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From knowing nothing to becoming a student of

knowledge by Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

Br. Dawoud, I have to ask you a

question I said without looking up. I
had to gather up the courage, and
really force myself to ask. I knew I
needed to know, and it was time to
stop pretending that I already knew
the answer.

This is a really dumb question, but

you all keep mentioning the Khulafa
ar-Rashideen from time to time and
their example in our meetings, but I
actually have no idea who or what
that is.


I had finally voiced one of many questions I had as a young university student, who had recently joined the
Muslim Students Association for the first time. I had grown up in a small town, and honestly speaking there
were not many practicing Muslims around during my teenage years. My mother had used to try and take
us to weekend Islamic classes, however my understand of Islam was still very sparse and fragmented.

There is no such thing as a dumb question

Br. Dawoud looked back at with me with concern, and then gently said, Sister Shireen, I want to tell you
something. There is no such thing as a dumb question. If you dont know what something is, all you have to
do is ask. The only dumb question is the one that is never asked. He told me the Khulafa ar-Rashideen
are the rightly guided caliphs, which refer to Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali (may Allah be pleased with
them all).

I would later learn that there are only two kinds of students who are unable to grow and benefit in their
Islamic studies, one being the student who is too shy to ask their questions, and the second being a person
who doesnt ask their question out of arrogance (i.e. by not admitting to what they dont know).

My experience that day left a lasting impression on me. Years later, I would remember how Br. Dawoud
answered my question, and how he encouraged me to keep seeking knowledge. To always remember
that I can do better, and not to be shy to ask what I wanted to know. It had always bothered me that I
couldnt answer basic questions about Islam that I wished I could answer. I had finally met other Muslims
who I was really impressed by at university, people who were really humble andsincere, who would
encourage me time and time again to seek knowledge and strive for improvement.

Two years later, I was married, and my husband and I had decided to fly to Syria to pursue seeking sacred
knowledge. It was a very thrilling experience for me, to finally make up for years of knowledge that were
just missing. To fill a certain void in my life, as the little fragmented knowledge I had was now growing
rapidly on a daily basis. I would learn from the teachers who patiently taught us Arabic, and then
alhamdulillah was able to move on to higher studies in the Arabic language itself.

Every single teacher declined money

What always amazed me about the experience was that every single teacher I studied with would decline
money when I tried to pay them for their time. And were talking about many Syrian teachers. They would
always have the same response, that when I return to Canada, they wanted me to teach others and they
would take their reward from that. That answer would always amaze me as someone growing up in the
West where nothing is for free. They had such good character, humility, and sincere concern for my
studies with no ulterior motive. It would really drive me to work much harder, as it was impossible to show
up to class not doing your homework when the teacher was that selfless.

We spent several years overseas, and then returned to Canada. Shortly after, my husband (Shaykh Faraz
Rabbani) founded SeekersGuidance, which is now known as SeekersHub, an online website dedicated to
teaching students in the West their religion. To answer their many questions through the Answers Service.
To offer online courses, so that students could download classes with a qualified instructor and ask the
questions they have.

The service initially started out with students having to pay for the courses. I had been encouraging Shaykh
Faraz to consider offering a certain segment of courses for free so that students could at least obtain
theirfard ayn(personally obligatory
knowledge) without charge. I still
remember the day when he told me
that he decided to make the courses
for free. I was happy he had taken my
advice, until he clarified he meant
takeany classfor free.

But how will we survive? I asked


At that point we had three young

children, and he was talking about
giving up the main salary that was
paying our bills. He explained that
there are many people out there in the
world who cannot afford to pay for
classes, and there are many others
who are able to donate to support
causes like this. To spread knowledge
on a global level, so that attaining
knowledge was not limited to ones income level. Historically, students would not pay for classes, rather
teachers would be supported so that they could teach without worrying about providing for their families.

This new turn of events, which would later be called Knowledge Without Barriers, also resonated with me
as it was the way of my teachers in Syria, to teach purely based on seeking the good for another person.
That perhaps the reward of helping that person to grow in their religion and become a better person is
sufficient as a reward. There is a way to donate financially so that supporters can keep the movement of
spreading knowledge at no cost going, and so far it has been working for us as a model.

Your past does not have to dictate your future

I want to sincerely advise students,

especially the sisters, to now seek
knowledge. I have given you a
glimpse of what it was like to go from
someone who barely knew anything
about the religion, to becoming a
student of knowledge. I understand
that there are many sisters out there
who still have a sparse, fragmented
understanding of religion, because our
parents are only capable of giving us
what knowledge they know. I was
there, so I know what that feels like.
Many of our parents have not had an
opportunity to study, but they did their
best in raising us. Your past does not
have to dictate your future.

By just spending even an hour or two

weekly listening to classes, you can
steadily grow in understanding in a
variety of Islamic subjects. You can
even choose which subjects you feel
weakest in, or consult our staff as to
what courses are best suited for you
given your history. I know for a lot of
mothers, attending classes is very
difficult because their children are not
able to sit quietly for public classes.
However, with an online learning
platform, even mothers with energetic
young kids can regularly attend
classes, so that in turn they are better
able to educate their own children,
which are the next generation.

The remedy for ignorance is to

spread sound Islamic knowledge

Seeking knowledge helps one to

become a better Muslim, to seek Allah
Most High sincerely, to turn towards
Him with the core of your being in
prayer, and to become a better
decision maker when weighing ones actions with what will benefit one most in the Afterlife. Especially in
this day and age, we see many atrocities being done in the name of religion when in reality they are being
committed out of lack of knowledge about the religion. Part of the remedy for ignorance is to spread sound
Islamic knowledge from teachers who are qualified to teach, who have a chain of transmission from their
teachers back to the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him).

We pray that these efforts are accepted, and that students across the globe can benefit by being able to
study. That they in turn are able to become contributors to their own communities. Now no one needs to
feel shy about asking questions about Islam, even if it is who are theKhulafa ar-Rashideen?

Ustadha Shireen Ahmed is theCourse Development Manager at SeekersHub. There are over 35 courses on
offer across all major disciplines, for beginner and advanced students find out more here.


SeekersHub Global offers free Online Courses, a

reliable Answers service, and engaging Media.

Our vision is to inspire transformation through

authentic understanding and living of the Islamic
tradition. Read more

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