I had my first lesson when I was around 3 years old with a high-ranking scholar from overseas. He passed away some years ago; may Allah have mercy on his soul. I strongly believe that the dua and influence of this special person has something to do with me continuing to learn and grow in the deen even when I was in environments or phases that–to put it nicely–weren’t conducive to spiritual growth.
Of course this is not to discount the influence of the countless teachers I’ve had throughout my life who have left deep marks in my character and outlook. That first teacher, however, will always be special.
I’m going to share a tidbit from my first lesson with my first shaykh who taught me at the age of 3 via the traditional West African method of writing on a lawha.
If you haven’t heard of the lawha before, it’s a wooden tablet used by students predominantly in the traditional West-African schools, especially for memorising the Qur’an. The Shaykh wrote out my first lesson on the lawha that day, using a stick pen and handmade ink.
Although I was young, this event is clearly etched in my memory. He quietly wrote the basmala first (بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ), focusing on every stroke. Then below that he wrote the letter alif. And then he taught me the alif. I still remember the sound of his voice and his gentle, smiling disposition as he encouraged me to sound out the alif. He made it a beautiful memory for me.
Can you just imagine the extent of his reward up to this day for every alif that I’ve been reading and teaching ever since?