Most of us are somewhat familiar with the story. Umar ibn al-Khattab, one of the fiercest enemies of Islam, leaves his home in search of the Prophet (pbuh). He’s had enough of his message and the problems that it has been causing in Mecca and he’s going to put a stop to it himself. He leaves his home in search of the Prophet and along the way he runs into a Muslim who is concealing his faith. That Muslim redirects him by telling him to start with his own family since his own sister and brother-in-law are both Muslims. In a fury Umar heads in the direction of their home and as he approaches he hears the sound of recitation coming from inside.
What he found was a faith study circle. A small group of three people had come together simply to recite and reflect over some verses of the Quran. They were companions of the Prophet, and the Prophet was living among them, but yet they still gathered by themselves to study and reflect over the revelation.
We yearn for intimate and comfortable settings where we can nurture our faith.
Congregational services, conferences, lectures, YouTube videos... They are all great resources and at times necessary for our growth, but nothing can replace the human touch.
In the Quran and life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) we find strong emphasis on the importance of the believers gathering with one another to study the faith and support each other. For example, God commands the Prophet to remain in the company of the believers:
“And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance. And let not your eyes pass beyond them, desiring adornments of the worldly life, and do not obey one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his desire and whose affair is ever [in] neglect” (18:28).
The Prophet himself also encouraged gathering for the remembrance of God and the reciting of His book,
“No people sit in a gathering remembering Allah, but the angels surround them, mercy covers them, tranquility descends upon them and Allah remembers them before those who are with Him” (A reliable tradition narrated by Ibn Majah).
These traditions put great emphasis on the act of being with others in the remembrance of Allah and reciting His book. In my experience many of the people who I have seen reach a level of maturity and consistency in their relationship with God attended weekly study groups at some point. It is in these groups that we have the chance to learn more deeply, connect with others, and encourage one another in the practice of our faith. They provide accountability, fellowship, and serve as a means for building the love of God and His messenger in our lives.
In a series of articles to follow we will develop this idea further and give tips and pointers as to how we can start these kinds of gatherings in our own homes.