Why Study the Seerah

The Seerah refers to the study of the blessed life of the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (ﷺ) may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. The reason for studying his life is obvious: he is the Prophet of Allah who brought Islam to us. The Quran was revealed to him. He explained Islam to us. Allah commanded us in the Quran to obey Him and His Messenger (ﷺ). Therefore, it is our religious obligation as Muslims to learn about our Prophet (ﷺ) and what he taught and follow his teachings in order to succeed in this life and in the hereafter.

He (ﷺ) implemented Islam in his own life and showed it to the companions who also followed his examples. They meticulously recorded his sayings, his habits, his likes and dislikes, his approvals and disapprovals, his orders and his prohibitions. They even recorded how he looked, how he dressed, how he handled himself, how he behaved with different people, how he was as a husband, how he was as a father, how he was as a leader, how he was as a friend, how he was as a human being. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

The Quran as well as the Hadith contain details of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) life. To really understand what Islam is, we have to take a deep dive into the study of the Seerah. We need to learn the background, the culture, the time, the tradition, the language and the circumstances in which the Prophet (ﷺ) was sent to really understand the message he brought. The more we study the life of the Mercy to the Worlds (ﷺ), the more we love him. The more we learn about what he went through, how he dealt with every situation in his life, what his comforting words to the companions were in every situation, the more we can’t help but love him (ﷺ).

Just like with the study of the Tafseer and any other study in Islam, it is important to study it from the most authentic sources available to us and not fall victim to propaganda of the Orientalist writings which consist of numerous texts readily available nowadays that were written in an attempt to misguide the masses and misinform them. So we should be careful and weed out the bad stuff and focus on the writings of the Muslim scholars. A lot of these authentic texts have been translated into English as well as other languages globally so they are accessible even if you don’t yet read Arabic.

 

And Allah knows best.

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Avoiding Misinterpretations of the Quran

The Quran is a fundamental source of Islamic knowledge. The Hadith which includes the sayings and recorded actions of the Prophet (ﷺ) among other things, closely follow the Quran as the second fundamental source of Islamic knowledge. Early scholars have done a great service to Islam to meticulously collect and authenticate the Hadith. They actually developed a science of Hadith authentication that is not found in any other literature religious or otherwise, specially from that long ago. Furthermore, early scholars also wrote Tafseer (exegesis or the explanation) of the Quran. Classical Tafseer also rely on the Hadith and Athaar (sayings of the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ).

In other words, simply picking up an Oxford printing of the translation of the Quran into English by an Western Orientalist author does not convey the real meaning of the Quran to anyone.

To understand and interpret the message of the Quran accurately, one has to find out what the Arabic words meant (i.e. the linguistic and cultural context of the people of Quraish tribe in Mecca at that time), the reasons of revelation (the historical context within which the verses were revealed), what the Prophet (ﷺ) said about the revelation and how the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) understood it (recorded in the books of Hadith) and how the early scholars explained it (recorded in the books of classical Tafseer).

Trying to interpret the Quran any other way would result in misinterpretations. It makes no sense to base our understanding of the Quran on the explanation of people who neither know the Arabic language nor rely on the classical Tafseer and authentic Hadith collections. Yet we see a lot of people doing just that. May Allah protect us all from misguidance.

In the next chapter, I’ll write in more detail about the importance of relying on Hadith to arrive at the correct understanding of the Quran and hence getting an accurate picture of Islam as a whole.

And Allah knows best.

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How to develop a relationship with the Quran

Developing a relationship with the Quran is very important for every single Muslim. A properly meaningful relationship with the Quran requires learning to read it, learning enough Arabic to understand it in its original Arabic without relying on a translation and reading it on a regular basis and reflecting upon what has been read. Furthermore, it requires that what is read and learned from the Quran is implemented in our own lives because that is truly what it’s for. Finally, it also requires that we relay what we have learned to others in a manner that is prescribed in the Quran itself as well as the Sunnah/Hadith.

Yet it is not prioritized as such by many people. Many Muslims simply don’t read the Quran regularly. And those that do read it, read it without really reflecting on what is being said. This is a direct consequence of not knowing Arabic. The miraculous verses of the Quran do not have any affect on the reader if they are not even making an effort to understand what it says. Reading with understanding is not optional. Reading the Quran without understanding is like reading a novel or a newspaper in a foreign language that one doesn’t understand.

