Studying = Good Grades (or Marks)
Ever since preschool, every single teacher has taught me the same lesson. That is,
"If you study, you will get good grades."
Hmm. For many years, I believed this statement to be absolutely true without exception. I listened to my teachers and studied and Alhumdulilah, got good grades. I reasoned that this was the formula for success. After all, whenever I studied, I got good grades. Whenever I saw, other students who bad in their tests, I assumed it was because they didn't study. Lack of studying led to bad grades and studying led to good grades.
During my later years in middle school, I made many new friends. Alot of them got good grades. Why? Because they studied. And so they helped my theory to grow. Now, I believed that this was a principle that did not only work for me but for others as well. It was a universal principle.
Unfortunately, there was a slight problem. One of my best friends would always say the opposite. He used to say "Whenever I study, I don't do good on my tests". Whenever he said that, it was always worried me. I would have this sudden urge to yell at him and say, "No, you're lying! You're wrong!" but we were close friends and I didn't want to destroy our friendship. Why did his statement worry me so much? This principle was the basis of my hard work. I studied so that I could do good on my tests and get good grades. If for some reason, this principle didn't hold true, then all my hard work would be wasted and would be for absolutely nothing.
How could this be possible, I thought. How could it be that he studied and didn't get good grades? I told myself that his bad grades were not because he didn't study but because he didn't study the right way. And so I slightly modified my principle into:
If you study the right way, you will get good grades.
Surah Kahf-The Story of the
In Surah Kahf, Allah (SWT) mentions four stories. One of these stories is the story of two men who had two beautiful gardens. Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:
"And put forward to them the example of two men: unto one of them We had given two gardens of grapes, And We had surrounded both with date palms; and had put between them green crops (cultivated fields). Each of those two gardens brought forth its produce, and failed not in the least therein, and We caused a river to gush forth in the midst of them. And he had property (or fruit) and he said to his companion, in the course of mutual talk: "I am more than you in wealth and stronger in respect of men." And he went into his garden while in a state (of pride and disbelief), unjust to himself. He said: "I think not that this will ever perish. " " And I think not the Hour will ever come, and if indeed I am brought back to my Lord, (on the Day of Resurrection), I surely, shall find better than this when I return to Him." His companion said to him during the talk with him: "Do you disbelieve in Him Who created you out of dust (i.e. your father Adam), then out of Nutfah (mixed semen drops of male and female discharge), then fashioned you into a man? "But as for my part, (I believe) that He is Allah, my Lord, and none shall I associate as partner with my Lord. "It was better for you to say, when entered your garden: "That which Allah wills (will come to pass)! There is no power but with Allah! ' If you see me less than you in wealth, and children, "It may be that my Lord will give me something better than you garden, and will send on it Husban (torment, bolt) from the sky, then it will be a barren slippery earth. "Or the water thereof (of the gardens) becomes deep-sunken (underground) so that will never be able to seek it. " So his fruits were encircled (with ruin). And he remained clapping his hands (with sorrow) over what he had spent upon it, while it was all destroyed on its trellises, and he could only say: "Would that I had ascribed no partners to my Lord!" And he had no group of me to help him against Allah, nor could he defend (0r save) himself. There (on the Day of Resurrection), Al-Walayah (protection, power, authority and kingdom) will be for Allah (Alone), the True God. He (Allah) is the Best for reward and the Best for the final end. (La ilaha illallah - none has the right to be worshipped but Allah) (Translation of Surah Kahf, Ayah 32-44 by Muhammad Muhsin Khan)
To summarize this story, it is about two men, one whom Allah (SWT) had given two gardens. He forgot to thank Allah (SWT) and denied the Hour. His friend admonished him for his behavior and told him to remember Allah (SWT) lest some harm fall unto him. The rich man did not follow his friend's advice and Allah (SWT) destroyed his crops.”
The Effort Involved...
Many people read or listen to this story and shake their head saying, "What a fool? Didn't he realize that everything that was given to him was from Allah (SWT)?" but unfortunately fail to realize that they make the same mistake themselves often.
