SHAFAQNA – Shafaqna had the pleasure of interviewing ATAward winner, sis Batool Subeiti. She shares with us her thoughts on the importance of education with diligence in our journey to Allah and how winning the award has impacted her life. Check it out and be inspired:
How has applying for the Allamah Tabataba’i Award and achieving an award impacted your life, thoughts and aspirations?
Batool: The Allamah Tabataba’i Award is the greatest initiative that I have had the privilege of witnessing so far in the community, as it truly recognizes the importance we have upon us to acquire knowledge that can contribute towards building an effective society, from all spheres.
Muslim scientists throughout history, and specifically those from the schools of thought associated with the Ahlulbayt (as) have made a great deal of contribution to their civilisations in major areas of science, from Arithmetic’s and Astronomy to Chemistry and Medicine. They used their intellects, a divine blessing and gift from the Almighty in the most productive manner in order to further understand and comprehend the divine signs of Allah (swt); that is analysing and appreciating how he has created this universe and how we as humans can build and benefit from it.
As Muslims, our religion should drive us to be at the forefront of excelling and reaching our full potential, and this award scheme looks at just that: providing students with the support, motivation and guidance in continuing to pursue excellence in the academic field, whilst fully understanding the future implication and importance of their studies at the crucial GCSE and A level stages of a student’s life.
The Iran subsidised trip is another great incentive of this award scheme, where all the winners are invited to an educational ziyara trip in the summer that offers us the opportunity of developing our spiritual dimensions. On another note, if you have taken your GCSE or A level examinations this summer, make sure you register for the award before the 31st of July! (More information can be found in this link: http://ataward.co.uk/)
What do you think has benefitted you most from being enrolled in the mentoring program that was one of the prizes?
Batool: Mentoring is a very effective method of enhancing the development of a student during the crucial periods of their academic life. Mentoring looks at mentally assisting the student as well as guiding them through important decisions they will have to take, such as the subjects or universities they will end up applying to. I have been appointed with a mentor from a similar academic background of engineering, who has been able to relate to me the challenges he faced whilst at university, how he overcame them, the importance of prioritising and general advice on relations in university, focusing on how to make the greatest use of them. I have found his advice particularly effective as a first year student, where the transition from the A-level course has been quite a leap. The first stages are always the hardest in terms of adjusting, but having the right mental framework and actively taking on board the advice I have received has put me in good shape and ahead of the game. Other areas of support include checking through related applications of personal statements and CV’s, in which valuable advice may be obtained from those who have great experience and have been through the process themselves.
Is there anything you particularly admire about Allamah Tabataba’i that you got introduced to as a result of ATAwards or from your readings of his life and works?
Batool: Allamah Tabataba’i (ra) is an exemplary manifestation of how inner piety and taqwa should reflect on our outward deeds and transactions with this world. A multifaceted scholar, he not only reaped the deep understanding of divine cognizance he acquired during his life to aid his personal and inner spiritual journey, but used this as a drive and motivation to transform society at large, where till this very day, his works continue to play an invaluable role in making the world aware of the truest essence of Islam. With his profound theosophical attainments, he went on to produce various valuable works in different fields of science such as ‘Tafseer Al-Mizaan’, whilst not only confining himself to the study of general philosophy, but going further to analyse Western philosophies, producing the best of books available in this field. This in itself is an indication of the importance of acquiring knowledge in all scales, spheres and dimensions – Allamah did not just limit himself to the studies of Islamic jurisprudence and hadith sciences at the Hawza, but went on further to use all that he had acquired to correct the problems in the theories and ideas that were prevalent during his time.
What inspires me a great deal from the life of this blessed individual is that the more he developed a deep acquaintance with the knowledge and sciences of philosophy, religion and Gnosticism (Irfaan), the more his humility and asceticism grew, which was manifested in his relations with all people, whether it be his family, students or colleagues. His akhlaaq was such that if somebody would refer to him as a professor, he would say, “I do not like this title. We have gathered here as colleagues in thought so that we might discover the truths of Islam”. This statement in itself is a true lesson for us all and is an indication of how much reflection we need to spare as individuals in recognizing and identifying what our purpose in acquiring knowledge is in the first place, whether it be religious, scientific or humanities. Arrogance in itself has no fit in this equation, as we need to come to the realisation that all these different forms of knowledge have a great potential in helping us understand our lord directly, his creation and consequently the world we live in. We need to also understand the blessing that Allah (swt) has bestowed upon us through giving us this intellect which we may think through and potentially reach the state of perfection, and that the more we grow to understand ourselves and consequently our lord, the more humility is induced in our characters as we recognize our worthlessness in comparison with the divine. This in itself should serve as a motivation so that we may channel our actions to most effectively lead society towards productivity in the way of Allah (swt).
You seem to be very focused and diligent when it comes to your education and that is admirable in a youth. Would you care to share some tips on how one can be consistent and apply themselves to their studies?
Batool: First and foremost, it is important for us to take a step back and understand why it is we are pursuing our studies, understanding what it is Allah (swt) wants from us as individuals and how we may channel what we have acquired through these studies to serve the Imam of our time. When we successfully answer these questions in our head, that in itself should serve as an infinite source of motivation as we are now working in the infinite realm of Allah (swt).
