Halqah Series

Classical Learning In Islam: PART ONE


Alhamdulillaahi Rabbil Aalamin Wassalaatu Wassalaamu Alaa Rasulil Karim
Assalaamu alaykum warahmatullaah wabarakaatuh
Beloved brothers and sisters in Islaam
You are welcome to the Halqah session for today. We ask Allaah for Barakaat, guidance and direction and may Allah benefit us all with the good in it. Aameen
Our topic for today, as introduced is: CLASSICAL LEARNING IN ISLAAM, Baarakallaahu feekum

Imaam Ibn Khaldun Al-Maaliki – rahimahullaah – in the Muqaddimah to ‘Al-Ibar’ referred to the traditional way of learning and studying in Islaam. Beloved ones, we had mentioned in the series of the Halqah that proceeded in the past three weeks, that the suspension of the Traditional methodology of learning Islam was one of the main ways with which the colonialist Europeans suppressed Islam in our lands.
And we maintained that of the best ways to regain our impulse was to revive that heritage.
There are two terms we should define:
1. Classical Learning:
It is the traditional way and methodology of learning that was used throughout our history and produced the greatest thinkers and minds that were our predecessors. Classical learning was not typical of the Muslims. It had been there right before Islam but with Muslims, it grew better and was directed in better ways.
2. Classical Texts/Books:
This is what, in western literature is referred to as ‘The Classics’. It refers to the texts that center on the Universals and have been written for many years and relied upon by the greatest caliber of Ulamaa that have passed before us. That is, by implication, the ‘Mutunu Al-Ilm’ as we have it in Islaam.

Before we leave this point, it is important to stress something; Our Ulamaa, in their Classical Literature (the Mutun) always bring Universal Matters that are applicable to every era, place and time And do not restrict their scope of reference to the times within which they live. This is as opposed to the modern books that are written.

What this means is that, a text that was written in ‘Nahw’ (Arabic Grammer) by Imaam Muhammad Ibn Abdillaah Ibn Maalik At-Taa’i – rahimahullaah – as ‘Al-Khulaasah’ (the Alfiyyah) in the era of Imaamu An-Nawawi – rahimahullaah, that is 7th century Hijrah remains as relevant to us in this era as it was in his era. That is because the text examines the Universals that are general in scope and meanings.

Another Characteristics of the Classical Texts is that they outline the knowledge for the Aalim to explain to the students and do not give all the meanings in the surface of it
That is; they are like pegs that pen down the summary of the knowledge. Then the Aalim comes to unravel those meanings to the student.
This is what brings about the ‘Shuruh’ in our Epistemology. And this is why it is very difficult to study without an Aalim or teacher.

An Aalim cannot unravel the unmentioned meanings and knowledge in the ‘Math’ he teaches or seeks to teach until he has passed through some training himself. That is the training that allows him the ability to study, digest, synthesize and understand the words of the text, Aside that training, he ought to have gone through the text he sought to teach with a teacher himself. Only when he has done this can he understand the text himself.

Now, those who have experience in this traditional methodology of study in Islam realise its importance and how greatly it opens the mind and empower the dialectical power and intellectual muscle. The Classical Methodology of Learning divides Education into three phases for children;

The first is called the ‘Grammer’ phase; That is when the child is between the ages of 6/7 and 10. In this phase the child seeks to be exposed to as many information as possible because he is curious and he doesn’t mind to repeat a literature over and over again without getting tired. In fact, he never gets tired. That’s why you see children at this stage, they repeat the same storybooks over and over, the same chants, the same rhymes, the same poems. Some Scholars put the Age period from between 4 and 10.

So, what is done in Classical learning is to empower the child by taking advantage of this ability to memorize and willingness to repeat, by composing for him lots of rhymes, poems and stories and packing them with a lot of the basic knowledge he would be using in higher levels of his education.
In the Muslim Tradition, our Ulamaa do this with the use of the ‘Araajiz’. That is what is called ‘Rhymes’ in Western Literature. It is the ‘Urjuzah’, a very good example of the ‘Urjuzah’ is Imaam Ibn Aashir Al-Maaliki’s “Al-Murshidu Al-Mu’in”, Which is a book consisting of continuous long rhymes that are easy to commit to memory and consist of the most important things that a Muslim needs on earth and of course, in accordance to the Madani [Maaliki] School.

So, in our tradition, our Ulamaa focus on packing as much knowledge as possible into the brilliant minds of the children at this phase of learning, and they do a lot of memorization.

In Mauritania for instance, in the Mahaadir, the students at this phase commit to memory all the essentials; The Qur’an, the small compilations of Hadith, and many of the fundamentals of the various sciences.
Shaykh Muhammad Saalim Al-Majlisi – rahimahullaah – is said to, at that phase commit to memory over 10,000 lines of poetry All packed with the universals of all the Islamic Sciences we have in our Classical School System. It is only when a Scholar has this kind of very solid background that he can deliver accurately Islamic Knowledge in his later life.

Brothers and sisters, this is the kind of learning we need to revive and not the methodology of mixing little information of Islam with western-oriented earthly knowledge that we feed our children today in modern schools.
Insha’Allah we shall stop here and continue tomorrow with the second phase. Baarakallaahu feekum
We ask Allah to guide and bless us all, and to make easy for us the ability to revive our Tradition.
Subhaanaka Allaahumma Wabihamdik Ash’hadu An Laa’ilaaha illallaah nastaghfiruka wanatuubu ilayk
Assalaamu alaykum warahmatullaah wabarakaatuh


Islamnode is a platform for the dissemination of sound Knowledge of Islam and an orientation of Muslims of the Sciences of the Din in accordance with the Pristine Knowledge taught by the Rasul – Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam – to the Companions – Ridwanullah ‘Alayhim – and understood by them, their Students and those who followed them of the earliest generations. We follow the Sunnah of the Rasul – Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam – and promote the Works of the Ulama of Sunnah from the first generation to date. Our goal is to propagate the Sciences of Islam, to disseminate the sound understanding of the Salaf and to enable the sound education of Muslims in this era.

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