Qalam Institute – 6 year Anniversary of Qalam Seminary
Qalam Institute – 6 year Anniversary of Qalam Seminary
By Shuaib Yousuf
Alhamdulillah, although it seems like the Qalam Program began yesterday, four weeks have already passed. In other words, a tenth of the program is already over. I guess time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. However, it seems like the hard work is just beginning. We came into the program knowing that community service would be a huge part of the curriculum, but I never expected to give a khutbah after only one month into the program. Alhamdulillah, I already had some experience giving khutbahs, but giving one in a new community was an entirely new challenge.
Although delivering the khutbah was a challenge, preparing for it was even more difficult. My first challenge was picking a topic. Choosing a topic is always tricky because the khutbah should be relevant to the community and at the same time a beneficial reminder to everyone, including the khateeb. After sitting in some of Sh. Abdul Nasir’s tafseer sessions, I decided that my khutbah would be about the importance of The Quran. My second challenge was finding time to prepare. Between time spent in class and on homework, I hardly had time to sit down and do research. But with some help from Sh. Abdul Nasir, I was able to get it done.
Before I knew it, the week was over, and it was time to give the khutbah. SubhanAllah, I never realized how accustomed I had grown to my community back home until the khutbah began. Everything was different: the faces in the masjid, the placement of the clock, the microphone, the podium, and so much more. But to top it all off, literally as I’m walking to the front of the masjid to begin my khutbah, I’m requested to do an impromptu fundraiser at the end of my khutbah for the masjid’s new building. Alhamdulillah, I was able to squeeze in a few words of encouragement on donation at the end, but at that moment I realized why Sh Abdul Nasir is pushing us to work with the community.
Giving khutbah in a new community was an unforgettable learning experience. However as a student of knowledge I learned that just as the Quran was revealed over a span of 23 years, gaining knowledge of Islam and The Quran will also take time, effort, and consistency.
As Sheikh ANJ announced the end of class, we closed our books and began packing away our belongings. However, as the boys trickled out of class, the girls remained eagerly sitting in their seats. At last, with the boys gone and Sheikh Abdul Nasir sitting right in front of us, we were able to start our new weekly activity we called “Girl Day.”
The idea behind Girl Day began when Sheikh Abdul Nasir addressed the concerns of us girls regarding disadvantages we must endure simply due to the fact that we are girls. For instance, boys and girls alike go to lectures and sit in halls where they are given equal treatment (or at least most of the time). Then, after the lecture, the boys go and hang out with the speaker where they are given more time to talk to him, ask more questions, and perhaps even discuss personal issues. Meanwhile, the girls have been taken out of the picture.
The matter was brought to Sheikh ANJ’s attention, and as a result, we were given Girl Day. It was a way to compensate for all those instances when the boys would have exclusive time with him; now we had exclusive time with him as well. One day a week, we stay after school where we can ask him anything we want. Moreover, because it is girls only, we also feel comfortable asking girl-specific questions which we normally wouldn’t ask in front of the whole class. Alhamdulillah, we had our first Girl Day this past week and I believe it was a great success and a huge step towards accommodating and addressing our concerns.
We hope to make this a new series with regular updates from the students at our full time seminary program.
Alhamdulillah, the first week of the Qalam program is officially complete…whew! That was easier than I thought it would be. Needless to say Shaykh Abdul Nasir went easy on us (for now!). It’s been a good experience so far and I hope that’s a sign for the rest of the year. Our class hours are from 7:30am to 1:00pm with the rest of the day to be used for reading various texts (in Arabic, gulp!). The campus has been made amazingly comfortable and welcoming (look for pictures soon). Shaykh Abdul Nasir wasn’t planning on any decoration and wanted us to study on the floor, ol’ school style! I don’t think Br. Abdullah would have that. Thanks for the comfy sofas! It’s cozy and intimate and allows for great one on one interaction with our teachers. There are a little less than 20 students in the class, half of which are brothers and the other half obviously sisters. It’s been a comfort knowing how down to earth and welcoming the students have been. It’ll definitely make the program easier knowing there’s someone there to lean on.
Since Sh. Abdul Nasir was welcoming us gently, we focused on just one text this week: أيها الولد (My Dear Beloved Son) by Imam Ghazali. It’s a series of letters filled with advice that Imam Ghazali imparted to a student of his who had studied with him for 30 years. Having had a close relationship with this student and considering him like a son, he had no qualms about giving him a verbal lashing. It was a great and fitting way to start off the program. It definitely put us in check (which is something I know I need). There’s a lot of beautiful advice though. He pretty much tells him the studies he completed mean absolutely nothing if not acted upon. He goes back to basics which is the beauty of it all. It doesn’t matter how many daleels you know, or how many hadiths you’ve memorized, or how awesome your halaqa is. At the end of the day it’s all about purification of the heart and soul; and along with good deeds, you have a chance of earning Allah’s loving mercy. This is being said to a student of knowledge of 30 years! Needless to say it was a humbling experience for us youngins.
In addition to that, we had a discussion session about “what’s in the news”. We’ll be doing this on a weekly basis to discuss contemporary issues affecting the Muslim ummah both locally and globally. Under the guidance of Sh. Abdul Nasir, it was a great way to discuss our views and opinions about these matters through the lens of Islamic principles. I can easily see this becoming one of my favorite classes as you don’t always have the opportunity to discuss these issues in a mature and objective setting. Alhamdulillah there was a lot of meaningful discussion from the whole class and I look forward to learning a lot from my classmates, in addition to Shaykh Abdul Nasir, which goes without saying.
It’s truly an amazing thing to have the opportunity to enroll in on-site Islamic Studies program without having to relocate to a foreign country. Studying what is considered to be the inheritance of the prophets is a daunting task and to be able to do that in a society I’m already familiar with and with a shaykh I trust is truly a blessing. I ask Allah (swt) to always make me truly grateful for this opportunity and to show my gratitude by serving Him and His deen through the knowledge I gain.
Please keep all of us in your dua’ especially for sincerity & the wisdom to use what we learn properly.