Category Archives: How to study

The student of knowledge proceeds on his journey of gaining knowledge in the correct stepwise manner, beginning with memorisation of the Qur-aan

With regards to the importance of the student of knowledge gaining knowledge in the correct stepwise manner, `Abdus Salaam ibn Burjis (d.1425AH) rahimahullaah comments:

So the first (stage) of knowledge is: memorization of the Book of Allaah, the Majestic and Mighty, and working to gain understanding of it.

And everything that helps in understanding it, then it is is waajib (obligatory) to seek after that.

And I am not saying that memorizing all of it is fard but rather I do say that indeed that is obligatory, binding upon who loves to become an ‘aalim (scholar), but not by way of being fard (on every Muslim).

So whoever memorises it before his reaching maturity, then devotes himself to that which he will use to help him understand it  -  from the Arabic language, then that will be an enormous help for him in that which he wants from it – and from the sunnahs of the Messenger of Allaah sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.

Then he looks to the abrogating (aayaat) of the Qur-aan and its (aayaat) which are abrogated and its rulings; and he stops at the differing of the scholars and their agreement in that; and it is a matter which is easily understood for the one whom Allaah grants ease in understanding it to.

Then he looks to the Sunnahs which are authentically transmitted from the Messenger of Allaah sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. So through these, the student arrives at that which Allaah, the Majestic and Mighty, intended in His Book. And these will open up for him the rulings of the Qur-aan.

And in the life of the Messenger of Allaah sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam there is information which draws attention to many of the abrogating and abrogated issues in the Sunnah.

Quoted in ‘Awaa-iq ut talab of ‘Abdus Salaam ibn Burjiss rahimahullaah pages 30-31, translated by Nasser ibn Najam

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Taking knowledge from our elders i.e. from the senior scholars

With regards to people seeking knowledge from the youngsters at the expense of seeking it from the senior scholars, `Abdus Salaam ibn Burjis (d.1425AH)  rahimahullaah comments:

And indeed the phenomenon of taking knowledge from the younger ones amongst the students of knowledge has become widespread in this era.

And in reality this phenomenon is a chronic disease, an enduring sickness, preventing the (true) student from what he intends and something by which he twists away from the correct path which would lead to knowledge.

And that is because taking knowledge from the younger people – those whose feet have not become firmly grounded in knowledge and whose beards have not become white in it (seeking knowledge), despite the presence of a person who is greater than them in age and one whose feet are more firmly grounded – then this weakens the foundation of the beginner and prevents him from taking benefit from the knowledge of the senior scholars, and from acquiring their manners which knowledge and time have made good – and other than that from the justifications that are suggested by the narration of ibn Mas`ood radi Allaahu `anhu when he said:

“The people will not cease to be upon good as long as they take knowledge from their senior ones and from their trustworthy ones and from their scholars.

So if they take it from their younger ones and their evil ones, they will be destroyed.”

Quoted in ‘Awaa-iq ut talab of ‘Abdus Salaam ibn Burjiss rahimahullaah page 23, translated by Nasser ibn Najam

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Imam ibn al Mubaarak on the seeking of knowledge

The renowned scholar of hadeeth, ‘Abdullaah ibn al Mubaarak  (died 181 AH) rahimahullaah said:

“The beginning of al ‘ilm (knowledge) is the intention,

then listening carefully,

then understanding,

then memorising,

then action,

then propagating.”

And he rahimahullaah also said:

“There is nothing more excellent than seeking knowledge for the sake of Allaah.

And there is nothing more hateful to Allaah than seeking knowledge for other than Allaah.”

Quoted in ‘Awaa-iq ut talab of ‘Abdus Salaam ibn Burjiss rahimahullaah pages 11 to 12, translated by Nasser ibn Najam

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The student of knowledge is in need of a teacher

With regards to the student of knowledge needing to have a teacher, the Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah comments:

And there is no doubt that the teachers will be questioned about the students because they are their shepherds; and every person is a shepherd and will be questioned about his flock.

The students are in need of the teachers and the scholars with regards to direction and guidance because the scholars have gained experience from matters which the students have not. And with them are (aspects) of knowledge which the students do not have.

Therefore the student is in need of the teacher from the aspect of knowledge and the aspect of actions (which bring about) experience.

Thus it is binding upon him to have the utmost eagerness to select the teachers who are known for knowledge and who are known for trustworthiness and religion, and known for their sound methodology and for their tending (to matters) in a correct way such that he can take from their knowledge firstly, then from their manhaj secondly.

Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ‘ilm pages 199-200 by Nasser ibn Najam

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The student of knowledge is known for his attention to memorising and understanding the Qur-aan

With regards to the books that the student of knowledge must work hard to memorise and understand, the Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah comments in response to the question :

What are the books which you advise (us) to read and memorise, and what are the books you advise (us) to not read and have a grasp of?

