The student should be mindful of his/her intention and try his/her hardest to make it for the sake of Allah alone and for His Pleasure. Our main goal should always be to come closer to Allah through this knowledge and not to show off, be praised, debate or look down on others. As the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever seeks knowledge in order to compete with the scholars, to prove himself superior to the ignorant, or to make the people look up to him, he is in the Fire” (al-Albani graded it authentic in ‘Sahih Ibn Majah’ (205)).
A student needs to have a sound approach to acquiring knowledge. His desire for knowledge should not let him get carried away collecting information randomly. This may afford him some measure of “culture”, but it does not lead to any real knowledge. You want to make sure that you have a structured approach to seeking knowledge that brings benefit, result and moves you forward.
A student of religion should not indulge himself/herself into advanced or secondary issues until and unless he/she has learned the basic primary issues fully with comprehension. The fundamentals of religion should be the first thing a student learns.
A student needs to focus first and foremost on learning the obligatory (wajib)duties in Islam before moving into the recommended (mustahab) duties. Similarly, a student should focus first on the prohibited (haram) actions before indulging into the disliked (makruh) ones.
A student should hasten to learn that which the scholars agreed upon first and foremost before moving into that in which they differed. Otherwise, it will only cause a student to be lost and confused.
A student of religious knowledge should take his knowledge from trustworthy scholars. He should sit before them in humility and show them courtesy and deference so he can learn from them both knowledge and proper conduct.
The first two things a student should focus on in the beginning of his quest are aqeedah and fiqh. These two branches of Islamic knowledge are a result of all other sciences. They are the goal of all the other sciences and are sought for their innate nature. The other sciences are studied in order to arrive at the knowledge of aqeedah and fiqh.
A student should know that as with all sciences, in order to become proficient and have a strong comprehension of a subject, he/she will need to make time, be patient, be consistent, read numerously and listen (ideally attend) to lectures continuously from authentic and qualified sources.
A student should not start reading a new book in a particular science while still engaged in a previous book. A good student first completely finishes one book and then moves on to a new book. The student should try to focus his energy on thorough comprehension of the first book before moving forward.
Choosing a Teacher
Ibn Jama’ah said:
The student should look forth and consult Allah in regards to who to learn from, and he should seek to gain good manners and character from whoever he chooses. If he can, he should find one who is completely qualified to teach, concerned with his students, displays manhood, is known to be pure, has a good reputation, has a good teaching style, and is easily understood. The seeker of knowledge should not just seek out the one who is most knowledgeable, and who might lack caution, piety, and good manners. Some of the Salaf said: “This knowledge is religion. So, look who you take your religion from.”
You should also beware of restricting yourself to those who are famous, as al-Ghazzali and others counted this as arrogance towards knowledge, and considered it to be from the lowest of traits. This is because knowledge is the prize of the believer, and he should take it from wherever he finds it, and should take the blessing from whoever wants to give it to him. He runs from ignorance just as he runs from a lion, and the one running from a lion will accept help from whoever offers him a way to escape.
So, if one is not well-known and you can still expect good from him, he will be more beneficial and helpful. If you read about the lives of the Salaf, you will find that none of their students would benefit from a shaykh unless he had a fair share of taqwa, and his concern and advice to his students was a clear proof of him having this. Likewise, if you look through the various books, you’ll find that you gain more benefit from the author who has more taqwa and zuhd, and will spend more time reading and gaining from his books.
Make sure that your shaykh is fully aware of all of the Shar’i sciences, and is known to havestudied at length with the trustworthy scholars of his time, and did not merely study from the depths of the pages of a book. ash-Shafi’i said: “The rulings will slip away from whoever gains knowledge from the depths of books.” And some of them said: “From the greatest of tests is that one gains knowledge just from books.”
Ettiquettes of the Seeker of Knowledge, 54
We would like to conclude with advice from Shaykh Uthaymeen:
It is obligatory upon the student of knowledge to seek assistance from Allah, then from the people of knowledge, and seeking assistance from that which they have written in their books because confining oneself to sheer reading alone requires a lot of time, which is contrary to sitting with a scholar who explains and sheds light upon matters to him.
