Pearls of Wisdom from the eminent scholar Shaikh Na’eem Araqsoosi
Student: You went to a private Islamic high school that produced a number of high caliber scholars, such as yourself, Dr. Wahbah az Zuhayli, Shaikh Ramadan Buti, Shaikh Karaaim Rajih, and others. What was so special about this school?
Shaikh Na’eem: The secret to their success was that they emphasized a close relationship between the scholar and the student, and the scholars would be keen to follow their students’ progress, and ask them about their assignments, and communicate with them.
Student: Shaikh Abdul Karim al-Rifaai was very successful in his Dawah here in Damascus, and you are one of his students. What was the secret to the success of his Dawah?
Shaikh Na’eem: He was very humble, and he would sit down with the youth, talk with them, and empathize with them. Also, he was absolutely sincere and never cared for the dunya. His greatest concern was about giving Dawah, it was a burning desire inside of him.
Student: Shaikh, all over the Muslim world, and in the West, there are divisions between Muslim groups, most prominently between Sufis and Salafis. Yet you manage to join between the two, and all types of students attend your lessons. How do you deal with these divisions?
Shaikh Na’eem: Yes, all kinds of people attend my durus! The way to deal with this problem is first, that we must always rely on the sayings of the Prophet pbuh, Qala Allah, wa Qalla Rasoolullah, if we are saying: The Prophet pbuh said this, or Allah said this, no one can disagree with you, rather, everyone will come together on common ground, and accept you.
Second, beware of entering into disputed matters or matter over which the scholars differed. Focus on that which is agreed upon, and avoid argumentative matters.
Third, it is important to mention stories of the pious predecessors, for their biographies provide inspiration, and join the hearts together, and provide practical examples.
Finally, a very important point, never belittle anyone, or attack anyone. I never mention hate for any person, no matter how misguided he is, although yes, there are those that I dislike, but I would never say that in my lectures!
Student: Shaikh, there are some Islamic scholars of the past that are not really approved of in some circles, should we avoid mentioning them?
Shaikh Na’eem: Well, you should know your crowd. If you think they do not like a particular person, just say, ‘one of the scholars said’, or ‘a person said…’ For example, you can say, “One of the scholars mentioned that in this world there is a Paradise, and whoever does not enter the Paradise of this world, will not enter it in the afterlife.” If they say, “Wow, who said that?” Then you can tell them, Ibn Taymiyyah, and so on.
Student: Shaikh, another source of division is the various madhahab, for example, in my country, if you raise your hands after the ruku’, or say: ‘Ameen’ out loud, they might expel you from the Masjid! What can we do?
Shaikh Na’eem: This is the result of ignorance and stubbornly adhering to one’s madhab. In any case, you can simply mention, “I studied Shafii Fiqh, and this is their position.” And they should be quiet. Do not say: “This is the Sunnah, there is a hadith in Bukhari…”, because you know what they will say: “Do you think we are not following the Sunnah?!”
It is sufficient just to mention that there is a different position in another school of Law.
Student: Shaikh, how important is it to memorize the entire Quran, like you do, to be a Da’yee?
Shaikh Na’eem: Memorizing the entire Quran is good, it will help you in provide daleels for your talks and lessons, and clearer examples. However, it is not a pre-condition to be a Da’yee.
Student: In the West, many people feel that they have no need for religion, and they keep themselves busy passing time with movies and entertainment. How can we show them Islam?
Shaikh Na’eem: Well, they can die at any moment can’t they? They can fall ill, even within our bodies are millions of parasites that can harm us or kill us. So this life is very temporary, and unstable, and only religion (Islam) can bring us true peace and stability and security. Otherwise, there is no security in one’s life.
Student: In the West, a lot of Muslims are struggling to keep their religion, especially women, and some have left the hijab or even Islam. What should we do?
Shaikh Na’eem: This is the result of lack of foundation in Islam. We should focus on practical things with the sisters, and focus on Akhlaq. I gave a series of lecture where we spoke about Akhlaq, and that the fruit of all acts of worship is Akhlaq, and second, all acts of worship are not accepted if one’s Akhlaq is corrupt, and I provide proofs for that.
Student: Is it more important to focus on matters of Aqeedah, or Purification of the Soul?
Shaikh Na’eem: Both. We have to work on both together. Let the hadith be your guide, and wherever it takes you, go with it. If it talks about softening the heart, or rectifying the tongue, then speak on that, or if it refers to matter of Aqeedah, explain what it says.
Student: Shaikh, we always hear you make dua for a good ending to our lives in the beginning and end of all your talks, why is that?
Shaikh Na’eem: The reason is that all of our actions rest on that final moment, and if it is good, than all of what we did in life with come to fruition, but if it is bad, than no matter how much good we did, it will be lost.
Student: Regarding sitting remembering Allah in gatherings, there are those who allow it, and there are those who say it is not permissible to gather to remember Allah in a sitting.
Shaikh Na’eem: Imam Ibn Taymiyyah mentions in his fatawa that it is permissible to sit to remember Allah, however he says there should not be a fixed timing for such sittings. But since fixing the timing for things has become part of modern life, this is difficult to avoid. There is also the hadith that the angels circle the earth searching for the gatherings of remembrance of Allah, and return to Allah saying, “We found them praising You and glorifying Your majesty.”
Student: How does one maintain sincerity in the Dawah work, since one is often the focus of intention and many people learn from them.
Shaikh Na’eem: You must remember that the praise of those around has no affect on your relationship with Allah, and it does not benefit you at all with Allah. Allah looks at your heart and your intention behind giving the talk, and He rewards you according to that.
Student: Allah says, “Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom.” How does one attain wisdom?
Shaikh Na’eem: One attains wisdom by learning from the experiences of others, but the most important and foundational means of wisdom is through having patience and forbearance, this is the greatest form of wisdom.
Student: What is the best program of study for the youth?
Shaikh Na’eem: First and foremost, you must connect them to the Quran. Let them learn its meanings. Blind memorization, or learning Arabic grammar, without understand its meanings is not beneficial.
Secondly, you should inculcate the youth with good values and character, and the best book for that is Riyadh as Saliheen, by Imam Nawawi.
Third, you should focus on positive encouragement and rewards, while occasionally reminding of the punishments.
Student: What is a good program of study for a student of knowledge?
Shaikh Na’eem: That depends, each person should have a customized program of study depending on their background. But I will give you a very important piece of advice: Always keep a pen and notebook handy when reading, and write down important concepts that you come across, otherwise you will not benefit from your reading.
The first two commands to this Ummah were to read and to write: Allah says, “Read in the name of your Lord...” then He says, “the One who taught (man) by the pen that which he knew not…”
Student: How come you never get angry?
Shaikh Na’eem: It takes lots of struggling against one’s nafs.
Student: You mention that sometimes people suffer from closed mindedness in matters of religion. What is the cure for that?
Shaikh Na’eem: The cure is knowledge. People have to learn. They need to learn the different opinions of the scholars. They need to be exposed to the knowledge and the valid differences amongst the Ulema.
Student: You always mention the opinions and names of the Ulema in your talks, and you rarely attribute any idea to yourself. How is it that you don’t insert your own opinions into the lesson?
Shaikh Na’eem: I prefer to remain hidden behind the ulema.
In the end, I ask Allah to protect you, and make us all keys to goodness, and locks to evil, and spread much goodness through our hands.