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issue 53 vol. 6 November 2017

“ U N I TY O F G O D – U N I TY I N G O D ” M O N AS T I C S AN D M U S L I M S I N D I AL O G U E I N S I G H T I N T O I M A M H U S A YN ’ S S T R U G G L E





issue 53 vol. 6 November 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.


“Unity ofGod – Unity in God”


Hawza Ilmiyya ofLondon begins its fourth academic year




Insight into Imam Husayn’s(a)struggle


Water & Roses for Imam Husayn(a)

Editorial team Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour Amir De Martino Anousheh Mireskandari

Layout and Design

Innovative Graphics

Contact us Information Letters to the Editor Article Submissions Follow us: islamtodaymag @islamtodaymaguk

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. 2 November 2017


Monastics and Muslims in Dialogue Nairobi, Kenya, September 2-7, 2017

Hawza Opening Ceremony Saturday 9th September by Fatima Muhammad In Review: Stories, Journeys and Belonging Sharing Our Stories Belonging Black and Muslim in Britain The Islamic Garden, Stockwood Discovery Centre by Moriam Grillo by Abbas Di Palma

report by Fatima Muhammad

why's and what's ofdeath 14 The by Batool Haydar


A hundred years after the Balfour Declaration


Dialogue between faith and science

by Revd Frank Julian Gelli

Science and Religion Conference - The Cambridge Muslim College by Revd Frank Julian Gelli

man with golden arm 20 The by Laleh Lohrasbi Vikings and the Muslims 22 The Travel Guide to Muslim Europe by Tharik Hussain

Muhammad(s) and his love for children 24 Prophet Children Corner by Ghazaleh Kamrani

26 What & Where Listing ofEvents



he fifth gathering of monastic men and women and Shi‘a Muslims took place in Nairobi, Kenya in September 2017. The previous four meetings in Rome (2011), Qom/Isfahan (2012), Assisi/Rome (2014), and Qom/Mashhad (2016) were preceded by three separate meetings organised by Dr Shomali and Abbot Emeritus Timothy Wright (Ampleforth). The site of this year’s meeting was the Subiaco Centre of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing in Karen, Nairobi. The Centre was an ideal setting for the conference, providing comfortable individual accommodations en suite, meeting rooms, WiFi connection, and meals featuring organic produce from the monastery garden. Even more important for the success of the conference was the gracious and attentive hospitality

“Unity of God – Unity in God” of the Sisters and the staff of the Centre and the presence next door of a vibrant and prayerful community of Benedictine Sisters who welcomed us to join them at the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. A special prayer room was set up for the Muslim delegates, who also welcomed our presence at their daily prayers.

Monastics and Muslims in Dialogue Nairobi, Kenya, September 2-7, 2017

The Shi‘a participants came from Iran, England (Iranians, Americans, and a Kenyan), and Canada. The Benedictines, including Abbot Primate Gregory Polan and the former Abbot Primate, Notker Wolf, came from six countries in Africa (Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda), Australia, Belgium, England, Germany, Italy and the United States. Also present was a German theologian, a correspondent for Bavarian radio, who has reported on previous conferences. Although the delegates came from fourteen different countries and were, for the most part, new to this dialogue, all agreed that that in the space of just six days we experienced a depth of interreligious friendship and a widening of our hearts (Dilatato Corde!) that was truly a gift of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. The theme of this year’s meeting, “Unity of God – Unity in God,” obviously goes to the very heart of the faith of Muslims and Christians. Both share a belief in the Oneness of God, but the way they express that belief is profoundly different. The Christian faith, as defined by the first ecumenical council of the Christian Church (Nicaea, 325) and as formulated in the Nicene Creed, professes belief “in one God. . . in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God . . . consubstantial with the Father. . . . [and] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. . . .” Some 300 years later, the Prophet Muhammad narrated the revelation he had received: “All praise be to God Who has neither taken to Himself a son, nor has He any partner in His kingdom, nor does He need anyone, out ofweakness, to protect Him" (Qur’an 17:111). In the not so distant past, the most common way to deal with such radically different expressions of monotheistic faith was by means of apologeticsdefending or “proving” the truth of one’s own religious doctrines through November 2017


systematic argumentation and discourse. At best, this approach led to a polite standoff (agreeing to disagree), at worst, to increased hostility towards those whose way of expressing their faith in the Oneness of God differed from one’s own. The goal of our gathering in Africa was to provide a space in which Shi‘a Muslims and Catholic monastics could speak openly to one another about the ways they express and understand their faith in One God. We resonated with the statement of Christian de Chergé, the Trappist monk and friend of Muslims who believed that “To speak of God in a different way is not to speak of a different God (“Dire Dieu autrement n’est pas dire un autre Dieu”). Even more, we wanted to speak with one another about the ways our faith motivates us to work for unity, whether that be within our own communities of faith, with people of other faiths, or within society at large. We devoted much of our time together to small group or plenary discussions. The initial schedule called for only four initial presentations, two on “unity of God" and two on “unity in God." Two more were added during the course of the conference, one on “The Appearance of the Twelfth and Final Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, and the Return of Jesus in Muslim Eschatology," the other, a PowerPoint presentation on “Jesus and the Trinity in Christian Iconography." During our discussions we were urged to speak in the first person about our faith, religious experience, and spiritual practice-in other words, to speak not so much in terms of “Catholics believe . . . ,” or “Muslims believe . . . ,” but rather, “I believe . . .” The discussion also provided opportunities to ask questions of one another and thereby come to a better understanding and appreciation of experiences and practices that differ from, but can often be seen to complement our own. Two especially striking observations were made during these discussions. First, one of the monastic participants who has done extensive study in the development of Christological and Trinitarian doctrine during the period prior to the Councils of Nicaea (325), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451) noted that as the Christian Church became more and more Hellenised, it ignored, even rejected the contribution of the Syrian, Coptic, and other Eastern Churches, which had elaborated a Christology that was more Semitic. Had the Church been more open to Eastern ways of understanding the relationship of Jesus to God, he said, it is conceivable that Islam could have developed into a “rite” within the Christian Church. Second, a Muslim participant commented that he did not agree with those Muslims who believed that Christians were polytheists. “You share our belief in One God,” he said, “but the way you express your faith in the Oneness of God is Trinitarian.” He added that while did not agree with this way of expressing the Oneness of God, he accepted the honesty and sincerity of Christians who assured him that belief in the Trinity did not weaken or compromise their belief in the Unity of God. Running throughout the conference was the growing conviction that our dialogue about the unity of God must go beyond coming to a better understanding of and respect for one another. We need to find ways to work together to deepen our unity with God and our unity with one another as brothers and sisters in the one human family and as “cousins” in the Abrahamic family of faith. In addition to the presentations given and discussions held at the Subiaco Centre, the conference included participation in an interreligious afternoon


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at the Jaffery [Shi‘a] Islamic Centre in Lavington, Nairobi; courtesy visits to the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, and to the Auxiliary Bishop of Nairobi, the Most Rev. David Kamau Ng’ang’a; brief presentations to the staff and students at the International Benedictine Study House, an extended visit to and discussion with the Benedictine community at Prince of Peace Monastery (Tigoni); and two public events at Tangaza University College, a Catholic University College jointly owned by the twenty or so member religious congregations, among them, the Benedictines. On the first day at Tangaza, after welcomes from academic administrators and an introduction by the Abbot Primate, Dr Newton Kahumbi Maina, Ph.D., of the Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, spoke on the state of interreligious dialogue in Kenya. The second day was devoted to the specific characteristics and goals of monastic interreligious dialogue. The contact established between DIMMID and Tangaza is especially promising for the future of Monastic-Muslim dialogue in Africa. The newlyappointed Vice-Chancellor Designate, the Rev. Prof. Stephen Mbungua Ngari, and the Head of the Mission and Islamic Department, Fr Innocent Maganya, M. Afr., expressed their eagerness to collaborate with Shi‘a academic institutions in Iran to offer courses and workshops, both at Tanganza and throughout East and South Africa. Fr. Maganya also expressed his readiness to work with DIMMID to provide formation programmes in interreligious dialogue for monks and nuns in this region. It is possible that similar formation programmes for French-speaking monks and nuns could be developed in collaboration with a centre run by the Missionaries of Africa in Bamako, Mali. On the final evening, the African monastic delegates to the conference met with Prior John-Baptist Oese of Tigoni, Fr Maganya, and the SecretaryGeneral of DIMMID to discuss possibilities for the establishment of a continental commission of DIMMID in Africa. It was decided that the next step would be for the African delegates to seek the continued support of their superiors and communities as they report to them on what took place at this meeting. A further step will be to make contact with the various regional associations of African Benedictine communities such as the Benedictine Cistercian Association of Kenya and Uganda (BECIAKU), the Benedictine Union of Tanzania (BUT), the Benedictine Communities of South Africa (BECOSA), the Benedictine and Cistercian Association of Nigeria (BECAN), and ask for their recognition and support of monastic dialogue with Muslims as an especially timely and important mission for monastic men and women in Africa. We will suggest that they include the development of Monastic-Muslim dialogue in the agenda of future meetings. Thirdly, we will follow up on Fr Maganya’s proposal to design and offer a programme of formation for African Benedictines who will be more formally involved in dialogue with Muslims, a programme that could travel to different parts of English-speaking Africa.


Courtesy of: The full programme and photo gallery can be accessed from DIMMID website *Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique / Monastic Interreligious Dialogue (DIMMID) November 2017


Life & Community

Hawza Ilmiyya of London

Begins its fourth academic year


Hawza Opening Ceremony Saturday 9th September

n Saturday 9th September 2017, coinciding with the auspicious event of Ghadeer Khum, the Hawza Ilmiyya of London held its opening ceremony for the 2017-18 academic year. Students and teachers from this Islamic seminary gathered in the Tabatabai Hall also to commemorate the event of Ghadeer Khum marking the day when Prophet Muhammad(s) in 632CE, the year of his demise, proclaimed Ali ibn Abi Taleb(a) as his successor at a place known as Ghadeer Khum located north of Makkah. Guest speakers were Hujjatul-Islam Isa Jahangir, Principle of The Islamic College, Hujjatul-Islam Seyyed Hashem Musavi, a visiting guest from Iran and Hujjatul-Islam Shomali Head of the Islamic Centre of England. The event was chaired by Hujjatul-Islam Mirza Abbas, the administrator of the Hawza Ilmiyya of London. Also addressing the audience was Brother Ali, a senior student of the Hawza, who gave a short talk on the importance of Pre-Hawza studies, a programme of Islamic studies running every Saturday at the Hawza Ilmiyya.


November 2017

In his address, Hujjatul-Islam Jahanghir congratulated all students and staff for their efforts during the last three years, which enabled the Hawza to grow. Analysing a tradition of Imam Ali (a), he explained how in the pursuit of knowledge students of the Hawza should also pay attention to the refinement of one’s character and manner. The tradition from Imam Ali (a) projected to the audience emphasised the interrelatedness between knowledge and good manners. “According to Imam Ali (a) the most important knowledge is the one that leads towards God. By acquiring this type of knowledge and with good and ethical behaviour towards others one can gain proximity to God”, said Hujjatul-Islam Jahangir. He further emphasised the importance of continued studies and research by quoting the endeavours of the great scholar Allamah Sheikh Abdul Hossein Amini, author of the 11 volume work ‘The Ghadeer in the Book, the Sunnah, and Literature’. He spent many years and travelled extensively in the pursuit of authentic knowledge. Hujjatul-Islam Seyyed Hashem Musavi was the next speaker to address the

audience. He was on a short trip to London and students and teachers were happy to see him addressing the audience in the little time available. His talk was brief but to the point. He expressed his joy at being among students of the Hawza ‘who seek the knowledge of the Ahl ul Bayt and Qur’an, a knowledge that is useful both here and in the Hereafter’. Hujjatul-Islam Musavi quoted a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad(s) stating that: The first part of acquiring knowledge is to know God and the last part is to submit all affairs to Him. He explained that between these two parts there is a connecting path upon which students not only have to embark but strive to remain on. He explained that to ‘submit to God’ has many meanings but one of them is to achieve a status when what pleases God becomes also what pleases us. This point was reinforced by quoting an exhortation from Imam Sajjad(a): “Don’t sell yourself for Paradise”, meaning that our good action should not be only for the purpose of ‘buying’ a place in Paradise but should conform with what pleases God, to attain God’s pleasure. Hujjatul-Islam Musavi exhorted all students especially freshmen to try to

establish a special path in their lives and ask God to keep them on this path and be ready to give everything back to Him at the end. Before the final address by HujjatulIslam Shomali, awards for completion and recognition were given respectively to pre-Hawza and Hawza students. Hujjatul-Islam Shomali began his talk with a prayer for the London Hawza Ilmiyya to be a conduit of light, understanding, knowledge and wisdom, exhorting all staff to do their utmost to strengthen this noble institution. He explained that the focus of his talk would be on the importance of ‘rationality’. Hujjatul-Islam Shomali quoted a tradition from Imam Musa Kazim (a) told to one of his companions: “… O Hisham! For everything, there is a special sign. The sign of the intellect is reflection, and the sign of reflection is silence. And there is a carrier for everything and the carrier of the intellect is submission [to truth]. To commit what you have been forbidden to do [by God] is sufficient indicator of one’s foolishness….". He described having knowledge but not

being able to process it properly as a downfall. He underlined the importance for the students of the Hawza to develop and utilise their intellectual capacities to correctly elaborate knowledge and come up with an understanding of what we are supposed to do, especially in the times in which we are living. He said that not only should we grow in knowledge but also in our rational faculties and wisdom to understand what should be the appropriate responses to the challenges of our time. Hujjatul-Islam Shomali explained that there are signs that tell us if we are developing our intellect. As per the above tradition, intellect is correlated to reflection, a state of contemplation. It follows that the more one is in contemplation the more silent he/she will be. He explained that the sign of thinking and contemplation is silence as thinking engages your mind leaving no room for irrelevant words. Referring to the third part of Imam Kazim’s(a) tradition (And there is a carrier for everything, and the carrier of the intellect is submission [to truth]), Hujjatul-Islam Shomali explained that submission means humility as without it our intellect grows in its ego rather than

searching for truth. He said that progress in Hawza studies is measured also in relation to one’s growth in humility. He warned students and scholars of the danger of arrogance. The transformative power of knowledge can lead us into two opposing directions; therefore, the cultivation of humility alongside knowledge is a must. Following on the tradition of Imam Kazim (a), he exhorted all not to fall prey to flattering praises that make us believe that we are special but rather to conduct introspective self-evaluation. He also cautioned the students to be careful about those who try to dissuade them from undertaking Hawza studies because they consider them to be anachronistic and of little use. Knowing the worth of this path and truly acknowledging it is like a ‘precious pearl’ in our hand which should help us from wanting to give up after a few months. He added that students of the Hawza should reflect on the fact that they have been given access to a very special treasure that cannot be replaced by anything else. The programme concluded with the recitation of some poetry and eulogies about the event of Ghadeer Khum.


See the full programme here.

November 2017




In Review: Stories, Journeys and Belonging “A Journey of Love crystallises the human and aspirational traits ofImam Husayn.� As Arbaeen approaches it is hoped that a continuous state of introspection from Muharram onwards would spark an internal revolution that quashes all Yazidi traits and enlivens our Husayni qualities to achieve victory. This annual reminder of our obligatory greater jihad is reflected in a series of art pieces currently on display by Intifada Street, an art company founded by artist and activist

Sharing Our Stories At the end of September I was privileged to see the Hijabi Monologues come to London. Based on a secular feminist monologue first shown in the US in 1996, the HM is now an international project that tells of the real life experiences of Muslim women. Using the original uncensored and unfiltered model, it seeks to tell the stories of hijabis that convey a spiritual journey mired by earthly sufferings. Did it succeed? For the most part, yes. The monologues were honest, candid and refreshing. It was heartening to listening to stories unfold that could so easily have been my own. They expressed an experience of isolation, tension and


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Muhammad Hamza which gives voice to the untold story of the oppressed. Journey of Love is an exhibition framed by the 7th century journey of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad(s) to Karbala. It emphasises the Husayni qualities of truth, love, beauty and freedom from oppression. Exploring similar themes and a deeply personal reflection of the inspirational story of Imam Husayn (a), this labour of love also reflects a contemporary struggle. Journey of Love is on at the Islamic Human Rights Commission until early December.

confusion that was often an internalisation of feelings of another's fear. The performances were convincing and engaging causing me to shudder, laugh and almost cry. A pre-performance conversation with an advisor of the organisation that funded the London play made it apparent that she had questioned the legitimacy of this project being accepted for funding. Her concern was that it did not promote a positive image of Islamic arts and culture which was one of the prerequisites for funding. By the end of the performance she was as convinced, as I was certain, that it was a worthwhile collection of stories that needed to be told. Where I became

disheartened was in the fact that many of the stories were taken from the first US performance in 2006 penned by the original writer and licence holder Sahar Ullah. The callout earlier this year, and the title, had given the impression that current stories from the UK would be used. In essence, the stories would be relatable but instead narrations from other places were re-contextualised to fit in with our understanding. A story centred on American football was edited with soccer references to suit its new location. For me this was disappointing as was the fact that the retelling of our stories in this format is now under licence.

The Hijabi Monologues are available to view on YouTube

Belonging Black and Muslim in Britain The experience of being Black and Muslim in Britain is the theme of a series of seven short films that was produced to commemorate Black History Month. Documenting the feelings of Black Muslim men and women of all ages and varying professions and backgrounds, the juxtaposed interviews gave an informal insight into the hearts and minds of the often invisible, unsung and under-represented in the community to which I belong. I was fortunate to attend the preview screening and Q&A that preceded the online launch of a selection of these short films created to address a lack of faith representation during Black history month in the UK. Co-producers Saraiya Bah, Sakina Lenoir and Mohammad Mohammad were motivated to collate these experiences in order to reflect a

The Place to Be

The Islamic Garden, Stockwood Discovery Centre Stockwood Discovery Centre, formerly known as Stockwood Craft Museum, is a Park and recreational centre that spans over one square kilometre. Along with its golf course,

diverse Muslim voice within the African-Caribbean community in order to affirm a heritage through the documenting of oral histories and to consolidate these within the larger narrative of Black and Muslim experience. Each short film revolved around a pertinent question posed for the sitter to answer directly to camera. “Should faith be a pivotal part of Black History Month?” followed by, “what was the strangest thing you've experienced about being Black and Muslim?” This was a light hearted question which highlighted a lack of acceptance of Black Muslim heritage, particularly within the wider Muslim community. The Dominican author, Junot Diaz, once said: “if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny

horse riding facilities and rugby pitch, it houses a museum, art gallery and a variety of themed gardens. With an annual footfall of over 7,000 it is the most popular park in the town.

them, at a cultural level, any reflection of themselves,” a powerful statement which reflects how many who are Black, Muslim or both feel about their place in society. The screenings will go a long way in educating new audiences about other cultural experiences and getting them to engage. And carving out this new path of representation will create a platform for once isolated groups. In 21st Britain this is unfortunately still necessary in order to dispel racism and Islamophobic thinking. Fundamentally it is important to be seen and heard. Black and Muslim in Britain is available to view on YouTube

in countering this by bringing diverse members of the community together to engage in art making and creating a lasting testimony to remind themselves and others of that unity. The project ended with an event to commemorate the International Day of Peace and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the centre.


One of these gardens, the Islamic garden (also known as the Asian garden), is currently being redeveloped and throughout last summer I have been working on a project Stockwood Discovery Centre with the local London road, community in Luton to Luton LU1 4LX build a Peace Fountain. The idea grew out of the Open daily from 10am-4pm negative perception that the town has earned Moriam Grillo is an international from the media and award winning artist.She holds degrees in photography & internal issues that exist Batchelor film and Ceramics and is currently around a lack of studying for a masters in Art Therapy. Moriam is also founder of community cohesion. The Peace Fountain the Butterfly Project. Project was instrumental November 2017



Insight into (a) Imam Husayn’s struggle

The presentation of a sound interpretation of religion, stemming from a correct safeguarding of the prophetic teachings was at the heart of Imam Husayn’s struggle says, Abbas Di Palma


very year millions of Muslims commemorate the sacrifice of Imam Husayn Ibn Ali (a), the grandson of the Prophet(s) in Karbala during the month of Muharram. The story of his heroic martyrdom along with a small group of his followers against an army of thousands of men is retold every year with the purpose of reviving the true value of religion, to achieve greater spiritual insight and awareness of God. This commemoration builds up until the fortieth day after their martyrdom marked by the day of Arbaeen on the 20th day of Safar. The events following the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a) and the suffering of the family of the Prophet are remembered amongst Muslim communities in various parts of the world. The yearly repetition of these commemorations could, if not properly understood, lead to misrepresentation. Every time the story of Imam Husayn (a) is retold,


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merely in cultural contexts, there is a risk of becoming repetitive over corollary notions, missing the real goal of Imam Husayn’s(a) sacrifice. Consequently it may lead to trivialising the spiritual message

When someone with no familiarity with the original message uses religious texts and concepts with the utmost superficiality, the original interpretation can remain hidden, leading to wrong notions and ideas.

underlying the earthly event or the physical battle that took place. What is crucial here is the reason why so many Muslims still remember the tragedies of Ashura and how they can rationalise these commemorations? It is an established belief of Muslims that the Prophetic mission ended with the departure of the Prophet

Muhammad(s), supposedly leaving no room for the establishment and development of other practices in the name of religion. Indisputably the Prophet Muhammad(s) brought the last revelation to humanity, a perfect law and a complete message in order to live a harmonious life according to spiritual teachings. This message is to be preserved for future generations and it would not be rationally acceptable for a Muslim mind to let it die after the passing away of his founder. Preservation of the original message is, therefore, one of the most important reasons for the sacrifice of Imam Husayn (a). From here, another important concept is the significance of interpretation. A message, as genuine as it may be, is subject to different interpretations. When someone with no familiarity with the original message uses religious texts and concepts with the utmost superficiality, the original

“Those to whom the people said, ‘All the people have gathered against you; so fear them.’ That only increased them in faith, and they said, ‘God is sufficient for us, and He is an excellent trustee.’” (3:173).

interpretation can remain hidden, leading to wrong notions and ideas. Therefore, in this context, we must see Husayn Ibn Ali (a) not only as a member of the Prophetic House but as someone who stood up for the right interpretation of the religion received directly from his grandfather. The true interpretation would lead to the next fundamental step which is a real connection to God. Having a personal relationship with God is very important in a believer’s daily life as it nurtures his soul and existence. When the connection stems from a sound interpretation of religion, which in turn stems from a correct preservation of its teachings, God willing, the desired goal of an everlasting peace is found. In this way the commemorations of mourning hold a very powerful meaning and have the potential to change our lives. Mourning here is not a reconstruction of a mere historical event revived every year as a cultural appointment, but the opportunity to join Imam Husayn’s(a) path with the same purity of intentions and righteous deeds.

As result of mourning, the soul of the believer relives the battle of Karbala, joining Imam Husayn’s(a) ranks and family and sharing in their suffering. Therefore, purity, dedication, patience, honesty, bravery and sacrifice become the rightful interpretation of the prophetic legacy. In practical terms, the outcome is a firm implementation of what has been achieved by the spiritual experience. Such preservation of the message, its interpretation and Godly connection were patently manifested amongst the surviving members of the family of the Prophet after the tragic events of Karbala. The great Imam Ali ibn Husayn (a) along with the women and children of the Prophet’s household were taken as captives and humiliated in front of the masses of Iraq and Sham. An unbiased and thorough look at the scenario would enable us to underline their honourable, epic and eternal qualities manifested during moments of unbearable hardships and suffering. Everything they said and did in those terrible circumstances was in perfect accordance with the moral standards of the Qur’an. Their faith was not

shaken but rather strengthened, and their pious conduct unaffected by the psychological and physical torture they were subjected to. The lessons we learn from Ashura and its aftermath should assist us in facing difficulties in our lives. The faithful followers of Imam Husayn (a) at Karbala, remind us of the reason and the scope of our existence, something we often forget due to our preoccupation with worldly affairs. Finding a way to increase faith and righteous deeds in moments of difficulty is the best lesson that can be learned in the school of Ashura and one of the noblest aims that believers should strive towards for their own upliftment and benefit.


Hujjatul-Islam Abbas Di Palma is

an Italian convert, graduated from the Hawza Ilmiyya ofLondon. He holds a MA in Islamic Studies and is currently lecturing at The Islamic College - London.

November 2017


Water & Roses (a) for Imam Husayn Report by Fatima Muhammad


hile thousands of Muslims marched through London and different parts of Europe to protest against ISIS and terrorism and to commemorate the event of Karbala on the Day of Ashura, the Union of Islamic Student Associations in Europe participated the event by distributing bottles of water, flowers and brochures. The project was aimed to raise awareness and insight into the revival of Imam Husayn (a) movement and held in Italy, Germany, Norway, Austria, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The main purpose of the project was to introduce the Ashura movement and the true face of Islam to the public and non-Muslims in different cities in Europe. One of the main activities of the union in recent years has been introducing Imam Husayn (a) to non-Muslims in order to promote and revive his words and ideology. This year, the union distributed bottles of water, roses and informational brochures to non-Muslims in different cities, including London, Bradford, Rome, Turin, Milan, Paris, Bergen, Vienna, Hague, Aachen and Berlin. These brochures were designed to answer questions about the uprising of Imam Husayn (a), to demonstrate the true face of Islam and distinguish it from extremism. It is also designed and distributed to confront the wave of Islamophobia in the West and to declare that Islam condemns injustice and terrorism. The brochures are available in indigenous languages (English, Italian, Dutch, French, German, and Norwegian). The brochures also introduce the Arbaeen walk and contained great quotations made by public figures in respect of Imam Husayn (a).


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Volunteers with flags and white scarves with the motto "I AM IN A BATTLE AGAINST INJUSTICE. WILL YOU JOIN ME?" were offering bottles of water, which symbolises the thirst of Imam Husayn (a) and his companions, as well as roses, a symbol of unity and friendship, along with information about the life of Imam Husayn (a) and Ashura.


It should also be noted that this movement was planned and implemented with the help and support of various Islamic centres in different parts of Europe.

November 2017


The why's and what's of death

On the occassion of Prophet Muhammad's (s) demise, Batool Haydar reminds us how to explain death to our children


or many of us, death is a reality we prefer not think too much about. Yes, we know we all have to do die and we are all aware of the verse of the Holy Qur'an that reminds us that “Every soul shall taste Death." (3:185) However, we seem to conveniently tuck this knowledge away in the recesses of our minds until it is forced upon us by the passing away of those around us. When we face the death of others, our reactions are usually standard. There is shock and disbelief - which is surprising, given that we are aware of its inevitability - followed by grief. Then with the passing of time, the sorrow fades away and we sometimes recall our loved ones with a sense of nostalgia, but rarely with the intensity of the initial feelings of loss. This almost superficial relationship we have with the most important event in our lives after our birth is something we inherited from our parents, and we will pass the same attitude down to our children unless we begin to take a more active stance towards it. Addressing the issue of death with children is delicate no doubt, but they can be guided so that they learn to understand the concept of death without becoming either afraid or morbid. While each child is unique and will require their own approach to the subject, below are a few general tips on when and how to welcome death into your lives.

1. Set the Foundation

This is more of a basic daily principle than a specific response to death. As early as you can, begin to lay the understanding that everything is from God. Remind your children to thank Him for the food they eat as well as the toys they play with. Make them aware that all blessings are from

God - from parents and family to parks and sunshine. If you establish the foundation of inna lillah (Verily, we are from God) consistently, then it will be easier to introduce the idea of wa inna ilayhi rajioon (And to Him we return) when the occasion arises.

2. Explain when asked

In our eagerness to raise precocious children, we may sometimes be tempted to bring up the subject of death. This is usually a mistake. As with all long-term life lessons, children need to lead the conversation out of their own curiosity. It may arise as a result of a discussion at school, through a story or watching the news, or it could be a loss closer to home. Whatever the case may be, talk about death when a child asks or when it is relevant. It's important to remember that for children, this is one of the most confusing aspects of life to understand. They can barely grasp the idea of ‘life', so death is simply an added complication.

3. Don't avoid or lie about the subject

When I was a child, a very close family friend passed away. I still clearly remember asking where he was and being told that he had gone far away for a holiday. My natural reaction was to ask when he was coming back and when that question was avoided, I knew I was being lied to and felt the distance grow between myself as a child and the adults around me. As Muslims, we have a very clear set of beliefs regarding death and the afterlife. Don't try to replace these with a glossed-over story ‘for the time being'. Telling a child that someone especially if it is a close loved one - has become a star in the sky or an angel in heaven might sound

nice, but inevitably that child will learn the truth. They will then grow up either with the memory of being lied to or they will find that reality simply isn't as appealing as the pretty story it was substituted with.

4. Less is more

As we emerge fresh from recounting the tragedy of Karbala, it might be tempting to present ‘the reality' of death and loss to your child. Do however remember that the children in Karbala were of a different calibre! Whilst honesty is the best way to go, don't forget that your child is still just that - a child. Depending on his or her age, give as simple an explanation as possible. For a very young child, the answer may be as simple as “He has gone back to God" (remember point 1?) or “God has called her back". With older children, there will be more questions of course. They may ask about burial rites and be curious about the grave. They may insist on wanting the deceased to return because for many children, the concept of time is very fluid and there is no permanence in anything. Give responses as required and don't be afraid to repeat the same answer if the same question is asked again. Children don't always need elaboration, a lot of times they only require repetition or reassurance.

5. Be prepared, but don't panic

Islam is a way of life and the best way to pass it on is to live it yourself. We can only explain our beliefs to our children to the extent that we know them ourselves. Reading and exploring the idea of death and the afterlife benefits us as well, not just our children. Nevertheless, no amount of preparation can prepare you for every question. Children have a way of seeing things we don't because we have become accustomed or desensitised over time. It is therefore inevitable that a child will come up with an unexpected observation or question with regard to loss. The child of a friend used to insist that if we love God and He calls us back then we should be happy that we are going to meet Him. She wondered over and over again why people cried at funerals and insisted they should be happy for the person who died. This wasn't something that could be ‘reasoned' away and the only thing my

friend could do was to explain that those left behind were mourning their own loss and missing the one who had left. It took time and the creation of her own personal attachments, but the child eventually figured out for herself the fine balance between loss on this side of life and gain in the afterlife. The acceptance of an event as momentous as death is a lifelong process. Most of us are still refining this understanding for ourselves. Because death is such an inextricable part of human existence, our children will inevitably face it in all its various forms. Our responsibility is to guide their understanding along the path of Islam and ensure that they do not form a fear for what should ideally be a motivating factor to living the best life possible before uniting with our Creator.


November 2017



A hundred years after theBalfourDeclaration Is Christianity doomed in Jerusalem? Frank Gelli reflects on the Balfour Declaration

I hate the name of that street. I can’t bear being anywhere near it!’ Afif, a Palestinian Christian businessman, told me. He has good reasons. Balfour Street, in the West Jerusalem area of Talbieh, is named after Lord James Balfour, Foreign Secretary and author of the inglorious 1917 Declaration, a policy statement by the British Government pledging ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’. Many of the current woes of the Palestinian people go back to that very name: Balfour. In a book entitled ‘Divided Jerusalem - the Struggle for the Holy City’, Professor Bernard Wasserstein, a worthy JewishAmerican academic, has documented the melancholy decadence of Christian Jerusalem after Balfour. Towards the end of Ottoman rule Christians were more numerous than Muslims in the Holy City. (12.900 Christians to 12.000 Muslims.) By the time the British pulled out in 1948 and the State of Israel was created, the Christian presence had dramatically fallen. Today they are barely two percent of the Arab population, including the West Bank. Even most of the shops selling religious souvenirs to pilgrims in the Jerusalem Christian quarter are no longer in Christian ownership. On a visit there former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey worried that ancient Christian sites in Palestine like Bethlehem and Jerusalem may soon become a kind of Disneyland, mere theme parks, with hardly any Christians inhabiting them. A grim but real prospect. The Holy City, sacred to the three great monotheistic faiths, is, of course, a place of tremendous symbolism. The seat of


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King David, the theatre of Jesus Christ’s ministry, crucifixion and resurrection, the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad journeyed to Heaven and also the prefiguration of the New Jerusalem, emblem of man’s final, transfigured destiny, as the Book of Revelation indicates. An uplifting emblem of divine salvation history. Could there be a city on earth more superb? In fact, when Jesus walked the earth he had some pretty harsh things to say about the Holy City. St Matthew’s Gospel reports him crying out: ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and those who are sent to her! How often I desired to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!’ This was the last of seven apocalyptic warnings Jesus pronounced against the religious hypocrites of his time, the wicked people who masqueraded as pious while plotting against the Messiah to destroy him. Significantly, one of the murdered prophets was Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, whose last words were not forgiveness: ‘May the Lord see and avenge.’ Apart from demographic decline, one serious weakness besetting the Christian Churches in Jerusalem is their disunity. Broadly speaking, there are four main categories: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Monophysite. However, this classification does not tell the full story. For example, the Orthodox comprises both Greek and Russian Churches, not at all in agreement with each other. (Their parishes are composed of the predominantly Arab-speaking faithful.) Further, the Russians owe allegiance to different Patriarchates. The Monophysites consist of Churches like

Armenians, Coptic, Ethiopians and Syrians – all heirs to a tradition that rejected the ancient Council of Chalcedon’s dogma regarding the nature of Christ. Catholics can also be distinguished between those of Latin liturgical rite and others, like the Maronites, but they all recognise the Pope as their supreme leader. As for Protestants, there is a proliferation of sects. The Anglican Church has a Cathedral in Jerusalem but its actual presence is insignificant. Christians are a colourful, diverse mosaic but, in reality, with dwindling numbers and decreasing influence over the destiny of the city. The best they can hope for, Wasserstein opines, is ‘shared crumbs at the table’. If Balfour was alive today, I wonder whether he would be happy about that. To be fair, when the Balfour Declaration was issued not all members of the British government were in favour. Even Edwin Montague, a Jew, opposed it. He thought Zionism was a mischievous project, bound to stir up anti-Semitism. Lord Curzon, perhaps the most well-travelled and erudite statesman Britain ever had, was highly sceptical. Thanks to him a clause was inserted in the Declaration, stating that ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities in Palestine.’ A far-sighted concern, sadly ignored and betrayed by subsequent events. Both Balfour and Curzon were Christians but it was the latter who correctly predicted the dire results of the declaration for Christians, as well as Muslims. By 1939, on the eve of WWII, the British authorities apparently had second thoughts: ‘His Majesty’s

Government… now declares unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish state.’ Another shameful example of Anglo-Saxon duplicity, based on a quibble between the word ‘state’ and

‘national home’, as mentioned in the Balfour Declaration. As if that linguistic subterfuge would make any practical difference to the dismal fate of the ‘non-Jewish’ inhabitants of Palestine! ‘O sweet and blessed country, shall I ever see they face? O sweet and blessed country, shall I ever win they grace?’ asks that wonderful hymn, Jerusalem the Golden. Only God can decide that. Shall earthly Jerusalem ever know true peace? Shall its inhabitants ever know true justice? That is up to righteous men and women of all faiths – and possessed of an indomitable, God-shaped goodwill.


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.

November 2017



Dialogue between faith and science Science and Religion Conference - The Cambridge Muslim College

that, while science succumbs to uncertainty, the bracing certainties of faith introduce a more attractive alternative? Rationalist and atheistic thinkers like Daniel Bennett, Dr Winter reminded us, have argued that consciousness and free will are strictly the results of physical processes. There are no

Current research and new perspectives on consciousness and the role of the observer in fundamental physical sciences were discussed recently at the Cambridge Muslim College. Frank Gelli reports

Science cannot give you the smell of chicken soup", declared Albert Einstein. Cambridge physicist Jeremy Butterfield quoted the legendary scientist to illustrate the cognitive gap between subjective human consciousness and the physical, objective world which science investigates. It is to the credit of the Cambridge Muslim College that it organised an exciting day conference 8th September 17 to delve into such mysteries. The subject matter was not for the faint-hearted: ‘What is Consciousness and Why Observers Matter in Quantum Theory.’ A challenging title but appropriate for university whose glories include scientific geniuses like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawkins.


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College Dean Dr Tim Winter, a.k.a. Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad, in the opening address stressed that the purpose of the gathering was not to advance solutions but to establish a serious conversation between science and faith. He invoked the Cambridge Platonist thinkers and the great Islamic philosopher and physician Ibn Sina’s doctrine of the soul as pertinent predecessors. The Conference panel offered ten presentations by physicists, neuroscientists, mathematicians, a psychotherapist and a philosopher. There was no attempt to assert a crude link between religion and science. Rather, each speaker set out some of the key problems involved in quantum theory. You could say it all goes back to Werner Heisenberg’s famous Uncertainty Principle, one of the cornerstones of modern physics. Formulated in 1927, that revolutionary discovery fractured the certainties of previous deterministic, Newtonian science. Because at the subatomic level there are no certainties about the path of physical particles, only probabilities, as Heisenberg’s experiments showed. Such uncertainty has deep implications for the scientific worldview. Could it be

thoughts, Dennett claims, only units of information. Others, however, respond that personal introspection means a mode of knowing not reducible to matter. Philosopher Thomas Nagel’s ground-breaking paper ‘What is it like to be a bat?’ shows how merely materialist, reductionist theories of mind omit something essential: what it is – or feels - like to be a particular conscious being, like a bat (pity we

cannot ask the bat, its answers may be surprising). Nagel does not believe in a Creator but his reasoned views about the unique status of consciousness are a challenge to materialists like Dennett. Professor Anam Anzak’s expertise in neurology and neurosurgery enabled her to study the phenomena of consciousness from an empirical and experimental standpoint. An expert on the neural basis of paradoxical kinesia in Parkinson Disease patients, she did not confine herself to the medical dimension. Indeed, she also produced stimulating snippets about a ‘neuro-theology’. By invoking the Qur’an – specifically Surah Yusuf – she suggested that valuable insights can be gathered from sacred texts bearing a tantalising relevance to brain research and psychopathology. Ausaf Farooqi, another neuroscientist, also implied a rejection of any vulgar

materialist theory of mind-brain identity. The point is that there seem to be no specific areas of the brain that can be correlated with consciousness. Nor indeed is there any location within the brain that is

active at all times. Where is consciousness then? A question, materialists cannot answer. Suzanne Gieser, an analytical psychologist from Stockholm, gave a fascinating paper. It was about the

exchanges between psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung and physicist Wolfgang Pauli, all explained in their jointly-authored book, The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche. Jung’s concern was with the human experience of synchronicity, those extraordinary coincidences apparently not causally related yet strikingly meaningful. Pauli, for his part, was fascinated by the astronomer Johannes Kepler, the way the latter’s scientific achievements relied on alchemy, mysticism and religion. Reading Kepler persuaded scientist Pauli that to find the deep, universal laws of the universe one must go beyond science as hitherto narrowly defined. Their discussions led Jung to study quantum physics, while Pauli was drawn into Jung’s own theories about the archetypes, myths, ESP and the meaning of dreams. In 1920 Pauli had discovered the notorious Exclusion Principle of quantum mechanics - another nail in

the coffin of scientific certainties. The discovery had caused Pauli much anxiety. Jung showed Pauli how symbols drawn from alchemical and esoteric traditions, such as Islamic mysticism, could enable him to overcome his angst. Not only that, the symbols also disclosed to Pauli the deep, subconscious way by which he had arrived at his conclusions. For the great physicist, it was a real Eureka moment, an illuminative realisation. Henceforth he saw his own work through the perspective of Jung’s ideas. Could Jung and Pauli’s interchange perhaps present a model of how science and religion may learn from each other? Dr Asim Islam’s concluding remarks were stimulating. Latest researches in quantum mechanics suggest the crucial, active role of the human observer – human consciousness, or indeed the soul - in physics. Thus, ultimately science produces a picture of reality consistent with classical theological views. Reason and faith can be harmonised. Wonderful! I came away from the conference feeling really uplifted. I hope the Cambridge Muslim College will make the text of the papers available soon. Thoughtful believers should find them of great interest.


November 2017



The man with golden arm Laleh Lohrasbi tells the story of how the cure for Rhesus disease was found


ames Harrison is the Australian donor whose blood has saved millions of lives over the world including almost all of the Australian babies at risk of developing Rhesus disease. Rhesus disease is a condition in which antibodies in a pregnant woman's blood destroy her baby's blood cells. It's also known as haemolytic disease of the foetus and newborn (HDFN). One out of every 1000 babies is subjected to Rhesus disease, a form of severe anaemia that may occur in the second or subsequent pregnancies of Rh-negative women when the foetus’s father is Rh positive. The disease can be prevented with two simple intramuscular injections during the first pregnancy, but what is the injection and where does it come from? Today blood groups are so well known that everybody knows what their blood type is and is aware of what blood types they can receive in a medical emergency. However, just less than one hundred years ago, it was not so. The first blood transfusion was performed in 1900, but back then doctors wondered why some transfusions were successful while others were deadly. It took a quarter of a century for physicians to find out about blood groups and their subgroups. There are four principle blood groups known as A, B, AB and O. Blood groups are determined by proteins called antigens which can be found


November 2017

on the membrane of red blood cells. People who have an antigen on their red blood cells have blood group A, while people with B antigens, have blood group B. People who have both A and B antigens have blood group AB and those who do not have any of the above antigens have blood group O. However, there are also some other kinds of antigens on the blood cells’ membrane of which the most important is Rh (D) antigen or factor. The existence or lack of this factor determines whether one is Rh positive or negative. All of the A, B, AB or O blood groups can be Rh positive or negative. The importance of blood groups

comes into light when blood transfusion is needed. Each blood group is compatible with its own antigens and if exposed to other antigens the body will start to make antibodies against them. For example, if someone with blood group A receives blood from group B, his or her body will produce antibodies against B antigens, which by attaching to the red blood cells will coagulate the red blood cells and cause death. The same thing can happen in the case of infusion of Rh-positive blood to someone who is Rh negative. When a woman who is Rh-negative is having a baby whose father is Rh positive, there is a high probability that the infant will become Rh

positive. Usually during birth, a little bit of the infant’s blood passes into the mother’s blood circulation. In this case, as the mother is Rh negative then her body will produce antibodies against Rh antigens present in the foetus’ blood. These antibodies will remain in the mother’s blood. While the first child will be unaffected, in the second or subsequent pregnancies, these antibodies will pass through the placenta into the foetus’ blood circulation and if the level is sufficiently high, it will cause the destruction of Rhesus D positive foetal red blood cells leading to the development of Rhesus disease. In 86% of the cases, blood mixing happens during birth, but in 14% of the cases, it happens before birth. Fortunately, most Rh disease cases can be prevented by injecting the mother with Rho(D) immune globulin during pregnancy or soon afterwards. Rho(D) immune globulin is the antibody against Rh (D) antigens, its job is to deactivate foetus antigens right after they get into the mother’s blood, before the mother’s body has had a chance to produce any antibodies. The injection of anti-Rh antibody is done at 28 weeks of pregnancy with a booster at week 34. The induced immunity by the injection of anti-Rh wears off after 4-6 weeks, this period is long enough to prevent the formation of antibodies by the mother’s body and is short enough not to get into the foetus’ blood circulation in the second or subsequent pregnancies. The anti Rh antibody is derived from human plasma, from Rh negative people who have been exposed to Rh positive blood. This includes Rh negative women who have their first pregnancy with an Rh positive baby. These women are in fact the victims of Rhesus disease themselves and may have lost more than one baby in second and subsequent pregnancies. However, by donating their blood, they can save the lives of many other babies. Between them, American Marilyn McCarthy, 72 and Elizabeth Pascoe, 68, may have saved tens of thousands of babies over the years. These ladies did not want other pregnant women to go through what they have experienced. So for 25 years and 30 years respectively, they have travelled at least twice a week from their homes in Buffalo to a nearby lab to donate plasma. The story of James Harrison is however different. Doctors believe that he has an extremely rare kind of blood which contains the anti Rh antibodies. When Harrison was 14, he had a chest operation to remove one of his lungs. This procedure made

him lose lots of blood, and doctors had to inject 13 units of blood into his body. That was the time, Harrison decided to give back. When he was 18 he began to donate his blood. He has done so almost every 3 weeks for 60 years now! Meanwhile doctors who were struggling to find a cure for Rhesus disease found out that Harrison’s blood contains the magical antibodies they needed. There are over 500,000 blood donors in Australia but only 50 of them have the anti Rh antibodies.

