Learn your tradition first!

Rejecting the practice of the religion of what you are already upon without studying it in detail in favour of more [seemingly] “convincing” arguments is crass stupidity. I am concerned that a lot of youth, without taking the time to study their religion properly [according to their Madhhab], leave the tradition that they were on by default in favour of [blindly] following someone [a non-Madhhabi] who quotes Quran and hadith and makes a “convincing” argument. It is easy to “convince” someone who doesn’t really know much in the first place and thus our youth fall prey to misguidance.

When some young people rediscover their faith they end up rejecting their default religious practices as inherited by them through their parents. Whilst many non-Islamic cultural practices may have crept in, the foundations of what they were already upon are solid and established,  rooted in the Quran and Sunnah and should not be dismissed out of hand without serious study and contemplation.

My advice to the youth who rediscover their faith is LEARN YOUR OWN TRADITION PROPERLY before you decide to jump ship. As with most things, appearances can be deceiving and none more so than in religion where you think you are going to something more “authentic” and “true” when in fact it is something with a veneer of authenticity based upon a faulty understanding of the religion.

They should also know that the Madhhabs are based on solid foundations and have stood the test of time and all those people from the élite of this Umma down to the commonfolk have all adhered to one of the four Sunni Madhhabs. The call against following a Madhhab is a new one, a bida that has appeared and which has grown more vocal over the last 100/150 years.

One of the root causes of this phenomenon is that most mosques and local religious authorities do not offer any foundational Islamic education nor do they have any concept of pastoral care. Many kids do not enjoy the mosque experience when they are sent as small children to learn the Quran by rote. Often times they are verbally and physically abused and once completing the Quran they leave the mosque with a negative association. Additionally, many youth are alienated from their local mosques and imams because the mosque is usually run by narrow-minded  individuals and imams who have little or no command of the English language and who have no empathy or any idea of what the needs of such young people are. Faced with this, these young people go looking for religious instruction and pretty soon they will come across people who will show them “Quran” and “Sunnah” and quote “sahih” hadith and give them “authentic” aqida and all the while they are feeding them a slow poison that is turning them against their families and communities.  We can’t blame these kids, after all, they have reached a stage in their lives where they have concern for their akhira and ultimately this is their driving their motivation and they are sincere, the tragedy is that they are looking in the wrong places for guidance because the right places are barren.

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Self-learning?

I was looking through the recently published E-book by Shaykh Musa Furber called The Ultimate Conspectus a translation of an introductory text for Shafi’i fiqh and there were some passages that didn’t make sense and so I asked Shaykh Musa about them. I can’t recall which passages they were, but I remember thinking that a person reading this book is not going to be able to make sense of them. His response was simple:

“Books don’t teach themselves” and suddenly the reality and wisdom of this statement dawned on me. It is one of those things that you intuitively already know and when someone reminds you of it it totally drives home the point.

Many people fail to realise this. A book can be read for personal edification but in order to truly understand the text, its context, nuances and the intent of the author one has to learn the book from a teacher who him/herself has an authorisation to teach it. Many people read but do not truly understand what they have read especially texts of religious and spiritual significance. Any book has the potential to misguide as well as guide, the danger to misguide is far more pronounced and amplified when one studies a text without a qualified teacher. There are too many DIY “scholars” around misguiding less well informed people, they read [faulty] translations of various texts, delude themselves into thinking that they have learned the texts and that which disagrees with what they have “learned” must be wrong and must be rejected, when in fact they have a faulty undestanding of the issues.