I am not saying he will not attain knowledge except by taking from the scholars, since a person is able to attain knowledge by reading and researching, however, in most cases if he does not persevere day and night and is not blessed with understanding, then he is liable to make many mistakes, and because of this it is said: One whose guide is his book, then his mistakes are more than his accuracies; having said this, in reality this is not always the case.
However, the most exemplary way is to take knowledge from the scholars. I also advise the student of knowledge not to “grab” from every scholar knowledge of the same subject. For example, to study fiqh with more than one scholar, since the scholars differ in their techniques of inference from the Qur’an and Sunnah, and they also differ in their opinions. So assign yourself a scholar from whom you can take knowledge in fiqh or balaaghah (poetry) and the like, i.e. take knowledge in one subject from one scholar. If the scholar has more than one field of knowledge, then continue with him, for if you took knowledge of fiqh for example from such-and-such and then such-and-such, and they differed in their opinions, what would be your position since you are still a student!? Your position would be that of confusion and doubt! However, your continuance with one scholar in a particular subject will lead to peace of mind, insha Allah.
The Book ofKnowledge, 86-87
This can be done in the west by taking classes at your local mosques or online from a trusted shaykh (teacher), attending Islamic conferences, listening to audio/video lectures, attending Islamic institutions in the west, etc. For those who are far away from scholars, they should refer to their commentaries, writings and audio formats (CDs, tapes, etc.).
Resources on How to Seek Knowledge
Advice to Students of Knowledge by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
Creating and Sustaining North American Muslim Scholarship by Yasir Qadhi and Faraz Rabbani (video)
Islam and Ego by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
Beyond Ilm Summit by Yasir Qadhi, Yasir Birjas, and Waleed Basyouni (video)
Intellectual Humility by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
People of Pure Mind by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
Lofty Intentions: Having Noble Visions and Goals by Yasir Qadhi (video)
Keeping it Real: Student of Knowledge Superstars by MuslimMatters.org
Classical Advices on Knowledge by MuslimMatters.org
Top Ten Things Every Student of Knowledge Should Know by MuslimMatters.org
The Pitfalls in the Quest for Knowledge by Salman Fahd al-Oadah
Manners of the Knowledge Seeker by Muhammad Raslan
How to Read the Books of the People of Knowledge by Saalih Aalush-Shaykh
The Excellence of Knowledge: The Virtue of the Salaf Over the Khalaf by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali
Knowledge Mandates Action by Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaaddee
The Book of Knowledge by Imam An-Nasaa’i
The Book of Knowledge by Muhammad ibn Salih al-Uthaymeen
Please note that the following is not a complete list of beneficial materials out there on the topic. It is only a reflection of my own personal experience and things which I’ve found beneficial. It is also assumed that the reader does not plan to study Arabic in the Middle East. For those who do plan or are currently studying Arabic overseas, then please refer to this great article on the topic.
Arabic Courses With a Live Teacher
Institute of Linguists – (update 6/12/2019) This is the institute that I am currently studying in right now to develop fluency in Arabic. I must say that it has been a great experience! I’m in my sixth month with them right now (intermediate level) and I strongly recommend studying with them if you are able. How does it work? They set you up with a native Arabic speaker from Egypt to advance you through your Arabic studies from beginner to advanced level. They will work with you to develop a schedule that both you and the teacher are comfortable with. They requires 2 hours a week minimum and classes are done live via Zoom application. My reading and listening comprehension have tremendously improved! I’m becoming more fluent by the week!
