How to conduct research about Islamic topics

Conducting research about Islam is an important part of acquiring knowledge. It is essential to make sure that the right information from the right sources is chosen. There is a lot of inauthentic information that is commonplace nowadays. Because of the Internet, there is an even greater need to ascertain that the information is thoroughly researched and backed by authentic sources. This is because information is so easily distributed with the help of technology that anyone with or without knowledge can spread it. Proliferation of knowledge means both authentic knowledge and inauthentic made up stuff is out there.

Researching requires scrutinizing the material to see whether it is a work that has been referenced properly with primary sources of knowledge namely the Quran and Hadith directly or from secondary sources that take from works that are based upon the Quran and Hadith. This is no simple task. Very often well-intentioned people end up including questionable material in their works because they just couldn’t do the research or imagined that their sources were correct when they were in fact made up material. It can be confusing to a non-scholar to determine whether the secondary sources have been authenticated to be derived and based upon the accepted interpretation of the primary sources.

The safest way to do this research is to work with a few reputable scholars who will not shy away from providing you with the references when asked. As a rule of thumb, make sure to cross-references the sources yourself and not to rely on anyone blindly. As students of knowledge, we owe it ourselves to check and double-check information before accepting it.

Islamic knowledge has been preserved by Allah’s help. The Quran is protected against alteration as a promise of Allah. The Hadith is a primary source for Islamic knowledge right after the Quran. There has been a lot of work done by the scholars of Islam to authenticate Hadith. There is a fully developed science of Hadith which includes the chains of narrations, their content and the knowledge of the narrators of Hadith. The Prophet (ﷺ) explained the Quran to his companions and the reasons of the revelations of much of the Quran are preserved in the Hadith collections. Without the Hadith, the Quran can be interpreted incorrectly by people. Without the Hadith the knowledge of Islam is incomplete.

And Allah knows best.

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Finding and reading quality books on Islam

There’s tons of books to read and never enough time to read them all. So how does one decide what to read and what to skip? One of the best ways to choose the best books to read for the biggest value for your time is to ask scholars. Often they will tell you the best book in any given Islamic topic. They might even caution you against certain books that maybe misleading or harmful. There are also book recommendations from booksellers or librarians and these days there are also reader ratings on a bookseller’s web site. There are many ways to choose. The idea is to get a well rounded education on Islamic topics from a wide range of quality books by a variety of recommended authors.

Frequent bookstores and good libraries if you’re lucky enough to have good libraries where you live. Browsing through the many books is a joy in and of itself, but I digress. If you have good book recommendations from scholars, keep a running list of books to read and a record of the books you’ve already read on each topic. Read from a wide range of categories for Islamic topics such as Aqeedah, Quran/Tafseer, Hadith/Sunnah, Seerah, Fiqh etc. Furthermore, try to read from various authors’ works instead and where possible, read the same topic from at least two to three authors to get different perspectives on the topics.

Develop a good reading habit that you’re always reading one or two or more books at a time. Read in a way that you’re distilling the information contained within them to notes that you can actually read and refer to later on. Find a method that works for you for reading and getting the most out of the books you read and keep at it until it becomes a habit. If something is not working out, try an alternate method. If some book is too difficult to read, move on to the next one. There’s likely a better written book on the same topic.

And Allah knows best.

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Why is Dawah Our Responsibility?

Allah sent numerous Prophets and Messengers (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them) throughout human history in various locations around the earth. Some of these Prophets are mentioned in the Quran. Among those that are mentioned in the Quran include (not in chronological order) Adam, Abraham, Noah, David, Solomon, Jacob, Job, Jonah, Joseph, Zacharia, John, Moses, Aaron, Salih, Hud, Shoaib, Idrees, Jesus and the final Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). Each of these Prophets or Messengers were sent to their own people or nation. Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was sent for all of mankind (and the Jinn), not just in Arabia but all over the world.

Since Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was the last one of these Prophets & Messengers, Allah has commanded his ummah (his followers) to call people to Allah. So the responsibility of calling people to the religion of Islam has shifted from the Prophets & Messengers to the people of the last Prophet (ﷺ). This is evident from the Quran, the Sunnah (recorded in the Hadith) as well as the understanding of the Sahabah (the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) as they continued to call people to Islam after his life. Therefore, the work of Dawah (calling people to Islam) is an obligation for Muslims, Allah knows best.

The work of calling people to Islam is one of the highest virtues and one of the most rewardable of good deeds. This is because the reward of the good deeds of any and all people that
we call to Islam will be added to our accounts of good deeds. If anyone come to Islam (or Muslims that change their ways back to Islam after having forgotten their way), their who life’s work and anyone they call to Islam and their good deeds are all in our accounts until the Day of Judgment.

And Allah knows best.

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Akhlaaq and Muamalat

The religion of Islam is complete way of life for every individual, society or nation. It is the most a comprehensive way of life. It provides the most documented life instructions. The Quran and Sunnah provide the solutions for the problems of human individuals and societies. If we only bother looking into it. There are various aspects of Islam: Ibadah (worship – which has to do with our relationship with Allah), Akhlaaq & Muamalat (character and dealings – which have to do with our relationships with human beings). Worship is an important aspect of the religion of Islam but it is not the only aspect. There is the aspect of our conduct with other human beings. This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the religion. People, particularly Muslims, tend to associate only the worship aspect with the religion and leave out the rest as not part of the religion.

Our character and dealings shape who we are as a person (Muslim individuals) and as a people (Muslim societies globally). It is a part of who we are. And our religion has complete and detailed instructions on how to interact amongst fellow human beings, how to conduct business, how the economy should work and how the government should work. Generally, Muslims have ignored or forgotten this aspect of Islam. They limit their understanding of the religion to the worship of Allah.

This is surprising for many reasons. The Quran specifically talks about these aspects of Islam. The Hadith are filled with examples from every possible aspect of life from interpersonal relationships to business, economy, government and more. If you can think of the situation, it is either directly or indirectly covered by Islam. Every aspect of life from human societies is covered. For instance, how the market should function, how the governments should govern, how the justice system should work and more. Furthermore, every aspect from interpersonal relationships that one can think of is covered such as marriage, divorce, children, women’s rights (way more than what the modern society awards women), neighbors, travelers, poor people and rich folk. Even seemingly trivial things such as how to enter the bathroom or put on clothing are included.

And Allah knows best.

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Cleanliness ain’t Optional

Life is meant to be lived in a clean environment. Cleanliness is healthy. Filth is a breeding ground for diseases. No one likes to live in or around filthy areas. All of us want our families to be in clean environments that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Everyone hates garbage piling up and swarming with flies and mosquitoes and all manners of creatures from cockroaches and rats. These are common sense statements. However, like they say, common sense ain’t so common anymore.

From an Islamic perspective, cleanliness is one of the fundamental conditions for good Muslim societies and individuals. Cleanliness is half of the religion (of Islam). Every book of fiqh (jurisprudence) starts off with the book of Tahara (or purification). Prayers are not accepted if there is filth on the body or clothes or the place of prayer. So Islam not only encourages cleanliness, it requires it from us. We have to invest time, money and effort to ensure a clean environment. It is not optional.

Generally, cleanliness is a communal effort. The people need to ensure that the local government should have a sustainable garbage management system in place with enough money budgeted to make it work from start to finish. The people also need to ensure that there are measures in place against littering and to ensure that people do not dirty their environment and clean up after themselves. There needs to be fines associated with it and enforced properly. There also needs to be an awareness and an ownership of the issue in the people: people should feel proud of achieving a clean environment and ashamed of a dirty environment. There need to be advertising campaigns to ensure the right attitude towards cleanliness is promoted with the society everywhere.

Everyone needs to do their part to make the surroundings cleaner for everyone. Everyone needs to stop throwing garbage everywhere. Everyone needs to call out anyone that litters and ask them to not do that. Don’t wait for others to take the initiative, start yourself today. Promote a clean lifestyle with everything you do or say. Make dawah about cleanliness within your circle of influence.

And Allah knows best!

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Protection from Hardness of the Heart

My Grandma was truly an amazing lady. She lived an astonishing life as a wife, mother and a businesswoman who loved to help others. She used to make a due to Allah often to soften her heart. My mother tells me. I don’t remember my grandma. I wish I had known her as some of my older cousins did. I was too small when she passed away, may Allah grant her the highest place in Jannah. She is the reason many of us are the way we are, I reckon. She worked hard to instill the values of altruism in her children. She made sure to pass the love of Allah and His Prophet (ﷺ) and His religion onto her children. I’m sure my Grandpa did his part as well. I’ll write about him in another article, inshaaAllah.

Most prominent from a lot of my grandma’s life stories is the fact that she made the special dua to Allah to soften her heart. This is even more surprising because she was already very kind and loving and would cry often. It is such an important dua because we all need our hearts softened. May Allah soften all of our hearts, Ameen!

