July 18th, 2010 was the day I decided that it would be better for me to submit to the will of God than for me to be one who submits to the will of my desires. That is when my journey into Islam and subsequently of Islamic knowledge became something I dedicated my life towards. It took years, years in which I became married and worked in some of the premiere Islamic organizations. Blessings upon blessings came, but the fervor and passion to continue my Islamic studies weighed on me. I sought out all traditional means in my community, sat with the scholars of the community, attended every traveling class available to me and, finally, the time came that my teachers came to a decision that it was time for me to move on. It was time to delve into the key of all Islamic Sciences and the key to delve into the book of God: the Arabic Language.
Mind you, prior to this, I had rough attempts at studying the Arabic language. I had done two semesters in my University, attended an Arabic class for a few months at a local masjid, but none of which took me to the level I felt a serious student of Islam should achieve. I looked at various schools around the world and contemplated where would be the best fit.
You should remember: I was not the only one making this journey. My wife would be accompanying me and, as such, I needed to find a place that would satisfy my craving of the Arabic language but, at the same time, give us the security and tranquility needed to maintain our marriage and happiness (a key that many students of Islam push to the side at the expense of their marriages).
Finally, we set our sights on 3 schools and applications had gone out to each, none of which were in Egypt. All 3 came back with affirmatives, letting my wife and I know that we were accepted to their campuses.
Yet something was missing in each.
After praying to God for His guidance and requesting direction from my mentors and scholars, I remained largely confused as to where and if we would leave our cozy home in the tourist capital of the world. Finally, a friend and Arabic teacher reached out and we discussed my plans, to which he recommended Studio Arabiya. After a short conversation, I remained hesitant due to the visible instability of Egypt and the current political situation.
So, I did my job as a husband and responsible seeker of knowledge and reached out to contacts that I knew who had lived in Egypt…those who were both born and residents here and those who were former students of the prestigious Al Azhar University. All responded with varying opinions - some having loved Egypt, while others having despised it.
Needless to say, none of it helped.
This was all going on near the end of the month of January 2016 and classes started March 1st. I truly didn't think we would make it. That same week, I had helped put on a local outreach event for those of varying faiths at the mosque I was active with. At that event, I spoke to a long time friend and aunty in the community…one who had taken her entire family to the mountains of Yemen to study Islam.
It was with her words of wisdom and conviction that I decided Egypt was the choice for me.
It really was that easy, and for the sake of brevity in this post, I won't get into details. In short, she reminded me of my intention to study and also reminded me that, though funds are important (a selling point of Studio Arabiya), nothing was more important than your intention.
My intention was attaining the Arabic language and, as such, God would open the doors of blessings and mercy.
So with that, the application was sent, the notice sent to my job, the community leaders informed, parents told, and the journey began. We waited for our response and in the meantime cleaned our home, sold all of our items and put it up for rent all in the space of 3 weeks. When the acceptance letter came, we purchased our tickets for the trip, formally made an announcement to the community and were on our way.
As this is the first of many blog posts to come, I'll end here and tell you this:
Your journey to the Arabic language starts with you and your passion. How bad do you want it? I had some of the biggest scholars of America advising me of other choices and paths to take; some of them could have disheartened anyone and, at times, did dishearten me.
But my flame of passion couldn't be ousted.
And so, here I am, in the beautiful city of Mokattam in good 'ol Cairo. When I eventually contacted many of those same teachers and scholars, I received one similar answer from them all: "I needed to see how bad you wanted it and what your intentions really were." It all went back to the beautiful aunty that advised my wife and I and the narration that opens the famous 40 hadith of Imam Nawawi:
It is narrated on the authority of Amirul Mu'minin, Abu Hafs 'Umar bin al-Khattab (ra) who said:
I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: "Actions are (judged) by motives (niyyah), so each man will have what he intended. Thus, he whose migration (hijrah) was to Allah and His Messenger, his migration is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated." [Bukhari & Muslim]
And the rest, as they say, is history or rather, you'll read about it in the next post.