In the beginning of the Dowra, I remember I said that I was really disappointed we couldn't talk or really 'see' the sheikhs, but today, I've rethought that statement.
After a class with Habib Umar's wife yesterday, something hit me. Throughout the weeks, we have gotten to meet all the hababas (women scholars who are descendents of the Prophet Mohammad), something none of the men will ever get a chance to do.
Even though the men get to meet the sheikhs, realistically how often do they get a chance to sit with them, talk to them, and ask them questions? Probably close to zilch. They say that behind every great man is a great woman, and for Habib Umar, for example, we got to meet that woman (his mother), in addition to his wife, his daughters, and even his grandchildren. What's more, we get to sit with them, talk to them and interact with them—women are generally more accessible and approachable than men, plus the amount of female students is smaller than the number of male students.
Habib Umar's wife—and I'm calling her 'his wife' and not by her name out of respect for the culture here which doesn't think it's proper to call women by their names but as 'the wife/ daughter/ mother of'—is an incredible scholar with a lineage to rival any well-known male scholar.
Her class was one of the most interesting ones I have listened to in this entire Dowra, and only women can take advantage of her knowledge. So we get the best of both worlds—listening to male scholars and listening and interacting with women scholars. Men, on the other hand, will probably only get to listen to male scholars.
And there are women scholars, unlike the misconception that there aren't. And the best translator I've heard so far, out of all the ones we've listened to, was the female translator who translated for the female scholar we met in the very beginning of the Dowra (in the western sisters' welcome) and yesterday for Habib Umar's wife.
As women, we get to meet women walis (patron saints is the closest definition—descendents of the Prophet Mohammad) and have them make duu'a for us. Today we visited two of them in their homes (they're alive), one of them the sister of a great sheikh, Abd-Allah Al-Shattery, who had 13,000 students and never wrote books because he said he was busy preparing 'great men.'
And on that note, I wanted to explain a little bit why we visit these awleya'. The simplest explanation I can give is this: imagine if you were given the opportunity to meet someone who could possibly help you a lot in one aspect of your life like work. Basically—networking and having contacts. Well, awleya' are our networking and contacts, but not for this world.
Prophet Mohammad is said to have said that visiting them, even for the time it takes to cook an egg, is a great deed. So we visit.
Today's Quote: [After the electricity went out in yesterday's class]: "The student who sweats in majles ilm [a study setting] will insh'Allah not sweat on the day of judgment [when some will be swimming in their sweat]. Habib Umar's wife, quoting a scholar.
So I guess my decision to go to the Rawha in Dar al-Zahra rather than sitting comfortably at home was a good one! And on that note, Sh. Abd-Allah Al-Shattery said that a majles ilm was better than: "1,000 visits to sick people and attending 10,000 funeral processions."