Learning with a live teacher is the best way to learn Arabic without any doubt. The best part is that they are very affordable. Most institutes charge far more than what these guys are charging. Literally anyone can afford it. So in order to help readers on my blog, I reached out to them requesting a discount for readers of my blog and they are willing to offer anyone who signs up using my affiliate link a discount so that you save even more money! This is what you will get if you sign up with them using my link:
20% off the first month
30% off if you join 3 months in advance
2 weeks free after completing at least 6 months
In order to take advantage of the discount, type in my name (Rameez Abid) and ambassador code (SAF006R305) when signing up. I strongly suggest that you take advantage of this opportunity. As for their prices, please see the chart below. The prices are hourly based and represent pounds and dollars. The prices mentioned in the chart below are before the discount. Their prices even before the discount are really low:
Studio Arabiya – I’ve personally never studied with them but I’ve heard good things about them. They are not free so there is a monthly fee involved. The main feature about them is that they connect you with native Arab speaking instructors online to teach you Arabic live. They offer a trial period as well so you can test it. However, they are a bit pricey.
iTalki – This is a website that allows you to find an online teacher for personal language lessons. The teachers are usually native speakers. The teachers do require a fee. You can browse through and select a teacher that fits within your budget. The teachers vary in their price. Some are willing to do it for cheap while others charge more.
Arabic Courses Without a Live Teacher
I personally believe Arabic language should be learned under a live teacher for best results. However, if you are unable to learn the language with a live teacher for whatever reason, then following video courses may be helpful for you. The only way to learn Arabic is through a long term consistent program (2+ years). There is no other way around it. Therefore, if you are going to go through one of the following programs, then make sure you finish it.
Medina Books – A popular three series book to learn the Arabic language. This is the book used in Medina University to teach Arabic. This particular course which I found online is free.
Al-Arabiyya Bayna Yadayk (Arabic Between Your Hands) – Another popular three series book to learn Arabic. You can download all three volumes online for free. There is a free series available that explains these three books on Youtube. The courses are split into Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3 respectively.
Introduction to Qur’anic Arabic – This is a three level course and is completely free. The goal of the course is to teach the student the fundamentals of Qur’ānic Arabic and its grammar. The only requirement is that the student should have basic Arabic reading skills (i.e. they should be able to read the Qur’ān). There is little focus on conversational Arabic, which is left aside for later study. Instead, there is a keen focus on the grammar and vocabulary of the Qur’ān. The course avoids technical Arabic grammar terminology when possible and clarifies challenging grammar concepts in simplified and clear examples. Lectures are filled with numerous examples taken directly from the Qur’ān. They claim that the student who successfully completes Introduction to Qur’ānic Arabic, Levels 1 and 2 should gain the ability of basic Qur’ānic reading comprehension (with the help of a Dictionary). Furthermore, the student should also be able to translate Ḥadīth and Classical Arabic literature at a basic level. Nonetheless, these students should continue to learn and develop their Arabic skills and take a higher-level Intermediate Qur’ānic Arabic course. If you’re a complete beginner, it may be good to start Arabic from here and then jump into one of the previous two courses mentioned above.
A good dictionary is the most important possession of a foreign language student. If you are not constantly looking up Arabic words, then I’m not sure if you’re properly learning the language. Following is what I personally use to look up words in Arabic. If you’re using Android apps for some of the following, make sure you turn on the Arabic keyboard feature in settings. You can alternate between English and Arabic keyboards. This will let you type words directly in Arabic in the apps.
Google Translate – Hard to believe, but yes it does carry some legitimacy. This is a great tool to use for modern Arabic especially in the beginning phase of learning Arabic. The neat feature about it is that you do not need to know the root, it will give you the translation regardless. You can just copy and paste a word or type it up using it’s handy Arabic keyboard. The translation/definition is quite accurate when it comes to individual words, especially if you know the root [though there have been exceptions], but when it comes to complete sentences, then it would be better if you’re more familiar with the language because it tends to give very odd translations at times. I’ve had to modify translations multiple times for complete sentences. Another great feature is that once in a while, I’ll come across a word that I cannot find the root for anywhere [mostly due to my still learning the language and getting use to it] and Google Translate will translate it literally, which has been very helpful. However, sadly this is not always the case. I also have this as an app on my Android. I used this app heavily on Hajj to communicate with locals. I downloaded the Arabic offline Android package for it [so you don’t have to be connected to the internet to use it]. Again, you need to be familiar with the language enough to be able to modify sentences it gives you for it to be grammatically correct. Also, I don’t recommend Google Translate to be used with classical texts or the Qur’an because it gives very odd meanings unless you know what you’re doing. It’s best used for modern Arabic.
