Sunday, 13 July 2008

Day 16: Reflections on Classes

Habib Umar's Library
(Note: I have received his permission to upload this picture)

Qur'an: Elhamdulela, the class is going well. We're studying tajweed (the rules of recitation) and memorizing verses and reciting them. I've set aside 45 minutes a day for memorization.

Fiqh: This is probably one of my favorite classes. Shaykh Omar is an incredibly good teacher. He cracks jokes, he's humorous, he asks the women questions (and gives us a thumbs up on our TV screen when we get the correct answer), he gives us anecdotes so we can really understand what he's explaining, and he is very thorough in his explanations. Although I've already studied much of what he's explaining (ex how to perform ablution), it's a really good refresher course and I'm still learning a lot of things I didn't know.

Al-rawha: This is the most difficult class we are studying though probably one of the most important. Basically we are studying a book called Mannerisms of the Self and a qaseeda (poem) by Imam al-Haddad titled "If you want to live happily for the duration of your life [you should]" The qaseeda then gives us advice about living our lives, things like reciting the Qur'an and sticking to our prayers.

How the class works is that the qaseeda is first recited. Then random men in the audience are chosen by Habib Umar to read a couple of pages each from the book (usually around 10 pages a day). The book isn't easy—I think it's the only book other than the Qur'an that I've seen with all the nahw (Arabic grammar) printed in it—and so Habib Umar corrects the men often.

Then Habib Umar begins by explaining a couple of verses from the qaseeda before beginning to explain the topic addressed in the book. The topics are all related to the discipline of the self (nafs): its diseases and how to deal with them.

The topics addressed in the rawha are probably some of the most abstract ones we deal with, because they're not issues you can really concretely deal with, like knowing how to pray. Ok, so I learn to recognize when I'm suffering from pride, but how do I change myself? How do I make myself truly love for my brother what I want for myself? One of my roommates was saying how hard it is to realize that you have all these weaknesses in character and to not be able to fix them easily. It's frustrating, she said, because we all know that we have to take it one step at a time, but it's like telling yourself you have to take out one piece of trash at a time from a landfill.

The rawha is also quite intense and needs a lot of concentration, especially since Habib Umar speaks in very classical Arabic. I've listened to it at home on the radio twice and I realized that I concentrate better there than at Dar al-Zahra, where there's the distraction of people and the TV screen. Plus, I then have approximately an hour between the time the rawha ends and maghrib prayer to study, time which is usually wasted at Dar al-Zahra because an hour is too short to go home but there's not much studying we can do there.

Nevertheless, I've decided to attend the rawha at Dar al-Zahra as often as I can because in the end, sitting at home in my house dress is not a majles 'elm (study setting). There are no angels attending and I don't the ajr (reward) I would if I got up, got dressed, and walked in the heat to attend. Plus, at home I miss out on the mosafaha.

Tahajjud: Likewise, I've been quite lazy about praying in Dar al-Zahra, simply because we all do it at home. Only one of us, Eva (the Bulgarian I spoke about in a previous post) actually goes there every night. And again, the ajr I would get if I go is a lot, so I'll try and go as often as I can.

But I am really happy that I am getting up every day for tahajjud. They say that if you can do something for 40 days or stop something for 40 days, it becomes a habit or you get out of one. So insh'Allah not waking up is a habit I want to break and waking up is a habit I want to cultivate. They say the student of knowledge who doesn't wake up for tahajjud is one you should "wash your hands of, for he is not a true student."

Lives of man: Really interesting. To think that our life here in this world is only one of five stages of your life.

Beginning of Guidance: An incredible class. We are studying all the sins the seven major body parts can do, and so far we're been studying the most dangerous one—the tongue.

Tawheed: The second most abstract class. It talks about the oneness of Allah and His characteristics. Difficult, but you concentrate more once you realize that the book we are studying was written for third graders (at the time the author, Habib Umar's father, was alive).

Hadith: We've probably all studied the 40 Hadith, but again I am getting so many insights from this class. Probably the class that feels most like a university class, we even have a syllabus!

Da'wa: Only had two classes so far, will elaborate more in a week insh'Allah.

Seerah: I will never tire of hearing stories about the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Thought: While praying fajr today we heard an announcement of someone's death. That's how they do it here—the family uses the radio to announce who died, when they will be buried, and where the funeral will be. A good reminder that one day we will all die. The Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said that we should mention death every single day, ideally at least 20 times a day. There's a hadith that says:

"The Messenger of God said 'Remember often the Ender of Pleasures.' He was also asked 'Shall anyone be resurrected among the martyrs who is not one of them?' and he replied: 'Yes, those who remember death twenty times each day and night.'"

Today's Quote: You take medicine that tastes horrible in order to get better and slave away at a job to get money. So why not endure difficulties to discipline your self? Habib Umar

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