Learning About Islam - Foundational and Introductory Materials

Learning About Islam - Foundational and Introductory Materials
Photo by Kate Hliznitsova / Unsplash

I think for all people, even those brought up with faith, there is a moment where they take their faith into their own hands. Something that makes them want to learn further and convinces them that they want to learn/practice their faith more deeply.

With so many places to learn and such a wide breadth of materials in the world it can be hard to know where to start and which resources to trust. A lot of materials in English may be poorly written, a quick google search doesn’t always bring up the best results and your local book store is unlikely to have more than a handful of books on Islam. Once you find the right places to look however, there really is an abundance of information out there, true treasure troves of knowledge and wisdom to peruse and traverse.

Recently a friend asked me what he can best do to learn more about the faith in his own time, either after work or alongside studies. I put together this list based on resources and recommendations. The aim is to provide a good set of introductory resources for both new Muslims and people looking to start learning about faith in more depth.

Articles, taught courses, podcasts — All round best place to start — Seekers Guidancehttps://seekersguidance.org

Seekers Guidance with their extensive answer bank is the first place I’ll go for questions about religion, especially on day to day issues. It has been my first port-of-call for the last 5 years and in that time they have not only grown as an organisation but also in terms of their resources and the size of the detailed question repository.

One is always free to ask new questions but their existing question bank is well laid out, easily searchable and it seems that people have already asked questions on some of the most everyday and also left-field topics I could imagine!

All questions are answered by a well-trained, professional and intelligent team. They are knowledgeable of both the traditional islamic sciences and the unique cultural context of modern societies. Their answers strive to give a balanced response, providing practical advice as well as opinions grounded in authentic Islamic tradition.

As well as just an answers service, they have a myriad of great courses offered for free. These range from everything from introductory Arabic courses; Islamic pre-marital counselling; a fully fledged Islamic Studies curriculum; courses tailored towards Muslim youth; Islamic parenting courses; introductory courses on belief and practice; everyday fiqh of life; courses on spirituality and good character. They really have a deep trove of excellent online courses they offer at all levels; from beginner to advanced students.

These types of courses can be really great for setting up your own structured learning at home that can fit around any exiting commitments such as work or university. Having taken some courses with them I can say that they are very well organised and it’s a very rewarding process. The courses I took were pre-recorded and supplemented with assessments, live-classes and an online forum that allowed for plenty of contact time and provided space for asking any extra questions directly to learned scholars.

Answering common myths and misconceptions — Yaqeen institutehttps://yaqeeninstitute.org

Yaqeen Institute offer great resources that answer common questions and misconceptions about Islam. These can range from topics such as "Women’s rights in Islam" to talking about "What is Shariah law" or "Jihad in Islam". Tackling topics that are often misunderstood or misportrayed, Yaqeen institute provides clear and concise answers that make sense to modern audiences.

They take controversial topics and break them down clearly and succinctly, Yaqeen not only offer great responses, grounded in tradition but also present their answers well in a series of formats such as videos, infographics and articles.

Yaqeen also offer a variety of in depth pieces around academia as well as a host of spiritual videos, series and podcasts. During Ramadan they have a really touching video series with new episodes daily. The "Angels in Your Presence" series was a touching series around the presence of good-deeds and Angels drawing near to one. For Ramadan 2021 they did a detailed series "Quran 30 for 30" exploring the Qur’an one part daily and within the 30 days of Ramadan they had covered the entire Qur’an

Polemics — Why Islam is True - Basira Education — https://www.basiraeducation.org/courses/why-islam-is-true

I’m not normally into polemics and apologetics. Pascal’s wager was about the limit into which I had previously looked into the area. But as a thorough introduction to all the logical and historic proofs for the existence of God this course was really well crafted, excellently delivered, well researched and thoroughly insightful.

It really provided a thorough and objective basis for the proof of Islam. Looking at many different logical arguments such as the argument from design, the Kalam cosmological argument, while also looking at miracles and the attributes of God. The course really covers a lot, even looking at the authentic transmission of the Qur’an and answers around evolution and morality.

All of Basira’s content is really well thought through, logically sound and provided with really strong arguments. This course especially provides good responses to new-atheist arguments calmly, rationally, convincingly, and with the beautiful character of the Prophet (ﷺ). I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a complete breakdown of all the logical proofs and a breakdown of the “arguments for God”.

Conclusion

Today I have covered three simple and easily accessible websites for learning more about Islam. All of them offer content at an introductory level as well as in more depth:

  1. All round best place to start — Seekers Guidance (https://seekersguidance.org) (Articles, taught courses, podcasts & more)
  2. Answering common myths and misconceptions — Yaqeen institute (https://yaqeeninstitute.org)
  3. Why Islam is True - Basira education (https://www.basiraeducation.org/courses/why-islam-is-true)

In the next few articles I’ll aim to delve more deeply into authors, books and further resources we can use to help us grow in knowledge and draw closer to Allah insha’Allah.

Further reading: