Seeking Islamic Knowledge: Tips and Resources

  • 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 of Knowledge, 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


  1. Advice to Students of Knowledge by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
  2. Creating and Sustaining North American Muslim Scholarship by Yasir Qadhi and Faraz Rabbani (video)
  3. Islam and Ego by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
  4. Beyond Ilm Summit by Yasir Qadhi, Yasir Birjas, and Waleed Basyouni (video)
  5. Intellectual Humility by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
  6. People of Pure Mind by Nouman Ali Khan (video)
  7. Lofty Intentions: Having Noble Visions and Goals by Yasir Qadhi (video)


  1. Keeping it Real: Student of Knowledge Superstars by
  2. Classical Advices on Knowledge by
  3. Top Ten Things Every Student of Knowledge Should Know by


  1. The Pitfalls in the Quest for Knowledge by Salman Fahd al-Oadah
  2. Manners of the Knowledge Seeker by Muhammad Raslan
  3. How to Read the Books of the People of Knowledge by Saalih Aalush-Shaykh
  4. The Excellence of Knowledge: The Virtue of the Salaf Over the Khalaf by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali
  5. Knowledge Mandates Action by Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdaaddee
  6. The Book of Knowledge by Imam An-Nasaa’i
  7. The Book of Knowledge by Muhammad ibn Salih al-Uthaymeen

How to Give a Khutbah – Public Speaking, How to, Etiquettes and Tips by Navaid Aziz

I have been giving khutbahs for years now, alhamdulillah, and found the following lecture extremely helpful and useful.

Shaykh Navaid Aziz’s Brief Bio

Shaykh Navaid Aziz has been described as being a gem in and of himself. Shaykh Navaid has a way of making each student feel special, as though he is talking to them one-on-one. Students have described his demeanor and manner of speaking to exude sincerity and care. Hailing from Montreal, Quebec Sh Navaid is a man of many cultures and flavors. He completed an Associate’s degree in Commerce and Social Sciences before heading to the illustrious Islamic University of Madinah. Sh. Navaid went on to complete a diploma in the Arabic language as well as a Bachelors in Shari’ah (Islamic Law), with a specialization in Fiqh and Usul Al-Fiqh. Upon returning to North America Sh. Navaid joined the speakers circuit and has traveled the world lecturing and teaching. He serves the Muslim community as a family and youth counselor. As a strong advocator for a bright Muslim future he is the Islamic editor for Little Explorers magazine in the United Kingdom. He currently serves as the director of the IISC in Calgary.

Tips for Khateebs: 11 Ways to Become a Highly Effective Public Speaker

I have been giving Friday sermons (khutbah) for over a decade now for various mosques in my area. I recently came across an article in Arabic about tips on public speaking. I found them very helpful and can relate them to my own personal experience, so I thought I’d share them here on my blog. I am not translating word-for-word but just summarizing the concepts mentioned and also filling in my own version of the details based on my experience. I am also writing them in the context of khateebs giving sermons in mosques on Fridays, but the points mentioned are pertinent for any public speaking situation.

There are eleven tips every public speaker should do to become an effective speaker:

1 – Practice Makes Perfect

Unless you are among those few gifted individuals with innate natural public speaking capabilities, it is a skill that needs to be developed over time just like any other skill. This is why it is important to practice the speech before delivery to such an extent that it becomes natural during the actual presentation. Don’t become disheartened if you fall flat during the actual delivery but see it as a motivation to become better. The more speeches you give, the better and more natural you will become. Just remember to learn from your mistakes and grow from them.

I usually do not give multiple sermons within a month at the same location but prefer to move around. This is very helpful to me, because if I fall flat one week, then I try to do the same sermon better the following week in another location. This helps me focus on my weak points and try to figure out why I bombed the first time and it’s usually due to lack of practicing the speech before delivery.

2 – Quality of Delivery

How the message is delivered to the audience matters just as much as the research done to prepare it. You can put in all the time you want to prepare the lecture, however, if you do not deliver it in the right manner, it could be all for nothing. The speaker should assure proper pronunciation of words, avoid bad grammar, and use suitable body language in order to get the listeners’ attention.

There is another aspect which is very important and something I struggle with even today. The message should be delivered in a slow and clear pace. This does not mean so slow that it bores the listeners, but it should be slow enough that the audience can intellectually digest the information, especially those for whom English is not their first language. This is extremely difficult to do for natural fast talkers like myself. I am constantly flagged by listeners and Friday sermon organizers of speaking too fast. It is something I still need to work on!

