Last week I finished the last of my nine written exams to enter Al-Azhar. I had been preparing for these exams for months, but as the time drew near I realized that I hadn’t put as much time into preparing for them as I should have, and felt a serious race against the clock was underway. My wife, an Egyptian who majored in Arabic in college, helped me tremendously with the four tests related to Arabic: Sarf (Morphology), Nahwa (Grammar), Balaagha (Eloquence), and Adab wa Nosoos (Literature). With her help I was able to cover the most important items for these exams before ‘exam week’, and reviewed each subject the night before taking its exam.
One night, as we were reviewing for Sarf and Nahwa, my wife was reading quickly through a portion of the book that we had covered before but had completely escaped my mind. As she was reading through it, sounding more like Chinese than Arabic to my mind as I struggled to recall the material, I felt increasingly frustrated and overwhelmed. I became short-tempered, and angrily told her, “Slow down! You’re not helping me by reading it like that!”
Of course she was upset by my words, as she was only trying to help. As we continued reviewing, a strong feeling of regret came over me, and I started crying uncontrollably to the point I couldn’t even speak for five or ten minutes. My wife, confused and worried, kept asking what was wrong.
What was wrong? This knowledge that we work hard to understand is supposed to bring us closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) and make us better people, both in our relationship to Him and with His creation. As the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said :
“أكمل المؤمنين إيماناً أحسنهم خلقاً وخياركم خياركم لنسائهم”
“The most complete believer regarding his faith is the one who has the best khuluq (character, manners, behavior), and the best amongst you are those who are the best to their wives.”1
After working so hard over the past weeks preparing for exams, focusing so much on getting good results, I realized that I had forgotten my main goal. The purpose of seeking knowledge is to try and understand my faith, to get closer to Allah (swt), and to apply this sacred knowledge so that it will benefit me in this life and the next, as well as my community. True knowledge improves one’s character and dealing with others, as this small incident with my wife helped me to remember and take a lesson from.
“وَاسْتَعِينُوا بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلَاةِ ۚ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلَّا عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ”
“And seek aid in steadfast patience and prayer: yet this, indeed, is a hard thing for all but the humble in spirit,” (Qur’an 2:45).2
“اللهم علمنا بما ينفعنا و ينفعنا بما علمتنا و زدنا علما و عملا متقبلا و اهدنا و اهد بنا و اجعلنا سببا لمن اهتدى”
O Allah, teach us that which benefits us, and benefit us with that which you have taught us, and give us an increase in knowledge and deeds that are accepted by You. Guide us, and guide others by us, and make us a cause for those who will be guided!
- On the authority of Abu Hurayrah, Reported by Imam At-Tirmidhi (#1162) who said its sanad (chain) is Hasan Sahih, as well as Imam Ahmed in his Musnad (2/ 450, 472 with a good chain according the Shaykh Shu’ayb Al-Arna’oot). It is also hadith (record) #628 in Riyaadh As-Saaliheen. [↩]
- The translation of this verse is taken from Muhammad Asad’s translation, May Allah have Mercy upon him. I have changed the word “and” to the word “yet” which may or may not bring it closer to the intended meaning, Allah knows best. [↩]
Mashallah what a lovely article and a timely reminder for all of us. Could you please include the vowels in the dua.
Walaikum Salaam Wa Rahmatullah Sister,
Alhamdulillah, I thank Allah(SWT) that my meager words could be of benefit to others.
Here is the dua with vowels, forgive me for not including them in the first place! I also found there was a mistake in the Arabic which neither I nor the editors caught, May Allah forgive us!
