I had it in my mind to write a post about the recent phenomenon of Muslim students creating ChipIn and PayPal accounts and utilizing online media including Facebook, Twitter, and google groups to send out messages soliciting donations to attend the latest hit program. But AnonyMouse beat me to it with her I’m a Student of Knowledge, So Please Pay for my $20,000 Course! Often overlooked are the relatively inexpensive or free programs available locally.
I started working when I was in the 3rd grade, it was fun for me to deliver newspapers with my siblings and I got a rest day every two or three days. The lessons learned of hard work, dedication, reliability, and saving my earnings have served me well. I feel shy to ask my parents for money and even though they will support me if needed, I prefer to work extra hours or take on a second job to help support myself if I can do so. Yes, it’d be nice not to have to work but it’s become a part of my life and I’m okay with that.
There’s a hadith, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) took a covenant from the Companions to not ask anything of anyone. And the Companions followed this principle so much so that if they dropped something while riding a camel they would stop and get down off the camel to pick it up before asking someone to hand it back to them. And mounting and dismounting a camel is no small feat.
Everyone’s situation is different and I don’t want to criticize those who ask because I don’t know their individual situations. What I do know is that I find it humbling to receive money from my parents to attend college or take Islamic classes. And it’s also very humbling and I’m quite grateful when I receive scholarships and grants to pursue a course of study. I’m already motivated to attend and reap the most benefit but even more so when I know someone made a decision to invest in me and in my future potential.
While I have benefitted from these luxury ilm classes through AlMaghrib, Zaytuna, Bayyinah, and DiscoverU, they are only one component of my Islamic studies. I’ve also learned a great deal from books and lectures and teachers in my local area, many of whom are not as well known. These local classes are often ongoing and require a great deal of patience and determination and high aspiration to remain committed to attend. It’s easy to clear your schedule for a week or two and free yourself from the daily distractions of work, school, family and friends, and volunteering to participate in a knowledge retreat. Much harder is staying committed and focused amidst the hustle and bustle and stressors of daily life.
Who do you find at these retreats? Serious students? There are some but let’s not kid ourselves most of those who attend do so because they can afford it or have been sponsored to attend, they’re able to travel, and they are able to put other obligations on hold. Many are those who tell me they are pining to attend Ilm Summit and no doubt it can be an amazing and life-changing experience. You learn and gain a lot of knowledge about unique topics, meet and network with some amazing people and can improve in areas like tajwid or public speaking.
But if you knew what we who’ve attended knew about our fellow students, you’d weep. I consider it delightful that fajr prayer is at 6am in Houston during Ilm Summit, that’s late for us coming from areas where fajr is closer to 3-4am, and gives me some time to sleep when most nights I don’t retire before 3am. Tajwid classes with Wisam Sharieff and Uthman Khan begin immediately after salah but how few are those in attendance? Where are they? Sleeping? Didn’t they hear in the adhan that prayer is better than sleep? And beginning your day with Br. Wisam’s unique dua in the mornings is more enlivening that eating our breakfast immediately after the morning tajwid session.
So many people claim they want to memorize Quran, study Islam, go to Madinah or Al-Azhar University, attend Ilm Summit or Bayyinah Dream but can’t even hack it through a weekend seminar, let alone a double-weekend, much less the once weekly lecture at the mosque or even getting up each day to earn some money by working a job. We want to reach the great heights of the righteous and pious people who preceded us and who theoretically serve as our role models and examples but we can’t even get up for fajr, read Quran daily, memorize some hadith, or learn and practice good manners.
Don’t you think we might take our studies more seriously if we actually worked hard beforehand at any job let alone, two or three jobs, 80 hours a week, striving, scrimping and saving to attend a class? Many people love to give, Muslim and non-Muslim, and if anyone wants to sponsor me just let me know, I’ll pass on my PayPal account details.
Every year, after filing my income tax, I fill out a FAFSA, the federal government’s student financial aid request form. And amazingly, I’ve received some very generous grants from both the state and federal government. For the last couple of years, I’ve written an essay each spring, which doesn’t take too long to churn out and has led to thousands of dollars in scholarship funds awarded to me from my university. In this my final year, I’ve received more money than ever before in grants and scholarships, probably enough to fund a year’s tuition at Bayyinah Dream and it’s humbling. I feel a pressure to do even better and to excel as a way of saying thank you first to Allah who makes all things possible and then to those who have deemed me worthy or deserving by whatever criteria for these funds to pursue my education.
It’s not my intention to knock those who ask of others because I also ask when filling out my FAFSA or asking my folks. But I’d like us to reconsider if we’ve worked for it, if we can even appreciate it, will we be from amongst the first to fall out, are there other alternatives, will we even benefit or benefit others?
I’d like to ask my fellow students at Ilm Summit who stay away from joining us for the tajwid sessions or any other session, why did you come to Houston, why did you pay all this money in tuition and airfare to sleep in your bed while the sessions of ilm are at your fingertips? I don’t get it.