Posted by: Dawud Israel | April 13, 2010

What is a University Education worth to a Simple Muslim?

I am graduating soon from Sociology and I am reflecting on the university education.

First off, the most common feeling I have is I cannot help but cry more and more. I sit through my class on addictions and see them speaking about all these drugs and addictions, how they loved to cut themselves, how really the drugs they are talking about as so bad aren’t so bad, what their doctors said. I recall watching the students in class, how many of them were concerned women and mothers, and realizing at the same time how at one time I would look down upon them. Now, I can’t help but almost weep, not for myself, even though I have my own tragedies, but for the non-Muslims. How long ago did I fear to go up to a person and invite them to Islam? I imagined they would argue or act violent. But now, when you really see how frail these people are, how they are trying to prop up these methods of curing themselves of these demons they refuse to abandon altogether but only to a degree, I realize how frail this creature named man is.That really, I thought to myself before: what reason do they have to accept Islam? Now I think, what reason do they not have? There is so little certainty in their lives, what do they have anything to base itself on? Their foundation are like waves. And I can’t help but pity them and yet also marvel at them for continuing on and moving forward though they have only the solace of fire water. Maybe this is what Allah sees in us humans. “Man is the eyes by which God studies His creation.” I can’t help but make dua that God protect this city from His punishment and that somehow guidance come to its people. Of course, I am weak and alone. I see everyone now as a child, with a great measure of prayer and curse in every action. How quickly everything could fail and how quickly their hearts could be broken. Everyone is walking across the edge of a cliff at any moment. One woman used to be paralyzed and now walks- I couldn’t help but pray for her. I see everyone now, with eyes wondering and gazing, at their hearts. What is their heart going through at this moment in time? Dear Lord, let me learn to control my sharp tongue, ameen.

I am weak myself, I marvel at how my seemingly arrogant pessimism is destroyed by a single khutbah. How shallow is the depth of our confidence and pride! Man thinks everything so absolute. The end of history or the clash of civilisation or the era of  globalisation. In reality, only when these occur partially does man love to declare with absolute truth, that it is fully accomplished. What do we know of authenticity? What can I say to my professors other than want to anger them for their self-righteousness? Educating students about all sorts of world problems but not ever having the courage to suggest maybe we actually take what we are learning seriously enough to do something. Maybe its a product of Sufi influence for me to take ikhlas, sincerity, so seriously. The issue became in one of my classes, at least for me, of actually picking a topic of interest veruss just doing something others have done before so we don’t have to stress. I knew our survey on smoking would fail, but it was “safe” and the group needn’t be real and authentic. I hate how insincere people are now- bickering about who is a true Marxist, when all of them are liars. I came to realize how difficult it is to find people who genuinely are passionate. It took a great deal of effort to cultivate interest of some Muslim brothers to value Islamic knowledge and any sort of knowledge, but I am pushing others. One brother is totally averse to learning of any sort outside his field of study. All I wish is to find someone passionate, about anything. That alone, is enough for me to say alhamdulillah, now let me see a world different from my own.

Another patent complaint I have is how most of my education could be pursued on my own time. I could spend the next few months in the library reading and skimming through social theory readers, analyzing, critiquing and blogging about it, and then get much of what I wanted out of it. I found the most peculiar aspect of social theory is I would learn about abc theory and then I would begin to carry it to certain conclusions, which my professor would say, and that is precisely what def theory does. At other times, I would explain certain thoughts and be told I just articulate another theory, which I have never heard of. It’s puzzling, there is something about the habitus of sociological imagination that leads to some of the same conclusions, with almost the same words and this is at the same time very constricting and frustrating, to create a theory and realize Habermas beat you to it. The predicament is now, I have reached up to the post-modern present, and I cannot seem to figure out other ways of seeing the world, except but through glimpses and glances here and there.

