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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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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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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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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Arabic Learning Resources

So you’re finally convinced that you need to put some serious effort into learning Arabic for the purpose of understanding the Quran for the sake of Allah alone? Great, I’ve got just the resources for you to benefit from. Actually, links to resources you can readily download and start reaping the benefits from right away.

Learning Arabic isn’t super hard. It’s relatively easy. Particularly the Arabic you need to understand the Quran. The Arabic in the Quran is classical Arabic from the time of the Prophet (ﷺ). In the Quran, Allah says that He has made the Quran easy to understand. For everyone. Arabs, non-Arabs, Muslims, and non-Muslims alike. And this has exactly been my own experience. Once you put your mind to it, you can learn the Arabic that lets you grasp about 80% of the Quran fairly quickly. The somewhat more difficult passages/words are very few and do require some additional study and care, but it can be done within a short period of time, with the help of Allah.

Arabic language learning builds upon itself. Each level of study represents a building block. If you develop a good foundation in Arabic, inshaaAllah you will benefit from it the rest of your life. Spend enough time learning the Arabic alphabet from a qualified teacher. This will ensure you get the right pronunciation and recognize and articulate each letter properly.

Here’s my personal recommendation for the sequence of study for Arabic: if you’re an absolute beginner, start at the very beginning. If you can already read Arabic, skip to the next steps accordingly.

1) The Arabic Alphabet
2) How to join the letters to form words

These are the foundations of the Arabic language. Learn these well to build the rest of your Arabic language learning on a strong foundation. I recommend using Imam Zia’s Quran & Arabic for Absolute Beginners course (available on YouTube for FREE) for this purpose. It’s a good refresher even if you already know most of this material.

3) About the Sentence Structure and Grammar

The best course for learning Arabic, Grammar and Vocabulary, based on my experience, is the Madina Arabic Course which follows the famous books/workbooks etc. The best class for this course that is taught in English is on YouTube:

You can download the books here:

Courses

4) Learning to read with Tajweed

Tajweed is the proper way of reciting the Quran according to the correct rules. The Best course that I know of for learning Tajweed is available on YouTube:

5) The vocabulary of the Quran

There are some wonderful resources available for learning the words used in the Quran. Take a look at these:

http://kalamullah.com/word-for-word-meaning-of-quran.html

http://kalamullah.com/vocabulary-of-quran.html

http://kalamullah.com/language-of-quran.html

6) The meanings and Tafseer

Finally, bringing all of the above together, we strive to learn the meanings and the Tafseer of the Quran. One of the most accessible and best ones of the classical Tafseer is by Ibn Katheer Rahimahullah:

http://kalamullah.com/tafsir-ibn-kathir.html

If you find this blog useful, be sure to not have all the fun by your lonesome self but share with all the people you care about, like and subscribe to my blog. That way you won’t miss updates to the blog. JazakAllah Khair!

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How to Get Our Hearts at Peaceful Rest

We all cherish peace of mind. Indeed we all need it. And when we are not at peace with whatever, we crave that peace of mind with all of our body and soul. We have such a big need for it as human beings. So it is only natural that our Creator, Sustainer God has given us precise instructions of how to get this peace and tranquility that our hearts desire so much. We find these instructions in the Quran and the Sunnah.

The Quran tells us that the real peace that our hearts desire is found in the remembrance of Allah. Not meaningless utterances of remembrance but conscious, meaningful remembrance of Allah. Our hearts do indeed find peaceful rest in Allah’s remembrance. Allah explains this in the Quran in this famous verse:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

Saheeh International Translation: Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.

Obviously, a pre-requisite to all this is to have full faith in Allah alone. In order to have proper faith in Allah, learn about Allah and remember Allah with the proper etiquette. The remembrance of Allah is in the five daily prayers, the recitation of the Quran with meaning, the many duaa and zikr that have been related to us by the Prophet (ﷺ) during his life and recorded by his companions. These remembrances are readily available in authentic books of Azkaar and Duaa. Read them after learning their meanings. Read them daily during the mornings and during the evenings. Pray the five daily prayers on time. Recite the Quran daily even if just a little bit, with understanding. Once we establish a connection with our Lord, we will definitely have discovered the peace that our hearts so desire.

Without this peace of mind, peace of heart, peace in general, we feel that queasy feeling of being disturbed to our core. This feeling has nothing to do with material possessions, health or even family. This is much deeper than that. We could have all the wealth in the world, be healthy and have a loving family around us, we would still not be at peace in our core if we don’t have the guidance to have faith in Allah. This might be hard to imagine for some but it is the God honest truth.

And Allah knows best.

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Reading the Quran Daily With Understanding

I advise myself and you all to make reading Quran daily with understanding a part of life. Even if it’s just a little bit daily, do read it. Regularly. And read it with understanding. Just as we feed our bodies daily with food, Alhamdulillah, we need to feed our souls. Therefore, don’t delay and start today. Reading the Quran daily with understanding will help us be connected with our Creator & our Sustainer Allah. The goal is to establish a lifelong relationship with the Quran so we are familiar with the Quran enough to go to it first for answers, guidance, comfort and to make sense of this life.

In order to do this successfully, we definitely need to know enough Arabic to understand the Quran properly. Start today on the journey to learn Arabic. Everything we do in order to get closer to the book of Allah, the Quran, we are rewarded for it. I shall provide a list of ready to use resources for learning Arabic in an upcoming blog post.