The answer:

This cannot be said except by a person who has read all the books in the world, and knows what is (to be) read and what is not (to be) read. And this is not within my capability.

However I will say that the most important book which a person memorises and reflects on and of which he knows the meaning is: the Book of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.

Upon you is the Book of Allaah, memorising and understanding and acting (upon it) and in terms of manners.

Indeed the character of the Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam was the Qur-aan; and the Qur-aan was sent down to the people so that they might reflect upon its aayaat and so that the men of understanding might remember– just as Allaah, the Blessed and Most High, said:

A Book which We have sent down to you, full of blessings, so that they may ponder over its aayaat and so that men of understanding may remember.[1]

And the Companions did not used to go beyond ten aayaat until they had learned them and what they contained by way of knowledge and action.They said, “So we learned the Qur-aan, knowledge and action together.”

Upon you is the Book of Allaah, then the authentic Sunnah of His Messenger sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa ‘alaa aalihi wa sallam.

And it is known that there is ascribed to the Sunnah that which is not authentic, but Allaah has sent scholars – and all praise is for Allaah – to clarify what is authentic from it from that which is not authentic.

So perhaps you could memorise Umdat ul ahkaam or Buloogh ul maraam, so that you have a portion of the Prophetic Sunnah with you. Then (also) the books of creed and belief, such as al ‘Aqeedah al waasitiyyah of Shaykh ul Islaam ibn Taymiyyah, and the books of Tawheed such as Kitaab ut Tawheed of Shaykh ul Islaam Muhammad ibn ‘Abdil Wahhaab, and so on.

And it is a must that the student of knowledge has with him a scholar to whom he can read so that he (the scholar) can guide him to that which he sees to be best.

Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ‘ilm pages 265 – 266, translated by Nasser ibn Najam


[1] Soorah Saad (38) aayah 29

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Knowledge slips away from the person who does not strive in studying

The noble scholar Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah said, addressing students at the Imam Muhammad ibn Sa’ood Islamic University at al Qaseem on 25th Jumaada al Oolaa, 1417AH:

At this moment you are in this place at (your) differing levels – from them the high (levels) and from them lesser than that.

However regardless of where the person reaches in knowledge, then he is (still) in need of knowledge – as per the statement of Allaah, the Blessed and Most High:

But over all those endowed with knowledge is the All Knowing One (Allaah).

Soorah Yoosuf (12) aayah 76

Therefore I urge you to have a general eagerness in pursuing (your) studies; and that you know with certain knowledge that the person who does not strive with all his efforts in attaining knowledge, then knowledge in its entirety will slip away from him.

And therefore it is said: indeed knowledge is the most miserly thing there is! For if you give it your all, you will attain (only) some of it; and if you give it only some (of your all), then it will elude you entirely.

And therefore I urge you, O young people, to have a complete eagerness for knowledge.

(Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ‘ilm pp 139 to 140, translated by Nasser ibn Najam)

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How to approach a long set of Questions and Answers

You need a good few months to work through any of the study guides, although some are longer than others.

If it is your first time studying this way, it is easy to be daunted by the length of these study guides. One way to work through them is to break them down into smaller chunks. If you choose chunks of 5 pages per study session, a 230 page set of questions and answers (for example Lumatul Ittiqaad) would take under a year (46 weeks) to work through.

Each session, you can work through those 5 pages two of three times over. By the third time through, you will know the information well inshaa Allaah, so the next week you can move on to the next 5 pages.

If you are listening to audio lessons that the Q&A accompany, then these are all roughly the same length (normally around 45 minutes), and you can stick to one lesson per study session. At first, it may seem a little unambitious, but consistency is what is important.  Increase it only if you can manage one audio lesson per week.

“The deeds most beloved to Allaah are those that are continuous, even if they be small.” (hadeeth, reported by al Bukhari, Book of Eemaan) so do not be put off by doing things little by little, so long as you are regular – the same hour every week, week after week.

Before you realise it, you will have actually covered a great deal of information inshaa Allaah. You might consider dedicating certain sessions for revision, perhaps every fifth lesson.

I would be interested to hear of your experiences of studying, both the things that worked well for you as well as the things that did not work so well, so that we can all learn from that inshaa Allaah.

May Allaah, the Perfect and Most High, enable us to learn His Religion, act on it, call others to it and be patient upon doing that – aameen.

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No distractions

This is practical advice now from me. I find that short study sessions work well; about 45 minutes is ideal. Rather than making people bored, it leaves everyone wanting more.

But it only works if that 45 minutes is dedicated solely to study. That means:

  • no mobile phones
  • no young children if possible (e.g. study when they are at school/nursery/playing in the garden)
  • no chatting – it is a study session not a social event
  • no eating and drinking
  • no sorting out papers/books/pencils (do that before the lesson)

45 minutes of intensive study without these distractions is worth many hours of study with these distractions.

And that leaves more time for everything else, inshaa Allaah

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