Seeking Knowledge for New Muslims – Where to Start?

One of the biggest challenges new Muslims face is in regard to seeking knowledge, especially nowadays when there is so much information available and so many apparently contradictory views.

It’s difficult to know where to start, where to look and who to turn to.

It is also difficult to give specific advice about seeking knowledge, as God brings people to Islam along many different paths, according to what would suit them best.

Here are some basic suggestions that can be referred to.

Initial Sources

Prophet Muhammad said:

Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim (male and female). (Ibn Majah)

There is no doubt in this, but what sort of knowledge should you learn?

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The priority is to learn what will bring you closer to God in the way that He wants you to come closer to Him. And the only way you can find out how to do that is to learn about Islam from sound sources.

In the early days, it’s very difficult to know what the sound sources are; and it is something that will take time to discover, as it does when learning any subject. So all you can do in the early days is to find the best source that is available to you, as soon as you can.

Don’t delay your learning while looking for the best source; start as soon as you can with what you have. That may be with the person who has helped you to come to Islam, a local group that supports new Muslims, someone from the mosque or even someone you have found on the internet.

The main thing is to start somewhere. If later on you find a better source, you can turn to them instead, but don’t wait too long.

First Priorities

You will already have learned quite a bit about Islam to have brought you to the point of wanting to say your Shahadah (Testimony of Faith); but it is likely that your learning will have been random and incidental and there are likely to be some significant gaps in your knowledge.

If we look at the example of how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught the early Muslims about Islam, you can use that as a guide to the priorities of what gaps you should initially try to fill.

Read Also: Converts – Seeking Knowledge is Power

For the first 13 years, while the Muslims were in Makkah, the Prophet Muhammad concentrated on teaching his followers about God; he helped them to understand who He was and what their relationship with Him should be.

So the first thing that a new Muslim needs to learn is about the Creed or Aqeedah of Islam, as this is the basis of the faith and the foundation for the sound practice of the religion.

At this stage it is important to understand the basics and not get involved with all the different schools of thought. It’s important to develop your relationship with God and get closer to Him.

Your intention should be to learn the basics of the prayer; so you can gradually build up to praying all the five obligatory daily prayers on a consistent basis.

Next Priorities

Once these basics have been established, the next stage is to start learning about the other obligatory acts of worship, such as fasting, Zakat and Hajj, so you can put them into practice when the time comes. As Prophet Muhammad said:

Knowledge has priority over preaching and action. (Al-Bukhari)

So seek out the knowledge you need to enable you to put your faith into practice.  It is obligatory on Muslims to learn Arabic, at least to the level that they can perform their prayers.

Alongside the acts of worship, you’ll need to learn the Islamic guidance that relates to your daily life so you can develop the manners, conduct and morals that please God.

This will include subjects such as how to treat your family and neighbors; the relationship between men and women, and marriage… This may sound a bit heavy at this stage, but it’s worth checking these things out.

I also suggest that all new Muslims should try to read the Quran in its entirety at least once. If you read it like an ordinary book from page 1 to the end, it will give you an amazing impression of the message that God set down to us.

You can study it in more detail later on, but reading it once is so beneficial. The other books it would be useful to read or at least dip into are Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the two main reference sources of Hadith.

Further Study

For most Muslims the above is as much as they need to learn about Islam, as this will enable them to live as a practicing Muslim; but for others this isn’t enough and they want to take their studies further.

There are many different organizations being set up these days to teach Islamic knowledge in English, some of them use distance learning methods, others teaching via the internet and others are now establishing face to face degree level programs.

A good place to start for people in the UK is through a program specifically designed for new Muslims, such as The Muslim Now Retreats; New Muslim Academy which offers free online courses. Following on from that there are more advanced classes online, such as the one taught by the Islamic Online University or the weekend courses run by Al Maghrib Institute and AlKauthar Institute.

It is admirable to learn as much as you can about Islam.

But knowledge without practice or conviction is baseless. If you look at how the Prophet’s companions used to learn the Quran you will have the best example to follow: “It is reported on the authority of Abu `Abdur-Rahman As-Salami, who said:

‘We used to learn ten verses of the Quran and not to continue on to the next ten until we had made ourselves well-acquainted with its rules, as well as its commands and prohibitions.’

So take your time, learn as much as you can about your new faith, but make sure to understand and implement it as best as you can, before going onto study further.

(From Discovering Islam archive.)

About Amal Stapley
Amal Stapley After accepting Islam in 1992, Amal graduated from the International Islamic University of Malaysia with a degree in Psychology and Islamic studies. She then went on to work with several Islamic organizations in the USA, Egypt and more recently in her home country, the UK.