Quran is not read like other books (not like a story book or a science book). The Quran is read with an intention to listen and obey. To seek to understand. To find answers to our questions. To seek comfort knowing that the Quran is the actual speech of Allah, our Creator, Sustainer God.

Seeking knowledge is a great form of worship. What is a life that is lived without learning the purpose of our own existence but groping in the darkness of ignorance? All the answers to what ails individuals and society are present in the Quran. We should refer to the Quran for answers to our deepest questions such as “Who created me?” Or “Why was I created?” are answered in the Quran. If we refer to other sources for answers to these questions, then we will definitely go astray. May Allah protect us all from misguidance.

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Why Study the Quran?

The Quran is not like any other book. It is the last of the revealed books of Allah sent to mankind with guidance. It was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), sent down with the angel Gabriel over a period of twenty three years. The Quran was revealed in an oral form, memorized and written down by the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ). The Quran is not a book of history although it contains some history. The Quran is not a book of science even though it contains some scientific facts. The Quran is not a book you can read cover to cover as you read a novel or a book written by human beings. The Quran is a miraculous book that contains the actual speech of Allah.

The Quran is in the Arabic language. One of the first miracles of the Quran is the language it uses. Moses came at a time when magic was at its peak. Moses was granted a miraculous staff from Allah which turned into a serpent at times and parted the Red Sea at another instance. Jesus came at a time when medicine was at its peak and he surprised everyone when he was able to heal the sick and make the dead come back to life through his God given miracles. Similarly, the Quran was revealed at a time when poetry was at its peak in the Arabian peninsula and it overwhelmed everyone that heard it being recited. The Quran has posed a challenge to have someone reproduce even a chapter like the one contained in it. In over 14 centuries, no one has been able to take up that challenge and come up with anything that rivals a chapter from the Quran.

The Quran contains various themes that all focus on guiding humanity to live life on this earth as Allah intended us to live. There are verses that talk about the previous generations of human beings and the Prophets (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of them) that were sent to them over the many centuries. The Quran also talks about the signs of Allah in His creations, forcing people to think about how everything came into existence. The Quran also speaks about how human beings will be raised on the Day of Judgement and about the pleasures in store in Heaven and the torments of the Hellfire. The Quran also tells us how to live life, explaining legal matters for everything from marriage and divorce to business dealings and criminal justice. In other words, it has everything needed for individuals and societies to lead a life according to God’s will.

And Allah knows best.

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Remembering Allah Daily

Remembrance of Allah is where our hearts truly find peace. A Muslim remembers Allah daily numerous times throughout the day and night. Remembering Allah daily helps us remember what our place in this universe really is. It also helps us to remember that we rely on Allah for everything. If Allah wills it, we will live another day. When Allah wills it we will leave this temporary worldly life. We are not created for this world but for a very powerful purpose: the everlasting life in the hereafter, i.e. after our death in this life, when we are resurrected, we will never cease to exist. So we remember Allah often. Many times daily, in fact.

First and foremost are the five daily prayers which are spread out throughout the day to ensure that our hearts are connected to the Creator throughout our lives. We also remember Allah through the recitation of the Quran. This is a way to converse with Allah since the Quran is the speech of Allah. Furthermore, we have supplications (duaa) for everything we do: for waking up, for entering or exiting the washroom, for eating and drinking, for going changing outfits, for going out of the house, for traveling, for entering or leaving the masjid (mosque) and for everything in between. In addition to all these, we are encouraged to supplicate morning and evening with the recommended duaa and azkaar that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to supplicate with. These supplications are meant to ask Allah for help for our daily affairs, protection from evil and to be able to be good Muslims.

Remembering Allah in the morning with these supplications (known as Azkaar as-Sabaah or the morning reminders) helps us start off our day right. Remembering Allah in the evening before we go to sleep (known as Azkaar al-Masaa’ or the night reminders) to go to sleep with the consciousness that Allah is our Creator and Sustainer God.

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Reading the Entire Quran in a Month

Establishing a relationship with the Quran is a lifelong ambition for every Muslim. Establishing a relationship includes learning to recite the Quran properly. With Tajweed rules. It also means learning the Arabic language to understand the Quran in its original language. It also encompasses studying from an authentic Tafseer to truly understand the Quran according to the understanding conveyed by the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). It also means reading from books of the Seerah (or the biography) of the Prophet (ﷺ) to understand the context in which the Quran was revealed. It also includes investing our time in reading through authentic Hadith collections to understand and implement the message contained in the Quran as shown by the Prophet (ﷺ) in his life.

Reciting the Quran is an act of worship for us. It is important to recite some part of the Quran everyday. As I just mentioned, this is only one aspect of the relationship we should establish with the Quran while working on the other aspects as well. InshaaAllah (God willing) if we start with daily recitations, we would begin this relationship and soon we can take it to the next level. If we learn one Juz (1/30th of the Quran), daily we can finish a reading of the Quran in a month, every month. This will give us a level of relationship with the Quran: we would be able to recite the Quran fluently by doing so for a year or more.

We should each look at our own progress and try to take it to the next level. If we are an absolute beginner, learn the Arabic alphabet, learn to pronounce the letters properly and learn how to read the Quran. That would be the first step that we should take. If we already know how to read, learn Tajweed (the proper way of reciting the Quran). We should also strive to memorize some of the Quran as it is needed in our daily prayers. Next, we should also learn enough Arabic to understand the Quran without relying on the translation. There are courses available that teach you Arabic just for the purpose of understanding the meanings of what we read in the Quran. Take those courses. Furthermore, we should invest our time to the other aspects of a stronger relationship with the Quran.

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