By Sr. Farah
When we have exams, be they at university, college, madrassat, at work etc. there is a certain routine which many of us, myself included, follow. We may not all cram in all our notes at the last minute, some of us might prepare weeks in advance. Nevertheless, when I study at university I tend to ‘learn to forget’, meaning, that I tend to learn what I can in order to sit the exam. How many of us learn to remember? A learning so deep and intense that it impacts our souls, moving us to action.
These small examinations that we all take are akin to the Big Examination that we shall all finally take. The examiner will be our Lord and the subject, our life. How many of us have had that sinking feel in our heart, knowing that we have an exam the next day and we haven’t prepared sufficiently? Maybe some of you do not belong to this group. Well, how many of us prepare for our exams well in advance and feel a sense of confidence as we wake in the morning? For all of us, the question remains: do we treat our Deen in the same way?
The common routine for preparation for exams may go as follows: first, we may look at the topics which are likely to come up; secondly, we may go to see our teachers, lecturers, to ask for help and advice; and finally we will probably make an exam and revision timetable to space out how we shall do the work required.
If we think about our impending examination with Allah, then we can see how similar the two routines can be in preparing for the exam.
The topics which are likely to come up: if we look back at the sweet literature of our Deen, we can find out about those things which we shall be asked about. Specifically, we know of the obligations due to Allah of Salaat, Siyam, Zakah etc. and we at least know of the related intricacies of each obligation. But generally, the topic which will come up is our entire life – what exactly have we been doing. Let each of us ponder over the situation that Allah, through His Infinite Mercy, has put us in. Are we a daughter, a father, a mother, a husband, a teacher, a doctor, a businessman? Who do we have responsibility over and who has rights upon us? Let us think carefully about the rights we owe to Allah which He has made clear to us through His Book and the example of His Messenger (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam). Let us think of the rights we owe to Allah’s creation whom He has placed around us as a test and a trial for us. These are the things which we will be asked about on the Day of the Examination: these rights that we owe to Allah and His creation. Not what they did to us; but what we did to them.
So, in order to be able to answer the questions regarding this subject, it becomes important for each of us to undergo some studying. We are not required to become scholars of the Deen, but we are required to arm ourselves with basic knowledge in order to more efficiently battle with the shaytaan and our nafs so that we may fulfil the rights we owe in the way that Allah wants.
Going to see our teachers for advice and help: when sitting an exam it always helps to be on a good rapport with the teachers. This is not so that they can favour us and give us extra marks, but so that when we do ask for help they do not see a stranger knocking at their door. In the same way, on the Examination Day, we do not want to be a stranger before our Lord. He is the Ultimate Teacher and from Him all knowledge originates. When we stand before our Lord, we want Him to recognise us as an obedient slave, who often called upon Him.
Next we have our Beloved Teacher (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) whom Allah sent to us and said about him, ‘Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah’ (33:21). Indeed, if we know that our Examiner loves him and his example (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) then we should love him and his example. He is the template whom we seek to imitate to reach our Lord in order to pass our exam.
Finally, we have our blessed teachers, the ‘Ulema, those who have inherited from the Prophets (‘alayhim asalam). At school or university, most of us have a personal tutor or teaching assistant that we always go to for help. Why do we always go to the same one? Because they know us, they know how our mind works, they know what we already know, what we struggle with, sometimes they might even know what is happening in our lives to distract us from our studies. Similarly, it is beneficial to have one teacher to whom we can always turn to for help on this Final Exam, because they have been through a program of study with their teachers.
Making an examination and revision timetable: this is probably one of the most important things we can do. Making an exam timetable is problematic with our Final Exam since we do not know when it will occur. But then, does this imminence not make the urgency with which we work more acute? We can, however, make a ‘revision’ timetable. A timetable for building up the work we need to do in order to sit the examination. This work involves knowing the rights we owe to Allah and His Creation and knowing how to fulfil those rights. This includes setting up a time within our schedule which we dedicate to pursuing his knowledge. But this also includes taking a step back and realising that if our whole life is to be under examination before Allah, then why not make our whole life for Allah and a remembrance of Him? Even the most mundane tasks can become heavenly lights which are stored for us as good deeds.
The dedication and care we show when preparing for our dunyawiyya exams should be equal to the level we show when preparing for our Final Exam. Also, if we do not show dedication to these smaller exams this can often be a sign of lack of dedication towards the Final Exam; perhaps our intentions are not correct. Our Beloved Teacher, the Messenger of Allah (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) said, ‘Allah likes that if you do something, you do it with excellence.’
The last point to remember is that whichever exam we are sitting, in this world or the next, we must know that after we have worked hard and tried our best, we put our trust in Allah, the Final Examiner. Whatever Allah wills will certainly be and we beseech of Him His Mercy. This is why the believer says, ‘wa ma tawfiq illa billah’ – and my success is only by Allah.
And we ask Allah to make the author of this article the first to implement, ameen