Category Archives: Practical tips on learning

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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The importance of learning the manhaj

With regards to the importance of learning the manhaj, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah comments:

And our encouraging the students upon (following) the manhaj of the salaf necessitates our urging them to have knowledge and awareness of the manhaj of the salaf – is this not so?

So let us look at the books which have been written about this, such as siyyar a’laam an nubalaa and others besides it, such that we become aware of their path; and we proceed upon this upright path.

As for if we were to say, “We follow the salaf!” and yet we do not know what they used to do, then this is a deficiency (in us) without doubt.

(Sharh hilyah taalib il ‘ilm p22, translated by Nasser ibn Najam)

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QUESTION: What is the response to the person who claims that he calls upon the awliyaa (beloved servants of Allaah) only as intermediaries between him and Allaah, and that he acknowledges that it is Allaah alone who is the Creator and the Sustainer?

ANSWER: Then this misguided person is just like the mushriks of old who also acknowledged tawheed ur ruboobeeyah, but made shirk in their worship by calling upon other than Allaah – claiming that their objects of worship were merely intermediaries between them and Allaah.

«Is it not that the religion of pure tawheed is for Allaah (alone)?

And those who take awliyaa other than Allaah (claim): We worship them only so that they might bring us closer to Allaah!»

Soorah az Zumar (39) aayah 3

And Allaah passes the verdict of kufr upon these people in the same aayah.

«Indeed, Allaah does not guide the liar, the disbeliever.»

Soorah az Zumar (39) aayah 3

(Taken from the Kashfush Shubuhaat Questions and Answers available on this website. This question was prepared using Shaykh Saalih al Fawzaan’s explanation.)

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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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Test yourself! A question on the mushriks of our time

Why are the mushriks of our time worse than the mushriks at the time of the Prophet sall Allaahu alaihi wa sallam?

Muhammad ibn Abdil Wahhaab gives one reason in Qawaaidul Arba-ah (The Four Principles). What proof does he bring?

See pages 4, 36, 37 and 53 of the Study Guide for the Four Principles for the answer.

Shaykh Saalih al Fawzaan gives another reason in the explanation. What is it?

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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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Where does the student begin?

Shaykh Saalih al Fawzaan hafidhahullaah said:

And the scholars give importance to these brief works, authoring them and exerting themselves in keeping them to shorten them and refine them; then they would encourage their students to memorise them so that they should remain fundamental assets for them and a store of provision for them from which they can derive benefit, and through which they bring benefit to others by means of them.

And beginning with these shorter works is the foundation for the students of knowledge, so the student of knowledge should begin by learning little by little, taking from the initial points of knowledge and its fundamentals and then proceeding in stages through it.

So these brief works are the path leading on to the longer works. So it is not possible for the longer works to be understood exept after the brief works have been understood and then the person has preceded on from them in stages. And therefore they said about the meaning of His saying, He the Most High:

But rather be rabbaaniyyoon (wise scholars who cultivate the people) by your teaching them the Book and your studying it. [Soorah Aale Imraan aayah 79]

The word rabbaaniyyoon – they are those who begin with the small matters of knowledge before the greater ones. They cultivate themselves and their students beginning with the smaller matters and moving onto the larger matters, and this is something natural, because all things begin from their roots and their foundations and then they grow bigger and larger after that.

As for the person who pounces upon knowledge from its top, then this person will just tire himself out and not attain anything. Whereas the one who begins with the fundamentals and proceeds in stages, this is the person who, by the permission of Allaah, will be proceeding in the correct way and with sound direction.

(From the introduction to Sharh Usoolith Thalaathah by Shaykh Saalih al Fawzaan, translator Abu Talhah Dawood, taken from

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