Key word – enjoyed.
See, there’s a lot of brothers and sisters who attended the program that are likely still going through withdrawal pangs after having spent two straight weeks seeking knowledge, engaging our teachers (may Allah subhaana wa ta’aala reward them for their time and efforts) anytime we wanted, and occasionally throwing down (or, in Shaykh Yasir’s case, turning into positions that would be the envy of a Cirque de Soleil performer) in a game of table tennis.
By the beginning of the second weekend, I could sense the dread beginning to settle in – that the whole event would come to a close very soon. At 5 days left, the countdown began. Some of us had not even stepped out of the hotel beyond a breath of fresh (humid) air during that time. In less than 16 days, many of us were becoming institutionalized Shawshank Redemption style.
As for myself, I was looking forward to leaving and returning to my family. I’m sure many of you remember the hadeeth of Handala (RA) about iman going down returning to one’s family that Shaykh Yasir mentioned (humorously with his wife on) during his discussion of what to do after leaving Ilm Summit, and you may be thinking, this is where the knowledge is, why would you want to return to your wife and kids, and job, and all the other mundane minutiae of life you were blessed to escape?
The best way I can relate this is with an analogy, one related to college. Remember when you graduated? Sure, you (hopefully) learned a bunch both in and out of class, you formed amazing bonds and relationships that will always remain dear to you, and you likely lived (often barely) through some rather interesting experiences. Fun as it was, you probably wanted to move on to the next stage of life, taking what you’d learned and put it into practice, making your own way in the real world.
It was the same thing for Ilm Summit. I picked up a lot both in and out of class, and was anxious to return to “the real world” to practice what I’d learned. And alhamdulillaah, what a huge difference those changes have since made in my day-to-day life, which is why I say, I’ve enjoyed the past few weeks post-Ilm Summit. Here are a few habits and lessons learned I picked up:
1. Focus – Where Is It?
As an aspiring student of knowledge, I found it that it was easy to fall into the trap of placing one’s focus on so many issues to the neglect of oneself. The real benefit is first ourselves and our relationship with our Creator and then others.
On that great Day, when I am faced with a second-by-second account of all that I did, said, thought, and intended, the majority of that time will focus a spotlight on me, not others. Would I not be better off focusing my questions, on seeking answers to my own weaknesses?
I found that turning a critical eye to myself and my habits provided the framework of thinking, the mindset, to really focus myself on ways to truly pull the most out of Ilm Summit to benefit myself and really change the way I lived my life.
2. Heart Disease – Diagnosis and Treatment
Each morning, from 8:45am – 9:00am, we would study the etiquettes of seeking knowledge, alternating between Shaykh Yaser B and Shaykh Yasir Q. It’s the type of class where you might find yourself thinking, “I know that brother X or sister Y could benefit from these lessons,” little realizing the one who can benefit the most is oneself.
There was a lot of ground covered, and I won’t rehash all of it, but from what was covered, I began to observe within myself, and I began consciously noting what disease that was described and the feeling in my heart as I was going through it.
For example, one advice that was given was that when you think that someone else is showing off, realize that the one with the problem is you, not that person. That’s a natural thought – so and so is trying to show his knowledge to his friends or teacher. That feeling did hit me, but it hit me after the class, so immediately after I felt the thought, and the feeling in the heart that came with it, I made a mental note of it and immediately made du’aa for the person, repented for the thought, and asked to be purified of the disease.
I noted that when I felt the feeling, there was a lot of negative feeling, one which the mind could not justify. And, throughout the event, and even now after, I look out for that negative feeling in the heart in other situations, and subhaanallah, I can point out the problem now because that awareness from those classes is now there, and I can consciously fight against it, whereas before, it was like, I was the unconscious incompetent – I didn’t know that I had a problem, or that that negativity was a problem.
I now pay more attention to how my heart is feeling, and if it’s feeling particularly numb, I assume that it’s those black spots accrued from sinning beginning to blacken and harden my heart, and I ask to be forgiven and purified. I try to think of as many sins that I just might have committed throughout the day, and keep asking to be forgiven til I feel my heart is getting better.
At the next Ilm Summit, I hope the Adab al-‘Ilm classes are longer each day, insha’Allah. Those alone were worth the trip, may Allah subhaana wa ta’aala reward our teachers and give them the highest place in Paradise for teaching us this knowledge.
3. Water Boy
Throughout my life, I’ve had this issue with showers – I always like to stand there and just kinda veg out, getting lost in my own thoughts. The problem was, 30 minutes later, and on a daily basis, that was a lot of water wasted. And very possibly a minor sin repeated on a regular basis, which would then turn it into a major sin.
