A saying attributed to two great early scholars of fiqh, Sufyān al-Thawrī and Abū Ḥanīfa, states that “There is nothing after obligatory worship better than seeking knowledge.”

 

My path to seeking knowledge at Darul Qasim began a few years ago. After years of being bombarded on all sides with diverse ideas about what Islam is, who gets to speak on its behalf, and what is the “correct” mode of following it is, I was honestly very confused. I knew that Islam is important but I didn’t know what that meant or what impact it should have on my life.

I decided to start looking for a place to seriously study my religion. After bouncing around to a few different teachers in the Chicago area, a friend told me about Darul Qasim and advised that it might be a good place to look into. After meeting with Shaykh Amin and looking over the courses Darul Qasim offers, I was sold. On the surface, it provided everything I was looking for: classically-trained scholars, an emphasis on reading the great books of our tradition, and rigorous courses. I immediately signed up as a part-time student, hoping that I could learn a little bit more about my religion. I got a lot more than I was expecting.

The first class I took was on Imam al-Taḥawī’s ʿAqīdah al-Taḥawiyya with Shaykh Amin. Since it’s a short text on Muslim belief, only 130 bullet points, I thought we’d spend a couple sessions on it and move onto the next book. After all, the text itself seemed so simple and basic that a student could read it on their own and understand all they needed from it. I was very wrong.

Meeting once a week, we spent over a semester on this short text. Shaykh Amin’s explanation of these key points of Islamic belief went into depths that I had no idea existed. I was happy to go at a relatively slow pace because it meant that every point was clarified through the context in which it was originally written and the impact it should have on the life of a Muslim today. Anyone can read the text and memorize 130 points of belief that a Muslim must have, but the explanations given by Shaykh Amin provided a foundation for understanding the Islamic tradition that can only be attained by sitting with an expert and learning from them.

That’s the real benefit of studying at Darul Qasim in my eyes. Beyond simply reading important books of fiqh and ʿaqīdah, I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty, depth, and importance of our tradition. The books we read are the ones that have been proven through centuries of constant study and implementation by Muslims around the world in various times and places. But just as important as the content are the discussions that we have with our teachers.

Abū Ḥanīfa used to prize having debates and discussions with his students. He would challenge their positions and ask them to challenge his in an endeavor to seek knowledge. One of the first things Shaykh Amin told me about Darul Qasim is that it tries to emphasize this type of respectful jidāl (academic debate). I believe that is one of the most important aspects of Darul Qasim’s approach to teaching Islam.

We live in a world that views adhering to a tradition as a backwards and primitive habit. As a former Islamic high school teacher and current graduate student at the University of Chicago, I’ve seen the impact that modern philosophies like liberalism and atheism can have on people who aren’t armed with the right intellectual tools. Darul Qasim’s emphasis on discussion between students and scholars and its in-depth study of traditional books of fiqh and ʿaqīdah have given me the ability to identify challenges to my faith and guard myself from them, alḥamdulillah. I have no doubt that anyone who decides to study at Darul Qasim will come away with a deeper understanding of their religion, and the tools to implement it in their lives, inshā’ Allah.

FIRAS ALKHATEEB

Bachelor’s Level Student, Darul Qasim
Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago