What is knowledge? Imam Malik said that knowledge is not in narrating or memorizing information, but it is a light that God places in the heart of the person. When I came into Islam I was enamored with the teachers that I had around me. All praise be to God, I was blessed to be surrounded with some phenomenal people that not only led the way for me but are leading figures of Islam in and around the United States. I just wanted to be like them.
Then when you add the fact that I grew up always hearing how I had a handicap due to my color (which is true), I was never satisfied with mediocrity, and still am not.
So when I was finishing the Arabic program during my first year here in Egypt I was extremely frustrated. Frustrated because there were times I would barely pass a test or in one case, completely failed it. I would cry myself to sleep sometimes and it didn’t matter how sweet my wife was, I hated everything about myself and the Arabic language. I wanted to go home. I knew I was blessed to be on the path, but I just couldn’t take it anymore.
That was when a friend of mine and now mentor told me something, “What you’re doing is why Satan fell from grace. He worked so hard, did everything that was in his power and was raised to the level of angels. Then when God created Adam, he flipped. Why? Because he thought he deserved that rank, he thought he had reached perfection because of his own actions. He was wrong, and that’s why when it mattered, he broke down, like you are. You think you deserve to acquire the knowledge and now you’re despairing in God, and not even realizing what you’re doing to yourself. All because you think the outcome is in your hands. Yes, you need to work hard, and you need to study late nights. But you also need to realize that you could study for the rest of your life and if God doesn’t decree that you understand that information, you never will.”
It was on that day that I learned the importance of Imam Malik’s statement, that knowledge is a light, and I hope he gifts us all with its brilliance.
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