Scholar Series: Interview with Maulana Haroon Sidat
By Zahra Patel – 6th October 2014
The following marks the first in a series of short interviews conducted with British Muslim scholars working within their communities. The ‘Scholar Series’ aims to provide readers with a snapshot of the variety of work being done by Muslim leaders as well as the solutions to some of the challenges they feel Muslim communities in Britain are currently facing.
1. Please tell our readers a little bit about the work you do within the Muslim community.
In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Most Beneficent.
My service to the community involves delivering weekly classes and lectures on Qur’an, Hadith, Islamic Spirituality and a variety of current issues. In addition, I run a blog (www.haroonsidat.wordpress.com) where reflections and experiences are shared.
Finally, I am involved in lecturing and running a BA Islamic Sciences programme that is run for the benefit of our future Ulama. We pray that our efforts are accepted.
2. In your opinion, from what you’ve seen working in the Muslim community, what is the biggest challenge facing Muslims in the West today?
There are many and we turn to Allah for assistance. For me, it’s our sense of humanity, compassion, concern and love for one another that requires resurgence. The Qur’an states, “You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah…” (Qur’an 3:110). So where is that practical example today? Where is the righteousness in conduct? Where is the mutual compassion? Where is the humanity?
This then leads to many consequences and problems, which for us, as Muslims in the West are very clear. A wholesale educational and intellectual programme relevant to our context needs to be implanted and most importantly, practiced. I am not referring to solely acts of worship (ibaadah) but a more holistic and wholesome approach. This includes mutual and financial dealings, (muamalat), social dealings (mu’asharat) and our character (akhlaq).
Therefore, in the West, if we wish to contribute and have an opportunity to present Islam to the host community, we will need to inculcate and manifest sterling qualities of The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) not just inside the Mosque but also outside on the streets, in the markets, in our daily activities, and at home. A life of God consciousness will immediately attract people of other faiths and none.
After all, how can you illuminate others if you are bereft of light?
3. How should Muslims go about strengthening their faith and the faith of future generations?
Imaan is a belief that takes root in the heart. What enters this organ has a direct impact on our actions. Everything that we eat, see and hear will either strengthen our faith or weaken it. Therefore, the solution is very simple. We need to ensure that every action in our lives is pure and filled with virtue; eating halal, earning halal, listening and observing to what benefits our hereafter and avoiding anything that has little or no benefit. The more we study, engage, practice and live our faith the stronger will its roots in our hearts become.
In terms of our future generation, it is absolutely essential that we become smart investors and advance our time, energy and money in building outstanding institutions and settle for nothing less. This should then Insha’Allah lead to empowering our children to become confident, articulate and well grounded ambassadors for our religion who are able to navigate their way through many of the modern challenges.
To generate goodness in someone by coercion and to call him a man of good moral character is not possible. Similarly, no faith can be developed in any person by means of force or terrorism. Only personal and intellectual freedom is the sole basis of responsibility and accountability.
Islam understands this reality and respects it. It builds up its edifice on the foundation of excellent moral character. Where is the need for Islam to use force and coercion to bring man to the right path and to make him run towards righteousness, when it has full confidence in the human nature and is certain that if the obstructions before man are removed, then the best generation can be developed?
4. What piece of advice would you give to parents and teachers regarding the tarbiyyah of their children?
Take ownership and responsibility for your flock. The only key piece of advice I will lay out would be for all parents to create an environment at home which fosters learning, creativity, piety, love and passion for knowledge. Your child’s learning does not begin at school or at madrasah; it starts with you. Parents need to immerse themselves in learning and practicing their faith. Children learn from observing and seeing Islam being practiced before them so much more than simply being told what to do. For example, if you want your child to engage with the Qur’an, ask yourself what is your level of engagement with it? Do you read and study it in front of them?
5. How can we in the West, make our mosques, Islamic schools, supplementary schools and Darul ulooms beacons of light for all?
Sincerity – no matter what you teach and at what level it may be. If we are sincere and passionate about what we do, then Insha’Allah there will always be a positive outcome. You have to really believe and love what you do. It should be what keeps you alive and constantly absorbed. You can’t be successful at something unless you are sincere and thrilled by it.
6. Is there any specific hadith, verse or saying that inspires you every day?
If a man is truthful and straight in his speech and dealings, then inevitably there will be truthfulness and sincerity in his actions and goodness and reform in his conditions. By adopting truthful and straight methods in dealing with others, this light of truth also illuminates man’s heart and mind and their darkness also vanishes:
“O you who believe I Fear Allah and (always) say a word directed to the right;, that He may make your conduct whole and sound and forgive you your sins ;. He that obeys Allah and His Messenger has already attained the highest achievement”.
7. Is there any person who is still alive that you would consider your role model, and why?
Forever and eternally grateful to my teachers.