Below is a very beneficial and practical article written by my friend. The original article can be found on his blog on http://abusiyaam.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/returning-to-seeking-knowledge-after-learning-arabic/
Without a doubt, being in the path of seeking knowledge is a great blessing granted by Allah (SWT) upon His slaves. The verses and the reports which talks about the virtues of being on this path are too many to account.
Those who have tread the path of seeking knowledge knows the sweetness of being upon this path, and those who have come out of it, yearn and long to return back to it. Perhaps after coming out of seeking knowledge, one may recall the moments and the memories that had passed by him whilst being upon that noble path. Whether these moments were good or bad, it results to one thing for many, the longing to go back to that time once more. For many of us this may not be possible, as one may have commitments, or have busied himself with the worldly matters, or the worldly matters have kept him busy.
It was known from the Salaf, that once they had embarked this path of knowledge, they truly kept them self busy with it and did not let the worldly matters busy them; the accounts of the Salaf are many, and from some of their statements:
Abu Yousaf al-Qaadi said: “Knowledge is something that will not give you even a fraction of itself until you give it all of yourself.”
Al-Khatib Al-Baghdaadi mentioned in his Jaami’: “The knowledge is not granted to except he who shuts down his factory, destroy his garden, abandon his friends, and whose closest relatives have died, such that he does not have to attend a funeral!”
Az-Zubair ibn Abi Baks said: “My niece said to our family: “My uncle is the best to his family. He did not take a second wife or purchase a slave.” So I said, “My wife said that these books of mine are more distracting for me than three other wives would be.””
Az-Zarnooji said: “Muhammad bin al-Hasan ash-Shaibaani would not sleep at night. He would place his books on front of him, and if he became bored of one book, he’d move to another…”
Some of the quotes from them may seem very extreme to the reader, but they reached their stations because of the way they were. From these statements what we understand that the Salaf gave a lot of their time to knowledge, and they kept away from things that would distract the gathering of their thoughts and their concentration for knowledge.
As mentioned many of us may not be able to return to seeking knowledge, such as travelling abroad again after returning, sitting in the circles of the knowledge’s, moving from one country to another – so what is the solution? One may say, ‘I have my collection of Arabic books, so I will just read them!’ This may be a solution for some and not for others. People vary in the way they learn the best, some learn the best by hearing, others by seeing and whilst others learn the best through interaction.
For a person who has learnt the basic Arabic, it may be more confusing at times as what to do or where to start, after returning from learning Arabic, some may be even sitting in idle, and whilst others may be sitting in circles which are not ‘juicy’ enough for them. What we wanted to do here is to lay down a basic study plan for the brothers and sisters who know basic Arabic. It can also be used by the English speakers, if these books and lectures are also available in English. Before laying down the study plan, we should lay down some pre-conditions; otherwise it will be just another study plan.
Intention: Having the correct intention for knowledge is very important, as it is what drives a person to do it. So the intention should consist of: gaining nearness to Allah (SWT), seeking Al-Jannah, seek knowledge to lift ignorance from oneself and from others, to bring life to His Shar’iah and to defend it against those who oppose it and desire to give it a false interpretation. So one must feel that he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. When one feels exhaustion from seeking this knowledge, let him return to his intention to re-energise.
Patience and Consistence: To be consistent at doing that action, even if it is something insignificant. Great fruits results from being consistent in an action. Some of the Salaf said: “Whoever is not patient upon the humiliation of learning will spend the rest of his life in the blindness of ignorance, and whoever is patient upon it will spend this life and the next in a state of honour.” Ash-Shafi said: “Be patient upon the sourness and the dryness of knowledge, because failure in knowledge is turning away from it. And he who does not taste the sourness of knowledge for an hour, will swallow the humiliation of ignorance for his whole life.”
Having a ‘fixed’ Time Slot: Ibn al-Qayyim’s saying is sufficient: “Getting what you want depends on cutting of habits and attachment to anything else.”
