Heart, Mind and Ethics: Paths of Success for Future Scholars of the West


Imam al-Nawawi related the following:

“Purify your hearts [for the knowledge] the way land is purified for cultivation.”

Imam al-Shaf’i on Humility:

None of you will seek this knowledge with a domineering attitude and exaggerated self worth, then succeed. However, one who seeks this knowledge, struggles with his/her soul, [enduring] strained provision and [struggles in the] service to the scholars is successful.

I remember my Sheikh telling me: “My mother used to send me with gifts to my father. Although he was my father, she did this because, in reality, he was also my Sheikh. She did this so my knowledge would be blessed.”

I recall my teacher saying to me, when I tried to serve him, “I don’t want that type of service.” Then he paused and said, “But you need to do it. This is the way of blessing.”

Avoid Complaining, it is the Opposite of Shukur:

When we land overseas we must be very careful that our attitude is not what are these scholars going to do for us. Do not ask what your scholars can do for you, but what you can for your scholars.

Serve the ‘Ulema and treat them with respect.

Once a Sheikh from South Africa told me the following, “We had a very intelligent student with us. He was so gifted and one day he began to debate our teacher and was very rude with him. He won the debate, but our teacher turned to him and said, “If you are not careful, your knowledge will go un-blessed!” Suhaib, by Allah he was the most intelligent, gifted and bright student amongst us, however today he is working serving tea to people in the markets. All of that knowledge, all of that intelligence, and he is not asked by even one person a single question.”

Hardships:

Imam Malik said, “No one will attain this knowledge until he is afflicted with poverty that touches upon every aspect of his life.”

al-Shaf’i [may Allah have mercy upon him said], “No one will acquire this knowledge except the bankrupt.”

Once I came across some brothers in al-Azhar who told me about a brother who came to study in Egypt. He was very poor and his mother’s goal was for her son to become an Azhari. With no way to purchase the ticket for the trip, his mother sold her house in order to send him! I’ve meet a large number of brothers and sisters here who haven’t seen their families in 6-7 years. I knew some sisters who sold food in order to stay in Egypt and complete their masters in Shari’ah. It is these efforts, these struggles which plant the seeds for the future.

My Sheikh told me: “When I was young I remember seeing the brothers out at night under the street lights until late. Later on I realized that they were memorizing the Qur’an and had no electricity in their homes.”

Once one of the Shanaqita told me, “You memorize the Qur’an in your nice homes. I memorized it by the camp fire! You, Westerners go for fun to Disney Land. We used to spend our time making tafsir!”

My Sheikh told me, “I remember when I as young and the Shanaqitah would come with their kids to our city. I saw their kids playing by making ‘Irab of the language!”

I knew a student of knowledge who came to Egypt and was homeless! He used to attend classes in the day and sell watches at night. When he wanted to splurge on himself he would go, once a week, and buy Koshari. [equal to a $1.00 meal]

Western Muslims have a great opportunity since the have been blessed with wealth. However, how many times have blessings, as Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned, become trials?

The Poet wrote:

قد ينعم الله بالبلوى وإن عظمت……… ويبتلي الله بعض القوم بالنعم

Perhaps Allah will bless with trials, even if abundant………. and perhaps He will try some people with blessings!

Avoiding Hatred and Jealousy:

It moves through us like our blood. Raised on WWE,  Kimbo Slice and the Gladiator, Western Muslims are prone to make studying out into an epic adventure the likes of the Lord of the Rings. However, we are all, for some strange reason, the heroes and never the bad guys? I’ve experienced this a lot here and I’m sad to say that there are problems amongst us that I would have never imagined. Let’s move beyond these things and realize that what holds us together is stronger than what pulls us apart. This is a very serious disease of the heart and its cure, as Sidi Zaroq mentioned, in his famous principles on tasawwuf, is to do the opposite. This was also the statement of Sh. Bin ‘Uthyamin who said that the way to destroy this is to act on its opposite. Let us pray for each other, work to facilitate each others affairs and remove these evil shadowy feelings in our hearts. If not, the outcome of our knowledge will be tainted and our time spent will not be complete.

Summer Break: Know that you Don’t Know

Let us take the time, oh students of knowledge, to humble ourselves. Many of us are going back for the summer. When we get back, let’s not impose, nor direct others. We’ve spent a year or so learning, now lets spend the summer learning humility, respect and mercy. The art is not mastered by knowing, it is mastered by knowing that you don’t know. For that reason the scholars said: “I don’t know” is half of knowledge.

Often times when we go back we run into conflicts with other scholars, imams and activist in the community. Let us understand that our goals are the same, our destination is one and we need each other to arrive at, “And to your Lord is the ending.” We are not going back as the latest upgrade to ImamVirus 2009 Plus. We need to be humble. If we hear things that are wrong, let’s check ourselves and make sure we are hearing with our hearts that are clean and not with the deaf ear of arrogance and conceit. The same holds true for the masses, perhaps people will say things that, according to an Azhari, are out there, make no sense and, perhaps, are un-orthodox. Subhanallah! We ourselves have troubles, struggle to encompass the knowledge and expect people who sit 40 hours a week in front of an office desk, or burning paratas to know these things. Allah says that the Disciples of Jesus said, “Can your Lord send a table from the heavens?” This is a question that, on the surface, amounts to a major mistake in creed. None can say about Allah, “Can He do….” because He is Allah. However, as al-Qurtubi mentioned, some scholars stated that this question was acceptable because these people had just accepted Islam. If this was the case of those who lived and walked with a great Messenger of Allah, what of those who’s secretaries look like Beyonce, are struggling to raise their kid, pay the bills and keep their marriages together? Let us remember to “lower your wings to the believers” exercise humility and teach with the caress of a loving father.

Allah knows best

Sorry for the rant,

Suhaib

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7 Comments

  1. Abu Abdullah says:

    MashaAllah,

    May Allah let anyone who reads this understand it – and let that understanding enter their hearts.

    From the words of the salaf – it may be that a good action takes one into hell, and a bad action takes one into paradise.

    May Allah Protect us from ourselves,

    The key is always intention – as Imam al-Ghazali mentioned, if one finds himself seeking knowledge for any reason other than to get closer to Allah, then it is better for them not to seek.

    JezakAllahKhairun for the last two posts,

    Abu Abdullah

  2. Lee says:

    As-Salaamu’Alaykum…….

    wow……

    Was-Salaam

  3. Alan says:

    Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu!
    May Allah bless, preserve and reward you.

  4. Abu ubaida says:

    Mashallah please post more articles like these

  5. Muslim says:

    more articles like this one please

  6. Ahmed says:

    us salaam alikuim

    On point, ya ustad !

    I am going to bookmark this one. Massive reminders in this…inshallah, will collect more when I join you in Egypt in December, inshallah

    Barikhallah feek

    Ahmed

  7. Dave says:

    Assalaamu alaykum Sheikh,

    These words just make me hope that you come back to Boston soon. May Allah grant you the highest levels of Jannah through the service of your teachers and the teaching of the unlearned, ameen.

    Dave C.

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