Dec 12, 2007 - islam op-eds    5 Comments

On seeking Islamic knowledge…(in person)

Where were you?

I remember right out of high school being at ISNA Headquarters in a tiny little cornfield town called Plainfield, Indiana. Very plain, except for the surrounding farms and fields and maybe a new development at the edge of town. And in a special week in a warmer than usual August attending what would be the fledgling beginnings of a youth program called Alim. Back then it was a few classes a day on various subjects like Islamic law, Arabic, and Hadith. The class that was to be my favorite was on Seerah by a man then unknown as Abdul Hakim Jackson.

So many years later, I found myself again a few weeks ago in a Seerah class by a now fairly renowned Dr. Professor Sherman Jackson. This time in an elegant law building on the campus of NYU on a busy touristy December weekend in Manhattan.

I never realized until taking this class again what an impact that one week in August really had on me. So many of the principles of Dawah I have carried with me over the last ten years, guiding my activities in my community, on my website, in my interactions with others have been solely derived from that one class in August. So many of my ‘theories’ and ideas of Islam were so thoroughly influenced, it has lasted to this day. (Not to mention inculcating a life-long love of Seerah, which my bookshelf attests too.)

The reason I tell you this is that, this time, before and after the class so many people asked me to take notes and share it with them.

How can I share notes of 6 hours a day? How can I explain a person’s hand movements and expressions, inflection of voice and laugh? How can I impart the atmosphere of a class, the energy between teacher and student, the underlining of a word in chalk. The before class, the after class, the private interactions, the harmony of praying together. The shared emotions of a group listening to the last moments of their Prophet’s life and then witnessing a new Muslim testifying the declaration of faith in front of you as tears slide down a person’s cheek next to you.

Even if I have audio, video, how can I make you have the experience.

How can I give you something that has affected me for ten years?

I can’t.

Why weren’t you there?

Yes, you had this test coming up, this paper to write, this party to attend, this obligation and that. But, what about the last class? And the one before that? The one after that? The one coming up? What about the one ten years ago/from now?

Time slips by so quickly and we miss the opportunities that we could have benefited ourselves with. How can any Muslim come to a good age and not know a word of Arabic? How can they not know anything about Seerah, Islamic history, Hadith? Are we not ashamed of calling ourselves Muslim and knowing nothing about our religion except what we need to get by.

We all have obligations. We all have goals. But where were you? Where are you in this caravan of knowledge, self-improvement and spirituality? Where is your motivation? Where is your zeal and love for Islamic knowledge?

Yes. I know we all have ipods, audio downloads and youtube. But can you imagine an Imam Siraj speech’s affect on a 15 year old at a MYNA camp, compared to watching it on youtube? Can you imagine listening to a podcast of Sh. Hamza’s Saturday night speech at ISNA and having the same buzz of being there? Can you imagine a week long profound class on Seerah in notes. Have you ever tried to read notes from an Islamic class?!

Have you ever seen a picture of the Kabah and have you ever been there?

It’s NOT THE SAME. You need to be there. I can tell you how sweet it is. What it feels like. What it looks like. But will you ever taste it?


So, next class, next speech, next conference, next retreat think about it. Maybe you can shift some things around. Maybe you can organize your schedule so you can attend.

Maybe you can be the one writing the notes.

P.S. This is not directed at anyone particular, not even those who asked for notes :) I direct this to myself first. (I did not attend the Makkan period class when it came last year, how much I regret this you now know) I hope only that we may all make extra effort in the future in improving ourselves as Muslims.


  • Great post. Jazaks for the reminder.

  • Well said sister.

    Regarding the Seerah… May we all be drawn towards Him Azawajal, through learning about and emulating him Salallahualaihiwasalam.

  • Salam, just wanted to say… Ive just found your blog and looking forward to reading more :P fi amenallah (can u delete the previous post I posted the wrong link to my blog)

  • MashaAllah Sis. It’s certainly not the same as you said. I am personally from the Toronto area, and having moved to a small prarie town the other side of Canada, I no longer have the pleasure of attending those insightful and spiritually uplifting conferences/classes/conventions. I really miss them. The only feasible way I could keep up is through the online world till I return InshaAllah. So if one has the means, they should take advantage of attending those blessed gatherings.

  • Your blog really touched me there on when you mentioned “Are we not ashamed of calling ourselves Muslim and knowing nothing about our religion except what we need to get by.”

    It really gave me a thought of what it really takes of being a Muslim if not by practising one? You’re right about the xperiencing between listenin to the ipod and and the real imam. Way out different. I’m glad that i’m not the only one who’s experiencing this. Thanx for bringing it up and May Allah bless you