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issue 50 vol. 5 August 2017

Fa i t h :

H I S T O R I C AL AN D R E L I G I O U S AS P E C T S O F H AJ J I n t e rfa i t h :

T H E F AT H E R O F M O N O T H E I S T I C F AI T H S S c i e n ce :

S T AR VI N G I N A R I C H W O R L D C h i l d re n c o r n e r :



issue 50 vol. 5 August 2017

islam today magazine is a monthly magazine

published by the London based Islamic Centre of England. It focuses on the activities of the communities affiliated to the Centre, reflecting a culture of openness and respect towards other religious communities both Islamic and non. The magazine is available in paper and digital format.

Editorial team


Travelling for Peace


Back to Basics: A life less complicated




Historical and religious aspects ofHajj

Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour Amir De Martino Anousheh Mireskandari

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Publisher The Islamic Centre of England 140 Maida Vale London W9 1QB Tel: +44 20 7604 5500 ISSN 22051-250 Disclaimer: All information in this magazine is verified to the best of the authors’ and the publisher’s ability. However, islam today shall not be liable or responsible for loss or damage arising from any users’ reliance on information obtained from the magazine.


Report on visits ofSheikh Shomali to Canada and Switzerland

by Batool Haydar

Journeying to God In the Spotlight In reference Engage My favourite things Heritage by Moriam Grillo by Abbas Di Palma

Purpose ofMarriage 14 The by Kubra Rizvi


The Father ofMonotheistic Faiths


Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi; the magical alchemist ofall eras

by Revd Frank Julian Gelli

by Laleh Lohrasbi

in a rich world 20 Starving By Hannah Smith Guide to Muslim Europe 22 Travel The pining palaces ofPortugal by Tharik Hussain

Corner 24 Children Journeying to God

By Ghazaleh Kamrani

26 What & Where Listing ofEvents

August 2017



Travelling for Peace

Report on Sheikh Shomali's visits to Canada and Switzerland



he Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP), an institute of Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Canada, organised the second session of its five-day courses for the peacebuilders of the world last June. The courses are attended by local, national and international peacebuilders, practitioners, professionals, activists, students, non-governmental organisations, and faith-based groups who are introduced to various approaches to peacebuilding, justice, reconciliation, conflict resolution, and development.

and a Canadian Mennonite Christian, who have collaborated over 10 years in giving expression to their respective faiths in the presence of scholars for the other religion’.

During the session students can select a variety of modules such as: Human Rights and Indigenous Legal Traditions, Gender and Violence, Theology and Peacebuilding, Practices for Transforming the Peacebuilder, Peace Resources in Islam and Christianity. This last module was co-taught by Sheikh Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali and Dr Harry Huebner, described by the course website as ‘two professors, an Iranian Shi‘a Muslim

The course examined the rich resources that each faith tradition offers on the important topics of peace and justice, focusing on both the practices and the theological resources that undergird themes. Dr Shomali, who taught for four days, expounded upon the Islamic understanding of peace, Jihad (Holy Struggle), the coming of Imam Mahdi (a) and Jesus(a) and discussed the

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This particular module attracted 24 registered students, a number which doubled as other students joined in after selecting it as an option ‘sampler’ module. According to Dr Shomali, the classroom was composed of an interesting mix of Christians from different denominations, one Jew, Muslims (both Sunni and Shi‘a), seminarians, teachers and people who work in NGOs.

ways we should work together to bring peace and unity in the world. As the end of the course coincided with the celebration of Eid ul Fitr, Sheikh Shomali led the local Muslim Shi‘a community in the ceremony associated with the Eid prayer at the Yaseen Islamic Centre of Manitoba in Winnipeg. On Monday and Tuesday 26th and 27th of June, Dr Shomali also participated in a mini dialogue session held at the Mennonite University between Shi‘a Muslims from Argentina, Iran, the UK and the USA, and Mennonites and Catholics from Canada and the USA. This was a small group of people who had initially accepted a proposal put forward, a few months earlier by Sheikh Shomali, for a dialogue centred around the concept of ‘Unity’ based on the project in which he had been engaged in Italy with the Focolare movement. The book ‘Wings of Unity’ provided the substance of the discussion. Wednesday the 28th June, was spent visiting a Hutterite

Christian Colony. Hutterites are Christians originated to the time of the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Germany. Hutterites live in communities (colonies) and share all their possessions. All members living in one community collectively ‘own' the assets of that community. Each colony numbers about 100 to150 people. They have breakfast with their family and lunch and dinner with members of the community. Men and women sit in segregated fashion. Women observe a distinctive modest dress code. Their children are educated in their own schools. Their main language is English but they also speak a distinctive German dialect because some of their original scriptures are written in that language. Farming and carpentry are some of their main activities. This was not the first time Dr Shomali had visited a Hutterite colony. Three of the students taking part in the course came from this community, hence the invitation to visit them.

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Kawthar Learning Circle Before leaving Canada, Dr Shomali travelled to Vancouver to lead a retreat organised by the Kawthar Learning Circle with participants coming from various cities across Canada. The theme of this year’s gathering was ‘How to present Islam in the West’. Every day after Fajr prayer, there was a session to reflect on the Qur'an, discussing the chapters AlAsr and An-Nasr. On the last day of his visit seven members of the Focolare community of Vancouver came to visit Dr Shomali providing another opportunity for friendship and cooperation between the Shi‘a Muslim community and members of the Focolare movement. (A more detailed report on the retreat in Vancouver will be published in the next issue.)


World Council of Churches, and attached to the University of Geneva, the Ecumenical Institute offers three distinct study programmes at graduate level. Each year the Institute welcomes a group of students from around the world and from many different religious traditions. Every year the course explores a particular theme according to Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This year’s theme was ‘peace'.

Teaching about Islam at the Ecumenical Institute in Geneva

Dr Shomali introduced the key aspects of Islam, as he did last year. Dr Shomali began his lecture focusing on the historical aspects of Islam tracing its origin back to the Prophet Ibrahim (a) and discussing the position of his sons Ismael and Ishaq. Students were particularly interested in the mention that the Bible makes in Genesis of the coming of a nation from the son of the Prophet Ibrahim (a) and Hagar; Ismael. The Bible mentions twelve rulers, or in some translations, princes, that would descend from the Prophet Ismael (a).

Between the 2nd and 4th of July, Dr Shomali was invited to teach at the Ecumenical Institute in Geneva. A part of the

Following this introduction Dr Shomali discussed the condition of Arabia in general and Makkah in particular on

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the eve of the birth of Islam. The life of the Prophet Muhammad(s) was analysed before and after the beginning of revelation and how the Islamic community began first in Makkah and further developed in Medina.

fasting, alms-giving, Hajj and Jihad. Dr Shomali introduced the students to the Islamic value system generating quite a few questions from a very attentive audience. Dr Shomali described this year’s teaching experience as very fruitful and positive. Further discussions were also conducted with the organisers about a follow-up meeting to the one held last March in which 18 representatives of Shi‘a Islam from across the world met with Christian representatives in Geneva.

Members of the Focolare community ofVancouver visiting Dr Shomali

This was followed by a discussion on the sources of Islam, foremost of which is the Qur’an. He explained that although the Qur’an is the same for all Muslims, there are diverse interpretations of it. The sunnah (traditions) of the Prophet and the Ahl ul Bayt(as) (the Prophet Household) provided another important topic of discussion. The role of reason and the intellect within the sources of Islam were also analysed before moving on to the major doctrines of Islam such as Unity of God, Prophethood, Resurrection, the concept of Al-Mahdi and other practices such as prayer,

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Life & Community

Back to Basics: A life less complicated

Batool Haydar wonders how far the 'less is more'

maxim can be extended


lmost from the day my daughter was born, I have received friendly emails from various ‘child-expert' brands educating me about the various stages of growth she would go through. In every one of these informative mails would be a recommendation on what my child would ‘need' in order to maximise her potential during these phases and of course, the brands conveniently stocked exactly those items, usually at a discounted price. While most of us recognise these commercial gimmicks, we do tend to think that our children need the support of educational aids in order to (eventually) grow into intelligent, successful adults. Creatively-designed, expert-approved toys are a big part of establishing the strong foundation we want to build for our children. If you think you don't subscribe to this thought, try taking a look in your child (ren)'s toy box. I did. I did and discovered I had fallen into the same trap that I was working so hard to avoid. In my attempt to provide a more tactile environment for my child, I had bought things that I thought she needed in order to learn. I had begun to think that each new, thoroughly analysed and researched purchase would provide more excitement and more experiences for her. This, however,


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simply isn't true. All children really need is freedom. They will discover and learn from almost anything they can lay their hands on, and giving them less to distract them can actually trigger their imagination and creativity. As I started to work on de-cluttering the material aspect of my parenting, I began to wonder whether this principle would work on the other aspects of my role as a mother in Islam. My initial premise was simple: What areas am I doing too much in as a parent and how would it impact me and my child if I was to use a minimalist approach? My journey led me to the conclusions below. (I cannot stress enough that these worked personally for me and that while the question is a general one, the application of its answers needs to be tailored to each individual's circumstances.)

1. Less Distraction, More Focus Sometimes clichĂŠs work because they are so true. When you reduce the quantity of your material possessions the quality of your experience increases. It's simply the way things are. I used to dread the end of each day because cleaning up felt like a repetitive, fruitless effort. Every evening, I would pick up and arrange all her things and every morning there would be the same disaster zone of discarded toys. Because she had so many options, my daughter moved from one object to another, leaving a brightly-coloured trail of plastic, wood and rubber for me to follow. My reduction strategy started by watching which toys she

played with eagerly and which ones she discarded after a few seconds. I also asked a friend who has studied child development to have a look through our stash and pick out everything that was no longer age-appropriate. These two steps alone almost halved the collection. Now I continue by regularly watching out for toys that get thrown into corners and forgotten. I put these away and offer them again after a few weeks. If she still ends up neglecting them, they get given away. We have a fraction of what we used to, but my daughter is still happily occupied and takes immense pleasure in playing with what she has. Plus, cleaning up is a breeze these days!

2. Detach / Re-attach Moving from the material to the emotional aspect of mothering was daunting. I didn't want to quantify my attachment to my daughter. How could I even think about whether I loved her too much. Was that even possible? The leap for me came over the month of Ramadan, whilst reciting the famous Munajaat (supplications) of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib(a). In the prefacing verses of this intense supplication, we seek refuge in God on the day when “the guilty will wish to redeem himself from the chastisement of that day by (sacrificing) his children...." (Holy Qur'an, 70:11) I began to think about how much of our selves we invest in our children and to what end. Do we love them because it's so natural? Or perhaps because we hope they will love us back? How many parents feel betrayed when their children choose a path other than the one they haveenvisioned for them? These reasons point to goals that are selfishly bound to the limits of this world. Yet, God clearly tells us that our children are a test for us, in the same way, that wealth is (8:28). Our attachment to them is a defining factor in our Journey to our Creator. It was an extremely unsettling thought, but I had to face the possibility that if I loved my daughter simply because she was mine, then I may have been indulging too much in a ‘worldly' pleasure. The shift in mindset has been difficult, but I now try to remind myself that children are a responsibility as well as a gift. They do not belong to us, they are simply loaned to us by God for the purpose of instruction and guidance back to Him. By trying to see the source of everything associated with my daughter as being Him, I am finding that it is possible to love her even more intensely because the element of fear is removed. A great secret of motherhood is that it is scary. We are constantly afraid of losing our child, of not being around to see them grow, of their going down the wrong path in life. However, all these become irrelevant once God becomes an active part of the relationship because we then acknowledge He is in Control and what is in His Hand is always Good.

open special doors to spirituality. After all, we are told time and again about the elevated status of mothers. It surprised me, therefore, to wake up one morning a few months after my daughter's birth feeling more distanced from my faith than I had ever been before. Life had become a monotonous routine focused around my baby and I barely had the energy to eat or sleep properly, let alone reflect or perform more acts of worship. I struggled with feelings of guilt, anger and frustration until I came across a couple of quotes from the renowned gnostic scholar Ayatullah Mohammed TaqiBehjat. It is said that when he was asked to give advice on how to get closer to God, his response was: “Learn what the Shari‘a has taught you, and act on what you know from the Shari‘a, this is enough." Another response is mentioned as: “If a person acts upon what they know, God will reveal to them what they do not know." These words had struck me, but it was when I began to explore minimalist ideas that they seemed to make even more sense. Islam is about submitting to God - deeply and completely. It doesn't matter how much you do, but how sincerely you do it. Islam required me to be a good mother, to teach my child about my faith and behave in a manner that would set a good example for her. Setting out a prayer mat for her when I performed my prayers could become an additional act of worship simply with the intention of introducing her to prayers. In return, watching her copy my actions not only brought warmth to my heart but made me aware of and wonder at the beauty of God's Design. The conscious effort to find God in simple daily tasks became a cycle of positivity, gratitude, joy and motivation. The more I looked for Him, the easier He seemed to be to find! This process of de-cluttering - internally and externally - is exactly that, a process. It feels like I am at the start of a long road ahead. Setbacks are an almost daily occurrence, but even this trial-and-error attempt at changing my mindset has impacted our lives so dramatically that I cannot help but feel that great discoveries await us. At the end of the day, I am hoping that introducing my daughter to the habit of keeping things simple will help her face the complexities of youth as well as adult life with a well-developed sense of stability and peace.

3. Simplifying Spirituality One of the things I was sure motherhood would do was to August 2017


Moriam Grillo is an international


award winning artist.She holds Batchelor degrees in photography & film and Ceramics and is currently studying for a masters in Art Therapy. Moriam is also founder of the Butterfly Project.

Journeying to God

The time of Hajj is upon us, the ultimate pilgrimage, expected of us at least once in our lifetime. Whether we make the physical journey or not, it is incumbent on us to reflect upon the ultimate journey through life towards God. In the Spotlight

Idris Khan

‘Seven Times’ 2010 installation of 144 steel cubes etched with Arabic script (c) Idris Khan

The artist Idris Khan studied fine art at the Royal College of Art and was recently awarded an OBE. His work is based on references to art, music, literature and weighted with religious or philosophical symbolism. An earlier work ‘The Creation’ was influenced by the classical composer Hayden and his musical rendition of the same name. Hayden was known to have found this work difficult to achieve and used his religious practice to give him the strength to complete it. And it is this feeling of religious fervour which is often referenced in his work. Khan's work, for the most part, is abstract minimalism, a contradiction in In reference

“When you really think about it we start on the floor, then we stand then walk. So when I make art, I just return to where I started.” - Carl Andre The artist Carl Andre has changed the way we think about art. The American sculptor, born in 1935, is known for defining the minimalism art form. His work, made up of elements, is


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terms when one considers the potency of his use of appropriation and metaphor in relation to other works of art that he often refers to. With his layering of symbols and meaning his work invariably adheres to a monochromatic palette or earthy muted tones, something that reminds me of the visual language of Anselm Keifer and Pierre Soulages. Of Islamic heritage, Khan’s work reflects his responses to art in the main. A recent piece was influenced by his late mother’s favourite piece of music. Another reflects his thoughts on mark making. What distinguishes Khan from many artists of Islamic heritage is his ability to adeptly move from secular notions to religious symbolism. Whatever the subject matter, his work is conveyed through layers, an aesthetic which he uses whether working in photography or with charcoal. And it is this layering that adds an indubitable depth to his art making by providing a reflection of the many moments, thoughts and actions that make up each finished piece. ‘Seven Times’ also follows the same theme of layering but in an isolating

form with the use of multiples. It is made up of 144 steel cubes evenly spaced across the floor to reflect the exact footprint of the Ka‘ba in Makkah. Like the Ka‘ba, each cube is inscribed with Arabic, repeated words superimposed on one another five times to reflect the daily prayers. The words themselves are a metaphor for the wearing away of the steel on which they reside and by which they weave a tale of the power of words to overcome hardness. Khan’s installation is a pastiche of artist Carl Andre’s work; Graphite Silence, which is graceful in its referencing, intelligent and in its development of an idea. If art is the opportunity to convey ideas then Khan deserves credit for the brilliance of his conceptualisation.

calculated and precise and has, in the past, been criticised for not having a creative quality. As an artist, Andre’s practice begins with an idea and unlike other artists Andre does not feel that

he needs to manipulate the material in order to be recognised as the artist of the piece. He believes observation of the material placed in a space qualifies the work as art and him as an art maker.

‘Graphic Silence’ Carl Andre 2005 (c) Carl Andre

(c) Idris Khan

“Works of art don't mean anything, they are realities. My work is an expression of some of my earliest experiences.” - Carl Andre


Whitworth Gallery Open again after a major refurbishment, the gallery showcased the work of British and international artists including Ai Weiwei last summer. The gallery has just announced a three-year programme of exhibitions,

commissions and cultural exchange between the gallery and 10 art organisations in the North of England and South Asia. The collaboration will celebrate the shared heritage across continents and develop artistic talent as well as encourage the commissioning and exhibits of artists from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the UK to new in Colombo, Dhaka, Lahore, Karachi, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.

My Favourite things

On the theme of Journeying towards God, the poetry of Mawlana Jalal Ud-Din Rumi has always inspired me. I was recently asked to share a poem that had had a lasting impact on my life, and his poem ‘The Reed’s Song’ came to mind. It tells the story of a reed being separated from the reed bed and living a life of yearning to be returned to its source. For me, life is that, a journey back to our true source. And as cautious awareness is a valid aspect of the spiritual journey, I felt that this poem ‘Be Suspicious of Your Self' was appropriate as a reminder of our accountability along life’s journey.

This Art Network marks a new way of building bridges across cultures and a new approach to engagement in the arts for public, practitioner and patron alike. The installation ‘Seven Times’ by Idris Khan was on display at the Whitworth earlier this year. Whitworth Gallery Oxford Road, Manchester M15 6ER Open 7 days a week: Friday - Wednesday 10 am–5 pm Thursday 10 am–9 pm

it would appear. A crime is committed, and a gallows behind to be built. One does not look like the other, but they correspond. Accept the results ofwhat you’ve done in anger, or for greed, or to elevate your ego. Don’t blame fate! That dog lies in the kennel and will not respond to anyone’s calling. Be suspicious ofyour self! Inquire about your hidden motives. It takes courage to repent, and more courage to change.

Be Suspicious ofYour Self

But realise this: just as dust grains shine in the sunlight coming through the window,

Everything you do has a quality which comes back to you in some way.

so there’s a light ofreality, within which ideas, hidden hypocrisies, and the qualities

Every action takes a form in the invisible world. which may be different from how you thought

ofevery action become clear. All you’ve done and will do, will be seen in the light ofthat sun.


A Persian Astrolabe by ‘Abd al-'ali, with engraving by Muhammad Baqir, Isfahan undated, circa 1680-1700 7 in. (18.4 cm.) diam.

This astrolabe is typical of the first-rate productions of the celebrated ‘Abd al-'Ali of Isfahan in the late Safavid period, c. 1680-c. 1715. This is one of the smaller astrolabes made by the pair, who are best known for the monumental astrolabe which they made for Shah Hussayn and which is now in the British Museum. At least five other works bearing the name of ‘Abd al-'Ali are known. The rete is a particularly fine piece, with approximately 40 star-pointers. There is a gazetteer for 73 localities on the mater

with the longitudes and latitudes, and also the directions and distances to Makkah. The data was compiled near Samarqand in the fifteenth Century and was incorporated on Safavid astrolabes in different arrangements, the back bears standard markings: a trigonometric quadrant; a solar quadrant showing solar meridian altitudes for latitudes 28-40 and solar altitudes in the direction of Mecca for Baghdad, Tabriz, Qazvin, Isfahan, Astarabad, yazd, Meshed, Shiraz and Herat; a double shadow square and tables listing the twenty-eight solar mansions and giving basic astrological information.  (Text courtesy of Christie's) August 2017



Historical and religious aspects of Hajj As pilgrims finalise their arrangements for this year’s pilgrimage Abbas Di Palma traces the origin and significance of one of Islam’s most important rituals


he holy pilgrimage to Makkah, known as the Hajj, is one of the most outstanding manifestations of monotheism and universal brotherhood. All Muslims from all ages, classes and race gather in the same place to profess their belief and commitment to religious truths. This is not a mere acceptance professed by the tongue for the Hajj involves several types of hardship and difficulties in terms of finance, physical endeavours and testing devotional acts, both obligatory and supererogatory. It is a religious duty that should be accomplished by the believing person at least once in a lifetime if he/she is financially and physically able. Actually,


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as soon as the believer becomes ‘able’, he/she should aim for it without any procrastination: this is because Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam and Islam has a priority over our own comforts. At the beginning of the month of Dhul Hijja, during the Hajj rituals, the believers gather in the Holy Mosque in Makkah, “the first house founded for humankind” (Qur’an 3:97). Here men wear the simplest of the dress: two pieces of white cotton material to remind themselves of the shroud that will be worn when they depart this world. It is not wrong therefore to assume that this kind of dress may be named ‘the divine attire’ worn in the presence of the Lord of mankind. Simplicity should be a key attitude if

we are going to meet our Lord. The Holy Ka‘ba itself is a very simple cubic building. It was rebuilt by the Prophet Ibrahim (a) (Abraham) and his son Ismael (a) and still today remains a symbol of the pure faith in God. This is one of the holiest places of all. It is not surprising that Muslims turn their bodies, faces and their whole beings towards it at least five times a day, and many other times while supplicating or reciting the Holy Book. Ibrahim (a) and Ismael (a) rebuilt the Ka‘ba and restored its original public role as a place of worship since the time of the Prophet Adam (a). Its outward state was abandoned after the great flood during the era of the Prophet Noah (a). The foundations of

the House were raised again through them and the Black Stone was sent from the sky as a sign of God’s covenant. Ibrahim (a) was ordered to call the people to Hajj: “And proclaim the Hajj to people: they shall come to you on foot and on lean camels coming from distant places” (22:27).

Since then, the call of Ibrahim (a) has been a magnet in the hearts of the believers who have never stopped visiting the Holy House. As history tells us, in those days Ibrahim (a) himself was tested. Makkah was a desert area and God asked Ibrahim to abandon his wife Hagar and his son Ismael there. And so he did in an act of obedience. Pilgrims still today commemorate the hectic run of Hagar between the two mounts of Safa and Marwa in a desperate attempt to look for water for the little Ismael (a) who was weakened by thirst. The narratives tell us that suddenly the thirsty Ismael (a) scraped the sand with his feet where water sprang out. This place still exists and is known nowadays as the spring of Zamzam. Later on, Ibrahim (a) returned to Makkah to be tested once more. In fact, God ordered him to sacrifice his son Ismael (a). Ibrahim (a) again did not hesitate to obey and such obedience was exactly what was being tested. Eventually, God stopped Ibrahim. The Qur’an says: “Then We ransomed him with a great sacrifice” (37:107). At the end, Ismael (a) would not be sacrificed. Another great sacrifice was the ransom with which Ismael (a) was redeemed, and to both father and son was given the

task to reconstruct the Holy Ka‘ba for the future generations. Every year the pilgrims in Makkah revive this Abrahamic test of faith. They also commemorate and revive their faith on the ninth day of Dhul Hajj on the plane of Arafa, rekindling God’s light within themselves. It has been said that if the stay at Arafa is performed with utmost sincerity, no sin will remain unforgiven and that the greatest sin for someone present at Arafa is thinking that God has not forgiven him/her after a sincere repentance. The following day, after God’s overwhelming forgiveness, the pilgrims are admitted to the holy land of Muzdalifa. Another important aspect of the Hajj is the stoning of the walls, an act that symbolises detachment and disassociation from the evil of any ‘evilwhisperer.’ It is true that God is Allforgiving and All-Merciful but a person should always be vigilant as bad thoughts can always find their way into the hearts of individuals, moulding and

changing their intentions and inclinations. Attachment to loved ones should, therefore, be accompanied with disassociation from the evil ones. If Islam discourages us from taking part in promiscuous gatherings or being present where intoxicants are served (even if the person is confident he/she won’t directly fall into evident sins) it is because attachment to what is good without dissociation from what is bad does not guarantee the impossibility of leaning towards wrongful actions or wrongdoers. These are just some aspects of the Hajj - many others have been mentioned in religious books and by pious personalities. What can be said in a few words is that the Hajj is certainly a journey worth experiencing once in one’s life, a duty for the Muslim person and, last but not the least, a spiritual appointment that has the power to produce change in people’s hearts.

Hujjatul-Islam Abbas Di Palma is an Italian convert, graduated from the Hawza Ilmiyya of London. He holds a MA in Islamic Studies and is currently lecturing at The Islamic College London.

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T h e P u r p os e of M a r r i a g e Kubra Rizvi presents a Muslim perspective on marriage based on

the example of Imam Ali (a) and Lady Fatimah Zahra (sa)


ccording to a tradition, there is no institution in Islam as beloved as marriage. Therefore, just as God sent the Prophet Muhammad(s) to us as a role model and outstanding exemplar, the marriage of the two best beings after him shines as a paradigm for us. The blessed marriage of Imam Ali (a) and Lady Fatimah Zahra(sa) took place on the 1st of Dhul Hijja, 2 AH. This year it will fall on the 23rd of August. Indeed, this anniversary offers us a moment to reflect upon the teachings of Islam regarding marriage, and especially what this most excellent couple has taught families till the end of time. Many lessons can be learned, such as the simplicity and manner of their dowry and marriage ceremony. It is our unnecessary delays and demands which cause marriage to be viewed as an encumbrance. Sadly, at no other time in history has it been so necessary to remind ourselves of these lessons as today. It is extremely unfortunate that every day more and more marriages are deteriorating, regardless of whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim. Many reasons have been given for the necessity of marriage. According to Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini, the most important outcomes include the formation of a family through which one finds security and peace of mind, the satisfaction of natural desires in a proper manner, and the continuation of humanity. However, the purposes of companionship and reproduction are found even in animals. Therefore, the true purpose of marriage for mankind


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is something else, just as the purpose of man is more than to just eat, drink and satisfy his desires. Human beings are meant to train themselves by gaining knowledge and doing good deeds. If they can cleanse their souls and avoid evil, they can attain a level that even angels are unable to achieve. Consequently, Ayatullah Amini states that the purpose of marriage should be sought in this spiritual context; it should be a means of acquiring nearness to God.

In ‘Three Views of Marriage' David Brooks proposes that marriage can be viewed with the psychological, romantic or moral lens. The first lens encourages one to think analytically about whom he or she wants to marry, e.g. someone who has positive traits like good manners, as negative traits are unlikely to totally disappear over time. Couples with this view will strive to find compatibility. Perhaps the second and most common way to view marriage is through the romantic lens. With this perspective, couples will only feel that marriage can work if they achieve a preconceived notion of love. The third lens is the moral lens. In this lens a marriage does not exist just for procreation; on the contrary, it exists to serve some higher purpose. For religious people, this purpose can be God; for the secular, it can be any service to a worthy cause. A study by Eli Finkel suggests that if a marriage today is to be successful, it should permit both partners to realise their inner potential, rather than merely

being an institution for living together and raising children. Hence, it is the moral lens which is of crucial importance to the success of a marriage. Furthermore, in the Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller argues that marriage introduces one to his or herself. We come to realise that we are not as easy to live with as we are when alone. In fact, the everyday tasks of marriage are opportunities which encourage the development of a more selfless love. Thus, the partner inspires the spouse to become his or her best self. Consequently, the third lens

of marriage is not about two individuals trying to satisfy their own needs, but a partnership of mutual selfgiving with the aim of spiritual progress. Although the

psychological lens and romantic lens are important and quite common, it is this spiritual transformation over a lifetime of marriage which is the true purpose of marriage. Perhaps the average marriage is on the decline because this third lens is usually lacking. “And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you.” (Qur’an 30:21). In this verse, God states that it is He who created mates and then placed affection between the couple. Thus, love is from God, al-Wadud (the Loving One), so loving one’s spouse in a marriage is, in fact, a means of attaining the love and nearness of God. If there was no divine intervention perhaps this love would not have actually been love. The Holy Prophet(s) said, “Whoever gets married has safeguarded half of his religion.” This tradition is clearly portraying the connection between marriage and religion. We usually think that this tradition indicates that marriage helps one stay away from evil temptations, but it may also imply that

marriage assists one in doing good and attaining the pleasure of God. One day after the wedding of Imam Ali (a) and Lady Fatimah (sa), the Holy Prophet(s) went to congratulate them in their house. He asked Imam Ali (a),“How do you find your spouse?” The Imam replied that he found Fatimah to be the best help in worshiping Almighty God. Thus, in one sentence Imam Ali (a) not only introduced the best woman in Islam but also expressed the main purpose of marriage. We must remember that worship includes all aspects and forms of service to God in our religion. Clearly, a pious couple would encourage each other to avoid evil deeds and be committed to performing obligatory acts of worship. Thus, they would assist each other in the pursuit of spiritual perfection. Likewise, a corrupt person would tempt the partner to corruption. Therefore, piety and good manners are essential conditions for a partner, if not the most important. In Islam, spiritual perfection is attained through the institution of marriage, and not by abstaining from it. According to Imam Ali al-Rida(a), once a lady came to Imam Muhammad Baqir(a) and said, “I am a mutabbattila.” The Imam asked her what she meant to which she replied that she had decided to never marry in order to attain higher levels of perfection. The Imam replied, “If remaining a spinster was a matter of greatness than Lady Fatimah (sa) deserved it much more, for no lady can exceed her in any of the excellences.” Hence, it is through marriage that we can become better human beings and not by remaining unmarried. Once the Holy Prophet(s) saw Imam Ali (a) helping Lady Fatimah (sa) cook. The Prophet said to Ali: “O Ali, whoever helps his wife and children in their domestic affairs and does not

consider it as an obligation upon them, God will enumerate him among the martyrs. His one step bears the reward of one Hajj and one Umrah and he gets cities in Paradise equal to the number of veins in his body.” It is inevitable that in a life-long relationship some occasions of discord and anger will arise. Nevertheless, if we truly make the Ahl ul-Bayt(a) our role models and arm ourselves with the tools and knowledge imparted by them, we can persevere and find solutions for every problem. A proper understanding of the aims of marriage can lead to a firmer and stronger relationship between the husband and wife and be a means of alleviating any problems that arise. May God make the marriages of the spouses who assist each other in their spiritual journey successful in this world and the next. 

"...whoever helps his wife and children in their domestic affairs and does not consider it as an obligation upon them, God will enumerate him among the martyrs. His one step bears the reward of one Hajj and one Umrah and he gets cities in Paradise equal to the number of veins in his body.” - The Holy Prophet (s)

Kubra Rizvi is an Honours Psychology graduate from Loyola University Chicago. She writes and lectures on various religious topics.

August 2017



The Father of Monotheistic Faiths 'Abraham-Ibrahim, the friend of God, stands as a figure of friendship between faiths, says Frank Gelli


August 2017


s the Hajj - the great annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah - unfolds, a gigantic, majestic figure offers himself for reflection. Not just for Muslims but for other fellow monotheists, the Christians and the Jews. Ibrahim-Abraham is part of their shared, sacred heritage. Surely that is something to rejoice about. Friendship and harmony between believers in God is a duty. Despite being common to each faith, however, this Abraham-Ibrahim also poses some challenges because our Scriptures and traditions do not all understand him in the same way. For Muslims, Abraham is first and foremost a Prophet but for Christians and Jews, he is not that but a Patriarch: the father and ancestor of the chosen people. (Not that he is always quite exemplary. For instance, in Genesis, he lies to his wife Sarah. What to make of that?) The Hajj refers to various tests and trials endured by Abraham and his family. For example, in chapter Al-Anbiyaa the Qur’an describes Abraham breaking idols into pieces. No such episode is mentioned in the Torah, the five Books of Moses, although rabbinical traditions agree with the Qur’an. The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews in a long chapter also alludes to Abraham’s vicissitudes, though not to any smashing of idols. Abraham is par excellence the father of faith. Note that Hebrews state that his sufferings were ‘for the sake of Christ’, the Messiah to come, something with which Muslims could hardly agree. Furthermore, the Book of Genesis understands Abraham’s family in a way not acceptable to Muslims. The Patriarch’s legitimate son is Isaac, whereas Ishmael, the ancestor of the Arabs, though not of all Muslims, is the slave woman Hagar’s son. St Paul in Galatians argues theologically from this fact, in a way not conducive to interfaith happiness. The two women for him stand for two antagonistic, opposing covenants. Above all, in Islam the Prophet Abraham witnesses to tawhid, the absolute unity of the Godhead. Many Christians, by contrast, have interpreted the three men who appear to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre in Genesis, 18, as divine emissaries, angels, and as anticipations of… the Trinity! A doctrine which to Muslims and Jews is like a red rag to a bull. A bit discouraging? Professor Jon Levenson of Harvard University attributes the intellectual popularity of the notion of ‘Abrahamic faiths’ to the French Orientalist scholar and priest Louis Massignon. A man of deep spirituality and yearnings, Massignon was obsessed with discovering the Christ of Christianity in Islam a search bound to be fruitless, although his massive study of the mystic al-Hallaj remains of interest. Levenson, a Jew, does not pull any punches. For him, he seems to be saying, Abraham belongs primarily to Judaism. His genuine religious universality is therefore in doubt. Any attempts to exclusively appropriate the Patriarch by other monotheistic faiths are distortions of the true Abraham of the Jewish Torah. Hence they are illicit or misguided, he argues in his book, ‘Inheriting Abraham’.

Levenson is a bit unfair to Massignon. Whatever his motivations (clearly, he hoped eventually to usher Muslims into Christianity) he founded a mystical community of prayer and worship, the Badaliya, whose aim was to celebrate the points of similarity between Cross and Crescent. Abraham conceived as common patrimony of all the three faiths fitted into his scheme. Besides, all of Massignon’s statements about the Prophet Muhammad were profoundly positive. More, Massignon actually wrote that the divine inspiration suffusing the pages of the Bible is also present and active in the Qur’an. You can hardly imagine a more sympathetic approach by an orthodox Christian and priest. Back to Abraham. One or Three? Jewish, Christian or Muslim? Which faith can properly claim him for itself? I submit that is the wrong question. When years ago I took part, along with Rabbi Wittenberg and various Imams, in the Ahl al-Ibrahim programme on al-Mustakillah Arab TV channel, I never tried to insinuate that the Abraham of the New Testament is the only and exclusively right portrait of the noble champion of faith. Instead, I was most interested in learning from my fellow speakers. Nor does it trouble me that the Abraham idolbreaker of the Qur’an is not exactly replicated in my Holy Scriptures. The point is that destroying idols is a meritorious task. Many Christian Saints have indeed done the same, such as St Boniface, who in Germany cut down an oak sacred to the pagan god Thor. Boniface is rightly honoured for that. Abraham, the friend of the One True God, would not have done less. Back in 2010, I happily signed a ‘Resolution to Safeguard Our Common Values and Communities’, a document put forward by a gathering of scholars of the ‘Three Abrahamic Faiths’ who met at the Islamic Centre of England in Maida Vale. We were affirming our common religious grounds and solidarity against the injudicious initiative by an ignorant individual in the US who wanted to publicly burn copies of the Qur’an. Attacking so brutally the holy text of one of our faiths was an attack on us all, we declared. So, perhaps, here is a possible, key meaning of IbrahimAbraham for sincere and devout monotheists, especially in this month of Dhu’l-Hijjah. In a society in which increasingly the idea of the Holy, its symbols and representatives are daily insulted and vilified, the goodly Patriarch, the friend of God, the father of faith, stands, as firm as a rock, as a model, a spiritual source of encouragement and strength. ‘Be friends!’ God’s friend is urging us. Revd Frank Julian Gelli is an

Anglican priest and cultural critic, working on religious dialogue. His last book ‘The Prophet and the Priest', is available on Amazon Kindle.

August 2017



Muhammad ibn Zakariya al­Razi; the magical alchemist of all eras

Celebrating the birth of al-Razi, one of the greatest Muslim scientists, Laleh Lohrasbi traces his life and achievements


he golden age of Islamic medicine is mostly marked by name of Ibn Sina (Avicenna), and his book, ‘Canon of Medicine’. However, many historians believe that Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi is the greatest physician of the whole era. Al-Razi – also known as Rhazes or Rasis - was born more than 100 years prior to Ibn Sina and was a Persian polymath, physician, alchemist and philosopher. Al-Razi was an oud player, a poet, a goldsmith turning to alchemy, finally moving towards medicine and philosophy after the age of forty. His major achievements in medical science, practice, teaching and writing, took place within a span of only 20 years which highlight his incredible ingenuity. Al-Razi lived in an era when science was more about guarding and interpretation of what ancestors had said, done or written. At the time when he was famous for alchemy, it was very hard to find critical thinkers. In fact, al-Razi's books and essays contained more words of doubt, contravention, criticism and dialectics than confirmation and acceptance of what once was done or accepted by the ancestors. One of the characteristics distinguishing al-Razi from his contemporary physicians is that he discussed the Greek scholars’ views while describing his own findings, in order to improve or decline those theories or propose new ones. And that is the reason his writings give the reader the tools to identify the


August 2017

superiority of his ideas in comparison to his ancestors. However, this manner was not accepted by most of the fanatic followers of old beliefs, so most of al-Razi's books in philosophy were destroyed and the remaining ones are mostly about medicine, pharmacology and food properties. His most famous book in medicine is Kitab al-Hawi fi al-tibb (The Comprehensive Book on Medicine) with twenty-five volumes. The extent of disagreement with his ways was such that the famous Persian polymath scholars and historians Ibn-Sina and Abu Rayhan Biruni later criticised some of his beliefs in philosophy. However, Ibn-Sina highly acknowledges al-Razi's work in medicine and uses many of his ideas from Al-Hawi in his ‘Canon of Medicine’. Biruni also introduces alRazi as his mentor and even in his history book, in a short biography of Razi, introduces his numerous works. Al-Razi wrote more than 230 books in different fields of science such as medicine, pharmacology, mathematics, astronomy, alchemy, theology and philosophy. He died at the age of sixty. After his death, al-Razi's fame spread beyond the Middle East to medieval Europe and lived on. In an undated catalogue of the library at Peterborough Abbey, most likely from the 14th century, al-Razi is listed as the author of ten books on medicine. Al-Razi was a successful doctor and served as the

chief physician of Baghdad and Rey’ hospitals. He was the first physician who described the differences between smallpox and measles. The encyclopaedia of Britannica has identified his diagnosis as the most trustworthy statement about the disease - the symptoms were clearly described, its pathology explained by a humoural theory, and directions given for its treatment. Al-Razi also was the first physician to introduce allergy and asthma, and the first to write a book dedicated to paediatric diseases. He was the first physician to use humours and emphasised the influence of diet on health and balance. His method was to treat all diseases first with diet, then with simple drugs and if not effective, with complex drugs. He believed that if a physician could cure his patient with diet, then he could find the real taste of happiness. Al-Razi was an alchemist first. He discovered many compounds and chemicals including alcohol, sulphuric acid and kerosene. He can be called the father of modern chemistry especially as he was the first person to categorise all compounds into metals and semi-metals. Thanks to his alchemy background, al-Razi also contributed to pharmacology in many ways. He derived many compounds and alkaloids from plants and used them as drugs for his patients. Just like modern pharmacology, he used to try his drugs first on animals, and if successful, then on humans. He

was the first physician to insert experiments into the medicine. He discovered alcohol and denatured it for use as a disinfectant. Al-Razi had many students. In scientific circles, questions would have been put to his students. The first circle would try to answer, if not successful then the second, third and so on. And only if the questions were not answered by his students would al-Razi himself address the issues. Al-Razi developed vision problems due to exposing himself to chemical vapours and became totally blind in the latter years of his life. However, he continued practising medicine and lecturing. He was dedicated to learning and was the best manifestation of the tradition from the Prophet recommending that people “acquire knowledge from the cradle to the grave.” It is interesting to mention that in Iran, al-Razi's home place, in an acknowledgement of his efforts in pharmacology and chemistry, his birthday August 27th, is marked and celebrated as ‘The Pharmacist Day'. Dr Laleh Lohrasbi is a

pharmacologist. She has worked as an editor for the medical section of 'Hamshahri', a daily newspaper in Tehran.

August 2017




or most of us in the rich first world, having enough food and food that is nutritious is something that we take for granted. The only time we ever feel hunger pangs is when the month of Ramadan rolls around every year. When we think of those in need we turn our attention to those starving in

were in work. For unemployed people, the number who are food insecure jumps to 47%. Clearly, some wages and welfare benefits in the UK are inadequate to ensure adequate food for many families. Is this acceptable? I would argue that food, alongside adequate shelter, is the most basic of human needs and surely everyone

Starving in a rich world deserves a balanced diet sufficient for good health and food systems and asks whether nutritious and growth. In a country that grows and produces much food is a human right more food than is eaten by its population, it is cruel and mean to allow some people to starve. We do not deprive the third world and send our prisoners of food, so why do we expect charitable aid there. However, we people on benefits to survive without might be surprised to find out that our sufficient funds to buy adequate food? neighbour here in the UK is just as in need of food donations as any third Is access to adequate food a human world family and that their common right? Yes, according to the Universal food insecurity is part of a global food Declaration of Human Rights. The UN system that is designed to maximise Committee on Economic, Social and profit rather serve human needs. Cultural Rights states: “the right to In the UK, 8% of all adults in England, adequate food is realised when every Wales and Northern Ireland, almost man, woman and child, alone or in four million people reported community with others, has physical experiencing food insecurity in the and economic access at all times to past 12 months. That means that adequate food or means for its these adults and their dependents did procurement." According to guidance not have enough money to purchase published by the Office of the High enough or nutritionally-adequate Commissioner for Human Rights foodstuffs. Many ran out of food and (OHCHR), the food must be “available, went hungry, although estimates accessible and adequate�. suggest the number who actually go on to visit a food bank is much lower, Available means that the food must be perhaps 17 times lower than the actual grown or sold to the consumer, number of people who are food accessible means it must be insecure at any one time. obtainable by financial means or other and adequate means that will This is all the more surprising when adequately nourish the body to the one considers that 7% of these people needs of the recipient whether young

Hannah Smith looks at food poverty, farming


August 2017

or old. The OHCHR even goes as far as to state that “if children’s food does not contain the nutrients necessary for their physical and mental development, it is not adequate. Food that is energy-dense and low-nutrient, which can contribute to obesity and other illnesses, could be another example of inadequate food” and “food should be safe for human consumption and free from adverse substances, such as contaminants from industrial or agricultural processes, including residues from pesticides, hormones or veterinary drugs”. How many families on low or fixed incomes (including pensioners), those families that have no disposable income for luxuries or have to make difficult decisions such as between heating their homes or purchasing food are able to afford optimally nutritious, effectively organic diets? My own anecdotal observation is that organic foods are typically 2-3 times more expensive than similar ‘conventional’ foodstuffs grown using artificial fertilisers, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. In the UK, just 1.5% of food and drink on the market is organic. Clearly there is an accessibility issue and sadly where people need the most nutritious food, such as in state maintained schools and public hospitals, what is being served is widely known to be below par, featuring cheap non-organic ingredients, chemical additives, and too much sugar and refined carbohydrates, the kind of food that nutritional research suggests is responsible for the ever-increasing rates of modern diseases from obesity to cancer to diabetes to dementia, diseases that some scientists argue are in many cases caused by long-term nutritional deficiencies and exposure to toxins through food and other environmental sources. The consequences of food insecurity and inadequate foods, which include

In the UK, 8% of all adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, almost four million people reported experiencing food insecurity in the past 1 2 months.

significantly higher medical treatment, low achievement at school and child welfare costs stretch beyond those lowincome families that are food insecure. In Canada, healthcare bills were on average 121% higher for people who were food insecure in 2015, and in an economy like the UK, these costs will pass on to the taxpayer through the use of the NHS. Society is also diminished through related mental health problems and loss of talent. Making sure that every member of our society is adequately fed is socially and economically better for all of us. Zooming out to the global level, we have a food system in crisis: despite being able to produce enough food for all the people currently living and up to projected peak population of 9 billion, 795 million people are currently estimated to be chronically undernourished, the environment and natural resources essential for farming are being significantly damaged, a huge amount of food is going to waste, yields are diminishing, chemical resistance is growing, and farmers are becoming heavily indebted. In the UK, a whopping 7.3 million tonnes of food was being wasted every year at the last estimate in 2015. Many argue that returning to a system of local organic smallholdings, away from large-scale mechanised chemically-reliant methods will not only reap dividends for human health and the environment, but is actually the only way of ‘keeping the world fed’; that actually we need to invest in efficient organic farm methods because yields are declining and crops are becoming unsustainable, particularly in the third world due to environmental damage and chemical

resistance. This is in stark contrast to the mantras of the multinational seed and agrochemical companies who argue that farming needs more technological fixes such as geneticallymodified seeds. Surprisingly, the simple humble agricultural life of the Ahlul Bayt, in which they would involve themselves directly in the food and farming of their local community, and the wise food system they developed, is reflected in many modern solutions put forward by campaigners for food justice. The Prophet Muhammad(s) and his family certainly gave us clear guidance on the quality and nutritional value of foods, teaching us only to eat pure and unadulterated foods, and recommending what kinds of foods we need to eat for optimal health at any given time. This is alongside blueprints for eating, avoiding waste, farming, food production, charitable distribution, land conservation, animal welfare and taxation. When it comes to making food more affordable, available and accessible in the marketplace, some initiatives such as those implemented in the City of Belo in Brazil have been amazingly successful at eradicating hunger by adopting the view that food is a fundamental human right for all. As Muslims, is it a duty of ours to fight for food justice, to re-balance the sustenance that God has provided for all and eradicate injustice against people and planet? Perhaps we need to reflect more deeply on our global food system and find answers in the Sunnah. 

Hannah Smith has a Masters

degree in Geophysics and a Post Graduate Certificate in Secondary Science Education. Currently, she works as a parttime Science Teacher.

August 2017



Travel Guide to

Muslim Europe With travel writer and European Muslim heritage specialist Tharik Hussain

The pining palaces of Portugal


hey say if you wander through the lush, green hills of the Serra di Sintra on bright moonlit nights, chances are you will come upon a stunning Moorish maiden all in white. Her enchanting figure will emerge carrying a pot, which she will fill with fresh water at a nearby spring. She will not speak to you, nor look you in the eye, but as she passes you, listen carefully for it will seem as if the earth, trees and the wind are sighing in unison for a time that is now gone and will never again return. Muslims first arrived in al Gharb alAndalus - modern day Portugal - in 714 CE as part of the North African conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. They stayed for over 400 years changing the way people farmed, ate, spoke, dressed and behaved. Theirs was a legacy remembered fondly - the above legend of the mystical Moorish maiden was still doing the rounds centuries after the Muslims had left in 1147 CE. During those years, like neighbouring al-Andalus (Spain), al Gharb alAndalus flourished. Innovative agricultural techniques were introduced; new and exotic food and spices became the norm; major


August 2017

centres of learning were established in cities like al-Ishbun (Lisbon); music and poetry were widespread, and an air of tolerance allowed Jews, Christians and Muslims to live in relative harmony. It is no wonder so many reports claim long after Alfonso Henriques took al Gharb al-Andalus and declared it the Christian Kingdom of Portugal, many still pined for that golden age. Nowhere is this melancholy more deeply apparent than in the beautiful green hills of Sintra’s UNESCO World Heritage Park, 30 kilometres north-west of the country’s capital, Lisbon. Here, stunning remnants of Portugal’s Muslim past stand alongside a wealth of later romantic Moorish reimaginings. Built in the 10th century, the Moorish Fort of Sintra was a strategic construction designed to protect the city of al-Ishbun. Today, it is probably the most atmospheric and best preserved Muslim fort in Portugal, if not Europe. Only the outer wall still survives, and this stretches from the old Royal Tower all the way to what was the Castle Keep - a stunning walk that offers breathtaking vistas across the foothills and the other monuments in

the national park. The path is marked by eleven flags, ten of which show the evolution from the simple blue and white cross of the 12th century to the current modern version with its complex mix of old and new. In the middle of this parade, seemingly out of place, is a green flag with white Arabic writing - the word ‘Sintra' - a nod to the fort’s founders. Easily reached from the capital, Sintra with its mild, cooling, climate and lush hills, has always been very popular with Lisbon’s ruling elite, be they Muslim or Christian. The countryside pleasure palaces the Muslims built are no more, but in their stead remain those put up by the later Christian aristocracy and royals. And almost all of these folk had a certain weakness for the region’s Muslim heritage. As a result, Sintra is littered with postMoorish palaces where visitors can admire the Romantic 17th and 18th-century re-imagining of Moorish artistry. The wildest expression of this is the Pena Palace - today regarded as one of the finest examples of the Moorishinfluenced Manueline style. The Pena Palace is the fantasy of eccentric King Don (Dom) Fernando II, who purchased the then neglected monastery back in 1838, before going ‘to town’ with it! His architects were asked to mix global Muslim Tharik Hussain spends much of his time travelling across Europe in search of the continent's fourteen centuries of Muslim history. You can follow his work at"

styles with 19th-century European ones - the result is something akin to Hogwarts on LSD. The dominant influence though is clearly Islamic. The entrance to the palace is a stunning gate that belongs to a medina somewhere in Fez, as does the riyad-like open courtyard behind the Queen’s Terrace, where a host of rooms offers an insight into palatial life. Almost all of the archways in the Pena Palace are elegant arabesque arcades inspired by far off places like Isfahan and al-Qarawiyyin. Meanwhile, walls have been decorated with tiles whose geometric patterns are filed under ‘Alhambra’ in modern design stores. There is even an Indian Mughal-style turret, complete with a yellow onion dome, perched on the palace’s corner where the visitors’ roof-terrace cafe sits. Loud, colourful and garish, the Pena Palace speaks volumes about Don Fernando’s eccentricity, but it also says much about the historic Portuguese pining for all things Moorish. How else do you explain the desire to blend a floor to ceiling wall of Moorish-tiles with an allegorical gateway guarded by a half-man, half-fish figure from European mythology? 

Wher e no in the

rth wo Lisbo -west of rld: Sintra n In an in the m the Portu National subur d out: Fl y unicipal ity guese cap Park is j u Metro ban l ine into Lisb of Sintra. ital city st of Top t station an that goes on and the i d f n p r wond s: Al th termina om Lis catch pl ace erful l y wal ough Sint tes at Sint bon’s Ros the sio the n where you kabl e pl ac ra Nation ra. e a e r the l xt day. T cal ves ; it is a l Park circul ocal hop-o o avoid thare bound l so a very is a where ar route fro n-hop-off t is buy th to punish hil l y sites, the train m the tow ourist bus e day pass you cursin al l owing y station i n at the f which do for s o o e g the bourg u to travel through a ot of the h s a i eoi s c l hoice between th l the maj ol l s em w of terr ithoutr ai n !

The Moorish Fort of Sintra

August 2017


Children Corner

Journeying to God

Dear Children, Assalam Alaikum The Holy Ka‘ba, a cube-shaped when Prophet Ibrahim(a) was in the


his year the beginning of the Islamic month of Dul Hajj will fall around the 23rd of August.

This is a very exciting month for Muslims, especially for those who are preparing for the pilgrimage known as the Hajj. Millions of Muslims will make their way to the city of Makkah from all corners of the world.

building, built many centuries ago in remembrance of God, was rebuilt by the Prophet Ibrahim (a). The building is also known as the ‘House of God’, not because God lives there, but because pilgrims who go there will think only of God. The pilgrims will go around the Ka’ba seven times (Tawaf), reciting supplications and the Holy Qur'an. They also repeat the run of HagarIbrahim's wife - when she desperately ran between the two hills of Safa and Marwa in the hot desert to find water for her thirsty boy Ismael.

This particular pilgrimage is very special because in Islam Muslims are expected to perform it at least once in their life. Nowadays, is much easier to Another ritual of the Hajj is the do, but there was a time when people throwing of stones at three walls had to travel for months to get to symbolising the devil. It is said that Makkah.


August 2017

desert, he had been tempted by Satan to disobey God but he stoned the Satan three times, forcing him away. Pilgrims will do the same to indicate their nearness to Ibrahim and distance themselves from Satan. Finally, on 10th Dul Hajj, the pilgrims finish their rites. Now that they have completed the Hajj, they make an offering, a sacrifice in the way of God. The sacrifice or Qurbani is usually a lamb or a camel, and the meat is distributed among the poor. Then comes celebration of Eid ulAdha (the Feast of the Sacrifice). Muslims all over the world celebrate the day with a special prayer.

This month, Ghazaleh Kamrani our illustrator, has shown one of the rituals, the Tawaf. She has left five differences between images 1 and 2 for you to find. Afterwards, you can look at image 3 to check if you have identified all of them.ď Ź

Illustrator Ghazaleh Kamrani

August 2017


What & Where Through August

Tafseer of the Holy Qur'an Conducted by: Shaykh M S Bahmanpour Venue: Islamic Centre of England, 140

Maida Vale, London W9 1QB Time: Every Friday starting at 7.30 PM Contact: 0207 604 5500

Exhibition: Iron and Gold: The Intricate ornament of the Zuloagas

During the 19th-century, the Zuloaga family of Eibar, Spain, perfected the art of decorating iron with beautiful patterns of gold and silver. They spearheaded a European revival of the technique that led to their works being described as 'a triumph of the metallic art'. This small display shows three of their masterpieces alongside some of the items that inspired them including flamboyant 16th-century armour, weapons and household goods from Italy, Spain, Egypt and Syria. Metalware, Room 116, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL Time: 10.00 AM - 5.30 PM Entry: Free Venue:

‘Return to Kurdistan’ by Richard Wilding

Return to Kurdistan shows Iraqi Kurdistan and Northern Iraq in contemporary photographs by Richard Wilding, alongside historical photographs by Anthony Kersting. The photographs of Iraqi Kurdistan explore the region's ancient civilisation, documenting its religious and ethnic diversity, history of persecution and renewal. Venue: Institute

of Arabic and Islamic Studies, The Street, University of Exeter, Stocker Rd, Exeter EX4 4ND Time: 9.00 AM - 5.00 PM More info: s/index.php?event=7031

participate over Skype. There will also be a brief talk by the experimental filmmaker Juan delGado about the work of Qisetna: Syria Talking. West Greenwich Library, 146 Greenwich High Rd, London SE10 8NN Time: 7.00 PM - 10.00 PM More info : n/book-launch-of-tiger-and-clay-syriafragments/ Venue: 2 August Mount Kilimanjaro Challenge (Muslim Hands)

