Hajj Reflections: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

One day I will not quickly forget is the day Dr. Bilal Philips phoned meÂand told me he had arrived for Hajj and was staying in Azizia. He gave me the address over the phone and I decided to set off to go meet him. I was staying in Mina already and taxis were not allowed in Mina at that time so I decided to take a walk after lunch and find my way.

Walking from one end of Mina to the other is not easy

I set off from the hotel walking and after an hour reached Azizia, once in Azizia I asked for directions and started walking in the direction pointed out for me. Unfortunately, the shop owner gave me the wrong directions and I walked for another two hours up and down trying to find my way. It was my first time in Azizia so I was really disorientated. After a while, I got tired and could not get through to Dr. Bilal as my phone was out of credit. I decided to go to a shopping centre nearby to buy some more credits but got hungry and decided to first stop at KFC for a snack.

While I was sinking my teeth into a Zinger Burger, my phone rang. It was Dr. Bilal wanting to know were I was. I explained to him what happened and requested that he text message me the address. He messaged it to me and I decided to get a taxi. Unfortunately, taxis were charging fifty riyals to take me there so I decided to keep walking. I then asked a security guard for directions in my broken Arabic, and his reply “Huwa Ba'eedun Jiddan” (It is very far) made my heart sink.

I stopped and looked around and a taxi stopped in front of me and offered to take me there for ten riyals so I jumped in and went to Dr. Bilal's area. It took me another half an hour walking around the area to find the actual hotel but by 5 or 6pm I finally got to reunite with Dr. Bilal after more than a year and spent a good three hours in discussions with him about various Islamic issues and the Islamic Online University. I also had the bonus of meeting Shaykh Abu Musa Imran Asif who was also travelling with Dr. Bilal.

After 9pm, I decided to set off on my long journey back to my hotel in Mina, a taxi driver offered to take me to the border of Azizia for ten riyals. So I agreed, unfortunately he dropped me off at the border furthest away from my hotel, which led to another two hour walk back to my hotel. By now, my feet were blistered and my body was exhausted.

During this final lap, I became very tired but had no choice except to keep walking. It was during this last walk, late at night, alone in the streets of Mina with blistered feet that my mind began to ponder over the scholars of the past. They would walk for days, sometimes journey for months enduring blistering heat and scorching deserts, sometimes just to learn one hadith. This walk of mine was not worth much compared to that.

I recalled the stories of Jabir ibn Abdullah travelling to Syria just to verify one hadith from Abdullah ibn Unays al-Ansari and of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari travelling to learn one hadith from Maslamah ibn Mukhallid, then as soon as he learned it, he mounted his camel and begin his journey home. (The Sunnah and its role in Islamic  Legislation, p: 107)

I recalled the statement of Sa'eed ibn Musayyib, “I used to travel for nights and days, searching out a single hadith” and Ash-Sha'bee said to a student, “You have taken it (knowledge) for nothing, a man used to travel for something less than this to Madinah,” and Bishr ibn Abdullah Al-Handrami said, “I used to travel from one city to another, seeking out a single hadith that I wanted to hear,” (The Sunnah and its role in Islamic Legislation, p: 129-130)

In the past, students of knowledge did not have it easy. Studying Islam was a jihad that required a lot of sacrifice and one had to be self-driven and willing to go through anything for knowledge. Yet sadly, times have changed. Today, so many students complain about the mildest things, from a class being too early, to the teacher not cracking enough jokes. I am not saying teachers must be boring, but I am saying that students need to be less demanding and exhibit a deeper love for knowledge, the kind of love that makes you want to sacrifice for it.

Times have really changed and many of us have become very selfish. In many situations, it seems as if the teachers have become slaves and the students have become bullies. Today, many Islamic teachers do everything they can to make Islamic knowledge as appealing as possible to the youth yet many will still not attend stating flimsy excuses like, “Why is it not free?” “If it is free, it can't be good,” “It's too early” and “It's too late”.

In the past, a six hour walk to meet a teacher and benefit from him was regarded as normal for students. Today, people called me crazy for doing it, after all I have access to him everyday on Googletalk and Skype. But online chatting is not the same as a personal meeting where hearts bond and the atmosphere changes.

The point of this story is for us to reflect on how we treat knowledge and its sources. My teachers in the Darul Uloom always used to tell us, “knowledge will not give you a little of itself until you give it all of yourself.” This is the truth, Islamic knowledge is a precious gift, it is the greatest inheritance, the inheritance of the Prophets, and Allah will not give this inheritance to us unless we prove ourselves worthy of it. Muawiyah (RA) reports that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever Allah intends good for, He grants him true understanding of the religion.”