Harrison has donated blood over 1100 times. His name is in the Guinness Book of Records and he is known at home as ‘the man with the golden arm’. Every single batch of AntiD in Australia has had a little bit of James in it. Harrison has never thought of stopping. However, when he becomes 80, he will not be able to donate blood anymore, so it will be others’ turn to give back what they have been gifted.


Dr Laleh Lohrasbi is a

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

November 2017



Travel Guide to

Muslim Europe

W i t h t ra ve l w ri t e r a n d E u ro p e a n M u s l i m h e ri t a g e s p e c i a l i s t Tharik Hussain

The Vikings and the Muslims


ast month saw several were Islamic. A year the fascinating later, near Stockholm’s claim by Annika Arlanda airport, 470 coins Larsson of minted between the 7-9th Uppsala University in Sweden century, from places as far that patterns thought to be afield as Baghdad, Viking on funeral clothing Damascus, Persia and N. could be Kufic inscriptions Africa were found in a 9th reading ‘Allah’ and ‘Ali’. The century Iron Age burial. In fragments made of silver and fine silk total, more than 100,000 Islamic coins thread had to come from the east, have been unearthed in the region. according to the researcher whose These coins are said to have been part discovery made headlines across the of ‘booty’ acquired by Vikings when globe. raiding Muslim lands or the result of Larsson came across the words when trade. According to 10th-century she was reconstructing fragments Muslim historian and geographer, Al historically excavated at Birka and Mas’udi, whilst the Vikings developed a Gamla Uppsala for a Viking Couture fondness for the silver coins and fine exhibition. The patterns she was silk cloth - as seen with the Uppsala examining had previously been University discovery - the Muslims had dismissed as typical Viking ones. a fondness for their hats and coats The discovery is part of a long line of made from the ‘fur of black foxes’. In al finds that suggest Vikings and Muslims Mas’udi’s hometown of Baghdad - one had a history of cultural exchange. The Estonian Museum of History is The Estonian Museum ofhistory in a quaint, typically Nordic yellow building with a pointed roof. It was once the Tallinn’s Great Guild Hall, and now houses fascinating artefacts concerning the history of the Baltic and Nordic people. One of the most interesting collections is a set of coins displayed on blue felt. These are silver coins minted by the Abbasid, Samanid and Karakhanid Muslim empires, with the earliest dating back to the 8th century. Islamic coins are more common in Northern Europe than one might think. In the 2007 ‘Vale of York Horde’, amongst 617 coins found,


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Viking funeral clothing

of the most culturally advanced cities at the time - the Vikings were seen as ‘Merchant Warriors’ and known as the ‘Rus’ people, (which some link to Roslagen, near east Uppsala). ‘Rus’ or ‘Rusiyya’ is also the name used by the 10th-century traveller, and fellow Baghdadi, Ahmed Ibn Fadlan, when describing the Vikings he saw trading in the Volga region. Ibn Fadlan was largely unimpressed by the Norseman, especially with their personal hygiene, yet he marvels at their appearance, describing them as ‘perfect physical specimens’ who were as tall as ‘date palms’. The Viking contact with European Muslims was less convivial. The Moors referred to them as ‘Al-Majus’ or fire worshippers and often had to fend off their famous raids. However, after one such raid, a fascinating incident shows how sometimes Islamic artefacts ended up in Scandinavia because they were sent as gifts. In 844 CE, the governor of Lisbon, Wahballah Ibn Hazm describes a

Birka and Gamla Uppsala

Viking attack and the fear they evoked; “Majus arrived in about 80 ships. One might say they had, as it were, filled the ocean with dark red birds, in the same way as they had filled the hearts of men with fear and trembling”. After landing at Lisbon, Ibn Hazm says they sailed to Cadiz, Sidona and finally to Seville, Annika Larsson Uppsala University© a city “they besieged … and took by storm”. The Vikings continued to wreak havoc for several days in this region before reinforcements arrived from Cordoba to finally drive them away. In the wake of this attack, a Viking ambassador arrived at the court of the Emir of Al Andalus, Abdur Rahman II, to make peace. In response, the Emir sends his own ambassador, Al-Ghazal to the court of King Harek of Denmark (historians believe Harek is the most likely monarch). Al-Ghazal arrives laden with eastern gifts for King Harek, before spending an unusually long period of time in the company of Harek's queen during his stay. In 2015, a re-examination of another historical find at Birka

Where in the world: The Estonian

Museum of history is in the oldest part of Tallinn on Pikk 17, whilst the Lund Cathedral is on Kyrkogatan 4 in the centre of Lund.

In and out: The easiest way to get into

Tallinn is to fly into Lennit Mari Tallinn Airport and grab local bus 121 from Lindakivi to Baltic on the northern edge of the old town, and then walk for ten minutes to Pikk. For Lund Cathedral, fly into Malmo International airport and get the Fylgbussarna

also made global headlines. A silver ring from a 9th-century noblewoman’s grave was said to have the Kufic inscription ‘for Allah’ on it - its appearance suggesting it was not booty spoil. The ring now sits in the collection of the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm. Another intriguing observation can be made on the astronomical face of the late 14th-century clock inside Lund Cathedral in southern Sweden. Each corner of this clock face has four intriguingly carved figures in blue robes. Whilst three wear crowns, the figure in the bottom left is quite clearly wearing a turban - resembling a Muslim scholar. There is also DNA analysis of certain Viking-era graves that suggest the inhabitants could be of eastern origin - though these claims remain disputed. Meanwhile, Larsson’s discovery adds a further dimension. If she is right, then her discovery is the first time artefacts mentioning the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son in law ‘Ali’ have been found in Scandinavia. Given Ali’s status in Shi‘a Islam, this could suggest that the original items of clothing were inspired by Shi‘a culture. The history books are not yet being re-written but one thing is certain: Muslims and Vikings had relations that were far more interesting than traditionally assumed.

airport coaches that will take you directly to Lund town centre in 35 minutes and drop you off within walking distance of the cathedral.

Top tips: Tallinn’s only mosque is on

the outskirts of the city, within a tenminute walk from the airport at Keevise 9. The small industrial site where the mosque is located is next to the Ulemiste train station that takes you straight into town, making it an ideal stopover en route to or from the airport. The nearest mosque to the


Cathedral is Lund Islamic Cultural Centre on Aldermansgatan 14. The red brick building is a 20-minute walk towards the city’s northeast or can be reached by hopping on Bus no. 4. 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"

November 2017


Children Corner

Prophet Muhammad(s) and his love for children Dear Children, Assalam Alaikum


ne of the most memorable characteristics of the Prophet(s) was his love and affection for young children. Prophet Muhammad(s) believed that when looking after children one should act as if being one of them. According to the Prophet, we should not feel ashamed of playing and talking to children in the way they do. The Prophet Muhammad(s) always lived by example. As you know Prophet Muhammad(s) had a daughter from lady Khadija(a) called Fatima al Zahra(sa). He loved her so much that titled her “the mother of her father".

Fatima(sa) was blessed with three children; Hassan (a), Husayn (a) and Zeinab(sa). There are many accounts about the Prophet’s relationship with Hassan (a) and Husayn (a) showing us how parents and grandparents should behave around children and how to treat young people. Ghazaleh Kamrani our illustrator, has drawn images reminding us of some of these stories. There are many more…, perhaps you can find them and share them with your friends. Enjoy! Illustrator Ghazaleh Kamrani

One day Imam Husayn (a) was seated in the lap of his grandfather, while he was caressing him and smiling.” Seeing this Ayesha said, “O Prophet of Allah! How much do you love this child?” He replied,“... How should I not cherish him and not be pleased with him? He is the fruit of my heart and the light of my eyes. ... whoever visits his grave after his death, God will write down one of my Hajj in his account...”.


