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issue 54 vol. 6 December 2017

REPORT

RISALAT SUMMER C OU R S E INTERFAITH

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS REFLECTIONS ON

P E A C E A ND S U BM I S S I ON

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Iran Earthquake Appeal

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In the Name ofGod The Beneficent, The Merciful

powerful earthquake struck the western region of the Islamic Republic of Iran which caused substantial damages and unfortunately many lost their life.

The Islamic Centre of England expresses its sincere condolences and heart-felt sympathy with those who lost loved ones and wishes a speedy recovery for the injured. The Islamic Centre of England calls on everyone to provide the assistance needed to the survivors and the families of the victims of this tragedy. The Islamic Centre of England is leading Iran Earthquake Appeal to collect financial donations and deliver it to the survivors and the families of the victims.

You can donate: 1. In person, through the Donation Box at the Reception of the Islamic Centre of England building (140 Maida Vale, London W9 1QB)

2. Cheque, make it payable to Islamic Centre of England, clearly mark the cheque on the back with “Earthquake Appeal”

3. Bank Transfer, to

Account Name: Islamic Centre of England – Imdad Account No.: 21075361 Sort Code: 60-83-04 2

4. Online, through the Centre’s secure website and PayPal, (click on Donate) December 2017


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issue 54 vol. 6 December 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 Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour Amir De Martino

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Earthquake Appeal

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Building Peace: The Culture ofInterreligious Dialogue

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The Third Risalat Summer Course

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‘Twas the article before Christmas’

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Art

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The experience oflearning the Qur’an by heart

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Prophet Mohammad(s): The Messenger ofpeace and prosperity

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Reflections on Peace and Submission

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Tyranny & the slaughter: The Feast ofthe Holy Innocents

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Albania’s medieval mirage

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The Prophet ofmiracles

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List ofEvents

Anousheh Mireskandari

Layout and Design

Innovative Graphics

Contact us Information

info@islam-today.net

Article Submissions

info@islam-today.net

www.islam-today.co.uk Follow us on: 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.

Contents The Islamic Centre ofEngland The Second National Congress ofInterreligious Dialogue-San Juan, Argentina

Allameh Tabatabai Award by Batool Haydar

The Sojourn ofLife Al Balad Migration Artist Exhibition A Sense ofPlace Art Therapy in Action The Place to Be by Moriam Grillo by Abbas Di Palma

by Suhaib Ahmad Khan by Nadia Jamil

by Frank Julian Gelli

Travel Guide to Muslim Europe by Tharik Hussain Children Corner by Ghazaleh Kamrani What&Where

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Report

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he 2nd National Congress of Interreligious Dialogue, with the motto of ‘The Culture of Interreligious Dialogue Building peace, was held in San Juan, Argentina for three days on October 9-11, 2017. The Interreligious congress, which

Building Peace:

The congress aimed at the development of a permanent space promoting the culture of dialogue between the representatives of the different religions professed in Argentina, on a national, provincial and local base. The themes of the Congress were: ‘Religious communities as participants in the dialogue’, ’Freedom of worship and interreligious dialogue’ and ‘Interreligious dialogue, the tool of the culture of peace’. Over a period of three days, the members of the Congress toured different places in the province where presentations as well as cultural activities and different religious expressions took place. The opening ceremony on 9th October 2017 was held at the Auditorium of the Franklin Rawson Museum whereas the Tuesday 10th morning activities were moved to the Eloy Camus Auditorium of the Civic Centre. After prayers and supplications by some religious representatives, discussions on the central topic, ‘Interreligious dialogue, the tool of the culture of peace’, took place. Activities lasted throughout the day and in the afternoon continued in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The central theme of the discussion was, ‘Freedom of worship and interreligious dialogue’.

The Culture of Interreligious Dialogue Sheikh Feisal and Sister Sumeia report on the second

National Congress of Interreligious Dialogue-San Juan, Argentina, 9-1 1 October 201 7 was sponsored and supported by the Secretariat of Worship, was attended by more than 250 people from different faith backgrounds. The participants included the members of Ministry of Government, the Department of Religious Affairs, NGOs, the Provincial Interfaith consul of San Juan together with representatives of different religious groups and political factions from all over Argentina. The congress aimed at generating a space for dialogue and constructive reflection, where peace-oriented actions were proposed through the exchange between the various religious communities of Argentina. Throughout this Congress, it was demonstrated that dialogue, coexistence, respect and mutual appreciation are the fundamental pillars in the construction of peace in the world, based on the permanent search for common values and unity without anyone losing their individual identity.

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On the closing day the conclusions of the discussions were presented in the historical Cell of José de San Martín. Prayers were made by the representatives of the different religions, and topics for discussion in future congresses, such as environmental care, world


disarmament, family values etc. were also discussed. The official closing ceremony was held at the birthplace of Sarmiento, where seven representatives of different religions read parts of the Declaration of the Second National Congress of Interreligious Dialogue. A part of the declaration is as follows: "... considering that for building peace we must create bridges between human beings, therefore, education, respect, love, understanding and knowing each other and working with a spirit of brotherhood will be the first step towards it. That is why the Interreligious Dialogue invites Argentinian citizens from different faiths to build spaces for dialogue to strengthen peace and constantly search for cohesion, equity, equality and justice to ensure an imminent prosperity for the future generations. Doing so will allow us to recognise all men as creatures of God. We propose to promote formal and non-formal educational structures as fundamental tools to educate us and strengthen the learning of values by promoting diverse activities such as sport, cultural and artistic activities, among others. It calls us to elaborate an agenda of common themes, seeking the complementarity with other communities of the society, arranging dialogues with the state, the academic and scientific world and looking for new leading threads that bind the religious values with the society. The interreligious dialogue to build peace will become a reality by setting the example in all areas of our life through prayer, with a heart full of openness, through actively listening to others, transmitting all this to our communities by everyday activities that encourage them to reject violence and to care for the environment, through the protection of children and adolescents, but above all, by respecting the rights of everyone." It should be noted that the First National Congress of Interreligious Dialogue was held last year in the city of San Miguel de Tucuman.

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F

or two weeks in August, this year courses on the Islamic Belief System and Lessons of Islamic Belief were held in Qom and Mashhad, organised and hosted by the International Institute for Islamic Studies (IIIS) in conjunction with the Risalat International Institute. The course brought together participants from different parts the world, male and female, of all ages and backgrounds, each one sharing in the desire to gain knowledge from some of the best teachers in the field of Islamic studies. Among the participants, this year, there were also the winners of the ‘Allamah Tabatabai Award’ – an organisation which awards students for excellent academic achievement. In addition to visiting Qom, Tehran and Mashhad for exhibitions, tourist visits and ziyarat (visitation to holy places), they engaged in lessons with senior scholars and mentors including Dr Mohammed Ali Shomali, Hujjat alIslam Hasan Duagoo, Sister Zahra Farzanegan and Sheikh Mahdi Rastifar. The followings are the testimonials of some of the attendees: “… I learnt many things from the lectures and the mentors that made a

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huge impact on me. They were knowledgeable, kind, patient, modest and humble. They touched our hearts before our brains. From early stages, we received a warm welcome. At the place where we stayed ‘Yaravan-e Mahdi(atfs), in Jamkaran opposite Jamkaran Mosque, we witnessed utmost hospitality. Everything was well organised and even our names were on the doors. Everything we needed was ready and available to us… It is said, “You will know a person when you travel with them”. We had the privilege of coming to know many good sisters and brothers and we became one family. On reflection, I would suggest to the organisers to prepare a one day class or meeting to familiarise the student about the trip, such as what would they do during the trip, the topics of lectures, and finally the accommodation where they will stay. Another point is that I found a twoweek period very short for such a course. Hopefully, if it is extended to 3/4 weeks students would benefit more. I recommend this course to everybody and send my appreciations and duas

