Reflections on visits to Christian Schools

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All praise is due to Allāh Almighty – This is week I have been invited to a number of schools in predominantly White/Christian areas to talk about Islām.

They have welcomed me and have asked some really interesting and challenging questions about my faith. There is so much that we need to do to educate people about what Islām is really about. If we don’t do it then somebody else will.

Being a British Muslim presents a unique set of challenges and I humbly feel we need to continue to strive and become part of the fabric of society here. Britain is my home, I don’t have anywhere else to go, and neither will my daughter.

As she grows older, she will find herself in an increasingly complex and ever changing environment. Our children need to have a firm understanding of our tradition whilst being confident living in Britain.

We have so much to offer to this country and we should be confident in displaying the beauty of our faith. We have an amazing vibrant, rich, diverse, resilient and beautiful faith and this ought to be shared with others.

Judging by the questions I was asked, it is very clear that many people know very little about Islām. It is okay to say I don’t know if someone asks you a question and you don’t have the answer. That’s part of learning. We are always learning. That’s what makes life all the while worth living.

The areas and schools I visited are not in some remote part of our country – they are literally a few miles away from places like Preston and Blackburn. Yes, they are our neighbours. Yet they have barely met us. Did not Our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) visit local communities to invite them to the truth?

Many of these people came to speak to me afterwards and mentioned how much they know now and how little they knew before.

I will also add here that our actions should speak louder than our words. Let us become just, moral, humble and honest citizens.

What you are speaks more louder and eloquently than what you say.

And Allāh knows best.

Islam’s Rational Monotheism

The Humble "I"

oxforduniShaykh Abdal Hakim Murad explains: ‘In the Western milieu, converts to Islam claim that they are attracted to what they regard as its clear, rationally-accessible teachings, unobscured by elaborate mysteries. It is not only insiders who wish to take this view. Non-Muslim academic accounts … now frequently draw attention to the central role of reason in Islamic theology.’1

He cites Leaman in his The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia, saying: ‘The Qur’an does indeed display an unusual commitment to argument and logic in its self-explanation.’2

Earlier in the same volume, Leaman says that whereas Judaism is strongly linked with ethnicity, and Christianity with a leap of faith, Islam, he says, has successfully grown by stressing its rationality and evidentiality.3

With that being said, let us now consider a few examples of how the Qur’an employs a universal rationalist discourse – especially in terms of its theology and its invitation…

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Religion is meant to unite us

 

In The Name of Allāh, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful

 

“Listen with ears of tolerance! See through the eyes of compassion! Speak with the language of love”

― Rumi

 

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I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections based on some recent experiences and conversations with some really well intentioned folk. I pray that Allāh Almighty allows us all to fulfil the true legacy of the Prophetic Tradition. It really is a tragedy and injustice when we claim to be upholders of this tradition whilst our actions paint an altogether very different picture.

This religion is all about Rahmah (mercy), it is about displaying compassion, having understanding, possessing forbearance, facilitating for others and a whole host of other attributes. It is about possessing this inner beauty that emerges on the tongue of our actions and the quality of character (ḥusn al khuluq) that Allāh Almighty Himself announces in relation to the Prophet (PBUH):

“And indeed, you are of a great moral character.” (68:4)

Every single one of us as believers is an ambassador of our religion. People look at us so that they may come to understand what Islām is really about. Is Islām a religion of peace? Do its adherents exemplify justice and compassion? Do they submit to the will of Allāh Almighty and by doing so strive to serve mankind? Yes, mankind. Not just people we know, not just people we are afraid of, not just Muslims, but everyone. In fact not only everyone but everything that exists in this vast cosmos.

Or do we serve our own personal impulses and ambitions? Our own preconceptions of what Islām should be. The reason for the centrality of this question is that by failing to understanding our roles and what Islām is really about, we end up becoming a means spreading of injustice. Often, instead of being part of the solution we become part of the problem.

A key attribute that interweaves everything we should do is what is known as Ikhlās (sincerity).  All our deeds and words should solely be for the pleasure of Allāh Almighty. This applies to everyone, and especially to those involved in the work of dīn. This is true because people involved in this area are at the forefront of presenting Islām. What we need to understand is that there are many ways of finding Allāh Almighty and different people find different ways. We are all unique and our paths are unique. To restrict people to one path to the exclusion of others and to look with disdain at others is a sign of lack of understanding and sad to say, mercy. This also exemplifies a weakness in our sincerity. My teacher once drew out an example of how this can manifest itself. He explained that if in a certain community a person is working to serve the dīn and there now appears someone else who also wants to serve the dīn albeit in a different way, does he allow him to do so or not? Does he feel threatened in some way?

We need to agree to disagree; everyone in our community is serving the dīn in some meaningful way that needs to be appreciated. Just because someone doesn’t practice dīn the way we do does not mean they are wrong, it’s just different that’s all. Differences in our ummah are a form of mercy making it a healthy ingredient and thus differences are what unite us. Our religion is meant to unite us.

At this point, it is important to appreciate that we all need to have a broad and deep understanding of Islamic knowledge (tā’līm), propagating and promotion of that knowledge (da’wah and tablīgh) and spirituality (taṣawwuf) if our efforts are really to bear fruit. A harmonious balance of all three is required. It is precisely the reason of the absence of any of these three that we observe unnecessary tensions in our communities and masjids.

This leads to a second point. Whenever people strive to bring goodness to our community we should at the very least support them. Don’t become that big rock in the river that doesn’t drink itself and prevents others from drinking. Human beings need encouragement, and for someone on their own starting out new this is all the more pertinent. How often have we observed that the effort of one resolute individual has led to inspire multitudes of others and bring goodness at a profound level? The encouragement leads to steadfastness, which is what is most beloved to Allāh Almighty:

“The deeds most loved by Allāh Almighty (are those) done regularly, even if they are small” 

(Bukhāri, Muslim) 

Our advice to those working to serve the dīn is to remain steadfast in their endeavors and to not become disheartened, even if only a few attend your gathering – in fact this is a Prophetic challenge. After all, was the call of Our Prophet (PBUH) responded to which such enthusiasm and acceptance in the early days? For how long did Nūh (AS) give da’wah for and how few accepted his call?

 This lack of sincerity and mercy can have disastrous consequences. Too often in our religious zeal, the first things we disseminate to people are fatwas. We are quick to judge others. Again, mostly based on our preconceived version of what Islām should be. Rather than becoming a means of bringing people closer to Allāh Almighty, we can drive them away.

 What people really need is love, understanding and empathy. Many of these people are starved of love; they are suffering from spiritual thirst. Smile at them, show concern about them, and listen to what they have to say and treat them how you would treat yourself.

 The fiqh and fatāwa can come later. Society is suffering from spiritual Alzheimer’s, and Islām has the cure. However, as with any cure, it needs to be prescribed correctly.  We need to instil the concept of Iḥsān, mercy and forgiveness. Allāh Almighty forgives, continues to forgive and will continue to do so. He forgave a mass murderer who killed one hundred people; so there is hope for everyone.

Religion is here to unite us. Let us all love, make our hearts expansive and let everyone know that the door of Allāh Almighty is always open.

And Allāh knows best.

 Hāroon Ibn Ebrāhim Sīdat.