Al-Mawrid – This is perhaps the most popular dictionary with beginner level Arabic students. However, it is mostly helpful if you know the root word. Since students focus on root words in the beginning, they tend to rely on this dictionary a lot. It is important to note that the Arabic language is based on its root words. Once you recognize the root words, the language becomes much easier to digest and you can figure out the meaning of any word.
Al-Maany (Arabic-English) – This is the dictionary I resort to when the above two fail. It’s starting to become my default dictionary. However, you must know the root, otherwise, it can be useless. I love this dictionary because it gives you many ways of how a word is used differently in the language with its various meanings. It’s been very helpful with translations of classical texts. There is also an Android app for it. The app is partial, the website has more words. There is a feature in the app that takes you directly to the website to look it up if the app doesn’t find it.
Al-Maany (Arabic-Arabic) – This is the dictionary I resort to when even the above one fails. This is an Arabic only dictionary. This is only useful if you know Arabic to a certain extent, otherwise, it may not be very helpful. The best feature of this dictionary is that you do not need to know the root. You just type in the word and it will give you the root with its definition in Arabic. I use this dictionary all the time to find roots of words so that I can look them up in Al-Mawrid or Al-Maany (Arabic-English). There is an Android app for it. The app is partial, the website has more words. There is a feature in the app that takes you directly to the website to look it up if the app doesn’t find it.
Verb-Ace-Pro – This is a good dictionary if you’re willing to pay for it. It offers a trial period. I stopped using it once my trial was over because of the other dictionaries above but it’s a good tool. The key feature of it is that you can download it onto your desktop and just copy and paste words and get the translation. You can also just highlight words in Arabic on websites and it gives you the translations for them. It does the same for English websites to translate words into Arabic. It’s kind of like Google Translate but only that it is more accurate in translation of words. I don’t recall it being able to do complete sentences. It only focuses on individual words. There is also a free Android app available for this software which I use a lot and actually prefer over the desktop version!
Arab Speakers in Your Community – There will be times when all of the above will fail. I cannot recall how many times I’ve gone up to local imams, shaykhs, educated Arabs familiar with fusha and asked them to help me understand a word or sentence because I cannot wrap my head around it. Take advantage of such people in your local mosque and/or community. Don’t be shy, they will love to help you. They really appreciate that you’re looking to understand the language. I’ve had one Syrian brother sit with me for an hour explaining to me an Arabic article that I had printed.
Arabic Almanac – Intermediate and advanced level students will appreciate this page. It allows searching in Hans Wehr, Lane’s Lexicon and J. G. Hava all on a single page, 20 root based Arabic dictionaries in 6 different languages. It is great for doing research into Arabic words.
Arabic Grammar Made Easy – This is one of the earliest books that I studied in Arabic language. It was very helpful and easy to understand. If you can find someone to teach it to you, it will really help you grasp understanding over the basics.
501 Arabic Verbs: Fully Conjugated in All Forms – This is a very useful book. The key feature of this book is that it has collected 501 of the most used verbs in the Arabic language. Not only that, but it also conjugates them in all its forms (past, present, future, command, active, passive, singular, plural, dual, etc.). I memorized a few conjugations from this book and it really helped. These verbs really are common in the Arabic language. I’ve seen them over and over again. I hope to one day memorize every word with at least two conjugations (past and present) from this book. Also, it gives you the English meaning of the word and provides sample sentences. The only fault with this book is that there is no English-Arabic index in the back, so it’s really difficult when you’re trying to write English to Arabic sentences. I actually went through the whole book and created my own index.
Go Speaky – This is a very useful free tool to utilize. It brings together native speakers of different languages from all over the world who wish to practice another language. It’s a sort of pen pal system, where you send each other messages back and forth to become more efficient in the language. It’s just a way to practice what you’re learning. For example, you can speak to someone in Morocco, Egypt, or any other country whose native language is Arabic and speak with them in Arabic. At the same time, they will want to speak to you in English because they want to practice their English. When I use it, I write in both languages and my pen pals do the same. So, I’ll say for example:
Where do you study English? / أين تدرس النجليزية
i am studying in an Islamic University on the internet / أنا أدرس في جامعة إسلامية على الإنترنت
Another benefit is that some of the pen pals are willing to set up a Skype conversation with you so that you can speak to each other and practice the language. The only fault with this tool is that many of the users are not consistent. They create their accounts and speak to you a few times and then disappear completely never to be heard from again. But if you can find a consistent user, then this is very helpful. Also, just take precautions and never give personal information away. If you feel someone is too odd, then don’t engage with them.
