Being Scolded in Class

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.


Waiting After the Khutbah

As a continuation of my “Moments of Adab” series…

(This shaykh is the same one from the previous post “Peeling an Orange for His Wife.”)

2. Waiting After the Khutbah

I had taken a fiqh of salah class with this shaykh and I had reviewed my notes some months later.  I had a question that I thought was answered, but I didn’t understand the answer and needed clarification on it.  This same shaykh was giving the khutbah at the local masjid that Friday, so after the khutbah was over, I stood on a curb in the masjid parking lot, a little ways away from the brother’s entrance so that I could spot the shaykh and approach him to have my question clarified on his way out.  (On a side note, I personally believed that I have gotten pretty good at the art of what I call “awkwardly hovering.” This is how I make my presence known to a shaykh or a brother and let them know that I need to talk to them, so they need to step out of their circle of men or whatever to come speak to me. Of course, hoards of brothers were flocking around him, and I just stood there waiting for them to leave or for the shaykh to break free of them.

I could tell that he had seen me, and he kept trying to make his way over to talk to me.  But every time he’d take a few steps in my direction, another brother or two would come up to him and he would have to stay there and talk to them.  Twenty minutes passed of my “awkward hovering,” and he finally got the chance to come up to me.  He apologized for having me wait for so long and motioned to a spot in the shade that we could move to so that I wasn’t standing in the sun anymore.  Before I asked him my question, he welcomed me to his hometown, as I was temporarily living there at the time.  I finally asked him my question, he sort of laughed at the simplicity of it and the fact that I had waited for 30 minutes to speak to him about it.

This is one example of a shaykh out there that take the sisters of the community very seriously and dedicate time to help them figure their problems out.   Some shuyookh understand the limited access that women have to them, and some of them (like this individual masha’Allah) adjust their priorities to make sure that the women in their communities don’t get the short end of the stick.  This reminds me of how the Prophet (S) would listen to the women who came to him with grievances and how he would dedicate time to spend specifically with the women of his community.

I pray that communities everywhere have leaders that honor and pay attention to their women and continue to  invest their time and efforts towards them.


Peeling an Orange for His Wife

I hear about certain ahadeeth that describe the body language of the Prophet (S), how while he was making dua for this guy, he reached out and placed his hand on the heart of the young man who asked for permission to fornicate with someone; or how he came down to eye level to talk a girl about her bird.

I hear about these moments of adab, of excellent mannerisms, and I think–wow.  I wish that kind of stuff would be something that happens to me and that I am blown away by.  Someone who can treat another person in this way has such a heightened level of body-awareness and has fine-tuned his level of communication to the point where his body language (which psychologists say communicate much more than the words used) becomes the most effective and powerful force in his communication.

And then I hear about some of the teachers my teachers or shuyookh speak about–about their “moments of adab” with them.  The rush of excitement I feel when they recount those private, touching moments is something that I appreciate so much–and as someone who looks up to those people, it makes me happy and feel even more humble that those people who are legendary in my eyes have people who are legendary in their eyes.

So I recently realized that I’ve experienced a few moments of adab myself and I’d like to share them in a series of posts.

1. Peeling an Orange for His Wife

I think it was during my second Ilm Summit, I was sitting at a table in the hotel lobby with a few sisters and the wife of one of the shuyookh who was teaching a portion of the classes.  It was halfway into lunch, creeping into my qayloolah/lunchtime napping session, but I was still sitting at the table, simply too tired to go all the way up to my room and knock out.  The shaykh comes out of the room where the brothers eat lunch and is passing by our table.  He comes to our table, greets us all, and hands the orange that he had already peeled to his wife.  He smiles, excuses himself, and walks away.

From his wife’s reaction, i could tell that she was pleasantly surprised and slightly embarrassed by his gesture because there were a few of us around when it happened.  But–I could tell that she probably felt like one of the most loved women in the world at that moment, and that she truly appreciated it.

This reminds me of the love that the Prophet (S) showed his own wives, and how he was not ashamed of expressing his feelings towards her among friends/the community.  The hadith when the Prophet (S) is asked who the person is that he loves the most is the one that comes to mind, and in a society where it was thought of as unmanly to speak kindly about one’s wife, he was out there expressing his undying love towards her and we even have that narration with us today.


Snooty English Majors

I am in the process of revising a short story I wrote for my creative writing workshop.  It’s called “The Revert” and should be out in early 2014 iA!

The way our workshop goes is that we pass out the story to each of our classmates the class meeting before, and then the next class we spend half of the period talking about the person’s story.  We discuss things like what we liked, what we didn’t like, what worked, what didn’t work, what was confusing, and etc.  We are also expected to write a 2-3 page letter to the author/our peer and tell him or her our concerns and feedback about the story.

