The Wisdom of Converts and the Value of Seeking Knowledge

There was one session at the recent ICNA Baltimore Conference that had the greatest influence on me. The Youth Conference entitled “The Storm Within” honestly changed my life.

First off, I love how it was a session focused solely on the youth. It made it more relatable, and thus attracted more of my attention. The topic of the session was “Seeking Knowledge,” which very much pertains to my own life. Personally, I’ve always had trouble with the concept of seeking knowledge. As a result, this session really opened my eyes.

The first part spoken by the former basketball player, Br. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, was not only relatable to me in the seeking-knowledge aspect of things, but also in the stories of his childhood. His mother had only received an 8th-grade education, which is exactly my own experience: Neither my mom nor dad finished their education. Consequently, this really grabbed my attention. He also pointed out how he was very socially awkward as a kid, and how he had had trouble giving voice to his own thoughts and opinions. The fact that he could go from being that person to speaking in front of hundreds of people was a great eye opener. I personally have always had trouble, for example, with raising my hand in class. His comparison of his childhood to his life now really gave me a confidence boost.

One thing that really made me smile was when he was talking about his conversion to Islam. He mentioned that he was reading a few pages of the Quran in front of his colleagues and his immediate response was, “I want to be a Muslim. my search is over.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have tears in my eyes. He said further that he’d lost 48 years of his life because he had converted to Islam so late. He mentioned that, ever since then, he has taken any chance he could get to enhance his level of knowledge. I reflected to myself that I should start seeking knowledge now, or else I will later look back in regret at the time I will have lost.

One summarizing quote that I jotted down during his speech was, “The more information, the more doors begin to open for you.”

    Another speaker who was at this same session was Sheikh Saad Tasleem. His main focus was also knowledge, but he had a very different approach to it. He said that people nowadays don’t take the concept of seeking knowledge seriously for one reason: The Internet. Because of Smart Technology, we all think that the knowledge is at our fingertips, so what’s the point in making an effort to learn?

I was very fortunate to hear this because, in truth, I am that person. I am guilty of neglecting to put in the extra effort to open up a book and try to obtain something new. I’m not saying the thought has never occurred to me; it has, and I have always told myself that I will. But sadly, that day hasn’t yet come. I often live in a mindset of “Well, I have the Internet, and I could easily search for something on Google if I need to.” Well, the truth is that it’s not that easy. Seeking knowledge is very important and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Obtaining knowledge, in fact, will make our path to Jannah that much easier.

To this end, he pointed out something else of great importance. When people actually do try to gain knowledge, they take the easy route — for instance, searching for something on Google. Who’s to say that first website that pops up is reliable? This is even true when not speaking in terms of the internet. We tend to go to the sources that will keep us “entertained.” For some reason we allow ourselves to think that seeking deeper Islamic knowledge is just for entertainment, and not a priority. I don’t believe he was saying that we all have to drop everything and dedicate our lives to Islamic knowledge. Instead, I think he was suggesting that we just go little by little. And in this day and age, the sources are all around us. All we have to do take advantage of what we have.

This also got me thinking about myself. I live right next to a local mosque and they have weekly classes and halaqas throughout the day. Sadly, I don’t attend these classes as frequently as I would like to. I tend to take the fact that I have a mosque right at my fingertips for granted. Today, there is no excuse for living in that mindset, because back when there wasn’t any Internet, it was even harder to get the information one was looking for. But people still did. So, who’s to say we can’t now?

    I am very thankful that I had the chance to hear these wonderful words from these people and that I am now able to apply it to my own life. I will, in shah Allah, try to put these words into actions and improve my life for the better in search for a greater scope of knowledge and, in shah Allah, ensure my path to Jannah.

 

Photo Credit: http://nanettevhucknall.com/on-wisdom/

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