What are the steps for a Muslim to seek knowledge of Islamic ruling?
Praise be to Allah.
What is the advice a Muslim who wants to begin the journey of seeking knowledge should follow, what are the step-by-step process, And how can a Muslim begin to seek knowledge so he can achieve a high level of knowledge and faith?
To achieve a high level of knowledge, and for the knowledge seeker to benefit from it in this world and hereafter, you should start with the most important matter.
In addition, you should aim in seeking the knowledge because as a Muslim you should be able to rectify yourself and others, that said as a Muslim you should begin with the matters that are important for yourself first and then for those surrounding you.
The Muslim Should begin by attaining some general knowledge of the texts of revelation
The seeker of the knowledge should know that the first step is to attain some general knowledge of the texts of the revelation (The Qur’an) because those are the main source of rules for the religion of Allah.
With that, the Muslim should start off by memorizing the Holy Qur’an and should be eager to understand the true meaning of texts Memorised.
TIP: The Muslim much as his energy and free time allow focus on memorising the Holy Qur’an while mastering the true meaning of the texts. He must also not forget that everything he knows is a waste if he never put it into action.
That said, for the purpose of understanding the true meaning of the Islamic rulings, It is advisable for you to study the Tafseer of Shaykh ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan as-Saadi (may Allah have mercy on him), because the author is one of those who are well-known for sound belief, and his Tafseer is written in straightforward language and easy to read.
TIP: Sometimes the Islamic Knowledge seeker must have someone as a master who will guide him along the way, as a point to note, he should find a master that has goo ‘aqeedah.
Similarly, the Muslim should strive hard to study the true Islamic Aqeedah (belief) and fiqh (jurisprudence), this must not be a delay as you need it to be able to achieve the standard of being a true believer of Allah and the follower of the prophet (PBUH).
The Muslim should study Aqeedah and practice all you learnt, while also telling people about only what you know for sure, and continue acquiring his knowledge. In regard to the fiqh, it is best for the knowledge seeker to begin with the Madhhab that is widespread in his own environment, because of these reasons:
1. It will be easier for the Muslim to find a shaykh who is well-versed in that Madhhab, so it will be easy to have someone to guide him.
2. By learning the madhhab of your fellow countrymen, you will get help from fellow countrymen. Like being able to ask them for books that are available and the views of local scholars when there is a need for that.
With that, you can look for a shaykh in your local environment who is trustworthy in terms of his knowledge and religious commitment, and start studying with him. Also, the shaykh should be able to tell you the evidence for every issue. While helping you avoid a lot of the scholarly opinions which will not help you at the beginning of your search for knowledge.
You Should Also study the prophetic Sunnah
As you memorise and study the Holy Qur’an, you should also study the prophetic sunnah.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
There is no book better than the Book of Allah, may He be glorified and exalted. What I advise my brothers to do is to focus on the Holy Qur’an, memorising it, understanding it and acting upon it, for the Sahaabah (may Allah be pleased with them) did not go beyond ten verses until they had learned them and what they contain the knowledge and prescribed actions; they learned knowledge and put it into practice at the same time.
Then after that, you should focus on the hadiths that have been soundly narrated from the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). It is well-known that the hadiths that have been soundly narrated from the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) are very many, and the seeker of knowledge who is at a beginner or intermediate level cannot learn all of them, but there are some books on this topic which can be referred to, such as ‘Umdat al-Ahkaam by ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi (may Allah have mercy on him); al-Arba‘een an-Nawawiyyah by an-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him); and other brief books. Then after that, he can move on to somewhat longer books, such as Buloogh al-Maraam and al-Muntaqa min Akhbaar al-Mustafa. Then after that, he can read further in the books of hadith, such as Saheeh al-Bukhaari and Saheeh Muslim.
From Majmoo‘ Fataawa wa Rasaa’il Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (26/375-376).
However, after you have built a solid foundation in fiqh and gained an understanding of the most important issues of ‘aqeedah, prepare yourself to learn about differences of opinion and how to determine the view that is most likely to be correct.
TIP: Study ‘ilm an-nahw was-sarf (study of Arabic language and grammar), ‘ilm usool al-fiqh (the fundamentals of fiqh) and ‘ilm al-hadith (study of hadith) because they are the tools for figuring out the view that is likely to be correct.
Also, Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
With regard to nahw (Arabic grammar), he should start with brief books first, such as al-Ajroomiyyah, which is a useful, blessed and brief book that is divided into portions that the beginner can grasp, especially if Allah enables him to find a scholar who can explain it to him. Then after that, I advise him to memorise Alfiyyah Ibn Maalik (may Allah have mercy on him) and understand its meanings, for it is a blessed Alfiyyah in which there is much good.
From Majmoo ‘ Fataawa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (23/376).
After the Muslim has learned the tools of ijtihad
Then after you have learned about the most important tools of ijtihad, you may begin deepening the knowledge of different views and ways of determining which view is more likely to be correct, whether that is in the field of fiqh, Tafseer or hadith commentary.
It’s also important for any knowledge seeker to practise the etiquette and manners of seeking knowledge.
Allah knows best.