knowledge of Islam doesn't only pertain to theology. It's also important to learn about the history of Islam (i.e. how and where it was spread), how Islam impacted different countries, races, and cultures, the different historical figures of Islam (e.g. Sahabah, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali), how to be a productive & valuable member of society as a Muslim, Muslim inventions and contributions (e.g. coffee, algebra), etc.
One of my recommendations is Centering Black Narrative: Black Muslim Nobles Among the Early Pious Muslims by Imam Dawud Walid and Ahmad Mubarak. It goes over the term "blackness" and what it meant in the past in contrast to what it means now as well as various black Muslim figures and their contributions. What are some of your recommendations? Share each with us in the comments sections below (in shaa Allah)!
- Check the credentials of the author(s) to make sure they're qualified to teach that particular topic.
- Look for references of ayaat (verses of the Qur'an) and ahadith (narrations/sayings of the Prophet ﷺ) throughout the book.
- Make sure that the book has a bibliography if the author(s) cites different works throughout the text.
- Ask your teacher or a person of knowledge for book recommendations.
- Start with "basic" topics/readings (e.g. pillars of Islam & imaan, Tawheed) then work your way up to advanced topics.
- Discuss your readings with a person of knowledge to make sure you're learning correct information and to clarify any doubts, questions, or misunderstandings you may have.
Take Action: Purchase/borrow/check out a book on Islam to read over the week. Ask someone of knowledge for recommendations if you're not sure of which book to start with.
12. Watch/Listen to Islamic Lectures Online
This is another one of my favorite ways of obtaining knowledge and information on Islam. Alhamdulillah, it's very easy to access thousands of different lectures online via Youtube, Vimeo, Periscope, etc. However, it's also very easy to access videos that contain incorrect and misleading information on Islam. Thus, as stated in the previous path, it's important to check the credentials of the speaker to make sure that they're qualified to speak about a particular topic. Also, even if they are a trusted source, it doesn't hurt to double check the information in their lecture by sharing what they cited and what you learned from it with another scholar, shaykh, or imam.
Here are some of my suggestions:
Take Action: Watch the videos that I embedded in this post. Take notes while you're watching/listening to each and review your notes afterward with [knowledgeable] fellow believers.
13. Listen to Islamic CDs/Podcasts
Hold up. Who uses/listens to CDs anymore? Umm . . . lots of people? Like me. 😆 Seriously, CDs aren't dead yet, right? Gosh, I'm getting old.
Nevertheless, if you have a CD player in your car, then Islamic CDs are a great resource you can use to learn about the deen during your commute. One of my cousins gave me several of her Islamic CDs, which had various recordings of Jumu'ah lectures on it. Ask someone at your masjid if the khutbah is usually recorded and burned onto a CD. If so, then ask if you can get a copy of each recording when it's made available.
The following khutbah was converted from a CD to a MP4 file and uploaded onto YouTube for worldwide accessibility:
On the other hand, if you have an aux cord in your car (and prefer to use that) or access to a podcast app on your phone, then you can download different lectures onto your phone or stream different lectures from one of your apps (such as SoundCloud) so you can listen to them during your commute or during your breaks. Additionally, if the khutbah at a masjid is usually audio/video recorded, then ask for the name of the medium it's shared on so you can listen to each recording at a later time. Also, if you no longer use CDs but still have some that have really great lectures on it, then you can convert those CDs into a mp3 or mp4 file and upload it online or download it on your phone to be able to save and access those lectures later.
Take Action: Use your commute time and breaks to learn about Islam via Islamic CDs, recordings of lectures on your phone, or a podcast app that streams lectures by various people of knowledge.
14. Make Dua
As stated in path #10, the journey of seeking Islamic knowledge is not easy & it requires a lot of effort and time from the seeker. The good news is that you don't have to go on this journey by yourself. You'll have the support of your family, friends, teachers, and fellow believers throughout the whole way. More importantly, you'll have the help of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, the All-Knowing, the Wise, if you ask Him for it. How? Through dua.
Here is an example of a dua you can make/recite: Allaahumma laa sahla 'illaa maa ja'altahu sahlan wa 'Anta taj'alul-hazna 'ithaa shi'ta sahlan. → "O Allah, there is no ease other than what You make easy. If You please You ease sorrow." It's from the dua book, Fortress of the Muslim: Invocations from the Qur'an and Sunnah by Sa'id bin Wahf Al-Qahtani, which has lots of other supplications you can make during different situations.
Be sincere. Be specific. Tell Him why you're embarking on this journey. Tell Him what you hope to accomplish. Ask Him to help you prepare for this journey & ask Him to help you get through it. Ask Him to grant you the strength, patience, & skills needed to be successful in this quest. Ask Him to keep you on the straight path—to guide you back when you start straying from it. Ask Him to show you the Truth. Just raise your hands and ask.
Take Action: Ask Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala for help with this journey by making sincere dua.
15. Take it One Step at a Time
There is no need to rush through this quest. Yes, our time on Earth is limited, but that doesn't mean we need to spend every second of it trying to obtain knowledge. Our bodies have rights over us and the people around us have rights over us. Furthermore, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala doesn't expect us to know everything—He just expects us to make the effort to learn. So, (1) research the various paths you would like to take to meet your goal, (2), choose *one* path to begin with, and (3) implement what you learn as you move through this journey.
Take Action: Make the intention to seek knowledge, say Bismillah, and begin! Use every day as an opportunity to get closer to your goal, but be sure to go at your own pace. Remember, life is a marathon not a sprint.
And, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala knows best.
Over to You
Take Action: For each path, I listed an action item you can complete to seek Islamic knowledge. I've done my part to help you with this journey and now it's your turn to do your part by implementing the information I provided. Knowledge without action is useless, so find a way to implement one of the suggestions this week.
Comment: I would love to hear your thoughts/feedback on this blog post and your answers to the questions that were asked throughout it, so please share it in the comments section below! Remember that your every word & movement is recorded by the angels into your book of deeds, so please be respectful when leaving a comment or responding to someone else's comment.
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Jazakumullah khairan and As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh!