Ayah 3

Page 1

VOL 1.3

AYAH

DECEMBER 2021

Islamic Society of Britain

COP26 & the nature of God Give blood, save lives

The Beauty of Marriage “The best of you is the best to his wives, and I am the best of you to my wives”


Assalamu alaykum! Asalama'laikum Welcome to another edition of Ayah, where we will continue to explore the diversity and beauty of the Muslim world and reflect on our shared religious and cultural heritage. The values of the Islamic Society of Britain have always been at the forefront of our endeavours as a collective, but in these unprecedented times of personal loss and global urgency, there has been a greater need for us to come together as a group of active believers, so that the work we do is not only impactful but also beneficial to our own journeys through life. In seeking the company of likeminded people we can share our goals and aspirations in a productive and supportive way and may Allah be pleased with us for our efforts. If you would like to join us in our work, please get in touch at BritIslamisb.org.uk In this edition, the first part of a series, we will explore the Islamic decorative arts and their historical impact as a means to endorsing the concept of Ihsan. We will look into the essential need for blood donation, which unfortunately has low uptake in Muslim communities, as a means to fulfilling our obligations in belief. We will explore the resonance and impact of the COP26 conference in Glasgow with reportage from our Campus members on the ground. We have a reflection from one of our attendees at the Campus Autumn residential, giving us a window into the ideas and vision that Campus promotes for our young people on the cusp of their adult lives. And finally we have a beautiful guide to marriage which forms an essential part of what many of those adult lives will be hoping to achieve. Inshallah we hope you will enjoy this edition and will seek to join us and become part of a dynamic group which continues to endeavour to leave a lasting legacy for all people to benefit from. Your Sister, Farah Morley Editor Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by the ISB. The views expressed by writers are their own, and the publication of their articles in this magazine does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch.

@BritIslam

isb.org.uk


Robert Reschid Stanley Imagine that you’re a young, white, working-class man, living in Manchester in the early 1990s, taking the monumental decision to convert to Islam. You’ve never met any other white converts before – certainly not anyone from your own background. Now imagine how you might feel some ten years later, finding out that your own great great great grandfather had in fact, been one of Britain’s first recorded Muslim converts. And that your own family hid the fact of his conversion for nearly a century. This is precisely what happened to my brother, Steven ‘Ibrahim’ Longden, following an unusual discovery made by Brian, our father. Brian had been researching his family history and came across a copy of an old magazine from 1908, named ‘The Crescent’. The magazine featured an interview with our ancestor, Robert Stanley, described as ‘Brother Reschid Stanley’ and in an accompanying photograph, Robert was wearing a fez. As a writer and historian, the synchronicity involved in this tale spurred me on to carrying out extensive research into his life and times. Born in 1828 to a working-class family, Robert Stanley grew up in the cradle of Britain’s Industrial Revolution – Ashton under Lyne during a time of enormous social and political unrest. When he was ten years old, he was fortunate to be apprenticed by his wealthy Uncle John Stanley. John was right-hand man to the famous ‘Prophet Wroe’, founder of a sect named the Christian Israelites; a people who adhered to Mosaic Law. At the age of 19, Robert married Emma Meredith in the Sanctuary Church of the Christian Israelites. The couple then moved just up the road to Stalybridge, setting up their own grocers (specialising in tea) and joining the local Church of England. Emma went on to bear 11 children in their tiny shop-cum-home. In many ways, Robert’s journey towards saying shahada (at the age of 69) is very different to the experiences of other well-known Victorian Muslim converts. He was not middle or upper class, could never afford the opportunity to travel and was entirely self-educated. An avid reader of newspapers and magazines, his outstanding knowledge about foreign affairs led to him being asked to chair local debates soon after his arrival in Stalybridge.

By 1860, President Lincoln’s attempt to end slavery by blockading cotton into the UK directly led to the Lancashire Cotton Famine and during the freezing winter of 1861, the miseries of the starving poor of Stalybridge exploded into the ‘Bread Riots’. Robert was 32 at the time and his shop and home were looted by rioters. Not long after, Robert was voted in as the north of England’s first working-class councillor, then magistrate and then Mayor. Robert cared deeply about fairness and equal opportunities in life. As a magistrate he witnessed the hard effects of poverty and in 1869 was asked to give evidence to Parliament and government ministers on the matter of whether the secret ballot should be introduced to protect working-class voters from bribery and coercion. Robert remained committed to justice for all, even when his public challenges to unfair British foreign policies aimed at Muslims, caused troubles for him. In 1876 he ended his mayoral term and became landlord of the New Inn in Ashton. He still engaged in the tea trade, meeting with tea dealers from across the world at the Manchester Corn Exchange. Their influences perhaps influenced him into instigating correspondence with the Caliph himself, Abdul Hamid II and in one of his early letters he requested that a new translation of the Qur’an (by a non-Christian) should be made. In 1898 at the age of 69, he sold his pub, moved to Manchester with his wife and two grown up daughters and converted to Islam in the presence of his new friend, Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam, taking on the name of ‘Reschid’. Quilliam obviously thought highly of Reschid, appointing him as Vice President of Britain’s first mosque. After his death in 1911 at the age of 83, the family buried Reschid as ‘Robert’ in a Christian grave in Stalybridge – seemingly a practical action, rather than an outright denial of his faith. Possibly because Turkey had just allied with Germany and the country was on the brink of World War 1. His grave was destroyed by the church to build a car park, only two months after my father had discovered the truth about Brother Reschid Stanley - ‘A Distinguished British Musselman’ - as Quilliam described our remarkable ancestor.

More information about Christina’s books, research, and the talks that she gives about Robert Reschid Stanley can be found at www.robertreschidstanley.wordpress.com By Christina Longden


THE ROBERT RESCHID STANLEY BOOKS AND RESEARCH

of Robert Reschid Stanley. The ‘His Own Man’ is the historical biography ‘partner’ book, ‘Imagining Robert Reschid’, is a work of creative fiction; using

plays and monologues that can be made available for free to any community, school, reading or theatre group in order to amplify the messages of religious tolerance and a better understanding of Islam. Available as paperback and eBook via Amazon. See www.robertreschidstanley.com for more details on ordering books and requesting a talk about this incredible man.

Always ‘His Own Man’, Robert ‘Reschid’ Stanley’s life and times are brought into the light for the first time – thanks to the painstaking family history research of his own descendants and through the words of his great x 3 granddaughter, Christina Longden. ‘Rooted in the past, deeply personal and shaping our present … a necessary and timely read in the debate about identity and belonging.’ Baroness Sayeeda Warsi ‘An essential read for anyone interested in challenging preconceived ideas of Muslim and working-class community life.’ Dr Shamim Miah, Senior Lecturer, University of Huddersfield.


‘History matters because it is not only about the past, it is about making the present and shaping the future in a more inclusive, caring and appreciative way… Herein lies the power of Christina Longden’s research, writing and passion: the celebration of that which we have in common – our humanity.’ PROFESSOR CARL CHINN MBE, PH.D


The beauty of Marriage There are many terms for love in Arabic; one of which is ‘hub.’ Hub has the same root as ‘hab’ which means ‘seed.’ The metaphor would allude to germination and growth into something that has beauty and integral value. One day, A’isha RA asked how Muhammad (saw) would describe his love for her and he replied, ‘Like a strong binding knot.’ Normally, the more a knot is tugged, the stronger it becomes. Later A’isha RA would ask him playfully ‘How is the knot?’ ‘As strong as the first day (you asked) he replied.’ One gets an idea from this of the intensity of love and affection between God’s Messenger and his wife and the playful, light conversations that would sometimes pass between them. In the well known first verse of Surah 4, Allah says: “O Mankind, Be conscious of your Sustainer, who has created you out of one living entity, and out of it created its mate, and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and women. And remain conscious of Allah, in whose name you demand (your rights) from one another, and of those ties of kinship…” Interestingly, ‘ties of kinship’ are referenced as ‘ties of the womb’ and reverence to them is mentioned as second only to revering our Creator. Some scholars touch on the dignity, nobility and honour afforded to the procreative capacity of women through this tender and beautiful reference to the womb. On the topic of marriage, Allah says in Surah 51 verse 49: “And of everything We have created pairs, that you may remember.” The Oneness of God contrasts with His often dual and contrasting nature of creation; whether it be night and day, the sun and moon or indeed the male and the female. It is in the coming together of the pair, the male and the female, where new life and possibilities begin.


This next iconic Quranic verse, often printed on wedding cards, qualifies 3 of the ethical principles of marriage:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” Indeed Quranic verses would suggest many such

principles that we would do well to institute within our relationships and homes. These include: • Adl -Justice • Qist-Fairness • Ma’ruf-Goodness • Ihsan- Kindness, beauty • ‘Afw -Magnanimity • Taqwa -God consciousness • Muwaddah -Love • Rahma-Mercy • Fadl- Graciousness • Birr -Righteousness

Mutual consultation is also mentioned as a principle in Surah 2:233 whilst referring to the joint decision to wean a child …”And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them.” These ethical principles set the stage for Muslim marriages as formidable institutions of love and mercy; with homes in which we feel tranquil, rested and at ease. This would be a far cry from homes where we may feel intimidated, insecure and would rather flee from instead of to.

The Stages of Marriage What should we expect the course of marriage to look like? Most marriages grow and change and go through stages.

Stage 1 Romantic love: This is a stage characterised by strong feelings of love and togetherness. It can last a few years and is marked by a significant sense of ‘we’ as opposed to ‘I.’ Rational thought may be affected in this stage as surges of neurochemicals such as oxytocin and endorphins are released in the brain. Here we show only our best side and see no wrong in our partner.

Stage 2 Disillusionment: Here differences can become sources of irritation. Why are you not more like me? Why are you not living up to the ideal expectation I had in Stage 1? The ‘we’ becomes the ‘I’ with power struggles surfacing and boundaries being drawn . This stage can be confusing and couples may drift apart and separate. Equally, greater understanding can be built by working through differences and disillusionment.


Stage 3 Acceptance: In this stage, through hard work, a new equilibrium can be reached. We realise that we have married individuals who have varying reasons for why they are who they are; they have vices and virtues. A deep friendship and trust develops and there may well be a yearning for the romance of stage 1! This stage involves understanding oneself, the spouse and putting effort into listening and problem solving.

Stage 4 Stability: In this stage, the hard work of the preceding stages leads to a greater understanding of individual identities and mutual love and understanding. You may well enjoy your own individual interests. The sharing of life goals and values cements the relationship and you enjoy a deep love that has grown from the effort of the preceding stages.

What may be some of the red flags that we would advise youngsters on the cusp of marriage to look out for? Shaikh Akram Nadwi has written on one such topic: that of secret marriages. His article “On secret marriages” remarks that a nikah is an open declaration and proclamation of marriage that binds together two individuals and consequently two families. In contrast, secret marriages are a form of exploitation and abuse. In fact, he goes so far as to state that secret marriages are ‘one of several kinds of violation by men of the rights and dignity of women.’ Another threat to the ‘sukun’ and peace of the home would be that of abusive behaviour which can manifest openly as assaults and threats and also subtly as humiliation and any behaviour that frightens the victim; isolating them from family and friends and depriving them of their independence. In fact coercive control is a criminal offence. Compare this to the words and actions of our beloved Messenger AS:

“The best of you is the best to his wives, and I am the best of you to my wives” (Tirmidhi)

May Allah bless us with homes built upon the principles of nurturing tranquility through muwaddah/love and rahma/mercy


Give blood, save lives for God’s sake When Muslims hear their faith being pilloried as a religion of killing, violence, and terrorism, they frequently respond by quoting the following verse from Surah Maa’idah:

… whoever kills a person, not in retaliation for a person killed, nor (as a punishment) for spreading disorder on the earth, is as if he has killed the whole of humankind, and whoever saves the life of a person, is as if he has saved the life of the whole of humankind. (5:32) It is a beautiful teaching which Muslims are rightly proud to share with others. It highlights, in amplified terms, the enormity of taking an innocent life, and the excellence of saving a life. On one hand, when Muslims quote verse 5:32, it is something to be praised. We need to quote scripture more in 21st century Britain. The Quran should be part of the national conversation, the popular consciousness. On the other hand, quoting it only in a reactionary way, as a counter-argument to an accusation of violence, belies a passive relationship with the Quran. We often reach for the Quran as a shield, rather than using it as springboard. So how can this verse be promoted actively, rather than passively? Preventing the killing of innocents in the world is a noble goal but is out of the sphere of influence of many Muslims in Britain. The second half of the verse, however, we can seek to apply in our lives. We should go out and try to save lives.


There are some people in society who are blessed by virtue of their professions to save lives on a regular basis. Doctors, paramedics, nurses, midwives and pharmacists may save lives every day and, over the course of a career, a single individual may have saved perhaps hundreds of lives. It is said that Dr Heimlich, who invented the manoeuvre used to save a choking person, must have tens of thousands of saved lives to his credit. But cast the net wider, beyond healthcare, dozens of jobs can save lives. Those working in health and safety, vehicle design, road layouts, public transport, drug development, environmental toxin testing, gas boiler installation, building regulations – the list of jobs in which people save lives is myriad. What matters for Muslims in these fields is that they actively renew their intention to save lives every day of their working lives. It is not enough to have lofty goals for embarking on a career, only to forget these as one progresses through life. Nor is it sufficient to have entered a field for another purpose (wealth for example) and to save lives almost as an aside. Each working day should begin with an active reaffirmation, a Niyyah, of the intention to save a life for the sake of Allah. There are others also who may save lives, not as part of their jobs, but apparently serendipitously, for Allah is the best of planners . The pedestrian who pulls back a child from walking into a road, the jogger who plunges into a lake to save a drowning swimmer, the commuter who persuades a suicidal jumper to step down. All of these may save lives by rare or single opportunities. They are unexpectedly presented with an opportunity to save a life and must react, often with speed and courage, to seize that, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity.

We may never encounter such a circumstance, but all of us can play out the scenarios hypothetically in our minds and (again) make an intention that, should we ever be in that situation, we would rush to save a life for Allah’s sake. But besides professional and opportunistic live savers, what other possibilities are there to save lives? Fortunately, God has afforded many of us the chance to save a life, not just once, but multiple times in our lives by donating blood! A national blood donation service started in the UK in 1946. World War One had seen the first serious attempts at blood donation to save lives on the battlefield, and the Second World War prompted the establishment of a rudimentary blood bank for civilians injured in air raids. This paved the way for what is one of the NHS’ shining achievements: a network of 1700 venues where people can donate blood, often on a regular basis several times a year. Currently around 2 million blood donations are collected annually in the UK. Donated blood is used to save patients who lose blood during operations, people who bleed from trauma or injuries and in childbirth. Some patients with blood disorders need regular blood transfusion for years to keep them alive. It is said that a single blood donation can save three lives. For this reason, regular long-term donors may save dozens of people’s lives during their donating span. Barry Hyman, a man who has donated for 50 years, has saved literally hundreds of lives. The question is, will the next UK super-donor in 30 years’ time be another Barry, or instead be a Bilal or a Bilquis? Where are Muslims in the UK blood donation picture? Figures which break down donors by faith are hard to come by, but what is clear is that BAME communities in general are under-represented in blood donors (5%) compared to the general population (14%). Anecdotally, although I live in a very mixed area of London, with many Muslims, I rarely see the “mosque demographic” in the blood donor centre. Many British Muslims do of course donate, but it appears to be a minority in our community who are regular donors. Curious as to why, I conducted an informal survey of my Muslim contacts to get a feel for whether people are donating and if not, why not? I found that the commonest response was: it’s a good thing, I’ve just never got round to it. The lack of awareness of blood donation as a thing to do, of understanding its importance and value, or prioritising it, seemed to be a barrier. The absence of a culture of blood donation is holding many back. Many Muslims don’t know family members or friends who give blood, so the thought doesn’t occur to them. We haven’t yet reached a critical, self-propagating level of donors.


Others cited different reasons. They had given blood once or twice in their lives but do not donate regularly due to lack of time or busy lives. Some had medical conditions that precluded donation. Other people felt reluctance in giving part of their body which Allah had given them as a trust. One felt hesitant giving blood to a recipient who may be “a bad person”. But the dominant picture was simply inertia, not opposition. Interestingly, nobody seemed to have a concern regarding the permissibility in Fiqh of giving blood, probably due to the widespread Fatawa given in support of it. When Muslims reflect on what blood donation is, what it entails, what it results in, I think donor numbers in our community will rise sharply. First, we should consider the issue of justice; secondly, the issue of charity. Unlike Jehova’s Witnesses, who refuse to accept blood transfusion on religious grounds, there is probably no Muslim in the UK who would turn down blood if it was needed to save their life, or the life of one of their family. At the drop of a hat, we would take blood donated by others, mostly non-Muslim of course. So if we are ready to receive, how come we are not ready to donate? Where is the equity in that social transaction? Muslims are meant to be people who stand firm for justice (4:135), bearing witness to justice (5:8). In Surah Mumtahina we read: 'Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from showing goodness toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly' (60:8). We live in the UK at peace, free to practise our religion. We have a duty though for justice in all our transactions with the wider community, and beyond that, of goodness. Besides justice though, there is the issue of charity. Muslims are generous folk – we do like to spend in good causes. To people who love charity then, I submit: might not blood donation be one of highest forms of charity for the sake of God?

In Surah Baqarah, one of the core characteristics of the Muttaqiin (the God-centered) is stated: they spend out of what We have provided them (2:3). If we reflect, what can be more fundamental, more elemental, as a God-given provision, out of which to spend, than our own blood. “Say: My prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.” (6:162). In donating blood, we are literally giving some of what makes us alive. Furthermore, in Surah Aal-Imran, we are told: None of you will attain al-Birr until you give out of what you cherish (3:92). By giving what is most precious to us – and what material or substance is more precious than our blood? - may we not find a route to al-Birr (piety, righteousness). With the right intention, of course. One of the noblest manners in charity is to give without seeking reward or thanks from the recipient. As in Surah Insan (76:9): “We feed you seeking only Allah's Face. We wish for no reward nor thanks from you.” It is a beautiful feature of the blood donation service that the donors are anonymous to the recipients. Donors never do it for thanks. And of course blood donation is unpaid – unless you count the biscuits and crinkle crisps you get at the end. Furthermore, blood donation is a collective charity. People from all walks of life, of all faiths and none, from the age of 17-66, come together in reverent, quiet gatherings to participate in a benevolent act for the benefit of those in need. And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. (5:2)

Are we not in need to join in with some of the most altruistic members of British society in a collective act of social goodness? It’s a nice crowd, the blood donation crowd. And it’s a rare opportunity for a social gathering of sorts with non-Muslims where the strongest drink in the room is orange squash.


Blood donation for a Muslim is more than the transfer of a biological fluid from one body into a bag, and from that bag into another body. It is an opportunity to please God. The intention behind giving, the motivation for it, is what really counts. Doesn’t God say about the blood-letting of the sacrificial animals of hajj?:

Neither their flesh reaches Allah nor their blood; it is your piety that reaches Him (22:37).

Finally, on a deeper level, blood donation resonates with another verse of the Quran. At the outset of human history, when God made Adam, we are told the angels said: “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” (2:30). No doubt they were right in their foreboding, when we consider how much blood has been spilt by humans in war and conflict. But how will the angels regard it when they see British Muslims, “shedding” their own blood to help save lives of people they will never know, while they silently praise and glorify God, with the gentle hum of the blood pump in the background. Did they ever foresee that, the angels? For Muslims, blood donation should be an opportunity to come closer to Allah. It should be motivated by the desire to spend and sacrifice something precious for God’s sake, to help His creatures who are suffering, and to save lives. Go to giveblood.co.uk, sign up, and book your donation date today.

Abu Musa


‫َو َق اَل َرُّبُكُم اْد ُع وِني‬ ‫َأ‬ ‫َل‬ ‫ُك‬ ۚ ‫ْس َت ِج ْب ْم‬ And your Lord says, "Call upon me; I will respond to you..." Quran 40:60


COP26 & The Nature of God As I am sure you are all aware, COP26 was recently held in Glasgow, the freezing city in which I live during term time. Over two weeks, world leaders, their translators and nature ambassadors of every kind, flooded the city to discuss the end of the world, and whether or not it was in their best interests to save it. The city in the weeks prior to their descent was transformed. Posters at bus stops, new graffiti, flyers, restaurant chalkboards all appeared overnight. Everywhere you turned were words as well art begging for a good outcome, desperate to save something precious to every one of us.

We all do our part, I’m sure. We recycle our cardboard, walk and cycle rather than drive, use a reusable water bottle, maybe even make an effort to eat less meat. Mine and my friends’ awareness of the state of world was heightened at this time, as discussions and debates about environmental politics and the dire situation of the current climate abounded. My flat mate and I decided to go to one of the many marches being held in the city during those two weeks and saw the plethora of people who came out to demonstrate in the name of both environmental and human rights. Groups of students all wielding green flags, representatives from big organisations as diverse as the RSPCB and BLM, passionately speaking on the environment and how environmental change is an issue that disproportionally affects people of colour. We learnt that the nations affected most due to their proximity to the equator, where temperatures even rising a few degrees, has caused parts of those countries to have become uninhabitable. Representing this group of people, facing an existential crises, were representatives from the Minority Rights Group, all members in their native dress, whether they were natives of the Pacific Islands or Inuits.

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). Surah Al-Hujurat (49:13 )‫الحجرات‬ It was beautiful seeing people from all corners of the globe come together, all wanting to save our world. We all have things that make us want to save our planet, whether it is love of animals, love of humanity or simply just wanting to preserve a beautiful world for our own children and grandchildren. But if nothing else makes you want to make the most of trying to help the climate, our own religion makes it clear that to be a Muslim is not just to love Allah, but His creation too. When looking at the solutions to the climate problems we can see many are taught through the Quran and Sunnah.

“And it is He (God) who has made you successors (khala’ifa) upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Surah Al-An'am(6:165 )‫)األنعام‬. As the COP26 madness subsided in the city, I was whisked off to attend the ISB Campus residential. The weekend was focused on the theme of ‘Seeking the Divine’. My mind, having been saturated with images and messages concerning the environment and humanity’s wellbeing, was now turning over the importance of God in nature, sparked by what we learned during our workshops and discussions. Nature and the natural intrinsic to the identity of God, whose names include Al-Khaaliq, The Creator, or Al-Muhyee, The giver of life, do not just relate to us, but to all of creation.


God describes Himself to us through His identity as the Creator of our world and all things living on it. A particular question that came up in one of our workshops at the Campus residential was how to feel close to God. A popular answer was indeed by contemplating nature. This idea however is not new and the example of retreating to nature to seek The Divine can be seen throughout the stories of many prophets (pbut): Musa (pbuh) was a shepherd, Muhammad (saw) sought refuge on Mount Hira and even Maryam (as) went out into the desert to deliver Isa (pbuh); trusting completely in Allah and His natural resources to help her at such a vulnerable time. The example of seeking The Divine in nature is intrinsic to our understanding of spirituality and understanding God. Aside from this obvious but often neglected aspect of simply practicing awareness of God, our duty to protect the environment is mentioned in the Quran.

In Surah Ar-Rahman (55: 7-8) Allah reminds us that ‘The sun and the moon (move) by precise calculation and the stars and the trees prostrate. The heaven He raised and imposed the balance. That you do not transgress within the balance…’. Nature owes its creation to God and worships him for the same reasons we do. The key word in this verse is ‘balance’. This world was created perfect and we as Muslims are not meant to upset that balance. It is also stated in the Quran, that maintaining that balance is a responsibility of our faith:

“Indeed, We (God) offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant." Surah Al-Ahzab (33:22)

Ozdemir calls this ‘environmental colonialism’ and explains in order to avoid this, these leaders must see caring for the environment as a spiritual obligation. In another article by Safa Faruqui called 'Explained: Environmental Rights in Islam', the focus is placed on caring for nature, as not only a spiritual obligation to passively admire creation, but to take an active role in preserving nature too. This article examines the Islamic idea of hima meaning ‘protected area’, for which the Prophet (saw) set specific rules. He established protected areas in and around the city of Madinah. An example would be ‘Hima ash-Shajar’ meaning ‘The Protected Area of Tree’ in order to encourage biodiversity and made it forbidden to hunt or chop down trees in that area. This is one of the many examples of areas set up by the Prophet (saw) but also by his followers. This is an example which we should clearly take on board.

But ultimately, how much can one person do? We are in a situation where just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions and many show no sign of stopping. Despite any progress that we may have been promised by world leaders at COP26, we should not lose hope in our own personal battle to keep our beautiful world alive. It is our spiritual duty to take care of our planet. It is also a beautiful thing to do in remembrance of Allah. Other life on this earth should be valued alongside our own lives, as Allah says

“And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” Surah Al-An'am (6:38)

It was a task taken on by mankind that other creation feared was too much responsibility for them. We were designated as guardians of the earth and cannot shirk that responsibility that was imposed on us by God. Through my research for this piece, I came across an article called ‘What does Islam say about climate change and climate action’ by Professor Ibrahim Ozdemir. In his article he examines the idea of ‘Islamic environmentalism’ and how, despite the fact that it is an intrinsic part of our religion, many Muslim majority countries are a big part of the problem when it comes to climate destruction. Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population, is the world’s fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Bangladesh and Pakistan continue to suffer from heavy pollution. Unfortunately these countries, and many others like them, have been resistant to change sought by climate activists. Just recently during COP26, the Indonesian representatives criticised the global deal to end deforestation by 2030. The Indonesian Environmental Minister said that deal was ‘clearly inappropriate and unfair’ and stated they would ‘not promise what we can’t do’. Ozemdir cites that reluctance to follow environmental concerns may stem from the fact that many people in countries like these see it as affected by Western ideology, or perhaps are simply reluctant to bow to countries who have already gone through their process of industrialising without caps on emissions, thereby disadvantaging poorer countries in their attempts to modernise.

Image taken from Street Art Utopia

We are taught to value natural life as highly as that of human life, and perpetrating its destruction is not something we, as Muslims should be complicit in. A prime example of the emergence of this Islamic environmentalism was seen by me when I returned to Glasgow. With shops promoting vegetarian foods and the wonderful news that Glasgow Central Mosque’s request for solar panels had been approved, these were small things that make me hopeful of a brighter future and encourage me to take a more active role in affecting positive change for the climate. Bibliography Faruqui, Safa. 2021. Explained: Environmental Rights in Islam ( Accessed via Muslim Hands website) Ozdemir, Ibrahim. 2020. What does Islam say about climate change and climate action? (Accessed via Aljazeera News website)

Isra Morley


Surah Ash-Sharh (The Relief) “Did We not expand for you, [O Muhammad], your breast?

‫َأَلْم َنْش َرْح َلَك َص ْد َر َك‬

And We removed from you your burden

‫َوَو َض ْع َن ا َع نَك ِو ْز َر َك‬

Which had weighed upon your back

‫َظ ْه َرَك‬

And raised high for you your repute.

For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.

Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.

So, when you have finished [your duties], then stand up [for worship].

And to your Lord direct [your] longing.” Quran (94:1-8)

‫ٱَّلِذ ٓى َأنَق َض‬

‫َوَر َف ْع َن ا َلَك ِذ ْك َرَك‬ ‫َف ِإ َّن َم َع ٱْلُع ْس ِر ُيْس ًرا‬ ‫ِإ َّن َم َع ٱْلُع ْس ِر ُيْس ًرا‬ ‫َف ِإ َذ ا َف َرْغ َت َف ٱنَص ْب‬ ‫َو ِإ ٰىَل َر ِّبَك َف ٱْر َغ ب‬


Surah Ash-Shahr Tafsir This is an early Makkan chapter, closely related to the chapter Ad- Duha in that it offers comfort to our Beloved Messenger. Some companions indeed recited these two chapters together without the Bismillah in between. Imagine the comfort and solace the Prophet would have felt on hearing both chapters revealed to him directly by his Lord at a time of difficulty and

struggle.

By illuminating his heart, God inspires us to carefully consider the value of a heart which is able to expand and constrict. For example, in chapter 6, verse 125, God illustrates the expanded heart and the constricted heart so that we can further understand the role of our hearts in our journeys: “Whomever God wills to guide, God opens their heart to Islam. But whomever God wills to leave astray, God makes their chest tight and constricted as if it were climbing up into the sky.”

Verse two talks about the weight of Prophethood which was heavy indeed. It is said that the Messenger would visibly sag on receiving revelation. If on a camel, the camel would sag, as if heavier. A companion reported that whilst sitting next to the Prophet with his thigh against his, Muhammad’s thigh became heavy against him as revelation was received. This indeed is the very message that would have led to the mountains crumbling. God lifted this weight by inspiring the heart of the Prophet with light and divine inspiration and removing any ignorance. Verses three and four draw our attention to the honour bestowed upon the name of Muhammad. In every call to prayer that rings across every nation, Muhammad’s name is celebrated. In every prayer across the world, Muhammad is mentioned and prayers and blessings are sent upon him. His name is praised in Scriptures before the Quran.


“Indeed, We have given you (O Muhammad), a clear conquest that God may forgive for you what preceded of your sin and what will follow and complete God’s favour upon you and guide you to a straight path” - Quran (48:2) “Indeed, God confers blessing upon the Prophet, and God’s angels (are asked by God to do so). O you who have believed, ask (God to confer) blessings upon

him and ask (God to grant him) peace.” Quran (33:56) What a noble and elevated position the Beloved has! Verses five and six explore the idea that with every difficulty comes ease. Here, God comforts the Prophet that with every difficulty there is ease, if we show beautiful patience. This verse is then repeated, perhaps to emphasise the message or because, as

some scholars say there will be one ease in this life and one in the next for every difficulty. Verses seven and eight bring the Prophet’s focus back to worship. So, when Muhammad had finished with his tasks, God advises him to devote himself to God in worship. To God should he turn his attention and his hopes. Once the jobs of the day and the voluntary actions had been completed, the Messenger of God should turn in prayer to God, especially with his voluntary night prayers.


The elephant in the room HOW ELEPHANTS FEATURED IN THE NARRATIVE OF THE PROPHET'S BIRTH, THE INVASION OF MECCA AND BRITAIN. CROSS-CULTURE EXPERIENCES I was fascinated with the fact that Britain, as well as Mecca were invaded by war elephants. As I like to draw similarities between Islamic and British events, as often history repeats itself, here is why the invasions occurred, the use of elephants and their outcomes. The story of the invasion of Mecca can be found in the Quran, titled ‘Fil’, meaning elephant. It describes the mighty, but fruitless campaign of Abraha, the Christian Abyssinian ruler of Yemen, who attempted to use elephants to destroy the Kaaba in Makkah. Historians

and

scholars

have

different

opinions of the specific year, some as early as 552 while others suggest 570, around the Prophet Muhammad’s (Pbuh) birth year. The local Meccan spokesman of the time was A Persian miniature taken from the Siyer-i Nebi - a Turkish epic about the life of Muhammad, around 1388, regarding the Year of the Elephant commissioned by Ottoman ruler Murad III. Credit: New York Public Library.

Abdul-Muttalib bin Hashim. Abraha wanted to conquer Mecca because he wanted to divert Arab pilgrims to his illustrious church in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, of which the archaeological remains are still present. As the Quranic documentation tells us, the Abyssinian mission failed partly due to the elephant’s refusal to advance to the Kaaba but also an influx of flying creatures pelleting the invaders with pebbles. Other traditions say the flying creatures infected the invaders with smallpox or measles. The message of the story to the world is that Mecca will always be under Allah’s protection. This contrasts with the invasion of Britain (Britannia as it was called), which occurred over 500 years earlier. In the summer of 43AD - a decade after the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) - the Romans landed in Britain, soon invading Colchester, the capital of England, using war elephants and approximately 40,000 soldiers. The invasion was led by Emperor Claudius against the local British princes of Togodummus and Caratacus. The reason for Claudius’s invasion was to boost to his domestic prestige in Rome. He succeeded and Roman rule swept Britain. It marked new architectural styles, coinage, roads, clothing, and literacy over another 350 years, and their legacy can be seen in many towns, such as Chester, York and Bath.


What was the significance of the elephants? Historians believe it was a deliberate attempt to evoke the memory of previous successful campaigns of both the Roman and Abyssinian armies, and the trumpeting and scent of the elephants could spook the enemy horses and intimidate the opposition. The elephants too, could serve as pack animals but there was also a symbolic element that was understood in Rome where triumphal chariots were shown drawn by elephants – for glory and pride. Bibliography and Further Reading: Quran Chapter 105; Tafsir Al-Qur'an Al-Azim by Ibn Kathir; The Meaning of the Glorious Quran by Marmaduke Pickthall; Abraha and Muḥammad: Some Observations Apropos of Chronology and Literary “topoi” in the Early Arabic Historical Tradition by Conrad, L. I. (1987); AD 43: the Roman invasion of Britain: A reassessment by John Manley; English Heritage Trust (english-heritage.org.uk)

Left: Roman soldiers in a 21st century demonstration. Right: Roman ruins in Colchester by John Armagh. Bottom image: what developed Roman Colchester would have looked like Peter Froste

Adam Marikar


Nov, 2021

SEEKING THE DIVINE

“I was amongst those who attended the recent ISB Campus residential at Markfield Conference Centre between the 12th and 14th of November. I have been coming to these Campus residentials for a while and I never fail on these weekends to make new friends, learn new things about my religion and get to revel in the beautiful community ISB Campus has created for young, forward-thinking Muslims. The topic for this weekend was Seeking the Divine, with a particular focus on understanding Allah through his 99 names and how we are to understand God through these titles. I thought this topic, as it was more broad that others that have been used in previous Campus events really lent itself to our first residential since the pandemic and helped welcome back old veterans and newly receive lots of new members too. This weekend the topic, as usual, was explored through a mixture of workshops, discussions, reminders and a Q and A session. My particular favourite was given by Dr Rizwan Syed entitled God Beyond His 99 Names, as I feel he really encouraged us to address the way we treat language and understand God in terms of the language we use about him. However I feel like all these workshops and discussions really encouraged us to actively engage with the language of divinity and to perhaps even reassess our understanding of the nature of the divine. These Campus residential are unique spaces as far as I have experienced when it comes to learning about Islam, addressing both wider issues through the workshops and personal issues of faith and practice that are addressed in our reminders and Q and A sessions. I would recommend them to anyone interested in broadening their minds and increasing their understanding of their religion. Leaving the Campus it is impossible not to miss the people, the welcoming and encouraging atmosphere and inspiring lessons. I look forward to the next campus event (which is hoped to be held in the summer) and would encourage anyone interested to join us for a unique experience with amazing and insightful people.”

A report from a Campus attendee


Ihsan

Ihsan, like so many words in Arabic, cannot be translated into just one English word that can encompass its broad and deep meaning. The primary meaning of the word Ihsan is perfection, however, goodness, excellence and beautification are equally applicable. The root word of Ihsan comes from husn meaning beauty. It is a matter of taking one's inner belief and faith (Iman) and demonstrating it in both deed and action that creates beauty and is beautiful in and of itself. One of the most striking ways that Muslims have shown this love of beauty, is in decorative arts and architecture of the Muslim world. From the minarets and arabesques of Masjids on the Silk Road, to the verdant inner courtyards of Moorish homes, everywhere you look in the Muslim world is an exuberance of artistic endeavour, a concerted effort to remind the believer that: "Verily, Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty" (Sahih hadith according to Al-Albani) When the Muslims were eventually overcome by the conquests of the latter years and their armies could no longer defend against the emerging powers from both West and East, it was this very part of their existence that not only remained unconquerable, but in some way or another seemed to defeat their enemies.


When the Mongol hoards descended from their destructive conquests of the near East and saw the visions of Bukhara and Samarkand they were seduced by the splendour at first and then by the ideology of belief that created it. Legend has it that when Ferdinand and Isabella commanded their troops to destroy the Alhambra after the Reconquista, the soldiers wept and refused to participate in the destruction of such beauty. When the British conquered Mughal India, the die was cast, from Georgian society’s addiction to muslin and chintz to the construction of the Pavilion in Brighton, all things ‘Oriental’ were seen as the height of sophistication. Even now the most famous Interior designers in London such as Susan Dellis, Robert Kime, Alidad, Lulu Little, Colefax and Fowler to name a few, pay homage to this Islamic legacy. Muslims still disproportionately make up the artisans and craftsmen in India, where they are a distinct minority of the population.

Muslims, as inheritors of this legacy, should be informed of this proud and rich tradition in order to bring this vision of Ihsan into their homes. After all there is no greater reminder than our surroundings that….. “Verily, Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty.” Sahih hadith according to Al-Albani

Farah Morley


WHY I HATED

Christmas AND HOW I LEARNED NOT TO... Winter is certainly warmed by the cheer of twinkle lights and festive preparations, but I am so thankful not to have to partake in all the material madness. Half of my family do celebrate the festival – and with full gusto, so I can witness first-hand not just the excitement but also how burdensome it can be. My middle child, when she was younger, constantly bemoaned the fact that we didn’t have a Christmas tree and all the trappings that came with it. I can understand how enticing and magical it must have seemed to her as a child, how it must have filled her with dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out). Now, I find it really amusing that in her student flat she has banned Christmas decorations outright and put a moratorium on ‘cheer' until she has departed for the holidays. She has used indefensible waste and a mindful approach to sustainability as her defence. However, I think she may secretly be a Grinch or a Dickensian villain…… or maybe she is just like her mother…..

Now, not having given much thought to why I apparently hated Christmas, I was suddenly struck by the possible truth of this pronouncement. But if so, then why? Was it the wasteful excess and materialism that it had come to represent? Well, if I am honest, I saw plenty of that in the Eid celebrations in Dubai and Qatar and can’t remember if I paused to disapprove while enjoying them. Or was it the dreaded FOMO that had morphed into hatred in my mind. I didn’t think so, I really liked how happy my non-Muslim friends and neighbours were at this time of year. Much discomposed and a little chagrined I resorted to the cowardly act of asking my daughter to answer the question for me. Is it because it is Fantasy?' she offered. I was taken aback by her insightful observation and a sudden realisation dawned on me. Yes, it was indeed because it was mostly, pure fantasy! I nodded, dumbstruck by the truth of what she had said.

I remember an awkward conversation with my eldest when she was just five years old, well within the earshot of my somewhat disapproving, Christmas loving, mother-in-law, who never quite forgave us for not being there to celebrate the day. My daughter, with the blunt honesty reserved for young children, enquired in a loud voice, why I HATED Christmas? I was mortified. It was not a conversation I had planned to have at my inlaws, maybe not a conversation I had planned to have anywhere. Despite all my feeble denials she insisted I did indeed HATE Christmas!

