Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Need for the Knowledge of Deen

Dr. Mohammed Sadiq

There is a tendency among the western educated Muslims, who have not had an
opportunity or have not made any serious efforts to acquire knowledge about their
faith, to blame 'Ulama squarely for everything.

There are various schools of thought and theories, right and wrong, in all fields of
knowledge. We take the responsibility to study these theories, weigh them against
our knowledge base of the entire field and determine what exactly the theory
propagates, and what is the intent and goals of the theorist. But, when it comes to
our faith, we are handicapped due to a lack of knowledge to follow this same

Most of us have not put a serious effort in learning even the basics of our faith -
what is the purpose and ultimate goal of it, why do have to follow it, what is
the purpose of sending prophets and revealing upon them the scriptures, what is
the purpose of our life here, how are we to utilize the guidance that we received
from the holy Book through the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and
through his Companions and followers, what is the purpose of Shari'ah, how many
aspects of faith there are, etc. etc.

Those of us who, after finishing our 'degrees', find it unavoidable to acquire some
knowledge of deen, tend to make very superficial attempts at it, such as, acquiring
information about it through the internet (which, by the way, is the most
dangerous place to learn about Islam), or through reading the translations of the
holy Qur'an (which again gets very confusing because each translation presents a
slightly different view of the true meaning of the holy Book), and through reading
translations of the book of Ahadith (and tell me how confusing that could be for an
untrained person in the knowledge of Hadith).

Armed with this superficial knowledge, we begin to discuss and argue about various
aspects of deen, which serves only to further confuse everyone involved.

Then, we look at 'Ulamas for answers. The fact is that in all areas of knowledge
there are professionals who are very good, very skilled and experienced, and who
possess a very deep and broad perspective of the field; and then there are those
who have taken their diplomas and degrees through correspondence and through
internet, or who have gone to a fast track programs to complete
their degrees.

The same thing is true for the 'Ulamas of today. When we need
doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc., we look for the ones who are properly qualified
and who possess broad knowledge, experience and skills in their field. But, when
we need 'Ulamas, we tend to look for the one who would give us the answer we are
looking for, without ever considering how did this person become and 'Aalim.

Obviously then, it becomes easily to blame all 'Ulama and make them the black
sheeps of our communities, rather than taking some personal responsibility to first
put some serious effort in learning proper deen from properly qualified teachers
and recognized institutions, or in the least make an effort to find the properly
qualified and experienced 'Ulama who possess the deep knowledge of all aspects of
the deen from a very broad perspective. But then again, we are handicapped in this
area too. How many of us truly know what are the proper qualifications for
an 'Aalim? Many of us would readily know what are the most famous universities in
the world in different areas of studies and specialties, but how many of us
honestly know what and where are some of the institutions who specialize in
training 'Ulama. How many of us know that the traditional and well-known course
of study for an 'Aalim takes seven full years of studies?

As I said, we must take our lack of knowledge in our faith very seriously and, as
Muslims, make a serious attempt to learn at least the fundamentals of our deen,
which, by the way, is obligatory on all Muslims. On the day of judgment, we won't
be held accountable for not having obtained any degrees in psychology, medicine,
etc., but we will be held accountable for failing to obtain the necessary and
required knowledge of our deen.

I pray to Allah (swt) to grant me and all of us the wisdom to recognize and
acknowledge our short-comings with respect to the knowledge of our faith, and to
make a sincere effort to acquire it.

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