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We all have heard the story that one day when Prophet(s) was in prostration, Hassan (a) and Husayn (a), being little children playing with their grandfather, would climb on his back. He would never push them away or complain. He would just carry on as nothing had happened. He thought us that when we are among children we should be children too.

Prophet Muhammad(s) -being the Messenger of God, had a very important position in Arabia. But his position did not prevent him from carrying Hassan (a) on his shoulder and walk in the streets. He did not shy away from his duty as a grandfather.

It was not only his daughter's children he cared about, he was seen on many occasions to gather children around him and talk to them. Telling them stories, that not only kept them attentive but had informative and educational value.

November 2017


What & Where Through November

3 November

Tafseer of the Holy Qur'an

Trojan Horse: The Facts!

Conducted by: Shaykh M S Bahmanpour Venue: Islamic Centre of England, 140

A 45 minutes gallery talk by Alexandra Magub, British Museum. Suitable for all levels of knowledge.

Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND) invite you to an evening with academics, teachers and journalists to ask: Has a hoax letter, a media scrum, a forceful education secretary and political motivations in education regulation led to the stigmatisation of a community, discrimination against outstanding teachers/school leaders and exam failure for a generation of children? Can we ensure this doesn’t happen again?

Venue: Room

Venue :

Maida Vale, London W9 1QB Time: Every Friday starting at 7.30 PM 1 November

Persian Kingship after Alexander the Great

68, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG Time: 1.15 PM - 2.00 PM Fee: Free, drop in. 2 November Powerful Symbols and the British-Zionist Alliance: From Balfour to the Nakba

For the third annual W.M. Watt Lecture, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES) is delighted to be joined by Professor Nur Masalha, a Palestinian historian and former Director of the Centre for Religion and History at St. Mary's University, London. His lecture will coincide with the centenary of the publication of the Balfour Declaration, the historic letter of the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, to Lord Rothschild announcing that the British government ‘view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’. Playfair Library, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH8 9YL Time: 6.00 PM - 8.30 PM Venue:

Admission: Free, but Booking is essential More info:



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The Bordesley Centre, Stratford Rd, Birmingham, B11 1AR Time: 5.30 PM - 9.00 PM Fee: Free More info: e/trojan-horse-the-facts-tickets7 November Funding research on transnational Islam: the ALTERUMMA project

This seminar consists of two parts. The first will introduce the ALTERUMMA project, which investigates the transformation of Shi‘a Islam in the Middle East and Europe since the 1950s. The project examines the formation of modern Shia communal identities and the role Shia clerical authorities and their transnational networks have played in their religiopolitical mobilisation. The project focuses on Iran, Iraq and significant but unexplored diasporic links to Syria, Kuwait and Britain. The second part of the seminar will use this particular project, which is funded by a European Research Council grant, to discuss the process of applying for funding for research in Islamic Studies and Religious Studies more generally.

Venue: ERI

224, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT Speaker: Professor Oliver Scharbrodt (Birmingham) Time: 2.00 PM - 4.00 PM Admission: Open to all More info: ptr/departments/theologyandreligion/ Robert Irwin Lecture on Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North

A masterpiece of the Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih (1929-2009), Season of Migration to the North was first published in Arabic in 1966 and was published in English translation by Denys Johnson-Davies in 1969. Knowledge Centre, the British Library, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB Time: 7.00 PM - 8.30 PM Tickets : £10 (members/students/other concessions £7, senior 60+ £8) More info: http://www. Venue:

9 November A Conversation about Birmingham's Muslims: in the City, of the City

This event seeks to challenge current narratives by presenting findings from both old and new research about Birmingham and its Muslim communities. Bringing together leading Birminghambased social scientists including Chris Allen and Özlem Ögtem Young with the general public, the event will consider the diversity of Birmingham’s Muslim communities alongside such notions as belonging, identity and ‘home’. The event is designed to appeal to a nonspecialist audience and so is open to all. Rather than ‘presenting’ research, the event will be informal and ‘conversational' and will ensure opportunities for questions to be asked.

Bertha Wright Room, The Church at Carrs Lane, Carrs Lane, Birmingham, B4 7SX Conducted by: Dr. Chris Allen Time: 6.00 PM - 7.30 PM Fee: Free, but registration required More info: https:// Venue:

1 1 November K-Talks series

“A Man Beyond Time and Place “ How Imam Hussain (a) will always be relevant. Presented by: Mohammad Javad Shomali. Venue: Kanoon Towhid London, W6 0PH Time: Saturday 11th Nov 17:00 Contact info: 07872572467 More info:

1 4 November Islamophobia in the Name of Women's Rights

In her presentation Sara Farris will discuss some of the themes laid out in her new book, In the Name of Women's Rights. The Rise of Femonationalism (Duke, 2017). Farris' book explores the ways in which feminist ideas are often exploited by anti-Islam and xenophobic campaigns. She coins the term ‘femonationalism’ to describe the practices and claims that, by characterising Muslim men as oppressors and by emphasising the need to rescue Muslim women, these anti-Islam groups use gender equality to justify their prejudice. Sara R. Farris is a senior lecturer in the sociology department at Goldsmiths, University of London. Venue: Russell

Square: College Buildings Room: DLT Time: 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM Organiser: Feyzi Ismail

1 8 November

Our Community, Our Parliament

As part of UK Parliament Week, in partnership with the Houses of Parliament Outreach Team, CBHUK is proud to present an opportunity to discover the UK Parliament. The workshop will include an introduction to Parliament and its work, plus practical advice and tips on taking action. National Zakat Foundation Centre, 41 Fieldgate St, Whitechapel, London E1 1JU Time: 2.00 PM - 5.30 PM Fee: Free Book here: Venue:

theories were, first and foremost, dictated by more fundamental theological doctrines, particularly doctrines concerning the nature of God and general ontology, but also took account of scriptural eschatology. ERI 224, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT Speaker: Dr Ayman Shihadeh (SOAS) Time: 2.00 PM - 4.00 PM Admission: Open to all More info: https:// Venue:

23 November Muslim Societies and Islam

Gallery Room: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre Time: 9:45 AM - 2:00 PM Fee: £15 More info:

Muslims are among the world’s youngest, poorest, most populous and diverse populations; they live in some of the most fragile states and scarce environments. Islam, in its many forms, provides histories, narratives and frameworks that shape the actions, identities and worldviews of billions of people. However, many of the world’s policy solutions impacting upon Muslims are made in a technocratic vacuum or are overly determined by a fear of terrorism and insecurity. The workshop will provide a clear platform demonstrating the collective insights and influence of those who study Islam and Muslim societies.

21 November

Venue: TBC,

1 8 - 1 9 November

The Idea of Iran: The Turko-Timurid Intermezzo

The Idea of Iran annual series symposium convened by Sarah Stewart, SOAS and Charles Melville, University of Cambridge. Venue: Brunei

Body and Spirit in Early Islamic Theology

This paper will offer a broad interpretation and classification of anthropological theories in early systematic theology (that is, late-8th and 9th-century kalam), and will then show how one theory became dominant in classical kalam (roughly in the 10th and 11th centuries). The paper will argue that anthropological

University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT Workshop Leaders: Dr Katherine E. Brown and Professor Jorgen Nielsen Time: 9.30 AM - 4.30 PM Admission: Free More info: https:// 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.

November 2017


Islam Today issue 53 November 2017  

A monthly magazine on faith, belief, community, interfaith, health and more...

Islam Today issue 53 November 2017  

A monthly magazine on faith, belief, community, interfaith, health and more...