With these pre-requisites, one should engage in study, these pre-conditions are his companion in his road to knowledge.
Method One: Audio Learning in Arabic
This is a great way of learning after picking up the basic Arabic language. One may not be able to be with the teachers physically or bodily but can reap the same benefits, as if the person was present in those lessons, by listening to it. Some people learn best by listening, so this is the ideal path for them. Audio learning is great in another sense, for example if a person did not understand an issue he can always go back to it [by rewinding], which at times is not possible in some of the circles of knowledge.
Most of the lectures that take place in the Mosque of the Prophet (pbuh) in Medina are recorded and are available. These lectures are very beneficial. So, that student who wished to sit with scholars of Medina and did not get that chance, then this is the closet he will get to them. By listening to these lectures, it is as if you are sitting in the Prophet’s Mosque and being with scholars of Medina! Their methodology is excellent too; it covers all the levels in learning: from the beginners, to intermediate and to higher – so when one finishes with the first level, they can move to the next. The study plan is as follows for the first level:
Usool al-Fiqh : Al-Waraqaat
Al-Qawaaid Al-Fiqhiyyah : Al-Qawaaid Al-Fiqhiyaah As-Sa’adi
Al-Fiqh : Umdat al-Fiqh
Al-Meeraath : Ar-Rahbiyyah
Fiqh al-Hadith : Umdat al-Ahkaam
Asmaa’ wa as-Sifaat : Al-Waasitiyyah
At-Tawheed : Al-Usool Ath-Thalatha
Al-Mustalah : Al-Bayqooniyyah
Al-Hadeeth : Al-Lu’lu wa al-Marjaan
An-Nahu : Al-Aajroomiyyah
Ar-Raqaaiq : Al-Waabil As-Sayyib
At-Tafseer : Aysir at-Tafaasir
How to study these books?
One should not be afraid by the number of books nor by the number of lectures in each of these subjects:
Firstly, return to the pre-requisites.
Secondly, do not take more than two or three books in one go. Take perhaps two books, one for the evening and one for the morning.
Thirdly, listen to ‘one lecture a day only’ from each chosen subject.
Forthy, do not just listen to lectures, take notes from it – either in a separate note book or just add footnotes to the book that’s being studied. Do not write down everything the Shaykh says, but write in summary from.
Fifthly, in this way complete ‘all’ the lectures for that specific book. Have a little chart on the wall, with the names of the books – once you have completed a book, write down the date of completion. This will give you motivation for you to start and finish the next book.
Sixthly, once you have finished a book, choose another book to start. Remember to take around two at a time; the aim is to finish with understanding and not take many books and not finish any of them.
In this way, finish the first level, and then move on to the next. This way of learning and finishing this study plan may take a long time – even years – but do not let this dishearten or scare you, think about the virtues and fruits that you will reap from it. If the Medina lectures are not available to a person, one can simply study the same books which were taught by other Shaykhs – which are available in islamway.com as I believe.
Method Two: Learning by Reading
Some people benefit more by reading than listening. A student of knowledge should train himself to read a lot. But just reading many long books at times may not yeild fruitful results, one should always try to summarize that book, by passing every chapter – this will broaden one understanding and multiply one’s knowledge as it will be with him in a summarized form. It is great to having passion for books, but its rights needs to be given to it; the least one should do is read its foreword and its index to know at least what the book contains. A study plan for this type of learning for the Arabic speakers has been written in detail, refer back to: abuqutaybah.blogspot.com
Method Three: Visual Learning
This is probably the most beneficial way of learning for most people, as it involves interaction and mixing with the teacher and students. This may not be available abundantly for the Arabic speakers in London and the West in general, so it can be somewhat difficult. But I believe that there are some lessons that takes place in Arabic, one need to inquire and do a bit more research. If no avail, then perhaps the next best option is to search for visual lectures that are available on the net or try to attend circles of knowledge – even if it is in the English language as not to distant oneself away from knowledge totally. Allah know best.