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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Quality Over Quantity in Worship

Generally speaking, quality is overwhelmingly more important than quantity. Quantity is also important but there is no comparison between the two. This is because, if the required quality is not present, it really doesn’t matter how much of it we have. For instance, if we serve food to a thousand people, but the food is not fit to eat (maybe it is made with rotten ingredients), it has no value and must be discarded. Similarly, if we pray all day long without regard to how we pray, our prayers are maybe of no value at all.

Mediocrity is ubiquitous. Excellence is rare. In my opinion, it is exponentially more important to focus on the quality than quantity. Particularly when it comes to worship. Making sure our worship is of the highest quality possible is essential. Quality in worship has two primary components. Our worship must be done for the sake of Allah alone. And our worship must be done in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ). These two components are mandatory conditions for the acceptance of any worship. Worship done for other than Allah or done in a manner not according to the Sunnah, is rejected. It may even be a cause of humiliation on the Day of Judgment.

In addition to meeting these two conditions, the level of Khushoo & Khudhoo (concentration), Taqwa (God consciousness), humility and love for Allah determines the quality of our worship. If this quality is not there at all, there is hardly any value left in the prayer. The obligation to pray the mandatory prayer is met when a prayer is performed but the rewards that are promised in this world and the hereafter cannot be attained from a prayer that lacks quality altogether. The more effort we put in attaining a better level of our worship, the more quality and hence the more value it is for us in the hereafter.

And Allah knows best.

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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 A Book a Month

I’m trying my hardest to read a book a month. This month I have finished reading Dr. Israr Ahmed’s (May Allah have Mercy on his soul) book Rasul-e-Kamil (in Urdu). Although the book is only about a hundred pages, it packs the essence of the life of the Prophet (ﷺ) highlighting his special purpose in this world. Allah sent him as a mercy to mankind. His character, his example and his being in and of itself was such a supreme example of what Allah wants every one of us to aspire to. He lived a humble life and brought the Message of Allah through the Quran. He also lived the Quran so we have an example to follow.

This book is about the life and times of the last Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This is known as a book of Seerah (or the biography of the blessed Prophet (ﷺ) of Allah). Although I have read a few books on the Seerah already, it is always beneficial to read more. I recommend reading a book on the Seerah once every year. I also recommend everyone read a book of Tafseer every year. This is to keep us connected to the book of Allah (the Quran) and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).

Islam has two fundamental sources. The Quran and the Sunnah. The Sunnah is stored in the collections of authentic Hadith. The Seerah contains the biography of the Prophet (ﷺ) from these two sources. The Quran, Sunnah and Seerah of the Prophet give us the complete context for understanding the message of Islam. Taking any of these sources in isolation will only create an incomplete understanding of Islam. An incomplete understanding is usually an incorrect understanding and can lead people in the wrong direction. May Allah protect us from an incorrect understanding of Islam.

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How do I start learning the Quran?

The Quran is a divinely revealed book containing the speech of Allah as revealed to the Prophet (ﷺ) by the angel Gabriel (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It is a special book. Every Muslim should aspire to learn and make it their most important project in life. Learning the Quran is a lifelong journey. Everything you learn in your journey toward learning to read and understand the Quran for the purpose of getting closer to Allah and understanding the religion of Islam is rewardable. There are numerous rewards, but that’s a different blog post. For this post, I’m outlining what I believe to be the essential steps for learning the Quran. Start from the very beginning, in the following order:

1-The Arabic Alphabet – learn the names, shapes & how to pronounce each alphabet properly. Apart from the individual letters, learn how to join the letters with vowels to form complete words. This will be very handy to have done early in your journey as everything will build on top of this. Make sure you get it right the first time, with as good a teacher as you can possibly find. This will be the foundation. Consider this successfully completed if you can read the Quran.

2-The Tajweed Rules – learn the rules of Tajweed to truly understand proper pronunciation of the letters correctly when reciting the Quran. Simply learning to read is not enough, learning to read with the rules of Tajweed is mandatory for properly reciting the book of Allah. Tajweed rules should be learned with the help of a qualified teacher.

3-The Arabic Language – learn enough Arabic to be able to understand the Quran in its original language instead of relying on translations. It isn’t hard, ANYONE can do it if they put enough effort into it. There are courses available for this, so it’s a great idea to enroll in one of those and learn it properly.

4-Tafseer – learn the meanings of the Quran by studying from a basic Tafseer, something like the popular Tafseer of Ibn Katheer. A well written Tafseer relies on the authentic Hadith and the Quran itself to explain the Quran. Tafseer that doesn’t rely on Quran & Hadith should be avoided. Ideally this should be read in its original Arabic but if that’s not possible, there are translations available in English, Urdu and possibly other languages as well.

5-Bringing it all together – Once you have learned to read with Tajweed, have learned enough Arabic to know the meanings of what you’re reciting, have invested enough time to study from a reliable work of Tafseer, then you are truly on the path to understanding Islam inshaaAllah. You still need to refer to the Hadith, Sunnah and the works of the Seerah (the recorded works contain authentic descriptions, actions and sayings of the Prophet (ﷺ)  as well as his blessed life to bring it all together.

May you find the journey of Quran studies be an easy and fruitful one. Ameen.

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Top 10 Preparation Ideas for Ramadan 1437 AH

Want to make this Ramadan different? Want to be productive? Feel the need to lift up your spirituality? Make your plan for it and set these awesome goals this Ramadan! Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

🌜Pre Ramadan practical planning🌛

1) Get Your Eid Clothes and Eid Gifts Ready now so you don’t have to be in shopping malls during the precious Ramadan days and nights.

2) Analyze Yourself and Your Routine. Optimize your high energy levels.

3) Organize Your Dua List and supplicate the same important duas daily.

4) Increase Your Stamina: Start eating less from now. Train yourself to stay hungry for a little more time each day. Exercise. Get physically and mentally pumped up for the hard work in accumulating reward by focusing on good deeds throughout the month.

5) Make a Goal List: Make realistic goals of how much Qur’an you want to read in a day, how much charity can you give daily etc.

6) Declutter: Simplify your room, your work area, hour house. Remove any unnecessary items that may distract you. A cleaner environment can add to the peace and calm.

7) Limit Social Media: A good tip is to remove Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and other such apps from your phone. Mute your Whatsapp groups and chats so you don’t get the urge to respond throughout the day. If it’s important, they’ll call you, otherwise it can wait.

8) Start listening to the Fiqh of Fasting, Virtues of Ramadan and other such lectures daily to get in the ibaadah mode.

9) Manage your sleeping Habits: the Nights of Ramadan are the best times of making Duaa and getting closer to our Creator. Don’t waste time watching TV and sleeping late.

10) Reach out to your family, friends and loved ones. You should really be doing this throughout the year but it becomes ever more important to engage with the family and friends now to get them into the Ramadan spirit as well.

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