The Strategy And Logic of Reform 

No Muslim can say that there is no need to reform the degraded and stagnant condition of the Ummah. We shall now, InshAllah, indicate the way by which the Ummah may achieve the incumbent reformation. At the outset it should be understood that the change, the revolution which, the Ummah has suffered is a spiritual ailment. Spiritual ailments like physical ailments have causes. It is common practice that in the case of curing a physical disease we must first aim to determine its causes then work to eliminate them so as to achieve health and well-being. Likewise, in the case of the ailment of the Ummah we apply the same logic used to work with physical ailments to the treatment of  spiritual diseases i.e., we aim to identify and then eliminate the causes of disease once eliminated, spiritual health and vigor will be established.

First Principles of Reform

The two essential principles of reformation that we ought employ in revitalizing the Ummah are:

1.) Proper diagnosis of the reality and condition of the Ummah so as to establish the causes of the diseases we suffer.
2.) Determine the ways and means of eliminating these causes.

A careful and thorough examination of the condition of the Ummah will reveal that the primary causes of the Ummah’s condition of stagnation and decadence can be narrowed to two factors:

a.) The prevalence of illiteracy (death of Islamic learning).
b.) Lack of determination

The result of these two factors is that in the absence of knowledge, the essential principles of Deen remain hidden from  Muslims on a whole and ignorance prevails thereby, Islam remains “wholly un-established”. Secondly,  a lack of determination is arresting the will of the people on an individual level. Lack of determination impedes the desire to seek knowledge on the part of the ignorant and prevents practice in the case of he who possesses knowledge. These two factors then the factor of ignorance and the factor of lack of determination demand the greatest attention from us as we endeavor to work towards reformation of the condition of the Ummah and their address demands the firmest resolution on our part.

It has been stated above that the cause of the Ummah’s decline is due to two factors. Now, we must comprehend that each of these two factors has to be attended to in different ways. Both the Ulama and students of knowledge have a role to play in attending to the promotion of literacy and the elimination of ignorance. We must also be clear that the for each of the two, the Ulama and the Student of knowledge the course of action is different. Here it is important that we return to the notion that there are only two types of people in the Ummah:

1.)   Ulama

2.)   Students of knowledge
In this way we eliminate illiteracy and gradually move the common person moves into the category of student of knowledge and the student of knowledge into the category of Alim.

Charting A Practical Path Forward: Cultivating Respect For The Authority of Scholarship (al-Marjiyyah ad-Deeniyyah)

To the cause of Knowledge of Deen both the wealthy and those of lesser means should dedicate their children to the purpose of acquiring knowledge. Although worldly knowledge may be pursued, this should be only to the degree of necessity and kept subservient to “the Objectives of Deen“. The pursuit of worldly learning should never be allowed to eclipse obtaining knowledge of Deen. In this way the new generation, the offspring of the present generation will be reformed. The elders of the community too should engage in the acquisition of knowledge.

Arrangements must be made with a qualified Alim to impart knowledge of Islam knowledge (Ilm) should be acquired from such a person systematically. If possible the medium of Arabic should be employed for Arabic is the medium of greater insight. If this is not possible, then acquire knowledge through the medium of Urdu or English. On the advice of an experienced Alim, a set of books systematically ordered should be studied. The books prescribed should comprehensively explain the various branches of the Deen. Each book should be studied twice or thrice under the guidance of an Ustadh. If this is not possible, then complete each book at least once by an Ustadh thereafter study each it several times on your own.

Parameters of Self-Study

Those who are not in a position to devote much time to the acquisition of knowledge because of other commitments such as earning a livelihood should also study a set of books. Books should also be prescribed for their children as well and should be studied repeatedly. This system of “self-study” should be adopted until arrangements could be made to enlist the service of a person who can teach the books. Studies should proceed systematically and with regularity. Should any section of the books not be clear then make take a note of it and seek to meet a person of knowledge with the intent to seek clarification of that which is unclear. Avoid referring to your own opinion in the earlier stages of learning for this can be very dangerous leading to misunderstanding. Those who are unable to read and for some reason cannot dedicate their children to the acquisition of knowledge should initiate among themselves classes for understanding Deen. They too should make an effort to obtain the service of a qualified Alim who will teach them authentic books of Islam. If a qualified Alim is not available then enlist the service of one who has benefited from keeping the company of Ulama. If such an instructor is not available without compensation arrangements should be made to pay the instructor. Classes should be conducted with regularity and preferable daily if not daily, then at least once a week. The teacher who is a not an Alim should not explain anything in the books which he does not understand. He too should mark the relevant parts that he is teaching but did not understand and seek clarification from the Ulama. If a suitable teacher cannot be obtained locally, introduce one from outside and pay him a salary. Do remember that when collecting funds, employ only means which are lawful.

Two Essential Obligations Of Seeking Knowledge

The various categories of seekers of knowledge should fulfill two obligations that are necessary to while treading the Path of knowledge:

1.) Whenever you are not aware of a ruling of the Shar’iah regarding any of your affairs refer to the Ulama- al-Haqq for guidance. If no person is  available locally to meet this aim then write to such Ulama who will be able to guide you. If one were to inquire of one mas’alah (rule) daily then after one year one will have acquired the knowledge of over 350 masa’ail and after ten years this number will have grown to 3500. This to be sure is no difficult task.

2.) The second necessary duty is to visit frequently the gatherings of the Ulama regardless of whether they be public or private gatherings.

-”Adapted And Edited” By Abul-Hussein From The Work “Hayatul Muslimeen” By Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi (r)