Ilm Summit Reflections #6: Are we spoiled?

IMG_0676Of course, we are spoiled.

AlMaghrib spoils us by having the instructors travel to us, in order to teach us so that we may benefit when rather it should us students traveling to them. In sha Allah, one day we will have an Islamic university here in North America, where we can travel and reside for a number of years and learn and benefit from our instructors. Bayyinah Institute is working an Arabic immersion dream, Al Huda Institute is focused on Quran, Zaytuna has a dream like the one AlMaghrib has to teach a university-level curriculum leading to a degree in a single location.

Those of us who were fortunate to attend Ilm Summit, enjoyed four-star accommodation, three well-planned and solid meals with plenty of drinks, healthy snacks, and desserts each day, our classroom was within our hotel, and our schedule began with early morning fajr salaah and continued until 10-10:30 for isha and for many of us well into the night so that we could review and study the material.

During the last week, it was rare for me to sleep before 3am and of course I was back up by 5:30-6am to start the day. Alhamdulillah, our lunch breaks were from 1pm-3:30pm so I could catch a few zzzs to feel refreshed for the rest of the day. But the schedule was too intense for some of our companions and some skipped the 6am after-fajr tajweed class and other classes and breakfast in order to sleep.

Many of us who were awake, ate our breakfast quickly so that we could stake out and reserve our seats in the front rows closest to the instructor for the day. I was almost always in the front row, I like to be close to the instructor, to learn from his manners and  to focus by minimizing distractions from the people behind me. Shaykh Yaser Birjas (hafidhullah) told us that when he was a student in Madinah, he and other students would gather in the Masjid an Nabawee with all of their books and papers from Asr time until after the taraweeh just so they could be close to Ibn Uthaymeen (rahimullah) for his post-taraweeh talks and question and answer session, which makes our gathering 45 minutes to an hour before the start of the morning session look meager.

Shaykh Yaser Birjas (hafidhullah) reflected upon his summers spent in Unayzah with Ibn Uthaymeen (rahimullah). He said, in his first year in Madinah, he asked some of the older students if he should accompany Ibn Uthaymeen to his summer retreat in Unayzah and they dissuaded him and until today, more than 15 years later, he still regrets heeding their advice. He made sure to go his second year and every year after that until he graduated from Madinah university.

The first year, Shaykh Yaser traveled light and went with a group believing that they would be well-cared for within the dormitory that housed other students but when they arrived the shaykh in charge told them that they would have to sleep in the masjid although they would be allowed to eat and shower in the dormitory. The students were not prepared for that reality nor the extreme heat of the summer nor the numerous bugs that feasted on their flesh while they slept in the masjid.

This seems to have been a natural weeding out and selection process, students that were not focused and determined would have given up at this first major hurdle. Shaykh Yaser and his companions perservered, always occupied the first rows for the salaah, and raced to attend each session with Ibn Uthaymeen. Their persistence did not go unnoticed and after a few weeks, the shaykh in charge of the dormitory, gave the nine students that had been sleeping in the masjid, a single room in the dormitory to share. They were packed in there like sardines and had to sleep on mats on the floor but compared to sleeping in the masjid, this was a considerable upgrade. Shaykh Yaser jokes that when someone wanted to turn over in the night, he would have to call out to the other students to also turn over so that they wouldn’t wake up with the scary sight of their brother’s face in the morning. And after some more time elapsed and they continued to demonstrate their persistence and seriousness as students, they were split into two rooms with only 4-5 per room, which considering their previous circumstances was the height of luxury.

IMG_0675Contrast that to us at Ilm Summit, where we were from the beginning, paired 2 to a hotel room. Each room had two comfortable double beds with 7 pillows each (we were drowning in the pillows), a chair to lounge or recline in, a desk, our own bathroom, a dresser and closet with iron and ironing board. Two telephones and wifi access, a coffee maker, and a plethora of lighting options. Is it any wonder that some of our companions were unable to wake up for fajr and preferred the company of their bed to the company of the students learning the Quran or eating breaksfast or other morning sessions of ilm?

We could detect from some of the students a sense of entitlement, perhaps at having spent some money to travel to and attend Ilm Summit rather than an aura of humbleness at having been chosen to attend such a select and unique event, where we learned a depth and breadth of knowledge hard to acquire in the English language. We were given unparalleled access to the instructors, both brothers and sisters, which is rare in our communities particularly for sisters. Every effort was made to include the sisters and to set aside exclusive time for our questions and answers. Every night for dinner, one of the instructors would join the sisters for dinner so that we could ask any questions we desired about the course material or otherwise.

I benefitted immensely from interacting with the instrcutors and learning from their akhlaaq (manners). Shaykh Yaser Birjas was a fatherly figure to us, always saying salaam, advising us gently, concerned for us and looking out for our needs. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi was like an elder brother, very familiar with the culture here in North America, sharing with us his vision for our North American/western Muslim community, encouraging the sisters to not be shy, to ask questions, to participate fully, always concerned that we were able to grasp and understand the material and that the schedule was not too intense for us.

