Reflections Seeking Knowledge

Thoughts on the Current State of the Students of Knowledge in the West: Qadi Saab of L.A

“In my days, we had to treat our teachers with honor in order to study. Today in the USA, we have to treat our students like sheikhs in order for them to study.” – Qadi Saab

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  • Subhana Allah.

    I love this quote. I pray Allah will save me from this sort of mentality, Ameen.

  • I don't necessary agree with that statement. I don't think a teacher needs to treat the students as teachers. However, the traditional way is most societies islamic and non-islamic of making students “prove” their worthiness of teaching is and was pretty arrogrant.

    No one person “owes” knowledge. All knowledge ultimately comes from Allah and for a person to assume because he was blessed to learn and undersatnd a particular subject he them can create artifical barriers and stantards to negate a person's ability to learn is pretty arrogrant. Indeed there should be stantards: willingness to learn and ability to grasp the information but that is all.

    A teacher's job is to teach and student's job is to learn. Without students there are no teachers but without teachers there would still be students. One's existence is based upon the other and the other is not.There will always be people willing to learn whether teacher's exist or not.

    Respect and humility are concepts that revolve around prinicples and actions that express those principles. There are NOT actions particularly rooted within ONE particualr culture and how one culture expresses respect and humility should NOT be the stantard for all. This something many shuyukh unfamilar with dealing and living a pluralistc world can't grasp.

    Indeed people in the West and America particular act different than gulf Arabs or Pakistanis but were have a different modes of expressing principles in action.

    To an American like myself rooted within an American historical truth. Knowledge s somethig that can not and should be kept from the people in any way. As in westren history many in “authority” have used this authority to cause divisiveness,oppression and corruption. So as westerners and especailly Americans we say:

    We will question anybody, at anytime about any thing.

    and if the shuyukh can't handle this then maybe they need to rexamine thier understanding of blessings and gift of knowledge. A person of knowledge should grateful for their knwoledge and be willing to share it with anybody.

    More Bruce Lee (teach anybody who wants to learn) and less Yip Man ( I will only teach you if you pass certain tests and prove to me you're worthy of me teaching you).

    The notion we must living in 21st century follow the cultural actions of 9th century middle east without question and pretend the historical expriences and lessons of the past 12 hundred years doesn't exist is non-senscial and dangerous. That kind of thinking teaches one to ignore reality; to put oneself in a delusional state.

    Knowledge should brought to masses not only those who can afford it or can twist themselves to being a pseudo 9th century Arab.

  • the question has many layers. we have come a long way from socratic understanding of didactic transfer of a message, mainly one directional that can be tested through retention of its original form. the influences of media, method, cognitive domains and the social learning theories have given us a sociological explanation of the process of learning but very little in the way how knowledge is acquired. people have differed over an absolute, constructed, negotiated, activity-based, intentional, distributed, heuristic, empirical, schemtic, transformational meaning-making experience that they deem as knowledge, but let me assure you the list will go on. for the sake of argument we can talk about the best practice model of teaching based on our experiential knowlege, cultural symbolisms and organizational capacity of the learners and we may foray into their affective domains of motivation, traits, socially-accepted methods of rating and what they mean when there are no agreements on transfer of knowledge. to me knowledge has to be differentiated from learning and learning from assessment. because there is still no consensus among the madhabs in the west, lets turn to our great masters.

    it may be possible to talk about how certain anti-colonial leaders teaching differed from post-colonial scholars because of the circumstances that arose surrounding learning. such as sheikh ahmadou bamba, abdulhamid ben badis or bediuzzaman said nursi have been forceful and highly opinionated on the importance of seeking source-faithful answers based on ijtihad, mobilizing people around social and communal cohesion and never to subjugate under an influence that is foreign and oppressive. the writings tariq ramadan, abdulkarim soroush and ibrahim moosa, who lived in the west or identified themselves more sympathetically with the western tradition, teaches to the higher senses, critical reasonings, and to those who are listening, with a broader audience.

  • Hamza21/shakib:

    I think you are missing certain things.

    For one thing- I've noticed when people learn about the deen- they just tell everything they learn to everyone. Many of the things, I hear from people over and over, they come off as acting shaykh-ish, but I already know these things and maybe even more than they, or perhaps in a different area. Nonetheless, I stay silent and benefit. But if this mentality remains in a learning environment, its not constructive. I can imagine my math classes in highschool where the foreign Chinese student would correct the professor or show up the professor all the time? How helpful is that?