A lot of Muslims simply read the Quran to get the reward of reading. Although, it is true that there is a reward for reading the Quran (it is one of the great forms of worship in Islam), the purpose of the Quran is totally missed by simply reading. The purpose of the revelation of the Quran is to serve as the source of guidance for mankind. But that guidance is not attained by simply reading it without understanding it. Quranic guidance is attained from reading and reflecting on the verses.

Often the reading is not even done properly. Many Muslims simply read the Quran without pronouncing the words correctly and it ends up not making sense or the meanings are changed. In that respect even the reward from merely reading the Quran is lost. Therefore it is important to learn to read it properly as well. Another reason is for our daily prayers. If we are not able to read the Quran properly, our prayers are deficient as well.

Therefore, learning to read the Quran properly and reading it with understanding (knowing enough Arabic to understand what we read in the Quran) are absolutely essential first steps to creating and maintaining relationship with the Quran. Without reading with understanding, a true and meaningful relationship with the Quran is not possible. Next, implementing what is learned from the Quran in our lives. Finally, relaying that knowledge to others in the prescribed manner to the best of our ability. If we do these, then we can expect to reap the benefits of the guidance that is promised from the Quran not to mention the eternal reward that is promised in the hereafter for people of the Quran, with the permission of Allah.

And Allah knows best.

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The reasons for studying the Quran & Tafseer

The reason for studying the Quran & its correct interpretation (the Tafseer) is obvious: the Quran is one of the two fundamental textual sources of Islamic knowledge. The other fundamental textual source is the Hadith literature which will discuss in the next chapter. Being the main source for knowledge it behooves us as Muslims and specially as students of knowledge to learn as much from the Quran and its authentic Tafseer or the correct interpretation as possible. For that end, learning Arabic is a fundamental requirement, as was discussed in the last chapter.

Learning the Quran has many aspects.

There are many areas of study when it comes to the Quran. Learning to read the Quran properly is from the knowledge of Tajweed (proper recitation with the correct pronunciation rules). Learning the meanings of words comes from the knowledge of the Arabic of the Quraish tribes in Mecca in Arabia at the time when the Quran was revealed. Learning the reasons of revelations is derived from the Hadith concerning the Asbaab un Nuzool to provide the correct historical context and the events that occurred at the time and the people that the verses may have been addressing and so on around the time of the revelation. Learning the true meanings and application of the text of the Quran comes from the many authentic traditions found in the Hadith where the Prophet (ﷺ) himself explained the meanings of the verses revealed to the companions who recorded, related and passed down the information to be collected later on in the Hadith collections. All of these areas of study serve to provide a complete understanding of the Quran. Failing to take any of these into account could potentially result in a deficient or partial or even incorrect understanding of the Quran.

And Allah knows best.

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Seeking Forgiveness

Everyone sins. The best of those who sin are those who seek forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness is a great virtue. Allah loves those who seek forgiveness. And Allah does not love those who are too arrogant to seek forgiveness or are too heedless to know that they need to seek forgiveness for all their sins. Knowing this, we should hasten to seek forgiveness whenever we fall into sin. Forgiveness demands that we are thinking about Allah on a regular basis, in fact constantly. Otherwise, we will forget and go about our lives as if it doesn’t mean anything. Seeking forgiveness sincerely is the equivalent of wiping the sins off our record of deeds to clean them as though they never ever existed. But the condition is that the person is sincerely seeking forgiveness and not just showing off or something. And obviously, forgiveness only has meaning when sought while the person is still alive. Once the person has passed on, the chance to seek forgiveness is not there anymore.

The essence of forgiveness is remorse for doing or saying something that we are not allowed to do or say and begs Allah sincerely for forgiveness. Additionally, seeking forgiveness requires that the person who has fallen into sin make a determination to not to fall into that sin and takes certain actions to prevent falling into that sin (perhaps moving from that location or changing jobs etc.).

Sins can fall into two categories: sinning against Allah and sinning against fellow human beings (or other creatures). Sinning against Allah includes not obeying His commands (or whatever the Prophet (ﷺ) has commanded us) to do something (for instance, the command to pray five times daily or to fast from sun up to sun down during the month of Ramadan every year etc.). Sinning against Allah also includes doing something that Allah (or His Messenger (ﷺ)) has commanded us not to do (for instance to eat pork or drink alcoholic beverages or to not cover our bodies properly etc.). Sinning against fellow human beings includes everything from lying to people, stealing from people, tricking or cheating people while doing business, hurting people in any way shape or form be it through our words or bodily harm etc.