اَللَّهُمَّ عَلِّمْنَا بِمَا يَنْفَعُنَا وَانْفَعْنَا بِمَا عَلَّمْتَنَا وَ زِدْنَا عِلْمًا وَ عَمَلًا مُتَقَبَّلًا وَاهْدِنَا وَ اهْدِ بِنَا وَ اجْعَلْنَا سَبَبًا لِمَنِ اهْتَدَى
Peace be with you my old friend
And with you bro! Getting your comment was a really great surprise. Email the admin and they can send you my contact info!
dear brother chad,
your story brought tears to my eyes because i feel this same struggle. i am a new muslim and i feel so much frustration that my studying of islam is not helping me to overcome the way i treat other people. it was refreshing to hear someone else sometimes recognizes this problem. i will pray that Allah will help me to remember what makes a good muslim and help me to be a better example to others. salam <3
As’Salaamwalaikum brother Chad. You are correct to point out that often the showing of frustration, anger, lack of patience towards learning material related to our faith…are ironically the very things that our faith seeks to extinguish. We forget that, “well wait; im becoming brash and short fused over striving to pursue higher knowledge/practice of my deen…yet as a result displaying actions contrary to the lessons of thenknowledge I want to attain and share inshAllah (God willing)”.
Good luck with your endeavors and may your acquired knowledge benefit you, your wife, your family and the rest of people who can benefit from what you share iA.
Jazakallah khair for this great reminder! For those of us who are currrently students this post is especially inspiring to motivate us not to get up!
[…] “The most complete believer regarding his faith is the one who has the best khuluq (character, manners, behavior), and the best amongst you are those who are the best to their wives.”1 […]
MashaAllah. Excellent reminder for students such as myself.
A wonderful read.
Beyond learning from this myself, I wish the exams went well and that you will be rewarded by admission, inshALLAH.
Asalaamualaikum akhi Chad,
Brother your story really touched my heart and has inspired me tremendously! As a convert to Islam I can relate to your struggle with learning about our expansive and beautiful deen. At times it can be frustrating and indeed we loose sight of the ultimate goal, which is to bring us closer to Allah and to be a benefit for the community. Inshallah it is my ambition to go to Al-Azhar as well, I pray that you continue to do well in all of your pursuits in life akhi! Also if you could provide us with some names of books to prepare for Al-Azhar that would be greatly appreciated. Jazakallahkhier!
Walaikum Salaam Wa Rahmatullah,
Thanks for your kind words akhi, alhamdulillah I’m glad that you were able to take something positive from my story. I’m also glad to hear you’re interesting in studying in Al-Azhar masha’Allah.
There’s an article on Suhaibwebb.com about entering Al-Azhar, and a website; http://www.studyinegypt.org, both have a lot of info about studying here, I recommend you take a look when you have a chance insha’Allah.
This is a very much needed reminder for me. I am a convert to Islam and planning on spending a year learning Arabic next year (I graduate from college this May insha’Allah). However, my parents are very against the idea and I had a small fight with them earlier this week. I completely lost my patience and yelled at them… ignoring Allah’s command to honor our parents. I forgot why I wanted to learn Arabic in the first place. Astaghfirullah. Jazkallah khair for this article. I will make that du3a often insha’Allah.
A very nice reminder. May Allah reward you and help you brother, ameen.
assalam aolikum brother such a nice reminder
jazakallah khairun katheeera i really need it
Jazaakallah khayr for this beautiful article. I’m bit confused over one thing: does someone has to spend 3 years in high school to be able to enroll in Al-Azhar please? How was it for you please?
Walaikum Salaam Wa Rahmatullah,
Alhamdulillah I’m happy to hear you and others benefitted from the article. May Allah accept it among our good deeds!
Regarding your question, depending on the level of the student who wants to attend Al-Azhar, they could spend between 1-5 years before being accepted into the University. (5 years would be if someone came without knowing any Arabic whatsoever.) It’s possible to test into the final year of the High School, so that you’d only spend one year before entering the University, but in which case you should already know Arabic and have at least 3-5 Ajza’ of Quran memorized, etc.
I suggest taking some time and reading over the website I mentioned before, http://www.studyinegypt.org
for further details about the process insha’Allah.