Sponsor ME! Paying for College and Islamic Classes

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!ย 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 ย 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.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

11 thoughts on “Sponsor ME! Paying for College and Islamic Classes”

  1. JazakAllah khair for the great advice.

    Even though I have never formally worked a 9 to 5 job, I have seen my parents go through a lot of work to get their children everything they need and quality education. I still had to do really well in high school in order to get my college tuition paid for by scholarships. Even though that is not your typical job, you still work for it in a way. And even if i didn’t have that, I would have to work for it myself and don’t see anything wrong in that. I have only been to IlmSummit once, last year and definitely the cost and airfare was a huge deal for me. So if I missed half the lectures it just wouldn’t sit right with me. After it all I was still surprised at how easily people could go to these retreats but still blow it off during the stay. I really agree and think that students, if they are serious enough, should also work for the money instead of asking everyone else to pitch in. Everyone’s situation is different, and I know people personally who don’t have parents’ financial support in classes related to the deen or some simply have other valid excuses, but I’m sure this post is mostly for those people who are living comfortable lives with understanding parents who are asking for the money.

    Great post mashaAllah!

  2. I like your post better than Mouse’s rant ๐Ÿ™‚ i totally agree with you and i like that you didn’t judge those who ask or knock them for doing it.

    I think not being able to wake up for salah/not taking it seriously has more to do with the a lack of balance between ilm, amal and tazkiyah. Learning all that knowledge and having salah issues is a big deal, may Allah protect us.

    I cant ask my parents either haha! When my siblings and i were going to egypt, we all saved our work money, sold stuff etc to at least pay for our flights there and a few months tuition and rent. Our dad and older bro insisted on sending money every month bc ‘we want some ajr too!’ alhamdulillah. May Allah assist everyone who seeks knowledge and may He bless them with sincerity and good deeds.

  3. Saleha, wa iyyaki! I agree attending school full-time and doing well in those studies is serious work. Will we see you this year in Houston?

    Yusrao: Ameen. Finding the balance is key and so often missing from our lives. I liked the concluding paragraphs on the reality of fajr from this fatwa.

    1. I’m afraid not..I didn’t apply this year because the dates were conflicting with family events and also I was supposed to take summer school but ended up not doing that. It’s all good though, maybe 2012 inshaAllah. Hope you have a blast! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Great article Sis Ify! You’re a great writer mashAllah. No wonder you’re cakin from writing scholarship essays lol.

    I think this applies to other aspects of life. Some people ask for money from others when they’re in financial trouble (although I’m sure there are situations where it’s necessary) and others get down and do what it takes to work for it. After reading this, I realized there’s a lot more I can do for my personal financial situation.

  5. As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh!

    Thanks for the shout-out Ify ๐Ÿ™‚
    I agree with Yusra that you got the point across better than I did ๐Ÿ˜€ although I will say that rants aren’t usually meant to make people feel warm and fuzzy ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. MashaAllah! Very well-written and much needed. JazakiAllah Khair.
    SubhanAllah, as soon as I came back from work today, Ayesha asked me, “Did you read Ify’s article?! It’s Amazing and soo profoud! :)” Just got around to it and glad I got the chance to reflect alhumdulillah.

  7. Cartoon, Thank-you for your kind words. I think there’s always something more we could do to improve our financial situation. I recently started trying to setup and maintain a budget to really track where I spend money. So far it’s been helpful.

    And giving even when in straightened circumstances when we fear for a decline has always been beneficial. I think Allah places more baraka in our wealth when we give and our sustenance is decreased when we withhold.

    Mouse: Wa salaam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh, it’s all good and you’re quite welcome!

    Cucumber: Wa iyyaki, thank-you, which reminds me I should be at work right now, ha! I’m on my way, insha’Allah.

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