Monday, July 20, 2009

Between Shyness and Arrogance

A few weeks ago, my imam said something that I found interesting. He said that knowledge is lost between shyness and arrogance. Though perhaps it makes more sense, based on what he was trying to say, to state that knowledge is gained between them, as if they are two ends of a spectrum, and being at either end is where you lose the knowledge. He couldn't off-hand remember the source, and it was a rough translation, and I myself haven't found the source, but still it seems poignant enough to address, even just as a nice quote (since I can't validate its origins.)

Basically what it's saying is that a person does not gain knowledge when affected by either extreme shyness or arrogance. The shy person is afraid to ask question, afraid even to go to classes. Think of some Muslims who were too shy to ask their questions to an imam--I think this is especially true for sisters. Or sisters who are too shy to attend a class on Islam, and so they don't learn, because their shyness hinders them. It doesn't mean that shyness is bad, because of course women are encouraged to be modest, especially around men. Just remember the statement of Aisha, "How good are the women of Ansar that their shyness does not prevent them from learning religion." (link)

And as for arrogance, the person who thinks that he already knows a thing cannot be taught it. Instead it takes humility before the teacher. Arrogant students will either get bored or even try to contradict the teacher. I had such disdain for my high school band teacher that I couldn't have learned anything from him, even though he was the one who had the college degree in music. I was arrogant about my own knowledge (I had been taking private lessons for years before I met him and certainly wasn't ignorant) and consequently was unable to benefit from any of his.

So when it comes to learning about Islam in particular, we should be between these two extremes. Not arrogant about what we already know so that we refuse to learn anything from the teacher, nor too shy to inquire and seek the knowledge.

I'd like to add that when attending the AlMaghrib seminars I have, that I found the students to be in such a state--humble enough to receive knowledge from the shaykh, and yet bold enough to ask their questions. And this was the case equally (or so it seemed) among brothers and sisters. There was equal time devoted to answering questions of brothers and sisters. This only makes me love that environment anymore--the students who are dedicated to seeking knowledge.


Anonymous said...

here's one I found:

al-Khalil bin Ahmad (may Allah have Mercy on him) said: “The
station of ignorance is between shyness and arrogance.”

Amy said...

Jazakumallahu khayran

That is closer to what the imam said, but if I see it like a spectrum then my phrasing makes more sense (to me.)

Of course, the original sounds best actually. Thanks for finding it!