Problems with contemporary students of knowledge | August 2017

Problems with contemporary students of knowledge | August 2017

So high [above all] is Allah, the Sovereign, the Truth. And, [O Muhammad], do not hasten with [recitation of] the Qur’an before its revelation is completed to you, and say, “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (20:114)

“And We sent not before you except men to whom We revealed [Our message]. So ask the people of the message if you do not know. (16:43)”

1. “Downplaying the importance of skills”

Are you an engaging public speaker? Do you have teaching skills? Note: public speaking and teaching skills are two different things. You can be a good public speaker, but a poor teacher. A public speaker doesn’t require much engagement with the audience or verifying whether they have understood the information. Whereas a teacher is someone who engages with the students, has a relationship with them, at times knows their personal problems.

Leadership skills: are you able to help initiate and organize vital Islamic projects in your community? Are you able to recruit, motivate, and retain volunteers? People will respect you much more when you’re actually involved in Islamic work, as opposed to remaining 98% theoretical and research-based. It’s not the respect you’re after; however, it’s difficult to respect one’s authority when you’re commenting on issues that you have little experience with. One way to gain leadership skills is to volunteer yourself. You’ll be surprised as to how much you can learn. You’ll learn about your own strengths and skills, your weaknesses, and working under pressure.

Interpersonal skills: it’s surprising to discover how many du’aat and Imams are not approachable or personable. They’re not socialized and/or have little social skills. The issue is that they have little interaction with their own community. And are unaware of the problems that exists. I don’t want to focus on negatives here. But our students of knowledge really need to take a step back and ask themselves, “what is the goal?”

One easy way to assess whether you’re accumulating the rights skills, is to ask yourself: am I building future leaders? Am I developing transferable skills? Or is most of what I learned going to waste and retained within myself?


2. Understanding the importance of being independent

Too many people are starting to look at being an “Imam” or “Da’ee” as a career. I won’t get into the fiqh aspect here of whether it’s permissible to rely on the Masjid and community for your salary. However, I will say, the best and most effective du’aat that I’ve seen are those who are independent. They either work a 9-5, are established professionals, or have their own business. Why is this important? When push comes to shove, and you need to say what’s correct or speak your mind, it’s difficult to bite the hand that feeds you. You may not even notice it. It’s natural to avoid dissent in an environment when your salary is dependent on pleasing the people you’re preaching to. And this is a problem if one is consistently at the whims of the people. Isn’t it enough to know that scholars of the past would be weary of where their salaries came from? Perhaps a simple solution could be, to have one paid Imam to lead the prayer, perform marriage counselling and services, etc. And have the khateeb and the one who conducts the halaqah be a volunteer position. This way we avoid conflict of interest.

Also, when you have a career, you’ll be surprised at how many skills you’ll pick up that you can incorporate into your Islamic work.

3. Making knowledge the end and not the means

It’s simply not possible to study scholarship over the last 1400 years — all the madhabs, all the tafaseer, all the various opinions, all the movements, all the works of the scholars. Secondly, if one is doing so, we really have to ask, “what is your goal exactly?” We need to look at: what are the current issues Muslims are facing, what are the skills needed to solve these issues, and what direction do Muslims need to mobilize towards? In addition to this, what does the Muslim community need? Take a look at the youth. They’re not asking for evidence from the 6 books of hadeeth. They’re asking why they should believe in hadith! I want to clarify that I’m not saying to just settle for a surface level understanding, after all there are different levels of knowledge (Mujtahid, Muft, ‘Alim, Talibul Ilm, Da’ee, Activist, etc.). But at minimum, we should be learning for ourselves (to guide our own lives) and to guide those around us. Allahul Musta’an.

” The example of those who were entrusted with the Torah and then did not take it on is like that of a donkey who carries volumes [of books]. Wretched is the example of the people who deny the signs of Allah . And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.” (62:5)


4. Becoming obsessed with sectarian issues

You can have a quick glance at YouTube or Facebook to see where some scholars choose to spend their time. It’s almost as if they’d prefer to let atheism, liberalism, pluralism, capitalism, and secularism dominate rather than their fellow Athari, Ashari, or Maturidi Muslims. It’s okay to have an opinion or inclination — that is your right as someone who has studied. But why waste the Muslim community’s time with bashing each other when they’re facing serious issues? Also, some du’aat attack each other because of legitimate reasons (modernism, severe deviancy), but it’s done under the guise of you belong to that Sunni Muslim camp. Wait a minute, are you sure? We need to be clear that often someone’s deviant opinion today is not because they’re following classical Athari, Ashari, or Maturidi schools, but because they’ve been influenced by the social-political climate — and that’s what you need to address…which is another reason why one needs to be aware of social ideologies and contemporary issues…

Related to this and the first point is “teamwork” and “team development skills.” It’s important that you’re able to work with other Muslims whom you may differ with towards important Islamic goals. Think about Umar R.A. and Abu Bakr R.A.

5. Sincerity & the Sources

Never forget to review what you learned, especially when it comes to connecting and reflecting upon the Book of Allah s.w.t. Moreover, re-reading the book of Allah and the Seerah of RasulAllah s.a.w. as a guides for instruction in addition to inspiration is extremely important to keep us on track.
On this topic, we need to check our hearts, our sincerity, our egos, our envy, etc.

6. Awareness and critical thinking skills

Do you know what’s happening in your community?
Do you know about the issues your youth face? Not just what they are, but how they happen (illicit sex, hook-ups, influence of the media, curriculum being taught at schools, etc)

Are you aware of what’s happening domestically and globally? Are you able to analyze the news and read beyond the headlines? Do you read current affairs from time to time (from objective sources, independent media) as opposed to corporate media? We live in a time when headlines are influenced by a few players in the media industry, hence, it’s critical to know how to read beyond them. Are you up to date with regards to what’s happening in the Ummah, or are you only concerned about what’s happening with non-Muslims?

7. Principles

How many times have we seen people with a surplus of knowledge or credentials, faltering on the very principles they once adhered to? There are too many cringe-worthy examples of du’aat cozying up to the brutal and draconian regimes they live in.
Do you covet [the hope, O believers], that they would believe for you while a party of them used to hear the words of Allah and then distort the Torah after they had understood it while they were knowing? (2:75)
History doesn’t remember cowards.

8. Credentials should demonstrate your respectfulness and eagerness to teach, not your status or title

Be willing to listen to your students and those that differ with. One of the best things you can do is spend time with different shayukh and movements, to learn from their strengths and weakness and where they need to improve. Never disrespect or look arrogantly towards anyone. Ad-hominem attacks such as “you’ve never studied” or “you’re a jahil,” are often perceived as insecurities. If you have knowledge, share it.

“And We sent not before you except men to whom We revealed [Our message]. So ask the people of the message if you do not know. (16:43)”


9. You must have a vision

It is enough to quote the ayah below:

It is He who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion, although they who associate others with Allah dislike it.” (9:33)

10. Leverage strengths and opportunities

Lastly, there many strengths and pros you can take advantage of. Technology, the number of Muslims nowadays. Lastly, there many strengths and pros you can take advantage of. Technology, the number of Muslims nowadays. Muslims want to learn and it’s not that difficult to sit down and develop a relevant and engaging curicculim to develop knoweldge, skills, character, worship, and leadership within Muslims. However, often preventing us is our own skills, which is why this article has been written.

And Allah knows best.


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