Years ago, I sat in Dar al-Ifta in Cairo reading with a teacher, and he asked, “Have you ever thought why the scholars use the word bāb (door) to title what you call chapters in English?” I responded, “Yes, but I did not give it a lot of thought.”
What followed was eye opening…
The Sheikh said:
“The word bāb is used because it reminds the student that he is entering a new realm. The field of knowledge; that he is leaving a place of ignorance and coming into a place of understanding. Thus, he needs to have the proper character, so the knowledge will touch his heart and mind.
The word bāb is used because it reminds the student that, just as you enter a person’s home and are careful to make sure you have the right location: to knock with respect, to come with humility, to sit gracefully, not complain about the food, if served, or the home, he has to seek knowledge, approach it with humility and be satisfied with whatever is given to him, being thankful for what is given, polite and kind to his hosts.
At the same time, it reminds the Shaykh to be gracious to his student, to treat him like his own, welcome him with a generous heart and serve him the best he can, seeking God’s pleasure alone. In short, this one word contains every adab (etiquette) that al-Ghazzali mentioned in the etiquette of the student and the etiquette of the teacher. Amazing!
Finally, it reminds the student to be sincere, seeing God alone, since the bāb in the book reminds him of the abawāb (Eng.doors) of Paradise! You see, there are gems to be found in these old works. Be patient, and God will show you more!”
Allah! Please grant us sincerity in learning!
– Imam Suhaib Webb