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Unlearning

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Now I know there's a thread on this in the Schooling forum, but I wanted to discuss the process of 'unlearning' from the perspective of somebody learning about their deen.

 

Recently I read a beautiful analogy by Imam Ghazali which just screamed UNLEARNING- it is just as, if not more important when it comes to knowledge than 'learning' in the first place.

 

He says the mind is like a pool where in order to fill it to hold fresh water, you need to declutter it from mud, debris and rot that has gathered within it. It cannot 'hold' and preserve clear water whilst still in the state you found it. So you begin a process- where you clear the path, rot, leaves and debris inside and only when you have a clean blank slate can you begin to fill it.

 

Knowledge is removing obstacles, avoiding mimicking mantras and allowing your mind to be able to recognise, store and make use of real knowledge when it comes to you.

 

Imam Ghazali says knowledge is out there (and much of it comes from within)- it's a question of whether we are clear enough in the 'eye' of the mind to grasp it when it comes. Are our pools clear and clean enough to store something so precious?

 

As Muslims, many of can wind up being 'stuck' at an elementary level our whole lives. Where mixing in the same kinda circles, mingling with Muslims of the 'same' persuasion and attending comfortable weekend courses which only compound our own belief just make us groupthink drones. We cannot even mentally accept alternative exist, infact the mere thought of a valid alternative is frightening, not interesting or worthy of investigation or pondering.

 

So my question is- how do we begin unlearning? What have your unlearning experiences been like? What are the first things to 'unlearn' before you can really begin learning?

 

LET US UNLEARN TOGETHER!

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I unlearn by learning more.

Learning more allows you to see and analyses what you have already learned.

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I unlearn by learning more.

Learning more allows you to see and analyses what you have already learned.

 

But r-d, how do you rid yourself of the very preconceptions you carry when you approach the knowledge in the first place?

 

In the dinosaur era when I was still studying, we used to say that what the researcher (in academia) 'uncovers' in his journey is usually a direct result of his ideological underpinning and then the theoretical framework he used to get there. This isn't merely a case of 'learn how little you know, but knowing more'- it's more 'learn how your approach to learning stopped you learning (and then unlearn and change it)' if that makes sense.

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when I was young and handsome, my literature teacher drew from a story some thing like, "if you want to learn, you have to assume you know nothing, and be humble. As soon as you think you know, you can't learn". For some reason, that made an impression, and that's what I do when I approach knowledge.

 

So when I approach knowledge, I accept it with an open mind and compare it against what I already know- without prejudice as much as possible. This process would usually get rid of the junk. Some times when I listen to lectures (online), the scholar would make an effort to explicitly point out to the junk that needs to be got rid of, which helps us students. However, first step must take place within. And that is to be humble.

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My 'unlearning moment' was a scary one. It actually happened this year :lol:

 

I thought a held so much knowledge from reading islamic books of scholars, reading the quran and tafseers by myself, reading ahadiths, articles online, watching lectures - until I went and talked to SOKs, scholars and actually knowledgeable people.

 

Ha what a fool. I made such a fool out of myself, I mean I had SOME knowledge of things that should be learned after seeking obligatory knowledge. I didn't even know how 'Aqeedah was judged - and following the right 'Aqeedah saves us from the torment of the fire.

 

Alhamdulillah, I usually avoided places where Muslim gather because they make you feel like an ignorant twat who won't learn anything. The best thing I did for myself was put a stop to talking without knowledge.

 

These people are so humble, that it makes me wanna cry (ha). The students of knowledge there; when you ask them and they don't know the answers, they say 'Allahu A'lem, I don't know - I'll ask for you and come back with an answer'.

 

Anyways, unlearning is good - I had really dumb preconcieved notions and I believed in things that were actually pulled straight out of christianity (many of us for instance, think that Judas was the one who died in the place of 'Issah AS, I can type up noes later - if interested).

 

But I'm not going to stop 'at that place' - it is very far away, but at least NOW if I seek knowledge elsewhere, I have minimal knowledge that will help me determine if what they are teaching is right or false.

 

InshaAllah I think I will lay my surfboard at rest and spend my time in Morocco (for the 3 months I am going to be there) wisely. Alhamdullilah I have contact with scholars there too.

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You are- masha'Allah- blessed beyond measure to have direct access to scholars and people of knowledge (the term 'student of knowledge really makes me recoil for some reason LOL) because that is like having a massive pool of genuine treasure right at your door. It is also much more than the majority of people here can say too (myself included).

 

On topic though: YES I agree with you, it is an amazing and wonderful experience actually having a dialogue with people who radiate genuine and effortless 'knowledge'. Recently I had an experience of that sort after sitting down with a ruqya shaykh and comparing his knowledge, experience and outlook with what we- as laymen- know of sihr (in courses, workshops, online etc)- it's like the difference between the heaven and the earth. Very humbling and exhilarating.

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student of knowledge = talibul 'ilm. People of knowledge is way too general, a SOK is someone who studies under the wing of a scholar. Why does it make you recoil?

 

On topic: Yes Alhamdulilah I feel very blessed.

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student of knowledge = talibul 'ilm. People of knowledge is way too general, a SOK is someone who studies under the wing of a scholar. Why does it make you recoil?

 

Yeah I know what it is- it makes me recoil because of it's overuse for every Tom, Bilal and Harry to attends a one-day course in Fiqh. I know that's not the people you're referring to or those you interact with (masha'Allah)- it's more a reflection of the young 'practising' lot I've experienced where every man and his uncle is a 'student of knowledge' and it's all about 'who takes from who' and who is on or off the manhaj etc. But that's a totally unrelated rant! :)

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How do we unlearn something? People who suffe strokes often learn to use non dominate hand or to eat differntly(mechanically) in order to swallow, yet that is different. The brain is damaged and those areas are lost. To unlearn something is impossible i think. We can modify what we have been taught to the point of taking opposite point of view, is this correct?

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I think the sister meant 'unlearn' in the metaphorical rather thAn the literal sense - If I am not mistaken. I do believe you can unlearn something by accepting an opposite point of view.

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How do we unlearn something? People who suffe strokes often learn to use non dominate hand or to eat differntly(mechanically) in order to swallow, yet that is different. The brain is damaged and those areas are lost. To unlearn something is impossible i think. We can modify what we have been taught to the point of taking opposite point of view, is this correct?

 

To unlearn doesn't necessarily mean to erase the 'learning' like it didn't exist, but to understand that those underpinnings you carried may have restricted you from accessing further knowledge because it was limiting. So I guess it's to learn about the things you learnt- i.e.: experimenting with different approaches to 'knowing' things to see if this challenges or enhances your experience of knowledge.

 

And then there's a whole other philosophical conundrum when it comes to what it means to 'know' something at all.

 

It's interesting you used the stroke patient example though! Esp the dominant/non dominant hand issue- there's a lot to be said for that. We all have our own preferred behaviours and manner of doing things (which is as comfortable/'natural' as using our dominant hand for eating/writing etc)- but we do still have use of the non-dominant hand which- though may feel clumsy and much more difficult to gain mastery over at first- can eventually become a way of doing things even equal to our once-dominant hand. I think it's a lot about training alternatives so you don't fear ever entirely losing your dominant hand (behavious/mindset etc).

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Tayyibun helped me unlearn a lot of things in terms of approaching teachers. They had that no-nonsense mature approach that I wish I could instil in my own character.

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I unlearn by learning more.

Learning more allows you to see and analyses what you have already learned.

 

+1

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