Studying Islam in America

By Harun Saleh

In this article, I want to talk about studying Islam in the US (or in any western country). Many people have a passion to study Islam however life’s circumstances prevent them from dropping everything to move to a different country to study with ‘ulema. This does not mean that there is not hope. One can still do a lot where they are.

Taking advantage of your local teachers

This is one that you cannot overlook. While there are many online options for studying Islam should look to their local teachers first. Our tradition is taken from live interactions with teachers.

No amount of self-study can replace that.

In Siyar A’alam al Nubula, Imam al Dhahabi reported: Ibn Wahb, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “Were it not for Malik and Al-Layth, I would have been ruined. I used to believe that everything narrated about the Prophet, peace, and blessings be upon him, should be acted upon.” Ibn Wahb went on to become one of the main transmitters of the Maliki Madhhab. Your teachers were in the same situations you once were. They are more than just teachers, they are your advisers and fathers in knowledge. You will learn a lot from the mistakes they made when they were in your shoes.

Before you go overseas to study you must remember that no matter how much knowledge you gain you are indebted to your first teachers forever. Shaykh Fawzi Konate often reminds students in his classes that you surpassing your teachers back home is what you are supposed to do. If you do anything less than that you will return as a failed student. The only reason you will be able to surpass your teachers is due to the foundation they built up for you which they themselves most likely did not have when they traveled to study.

Taking advantage of online options

People should, in the age we live in, be taking advantage of all the online resources they can get access to. There are many great online initiatives for teaching Arabic and the Islamic Sciences. If one is serious they can get a lot done online including memorizing the Qur’an in multiple Qira’aat, learning Arabic to a high level including texts such as Alfiyyat Ibn Malik, learning fiqh, ‘aqida, and much more. It is important to note that with online studying one needs to be very self-disciplined.

Reading One should read in their spare time making notes of important points. In the time that I was not in classes, I would try my best to read books in Arabic in the subjects I am most interested in. I was buying books in Arabic before I could even read a sentence in Arabic. I would crack open those books and struggle very hard to get through a page. This was one of the best things I did for myself. Sometimes you need to be thrown in the deep end to learn how to swim. In a future article, I will put together a recommended reading list in sha Allah.

My studies in America For some practical examples, I will draw from some of my experiences studying in the US when I was studying in America I was working full time. With that in the years before I moved to Egypt I did the following;

The Safina Society Uwaylim program with Dr. Shadee Elmasry. This was 3 hours a week on Sundays and over 5 years we covered; uloom ul Qur’an, Uloom ul hadith, Aqida, Fiqh, Usul ul Fiqh, Sira, Tassawuf, Explanation of Hadiths, and tajweed.

I would also go to my Arabic teacher Shaykh Osamah Salhia to study Al Nahw al Wadih, Ajrumiyya, Tuhfat us Saniyya. I would go twice a week and we would spend 2–3 hours on Arabic specifically Arabic grammar (nahw). This was perhaps the most important part of my studies in America and if I could do it all over again I would have done much more Arabic.

In addition to that, I did part of the studio arabiyya Arabic program which was also a big help.