3 – Tone of Voice

Your tone of voice plays a big role in whether listeners fall asleep or drift away into daydreams or not. In order to retain attention, you should raise or lower your tone of voice depending on the type of message you are delivering. For example, if something exciting is being discussed, then your voice should rise. If something sad is being discussed, then you voice should become more calm and lowered. The audience should be able to tell from your tone the mood of the topic.

One of the most common reasons people become disinterested and bored during speeches is because the speaker speaks with a monotone. Give the audience something to be excited about through variations in pitch of your voice.

4 – Appearance of the Speaker

It is not OK to do a Friday sermon in your pajamas. Good appearance communicates to the audience that you are a professional who wants to be taken seriously and not someone who is being made to stand before the audience because the organizers could not find anyone else to do the sermon that week. If the audience sense that you look as if you don’t belong there, they will mentally check out. People will take those whom they respect far more seriously, therefore, putting on a neat, suitable, and professional appearance will do exactly that…it will make them respect you. In addition, they will also consider you a good example.

I recently ordered a beautifully wrapped turban from Turkey with a nice long thawb to go along with it specifically to be worn for Friday sermons. I have been using it every time I give a sermon for months now and I can confidentially say that there is now a very different type of vibe from the audience. They are more attentive, show respect even before I get on the mic, and seem more in tune with my message.

5 – Confidence When Speaking

You must exhibit confidence in whatever you’re saying. You need to deliver the message in a way that shows the audience that the topic is well researched and that you know exactly what you’re talking about. In other words, you must believe in what you’re saying. If you give the audience the impression that you are iffy about your statements or lack evidence in your claims, then they will not take you seriously. Everything about you as the speaker should exhibit confidence and mastery of the topic. Confidence in your tone, voice, message, and body language. You have to make people believe what you’re saying and they will not do that if you yourself seem doubtful.

6 – Avoiding Unfamiliar Topics

It is important to avoid topics which you are either unfamiliar with or have very weak understanding on. This is because you will not be able to build a convincing case for/against it. You run the risk of muddling the information and presenting it in a confusing style. It could lead the listeners to lose respect and dignity for you. You should focus on discussing only topics you are well familiar with or at least have spent a decent time researching. Again, if listeners feel you are speaking about something you lack understanding on or evidence, then they will not be motivated nor interested in what you have to say.

7 – Keeping the Audience in Mind

When you speak, you must adjust the delivery of your message to fit the listeners’ level. For example, you would not explain why we worship Allah to kids the same you would to adults. Similarly, appeal to cultural references during a speech may work for one audience but not another. You have to figure out what is best and most suitable for your audience and also the level of rhetoric you must use.

I am often less formal when giving the sermon to college kids at a university than I am in a mosque because the audience is different. Whenever I am invited to give a talk in a new place, I always ask for more details about the community and what type of people are expected to be in the audience. This information helps me mentally prepare for a suitable delivery catered for that particular audience.

8 – Practicing What You Preach

It is very important to practice what you preach, otherwise, you are being hypocritical. It is a type of deception and threatens your credibility. How can a stingy person stand in front of the people and advise them to be generous towards the poor?! You will find that your message will come out more passionate, sincere, and effective when it is something you actually practice in your own life because you will be speaking from the heart. And I hope it will also be blessed by Allah because of the sincerity and truthfulness embedded in it.

9 – Avoiding Repetitions

Constantly repeating the same point over and over again could become boring for the listeners and even get annoying. Repetition may be useful as a rhetorical tool if done correctly, but as a general rule, you should not keep repeating the same thing over and over again. You can try other ways of re-emphasizing the same concept if need be, such as, story telling, mentioning different but related themes, giving examples, etc.

10 – Evoking Good Emotions

It is not a good thing to evoke negative attitudes in the audience by naming and insulting specific people or causing a stir in the community. The message should end with hope, piety, doing one’s best, trusting in Allah, and other positive emotions. The audience should leave the sermon feeling joy, wonder, hope, and eager to be better versions of themselves. They should not leave feeling angry, insulted, ridiculed, or attacked.

11 – Solid Preparation

Some speakers prefer to write their whole speech down and read from it during the presentation, others memorize their speeches, and some just note down the main points on paper and improvise by filling in the details during presentation. Everyone has their own comfort zone and they should do whatever is easy for them. But whatever method you are comfortable with, you must make sure that you are prepared. It does not look good on the speaker if he seems confused, lost, or unprepared for the sermon. You will quickly lose interest of the audience, so it is important to review the speech, multiple times if need be, before presentation to assure that you are able to follow a coherent progressive structure of the points you want to make.