Today was the first session of Shaykh Faraz’s Purification of the Heart class at the University of Toronto, and you could literally feel the excitement in the air before the class began. The turnout was great, the class was excellent, and everyone commented how lovely it is to have a class downtown in such an accessible space. (Though alhamidullah I’ve been in Toronto for more than a year now, there are days where I can’t quite get over the blessings in this city, and today was definitely one of those days). I never imagined having such easy access to scholars during my undergraduate years in Vancouver. Many thanks to the MSA and Shaykh Faraz for creating such a lovely learning opportunity! For those not in town, parts of my notes are below.
Every teacher has something unique that you learn from being in their presence. And every time I am in a class with Shaykh Yahya, I learn a bit more about what it means to be a dignified human being and to exemplify the qualities of excellence. Regardless of what the actual subject matter of the class, by his conduct and state Shaykh Yahya teaches his students that it is important to value your time, to polish your intellect, to contribute to your community, to speak with purpose and to keep good company. Shaykh Yahya’s classes are strong inspiration to take life and being a full human being seriously.
Three years ago I was in Toronto for Ramadan, and Shaykh Yahya spoke at a U of T iftar about how we should strive for excellence in everything we do. If we are studying, we shouldn’t just try and be good students, we should strive to be the best students possible (same applies if working or whatever else we are doing) and radiate excellence in all aspects of our lives. From our clothing to the beauty of our surroundings, from small and big aspects of our lives, everything should reflect excellence.
At this year’s Knowledge Retreat, Shaykh Yahya mentioned that “Each one of us has our own potential, and all we are required to do is maximize our own human potential. The sahabas maximized the potential of whatever Allah gave them. You’re falling short if you’re not maximizing your own potential and abilities, but you’re not going to be taken to account for what you were unable to attain if it was not within your capacities.”
And this past weekend Shaykh Yahya was visiting the SeekersHub, and due to a fieldtrip and other school conflicts, I was only able to catch a bit of Friday night’s (God bless live streaming!) leadership class. A major theme of the session was that it is key to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Shaykh Faraz’s words reminded me of a creativity and drama workshop we participated in at work recently where our instructor mentioned that
In acting you won’t get too nervous if you know what your character wants. It’s like life. If you know what you want and why you are where you are, it’s much easier to be motivated and get what you need to do done. If you don’t know why you are where you are, and the reason you’re doing what you’re doing, you’ll feel self conscious. Words that come through heart and are connected to feelings and actions will be successful. All words can be powerful when connected to the heart.
There are questions to ask yourself: where am I? what do I want? if I get what I want, what will it fulfill? Why do I want what I want? It’s important to know your values and what you find most important so that your activities resonate through those particular values. When you know where you are and where you want to be, you find lots of opportunities to build character. Often people will decrease their power so that they become smaller and don’t have to be vulnerable. But don’t apologise for yourself. Until you’re courageous and recognise who you are, aren’t fully alive. The greater your spirit is about the work that you do, the greater your work will be. It’s also helpful to have rituals. In drama, we have specific rituals, from voice to nutrition and meditation, and you need to find relevant rituals in your own life to be engaged.
Shaykh Faraz and Shaykh Yahya’s leadership class brought up similar ideas, but connected it to the most beautiful of meanings, how we can connect what we do to the highest of purposes, and make our actions pleasing to Allah. Here are some snippets of my notes.