Importance of Etiquette when Seeking Knowledge

Covid-19 did not do us many favors but one of the best things to come out of that trying time was the proliferation of online methods of study.  At Ribaat, we have been at the forefront of digital knowledge spaces even before that time and we find our numbers of students accessing our classes increasing every year.  This is indeed a sign of more and more women seeking out knowledge and finding that online spaces to learn can be just as effective.  As a teacher at Ribaat, teaching women on this online platform brings me joy.  As Anse Najiyya pointed out last month, our students are of all ages, life stages and levels of knowledge.  

Historically speaking, our ummah has more access to knowledge than ever before.  At the same time, our ummah is struggling with a lack of connection between what we know and what we practice.  What can account for this gap? Our scholars in the past have theorized that it is our lack of adab, or etiquette, with our studies that contributes to our inability to practice what we have learned.  At Ribaat, I would love for all of us to be an exception to this trend and the most important way for us to do this is to re-examine our etiquette with our studies, teachers, books, classmates and subject material.

Here are some of the etiquettes we can practice when pursuing knowledge:

Establish intention.  Our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has said, “Actions are based by intentions.”  This is a hadith that we often quote when starting anything new.  It’s important to note that our intentions should be set before an act, in the middle of an act and at the end of an act.  Every class you come to, set your intention and renew it when the class ends.  This helps to ensure we are gaining maximum benefit from our classes.  

Come to class in wudu as wudu is the key to our ibaada.  Wudu helps us to maintain our spiritual and physical purity.  Wudu is not only a physical but a spiritual state and it helps us to gain maximum benefit from our circles of knowledge.  When class time comes around, make wudu when you can along with setting your intention and you will find that blessings enter your studies. 

Keep camera on when possible. Although our digital spaces are an immense blessing, seeing each other helps to keep us feeling like we are in the same space.  Teachers can ascertain if their students are understanding and also can sense for what has moved their students.  Students can also interact with each other with ease.  And this leads to the next point:

Be in a situation where your camera can be on.  We all know that things come up through the course of a day, week or year but do your very best to be in a situation where you can have your camera on while in class.  This way you are gaining maximum benefit but also signaling to yourself and Allah that you have given weight and importance to what you are doing. 

Have adab with your books and tools of knowledge.  Our books are our keys to what we are learning.  Our traditional learning circles put much emphasis on respecting our books and tools of knowledge along with our teachers.  Be sure to keep your books in the best state possible. Some of my teachers even went so far as to emphasize the importance by which we stack our books. Qur’an always goes on top, followed by tafsīr books, followed by hadīth, then ʿaqīdah, fiqh and Arabic. The respect we extend our books will also have a spiritual effect on what we gain. 

Dress appropriately (as if you are in the presence of your teacher). Even though we are at home and studying we should do our best to show importance to what we are doing by dressing appropriately.  This also contributes to our ability to be camera ready. 

Keep all distractions away during class (cell phones, other tabs, etc.). Trying to limit as many distractions as we can while we are in class will help us to not only gain the information but to also indicate to ourselves and Allah that we have put importance on seeking knowledge.  

These are some small tips that can help us to not only have proper etiquette with our studies but also to gain maximum benefit from the time we are giving.  I, along with my colleagues, want all of our students to benefit to the best of their abilities and it has been my personal experience that when I put emphasis on etiquette along with the knowledge, I find my ability to benefit increases. 

Anse Sana Mohiuddin

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