Within the last decade, Muslims have experienced a massive shift in the way they study Islam. In this advanced technological age, Islamic knowledge is available for mass absorption at the end of our fingertips through online. Twenty years ago, scholars and students had to search through their books. Today's online portal to Islamic knowledge has given students the chance to learn without leaving their homes. However, while our access has benefited us greatly, it also comes with its own pitfalls.
Online Learning: A Reality Check
Many Muslims do not realize that studying Islam through the internet requires a lot of self-discipline. Not only do you have to sit in front of a computer (a big distraction), online students are not accountable to anyone but themselves. Those who are interested in beginning a course online need to figure out why they are willing to spend this time learning and what they wish to achieve out of it. If students do not have their intentions ironed out and their drive ready to go, they will not have the self-discipline needed to move forward properly. Studying Islam online is not the best method for everyone, so it is up to each student to prepare themselves before they commit to a program.
The most important thing students should know is that knowledge is a means, not the goal. Knowledge is a means for us to gain Jannah (Paradise), and this is how we should view it. It is also important for us as students to remember that knowledge is gained in stages. One of the righteous predecessors said, "Whoever gains knowledge all at once will lose it all at once!" Gaining knowledge is a gradual build-up which takes years. In fact some of the scholars viewed seeking knowledge as a lifelong commitment. Abdullah ibn Mubarak (rahimahullah) was asked, "How long will you seek knowledge?" His response was, "Until I die, for probably I have not yet learned the things that will benefit me most." Going through the stages of knowledge also requires patience and a very high commitment level to remain consistent. As online students are not accountable to anyone but themselves, they require even more patience and commitment than students who study "live."
It is very easy to commit to online programs because of the initial hype it draws. After a few classes, the number of students slowly starts to dwindle. This initial phase is separating the committed students - those who have the self-discipline to study online - from those students who weren't as serious or realized online studies was not for them. Students who are starting to take online classes should internalize the fact that they will be tested during these first few classes to see if they are able to commit.
The biggest drawback to studying online is the lack of interaction with a teacher. In many of the books on seeking knowledge, the longest chapter is how a student should behave with their teacher. A teacher is not only the source of knowledge, but also the source of manners. It is important for students who study online to focus on improving their character since they lack valuable interaction with the teacher face-to-face. It is said that knowledge is a tool that needs manners to make it run. The best way for students in online programs to learn manners and character is to read books and listen to lectures on the character of the Prophet , the Companions and the lives of the scholars. Remember that knowledge and manners go hand in hand, and without manners, your knowledge will not take you far.
Etiquette for the Modern Student of Knowledge
There are countless books written on the etiquette of seeking knowledge; however much is not applicable to us in the West because we live in a different time. For most of us, we do not study at the feet of scholars, or have daily lessons in the masajid. Due to our different circumstances, we should 'modernize' some of the etiquette of the students of knowledge to be applicable for us now.
Tips to Maximizing Your Online Learning Experience
Insha'Allah this basic overview will help both of us maximize our online Islamic studies.
Source: Suhaib Webb - Amatullah