Join the Muslim Hands team in Tanzania and climb the highest mountain in Africa. Rising almost 20,000 feet Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, and has been nicknamed “the roof of Africa”. Set across the stunning Serengeti plains, participants can expect to encounter anything from rainforests, moorland, alpine deserts and glaciers. Venue: Kilimanjaro See more at:

National Park Tanzania mount-kilimanjarochallenge#sthash.QMkwMwOR.dpuf Contact: 011 5911 7222

2-4 August

Oxford Symposium on Religious Studies

The Oxford Symposium on Religious Studies, organised by the University of Oxford will take place at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford. Oxford Symposium on Religious Studies is a forum for discourse and presentation of papers by scholars who have a particular interest in the study of religion. University Church of St Mary the Virgin, High Street, Oxford, OX1 4BJ, Oxford, UK Venue:

Book Launch: ‘Tiger and Clay – Syria Fragments’

‘Tiger and Clay’ is a haunting collection of poetry and memoir by Rana Abdul Fattah – a young Syrian woman, writing in exile in Istanbul. Her book deals with how it feels to be a refugee and unable to return home. Rana can’t travel outside Turkey and will


August 2017

Anatomy Lecture Theatre, 1 Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL Time: 3.00 PM (Not Mondays) Tickets: £10 Venue:

More info:

More info and registration: 1 August

tries to make sense of his own family’s migration to the UK. An absorbing, moving, funny tale, full of unexpected twists and turns, Becoming Scheherazade uses The Arabian Nights, tales that spared Scheherazade from the King’s axe. Written, directed and performed by Kamaal Hussain

4&6 – 1 2 &1 3 August Ben Nevis Retreat Expedition at Fort William

Interpal - Helping Palestinians in Need Venue: Ben

Nevis Drive, Ben Nevis Dr, Fort William PH33, UK Time: August 4 at 5:00 pm August 6 at 8:00 pm Cost: £115 More info: or 012 7465 6985 Islamic Help – Reaching people in need Ben Nevis Inn & Bunkhouse, Achintee Rd, Fort William PH33 6TE, UK Time: August 12 at 12:00 AM August 13 at 9:00 AM Cost: £50 Contact: 07946453423 Venue:

More info:|bigben-nevis-expedition|8685 4 & 5 August

The Muslim Women: Living in Challenging Times

An Al Buruj Press event. Facing challenges such as; identity, conformity, religious roles in the 21st century has become a much discussed and widely debated discourse. Where does the Muslim woman look for guidance and inspiration? Who speaks for Islam? It promises to be an inspirational and informative evening! Speaker: Ustadha Dalia Mogahed Venues: To be Confirmed.


Becoming Scheherazade

4 Aug - London 6.00 PM - 10.00 PM 5 Aug - Manchester2.30 PM - 6.00 PM Fee: Free

Magic and reality collide as one British Arab navigates the voyages of Sindbad and ls/3569

2 - 27 August

More info:

5 August

1 1 -1 3 August

22 August

Yemen’s architectural heritage in peril – The MBI Al Jaber Foundation Public Lecture

Outer and Inner Visions of Poetry

Egypt from late antiquity to the Mamluks

This is a weekend programme based at Cambridge Muslim College, designed for creative writers of poetry. The programme combines writing time, discussion, and readings from different genres of poetry. A tutor will discuss poetic devices and terms using poems from the Islamic literary tradition as well as English literature. Participants will have the opportunity to develop poems from predetermined prompts. At the end of the weekend, participants will have an opportunity to solicit feedback on their new writing or previous ones in one-on-one sessions with the tutor.

A 45-minute gallery talk by Amandine Merat at the British Museum. Suitable for all levels of knowledge.

Yemen possesses one of the world’s finest treasure-troves of architecture, displaying a wondrous array of vernacular styles. Three of its ancient cities – Shibam, Sana and Zabid – are UNESCO World Heritage sites. In this lecture, Trevor Marchand, SOAS, will take stock of the damage incurred as well as some of the current efforts to safeguard buildings and to sustain conservation programmes. He will also address factors – in addition to military conflict – that represent perhaps more enduring challenges to the survival of Yemen’s architecture and traditional building practices. Venue: BP lecture theatre, Clore Centre for Education British Museum, WC1B 3DG Room: Time: 6.00 PM – 7.30 PM Fee: Free, booking essential Venue:

More info:

Venue: Cambridge

Muslim College, 14 St Paul's Rd. Cambridge CB1 2EZ Time: 5.00 PM on 11th - 5.00 PM on 13th Fee: £150 (includes: lunch, dinner, and tea/coffee) More info: grammes/externalprogrammes/poetry/ 1 3 August

Glasgow Family Fun Day

Organising to Challenge Islamophobia (Mend)

Give a helping hand to Street Children Worldwide

Hate crimes directed at Muslims nearly doubled in Glasgow between 2015-2016. Figures released by the Scottish Government‘s Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion, show Islamophobic offences increased by 89%. Join us to find out what can you do to challenge Islamophobia.

River Palace, 41 Tradeston St, Glasgow G5 8BH Time: 12:00 pm – 7:00 PM Fee: Free entry Contact: Jamal 07773096223 Venue:

More info:|glasg ow-family-fun-day-glasgow|8720

Venue: Al-Falah

Academy, 311 Calder St, Glasgow, G42 7NH Time: 3.00 PM - 5.00 PM More info: Contact Shaykh Zoheeb Iqbal on 07734 348 212

1 1 August

Volunteer in Kashmir

1 9 & 20 August

Join us and make a real difference to our schools! Visit our healthcare facilities and water projects in Kashmir. You might be a gap year student, fully qualified teacher or someone taking a career break. Your talents and skills could be used in our different projects by sharing and transferring skills to benefit others. Or you may have practical experience and professional qualifications that can be useful to developing communities.

Halal Food Festival 201 7

Minimum fundraising: £3000 Deposit: £300 More info: ttps://


Embark on a tantalising Halal journey around the globe as you experience the world’s most delicious Halal food & drink from over 100 international exhibitors. Tobacco Quay, Wapping Ln, St Katharine's & Wapping, London E1W 2SF Tickets: £30 General 2-day entry. Prices available for individual days as well as sleep packages at kets Venue:

More info:

Venue: Room

34, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG Time: 1.15 PM - 2.00 PM Fee: Free, drop in. 8 September

Science and Religion Conference

‘What is Consciousness and Why Observers Matter in Quantum Theory?’ This Cambridge conference, supported by the John Templeton Foundation provides an opportunity to present current research and new perspectives on consciousness and the role of the observer in fundamental physical sciences. We particularly welcome researchers working in the Foundations of Quantum Theory, the Philosophy of Physics, Neuroscience, Theology and Artificial Intelligence. Venue: (TBA) Time: 10:00 AM More Info:

- 6:00 PM 31 st Oct - 2nd Nov

World Halal Expo 201 7

Showcasing a convergence of an Ethical Lifestyle with 'Halalonomics', the World Halal Expo is a two-day International Halal Trade & Tourism exhibition for the Global Halal industry to meet the key players of the UK Halal market, providing a comprehensive business platform to connect the trade & industry with the multi trillion-dollar Global halal market. It’s a high impact business platform showcasing the lucrative business opportunities that the global halal market presence offers and connecting halal producers, traders and business leaders looking to expand their business globally. Venue: Olympia, Hammersmith More info:

Rd, 14 8UX Disclaimer: islam today does not necessarly endorse or recommend any of these events. Their contents and individuals or groups involved in them. We are not responsible for changes to times, fees or venues. Further information should be sought direclty from the organisers.

August 2017


Islam today issue 50 August 2017 issuu  
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