During our discussion of fiqh at-taharah, I was shocked by the amount of water used by the Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallim for ghusl – approximately what amounted to one cup of water. Since that time, if I do space out in the shower, I keep thinking of that cup, hurry up, and get out. My time has been a lot better since.
Speaking of water…
4. Clean Living
Somewhere in there, it was mentioned that we ought to try remaining in state of wudu throughout the day as much as possible. I decided to try it out, and it became a habit that I have maintained since then. Alhamdulillaah, it feels amazing to always be in that state, and I feel almost filthy now if I’m out of it even briefly. Best of all, you’re always ready for salaah when the time comes, alhamdulillaah ;)
Another manifestation of “clean living” – for the those 16 days, I stopped eating non-zabiha (to my knowledge) completely. And honestly, I felt a lot better because of it. I haven’t changed my opinion on the matter, but I have yet to touch non-zabiha anything since maybe the first day of Ilm Summit.
And speaking of eating, another beneficial habit I picked up when seeing the huge portions provided by the caterers, I intentionally ate smaller portions (I’m not sure how 1/3rd of my stomach is measured in terms of food quantity, but it was a lot less than normal) and found that also provided a type of spiritual comfort which I can’t quite put into words. It also got me to lose about 7 lbs the past few weeks =) Another bonus: no biriyani burps during Ramadan taraweeh ;)
5. Calvin Klein Models Can Give Ijaazah Too
Alright, everyone who was at Ilm Summit knows who I’m talking about, right? The title of this section is in no way meant to denigrate whom we all know I’m talking about – Dr. Jonathon Brown. This brother, who came to Islam in 2002, has an amazing amount of knowledge in the sciences of hadeeth and gave a number of amazing sessions on the history of orientalist thought and how it their thought processes were used to criticize the hadeeth literature.
Masha’Allah, the real lesson here is that Allah blesses whomsoever He Wills with what He Wishes, and if there was any Muslim brother I’ve seen who made me think of Yusuf (as), he was it. But even more beneficial for me, besides the amazing lectures, was his style – I was thinking of asking the brother for fashion tips. I mean, there he was on stage teaching in a 3 piece suit. A three piece suit! It reminded me of what I heard of Imam Maalik, not talking about the hadeeth of the Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallim til he had made ghusl, put on his finest clothes, perfumed himself, and then came out to teach the hadeeth.
So yes, another lesson, dressing indifferently, especially when coming to seek (or teach) knowledge, may not be the greatest of etiquettes in the world. Respect yourself, and respect the knowledge, and adorn yourself well.
(for the record, Dr. Brown neither is nor was (to my knowledge) a CK model, but yes, he can give you ijaazah in certain ahadeeth).
6. Respect Your Roommate
After being married for close to five years now, I kind of was taking life for granted. Whatever little flaws I had (like leaving my clothes around, not picking up after myself, etc) tended to seem trivial to me before Ilm Summit. Sure, my wife might complain, but these were the minor flaws of a great husband that one just had to sacrifice and put up with, right? ;)
At Ilm Summit, I had a new roommate, and I consciously spent some time making sure that I did nothing to offend him by keeping my clothes in areas which would not intrude upon him (too much). I tried to tidy up my wudu water, and in general, to keep the place clean. That’s what being considerate was all about, right? If the neighbor has rights on you, how about your roommate?
It struck me that I wasn’t quite applying the same thought process at home. 14 days later of being considerate towards my roommate made me realize, these habits ought to continue even afterwards. And alhamdulillaah, they have, and my wife appreciates it greatly, so if someone went around saying, “Ilm Summit can make you a better husband,” they wouldn’t be too far off.
7. The Fitrah – Your Daw’ah Trump Card
It was interesting (and practical) to find out that one need not seek other religions, and review (and reject) them for the sake of intellectual justice – the fitrah trumps that because it inclines us to tawheed, and coupled with the ‘aql, towards Islam in totality.
It put to rest that question (we tell others to explore and be openminded, shouldn’t we be intellectually honest enough to do the same?) that I had for a while regarding all this. As a result, I need not start by proving the existence of Allah subhaana wa ta’aala, but rather, I can start by yanking at their fitrah by teaching the Qur’aan and the Sunnah to nonMuslims.
There were more lessons, but I thought I’d limit it to my top 7. Some of the items in the list were what some would consider mundane and minor, but to me, those new habits have made a huge difference in the quality of my life and the peace, happiness, and stability within my heart. They were lifechanging and I hope insha’Allah to benefit again likewise at the next IlmSummit.