If a Muslim suddenly gets ten thousand dollars without much effort (In a halal way), he is very much likely to thank. "SubhanAllah, Allah is the Greatest. I didn't even make much effort and Allah (SWT) gave me so much, so easily." On the other hand, if a person works hard long hours, saves for months and then finally earns that ten thousand dollars, he is less likely to remember Allah (SWT). The person believes that it was his effort, his dedication which was the cause of him earning ten thousand dollars.
The same is true for the story of the two gardens. If you've ever had a lawn and had to work on it just to keep it in shape, you know what I'm talking about. Growing a garden is HARD work. Think about it: planting row after row of trees, watering them, watching out for pests, etc. is both time and energy consuming work. When a person works on a garden for many long years and then finally bears the fruit of his hard work, it becomes difficult to attribute all that energy and time he spent to someone else. The person believes that it was because of his dedication, his striving that he now has a beautiful and fruitful garden. And so he forgets Allah (SWT) who gave him everything in the first place. Allah (SWT) provided for him with the arms and hands he needed to pick up things, the legs which enabled him to walk around, the mind to understand the necessities of a garden, the energy to work in the garden, the time to take out from his other responsibilities and dedicate to his garden and the list goes on and on. “How many of your Lord’s favors will you deny?” Surah Rahman
Back to Tests...
The same goes for tests. People study for days, weeks, or even months and they get excellent grades. They often attribute that to their hard work. But who's responsible, them or Allah (SWT)? Only and solely Allah (SWT). The ability to study for a test, the ability to memorize things, the ability to even take the test are ALL blessings provided by Allah (SWT).
What could possibly happen if Allah (SWT) didn’t want you to do good in a test? Take the example of an SAT exam. You have two months left and you utilize it to the maximum. You study every day, take practice exams, memorize your vocabulary. The night before the exam you have a good night's sleep and wake up early eager to finally take the test you have been waiting for so long. You arrive at your exam center, start your exam and all of a sudden feel nauseous. You rush to the bathroom and throw up. There goes your SAT. All that hard work goes down the drain. What happened? Simply Kon fayakoon. Allah(SWT) said "Be and it was". Allah (SWT), the one who controls all that is in the Heavens and the Earth, simply willed that you wouldn't be able to take the test and so it was.
Studying = Good Grades?
Last year, about 8 months ago, I had an interesting experience. My bi-monthly exams were coming up and I got lazy and didn't study enough. The result, a 63%. I realized my mistake and decided that for the next bi-monthly exams, I would start studying from now, instead of the last week or so. By the will of Allah (SWT), those next two months I studied very hard. The result, a 69%. I was appalled. How could it be that I studied for a week and got a 63 and then studied for two months and got a 69? The next 5 months or so, I pondered this question.
Was it possible that my principle was wrong? Was there a problem in my method of studying? No, that couldn't be. I probably worked harder than any other student and the method was I used was reserved for only the elite. So what went wrong? Did I simply not work hard enough? No, I utilized my time to the max. Did I all of a sudden become dull? No, I knew most of the answers to the questions. I searched and searched for answers, excuses anything to explain what happened in those exams. I created many excuses like my Chemistry teacher has a grudge against me, I made small mistakes, I read the question wrong, and so on. But none of them we too explanatory onto why a got an average of 69% from six subjects. Finally, about a month ago, I realized what I had been denying all along. My principle, "If you study correctly, you will get good grades." was wrong.
My New Principle
Everything in the Universe belongs to Allah (SWT). "To him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the Earth."(Ayat-ul-Kursi) He is Rabbul Alamin, the Lord of all creation. He has command over everything and does as He wills. Everything that happens in the heavens and the Earth are all a result of his Will. No one has any of share of his command over the heavens and the Earth. We are all subjected to whatever he wills. And so the same is true for tests.
When Allah (SWT) willed that I get good grades in my tests, I did. When he didn't, I didn't do so well in my tests. If someone told me this about a couple months ago, I would shake my head and say "Yeah, you are absolutely right". But I never understand what that meant until now. SubhanAllah. No matter what you do, if Allah (SWT) wills that something does not happen it doesn't. If he does, it will. So who should you be grateful for getting a good grade? Allah (SWT) ONLY. Your effort, your work, it's all in a way useless because, if Allah (SWT) doesn't Will something, it doesn't happen, period. And so my new principle,
If Allah(SWT) wills that you do good in a test, you will. If he doesn't you won't.