Hardness of the hearts is a disease that causes a person to forget to thank Allah and leads him to be harsh towards other human beings. Being ungrateful for all the numerous blessing is a grave sin. Dealing with others with a hostile character, unforgiving and arrogant, is a horrible character trait. The more we sin the harder our hearts become and it gets increasingly harder for us to distinguish right from wrong. Sins become more attractive and righteousness seems unattractive. May Allah protect us from this condition where our hearts are hardened and we can’t even tell!

And Allah knows best.

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Question Tradition

Tradition can be a good thing but it is often a trap for us too. Human beings follow tradition as something that is expected, normal and natural. One of the hardest things in life is to question tradition. To question tradition is to question what we have been conditioned to believe. What we are used to saying or doing, what we see everyone else around us saying or doing. This is because it is reinforced over many generations of people preceding us. Our parents and their parents and their parents did what they did. And we have our tradition by way of our ancestors. Often the origin of tradition may be unknown to people practicing it. It maybe lost in history, in generations of practice and in translation.

A lot of the problems we see in our societies today are due to people’s inability or unwillingness to question tradition. Numerous innovations (bid’ah) in religion that have become commonplace these days have to do with rigidly following tradition. People don’t think. They blindly do what they see their elders doing, their religious leaders preaching and what they see all around them. As a result, a lot of nonsensical practices have come to be known as Islamic in Muslim societies. This is a pretty serious state of affairs: people make such an effort in these so-called religious rituals expecting reward from Allah, yet these are not from the Quran or Sunnah and hence it all amounts to nothing.

There are numerous other problems that have to do with traditions becoming the way of life for people. For instance, one of the big issues in societies have to do with marriages. Getting married for young people has become a huge problem due to so many traditions that must be fulfilled that have nothing whatsoever to do with religion.

There is an epidemic of these types of problems in our societies these days, may Allah protect us all from all evil.

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How to live a life without worrying

Everyone wants a worry free life but not many people know how to do that. Everyone worries about various aspects of life. Some worry more than others. But virtually everyone does worry about one thing or another. Some people worry so much that they might even forget to eat due to the stress. Or eat too much. Or they might go into a state of depression or despair. But this is not the only way to live. Living without worrying about life’s challenges is possible. It requires some effort. It requires learning to develop our faith in Allah. It requires that we put our trust in Allah. It requires we call upon Allah alone. And we rely on Him alone to provide for us, guide us to a fulfilled life, guarantee us salvation in the hereafter and protect us from all evil in this life and in the everlasting hereafter.

Allah is sufficient for all of us. Allah listens to our prayers. He is our provider and our protector. To live a life without worry, let Allah handle all our affairs. This doesn’t mean we do not do the required work to get things done or earn a halal livelihood for our families. Letting Allah handle our affairs means we call upon Him to make our life’s challenges easy for us and to help us out every step of the way. Then we get to work to do our part (such as working to earn our livelihood etc.). This also means that we learn what is lawful in the sight of Allah and what is unlawful. So we stay within the allowed (halal/lawful) facing any of our life’s struggles and challenges.

Another aspect of living a fulfilled life, free of worry, is to help others. It is the sunnah of Allah that helps those who help others. If we resolve someone’s issues, Allah will resolve our issues. If we forgive someone who may have wronged us, Allah will forgive us on the Day of Judgment and make our lives easier for us.  The best example for a fulfilled life for us is the life of our beloved Prophet (ﷺ) and how he helped humanity and preached the same to his companions. He created a generation of people who loved to help others. For the sake of Allah alone.

And Allah knows best.

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Make Dawah or Accept Dawah

Allah (ﷻ) is our Creator, Sustainer, the One & Only God. He sent numerous Messengers and Prophets (may the peace & blessings of Allah be upon all of them) throughout human history to various nations on earth in order to guide them to the correct path. Muhammad (ﷺ) was the last one in a long chain of the Messengers & Prophets. He was sent as a mercy to mankind for through him Allah sent the final guidance to mankind and preserved it in the Quran & Sunnah. The guidance brought by the final Messenger (ﷺ) was preserved and the responsibility of ensuring the guidance reaches everyone was given to every Muslim until the Day of Judgment through Dawah.

Dawah is an invitation to Allah and His religion Islam. The way human beings behave, we either affect others (with our words and actions) or we are affected by others (because of their words and actions). Either we give Dawah to others or we receive the Dawah from others. This is because if we are not actively seeking to convey the message of guidance and salvation to others, we are receiving messages of whatever the world has to offer. To be beacons of the light of guidance is to be safest from the darkness of misguidance.

