Monday, May 7, 2012

Knowledge before Adab or Adab before Knowledge? And the Spiritual Syllabus of Silence

“Do not let your Knowledge overreach your Adab (courtly manners)!” an old soul strongly commended his your charges, these young mureeds (students) and aspirants of the mystical path. It is an interesting scene, as I think back of the uber-famous saying (hadith) of the Prophet on the importance of knowledge- “Seek knowledge even as far as China.”

And this got me thinking – which should come first? Should Adab precede Knowledge or should Knowledge precede Adab? The aspirant is ‘on his own’ sometimes. He may find an interesting book in the shop, he may have heard a curious Sufi tale from a wayfarer, or he may have come across religious and religious and spiritual websites / blogs. So he has come to some ‘knowledge’, but has he the Adab for such knowledge?

For every trade there is a Master Trader, and for every craft there is the Master Craftsman. It is the same for the Science of Self, the spiritual quest to understand ourselves better and jack up our relationship with our Maker. For such important journey we have the Masters, and if there are Masters, there must be students. And for you to be a student, you must be garbed in the Adab of a student – basically, a real-know-nothing humble enough to admit his own faults and at least grasp some veneer of courtly manners before the Masters. So I think that before anything else, Adab comes first.

And what about the earlier example, where a spiritual aspirant comes across the verses of Rumi, Ibn Arabi or the teachings of the great Shaykh Abdul Qader Geylani? - these glittering pearls of Divine Knowledge that is shining from the furthest reaches of our common history? What if we find such knowledge without having attained the discipline of the Adab? Hehehe. I think that if we are fated to come across such celestial source codes, two things may happen. We do nothing about it, but most likely we would act on such knowledge, though we are not trained to use them. And more often than not, what happens is that we fall flat on our faces, thus breaking our over-bearing hubris and pride over our ‘so-called’ knowledge. This pratfall will (hopefully, for man is a stubborn donkey) inject a little bit of humility and introspection into our lives – “Not so smart, after all”… our soul would admit… “Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut.”


There is great wisdom in that last line, you know. One worthy of a prose, I doth think.

The Spiritual Syllabus of Silence
Do not discount part of the spiritual syllabus
Whose entire purpose is to teach us
To keep our mouth tight shut
Like a miser's purse!

But I am drifting. Where was I? Ah yes, Adab and Knowledge. So this is our conclusion, sunshine. Adab comes before Knowledge, and even if Knowledge comes before Adab, at the end of the day, Adab would STILL come before Knowledge.... Or err... ahem... maybe not. Because it is good Adab not to be too certain in our conjectures. Hehehe. Confused already? Good!!

God bless you, sunshine.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

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