Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim,
Congratulations! You’re a seeker of knowledge. How do I know that? Simply because you are here in this blog! It has become so easy for us in this era to study the deen just by sitting at home. We can’t really appreciate what a blessing it is from Allah to have ilm just mouse-clicks away, whereas the scholars of the past had to travel away on months’ journeys jus to learn one hadith.
Think about it, if the scholars of the past were given a laptop connected with the internet, how extremely happy they would be! But then, if we have so much knowledge of Islam within easy reach, how come we’re not a toenail’s worth of scholars like Imam Ahmad, abu Hanifa, Shafii, al Bukhari and so many others? Why don’t we, like abu Hanifa, spend all night praying and crying to Allah? Why do we, before writing down every hadith, not pray two rakahs of prayer like imam al Bukhari?
Let us take an analogy. Suppose Sarah has a bucket for carrying water, but there is no tap at her home or any source of water nearby. So once every few days she collects water when it rains, and stores it for drinking. On the other hand, Aisha lives near a huge waterfall. She goes every day to collect water from there with her bucket, but by the time she comes back home, she finds her bucket empty! That is because her bucket has a hole in it.
What is missing in our life is not knowledge of deen, but the ability to retain it. Especially when studying online, this becomes very difficult, if we don’t know the proper etiquettes.
Let us have a look at some etiquettes especially important when it comes to studying online.
Imam al Bukhari starts his Sahih with the following hadith:
The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended….
The correct intention for studying Islam should be to please Allah. This gets very difficult especially if you’re one of the very few people in your circle who are properly studying Islam. You get a lot of praise, people come to you with their questions, and put you on a pedestal. Then how do we know whether we’re learning to please Allah or to maintain our good image in front of people? Ask yourself, if these people were not praising me, would I still be learning with equal energy? An easy way to test this is to get off that pedestal and when people ask you anything, say ‘I don’t know, why don’t you ask a scholar?’ And if it feels very difficult to say ‘I don’t know,’ we need to recheck.
There is a slide rule which will give us an exact measurement of how far we have gone in the path towards ilm – prayer. Ask oneself:
Are the quality and quantity of our salat improving as a result of our knowledge?
Are we praying with more tranquility and khushu’?
Are we increasing in voluntary prayers?
And is our connection with Allah strengthening?
Are we skipping the sunnah prayers because we need to watch a lecture?
Are we hurrying our fard prayers because we want to finish a chapter?
Are we delaying our prayers because we want to finish listening to this podcast?
The Prophet used to seek refuge in Allah from knowledge that has no benefit. [Nasa’i]Knowledge which is of no benefit to us is not a source of reward in the Hereafter, rather it is a liability. It is a rizq from Allah, and it is going to be a proof against us if we don’t act upon it.
Whatever we studying of the deen, it ultimately goes back to the Quran. Even hadiths are considered to be explanations of the Quran, because Aisha r.a. said,
The character of Messenger of Allah was the Quran. [Abu Dawud]
Allah said in the Quran (translation): And We revealed to you the message that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them and that they might give thought. [16:44]
Every other branch of Islamic sciences – tafsir, fiqh, Arabic grammar – go back to the Quran. So in effect we’re studying the Quran through all these other studies. Allah said:
The Most Merciful – Taught the Qur’an. [55:1-2]
Allah says in these ayaat that our Teacher who taught us the Quran – and every other science which explains it – is ar Rahman. Imagine Allah teaching us this blessed knowledge which is rahmah, and us facebooking, doodling, playing games while learning it. If we can develop the proper respect that this Divine knowledge deserves, then we can become much more attentive and reap more benefit from our studies in sha Allah.
If one buys the hardcopies of books one is studying, or gets a print-out of the notes, it can greatly accelerate the learning process. Also, if you have your notes in front of you while listening to lectures, it gives you the feel of studying, and you can make notes, colour and highlight as you wish. Interacting with the material helps retention. It also becomes easier to go back and revise – you can just quickly go through your highlighted parts and scribbled notes. One also tends to be less lazy in revising hard copies than bland pdf pages. Revision is an extremely important, but most often neglected, part of studying. Before learning something new, make sure that you don’t have a whole in your bucket. The scholars of the past were so serious about revision and retention of knowledge that they memorized whole volumes of books.
Develop the khuluq of a talib al ilm
The best of you is the best among you in conduct. [Bukhari and Muslim]
Abdullah ibn Mubarak, one of the most renowned Folowers, spent twenty years learning knowledge, and before that, thirty years learning akhlaq (manners). There is a certain lack of shyness when we talk online through chats and emails, because the one we’re talking to can’t see or hear us directly. Thus we see people who’re very gentle and shy face-to-face, whilst their online personality is completely different – assertive, questioning, sometimes to the point of rudeness. If we’re susceptible to this shamelessness, we need to focus on our taqwa. We need to become aware of Allah, because He is the real teacher, as discussed above.
Another aspect of manners of a talib al ilm is that towards one’s family and friends. Are we so busy learning that we neglect our parents, or wife, or children? Do we talk rudely to our mom when she interrupts an important lecture to call us for dinner? Do we neglect our closest friend when they are in trouble?
A Sahabi came to the Prophet and said:
‘O Messenger of Allah, I want to go for Jihad with you, seeking thereby the Face of Allah and the Hereafter.’ He said: ‘Woe to you! Is your mother still alive?’ I [the Sahabi] said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘Go back and serve her, for there is Paradise.’ [ibn Majah]
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