“The quest for knowledge is incumbent upon all Muslims.”
Narrated by Anas ibn Malik (ra)
From the Suffa Team,
We begin this edition of the Suffa newsletter of 2024 with a heavy heart over the continuing trials and tribulations faced by our brothers and sisters in Palestine. Our thoughts and prayers are with the oppressed of the Gaza Strip and The West Bank as they endure an onslaught of injustices under the blind eye of the world but continue to shine and burn brightly to illuminate this dark chapter of human history. Their struggles are a timely reminder of the noble companions (sahabah) of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who struggled against the injustices and oppression by the enemies of Islam.
"Do you think that you will enter Paradise before Allah tests those of you who fought (in his Cause) and (also) tests those who are patient?"
[Surah Ali’Imran, 3:142]
On this day of 11th of January in 630 CE (20 Ramadan, 8 Hijri) the holy city of Makkah was conquered by our beloved Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) after a long Muslim – Quraysh rivalry. It was a bloodless conquest. Justice, sympathy and mercy were shown to everyone, even to those who were the cruelest enemies of Islam. This final victory upended the religious, political and economic structure of the Arabian Peninsula that served as a tribute to false deities, oppression, injustice and inequality, and in its place the seeds for a new civilisation were planted based on Islamic Monotheism (tawheed), justice, unity and brotherhood.
The conquest of Makkah parallels with the ongoing oppression in the scared land of Palestine today. Palestine was once in the domain of the Byzantine Empire but was liberated during the caliphate of Umar ibn Khattab (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu). The people of Jerusalem were promised and guaranteed their security, welfare and way of life, while the harsh and discriminative policies of the Byzantine rulers towards the different Christian sects, Jewish and other inhabitants came to an end. The people were free to prosper under the rule of Umar ibn Khattab (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu), who was a student of The Prophet’s (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) school of education and learning (Suffa). Another student of Suffa, Ubadah ibn Samit (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu), was sent by Umar ibn Khattab (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu) to Palestine and appointed high judge (qadi) of Jerusalem. He (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu) taught the Qu’ran and Hadith to the people in his circle of learning. This is how Islam, by the Will of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) and through the students of Suffa, entered Palestine.
May Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) grant this ummah victories like the conquest of Makkah
Islam was sent to change the external conditions of humanity by changing the internal state of a person. The internal state of a person is their cognitive and spiritual state with varying levels of learning, understanding, introspection, contemplation, meditation, effort and application. Hearts and minds were moved by instilling the consciousness of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) (taqwa), etiquette (adab) and moral character (ahlaq) within the believers and reinforced with a binding unity that continues to burn within the hearts and minds of believers throughout the globe.
‘Mankind! We created you from a male and female and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in Allah’s sight is the one with the most taqwa. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.’
[Surah Al-Hujurat, 49:13]
An uncle once asked ‘What was the first hadith and sunnah?’ I replied, ‘I don’t know’, to which my uncle said, ‘That’s correct!’. I was surprised and said ‘No, I really don't know’. ‘I know that you didn’t know, but I will explain.’ When the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was in the cave, what was the first command?
‘And what did the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) say?’
‘I do not know how to read.’
‘Correct. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not know how to read and what does this tell you?
I was silent because I didn’t know what to say.
‘Everybody tries to be like Google these days and try to show they know everything. But nobody keeps silent and say they don’t know. So, what does this tell you?
I thought for a moment but didn’t know what the answer was.
‘To not know is sunnah, but to find out is fard.’
The Prophet’s Instruction Methodology
“He who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know.”
[Surah Al-Alaq, 96:1-5]
Islamic Civilisation is a civilisation built on the pillars of knowledge and books. It is a civilization in which the inheritors of the Prophets are the scholars who carry the honoured duty of protecting the ummah from embedded and encroaching ignorance and misguidance. The circles of learning (halaqah) that form the basis of a teacher-student relationship in Islamic education is a replica of the Prophet’s halaqah at Suffa on the hallowed grounds of Masjid-Nabawi.
There are three terms agreed by scholars regarding the Prophet’s (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) method of education:
1. Tarbiyah: Fostering and nurturing growth
2. Ta’ilm: Imparting knowledge
3. Ta’dib: Excellence in manners and ethics
What differentiates the Prophet’s (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) method of instruction with modern teaching methods is the emphasis on perfecting the character, manners and ethics of the student in conjunction to imparting knowledge.
“The most beloved to me amongst you is the one who has the best characters and manners.”
Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu)
This inherited methodology was never rigid, static or dogmatic. Even though it remained unchanged during the Abu Bakr (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu) because of his (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu) focus on the Ridda Wars ('Wars of Apostasy'), during the caliphate of Umar (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu) two changes occurred:
1. The education of children inside mosques (masjids)
2. The payment of salaries to teachers
Abdullah ibn Abbas (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu) allowed free time for his students in between lessons so that they did not become bored or distracted. Ali ibn Talib (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu) allowed his students to ask questions and engage in discussion to solidify their learning. Imam Malik (raḍiya ‘llāhu ‘an-hu) taught children in a specialised room adjacent to the Prophet’s (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) mosque, fearful that young children may defile or disturb the Prophet’s (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) mosque.
This emphasis of learning saw the major cities throughout the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphate - Cairo, Cordoba, Aleppo, Baghdad, Bukhara and Damascus - house the finest collection of books on a variety of different sciences, ranging from the science of the Arabic language and grammar, poetry, genealogy of tribes, history, geography, medicine to the study of and commentaries on the Qu’ran, sunnah and other Islamic sciences. The spiritual wealth of a city was measured by the number of libraries, bookstore, book dealers and centres of learning within in. It is a legacy that continues to inspire the ummah today.
To inspire that attainment of knowledge through the art of reading