    The West emphasizes individualism. So while you may thing of it as arrogant of a shaykh- you are implicitly assuming you know a degree better or interpreting something as arrogant. In reality, you are thinking of it in terms of yourself. You are seeing yourself as more important than the shaykh and trying to get attention on yourself. I'm not accusing one person, per se, but individualism is almost ingrained in our mentality in the West- its how we are raised from kids focusing on individual achievements in learning environments. So its almost natural but somewhat out of place in Islamic tarbiya. From the perspective of the shaykh, they have hundreds, sometimes thousands of students. What do you think that is like? I spoke to a brother about some of the Sufi shaykhs and how they are flooded by students who were either a) failures at secular education b) criminal history and coming back with bagagge c) children of rich families. Again, how do teachers deal with incapable students- if they truly are incapable? In my experience, with Tableeghi Jamaat, I've noticed a great deal of handicapped or lame brothers who go out. Masha Allah they have good intentions and may Allah reward them, whether they are sincere or not, they are doing something for Allah and the first people to come to Islam were the poor and the weak, so its a good sign. However, this isn't the ideal situation to create leaders. When a Jamaat is traveling with such people it can be a little difficult, this is why they are always eager for capable youth. These things are key to success for Muslims.

    And apart from Tableeghi Jamaat- I am positive the shaykhs are looking for people who are capable of carrying the amanah of the deen to a leadership point. It is more about giving the religion importance and honor and respect it deserves. You are reciting the Book of Allah and the words of the Prophet salallahu alayhi wasalam- this is greater than any honor in this dunya- so yes, the standard is high because the honor is even higher!

    The other related point is the people who are willing to go and become students of knowledge- aren't ready to go “all the way.” I know some brothers at Madina university and they simply want to get a degree, get 4 wives and thats it. One advice one of the students gave to my friend who is studying there is, “Don't try to do more. Leave it to others.” In my opinon, it may just be there level of ability but this thinking sounds weak minded and cowardly- it seems these people think of scholarship, for their own personal gain, not for community benefit. We need to capitalize on REAL potential and I liked the piece by Br. Andrew Booso where he critiqued scholarship. Have what it takes and put in your all- there isn't always much to compare our scholarship too, so people don't have a standard- any brother, especially when he is the ONLY brother, who is giving a khutbah in his community is seen as religious when in another community he is the least learned of even the average Muslims. This has to do with how Muslim communities have grown.

    I personally think, if you are sincere and work at it, put in the intention and do all it takes, be ready to sacrifice your time, wealth, and health for the deen- you will be given more attention for knowledge, because they know you can handle it. I remember reading Imam Ahmad advised students of knowledge not to get married until one is 40 years old- and I think he considered this a norm. Personally, I visit this blog simply because I want to go on that path in sha Allah, and the following article first set my impression of this blessed website which I am so grateful for.

    How does one enter Al-Azhar?

  • I sorta agree with brother Hamza when I see scholars create an atmosphere of superiority, although they deserve it. I think that atmosphere should come from the students rather than from the teachers. It's like parents teaching their children the hadith of being good to parents. It almost seems disingenuous or self benefiting for the scholars to teach the appropriate respect for scholars. However, who else is going to teach the etiquette for the students but the teachers themselves? So we have a catch 22 on our hands.

    The reality is that students MUST start becoming more respectful and well mannered in dealing with their teachers with a sense honor, blessing, and dignity. While the teachers should not create an atmosphere of superiority. They should be with the masses and think of teaching knowledge as a responsibility and blessing rather than a source of honor and superiority. If these two factors are applied simultaneously we can see the creation of an appropriate atmosphere of Islamic Academics.

    How do we get there? Maybe we can discuss some solutions.

  • It appears that the quote is misunderstood by some. No one is saying depriving anyone of knowledge here.

    What it tries to emphasis is that in olden days teachers were respected and that is why great scholars and intellectual in eastern and western societies alike rose to triumph, like Aristotle, Socrates, Einstein, Shakespeare, Iqbal and many more. Not going in details about history of these legends, the point is that the students valued the knowledge and the teachers as well.

    Today in western world and now in eastern students are treated very special where teachers are given less respect. And you can see the result more arrogance, more violence and ignorance in general public. So much so I have seen graduates from public school that can hardly spell their own name right.

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