Reflections on Seeking Knowledge: A Student at Seekers
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, Most Compassionate
Let’s take it back maybe ten years. If you were to tap me on the shoulder and ask me, “what do you want to do when you’re older Zain?” I’d give you the same answer I gave everyone at that young age not yet a teen; “Islamic studies.”
Now, the answer to the question was not because I understood the weight of that bold answer, nor because I deserved it, but rather, because of what was instilled in me from a young age.
Since those young days, one of my favourite verses (aya) from the Qur’an was (and is) Allah’s saying, “I did not create jinn and humans except to worship Me” (Quran, 51:56), partly because it was one of the only verses (if not the only verse) in the Qur’an that I knew the meaning for, and partly because it had such a straightforward, logical, black and white meaning; my job on this earth is to worship God, how can I do it?
What is the best way? What would make God most pleased with me? I found my answer with my Qur’an teacher, he would always encourage us to study Islam because that was the greatest thing we could do for our afterlife.
Thus my wanting to study islam was not because of who I was or anything great about me, rather it was the wisdom of my teachers Allah bless them and enable them all.
Fast forward some years: It was a pleasant Monday night, 7:30 pm July 17, 2017, I came into SeekerGuidance for my first class. I sat on the lush pillowy carpet ready to listen and take notes in my notebook.
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani started the lesson, I had never taken a law (fiqh) class in my life, all I knew about the rulings of prayer and worship was taught to me informally. Shaykh Faraz was teaching Nur al-Idah, an intermediate book on the laws (fiqh) of worship (way above my level) and he was reading the chapter of “The Conditions of Prayer.” I remember taking notes and thinking to myself, “wow, I’ve never even thought of so many possibilities in this scenario!” Just sitting in that class was such a benefit because it was answering thoughts and questions I had that I didn’t ever bother to ask.
From that day onwards, I never looked at the subject of law (fiqh) in the same way and it quickly became one of my favourite things to read and think about.
I finished school and started attending full time at Seekers, and it was and is to this day truly life-changing. My attendance at Seekers has been nothing but a blessing to me to this day. I had no idea what I was truly entering into, I just really wanted to do something that would bring me closer to my Lord and I pray that he accepts it from me.
The Weight of Seeking Knowledge
Seeking knowledge is in no way all easy, fun and games or a “shoot in the breeze” as commonly thought by many people. Many peoples idea of islamic studies is like weekend madrasa, come in, read some Qur’an, mess around and go home. I even remember someone I knew saying, “if I don’t get into a good university program I’ll just take a year off and do some islamic program or something.” We want our teachers to be the most brilliant, smartest and best of people. Sacred knowledge is of the greatest of things one could seek!
Shaykh Faraz once mentioned to us that a scholar from the early predecessors (salaf) said, “If the kings knew the pleasure we have (in seeking knowledge), they would fight us for it.” And I remember hearing Shaykh Hasan al-Hindi say in one of his lectures on Tadhkirat al-Sam’i fi Adab al-’Alim wal-Mut’alim; a book on the etiquettes of seeking knowledge, “All that increases you in honour increases you in responsibility,” (كل ما تزداد شرفا تزداد تكليفا). I remember the first time Shaykh Faraz mentioned that a true student has to minimally be studying ten hours a day, I thought he was joking!
I had the blessing at this time to be around Ustadh Amr Hashim and Ustadh Sufyan Qufi, two of our instructors at SeekersGuidance and both amazing personalities and examples to be around. One, the epitome of balance, patience and overall; amazing character. The other the pinnacle of striving and hard work. Both of these men had a deep impact on me in my early time at SeekersGuidance before they both moved abroad for their studies.
A Humbling Experience
I used to carpool with Ustadh Sufyan, and if there was one thing I learned from him it was his drive and love for seeking knowledge. He would be studying any time I was with him to the point that even in our drives to classes he would be listening to the khutbas of Shaykh Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti (Allah have mercy on him) and be taking notes. There was nothing that seemed to be able to deter him from seeking knowledge. I once saw him go through what I would consider hardship and when I asked him about it he told me, “I don’t care, nothing can prevent me from seeking knowledge.” I observed the value and importance of time at his example and the embodiment of hard work.
Ustadh Amr taught me more purely through his character than his words. I cannot remember a single time when he told me “no,” or “why did you do that?”
Even though he was much more senior to me in knowledge, wisdom and age. I was younger than I am today and definitely less mature, yet he always turned a blind eye to my faults. Whenever I asked him for advice he would never say “no, don’t do that,” or “why would you do that?” But rather always suggested a better thing to do without chastising or telling me what I did was wrong.
I remember the first week or two of my studies as a full-time student at Seekers, there was a new Arabic class and Ustadh Amr and I were both attending the class. After the first class, we had some homework, I barely knew any Arabic whatsoever and didn’t really understand how to do the homework. I came to class and Ustadh Amr asked me, “did you do the homework?” “I tried but I don’t really know what I was supposed to do,” he then proceeded to ask me to help him.
I tried to refuse but he pushed me to advise him how to do the Arabic homework. He didn’t tell me he knew Arabic nor that he was Arab, I found out several weeks later when I heard him talking in Arabic. And that was the first time I tried to teach an Arab how to do morphology of Arabic words. Such was his humbleness. I observed good character, humility and patience at his hands.
Achieving Excellence and Mastery
When I first started at Seekers, I wasn’t fully cognizant of what I had been blessed to enter into. SeekersGuidance embodies a traditional method of teaching with taking modern means.
The program at SeekersGuidance expects mastery in your studies, and mastery requires diligence and hard work. If someone in university or high school wanted to pass their course, the only thing they needed to make sure was that they got 50% of their questions right on their tests and exams.
It was after starting my studies at Seekers that I realized that there was no option for someone studying the Islamic sciences to get short of 100% in anything related to their studies. If someone were to ask me a question and I made a mistake in my answer, I would have indirectly claimed that the ruling of Allah was A when it was actually B. As Shaykh Faraz says, “you either know the subject matter or you don’t, there’s no in-between.” Would you allow a surgeon to do surgery on you when you knew he wasn’t completely sure how to do a surgery? No, nobody would!
The scholars of this religion are God’s doctors whose job is to treat you and I, to teach us to be better servants of God most High.
This is what I’ve observed from the example of Shaykh Faraz and this is the way of the great scholars of our religion, Allah bless them all. The method of the scholars is very unlike many modern ways of schooling.
A student has to master a science before he can even be considered as knowing the subject matter, let alone a teacher in that science. Students repeat study of each science several times, at a basic foundational level, then studying that foundation a second time while building upon it with some derivative discussions, then studying it again but with a focus now on the reasoning or the “why,” and “how.”
There are levels of study and mastery in the way of our great scholars and teachers, something that appears to be fading into the background here in the west but SeekersGuidance is striving to uphold that standard.
If you were to ask me what is one thing I’ve realized whilst studying with SeekersGuidance, I’d say the intense blessing there is for someone to be able to study islam. It’s a great blessing and we should all try to take advantage of it. It’s not a light matter either, it’s crucial to the lives of all people, without knowledge we are blinded; bumping, stumbling and tripping yet without knowing! May Allah protect us all.
SeekersGuidance is like a well in the middle of the desert, you have an opportunity today which was never available in history. Wherever you are, whatever state you are in, you can access absolutely free life giving water in your state of thirst. You can drink ten buckets of water or take one sip, do not let this opportunity go to waste!
Our communities need people who have drunk from this well today more than ever, they are in need of guidance and help, you can help by seeking knowledge – completely free of charge!
Sidi Zain Ali
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