Shaykh Waleed Basyouni inspired all of us with his dedication to persevere in teaching us despite spending most nights in the hospital sleeping alongside his young son diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment. He would often come directly from the hospital to teach us and was always apologizing that he was not able to spend more time with us. Sometimes, he brought his other son to the class, pushing the stroller and taking care of him, picking up his toys, and gently hushing him so that he would not disturb our class while his dad was busy teaching us. It was a fantastic sight to see Shaykh Yasir and Shaykh Waleed with their families and to see the concern and gentleness of Shaykh Yaser, to see them as ordinary human beings that go to extraordianry lengths to share this knowledge with us.

Of course, we are spoiled.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

19 thoughts on “Ilm Summit Reflections #6: Are we spoiled?”

  1. Well said, Jazaaki Allahu khayran. I was very distraught last night when you told me this in person, subhanAllah. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and all I could do was just make duaa that we don’t ever fall into this trap of shaytan.

    I sometimes think how many of us would survive if we were travel overseas and study, since many of us profess it to be our dream and goal.

    1. Shaykh Yaser mentioned that at least 13 American students graduated from Madinah and returned last year but do we know any of their names? Where are they?

      Not that everyone has to be an imam or teach for AlMaghrib but what’s the point of having such an extraordinary education, taking up a limited number of coveted slots if you are not going to share the khayr with others?

  2. Assalamu alaikum

    I suppose ungratefulness is a demon that always accompanies privilege – it’s like the Saudis who have lived their entire lives in their country and have never performed ‘Umrah much less Hajj.

    Such is human nature I suppose.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam wa rahmatullah,

      Alhamdulillah, I don’t want to give the impression that most of the students had the entitlement chip on their shoulders or were not sufficiently appreciative of the blessing of attending Ilm Summit, there were so many extraordinary and brilliant students, we did have to fight to be in the front rows, and the gems and stars certainly overshadowed at least for me the complaints of others.

  3. Although I disagree with the concept of how comfortable it is at this Ilm Summit (I’m semi-hatin since I’ve never been)….it’s the reality of the situation of the those seeking knowledge in the West.

    I read from Sh. Yusuf Rios blog and Imam Suhaib Webb’s blog of a quote that is really deep…

    “Qadi Saab:

    “In my days we had to treat our teachers with honor in order to study, today, in the USA, we have to treat our students like sheikhs in order for them to study.”

    Sad state of the thirst for Islamic knowledge…but it’s also because we don’t know any better anyways (meaning from the West). Unless you experience some grimey situations, one wouldn’t appreciate our blessings. i.e. I was amazed at meeting an older AA brother who made straight up HIJRAH to Egypt. been living in Egypt for 4 years…going to al Azhar, and going to see 3 diff shaikhs in Egypt every week on top of Azhar. Meeting him was amazing…There are def people in the struggle seeking knowledge which makes it all worth it.

    I remember Imam Suhaib Webb had some kind of posting of the situation of the students of knowledge of something along the lines of: unless they feel hunger, or poverty, etc…they not a 4 real student of knowledge. It was pretty profound… (can’t find the posting…maybe it’s from his old blog).

    SubhanAllah…even my tutor, he lives in a 3 bedroom apt with ~15 ppl on and off… (from Azhar). We suck.

    1. Speak for yourself, we don’t all suck, and speaking from experience, Ilm Summit was very comfortable.

      Why don’t you try to apply next year, so you can see for yourself, the dates have already been announced July 23rd- August 1st?

  4. Assalaamoalaikum wa rahmatullahe wa barakatuhu

    First, I love you for the sake of Allaah and love reading what you have put up on your blog. I found it last week, masha Allaah. May Allaah recompense you with the best reward for your good deeds and forgive and overlook your bad deeds and keep you firm on the right path, Ameen

    Second, I need to know the price range for attending an IlmSummit? What is the maximum it can get? Any other do’s and don’ts that I should know before joining in?

    I know some things will depend on the location too. But I need the lowdown on this year’s IlmSummit so I can have a rough idea and adjust my savings accordingly.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

      May the one for whose sake you love me, also love you, ameen to your duas and the same for you. Welcome to the blog, I hope you find some benefit contained within, the intro to your comment was so gentle, kind, and personable that I thought I must have known you from somewhere, ma sha Allah 🙂

      About Ilm Summit:

      For the first two years, Ilm Summit was 17 days long and held in Houston. It has already been announced that Ilm Summit will be from July 23 – August 1st, which will be about 9.5 days so the price most likely will be dramatically reduced as a major expense is booking the hotel.

      I believe the sticker price was $2297 US for the first two years. I was accepted to both Ilm Summits but only attended the second one and each time, generous financial aid was available and this year I didn’t pay anywhere near that amount as I received two major discounts for being a good AlMaghrib student and for having an Ilm Rush card, are you an AlMaghrib student, only ask so I’ll know if you are familiar with some common lingo and terminology.

      A number people had sponsors or raised funds through their local masajid or local AlMaghrib qabeelah, etc.

      So are you planning to apply, next year, in sha Allah, that’s pretty exciting! May Allah subhanahu wa ta ala make the path easy for you to attend. Ameen.

