He was never the first to his mosque for Friday prayer. He was never the student who strove to become great and achieve the best grades. He really never even cared to truly decide what school he was going to attend until his 23rd year. In short, Shoaib Jawaid never had a path to follow.
He was alone.
There was never a true mentor the young Pakistani man could follow; no figure he could look to for guidance in his times of true need. It had been the same story since his childhood. His family was always distant, with both father and mother working exhausting hours to keep their family afloat in their new home.
Being a self-diagnosed chronic introvert didn’t help his case much either. He hardly knew anyone once high school ended.
Knowing this, it’s no surprise that Shoaib couldn’t find a place where he truly belonged. His first year at UC Davis resulted in dropping his Psychology major. Then a year off. The next year at the local community college; several classes, yet nothing interested him. Then a run at San Francisco State, where a Broadcasting major was attempted and quickly dropped.
“At this point, I was going to school with people four years younger than me, and doing the same kinds of things. It was kind of a wake up call,” he said, thinking back. “It’s Islamic philosophy to stay on the middle path. To never excel in one area if you’re lacking in another. But that’s really where I was at.”
Shoaib was at the largest crossroad his life had known thus far.
But it would all take a drastic turn. After a short Friday prayer, the man who would become his life’s biggest mentor and his greatest friend approached him. The teacher who took a chance on Shoaib Jawaid when nobody else would: Mr. Ali Bhatti.
Theirs was a fast friendship, something that had never really happened before for this chronically introverted college student. Shoaib quickly learned to trust the teacher’s advice on matters ranging from religious philosophy to talking to women.
Ali Bhatti had taught him in a matter of months to become the kind of person Shoaib had never truly tried to be.
“Before, nobody really cared what I was doing. But he’s the kind of person that is dedicated to the betterment of humanity, the betterment of our religion, the betterment of the community and its people. He’s always putting other people ahead of himself. He inspired me.”
Ali’s inspiration and influence as a teacher grew steadily in Shoaib, and helped lay the stones for the path he decided to follow. And it soon became clear that their relationship was far more dynamic than he had realized.
It was summarized in a single note he was given by Ali the day before he went back to school. The note that thanked Shoaib. Not for being a good student, but for teaching Ali more about himself than he could ever teach to Shoaib. That Ali Bhatti had been the real student. And that was what him being a teacher was all about.
“That was the only thing that made me want to pursue humanities. That right there made me want to become an educator,” he said. “I remember one of the things our prophet tells us: seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”
Today, he is always the first to Friday prayer, and even takes time every week to teach Sunday school classes. He always studies hard to get the best grades that he can get for his new pursuit of becoming a teacher. He always thinks about his future while living in his 24th year. He is on the right path.
And he’ll never be alone.