Answered by Shaykh Omar Subedar
There are so many organizations and groups in the city that offer Islamic courses, classes and lectures. How do I know and how do I judge which courses I can take and which courses/organizations will be giving me correct information and what should I look for in terms of qualifications in a scholar who teaches these courses?
May Allāh increase your zeal in acquiring ‘Islamic Knowledge’ and make it easy for you to attain.
Before pondering over which course to take and what institute to join, it is important for you to first determine your objective in taking these Islamic courses. When it comes to Islamic knowledge its purpose is to practice upon it and seek Allāh’s pleasure. Hence the first question you’d like to ask yourself is where do you stand in your relationship with Allāh and how much does your lifestyle conform to the lifestyle of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. This is something that only you can determine.
Once you have come to a conclusion you need to start acquiring the knowledge that would take you closer to that way of life and would help you build upon whatever foundation you currently stand on. This is when you start exploring the different institutes and see which one will help you the most in achieving your objective.
When it comes to determining which organization will provide you the correct information this really depends on what sources are being used and what methodology is being followed in the particular science that is being taught. If the source and the methodology of the science is correct then the information that will be imparted will in-shā-Allāh also be correct. For example, when it comes to Islamic Jurisprudence there are certain texts that have been accepted and widely used by each respective school. Throughout the ages you will find scholars, who were the giants of Islamic scholarship, traditionally followed one particular school of Islamic law while maintaining respect for the other existing schools. If the institute is imparting information from an accepted source of a particular school and follows the footsteps of the pious predecessors of adhering to one school then the knowledge that will come from them will be sound in-shā-Allāh. If however, the institute decides to use material that is not recognized by the authorities of the field and teaches a methodology that is not consistent with the trends of the past generations then the knowledge imparted by them will be questionable and should be avoided.
As for what to look for in a scholar, some questions that are important to ask are;
- Where did he acquire his knowledge from; a seminary, a university, online courses or part time courses? This is important to know because it will help one understand the mindset and the ability of the teacher. The values that are promoted by the institute he studied in will reflect in his approach and personality. Hence, you would want to determine whether you agree to those values or not.
- What are his credentials? Did he acquire a licence (ijāzah) or a degree or did he drop out of the course before completing it and slapped a title before his name telling everyone that he ‘studied’ in a particular institute? Similarly, what are the areas of his study? Did he study ḥadīth and is now teaching a course on the principles and sciences of fiqh? This is like a chiropractor teaching you a course on cardiology.
- How observant is he of the religion himself? This does not require you to police him rather it will manifest in his personality and his way of life.
And Allāh Knows Best