I would just like for anyone to who hasn’t been through this to imagine spending hours upon hours writing a story, and then having it be torn apart in your presence while you sit there silently taking down notes.  It’s pretty intense, and there is a level of maturity and distance that the author needs to have, met with respect, sincerity, and gentleness by the peers who are discussing the work.

I was reading through the letter responses I got and I came across one that made my jaw drop.  I might have been upset by the tone of my classmate who wrote a critique of my short story, but it was just too hilarious for me to care.

“A few enticing hints of the character’s past are dropped sporadically in between info dumps but ultimately they are all just pebbles drowning in the ocean under the stormy waves of exposition.”

“But quite frankly, the character [in the story] doesn’t care for that stuff and neither do I.”

“…but what little that is there [in the story for me to get] just keeps getting buried over and over again by the avalanches of exposition sent down over the rest of the story.”

The last excerpt could use a little bit of editing, huh? “Avalanches sent down” sounds too awkward, I like “avalanches crashing down over the rest of the story” better, don’t you?

لا حول و لا قوة إلا بالله!!!!!

I guess this is just a not-so-friendly reminder that how you say something makes a bigger difference than what it is you actually say.

Also–I only meet this kind of self-absorbed trope of a classmate in my classes that are listed with the English Department.  These kinds of people are never in my Comparative Literature classes, aH, we are the cool kid club and that is one of the many reasons I chose Comp Lit 😀

P.S.–I can’t wait to share the story with you guys, it’s honestly the most I’ve pushed myself as a fiction writer and I am definitely pushing the envelope with this one.


Worshiping Phiraon

As it always is bound to happen–when I have a huge paper or writing assignment due for a class, I always end up blogging! D:

This might be a stretch–but it’s something I thought of recently.

In the Qur’an, Phiraon (“Pharoah” in Arabic; referring to the leader of Egypt that Prophet Moses was sent to) repeatedly claims to be the Lord of Egypt and his subjects. There are moments that highlight his eccentricity, insanity, and uncontrollable anger in the Qur’an, one of the places being Surat TaHa. (If you’d like a break-down which looks deeply at the rhetoric of the Arabic, I advise listening to Nouman Ali Khan’s “Divine Speech” and translation of Surat TaHa available on Bayyinah TV and Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda’s Surat TaHa Tafseer series available for free on YouTube.)

The way that he interacts with his cabinet, with his subjects, with Moses and Aaron–these are all so incredibly cruel, calculated, and honestly shocking. I can imagine that when a person came to talk to him, he would expect them to grovel at his feet or approach him in some ridiculous, humiliating manner that would befit his pomp and arrogance.

Tangent–I was listening to a lecture by a Christian youth minister who converted to Islam (Yusha Evans) and he spoke about the way he noticed Jesus and other Christians worshiping in the Bible. There was a phrase that stuck out to him that described their worship–“fall on his face.” When he saw Muslims engaging in prayer, when they kneel down on the ground and put their foreheads on the floor, it clicked for him that this was a preservation of the way that those pious people he had read about before used to worship God. This position in the ritualistic, Islamic prayer is called “sujood” in Arabic.

So I was recently thinking about something–how would Phiraon demand his “slaves” worship him, if he really claimed to be God? And I could imagine the groveling, humiliating version of the Muslim sajdah/sujood, with the person’s whole face pressed into the earth, elbows touching the ground, arms extended as far as they can go, belly touching the ground.

Another tangent–Islamic scholars have reflected on the position of sujood in prayer (salah) and have noted how humbling it is, and many call it the climax of prayer, when a slave of God manifests his relationship to his Master, Creator, and Owner. Putting the most noble part of the human body, your face, on the ground in submission to Him..that’s one of the biggest signs of submission. It is also taught that this position, the position where a person lowers himself the most a human can possibly lower himself, is the position in which he is closest to God. This is a way that God honors His slaves for showing obedience to Him.

Tangent off that last tangent–There are certain guidelines a Muslim follows when he prays that determines how his physical movements should be carried out and what positions his body should be in at different parts of the prayer. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught his followers how to pray. One of the narrations (not sure if it is sound or not) tells a believer to not demean himself by letting his elbows touch the ground by using the analogy of a dog who sits with his forearms and elbows on the ground.

Back to the whole point of this–if Phiraon was claiming the truth when he kept insisting that he was God, then I can’t imagine how horrid it would be to worship him. Even when the believer lowers himself in a gesture of humility, the One True God has instructed him to engage in a form of worship that is not humiliating.