“But what’s wrong with fantasy?" she quizzed Well, that’s the thing, there is nothing wrong with fantasy as such. But fantasy should be kept far, far away from Religion in my opinion. There should be no fantasy realism in belief. When I explained this to her, she was unsurprisingly perplexed. “But why mama?" she enquired, her eyes big and hopeful for understanding. I blamed myself, after all I had tried to raise her to be an enquiring mind. Undefeated and very aware that in the room all eyes and ears were upon me, I went on to clarify


that when you mix any aspect of fantasy with the truth, which is what belief is based upon, it was like mixing the custard and cream in the bowl of trifle she was eating: you will not know where one begins and the other ends and once they are mixed, they are impossible to separate. So when people consume the truth with the fantasy, they end up swallowing it whole, without being able to tell the two things apart and are fooled into thinking it is all real. But, if they rejecting it all as being ‘fantasy’, they are also missing the truth of God’s guidance and the sweetness that is within. So that is why Fantasy and religion must never mix! I explained. She leaned in and gave me a hug before finishing her trifle, watching closely as the cream mixed with the custard and raising the spoon to her mouth, slowly savouring the sweetness as she contemplated my words. She never asked me about Christmas again. Children have always taught me so much more than I have ever taught them: it felt like she was holding my hand and leading me to a better understanding. It was a beautiful moment. However, over the years, as I have mellowed and matured, I have come to acknowledge that Christmas is very different for people around the world. Indeed, my children’s Christian friends from Ghana, Egypt and Nigeria also struggle with these issues, as they see an encroaching materialism taking over a deeply spiritual time of the year. They also don’t have Christmas trees, my middle child proclaimed with a beaming face, slaying the FOMO monster. So, what should Christmas mean to us? Well, whatever you want it to mean. An annoyance, a distraction, or an opportunity to honour the life and lessons from our beloved Prophet Isa (pbwh) -To reacquaint ourselves with Surah Mariam, which always moves me to tears with its lyrical beauty. To lend a helping hand at soup kitchens and charity fairs and to give kindness and hope to all those who may be in need. A wonderful time to reconnect with family around a dinner

table, to give thanks for the blessings of the seasonal harvest. Surely, that is what Christmas was all about anyway for Christians long ago. We can certainly do that at any time of the year for sure, but how wonderful to celebrate our commonality in belief when the world seeks to divide us. After all Muslims are the only ones that share the belief in the story of the birth of Jesus (pbwh) with Christians, we are both the inheritors of Prophet Isa’s message. As for hating Christmas, I certainly don’t hate it anymore. It is just another reminder of Allah’s miracles and mercy to us. I do hate the film Die Hard though!

Farah Morley


Cashmere Or Kashmir

How Kashmiri style lasted a century in European Fashion by Adam Marikar


This article takes many passages from ‘Paisley Patterns a Design Source Book’ by Reilly Valerie Kashmir is known for its beauty, similar to the Lake District or Scottish Highlands, and biodiversity, but also of the conflict between India and Pakistan. However, we often forget that it was the origin of a sophisticated clothing design, producing a repetitive pattern of teardrops or kidney shapes known in Britain as the Paisley Pattern (originally called Cashmere shawl design) – And it resulted in a fashion trend that lasted a century, worn by wealthy European women and later by the working class in the 18th century. The Cashmere shawl design entered Europe through East Indian Company agents, which was an English trade company as part of the British Empire. But, due to the expensive costs the British textile factories decided to make production locally. It became known as the ‘Paisley pattern’ in the Victorian mind as it was Paisley, a large town just outside of Glasgow which took on mass production to recover from a decline in silk production. Edinburgh, Norwich and Stockport in Manchester too, produced the pattern while in Europe, it was Paris and Vienna. In Kashmir, the patterns were almost exclusive to the Maharaja Princes, due to their extortionate cost. Their cost was due to a process which took up to 2-3 years by the weaver, as well as the wool coming from a central Asian goat in the Himalayas whose under fleece had a soft and thick feel due to its very fine fibres. This is where the name ‘cashmere’ comes from, but any goats undercoat is now considered ‘cashmere’. Attempts to bring over the goats that produced the high-grade cashmere were unsuccessful so instead, European manufactures used yarns of silk combined with local wool or cotton to provide an imitation feel. Another aspect of the design was the ‘pine design’ which was a universal pattern seen in early Indian, Celtic and Middle Eastern art. In Indian art it may have been linked to mango trees but also the date palm in Babylon (now called Iraq) because it provided fruit, thatch, wood, paper and drink. This has been also narrated by the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) saying ‘There is a tree amongst trees, the leaves of which do not wither and that is like a Muslim’. The answer was the date palm. The town of Paisley often copied designs, nevertheless, they did get themselves into trouble by pirating designs made in England. Later the pattern was printed using printing blocks rather than woven in. However, as people started to wear jackets and capers, the paisley pattern industry declined by the 1890s. I’m sure some of you are thinking, didn’t the British Asians help in this textile industry? They did however, they arrived a century later in the 1950-1970s. They included Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Next time we see the pattern, such as on the Manchester City FC kit or a shirt, maybe it will inspire you to think of the trade, people and designers of Kashmir. Bibliography and Further Reading: Paisley Patterns a Design Source Book by Reilly Valerie; Paisley Museum; V&A Dundee website - Suchitra Choudhury, Sahih al-Bukhari Book 3, Hadith 14.


ISB Classical to Contemporary Learning Modules Transformational Youth Leadership Programme: • Exciting modules have been broken down into short 20 minute sections to suit our busy lives •Fascinating topics critical to developing an understanding of how to live faithfully in our context today are available in an easy to use format Courses include: *The Spiritual Code *The Imams *Slavery *Human Rights *Gender Ethics

📖 To access: Log onto tylp.org, sign in, find ‘All courses’ and click on ‘All categories’ to find the ‘ISB Classical to Contemporary’ modules More modules will be uploaded in the near future Alternatively all courses are available in a non modular fashion on https://youtube.com/user/BritIslam Do enjoy and do share!


ISSUE 3

03 The Islamic Society of Britain is a community based charity and not-for-profit company.

Established in 1990, the ISB was one of the first organisations that sought to evolve a uniquely British flavour to Islam. In order for this to happen we felt that Muslims would have to think seriously about understanding their faith in a British context.

If you would like to become a member of ISB, please get in touch.

Adam Marikar / Isra Morley / Rumaysa Bhimani / Christina Longden / Abu Musa / Farah Morley / Bilal Hussain

ISB.ORG.UK

@BRITISLAM


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