After 18 years of school and university, I thought it was time to be more educated about my own religion which I had neglected (aside from the Sunday schools I did when I was a kid). Without much thought, I quickly filled in the application and sent it off. After I got accepted into the Masters of Islamic Studies, it was at that time, I began to look into what I’ve signed up for.
I was not really sure what to expect, I was coming to this with an open mind – wondering how this degree would have an affect on my religiosity. The concepts of the first two subjects seemed to be opposite to one another: one was looking at theology and the other was spirituality. I had such a great time learning these subjects, I was feeling really inspired and found that my relationship with Islamic knowledge was strengthening, I was beginning to think in unfamiliar territory. I never really questioned what my beliefs were. For the longest time, I just thought belief just required (blind) faith, however it was refreshing to learn that there is a lot of logic and reasoning behind the concept of belief.
There was this one moment when the lecturer asked the class why would a person believe that the Quran was the word of God? It just was, I figured. Thats what I was brought up with. From my initial understanding, you read the Quran and just had the belief it’s the untouched word of God. Just like that. It sounds so frivolous now that I think about it. I was so focused on the simplest expressions of Islamic beliefs, without understanding the interpretive theology and rational argument that form such beliefs.
It wasn’t until the next semester, which is where I’m at now – half way through my subject of Jurisprudence (Fiqh) where I am officially overwhelmed. Being born into a Muslim family – madhabs and sects was never really on my radar. I just practiced the faith the way my family did. I was aware of the different madhabs and that some people chose to practice Islam slightly differently, but I never really thought much about it.
It was at the point where I was watching a student presentation and he was going into the utmost detail of what I thought was a pretty simple act, explaining how each madhab has a different opinion on the matter and the way it should be done.
Learning the rituals related to the five pillars of Islam, looking at the criteria and method for every practice in the four schools of thought: Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali can be quite overwhelming. Speaking to a revert, when I asked him if he ever felt overwhelmed with knowledge, he said “ Yes and No. I was always curious to learn and know more about religion. It can at times be confusing, but that’s because of limited knowledge, so one has to keep seeking knowledge to gain a better understanding of faith. It was very interesting to know about how in depth and detailed fiqh can be and the many different aspects of how one can practice Islam. The leniency, the practicality is quite fascinating.”
Although Fiqh is just a small part of Islamic knowledge, it made me realise how little I know of my own faith which at first was very concerning. However at the same time, it has also given me the inspiration and motivation to continue to seek more knowledge about Islam. In Surah Al Mujadilah (58:11), The Quran mentions “God will exalt those of you who believe, and those who are given knowledge, in high degrees; and Allah is Aware of what you do.”