This narrative took place about six years ago. This is a repost from 2008 with some general modifications.
Within five minutes of class I began to feel angry at myself. I had an exam to move on to the next level in Arabic within the hour, and I had not spent enough time studying. I had moved all the way to Cairo, to live my dream of studying Arabic, to finally understand the language of the Qur’an, and yet, here I was, unprepared for my exam.
My teacher caught on. “Are you feeling ok? Do you feel some pain?”
“Yeah…” I answered, hesitant to keep going, trying to get myself together, but needing someone to tell me: be patient, the road to knowledge is long and hard but worth it. I kept trying to tell myself that, but it was not working.
So I told her: I knew it was going to be hard, I was expecting difficulty, but man it’s hard, and man it’s difficult. I just need someone to tell me, I explained to her, that this is the way, and that knowledge is like this, that I can do it with God’s help.
And so she told me, and man, it was worth feeling all the anger and frustration to hear what she said to give me hope.
“Do you know who wrote THE book on Arabic grammar?” She asked me. No, I shook my head, I had no clue.
“Sibaway,” she said. And then she began to tell me about the great master of the Arabic language, Sibaway, may God have mercy on him.
He was a non-Arab. Persian, to be exact. When Sibaway would speak in Arabic, the people around him would make fun of him. Finally, he swore he would write THE book on Arabic grammar, and he even named it AL Kitab—THE Book. He was that confident. And Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), gave him sincere success in what he wrote. Until now, all these centuries later, she told me, no one, no Arab or non-Arab, has written like Sibaway, the master of this field.
But when he approached death, and may God have mercy on him, he began to feel great sadness. He lamented at the closeness of his death, and he thought about his companions. All of these people around him had memorized Qur’an, all of these people had memorized hadeeth (sayings of the Prophet ﷺ, peace be upon him). “Where is my Qur’an? Where is my hadeeth?” He cried. Instead, he lamented, that he was stuck between Zaid and Amr, the two famous characters in the Arabic grammar books.
He went to sleep distraught.
That night he had a dream, and he was visited by the GREATEST of the GREATEST men, The Beloved ﷺ, and was given glad tidings about his efforts!
Sibaway woke realizing that his work was indeed important, as it was a means to helping people know and understand the Qur’an. So much so that until now, his book continues to help people in their Qur’anic understanding.
“This is a non-Arab,” she told me. “This is the way of knowing the Qur’an. Do you think that if you stopped and asked a person on the street something in the Qur’anic Arabic, in classical Arabic, they could answer you? No, not just anyone can do this,” she continued, “because it takes work. It’s hard, but it’s worth it, being on the path of wanting to know the Qur’an.”
If Sibaway, a non-Arab, could write THE BOOK on Arabic grammar, what about all of you with all the skills and talents Allah (swt) has created you with? Look at what you were given, and see how you can maximize that for your ummah (community) and your society fisabilliah (in the way of God).
Let us do what the Prophet ﷺ did to help build the best generation which ever walked this earth: find the skills and talents within individuals—within OURSELVES—and take them and use them for God’s sake to make great leaps of progress. We need YOU in this ummah!
It doesn’t have to be Arabic, or Qur’an or Hadeeth—it can be anything beneficial, used to help others in a beneficial way.
And yes, it is going to be a struggle. But, as a dear teacher, may Allah (swt) protect him, once reminded me:
Isbiri, fa inna sabran nooron min Allah
Be patient! For indeed patience is light from God.
JAZAKIALLAHU KHAYRAN for encouraging us students.
I have been struggling and procrastinating big time on my arabic studies 🙁 Allaahu’l Musta’an!
Studying directly with a teacher is much better than long-distance online learning as the latter has been very hard for me in terms of getting enough motivation/urgency to put in regular effort. Yes it may be cheaper and cost effective but can severely hinder the pace and progress of this divine language.
agreed…same situation. May Allah give us the strength to overcome our situation and master this divine language
If Allaah wishes good for someone, He blesses him with knowledge. Nothing anyone can do about it! Beautiful post, as always, Sister Maryam.
Thank you for this. Alhamdulillah, it was just what I needed to hear.
Assalamu alaykum. Subhanallah, it is as though talking about me. I have started studying an Arabic part-time 1.5 years ago. Working full time, having a big family and other responsibilities didn’t make it easy. I am a bit behind of fellow brothers, but I am trying my best. Sometimes I do need someone to tell me “Come on man, you can do it! Don’t give up!” and push me to learn more. Anyway, thank you for this reminder.
As I’m myself insha’Allah embarking on my own journey to study the Book of Allah and His Deen, this gives me a lot of hope. E.g. for the longest time I never considered myself to be worthy of knowing Arabic but it was people like Imam Suhaib, you and my Arabic teachers who also happen to be non-Arabs gave me hope that I too can join the league of those close to Allah swt.
May Allah bless you for all that you do! Keep being awesome!
SubhanAllah, I needed this boost. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed & demotivated in the face of seeking knowledge. Jazakillahu khayr dear sister 🙂
Masha’Allah. Such an inspiring story. I also want to learn the arabic language so that I better can understand the Qur’an. I will work on it and Allah will make it easy, insha’Allah.
May Allah reward you dear sister. Jazakillah khaiyr:)