  5. Also, sister, what about the ladies who were not able to bring a mahram with them, how were they escorted and how did the travel?

    1. AlMaghrib while preferring that sisters be accompanied by a mahram did not make it a condition of acceptance and it was left up to each individual to decide and make appropriate travel arrangements.

      Students came from the US, Canada, the UK, and Saudi Arabia, and maybe Australia so obviously, travel was coordinated on an individual basis. We had a number of married couples, siblings brothers and sisters from the same family travel together, several people had a mahram drop them off at the hotel and then return to pick them up at the end, groups of sisters booked their flights and traveled together from California, Toronto, New Jersey, etc. People came from varying distances, some lived within Houston or nearby so did not necessarily need a mahram and other sisters traveled solo or had a mahram meet them at the airport. There was a wide array of travel arrangements. Hope that helps.

      All major announcements for Ilm Summit are made on the AlMaghrib Forums in the Ilm Summit folder.

  6. I am hoping it will be Houston again, I am not an Almaghrib student, but I frequently visit the forums to know what’s going on. And so far, this has been the best activity that I witnessed there. I’d so much like to be a part of it and come back here and benefit this community that I was born and brought up in.. (I live somewhere in the MiddleEast).

    The cost for my travel alone is going to be $1,500. Only Allaah knows how I will make it, Insha Allaah I will, I am hoping and will do my best to support it on my own, so please pray for me sister.

  7. Assalamualaikum sister

    I just wanted to say as much as I know Zaytuna is an institute of Hamza Yousuf who is declared by scholars as a deviant sufi. So, I hope almaghrib(which is upon Quran and sunnah) is not gonna open a institute with them which’ll open the door of fitnah.

    1. Wa alaykum salaam Concealedrose,

      May we be amongst those who guard our tongues in the month of Ramadan and throughout the year. Check your language on my blog, we don’t go around calling people deviant sufis on here.

      Read the opening paragraph carefully, Zaytuna is working on a having their own college and AlMaghrib is working on having their own college, where students will travel to a single location to learn rather than having the instructors travel all around the world to different cities to teach. I didn’t say they were working together.

      Shayk Waleed Basyouni shared with us at this past Ilm Summit that from the manners of the people of knowledge is that they use the best and most beautiful language and use wisdom. Imam Bukhari (rahimullah) was shy and would never say of someone that he was a liar fabricating hadeeth or of weak character but rather he would simply say, “Don’t write his hadeeth or don’t write anything from him.” Other scholars might say, of a person that, “he is the biggest liar in the world or the biggest liar from mankind” but isn’t the habit of Bukhari a beautiful manner, lost in our own time?

    2. Assalamualaikum
      Thanks for advising me but I was saying that because if we don’t tell others they won’t know. If somebody would not tell me the truth in past I wouldn’t be able to differentiate between the shaykhs who are upon Qur’an & sunnah & who has taken a path other than that. Its good to say that ”don’t learn from him” but at times we also need to inform people why do they need to prevent themselves to take anything from that particular person. I didn’t say you said that both institutes are going to launch a combined project rather I said that just to inform that some people whose institutes you have mentioned are not from sunnah(so that person who has no knowledge about it get some knowlede about them & be careful from falling on the sytanic trap). Btw, if you say that a person is on bidah when he is on bidah then it doesn’t fall into the category of ‘backbiting’ you know. So,my language or words can’t be categorised as ‘evil talk’ rather its necessary so that brothers/sisters can protect their aqeedah based on Qur’an and sunnah.

      Also, its from our faith that we are soft to the Muslims and hard to the Kuffars. So, in the month of Ramadan we should be more careful that we don’t hurt our fellow muslim brothers and sisters unnecessarily by our words. It can be categorised as ‘evil of the tongue’.

      Anyways ukhti, I am not here in your blog to argue with you but I just needed to mention those points to clarify my position. Love you feasabilillah!

  8. Sister, do I need some sort of paper from the Almaghrib institute or paper to show at the American embassy for a visa? We need a visa to visit America from Kuwait.

    1. Someone: There will be an Ilm Week at the end of December 2009 in London and in sha Allah, Ilm Summit is scheduled for next year July but the details have not been finalized but most likely will be in Houston. I know for the students from the UK that also required visas, AlMaghrib provided them with a letter indicating their acceptance and attendance at Ilm Summit.

  9. Concealed: Wa alaykum salaam wa rahmatullah,
    May the one for whose sake you love me, also love you. 🙂

    No accusations of backbiting or evil speech here, just a matter of adab and personal preference that I’d like to maintain on my blog. If anyone has issues with the teaching of Zaytuna or a particular individual and want to share that with the people, that’s fine but the level of discourse must be raised to higher standard whereby we educate people on an academic and not emotional level. “Deviant sufi” is emotional and imprecise terminology that lacks nuance but to say they have a different aqeedah and to delineate some of those differences would be beneficial.

    Which reminds me that I’ve had the idea to write a post about a few of the core differences in aqeedah and beliefs about emaan between ahlus sunnah wal jama’ah held by for example AlMaghrib Institute and the Ashariyyah/Maturidiyyah views held by SunniPath and Zaytuna.

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