An Urgent Plea for Equal Access to Islamic Knowledge

Posted on May 31, 2011 by


An Urgent Plea for Equal Access to Islamic Knowledge

and a Humble Request for Assistance to Achieve This End



Alhamdulillah, the past decade or so has witnessed the rise of many Islamic educational institutes of different interpretations and teaching methodologies. The very fact that such institutions exist in the modern age illustrates their durability in spite of many of these institutions losing state patronage, competing against a secularized intellectual elite serving the broader capitalist hegemonic order, and having to deal with a literate populace that now has access to classical texts due to technological revolutions in print and digital media.

However, in spite of the internet 2.0, much of the \access to Islamic knowledge has fallen along class lines. For example, if one attends many of the weekend seminar-type institutes, one notices the predominance of Desi and Arabs from the suburbs. Many such students already come from practicing families and so such programs become merely an exercise in preaching to the choir, so to speak.

The Prophet (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) was described in the Qur’an as being a universal messenger and as such, Islam has a universal appeal. To give this statement – which is oft-stated in times of conflict – any weight, then our understanding of the tradition and the transmission of that understanding must be done in a way that transcends the invisible boundaries of class, culture, and other types of baseless divisions.

For this tradition to be universal, it must be taught in a universal manner. Islamic seminars and online courses must be able to be accessible to everyone equally, whether they have the funds to do so or not. If students in the inner city or from broken homes desire to seek knowledge, the responsibility to assist them falls upon others in the community.

Two erudite teachers from our community, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, have instilled within us as community organizers the need to always factor in access to the indigent when organizing an Islamic seminar. When I used to organized programs, they would always request the opportunity to travel into the inner city and to give a talk to people and answer any questions they have. They make such requests out of a deep understanding of the collective responsibility that falls upon their shoulders.


A clear example of the need is apparent in Washington DC. A friend of mine who was involved with IMAN DC (a pilot program set up by the IMAN based out of Chicago) and I were having dinner not too long ago and he was explaining how so many youth are converting to Islam in the juvenile system and when they come out, they have limited access to Islamic scholarship. He explained how these youth have an urgent need to Islamic knowledge and the lack of access to scholarship and a stable community often results in them reneging on Islam in either faith or practice. Having convinced me, I asked him if he would be interested in organizing a trip from Washington DC to attend the SeekersGuidance Appalachian Retreat this upcoming weekend so we could take some DC’s disaffected youth and give them the opportunity to sit at the feet of ‘Ulema like Dr. Umar Abdullah, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Abdul Karim Yahya, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Ustadha Zaynab Ansari and others.

My friend agreed and were able to make a suitable arrangement to take six youth from Washington DC to the retreat. First, we approached the organizers and were able to work out a discount for the registration fee  Second, my friend and I decided to contribute to the transportation costs. The remainder of the fee that we need to raise is $900 to pay for the six attendees.

Inshallah, this is just a first step in rectifying a broader problem, but at least its a start. If you’re interested in making a contribution, please email me promptly.

UPDATE: Alhamdulillah, within 12 hours of posting this, I received a flood of pledges from people via email and facebook. We only needed $900, but the total pledges we received amounted to $1200. One sister even pledged to pay the full amount, but by that time, the full amount had been raised. May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) reward you all who donated, who spread the word about donating, or who even just made the intention to donate. Ameen!

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