As a continuation of the “Moments of Adab” series. (Previous posts “Peeling an Orange for His Wife” and “Waiting After the Khutbah.”)
Sometimes we think that a person who has good adab (character/manners) must be a pushover and has to act softly and kindly with others all the time–but then, how does this person ever get anywhere or have self-respect and function with others?
3. Being Scolded in Class
The shaykh said that when he was a student of knowledge, he was sitting in a class of one of his teachers and he did something (maybe fall asleep or didn’t finish all of his reading and couldn’t answer a question or something like that) during class that the teacher called him out on. He tried hiding behind the really tall guy in front of him, but his teacher called him out anyways. I really wish I could remember what he had done to get in trouble–but basically, he was scolded at, yelled at, and embarrassed in front of his whole class. The public moment of it is not even the worst part when I think about it. Getting yelled at by anyone you respect and are learning from is enough to make you feel like scum.
This session that the teacher was teaching was being recorded. He said that when he feels like he needs to be grounded or needs a reminder of who he really is and where he came from, he goes back to that audio recording, and presses play and listens to him being yelled at in front of the class all over again. Can you imagine being humiliated like that (and rightfully so), and then returning back to that moment of time to humble himself?
This reminds me of a moment when I thought I had done something really good–a huge act of kindness and perhaps my intentions had gone astray. Instead of thanking me or praising me, the shaykh publicly announced something really stupid that I had done earlier in the day/in the process of my “good act.” I was so mortified, that all of the arrogance that I may have been feeling up to that point instantaneously shattered. I wanted to just melt into the carpet of the musallah and disappear. I didn’t want anyone to know it was me. When the mistake from before had happened, the frustration I had felt at that little glitch before (I was thinking, “wow, I get something like this happen to me when I just did something so amazing?!”) clicked for me at that moment–was I doing that thing with the right intention?
I, like the previous shaykh, also have access to a recording of that moment of adab, and when I feel myself falling into a trap of arrogance or self-righteousness, I go online, find that recording and listen to it–and I relish in the burning I feel in my face when the blood rushes up to my cheeks. Feeling like that reminds me that I need to humble myself, and sometimes being humbled by a teacher is one of the hardest, but most meaningful, ways to remember where you are.
From the life of the Prophet (S), this brings to mind the time when he appointed one of the sahabi as an imam of a rural, farming community (I think it was Mu’adh). This zealous, young dude (may Allah be pleased with him) lead prayers that were so long that the people came and complained to the Prophet (S) about it. The Prophet (S) was so angry with this sahabi, that he called him and he scolded him, saying, “Are you being a source of trial for these people?” He was harsh with him at this moment, and their relationship allowed for him to be that way with this particular sahabi. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to hear that from the Prophet (S)’s mouth, and how many times that memory came back and haunted him in moments when he needed a reminder the most.