To seek forgiveness from the first kind of sins, one simply has to feel remorse, ask that Allah forgive him or her and stop falling into it immediately and make amends to ensure not falling into it again. To seek forgiveness from the second kind of sins, one has to additionally seek forgiveness from the people whom they sinned against (returning the stolen property for example). Without this additional action, the forgiveness is incomplete. If for instance, it is not possible to ask the person wronged for forgiveness (because they moved or died) or impossible to return the stolen property because the property is destroyed or no longer in possession of it, then they have to make duaa for the one they have wronged.

Seeking forgiveness is serious business in Islam. If one doesn’t seek forgiveness from Allah or from the people wronged, it is possible that they will need to be recompensed for it in the hereafter. They may end up being punished in the hereafter or Allah may forgive them due to the other good deeds that they performed. Wronging someone is particularly serious because as a result of wronging them, we may end up having to give them our good deeds on the Day of Judgment. So don’t delay, seek forgiveness immediately while we are still breathing. We don’t know how much time we have on Earth so we cannot afford to delay it even for a single day. May Allah give us all the ability to recognize the importance of seeking forgiveness and the ability to seek forgiveness before we die.

And Allah knows best.

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Why is it necessary to learn Arabic

Learning Arabic is a necessity for Muslims. This is because the Quran and the Sunnah, which form two of the most fundamental sources of Islamic knowledge are in the Arabic language. Of course, these primary sources of Islamic knowledge have already been translated into virtually every language there is. But the reality is that you only get the full and correct understanding of Quran and Sunnah in the Arabic language. Translation loses its essence.

Therefore, in order to understand the religion properly, the Arabic language is a pre-requisite. In other words, a person’s understanding of Islam is not complete if they rely solely on translations. Not only does it not suffice to read the translation for a complete understanding, but it is very likely to misunderstand Islam when all of our knowledge base is based on translated text. This is specially true if the person who did the translation does not himself or herself know Arabic that well. So now you have a very twisted understanding from what was originally intended.

Most Muslims have taken this very lightly and think that it is totally optional to learn Arabic. We should realize that we are only limiting ourselves when we assume that learning Arabic for the purpose of understanding the Quran and Hadith is not required. Every able Muslim should make every possible effort to learn the Arabic language for the sake of seeking a more complete and authentic understanding of Islam.

There are many people teaching Arabic at various mosques or schools around the world. Concerned Muslims do find a way to organize Arabic classes in their locality if at all possible. Additionally, with the internet and social media, there are numerous resources for learning the Arabic language available online these days. Interested Muslims can and should take advantage of the many opportunities for learning Arabic online. If it’s important to you, you will find a way. Learning Arabic is the most important basic knowledge areas that every Muslim should invest in.

And Allah knows best.

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Studying the Seerah

The study of the Seerah is an essential knowledge area for every Muslim. The more a person learns about the Seerah the better his or her understanding of Islam will be. Allah sent the Prophet (ﷺ) as a guide to human beings until the Day of Judgment. He revealed the Quran gradually over a period of twenty three years to the Prophet (ﷺ). The Quran and the Seerah are connected in a way that the Quran was not revealed as a complete book all at once, rather it was revealed according to the time, place and situation that was suitable for its revelation. Therefore a study of the Quran without an understanding of the Seerah is never complete or accurate.

This is largely because the Seerah provides a context and therefore a proper understanding of the Quran. The reasons for revelation of the verses, the time, the place and how the Prophet (ﷺ) explained the verses is often recorded in authentic Hadith. Together, they form a complete picture for the understanding of Islam. Leaving one of these components out will result in an incomplete picture of Islam. This is another reason why the Hadith is an important primary source of Islamic knowledge right after the Quran. Without a complete picture, the Quran maybe interpreted incorrectly and understood differently than what was intended. This misinterpretation would not be possible if the Hadith or Sunnah and the Seerah were used to provide the context required for the correct understanding. Often the reason for the many deviations that appeared in the Ummah is the rejection of the Hadith by the people.

The source for the Seerah is Hadith and Aathar (recorded sayings of the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ). The verses of the Quran often leave out the details of events that were the reasons for the revelation. The background of the events are recorded meticulously in the Hadith and the Aathar.

And Allah knows best.

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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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