Think about THAT the next time you make sujood 🙂


Masjid Policy: Open Doors and Open Hearts

My first day spent inside the masjid office yesterday, and I already saw stuff that I just didn’t expect. It was after the masjid office hours, but I was inside and doing whatever work I needed to do. An older man, probably in his 50s knocked on the door and walked in. He was wearing a leg brace and his clothing was a bit tattered. He came to the desk and said, “I really just need 20 dollars to buy medication for my leg. I really need my medication immediately, I haven’t taken it for 2 days.”

On Saturday, another experience happened where I met a sister who drove for 2 and a half hours with her young son to visit the masjid and speak to the religious director. She had a physical handicap, looked very distressed. She asked me for help in finding the masjid office and I pointed her in the right direction.

My reflection lies in this: The masjid is a hospital. It can be literally, with medical clinics in some Islamic centers or in the case where someone asked for money for medication. But a hospital in other ways, too. A social hospital–find some good company at the masjid. A spiritual hospital–seek a strong connection with God and reformation of your life. And any kind of other hospital we can think of.

A masjid is a place for the broken, and we are all broken in some ways, some of us more than others and some of us more outwardly so. When we turn someone away due to their appearance or condition or situation, what other place will take them in? Sometimes the community can be so snooty and reject people who need healing, and where else does this person have to go?

This is a reminder to myself first and foremost that my heart needs to be kept as open as the masjid’s doors are to every kind of person out there.

Here's the cat that's started coming around the masjid this Ramadan.  This cutie is just looking for some love at the masjid, like everyone else :)

Here’s the cat that’s started coming around the masjid this Ramadan. This cutie is looking for some love at the masjid, just like everyone else 🙂



Spiritual Handicaps

Ramadan reveals our spiritual handicaps. When this blessed month comes along, we push ourselves to our spiritual limits, using the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to make the most of the month. We know that he used to give even more charity, pray at night longer, read more Qur’an, among many other acts.

So we take these acts of worship that the Prophet (S) used to implement or implemented more than normal and we try to follow his example. We try to give more charity. We try to recite the Qur’an more and to connect with it on a deeper level. We try to clean up our character flaws. We try to rectify our relationships and social interactions. We try to do all of these things, and in our efforts we realize that we are falling short and we’re not to the level we want to be.

We realize, I am seriously attached to the life of this world and I can’t dig deep and give as much sadaqah as I should. I don’t know how to read Arabic and I’m tired of having sucky tajweed. I don’t understand Arabic and I can’t stand in another prayer and not know what’s being said. My heart is so caught up with so much bakwas (music, TV, pop culture) that I can’t connect to the Qur’an, I can’t feel it. I don’t have the determination to wake up at night for night prayers. I don’t have enough confidence in my relationship with God to make dua and know that He is listening and will answer it. I only feel a spiritual connection with God through others (others reciting the Qur’an, others leading prayers, etc.) and in communal worship, I can’t experience the same feelings or reach the same level on my own. I have serious anger issues and I can’t control my temper. I use language that I shouldn’t be using, I gossip like mad, and I say things to others that are hurtful and whack. I am lazy and I don’t push myself to my fullest potential. I am a horrible parent, child, spouse, friend, and if it were up to me I would never want to be on the receiving end of that relationship I have with others. I don’t have the discipline to control my desires. My priorities are all wrong and my life is a mess.

And so these are the conclusions we make in Ramadan. This is the wake up call we feel staring us straight in the face. These are the spiritual handicaps that we discover which are keeping us from reaching new heights in our faith. We try our best and make do with what we have, and then Ramadan is over and we might feel like we’ve made a little bit of progress…but then next Ramadan is just around the corner and we struggle with the same spiritual handicaps once again all over again.

I am determined to break that vicious cycle. Let’s take one area of our lives, one spiritual handicap, and focus on improving that this month. And once Ramadan is over, we’re not done. We will continue to work on that specific spiritual handicap throughout the year, so that we go from a wheelchair to crutches to limping to walking to running to flat out sprinting by next Ramadan iA. If I feel like I’m having trouble with having confidence in my dua/prayers to God, I am going to use this month to get a push off the wall and start making strides in my journey to strong and accepted prayers. If I feel like I can’t engage in night prayers, I am going to start waking up this month and keep it up once a week, twice a week for the rest of the year. If I feel like I gossip way too much, I am going to watch what I say and who I am around starting from now, and throughout the year I am only going to get better and better with the words that come out of my mouth.

Here’s to one less spiritual handicap on my list of spiritual handicaps for next Ramadan iA.


ICSGV's new facility. One of my favorite places to be during Ramadan. And check out those light fixtures!

ICSGV’s new facility. One of my favorite places to be during Ramadan. And check out those light fixtures!

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