Tips for Students of Islam: Grasping Terminology


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Tips for Students of Islam: Grasping Terminology

For many a student involved in the first two years of Islamic studies, one of the hardest things to grasp and remember is the variety of terminology that one is taught. For example, in the field of ‘Aqeedah, you need to learn what is Tawheed, Shirk, Kufr, Nifaaq, Bidah, Risaalah, Aakhirah, Rububiyyah, Asma Wa Sifaat, Ibaadah, Ta’weel, Tashbeeh, Riya and many other terms.

At the same time, your Arabic teacher expects you to grasp terms like Mubtada, Khabr, Marfoo, Mansoob, Majroor, Mawsoof, Sifah, Mudaaf, Mudaaf Ilaih, Ism, Faa’il, Harf, Harf Jar among others. Your Hadith teacher introduces you to terms like Saheeh, Da’eef, Mawdoo, Mursal , Shaaz, Ghareeb, Azeez, Mashoor, Mutawaatir, Ahad, Jahr and Tarjeeh, to name a few. In Tafseer, you learned about many things including Asbab An-Nuzool, Sab’ata Ahruf, Usool At-Tafseer, Uloom Al-Qur’an, Wahy, Uthmani Mushaf, Qira’ah, Naasikh, Mansookh, Muhkam, Mutashaabih, Haqeeqee and Majaaz. And of course, you can’t study Fiqh without learning about Taqleed, Madh-hab, Ijtihad, Ijma, Qiyas, Urf, Istihsaan, Aql, Usool, and Furoo among other topics.

This is just a glimpse at some of the terms and concepts students of knowledge need to grasp during their first two years of study. Many students feel overwhelmed by so many new terms and concepts, so insha’Allah, here are some tips which will facilitate learning and grasping Islamic terminology:

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1. Know that you can learn it!

For over a thousand years, thousands of Muslims have studied and learned these terms, including your own teachers, and if they could do it, so can you. Allah would not have placed you in the field of Islamic Studies if you lacked the capabilities to learn it. So set your mind to it and study hard, knowing that you can do it!

2. Make dua to Allah to help you:

Never underestimate the power of dua. Always make dua for increase in knowledge, intelligence and wisdom. I have read that some of the Salaf use to drink Zam Zam water and make dua for increase in these three things. I myself do this and know many other students who do so too. So remember to make constant dua and know that with Allah’s Help, you can do it.

3. Stay away from sins:

I am sure most of us are aware of the famous statement of Imam Shafi’ee which goes as follows:

Imaam Shafi’ee said, “I complained to Wakee about my decreasing memory and he advised me to abstain from sins, and he informed me that knowledge is light and the light of Allah is not receptive to the sinner.”

So my advice to my fellow students is to, day by day, gain closeness to Allah by decreasing the amount of sins we commit and increasing our good deeds. This effort will, insha’Allah, make our hearts more receptive to the knowledge of Allah’s Deen.

4. Keep a notebook only for terminology:

Divide the notebook into sections according to the field of knowledge (Hadith, Tafsir, ‘Aqeedah) and in each section record the names and definitions of all the terminology you have studied in that field. How you write it will depend on you, just make sure it is easy to browse through, find what you are looking for, read and understand. Keep it with you whenever you are studying, and remember that terminology is not limited to the field you learned it in. Terms learned in Fiqh or Hadith will be needed in Tafseer and Seerah as well, that is why I recommend keeping one notebook for all the terminology, but divide it into sections so it does not get crammed and is easy to access.

5. Associate each term with an example:

In your notebook, next to the definition of each term, write down one example that will help you understand that term better. When you are studying a concept in class, whichever example you found defined the term best, write that one down. The benefit of this is that if in future you can’t remember what a specific term meant, even after reading the definition, a good example can always bring the whole lesson back to you.

6. Use these terms often in conversation with other students:

I would encourage all students to always use the Arabic terms when studying together or discussing the topic with each other. The more you use these terms, the easier they become to remember. Personally, there are quite a few Hadith terms which I have trouble remembering because I don’t use them often, while Fiqh, Grammar and Tafseer terminology are fresh in mind because I am always teaching these subjects.

7. Always revise and refresh your memory:

Utilize your spare time and holidays to revise terminology. It is also important when studying to study these terms for life, and not just for the lesson or exam, as you will also need them later in research, further studies and insha’Allah one day when you are teaching as well.

These are just a few tips from my side which I hope can facilitate your studies and make things easy for you. If anybody else has any good study tips, please feel free to share them in the comments.

عن النبي صَلّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وسَلَّم قال‏"‏ لَيْسَ الْوَاصِلُ بِالْمُكَافِئِ، وَلَكِنِ الْوَاصِلُ الَّذِي إِذَا قَطَعَتْ رَحِمُهُ وَصَلَهَا ‏"
The Prophet said, "Al-wasil [a considerate, inseperable friend] is not the one who recompenses the good done to him by his relatives, but al-wasil is the one who keeps good relations with those relatives who had severed the bond of kinship with him." (Bukhari, Good Manners and Form (Al-Adab), 15)

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