Secondly, altering our mindset in how we perceive examinations and academic institutions in general. This education, whatever nature it may be of, whether its sciences or humanities, is helping me understand how Allah (swt) has operated this world, its nature and the creation residing in it etc. This education is helping me reach my goal in understanding my lord and is therefore divine; it should be integrated within me as a whole and treated with respect. There’s usually the notion of ‘when an exam ends, I want to get rid of all my papers.’ It’s deeper than just the grade, it’s the grade mentality which often leads to people underachieving and developing all sorts of mental stresses. This education shouldn’t be acquired only for the sake of getting a job and settling down in the future; again, look at it as a constant pathway to understanding Allah (swt) and his creation; that is even after exams finish and we pursue our careers, we should continue to have a thirst to develop in acquiring knowledge until our last breaths.
Understanding the importance of time – Allah (swt) swears by “Al-Asr” in the Qur’an, “Indeed man is in loss, except those who believe and do righteous good deeds”. Every second of our lives in which we waste, and I’ll define ‘wasted’ time as that in which forget our purpose, reason and therefore Allah (swt) is a loss.
As youths, our academic studies should take priority in our lives whilst we pursue them, as it is important that we graduate fully equipped with the techniques that enable us to implement the skills we have gained through the years of active studying in institutions. With that being said, it is also important for us to take breaks that will aid and assist us in productively studying and fuelling us with the ‘recharge’ we need every now and then. After all, there is a reason why Allah (swt) commands us to pray five times a day, and I’ve always viewed it in the light of him commanding us to ‘take a break’ from our busy lives and remembering him and why we’re even pursuing our day to day actions in the first place. ‘Recharges’, as I have just mentioned include prayers, reading spiritual books, carrying out voluntary work, taking walks in nature etc. These non-academic actions are all forms of ibadah, even things which may seem trivial such as a ‘walk in the park’, as this will help us clear our minds and unwind, allowing us to return more motivated in doing the best we can and hence assisting us in our paths to Allah (swt).
It is important to remember that we all have a specific set capacity to how much we can actually study and work during the day, therefore not setting out some time on the side to pursue other activities is usually how procrastination arises, as life becomes too stressful to handle and we feel like giving up! ‘On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear’; you won’t ever be expected to exert more pressure than you can contain, the key to getting through everything is to not waste time.
Most importantly, setting down our priorities and effectively making a timetable of how we will distribute our time during the day will help us inshallah fully take advantage of our time in this life, in the best possible way. Timetables shouldn’t only be made during exam seasons; this whole life in its essence is a great exam, and time is the most precious gift we have in our hands, we never know when it may be taken away from us!
Dua’s. The power of dua’a should never be underestimated; it is the weapon of a believer. Naturally, when we strive to improve our relationship with Allah (swt) and gain closeness to him, he becomes our best friend and everything in life starts to fall into place. We start to widen our vision and comprehend the importance of action, working and striving to be the best –the Qur’an describes the ‘muqarabun’ (closest to Allah (swt)) as ‘al–saabiqun’, the ones who race and hasten towards achieving the best of deeds. We shouldn’t settle for anything less than the best. I pray to Allah (swt) we all acquire this lofty status.
Are there any personal experiences/thoughts you’d like to share that could be of help/inspiration?
Batool: There’s a beautiful hadith narrated by our prophet (as) which states that Allah (swt) has gathered knowledge into four sections: 1) Understanding the philosophy of Allah (swt) (who is my lord?) 2) To understand what Allah (swt) has created for us (i.e the sciences of creation) 3) To know what Allah (swt) expects from us (i.e Islamic sciences) 4) To understand what it is that is prohibited for us.
This hadith has greatly opened my mind and vision to the number of paths a human may tread in order to reach Allah (swt), but people usually limit it solely to acquiring practical Islamic knowledge and only. As somebody who has decided to pursue a career in science, I have found the 2nd point in the hadith to be particularly true, where throughout my years in high school and college, the study of how Allah (swt) has created everything in such complexity, from our bodies to the oceans, wildlife to the astrological nature of our universe, and analysing the formulas and mechanisms that govern our vast universe has really and truly induced humbleness in me towards my creator. It has allowed me to develop a greater understanding of Allah’s unimaginable nature and power to create everything with such precision and accuracy. When one acquires such knowledge in Allah (swt), even his thoughts when reciting dhikr such as ‘SubhanAllah’ immensely changes.
Another important point to denote is the psychological effect that studying the complexity of Allah’s creation has had on my state of thinking and dealing with other affairs in general. The harder you strive in your work and deepen your state of thinking, the more it makes day to day actions easier to pursue. It dilutes the trivial affairs of this world and truly widens the horizon of the mind. It is therefore important for us to understand the scope and magnitude of our education and truly appreciate its nature in what it should be inducing in us, rather than viewing it as just something that will secure me a job in this life and that’s the end of it. I’ll end with a beautiful quote from a mystic, who states: ‘The paths to Allah are numerous, according to the number of the creation’s breaths.” May we tread the path of Allah (swt) in everything we do, with full sincerity.
– Sabiha Rahim (Shafaqna)