So it’s been 2 months since classes have started and I’m officially going through the “this-language-is-kicking-my-rearend phase”. Let us be realistic for a moment and get over the romanticized notion that learning the Arabic language is the key for all the sciences of Islam. It is, and we all are aware of it. My teachers regularly remind me of that single fact, along with the importance of memorizing the Quran prior to engaging in the various sciences of Islam, the latter being something many students of Islam tend to forego for more exciting studies in the realm of Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and Quranic Exegesis (Tafsir). What we tend to forget is the struggle. So to pick up from my last post, it all started with book one, it was easy. To be flat-out honest, it was so easy I got a bit lazy. I thought I would simply fly through the rest of the books with the same ease, in fact my teacher didn’t help in this regard as he would remind me that I flew through it in record pace. Now that I look back, I think he was just waiting for me to realize how disillusioned I was. I was soaking in vocabulary left and right, taking tests in 15 minutes flat and reminding my teacher that it was technically 14 minutes and 58 seconds.
I also had my qualms with the particular book used in the class, Bayna yaDayk (Between your hands). Studying Arabic in the U.S. usually means your path crosses with the Madinah book series. As such, I came to think that no other book could contest with them and that any other book would not give me the results I needed and so desperately wanted. I contacted various teachers and friends that are all students of Islam asking them if this new “Egyptian” book would be of any benefit since it so heavily focused on conversation. If you’ve used any other book and then open this one you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. When you open this book, the first thing isn’t a picture of some animals and then their Arabic spelling, or a picture of a house and then the word “Bayt”, nope this book has full on conversations between characters in every chapter. The vocabulary builds and builds and so do the rules, and you don’t just how much building is happening in the beginning. That was my issue, I didn’t realize just how much I was getting until a month later. As I was reading Quran I just had to make a prostration of gratitude to God because I had just gone through an entire page and picked out at least 20 words I recognized, words that prior to then I did not know the meanings to! That excitement and ease lasted for a month as we swept through book 2 as well in record time (each book usually takes 5 weeks to complete at which an exam follows).
Now came the struggle. Book 3 was not only a book filled with new conversations but where you finally begin Arabic grammar (nahw). Not only do you also begin grammar, but you begin it utilizing an additional book (a book utilized at the Muhammad ibn Saud University in Riyadh). What exactly does that mean? It means a lot of things, but most importantly it means opening a brand new book with a vast amount of new vocabulary that you have never seen or used prior. It leaves you in a daze, it leaves you wondering if you ever studied at all. The first few exercises in this book literally left me questioning if I should even continue studying Arabic. I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t understand. Opening this new book felt like starting a new language all over again. It was the complete antithesis of book 1 and 2.
I personally dedicate 2 hours a day (maybe I’m rounding up a bit), but I know it’s not enough and my teachers have already advised that I begin studying more. I’ve also begun taking classes on the science of recitation of the Quran (tajwīd), a science I thought I was fairly adept at having studied with my local shaykh in my community back home for at least 3 years. Yet now I’m understanding the famed stories of our scholars of the past. The stories of scholar so-and-so having studied the science of exegesis (Tafsir) for 20 years before teaching it, or Imam Nawawi stating that for an entire year he didn’t waste time and solely spent his time studying. Well now it makes perfect sense, you can’t get where they got without hard work, dedication, and a lot of tears.
Mind you, even with all of that you won’t come anywhere near them or their students without the mercy and blessings of God. That is what it’s about. It’s about sacrifice, it’s about leaving the distractions behind (in my case, leaving my Xbox One) and deciding enough is enough. I want more, I will get more, and no one is going to stop me on my journey to understanding the beautiful book that God sent to me.