Qisas an-Nabiyin – After 1.5-2 yrs of Arabic, you should go through this book. This is a very helpful book to practice your Arabic. It is basically stories of the prophets written in the Arabic language. The main objective of it is to teach proper Arabic to children. Your main goal should be to go through it and look up all of the words that you don’t know and then memorize them. Many Arabic institutes use it to teach Arabic to students. There is an English translation of it as well [which I have not yet reviewed], if you want help with defining certain words or see how they were translated. If you’re serious about Arabic, then use the English translation only to compare the translation with your own. You need to build the habit of figuring out the language on your own.
Arabic Keyboard – This is a good tool I used to write short Arabic essays for my class. It’s very easy to use.
Learn Arabic w/ Al-Jazeera – This is a good tool to use to practice Arabic reading. The neat feature about it is that it focuses on modern Arabic and discusses current events in the news. It also has quiz features to help you measure how much you’ve actually comprehended from the story. It also gives you a vocabulary list on the side of the articles and a link to the main article. Another cool feature of it is that it has short Arabic animation videos as well and you can choose to display the English/Arabic at the bottom of it in text format so you can follow along. I’ll be honest, I haven’t played around with this site too much because of my other occupations but it’s a great tool.
Note Cards – If you don’t have a process in place where you’re constantly writing down words that you don’t know, memorizing them, and continuously reviewing them, then you’re wasting your time with Arabic. Note cards are one of the most efficient ways to memorize vocabulary. One of my main mistakes in learning Arabic was that I didn’t pay much attention to vocabulary. I put too much focus on concepts and grammar rules. I used to memorize vocabulary for only my short term memory so that I can pass the exams and move on to the next level. I didn’t pay any more attention than that. This mistake is still hurting me today and is one of the main reasons I’m still not fluent in the language. You must memorize vocabulary for long term memory usage from the very beginning. Arabic is not just about mastering the grammar but also mastering the vocabulary. Once you start memorizing vocabulary, the language will begin to seem more and more fluid and easy to you because words are repeated constantly in the language. Focus particularly on memorizing root words and their meanings. The whole language is based on it. I now have whole stashes of note cards with 1000+ words which I go through constantly on a weekly basis. You need to have a process in place where you memorize new words and review old ones. As an example, I have five stashes of note cards and I go through each stash everyday, hence, I am reviewing all my vocabulary every five days. Once, the stashes get larger and larger, I will separate them into more days (so reviewing vocabulary every 7, 8 9, ….20, etc. days). I add about 20-25 words to my vocabulary every week, which I then memorize everyday for seven days by repeating it 20 times (a total of 140 times over seven days) and then I add them to my stash of review vocabulary. You can increase or decrease the number of times you repeat a word on a daily basis based on the strength or weakness of your memory. This is my method. You’re welcome to try it or try something else of your own. But the point is that you need to be memorizing vocabulary for the long term. You need to be able to recall Arabic words with their meaning at first look wherever they may appear.
Practice Using TED Talks – This is a really nice article on how to use TED talks on the web, which are completely free, to learn a new language.
Materials written in Arabic w/ English counterparts – There are books available that have been translated from Arabic. You can buy both the Arabic book and its English translation and practice with it. Try to figure out the Arabic yourself and then check your translation with its English equivalent. You can also check the English translation if you get stuck on a sentence or word and can’t figure it out. A good example of this would be Tafsir-Al Jalalayn. It has been translated into English and is also available in Arabic. However, this is just one example. There are many examples like this. It is yourjob to find them. You can also refer to websites like Islam-QA. Once there, you will find that every question that they have answered, there is an “ar” label on top of the page. Click on this to get its Arabic equivalent. This is a great feature for you to be able to see how Arabic is translated. Practice with this website. Print out some Arabic fatwas and try to translate them. Then compare your translation with theirs. A great feature about this site is that it quotes heavily from classical texts, so you get a bit of exposure to both, classical and modern Arabic. I know this website is controversial but you are using it to learn Arabic and not necessarily trying to follow everything they say.
