Sunday, 3 August 2008

Day 37: Final Reflections on Classes

Old Qur'ans at Sheikha Sultana's mausoleum in Tarim
Tahajud: This isn't really a class, but part of the Dowra experience that I really enjoyed and wish I'd taken better advantage of. But because we pray tahajud in the Dowra house, I only actually attended tahajud in Dar al-Zahra my first and last week. And that's embarrassing to admit because there are some of us who attend as often as they can to listen to the award, and—this is the embarrassing bit—they don't even speak Arabic! If I didn't speak or understand Arabic I'd probably just fall asleep or not bother to get up in the first place except to pray.

But tahajud in Dar al-Zahra is such a communal, sharing experience that time flies by. It is so so hard back home to wake up for 10 minutes to pray fajr, and I can press the snooze button on my alarm every five minutes for a whole hour because I'm too tired to get up. But it's so much easier here.

Part of it is because they read the awrad together (I think the Kholasa (the awrad book) is my best friend now) and so you feel like you're doing something constructive with the time, and not just sitting there aimlessly for half an hour thinking 'ok, I prayed my tahajud, what du'ua should I make now?' And because you're doing it together there's much less chance of you stopping halfway through or daydreaming or losing concentration. It gives you added incentive to do the awrad, especially since they’re on the radio—you can just turn it on after every prayer and recite them. Plus they do it in a sing song voice so it's not just monotonously reading from. I am going to miss that voice a lot, I know I will.

Even walking to and from Dar al-Zahra for tahajud is a good experience—you get to reflect in the silent darkness on the way there, and enjoy the sunrise, good weather, and rooster crowing on your way back. Plus of course you get ajr for every step you take.

I think I've spent more time in the mosala (prayer area) in Dar al-Zahra praying, doing awrad, memorizing Qur'an etc, than I have in any time I've been to the haram in Mecca, Subhan Allah.
I will really miss it here. Most of all, I will miss the mosafaha, the Dar al-Zahra girls, and the comforting, Indonesian, (slightly nasal sounding) "astaghfero Allahhhhhh, astaghfero Allahhhhhh, astaghfero Allahhhhhhh."

Tajweed/ Qur'an memorization: Our teacher was really really good mash'Allah, and even though I've been reciting and memorizing Qur'an for years she caught me on a number of things I do wrong when I recite, which insh'Allah I'm going to word hard to correct. Basically we went over tajweed rules, and recited to her once a week.
Again, this class makes me thank Allah so much for the blessing of Arabic. So much of the tajweed rules I knew instinctively because I speak Arabic, while I could see others who didn't know struggling with the pronunciation. Elhamdulela.

Elhamdulela I managed to memorize surat yaseen and a quarter of surat al-kahf, which I'm planning to finish insh'Allah when I get back. I think this class is particularly good for westerners who might not have as easy access to good Qur'an teachers in the west. But since elhamdulela I do, I kind of wish we didn't have this class three times a week and instead took another class that we can't study as easily in our countries with teachers who are as qualified.

Fiqh: I love our teacher, mash'Allah he's funny, interactive, and most of all—acknowledges the fact that there are women there too! But unfortunately, we've only covered purification and a little bit of prayer. It's good because you realize how vast knowledge is, how little you know and how much you have to learn, but bad because we haven't covered as much.

It's weird to realize that almost all of our class textbooks are just small booklets. The fiqh class book is an A5 sized 33 page booklet, Lives of Man is only 70 something pages, and the Divine Unity book is the tiniest of all—in Arabic it's literally a pocket sized (or actually more like the size of half your palm) 12 page booklet.

al-Rawha: What can I say about the Rawha? Just that it's truly a class that makes you feel like the most worthless person in the word. This class makes me feel 10 times worse than I did when I read Sh Hamza's Purification of the Heart, or studied a similar class with him during the Rihla.

The only drawback about this class is that it's too spiritually high (for me). I feel like I have a long way to go before I can even attempt to address the issues Habib Umar is speaking about. Like, for example, he was saying today: If you were offered the chance to be the king of the entire world from the beginning to the end of the time and your heart is moved at all by that, then your heart isn't pure enough. As if. Here's me still struggling with not gossiping and you're talking about the purest purest heart. As my housemate Masooma says: We still need to be potty trained.

