I have a confession to make. While growing up I went to school with a single goal in mind, finishing. There was no goal of coming home with straight A’s (High School, University), and as long as I didn’t come home with C’s then it was all good in my home. What does that mean? It means I applied myself enough to ensure I made the B’s I needed and if I was really feeling it then to get the A’s that would be sufficient. I had no greater purpose other than that.
Then came Islam which sparked a passion that had long been burnt out since childhood. A passion of delving into books and audios and coming out feeling refreshed and rejuvenated with knowledge. When I speak of knowledge here I am not speaking of religious studies but rather the various studies that one finds in any University. At the time I was a pre-law student making more money than most working in a firm as a paralegal and also competing on the Mock Trial Team (which might I add, kicked butt). It was around that time that I decided that though I was enjoying myself, I was ultimately pursuing a career based on the ideology that I would eventually make good money (if I was able to land a job where I was working) and live a life that many others wish and dreamed of.
Then came my first teacher after accepting Islam, a teacher who taught me religion. They sat me down once and told me that the path of law was a horrible one for a Muslim and Believer and that ultimately I should look elsewhere, as a young Muslim who had just accepted the faith I ate everything they said up, dropped pre-law and decided that I would pursue the path I had always wanted, to become a University Professor in the field I love best, Literature. Let me just make it clear that law can be a virtuous career path and I support those that choose it.
So I’ve given you all this backstory, but why? Why is this even important to the discussion of striving for knowledge? Because I remember the first class I sat in, it was Postcolonial theory, a class I shouldn’t have been in because it was an upper level course, but I needed an extra class (I always took an average of 18 credit hours) and I was always good at getting my way so they eventually put me in the course. I remember reading Fanon, Homi K. Bhabha, Edward Said and others and I remember reading the Tempest and making correlations between Caliban and the other that Edward Said speaks so heavily of. I was enamored with the field, then came slave narratives, Caribbean Literature and I began to find a world that not only was one of literature, but that of culture, and religion. I had been given a key to unlock the flow of the Earth and I felt like I had opened a box of treasure that had been hidden to me prior, yet now it was wide open.
For the first time in my life since elementary school I was reading and studying because I loved it. Then came my religious studies, and for the sake of brevity I’m going to skip ahead 5 years to a few weeks ago. We had just been questioned on our theological studies from the past month and the shaykh realized we had not studied as much as we should have. What does studying mean in this context? Memorizing up to this point 40 lines of poetry that speaks on the rational rulings of why God exists and His attributes, as well as memorizing the various proofs as to His existence, why He cannot be divided into parts, why He cannot share attributes with humanity and why humanity cannot take from His attributes. So we didn’t do too well and he said something that I heard before but hearing it from him struck an accord: “Knowledge will give you nothing if you give it none of yourself, and if you give it all of yourself it will only give you some of itself.”
I needed desperately to be reminded of that fact. My schedule, though nothing compared to true students of the faith is a heavy one. My week consists of classes on the Arabic Language, separate classes on Grammar, Morphology, Theology, and Jurisprudence, and of course Quran Memorization and Exegesis. Each of which has a book that we read, and often times are made to memorize. There were times I would just say, “It’s too much.” But then I would remind myself, why am I here? If you really want the knowledge you have to work for it. Before I came abroad I worked a full-time job, maintained a home, got married, finished school, started and worked with family on a clothing company and wouldn’t miss a single morning of Quran class, why? Because knowledge and learning was paramount to me and the life I chose to live. I honestly think that is why God made the path of knowledge easy for me today, because I sacrificed sleep then, sacrificed entertainment all in order to increase myself in the most beneficial thing we have, knowledge.
If you want it you’re going to have to work hard. It doesn’t matter if this knowledge is for your spiritual benefit or not, the work remains. The question for yourself is whether you’re going to put the effort in to get it. I think you should because knowledge has a way of completely transforming your essence into the butterfly we were all meant to become.
And this is a reminder for those who believe.