A tale of fifty dirhams: What motivates you to acquire knowledge?

the natural curiosity and the desire for a reward are the two drivers of learning behavior. What are you learning for?

The Might of Pen

“Miss, I did many mistakes. Would you still pass me in the exam today?” She asked all of a sudden in between her lesson.

“Would you?”
She asked again. This time with curiosity in her bright innocent eyes.

This Seven-Year-Old little girl is memorising Qur’an. And, I am helping her preparing for her exam in school which is due this week only.

So, last week her Mom, my friend, arranged a mock exam with me. She had to recite full Juz 29 to me as if she was reciting to her school teacher in the final exam. Agreed.

“But why you are so worried about today? You still have one more week to fix your mistakes,” I tried to cheer her up.

“No, Miss. I really want to pass today.”
“My Mom said if I pass the exam today with you, I will get the 50 Dhms” she said shyly.

I wondered, which emotion should I read first on her face, they both arose together; the incitement of the reward and the concern of losing that. I was still trying to figure out that a third emotion also appeared.

And she said with some hesitation, “I am not doing it for 50 Dhms, Miss. I am doing it for Allaah. But…yeah…I want 50 Dhms too.”

I couldn’t stop myself bursting into laughter which I tried to camouflage by saying, “OK. Will see later. You better finish the lesson first.”

I just love this little fellow. MashaAllaah. May Allaah bless her and make the journey of hifdh easy for her.

SubhanAllaah!

PROPHET (BLESSINGS AND PEACE OF ALLAH BE UPON HIM) SAID: “WHOEVER SEEKS KNOWLEDGE IN ORDER TO ARGUE WITH THE FOOLISH OR TO SHOW OFF BEFORE THE SCHOLARS OR TO ATTRACT PEOPLE’S ATTENTION, WILL BE IN HELL.”

SAHEEH IBN MAAJAH

A learner learns anything either for the sake of learning or for the promise of ‘A’ (or threat of ‘F’). And, sometimes for both of them. So, the natural curiosity and the desire for a reward are the two drivers of learning behaviour. And, we adults are no exception.

In fact, from last three weeks, our Qur’an teacher is doing an interesting activity with us. Once we have recited our weekly lesson to her, she asks us to choose a number from 1 to 10. When we click on that number, a beautiful personal message appears. It might sound plain but when we receive that message, we really feel happy and motivated.

Incidentally, the same friend of mine whose daughter said to me, “not for 50 Dhms, for Allaah…But 50 Dhms too”, on her turn two weeks ago when picked out a number in class, got this message.

‘O, Allaah! Do not make this world my biggest worry.’

These words hit me instantly. They sounded familiar too.
Oh, Yes! It reminded me of a very beautiful dua that is mentioned in Tirmidhi. I knew that dua. Since the dua is quite long I mention here only what is the need of the moment.

‘O, Allaah! Do not make this world
my biggest worry and
the ‘Source of my Knowledge’.

SubhanAllaah!

What does it mean?
If world should not be the source of our knowledge, we should ban ourselves from learning Maths, Medicine, Agriculture, Manufacturing, Literature and everything else that is coming from the world. The Divine Scriptures should suffice us. Without an iota of the doubt, acquiring religious knowledge is obligatory on every individual. Having said that, it does not mean that worldly branches of knowledge are not to be sought. Rather the praiseworthy branches of worldly knowledge are to be sought, because the interests of the ummah depend on them and need them.

O, ALLAAH! DO NOT MAKE THIS WORLD MY BIGGEST WORRY AND THE SOURCE OF MY KNOWLEDGE.

Then how should we reconcile with the dua that the world should not be the source of our Knowledge.

I think, if we talk in terms of 50 Dhms analogy of little child in my story, things will perhaps fall into place. I see ‘the world here’ as ’50 Dhms’. No matter what knowledge I am acquiring the intrinsic motivation (natural curiosity) should not be the world. The extrinsic motivation (linked to reward) might be the world; and, that is perfectly fine.

Well, in terms of Religious knowledge it is far easier to comprehend that the intrinsic motivation should not be the world. But what’s the case with a knowledge that is completely worldly? How your natural curiosity might be something else when you are learning Mensuration than the fact that you might be able to find out the area of your bathroom tiles.

“But who wants to know the area of the bathroom tile while bathing?”, asked a student in her tution class long back. Lol.

Anyways.
In that case we have to direct our natural curiosity to one more dimension; and, we cannot understand that dimension unless we discuss the branches of knowledge in light of Qur’an. And, then only the world might not be the source of our knowledge, no matter we are learning ‘Thermodynamics’ or ‘parasympathetic system of ANS’.

So, what is that dimension which puts the things in place?
What are different branches of knowledge?
How to navigate between them?

‘A Write-up some other day, in sha Allaah!’

Well! I passed the little girl for 40 Dhms that day.
To earn the remaining 10, she can repeat the test.

Sisterly Yours
The Might of Pen

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