By Abu Umar
Thanks to God, we have been informed, by many sources, about the importance of seeking knowledge and knowing more about our beautiful deen (religion).
Wouldn’t it be great if we could sit down and dedicate ourselves fully to acquiring knowledge about Islam so we can reap some of the vast benefits that can be achieved?
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim.” (Ibn Majah)
We know we have to seek knowledge, but how exactly do we do it? The majority of us just don’t have the time to dedicate ourselves to seeking knowledge (or so it seems). Therefore, we have compiled a few tips to help you acquire knowledge about our beautiful religion.
1. Time management
This is a classic and common theme for productive Muslims but it’s used often because it is so ‘effective’! This involves firstly looking at your schedule to determine where you can allocate time for seeking knowledge.
For example, it may be that on Saturday afternoons you have a few hours free. If this is the case, then fill that time by attending a course, listening to a lecture or two, spending time with a knowledgeable person of Islam, etc. If you simply ‘go with the flow’ and ‘see what happens’ then it’s very likely that seeking knowledge will be pushed to the side and you will find it difficult to make any progress with this.
Therefore, planning is very important (just as is the case with other activities in life). As they commonly say in the business world, ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’.
A point to remember: If you have free time, the Satan will be more than happy to fill that time with something frivolous. So, it’s better you fill your time with something beneficial before Satan gets a chance to distract you.
If you have many responsibilities and are struggling to find time, then it’s a good idea to look at your weekly schedule, scrutinize it and be honest with yourself. For example, if you use up a whole day for shopping and socializing and find no energy to do anything else later, then the day is not likely to be a productive one. Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need so much time for this activity?’ After cleaning up your schedule with this exercise, you should find free time to utilize for seeking knowledge.
Furthermore, we can take a look at the life of the Prophet who is the greatest example for us including in time management. This can be seen from how he allocated time to his wives, children, grandchildren, friends being a general and fighting in the way of Allah (Exalted be He), giving da`wah, managing the different Islamic states, etc. Despite these many responsibilities and more, he was the best in every aspect of his life and was able to give his full attention and never neglected any of his duties.
2. Invest in a CD or Other Electronic Device
This is a very practical method of increasing your knowledge about the religion with little effort. ‘Other electronic device’ can be an mp3 player or your mobile phone that allows you to download lectures and programs that you can listen to on the go. This is very useful for those who have little time available. Invest in some earphones if you don’t have any already. This also helps with your time management as you look to free up some time. For example, if you travel to work/university, read Commuting Productive Muslim Style for tips.
There are also many reliable websites that offer download services so take advantage of those. If you’re not able to find any then resort to YouTube and use a Youtube converter download files. Things that you can look to download are inspirational lectures, history stories like The Great Men and Women of Islam and even a series of a particular topic. Look for a beautiful recitation of the Qur’an to listen to regularly. This should increase your love for the Qur’an, help correct your recitation of Qur’an and help prevent us from sin. Peace and contentment is one of the greatest blessings we can receive through the recitation of the Qur’an.
3. Pick out a Small Area to Focus on
This means focusing on the one part you are seeking knowledge of and not trying to master all the different topics on Islam. This will be especially important if you’ve just set foot on the path of knowledge. Islam really is like an ocean that has no depths and knows no boundaries. Therefore, take your time and take small, baby steps if you are a beginner, as you could find trying to understand lots of different information overwhelming and this may cause you to give up. Thus, remain consistent in seeking knowledge even by just a little bit on a regular basis and Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) will increase your love for knowledge, His religion and you will be of those that are loved by Him and the angels. This is supported by a hadith narrated by `A’ishah (may God be pleased with her):
“The Prophet was asked: “What deeds are loved most by Allah?” He said: “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few”. He added: “Don’t take upon yourselves, except the deeds which are within your ability”. (Al-Bukhari)
Therefore, keep at it and don’t give up.
4. Stay Connected with the Muslim World
This entails signing up to different websites/media that can give you regular emails and advice, for example Productivemuslim.com. You may also receive information from a regular service such as a hadith for the day, a Qur’an verse of the day, dhikr or an interesting fact about Islam which you didn’t know before.
This is useful as you can quickly and easily access your emails anywhere these days with the latest technology. Now your lunch break and travel time can be used for valuable knowledge seeking. The benefits from this are that it allows you to keep yourself close to Islam through hearing and seeing it in different media and thus Allah will never be far from your mind. This is especially important for those of us not living in an Islamic society.
Furthermore, this point can also be applied to life offline. This means ensuring you’re with good company and those that are likely to remind you of Islam. This can be done informally when you see your friend eating with three fingers only. If he is a righteous companion, he will relate to you that is a Sunnah.
I saw the Messenger of Allah eating with three fingers (i.e., the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger) and licking them after having finished the food. (Muslim)
5. Dedicate a Specific Time for Acquiring Knowledge
This can be done daily or a few selected days in the week, depending on your schedule e.g. the weekend. However, be realistic about how much time you can give but try to ensure you are constant with this. If you’re a beginner with seeking knowledge then it’s a good idea to start with about 15-30 minutes and build yourself up from there.
Seeking knowledge will take a variety of forms so you may prefer to listen to a lecture for a little while or alternatively read a book but try to have this fixed in a routine. A practical way of carrying this out is reading a book aloud in group. The first person can read for about 10 minutes before letting someone else have a go. This method of gaining knowledge offers many benefits for the household; not only does it create unity and strengthen relations between family members. It also prevents you from feeling alone in seeking knowledge. If you are seeking knowledge with others, you can feed off their energy when your own motivation level dips.
6. Pick an Entertaining Topic to Start with
This is particularly aimed at those who are starting to seek knowledge. This is to help you find enjoyment in seeking knowledge and keep you interested in learning about Islam.
Personally, I find learning about the prophets entertaining and beneficial. Not only will you learn about the miracles that they experienced, you will also learn about the great abilities and attributes God gave His different prophets i.e. the great size of Prophet Adam (peace be upon him), the way Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was saved from the heat of the fire he was thrown into, etc. From this, we hope Allah will give us a thirst for knowledge which brings us closer to Him and Islam.
Children’s story books are small and informative with many colours and pictures. They are designed this way, on purpose, to attract readers and to help retain their interest; so this may also be a useful place to start (if you don’t find them too childlike).
7. Keep on Making Du`aa’ to God to Help You Achieve this Objective
This is vital for the believer in every aspect of his life. Subsequently, it is important you keep on making du`aa (supplication) to Allah that He helps you to seek knowledge, understand it correctly, retain that knowledge (whether you have a weak memory or not) as well as make the path of knowledge easy for you. This will be significant as without the help and will of Allah you will not be able to achieve anything. For those blessed to be on the path of knowledge already, always thank Him for what He has allowed you to do.
Also, try to be specific and honest in your du’aa; for example you may not have a desire for seeking knowledge. If this is the case then call on Allah by His beautiful names and attributes to remove your block and to bless you with an enthusiasm for seeking knowledge. A du`aa you can constantly recite to help with this is:
‘O Allah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being overpowered by men’.
Another du`aa’ which will offer great benefit is:
’Rabbi Zidni `Ilma‘ (‘O my Lord! Increase me in Knowledge’).
These are just a few techniques that can allow us to productively seek knowledge. There are many alternatives to obtaining knowledge, which include: sitting in the circles of knowledge, enrolling into a course, etc. but not all of us have the capacity to do this. I hope from these points mentioned, you’ve gained a better idea on how to bring this noble task of seeking knowledge into your life. May give us the blessing to walk on the path of knowledge and stay on that path until we meet Him.