Since my High School years (in America), I have come across many people especially Muslims, who had a complete lack of understanding of Islam, although they never would admit to this. People of other faith, I understand, but Muslims not knowing A-B-C of Islam this is what I am talking about.
You might be thinking how arrogant I am to say such a thing. You might think who do I think I am that I can judge people and their understanding. “Such an arrogant person Umer Sultan is” you might think.
Truth is that I am not saying this out of arrogance, truth is that when I say this I am speaking on behalf of many activists and leaders in the Muslim community- in East and West. Question might be: “What makes me say that?” and the Answer will be an entire blog dedicated for this sole purpose and frankly I don’t really have that much time, but I will share some incidents.
It is 2007, my last year in High School and I am still learning. In a talk with 4-5 Muslim brothers that I am having, I am being asked about my name. “My name is Umer” I say but they don’t seem to understand. So I say “My name is the same as the name of the Second Khalifa” but they still don’t seem to understand, in fact they are more confused now. So I repeat myself saying that “my name is Umer, as in Umar ibn al-Khattab– the 2nd Khalifa.” At this point, I am not sure what they are thinking but I know that I haven’t solved their confusion. I try one more time “You know there are 4 Caliphs that are called Khulafa-e-Rashideen (Rightly Guided Caliphs)- Abu Bakar, Umar, Uthman, and Ali.”
This was 2007, when I learned that the knowledge of the Khulafa-e-Rashideen for a 21st Century Muslim does not come under “Common Sense” as I have always thought growing up back home in Karachi. I don’t know whether this incident had any influence on me or not, but it is interesting to note that 2007 is the same year when I first started blogging.
I have met Muslims who have argued with me strongly, religiously, zealously that Music is not Haraam (prohibited). This has happened so much that now when I hear someone act the same way to me, I smile being speechless. It is one thing to commit a sin, it is another to commit a sin and persist that it is permissible. I have learned something profound from Imam Shaf’ee and that is:
“I debated a scholar and beat him. Then I debated a layman and that layman beat me- he had no knowledge of the principles and texts. I had nothing to say” he once said.
Truth is that the Muslims I am talking about they most probably don’t even know who Imam Shaf’ee was, the difference between Sahaba (companions) and Tabi’een (2st generation) and the Taba Tabi’een (3rd generation). What is Fiqh? they don’t know that. What is Hadith? they have heard of it but don’t really know that. What is the difference between Hadith and Sunnah? Who cares do you want to Hoop, play Xbox or lets go watch a movie! I have met a Muslim who argued with me passionately that learning Math and worldly sciences is Haram (prohibited) in Islam. The guy was so Jahil (ignorant) that I had to tell him that he has no clue what he is saying.
Truth is that I wasn’t born with the basic understanding of Islam. I realized that I myself was ignorant of Islam. I don’t feel ashamed of recognizing that I was ignorant! Ashamed should be the person who is ignorant but is persistent on it by not using God given intellect and resources to try to understand His religion. Back in old days people would have to travel days and months to gain the knowledge of Islam, but today it is literally in our house few clicks away. You still would have to travel to become a Scholar, but the basic knowledge, the A-B-C of Islam is really few clicks away. As for myself, I know I need to learn more, read more, ask scholars more, listen to their lectures more, attend their Halaqa (gathering) more, alhamdolilah.
It is sad to me to see brothers and sisters who are young, they are teens and they are in their twenties, that they can’t even read the Book of Allah, the Noble Qur’an correctly, and that they are not even making an effort to learn? While they have plenty of time to read books of other human beings, watch countless videos on Youtube, have soccer and hoop sessions consistently, be up to date on current affairs and news. We have got all our priorities wrong and then we wonder why Muslim World and Muslims act so Dumb. Truth is that majority have not even read the Qur’an in a language they understand, it is true! This is the status of us Muslims in the Muslim World and in the West, facing the same mindset and same challenges, i.e. ignorance and lack of understanding of Islam.
However, there are many who understand that they don’t know, and they want to seek avenues to learn and understand Islam. There are many people (Muslims and Not Muslims) who are either confused, or they don’t understand where and how to access the authentic Islamic information. Which sites to trust, which authors to check out, and which books to read. They get confused when they see Muslims arguing online and they get discouraged when they see Islamic Scholars argue each other, but the fact is that this confusion is the sign that its time to learn. For example, if you are confused why can’t Muslims have Eid Fitr at the same day? It means that it is a sign that you need to educate yourself more. Last year I was confused but by the grace of Allah, this year even though I don’t fully understand it, I at least don’t feel confused but I can see the frustration among people and I can reflect how I felt just like them. Allah gives guidance to whom ever He pleases, but we need to be asking Him and seeking it too.
Introducing Project “Understanding Islam”
So with this situation of us and our communities in mind, I have decided to dedicate a page “Understanding Islam” on my blog to make it a one stop guide for an intro to the authentic Islamic content. Online free Books and articles, Youtube videos, and maybe Library checkout suggestions for people in US. In order to make Understanding Islam accessible to all, I would be uploading some books/ booklets if they don’t exist online already, or portions of it (to avoid copyright infringement).
No one can learn to speak a language unless one learns the alphabets of the language. For everything we have to start from basics. We learn counting first and then we reach step by step to the Algebra, Calculus and even higher Mathematics in University. But just like for everyone to graduate from High School or to get a Bachelors degree in the University, there are general requirements that all students are obligated to take.
Same is with Islam. As soon as a Muslim reaches the age of Puberty, it becomes obligatory on him/her to seek certain knowledge that is made obligatory by Allah and His Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him. It starts from the basics, and although as Muslims, especially those of us from Muslim countries, we should have learned such basics in our Middle schools, it is never too late to learn though!
For Non-Muslims who are seeking to understand Islam and Muslims, this page will hopefully be of equal benefit.
Use this page, add the link of this page on your blog/website and share it with your family, friends and loved ones who want to understand Islam.
Note: If you have some really awesome introductory books online or know of Youtube videos, please leave a comment or e-mail me, I will really appreciate it.
“Acquire knowledge: it enables its possessor to distinguish right from the wrong, it lights the way to heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless – it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament among friends and an armor against enemies.” Hadith which original source could not be found. Quoted in “New Scientist Oct 23, 1980.“