I learnt a very important humbling lesson this semester: Do not judge the people who teach you.
We are not supposed to judge anyone, really, but my emphasis today is especially on the people who you are supposed to receive knowledge from.
In his book “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less”, author Barry Schwartz said that in the current education system, seeking knowledge has become somewhat of a shopping experience – you sit in the class for the first day of the semester, decide whether or not the lecturer is worth your while, and get out if the lecturer is not what you have in mind.
Done consciously or not, the whole process is basically a form of judgment we make. We do it to our lecturers in school, and we do it to the ustadh or ustadha at the local masjid.
In IIUM, unfortunately (or fortunately), there are certain core modules which are fixed to particular lecturers. In other words, no matter how you try to wrangle your curriculum and arrange your modules throughout the four years, the concept of refunds and returns simply do not exist when it comes to certain subjects.
For the past three years, there were certain modules which I simply could not ‘gel with’ due to the lecturer in charge. One lecturer in charge, actually.
Every semester I could not escape being in his class as he taught several core subjects, and every single time, I would creatively make my own means of escape to get away from his classes as much as I could. This would sometimes involve fake stomachaches or leisurely breakfasts in the cafe whilst the class was going on.
My judgement about him was pretty much sealed since Day One. It would be ill-fitting to elaborate further, but the jest of it was that he was not as Islamic as I deemed IIUM lecturers should be. As such, I literally cringe in every single class of his and over time, developed a sense of disrespect. This in turn brewed a subconscious dismissal of everything he said and gradually, of him in totality. All of these shows, really; The ‘B’s I have in my results are all from his classes.
This semester, however, a good friend of mine, upon hearing my complaints about the lecturer, said to me:
You have always said that you should learn for the sake of learning. So if your intention is to purely to learn, why is it that you accept knowledge from a person, but dismiss the same good knowledge from another person?
It was a slap to my face, and I worked hard to stop being judgmental.
In the first week of the semester, I sat myself in front of the lecturer’s desk, made du’a for Allah to purify my intention and caught myself every time I wanted to roll my eyes. On the second week, because I stopped whining to myself, I actually started listening to what he had to say.
The week after, I found myself participating actively as I do in other classes and by the end of the first month, I was blown away in my realization of the expanse of his knowledge. Alhamdulillah, by the end of the semester, he knew me by name and was going out of his way to open doors of opportunities for me.
And then I realized that all these while, I could not benefit from his classes not because he was incompetent, but because it was I who was incompetent.
After all, knowledge is a light from Allah, and if I was actively engaged in riya’ (pride), deeming myself better than another, how was I supposed to receive any light when even an ounce of riya’ will bar me from entering Paradise?
May Allah swt guide our teachers, forgive their errs, increase them in beneficial knowledge, and make them people of paradise. And may Allah swt grant us beneficial knowledge, protect us from the dangers of riya’ and make us true seekers of the deen.