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Belief & Worship Seeking Knowledge

At the Door of Greatness—The Fruits of Sitting with a Teacher

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tastja/8584389678/Once a student sat with a teacher to read a text. As he opened the book, the teacher turned to him and said, “Have you ever asked yourself why the scholars use the word bāb (door) to title what you call chapters in English?” The student responded, “Yes, but I did not give it a lot of thought.” What followed was one of those special moments that can only happen when knowledge is passed from one heart to another:

“The word bāb is used because it reminds the student that he is entering a new realm. The realm of knowledge; that he is leaving a place of ignorance and entering into a place of understanding. Thus, he needs to have the proper character so the knowledge will touch his heart and mind.

“The word bāb is used because it reminds the student that, just as you enter a person’s home and are careful to make sure you have the right location, to knock with respect, to enter with humility, to sit gracefully, not complain about the food, if served, or the home, he has to seek knowledge, approach his teacher with humility and be satisfied with whatever is given to him, being thankful for what is given, polite and kind to his hosts.

“At the same time, it reminds the Shaykh to be gracious to his student, to treat him like his own, welcome him with a large heart and serve him the best he can, seeking God’s pleasure alone. In short, this one word contains every adab (etiquette) that al-Ghazzali mentioned in the etiquette of the student and the etiquette of the teacher. Amazing!

“Finally, it reminds that student to be sincere, seeing God alone, since the bāb in the book reminds him of the doors (abwāb) of Paradise! You see, there are gems to be found in these old works. Be patient and God will show you more!”

Next time you read a book with a master, be sure to ask him/her about those things; you will learn to see the prophetic light found in the texts, the symmetry of tauhid (oneness) in its lines.

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website, www.SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).

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