Qur’an – This is one of your main objective to learning Arabic: to be able to understand the Qur’an without translation. Make sure you are constantly reading it and trying to figure it out. If you can figure out the Qur’an, you can figure out any Arabic text because the Book of Allah is the epitome of eloquence in the Arabic language. All of the grammar rules in Arabic are derived from the Qur’an. After 1.5 years of studying Arabic from a beginner level, I suggest you pick up the Qur’an and start trying to figure it out. Any vocabulary that you do not recognize, write it down on note cards in the method described above and memorize it for long term. Afterwards, read it and review that portion of the Qur’an over and over again.
The good thing about it is that there are many Qur’an specific dictionaries already available in the market. The research has already been done for you. For memorizing Qur’anic words, I personally recommend The Easy Dictionary of the Qur’an by Shaykh Abdul Karim Parekh. For general research, I personally also use Dictionary of the Holy Qur’an by Abdul Mannan Omar a lot but there are also others available in the market, such as, The Quranic Arabic Corpus (free), Meaning of Noble Qur’an Word for Word, Word for Word Meaning of Quran, Noble Quran Word-for-Word, and many others.
I am a Pakistani-American Muslim blogger. I hold a B.S. in Information Technology and a B.A. in Islamic Studies. I am also a follower and a student of the Hanbali school of Islamic law. Read more
We are commanded by Allah in the Qur’an to not only save ourselves but also our families from the fire of hell. Allah says [the meaning of which is]:
“O believers! Protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, overseen by formidable and severe angels, who never disobey whatever Allah orders—always doing as commanded.” [Qur’an 66:6]
Ibn Jawzi in his work of tafseer called Zaad al-Maseer commenting on this verse said, “Protection of the self means to comply with [His] commands and abstain from [His] prohibitions. The protection of the family means that they are commanded to comply with [His] obedience and prohibited from [committing] sins. Ali said, ‘[It means to] teach and discipline them.’”
Ibn Kathir in his tafseer quotes Qatadah as saying, “If you see a sin [from your family], then refrain and rebuke them from it.”
Parents are required to pay attention to their children and assure that they are not going astray nor adopting any bad habits. They must take all the means necessary to safeguard their children, just like every other single thing in their life, and leave the rest to Allah. They are accountable for the efforts they put in for their children but not the results because the latter is only in Allah’s control. Yes, there will be cases when parents do everything right but their children still go astray because Allah did not Will to guide them for whatever reason, as happened with the son of Prophet Nuh (pbuh) mentioned in the Qur’an, however, this should not deter parents from trying their best to keep them on the right path. This is done by various means like: making abundant supplications for them, surrounding them with good company, teaching them the religion, loving them, being kind to them, finding halal alternative forms of entertainment for them, having a close, good, trusting relationship with them, disciplining them in a productive and effective manner, etc.
I always try to read/hear/watch resources on parenting hacks and techniques, especially in the Muslim context but also from non-Muslim child psychology experts. The following is a list of resources that I have come across so far that are very promising and I plan to keep updating this page as I come across more beneficial stuff insha’Allah. My goal is to provide a large library of parenting resources that Muslim parents can go through and learn a great deal of hacks, skills, and guides to productive parenting. I hope you like them just as much as I did!
Some of the lectures below are really long but you don’t have to finish them in one day. You can take your time by finishing listening to them over a period of few days if need be. It is important to finish the whole lecture, if you really want to benefit, so that you grasp all of the concepts and advice. You can also speed up the lectures by listening to them on 2x speed. This means you will be finishing an hour long lecture in 30 minutes!
I am a Pakistani-American Muslim blogger. I hold a B.S. in Information Technology and a B.A. in Islamic Studies. I am also a follower and a student of the Hanbali school of Islamic law. Read more