But one thing that struck me particularly in the rawha is how much the book we're studying mentions 'al-Ethar.' I asked those who listened to the translation how it was translated and they said as 'preference,' but of course that doesn't convey the entire meaning. So yeah, it struck me because of course that's my name, and it made me realize what an important thing it is to have. So I'm working on that.

Beginning of Guidance: This is my favorite class. I realized a couple of weeks ago that I've actually had this book for years when I saw an identical copy to mine in Dar al-Zahra (in Arabic). The Arabic version is pocket book sized, and it's one of those books I picked up somewhere that's sitting on a shelf which I'm going to read 'one day.'
So Subhan Allah, like one of my housemates believes, "if you're meant to get knowledge, you'll get it when its time." So maybe I wouldn't have identified as much with the book as I have now in this stage of my life. I loved this class because I feel, unlike the rawha, that some of the things we're studying are actually within my reach—like trying to not lie, backbite etc.

Da'wah in the West: Habib Ali is incredible mash'Allah. You would never think that someone as 'traditional' as he was could have so much insight and understanding towards the issues Muslims in the West face. And even though Habib Ali was only here for about two weeks worth of classes, we still learned a lot.

Da'wah: I really loved this class. Habib Ali really hit the nail on the head—the three main issues you need to address before you do da'wah. I think I'm going to try and translate the main points in these lectures and post them.

Hadith: I loved this class. It's the only one where we've almost covered all the material (probably because it was the only one in English so we didn't lose half the time in translation), and I've learned so much from it.

Lives of Man: I love all of Imam Hadad's books (and I really recommend everyone read them, most have been translated), and studying this book with Habib Umar has been great—I've read it twice before and yet I've learned things in our class that I never even thought of. I wish we could have covered all five stages though (we only managed to cover the first two).

Divine Unity: A vital course everyone needs to study.

Seerah: Listening to seerah will always be beautiful, no matter how many times I listen to it.

I've learned so much on this Dowra. But again, I've learned so much more out of class than in it, more from the people and the place than from the books.

Today I went to the bookstore and the supermarket with my brother. And this is going to sound really sad, but I had a lot of fun. I guess deprivation makes the most mundane things fun. Apparently, the Yemeni alternative to Red Bull is 'Sharks.'

Today we were also invited for dinner in someone's mansion, complete with swimming pool and pool tables.
Today's Quote: Staying away from the dunya [world] doesn't mean secluding yourself. It means, like a scholar once said, "have the dunya in your hand, and not your heart. The new dhikr of our time is monitoring stocks 24 hours [a day]. Do business, be a millionaire, but don't have the dunya in your heart. Don't let money control you—you must control it. Sheikh Imad


Farzeen said...

Assalaamu'alaykum wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakaatuhu sister

I hope this finds you well, insha'Allah. I've just read through your blog (only knew about it today). JazakiLlahu khayran for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Insha'Allah I have benefitted from reading your words. Please make a prayer for me while you're still there and as you travel... wa sallimi 'alal banaat hoonak if you get a chance, please :).

May Allah unveil His secrets to you, make you among the righteous, and those who strive in His way, ameen.

P.S. - Any chance you have a picture of it raining in Tarim? :)

Anonymous said...

Assalaamu Alaykum,

is the book you mentioned in your post 'Divine Unity' in english, and what is this book about. JazakAllah

Ethar El-Katatney said...

Salam 'Alaykum,

Jazakum Allahu Khayran for your kind words.

I've only just realized that I never answered your question, please forgive me.

The book we were studying in the Divine Unity class is titled:

Lessons in Divine Unity: For Beginners, by Habib Umar's father, Muhammad bin Saalim bin Hafeedh ibn 'l-Shaykh Abi Bakr bin Saalim al-'Alawi al-Husayni al-Tareemi.

It's a very small book (only 16 pages) but has a lot of wisdom in it mash'Allah. I hope you can find a copy.

And Farzeen, I added a photo of it raining in Tarim in Day 20 (Cont'd): Rain :)