Appreciate your knowledge
– By Maseeha Saloojee
Three years ago, I was a hifdh teacher at TMS in Pretoria when a delegation of Syrian ulama visited the school and spoke about how lucky we are to have teachers in South Africa. They mentioned the toll that the revolution had taken on the Syrian people and how many ulama had fled the country due to the threat on their lives. They described a broken shell of educaton and people grabbing at the scraps that they could get, while we luxuriously enjoyed a banquet of various dishes of knowledge.
Their half an hour speech could never have prepared me for the reality which I now witness with my own eyes. Perhaps a part of me clung to the hope that as Arabs, the Syrians would be able to learn tenets of deen which non-Arabs found difficult. Or perhaps my perception of Syria as the cornerstone of ‘ilm that is known for in Islamic history influenced my expectations.
Instead I found a community starved for knowledge. In the same way that vultures forget themselves when dining on the dead, the Syrian population forget their honour and morals in their fight for knowledge. I have had people beg me to teach their children and themselves and have had to turn people away due to lack of sufficient time. I have had people ask if I cannot stop teaching one of my students who has better knowledge in order to teach them the basic fundamentals. I have had adult women conscientiously repeat the same letter over and over until they eventually manage to sound it out correctly.
I am currently teaching in an area where there is no other Islamic options. Due to my time limit (the rest of my time going to household duties and caring for my children), I have had women say to me that it is haraam for me to not teach everyone that wants to learn and only accept a selected amount of students (whom I can give full attention to in that time).
My heart breaks every time I send away someone who has come to my door simply to learn. And I think about South Africa and our abundant ulama…how we take for granted what we have. When will we learn to appreciate the gift of education that we are given? And when will we learn to share it with others rather than waste it?
May Allah forgive our ummah for sitting back and watching while knowledge leaves this ummah. Aameen