Lastly, the cross overs into religion are always stultifying. I rarely ever brought up religion in class, though I think my professors wish I had. I did on one occasion mentioning some work I did related to Islamophobia, a botched presentation because I keep Islam so personal, articulating it orally makes me super nervous. But otherwise, I didn’t mention Islam, I did some dawah here and there to some students, but I felt Islam is too massive a discussion that I would lose out in learning what my professors had to teach in other areas. In this sense, it was a bit of a sacrifice because in the past I would love to horde discussion with religion. One need be patient and humbled in order to learn. I also felt no need to prove Islam for anything, I know its merit, others do not- simple. But the reality is much of what we learn is built on ideologies and those ideologies covet abc over xyz, when they both form equally valid parts of the alphabet. I felt also that, formulating theories with an Islamic-tinge is something I would have to look into as well in the future, or ones that at least take Muslims into account. An “Islamisized Science” I think now is only to placate the weak faith of Muslims, but Islam can contribute moral consciousness to all sciences, an awareness and intellect about reality and ideals. What I think is if I were to come up with a theory, it would be one that all could accept, without any religion because I think there are fundamental rubrics in our existence that are undeniable. I am not sure however, how to spread my theory since I have opted out of graduate school…

There was some good- I learned a great deal about statistics and methods of analyzing data. If I so wanted now, I could carry out surveys of my own for Muslimology and study the results and make conclusions. I find this to be exciting but am not sure what to survey (thoughts?).

Was it worth it? If the madrassa taught Durkheim and Derrida, no.  I hope that will change one day.


All in all, university was good and valuable, if only for the mental literacy. Ready to tear down the flimsy ideas around us, the flimsy notions Muslims have and the flimsiness of the powers that be. If only to inculcate a love of books, of new ideas and to explore new avenues, to gain the courage to think creatively and boldly, but thought is paralyzing almost. Everything is now in the language of theory and my mind is more analyzing than it was before. I also have memory problems, I forget very quickly, I only experience thoughts now as if they were a passing car so I rely heavily on Twitter or notepads. I find my social life suffering because how many Muslims are into literature or theories or creative thought? What to talk about? There are paranoid Muslims, and then there are non-Muslims and it is for this reason I wonder if maybe I will marry a non-Muslim. In any case, I don’t see myself as smarter than others, maybe just hungrier. I know there are Muslims out there who dwarf me in knowledge, in ilm, in akhlaaq and in everything else. I know this, what I don’t know is what I possess and therefore, what responsibility I carry to fulfill for the sake of God, for the sake of humanity. Islam remains an obstacle to a career, so much devoted to the deen that I don’t think I can separate my career from it, so I have to find a way. I shy away from doing something when I know others will do it and probably better. Often, when I judge others won’t do something and therefore, I should do something, someone else outdoes me and leaves me silent. Maybe I will simply remain silent. I don’t particularly like what Muslim academics are doing, but I have little of value to write, I doubt others would read my books and I think that is maybe too arrogant of me to head in that direction. I would be content with a small job and an empty apartment, but who knows. Most people I have looked up to have parted away, most friends distant, most prospects of marriage have drifted away, and therefore the future remains even more uncertain, even more quiet. Stuck between dreams and mundane cultural realities. I remain humbled even when there is no one to humble me, maybe that’s the most humbling of all. I remain under the presumption, that nothing will really happen until I break my desires and perfect my soul, but I doubt that will happen soon.

Things I wish to accomplish next:

-master Arabic, Farsi and Urdu, or at least learn their poetry in my spare time (study at Aligarh, Qarawiyyin and Azhar maybe)

-law school? maybe another bachelors at U of Alberta.

-produce a few films ( I have already made a Youtube channel)

-a few days with tablighi jamaat (I made an oath to them to fulfill 12 days in Alberta)

-travel overseas

-memorize the Quran, I do not feel worthy entering Madina empty handed

-expand Muslimology into a full educationist organization

-build a hospital “by Muslims” in Canada

-speak a lie only to discover it was actually the truth

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


  1. lol this was depressing yet it had a hint of superhero-in-the-making talk

    may Allah make your journey easy on you.

  2. Certainty is with Allah SWT

  3. It’s probably interesting to look back on these posts…

    • Yep. Definitely. 🙂

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