The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The Jews were divided into seventy-one sects, one of which is in Paradise, and seventy are in the Fire. The Christians were divided into seventy-two sects, seventy-one of which are in the Fire, and one is in Paradise. By the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, my Ummah will be divided into seventy-three sects, one of which will be in Paradise, and seventy-two will be in the Fire.” It was said: “Messenger of Allah, who are they?” He said: “Al-Jamah.” (Awf Ibn Maalik)

I usually keep quiet, when a brother tells me something incorrect about Islam. I have learned through experience that silence is often the best answer.

Because of my status as a convert and a woman, my words are less credible to some. But this day I could not keep quiet. I could not let his interpretation of the Holy Quran go unchallenged. I could not risk my silence implied that I agreed.

“Brother,” I said at one point in the conversation, “how can you be so sure that you are in the one sect that follows the straight path?”

Perhaps, I should not have been so surprised, when he told me that he was sure. But I was surprised. How can anyone be sure? Indeed, how can any of us be confident that our worship is sincere, correct and accepted? I suggest that if you have not worried about your status on the path, then this fact itself should make you worry.

Allah (swt) says: “And I (Allah) created not the Jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).” (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

Allah (swt) instructed the Prophet (sa) to tell us: “Say (O Muhammad (sa)): ‘If you (really) love Allah then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Quran and the Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ Say (O Muhammad (sa)): ‘Obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad (sa)).’ But if they turn away, Allah does not like disbelievers.” (Al-Imran 3:31-32)

Scholars tell us that our goal is to become beloved by our Creator, so that we may spend eternity in His (swt) Divine Presence. To be loved by Allah (swt), we must obey Him. Obedience means following the Quran and the Sunnah. To know, what the Quran and the Sunnah require from us, we must turn to people of knowledge. This is exactly where the problem lays. Who are the people of knowledge?

At a recent lecture, Imam Zaid, scholar-in-residence and lecturer at Zaytuna Institute, referred to ‘Sheikh Google’ – a humorous but painfully accurate description of the current state of Islamic scholarship in the West. Let’s face it – the spiritual leadership in many Masjids is abysmal. Very few Imams are scholars and many lack any significant Islamic education. They freely issue Fatwahs, forgetting that it is best to remain silent, when one does not know the answer. I do not question the sincerity of these Imams, but clearly many are not qualified to teach and unwittingly lead other Muslims astray.

What is the average Muslim to do? I try to learn from a variety of sources, what different scholars say on a particular topic. Then I make an educated decision about my practice. This approach is not wholly satisfying. I find scholars, whose writings I trust, and my friends turn to others. Sometimes our scholars disagree on important issues, and so it seems extremely difficult to know, who is right. I believe the answer is to pray. Only Allah (swt) can lead us to the straight path, only with His (swt) mercy and compassion are we rightly guided.

The Fatihah is my favorite Dua, when asking for knowledge. The first time I read the translation, I knew I was going to convert. The seven verses said exactly what I had wanted from Allah, but could not find the words myself.

Other Duas that I say regularly are below. I have collected them from various books and lectures. I always start with a Dua asking for Allah’s (swt) forgiveness. Allahu A’lam.

O Allah, You are my Lord; there is no God but You. You created me and I am Your servant. And Your covenant and promise I uphold to the best of my ability. And I seek refuge in You from the evil of whatever I have done. I acknowledge that all my blessings are from You. And to You I bring my sins, so forgive me, because no one can forgive sins but You. (Bukhari)

O Possessor of Majesty and Generosity, whoever You guide cannot be led astray; whoever You lead astray cannot be guided. Please, let me my family and the believing men and women be among those rightly guided. Increase our knowledge, cure the diseases in our hearts and make what is pleasurable to you pleasurable to us, and what is displeasurable to you displeasurable to us. Let us live in Islam and die in faith. Let our graves be spacious. Give us light, shade and water on the Day of Doom. Build us a home in the highest level of Paradise in the company of our Master Muhammad (sa) and in Thy Presence (swt). (An assorted Dua I put together myself.)

O Allah, save us from the torture of the grave, grant us wisdom and unite us with the righteous.

O Allah, I ask You for the good of this day, its openings, victories, lights, blessings and right-guidance.

O Allah, make my inward better than my outward and make my outward virtuous.

O Allah, place a light in my heart, my family’s heart, the believing men and women’s hearts, in our ears, our eyes, and our mouth; on our right, on our left, before us, behind us, above, below us. Give us light and make us light. (Muslim)

O Lord Allah, we ask You by the Light of Your Face and by Your right over Yourself to grant us a good ending at the time of death – for us, our loved ones and for all the Muslims, O Most Merciful of the Merciful. Lord, allow not our hearts to swerve after You have guided us; grant us Your Mercy, You are the Bestower. Lord, make us patient, and take us to You as Muslims surrendering with sound hearts.

May Allah (swt) guide us all to the straight path and increase our knowledge, Ameen.