Answered by Shaykh Abdullah Anik Misra
I don’t know what to learn first. I don’t know whether I should start with sira or fiqh or something else. Should I start with one subject and then move on to another, or should I learn a bit of each simultaneously? Can you please tell me what I should learn first and what to move on to afterward?
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
First Things First
The first thing is to set one’s intention. Learning Islamic knowledge, at the outset, is to draw nearer to Allah and fulfill His right to be worshipped by strengthening your love and faith in Him and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) and learning about what Allah wants from you as a grateful servant so you can operationalize it.
The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whomever Allah wants good for, He gives them detailed knowledge of the religion (Islam).” [Bukhari]
Mastering the Essentials
As for learning, there should be a portion of learning dedicated to increasing one’s love and faith in Allah and for Islam, then a portion to learning the fundamental beliefs and laws which are obligatory for you to know and abide by, and then optionally, a portion for various subjects of interest to widen your understanding of Islam and make you an educated and confident believer.
If you are new to Islam, you should get an overview of the religion and build your faith in the basics before any structured learning. Before learning in-depth laws, you should also ensure you have an introductory foundation of love and meaning in your heart.
Course: Introduction to Islam: What It Means to Be Muslim (seekersguidance.org)
If you feel settled and secure in your faith already, you should learn about the obligatory aspects that must be known by every Muslim (fard ‘ayn) in belief and practice. This includes basic theology, how to pray, fast, and so on. This can be studied through the Absolute Essentials course on SeekersGuidance Academy. Be keen to be in the physical presence of your teachers if possible during any Islamic lectures/workshops, as this allows you to observe how knowledge is practically lived and applied.
Course: Absolute Essentials of Islam (Hanafi): Getting Started With Your Belief and Practice (seekersguidance.org)
From there, SeekersGuidance Academy has a series of courses at the first level, which should be completed for a balanced basic education, then courses at the second level should be engaged, then so on gradually.
Gradualism is Key
Initially, only take on a course or two to balance with your other responsibilities and interest, and learn gradually with dedication. An overload of knowledge without corresponding practice can work against you and make things seem difficult, so only learn more as you can improve your character, practice, and state. Listen to faith-building talks and lectures and read beneficial articles in addition to supplementing informal learning.
Balance Between Sciences and the Inward and Outward Aspects
Do not neglect character-building and spiritual development for only technical courses of law and theology that give detailed information because this creates an imbalance in a seeker of knowledge. On the other hand, do not neglect to learn the Sacred Law and basic proofs of your belief because you do not want to be an ignorant worshipper either.
Always feel joy and gratitude for the little you are enabled to know and practice, rather than sadness and disappointment for how much you don’t know, as this is a secret to increasing the blessings of one’s knowledge. May Allah Most High bless you in your journey to seek closeness to Him through the sacred knowledge of Islam.
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[Shaykh] Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat
Shaykh Abdullah Misra was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1983. His family hails from India, and he was raised in the Hindu tradition. He embraced Islam in 2001 while at the University of Toronto, from where he completed a Bachelor of Business Administration. He then traveled overseas in 2005 to study the Arabic language and Islamic sciences in Tarim, Yemen, for some time, as well as Darul Uloom in Trinidad, West Indies. He spent 12 years in Amman, Jordan, where he focused on Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith Sciences, Prophetic Biography, and Islamic Spirituality while also working at the Qasid Arabic Institute as Director of Programs. He holds a BA in Islamic Studies (Alimiyya, Darul Uloom) and authorization in the six authentic books of Hadith and is currently pursuing specialized training in issuing Islamic legal verdicts (ifta’). He holds a certificate in Counselling and often works with new Muslims and those struggling with religious OCD. He is an instructor and researcher in Sacred Law and Theology with the SeekersGuidance The Global Islamic Seminary. Currently, He resides in the Greater Toronto Area with his wife and children. His personal interests include Indian history, comparative religion, English singing, and poetry.