What Makes Us Seek Knowledge of Islam?

People often say that converts/reverts are “better Muslims”. Do you find that your convert friends are more pious than your friends who were raised by Muslim parents? You might find that they know more about Islam than nationals of Muslim majority countries. You may even find that they have greater knowledge of the history of Islam, the fundamental principles, and stronger faith which manifests itself outwardly. Why would this be the case? While there are people who convert to Islam and shortly thereafter become Muslim in name only, wearing the clothes and carrying a new name, many converts fall into the opposite category, practicing Islam with the greatest zeal. This enthusiasm leads them to read books, attend lectures and become active in various Muslim organizations which help them to develop their knowledge of Islam. For many converts these activities are the very actions that lead them to Islam.

One of my dearest friends came to Islam after reading the Qur’an. A history major and the daughter of Christian missionaries, she read it expecting to find faults in it and instead was inspired. I personally came to Islam seeking a detailed set of rules to follow after realizing that I could not find true success by simply taking life on my own terms. In order to call myself a Muslim I had to come face to face with rules and as I continue to grow in my faith I don’t just learn more rules, I learn more about their history and purpose. Allah instilled this desire to learn in me, in my friend and in converts in general. He instills it in the hearts of those raised as Muslims as well but perhaps it is from a different level of consciousness.

There are Muslims from Muslim lands who migrate to developed countries such as the US and UK. Some fall prey to fitna but others find that their respect for Islam and desire to grow closer to Allah increases. Seeing Islam against the backdrop of a non-Muslim environment develops within them an appreciation which did not exist when they were in their homelands where perhaps they took it for granted.

When we look at how and where a Muslim as raised and how and where he is currently living, we are bound to find differences in levels of Islamic knowledge and outward expression of faith. Perhaps it is the influence of the environment that has a stronger effect upon one’s likelihood to see knowledge of Islam and consequently strengthen one’s faith. In pre-9-11 New York, I was often hurt by the fact that my salaams to born Muslims of the same sex went unanswered. Post 9-11, I my salaams were always enthusiastically returned. Prior to 9-11, those sisters who failed to return my salaam identified themselves as Arabs or according to their national origin and did not identify with an African American Muslim like me. But in a post 9-11 world there was a realization that non-Muslims see us as a monolith and a potential threat so there developed a new identity amongst previously divided Muslims. Negative as it may be, such an environment can develop a sense of pride in Islam that leads one to seek knowledge in Islam.

What encourages Muslims to seek knowledge? It may be simple curiosity. It could be in preparation for giving dahwah. As is the case of minority Muslims, especially those living in lands where Muslims are misunderstood or vilified, the need to gain greater knowledge of Islam is more pressing in that it becomes an attempt to defend one’s faith.

Let us not forget the early Muslims. They began the tradition of memorizing al Qur’an and developed the Islamic sciences. In an environment where they were persecuted they laid the foundation for those of us who seek Islamic knowledge today.

Whatever setting we may find ourselves in, let us pray that Allah instills in us the will to seek greater knowledge in this deen and to encourage others to do the same.

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