We should not complain about minor issues and make excuses to avoid gatherings in which Islamic knowledge is taught. Let us make Islamic knowledge a priority in our lives and something we regard worth sacrificing for. May Allah grant all of us the true understanding of Islam. Ameen.

23 Responses

  1. Sister

    Subahanallah .Thats amazing reminder..much needed advice .May Allah benefit you for all your efforts and give us towfeeq to know the importance of ilm.

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  2. Hiba

    loved it! Very beneficial article indeed. May Allah ‘azz wa jal benefit us all from this. Jazak Allah Khair

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  3. hayat

    May allah reward you for posting this very good reminder for all of us. i wish all muslims around the world go and learn deen al islam without being lazy or busy with some other things in life. Ya allah unsur al islam fi kuli makan.

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  4. Ameera Khan

    This was an awesome reminder, Br Ismail! JazaakAllah khayr. I loved it how you connected your exhausting walk to the students of knowledge from the past. :) You’re right, we *have* taken it to easy. It’s tempting to point out other people but if I look at my own self, I haven’t been using the internet the way I can either. There’s a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips but we come with endless excuses for not seeking it like we should. May Allah guide us, ameen!

    You know, when you were describing that tiring walk back to your hotel in Mina, it reminded me of our walk too, during Hajj. One day, we’d gone for Tawaf Ifadah and then Rami. We then walked back most of the way to Mina. After Tawaf on the rooftop, then a long time jostling through the crowds for Rami (the Jamarat complex wasn’t complete in 2006), we then headed for our tent, which was located on the far side of Mina, more in Muzdalifa area and so we had to cross the whole of Mina valley too. I remember the last hour or so of walking was so tiresome that it was like I could feel the bones in my joints rubbing against one another and there were blisters on our feet. Alhumdulillah ala kulli haal! But because of what we’ve been through, I could totally relate to your reminder – JazaakAllah khayr!!

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  5. Roshanara

    Alhamdulillah. A llah helped you by giving you patience and perseverance to reach your goals. I am sure there are more such incidences which happened. Do recollect and pen them down before you forget them. I pray to Allah to give us all(the students of IOU) an opportunity to meet our founder, teachers and as many colleagues as Allah wishes on this holy land and have fruitful scholarly discussions. Ameen.

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  6. Mediha

    Masha’Allah, a very great articule as well as a great reminder for us students of knowledge!

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  7. Hussain

    Maashaa Allah. A good reminder for student of knowledge specially Islamic knowledge.

    Jazakallah khair for sharing

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  8. Lisa Wright

    Alhumdulilah. I think about this often. I often feel like even though I am so busy, I still have so much time and should be using every moment of it wisely and in an effort to attain more Islamic Knowledge. Excellent for you to share this experience and revelations surrounding it.

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  9. Sarkkarai Beer Ismail

    Jazakkallah khaira,

    It was a good blog. Indeed, it was an eye-opener. Compared to the early days of Islam, I would say that vast majority of us barely experience those hardships in seeking knowledge. I watched a documentary on Imam Bukhari, wherein he travels for days to collect and or verify a single hadeeth. Alhamdulillah, everything is available at our reach, yet most of us, including me, have filmsy execuses as you mentioned. One common excuse which you have not mentioned is time – “I am too busy”, “I have no time…”. Even though everything is available at our doorstep, many of us frequently make such statements. We are ready to sacrifice for worldy benefits, but not ready to sacrifice for aahira.

    Though the courses like BAIS would benefit many of us, insha Allah, I am afraid of the other side. That is the value of seeking knowledge is diminished !!!. We must read the history and know the hardships of early ummah in order to really appreciate the value of seeking knowledge.

    May Allah guide us in the straight path and give us the strength to overcome such shaytanic traps.

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  10. Roshanara

    Alhamdulillah, You made it finally. It is indeed not easy to find places especially houses in any city of Saudi. I think it is because they do not have house numbers like we do in India. To collect letters one goes to the post box no. given, there is no post man bringing our letters home. I didn’t stop reading until I came to the part where you said you finally met Dr. Bilal in his hotel.
    May Allah grant us all the patience and perseverance to go through such hardships in search of knowledge. Jazakallah Khair Brother for the thought provoking article.

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  11. Umar

    This reminds me of the time I met Dr Bilal. No 3 hour walk, just an hour drive, and I totally understand what you meant about online chatting not being the same, and the difference in atmosphere.

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  12. Rajaa

    May Allah help us overcome our laziness and the fitna around us.
    Jazakumllahu khayran

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