Islam is essentially a way of life. Therefore the best invitation to Islam is through actions, not through words. When people see Muslims living Islam, they will be attracted towards it. Words alone are not enough to invite people to Islam, especially if they see a contradiction between our words and our actions. Therefore the best form of Dawah is through our own practice of Islam in every aspect from worship (which is our relationship with Allah), to dealing with individuals & societies (which are our relationships with other human beings). These dealings include both in our interpersonal relationships and our business dealings.

If our worship and our relationships with human beings are both sound, then our Dawah is in line with the teachings of Islam and is effective. Otherwise, our Dawah is deficient and not very effective.

And Allah knows best.

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Avoiding Shirk & Bid’ah

Worshiping anyone aside from Allah in any way shape or form is shirk. Allah is the one and only God, and we must not direct our worship to anyone but Allah. Shirk is the only unforgivable sin in Islam, if one dies without repenting from it. Any other sin, can be forgiven at the discretion of Allah. Allah has informed us in the Quran:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا

Saheeh International English Translation: “Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray.” [the Quran, chapter 4 (an-Nisaa), verse 116]

Therefore it is supremely important for us to avoid shirk. Worship must only be directed to Allah. Not only that, we must not intend from our worship to show off or to gain respect or for any other reason other than to please Allah alone. Always, ensure our worship is performed for the sake of Allah alone. Make our intentions pure for every worship, reviewing it before, during and after our worship.

Bid’ah is doing our worship in any way shape or form other than the way shape or form that the Prophet (ﷺ) taught, did himself, recommended or approved.

Bid’ah worship is rejected no matter how much we do it, how focused or how sincerely we do it. Intentionally or unintentionally, we see a lot of worship done by Muslims that have no basis in the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ) but were innovated much much later by people that came afterwards. Therefore, it is very important to ascertain that the worship is as it was taught by the Prophet (ﷺ). Furthermore, every bid’ah is leads to misguidance and every misguidance leads to the hellfire:

أَخْبَرَنَا عُتْبَةُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، قَالَ أَنْبَأَنَا ابْنُ الْمُبَارَكِ، عَنْ سُفْيَانَ، عَنْ جَعْفَرِ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، قَالَ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ فِي خُطْبَتِهِ يَحْمَدُ اللَّهَ وَيُثْنِي عَلَيْهِ بِمَا هُوَ أَهْلُهُ ثُمَّ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ مَنْ يَهْدِهِ اللَّهُ فَلاَ مُضِلَّ لَهُ وَمَنْ يُضْلِلْهُ فَلاَ هَادِيَ لَهُ إِنَّ أَصْدَقَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابُ اللَّهِ وَأَحْسَنَ الْهَدْىِ هَدْىُ مُحَمَّدٍ وَشَرَّ الأُمُورِ مُحْدَثَاتُهَا وَكُلَّ مُحْدَثَةٍ بِدْعَةٌ وَكُلَّ بِدْعَةٍ ضَلاَلَةٌ وَكُلَّ ضَلاَلَةٍ فِي النَّارِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ بُعِثْتُ أَنَا وَالسَّاعَةُ كَهَاتَيْنِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ وَكَانَ إِذَا ذَكَرَ السَّاعَةَ احْمَرَّتْ وَجْنَتَاهُ وَعَلاَ صَوْتُهُ وَاشْتَدَّ غَضَبُهُ كَأَنَّهُ نَذِيرُ جَيْشٍ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ صَبَّحَكُمْ مَسَّاكُمْ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏”‏ مَنْ تَرَكَ مَالاً فَلأَهْلِهِ وَمَنْ تَرَكَ دَيْنًا أَوْ ضِيَاعًا فَإِلَىَّ أَوْ عَلَىَّ وَأَنَا أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ ‏”‏ ‏

It was narrated that Jabir bin ‘Abdullah said: “In his Khutbah the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to praise Allah as He deserves to be praised, then he would say: ‘Whomsoever Allah (SWT) guides, none can lead him astray, and whomsoever Allah sends astray, none can guide. The truest of word is the Book of Allah and best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The worst of things are those that are newly invented; every newly-invented thing is an innovation and every innovation is going astray, and every going astray is in the Fire.’ Then he said: ‘The Hour and I have been sent like these two.’ Whenever he mentioned the Hour, his cheeks would turn red, and he would raise his voice and become angry, as if he were warning of an approaching army and saying: ‘An army is coming to attack you in the morning, or in the evening!’ (Then he said): ‘Whoever leaves behind wealth, it is for his family, and whoever leaves behind a debt or dependents, then these are my responsibility, and I am the most entitled to take care of the believers.'”

And Allah knows best.

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