To teach: understand… experience… respect

Umrah’s Life Lessons #8: To teach: understand…experience…respect

I do not regard myself as one living a pampered life.  Yet my age is an advantage. With grown daughters I can always count on someone to help out at home, and with grown sons, there is someone to fall back on for an errand I simply can’t face. At work, there are people whose job it is to carry out my orders, and my trusted car of eleven years still burns the road to get me quickly to where I want to go. Still, it’s not like my life is devoid of difficulties, but it was the combination of so many hardships this umrah that overwhelmed me and made me think.
It occurred to me as I walked on the same ground, under the same sky, feeling the same heat as the sahaba that I was also going through some of the same adversity they did, as well. One imagines, as one reads the seerah that she has understood the alienation and persecution that the sahaba underwent to hold onto their belief and to deliver the message to oncoming generations. The truth is, not only do we not fully appreciate their suffering, we have ceased to comprehend the physical limitations of a human body in terms of ability and in terms of endurance of  pain.
My grandson, when he was two and a half, offered to tell me the story of what he did to the ‘Bad Man’:  “Me pun’(punch) bad man, me bok’(box) bad man, me poke bad man, me pinch bad man, me throw him up, up, in the ‘ky(sky). Bad man fall down on the floor”  (and then he would pause for the dramatic ending – the worst punishment of all) “The floor is dirty!” This is a child growing up in a family that has no TV and had at that point seen a total of two movies – a child whose mother is fanatic about protecting her children from any scary or violent scene. Aggression envelopes us, we are so infused with violence that we tend to subconsciously belittle what the sahaba endured. Our brain is muffled with concepts of ‘stuntmen’ and ‘special effects’.
I thought of the sahaba and their raw and harsh life, often during my trip. On Eid, as we rushed from crowded narrow alley to more crowded more narrow alley going deeper into the backstreets of Mecca, trying to find any place to put down a rug to pray, I thought of them as I did sujood on the uneven asphalt that morning. We learn the incidents they experienced and we think we can teach them. But what we end up teaching are dates, names and words.  If you do not have a parallel experience to draw on, if you do not strive to understand their plight; if furthermore you do not respect your audience, you cannot impart this knowledge upon them. You are vain, and you teach in vain.
A famous scholar once was asked by a slave to give a lesson on setting slaves free, “My master listens to and obeys everything you say,” the slave said. One year later, the scholar delivered the lesson and the slave, amongst many others, was freed. “If you had given this lesson when I requested, I would have been free a year ago”  the slave reproached the scholar. To which he was answered, “My son, I never had a slave. I had to buy a slave, keep him so that I coveted his company and service then free him, before I could ask people to free their slaves.”
There is a humbleness required of those of us who teach; humbleness toward the subject we are teaching, a reaching into the depths of the subject to do it justice. There is a humbleness required of those who teach toward their audience, a knack for keeping your respect for them intact, despite what they may reveal to you or you may realize about them. There is a humility required of those who find themselves, albeit unwillingly, in a position to teach, to their Lord, lest they forget who they truly are.
This trip, as I came into contact with the many women I shared narrow space with, standing side by side, holding hands, sharing food, their lives permeated mine, as by osmosis.  I felt poverty, illness, oppression, the hardship of being discriminated against, persecution, fatigue and pain. Vivid scenes of the seerah and the high price the sahaba paid for their Iman materialized before me and I realized more than ever before how adversity is a blessing. A blessing for you in that it helps you appreciate what you previously took for granted. A blessing for those touched by such adversity in that you will now empathize with them and try to reach out to them; and a blessing for those you teach because unless you experience and understand different kinds of hurt, you cannot convey it accurately to those whose upbringing you are responsible for.
 Read:  Umrah’s Life Lessons #9: The Ummah’s Prescription: moving a step beyond mundane motherhood


One response to “To teach: understand… experience… respect”

  1. Elaine Imady

    No one could say it better – In sha’Allah your words reach all teachers.

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