Not much has to be said on the topic of studying Arabic that hasn’t been said already in the last few posts or by a plethora of speakers on the subject. Though there is one thing I believe needs to be said: “It’s all about what you put into it.”
I’ve heard this statement so much from friends, mentors and fellow students on this path – so many people who went abroad to study Arabic and the Islamic sciences. Some of which came back to become powerhouses in their families and communities, others who simply became parrots with no ability to think on their own but extremely good at orating what was taught to them, and others who could have stayed in their mother’s home for the entire time and no one would have been the wiser that they left to study. All of the best students and teachers told me this statement again and again: “It’s all about what you put in.” As I write this, I’m sitting with a short book on Maliki jurisprudence, which is the school I’m studying. It is currently my task to memorize an entire section on the variances of water before a class tomorrow.
For Studio Arabiya, we have recently started the famous poem by Muhammad ibn Jazaree poem, which highlights the rulings of recitation of the Quran. This is a poem that, when memorized, gives the reader a complete understanding of how to recite the Quran with proper rhythm, intonation, and of course all of the various stretches and vowels (and more). One also needs to memorize this poem in order for many teachers to grant authorization in the science of recitation. Last, but not least, is my Bayna yadayk book. I now try and wake up as early as possible to complete the exercises due for the day, so that I don’t fall behind in it or any of my other classes. Oh, and I can’t forget my beautiful blue Quran that I just bought at the Darus Salaam store in Khan El Khalili. I’m surrounded by all of these because they all make up my day, my week, my months. There isn’t a moment that goes by that I’m not absorbed by one of them, or one of the many other books I have begun to study. My hope is that one day I’ll be able to master each of these books, but until then, it’s all about the time I put into them.
A week ago I had to question myself and ask, “How much sleep are you losing?” If I’m not losing any then I’m probably not giving my all. I remember my younger self staying up hours playing video games, sometimes forcing myself to stay up throughout the entire night, because my friends were also playing with me. I wouldn’t be bothered by the lack of sleep, because I had reached a goal. Whether that goal was a new rank or level in a game, or overtime in a job, whatever it was, it was a goal that I wanted to reach. Now, here I am studying the Arabic language, my goal ultimately to understand the words of God. My goal is clear, but sometimes my passion wanes. Some days I am thoroughly excited to go to class and on others my feet drag across the carpet to make it to my chair. Yet, what matters most is that I make it to that chair. What matters is that through it all I push myself to the limits and get to my destination.
Study the sciences of Islam
Not too long ago, I wrote about how I didn’t do too well on my exam. Last week, I took both my Arabic and Quran exams and passed both of them with higher marks than previously. That is progress. Sometimes I may not feel like I’m getting better and it’s on days like that wherein I need to trust my curriculum, trust myself and most importantly, trust that God is guiding me on this path. Not long ago, one of my teachers gave me a 5-year plan of books that I need to study. It was a curriculum filled with rich traditional books like the alfiya by Ibn Malik and ajrumiyyah by the famous Moroccan scholar ibn Ajarrum. The latter is somewhat of a stepping stone to the former, and this how many of the sciences (if not all) of Islam are taught, through traditional books that are stepping stones to others. I was saddened when I found out that Ajrumiyyah would be taken out of the curriculum this year and instead we would be covering the Arabic grammar books from Muhammad ibn Saud University in totality. While I have nothing against the university, one of my dearest teachers graduated from the university and is so well-known and respected that he was invited to become a full-time professor at the University of Madinah in the college of Sharia. My problem is I’m hungry for this language and I am hungry for tradition. This is why Islam calls out to me and why it is so vibrant in my mind’s eye. We have such a rich legacy and I want to be connected to it.
So, while I’m a little disappointed, I also remembered something. Even the chains of these respectable and well-traveled books have a beginning, a beginning that is purely human. Yet, here I am studying a book that begins with a Divine chain, a chain starting with God and going to the Angel Gabriel, to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and then through the companions and scholars that followed, to Uthman (May God be pleased with him) who collected the mushafs and placed upon them one script, to the great scholars that codified the rules of recitation, to now me a young man attempting to delve into the words of God; to understand them, implement them, and receive the reward for every letter that is read.
This is an ongoing journey and I just need to keep pushing on and enjoying the ease that God is facilitating for me and my family. May He place ease in your journey as well, Amīn.
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