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Published on December 28th, 2009 | by Omar

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Islamic education for Muslims living in the west

The topic of Islamic education for Muslims living in the West is a topic that I feel is of the utmost importance. Growing up my mother did the best she could in providing my sister and I with an Islamic education that entailed how and when to pray, how to read the Qur’an in arabic, etc. For a short time we even attending an "sunday school" to learn more about our faith.

My parents being immigrants to this country didn’t really know exactly how to teach us about Islam in a western context so much of what I learned was through trial and error. This often entailed me doing things that we not permissible from an Islamic standpoint. I often found myself getting frustrated when asking my parents ‘Why is it that our faith tells us to do…?’ only to get a response along the lines of ‘We didn’t ask these types of questions when we were growing up! I don’t know.’

It wasn’t until I reached my mid 20’ies and found a group of friends who were more interested in knowing about their faith that I began to begin a self study on Islam. Alhumdulilah, there are many resources available to non-Arab speaking people such as myself to help facilitate this endeavor. However, there is only so much you can learn from a book. As a friend of mine, Abdul-Rasheed Brown stated to me ‘He who only learns from books is completely lost.’

I have recently started attending a halaqa lead by Mufti/Imam Shujhat at Masjid ul-Haqq to learn more about Hanafi Fiqh. This has helped me get some answers to questions I have while reading various books on the topic. However, this too only involves a single 45 minute lesson every week. For an guy like me who has 25 years of heedlessness to make up for…it’s clearly not enough. For instance, I learned this past summer that I have been praying my sunnah prayers incorrectly my entire life. I have clearly dug myself a very deep hole and 45 minutes a week won’t do much to get me out of this situation.

I’ve always contemplated moving for a short period of time ( 2 or 3 years) to dedicate myself to learning about my religion, learning to read, write and understand arabic to the level of being able to read texts that are not available in english. To sit with religious scholars and learn from them in a traditional manner as our beloved Prophet Muhummad (pbuh) taught his companions. However, given my family situation, that’s clearly not possible.

The topic of Islamic education for Muslims living in the West is a topic that I feel is of the utmost importance. Growing up my mother did the best she could in providing my sister and I with an Islamic education that entailed how and when to pray, how to read the Qur’an in arabic, etc. For a short time we even attending an "sunday school" to learn more about our faith.

My parents being immigrants to this country didn’t really know exactly how to teach us about Islam in a western context so much of what I learned was through trial and error. This often entailed me doing things that we not permissible from an Islamic standpoint. I often found myself getting frustrated when asking my parents ‘Why is it that our faith tells us to do…?’ only to get a response along the lines of ‘We didn’t ask these types of questions when we were growing up! I don’t know.’

It wasn’t until I reached my mid 20’ies and found a group of friends who were more interested in knowing about their faith that I began to begin a self study on Islam. Alhumdulilah, there are many resources available to non-Arab speaking people such as myself to help facilitate this endeavor. However, there is only so much you can learn from a book. As a friend of mine, Abdul-Rasheed Brown stated to me ‘He who only learns from books is completely lost.’

I have recently started attending a halaqa lead by Mufti/Imam Shujhat at Masjid ul-Haqq to learn more about Hanafi Fiqh. This has helped me get some answers to questions I have while reading various books on the topic. However, this too only involves a single 45 minute lesson every week. For an guy like me who has 25 years of heedlessness to make up for…it’s clearly not enough. For instance, I learned this past summer that I have been praying my sunnah prayers incorrectly my entire life. I have clearly dug myself a very deep hole and 45 minutes a week won’t do much to get me out of this situation.

I’ve always contemplated moving for a short period of time ( 2 or 3 years) to dedicate myself to learning about my religion, learning to read, write and understand arabic to the level of being able to read texts that are not available in english. To sit with religious scholars and learn from them in a traditional manner as our beloved Prophet Muhummad (pbuh) taught his companions. However, given my family situation, that’s clearly not possible.

So it seems that for my personally there is very little hope of getting myself out of this predicament. An eternity in hell is probably as best as it getting for me. Therefore, I need to focus on what I can do for my children. I’d love to teach my children the very basics because that’s pretty much all I know. After that I need to think about how and where to provide them with more.

Recently I’ve received two emails. One from a prominent local wahabi, the other from a local neo-progressive. Both informing me about opportunities to study Islam. The wahabi was inviting me to apply for a full scholarship to Qatar. The neo-progressive on the other hand was inviting me to study Islam from a group of secular PHD’s at the University of Toronto. I would have to be out of my ever loving mind to take either of them up on their suggestions.

For those of you reading this article who are contemplating learning about Islam here in the west, my advice would be to try and find a program that adheres as closely to the methodologies used by our beloved Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). Traditionally, people were taught about Islam through the traditional madrassah system. One sits with a scholar who is a specialist in a few topics. You learn as much as you can from him. Once he feels you have mastered the topic he provides you with a certificate that give you "ijazzah" (permission) to teach what you have learned to others. You then proceed to find other scholars to teach you about other topics of interest to you. This process takes an immense amount of time, effort and dedication. However, this ensures you know what you are being taught inside and out.

That being said, where is such an methodology being applied? There are small pockets across the globe where these methodologies still exist. Primarily in the poorest of poor countries because the people in those areas are not neglectful of Allah the way people like myself are. Examples being Muritania, Pakistan, India, Yemen, etc…

For those of us who were born and raised in the west, making the trip to these types of places can be difficult. We are pathetically pampered people with the weakest of immune systems. Thankfully, there is an effort to create such an institution here in the west that will be accredited to provide one with a university degree. The name of this institution is Zaytuna College and they are currently accepting applicants for their first semester this next fall. Those of you who are interested, I’d advise you to check out their website and talk to their staff. I hope to send my children there if they show an affinity to serve Allah and our community.

Our community is in desperate need for rightly guided people…we don’t need more engineers, doctors and lawyers. The days of sending our best and brightest to western universities while the dimwits are sent to mudrassahs needs to end. The chaos that we are witnessing every day is testament to the error of our ways.

May Allah lead idiots like myself back to the teachings and methodologies of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) so that we can restore balance and therefore peace to this earth and all those who inhabit it. Ameen.

 

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