“My daughter, where exactly are you?”
As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah
They say that you learn from the etiquettes of a scholar more than you learn from his knowledge. This just couldn’t be more true. Every scholar I’ve seen, heard of and spoken to always amazed me with his/her character. And the greater their ‘ilm, the finer their character was.
Recently I began classes with a shaykh but the masjid he asked me to come to (where he did the classes) was quite complex to get to. I managed to reach a nearby location and gave him a call to get directions as I didn’t know any of the students. He tried to explain at first but the line was so bad that it cut off halfway. After 5-10 mins, he calls me back and says, “My daughter, where exactly are you?” As I was telling him, I saw a car pulling up across the road with the shaykh inside indicating for me to come. Subhan’Allah, it turns out he had actually stopped his class, brought a student along and came to pick me up! I was completely taken by surprise… A great shaykh like him coming to pick up a complete nobody like me. The humbleness and good character/gesture was extremely touching.
On top of that, he had brought along a student who wanted to recite to him (as he is a scholar in the 10 qira’at and grants ijazahs), so all the way along the road the student was reciting off by heart to him while he was listening/correcting and at the same time, showing me the route for when I next come.
I learnt so many lessons from this (and other incidents), mainly:
- When serving in the way of Allah, humble yourself to those below you. Being a scholar or a learned one will always earn you respect but it is from lofty character to lower yourself for those below you.
- Make great use of time. If you can kill two birds with one stone, do so. In the time I’ve spent with this shaykh, one of the striking things I’ve noticed about him is that despite his age, he never fails to make use of time. I was told of how a brother once came to visit him to recite and get ijazah but the shaykh was due to go on a long journey, so instead of telling him to come back on another day, he took the brother with him! He told him to prepare and the 10hr journey (with a 3-day stay), was enough for the student to recite nonstop and gain certification.
- Although it’s good to have personal schedules, it is at times also extremely helpful for others if we go out of our way to fit them into our busy schedules. Be helpful. Maybe people’s circumstances are tough and they’re coming to you as a resort and a solution. Help them and Allah will help you!
- In relation to the above, it’s really crucial for our scholars to make time for the women and sisters of this Ummah, particularly in the absence of female scholars. Sometimes, we see brothers crowding around a shaykh or taking up all his time and attention such that he’s not able to give equal time to sisters. What really impressed me about this scholar was the way he treated his female students. He would dedicate his time and efforts to whoever came, and let them complete their learning. In fact many times, he would give more time to the sisters than the brothers! His wife told me that once, two sisters travelled in from distant towns (one from North Egypt, the other from South Egypt) to learn from him and get an ijazah. He told his family to accommodate for one of the sisters so she lived with them, while the other one stayed nearby with a friend. In just 3 days, he managed to listen to and review their hifdh/qira’ah. I was surprised and asked ‘how’, because he has lots of students, particularly brothers. She replied that wherever he went, he took the sisters along with him and they would recite. If he went to do classes in another institute, he would take them and they’ll be reciting in the car (btw, he’s very talented in listening to two different people reciting at once!). In the masjid, they only brought water and dates as food while they would recite the whole day from morning till evening (very strong sisters, masha’Allah!) until they completed their ijazah in just 3 days and returned to their respective cities in a short time. Oh and his family (including the women!) are all educated and qualified in this ‘ilm, showing that he dedicated a great deal to them.
- Age is nothing but a number. The shaykh – like many shuyukh – is just as active as the youth that I see. After Fajr prayer, he sits in his mosque for a minimum of 12 hours, receiving students, teaching them the Book of Allah and helping them return home with some ‘ilm from him.
- While we should give our utmost respect and honour to our scholars, we should also realise that they are human beings too, and sometimes they are also struggling with the trials of fame. So whenever possible, we should help them in their struggles, i.e. we shouldn’t idolize them or make them into celebrities. The celebrity culture which has infiltrated Islamic knowledge particularly in the West is breaking the backs of our du’at and scholars!
- Seize opportunities that Allah presents to you and don’t let shyness prevent you from progressing and taking up opportunities.
- I would write more but I must dash!
Luqman said to his son, “O my son, sit with the scholars, crowd them at the knees! For indeed, hearts come to life with words of wisdom just like the dead earth comes back to life with the downpour of rain.”
- Mukhtasar Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, by Imam al-Ghazali
May Allah place us in the company of the righteous and allow us to benefit from them and be of benefit to others, ameen.