Making Progress with Seeking Ilm

Seeking knowledge can take a person through any number of routes. There’s always a must-do course, a must-attend event, and a must-listen lecture; or many of these at the same time.

It gets overwhelming. Many times it leads to no substantial change; and barely any real knowledge.

When enough is enough, instead of tossing everything aside and giving up, we get back to basics and try to chart a clear course instead. We try to take control of our learning instead of being swayed by larger-than-life calls to action.

Everything out there might be awesome, but I can only learn one thing at a time. Slow and steady wins the race.

And this race is worth winning.

~Ilm Student~

When I completed half of the Qur’an and some foundational texts, I started to receive invites to speak and teach at different places in Oklahoma. My Sheikh would not allow it. In fact, he told me not to tell people what I learned, especially the Qur’an because he felt the attention I would receive would cause me to ripen prematurely. Additionally, even though I could memorize 2 to 4 pages a day, he would refuse, allowing me no more than half a page a day. “Who learns everything at night forgets it all during the day,” he used to say.

For the next four years, he did not allow me to speak, and he commanded me to present any invites to him. I did it and I’m thankful I did.

Kobe Bryant’s advice to Gordon Hayward yesterday reminded me of those days and the words of my teacher: “take your time, the road is long, if you grow too fast, you will miss out on the experience and wisdom that will give you a holistic understanding of what you learned.” My teacher taught me that breaking down the process of education into mini-battles would give me confidence and an understanding of myself that is required to serve others.

I worry today when I see people rocketing to fame without a guide, without a teacher and without experiences that would temper things. What have they missed in their rush to be? What small habits could they have formed by taking the time and the effort to ripen? That process not only demands professional education but engagement with the community that leads to their sanctioning. It is scary to think that some have that sanction without qualification, while others have skills and don’t care what the community thinks! And many, as I have come to understand, do not have a teacher to dose it.

Take your time to grow, learn and engage. You won’t regret it.

This was expressed by Imam bin ‘Attaullah who said,

“Bury yourself in a barren, deep earth because a seed that is not planted won’t ripen, and at the least, its fruit will be bitter.”




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