Winners of the ‘Allamah Tabatabai Awar Risalat Summer Course and educational t

(supplication) to all the organisers, lecturers, mentors, helpers and students alike.”- Zainab Meftah “The Risalat Summer Course 2017 on Islamic Belief System has invoked a loud introspection in the realm of our self-recognition. This is due to the teachers' competency and the curriculum's scientific structure and content which classify the different compositions of an individual (self) and all creation. Our perspective on our souls and the capacity of our fitrah (primordial nature) has been altered, forever nourishing us with more love and submission towards our Creator, God. We realised the second part of the course on Imamate and Wilaya was an integral part of the curriculum because it awakened a fervent connection between us and our Imam AlQaem(atfs). The fruit we bear in Islamic


Belief System is a necessary foundation to comprehend where and how to build that connection with our Imam as we journey to find our role in his advent and reappearance…” Salam and Dima

“Thanks and gratitude to God for this life transforming experience! Entering the place [Yaravan-e Mahdi conference facility] gave me an immediate feeling of a deep peace of soul and mind! Within a few days, the people who seemed so different became close friends. I particularly enjoyed the social Wilaya part. The lessons were excellent, given by outstanding teachers and educators. They delivered the topics through

received more lessons. The learning process was continuous throughout the day, from our fantastic sheikhs and teachers, who were role models in their manners, knowledge, wisdom and hard work to our supervisors and mentors. I would like to thank them. The programme combined learning and tourism. The choice of places to visit was excellent. We enjoyed those trips knowing that not many people are lucky enough to get such a chance. The food was very good and nutritious. The staffs of the cafeteria were polite and helpful. The nutritionist gave us good advice. Coming back home all I was interested in doing is to carry on studying and revising the material to make sure I do not forget a word. Looking forward to a continuation of this course and meeting all those great people again.” -

mmer Course

bai Award’ join other students for the cational trip held last summer in Iran

discussions which made us all absolutely engaged to the extent that I didn’t want the sessions to end. Honestly, it’s the first time I enjoyed being a student. I wished we had

Yasmin.

“This was my first time attending an Islamic course in Iran and I can safely say that it was a life changer that gave me a new, improved perspective and unveiled new realities about the self and its surroundings. Our stay near the blessed mosque of Jamkaran in Qom really strengthened my relationship with the Imam of our time

and left me motivated to get closer to him. We were very lucky to have such a wide range of excellent teachers who would not leave us until we were satisfied with the course material. The balance between studies and ziyarats (visitation to holy places) as well as sightseeing made the trip an even more unforgettable one and I would really recommend everyone to go on this spiritually uplifting journey!”Afnan Alkhafaji

A trip of a lifetime This course was ideal for all those who wished to experience the practical spirituality of visiting the shrines whilst gaining ma‘erifa (understanding) of its significance, something which serves to enhance one's overall spiritual experience. With the opportunity to make cultural visits to places such as Golzar-e-Shuhada (The Garden of Martyrs), Mount Khidr and Ayatollah Najafi’s library, our time was balanced well between socialising, gaining further insight into the historical and cultural significance and heritage of Iran, as well as listening to the beautiful stories of the martyrs, scholars and their sacrifices. We also made a day trip to Tehran and as university students from the UK

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coming from several academic backgrounds including engineering, dentistry, medicine, history and law, we had the opportunity of visiting one of the top universities in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Sharif University of Technology, where we learnt about the projects and courses undertaken by some of their students and researchers. What was also unique was the bond of love created between one another; between the teachers, students and mentors. Living together whilst studying and engaging in personal talks is a wonderful way of benefiting and learning from one another, allowing us to practice the social Wilayah that our religion places so much emphasis on. For students and individuals living in the West, such an exposure and intake of spirituality is vitally needed as it is very easy to stick to a life of day-to-day routine as opposed to one where we constantly contemplate and strive to fulfil our potential to the greatest degree possible. The meaningful and resonating lessons provided by our dear scholars, as well as their emphasis on Imam Mahdi(atfs) and our role in this movement are something which resonated with us deeply. I am truly thankful to God for giving us

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the opportunity to unite in the way we did and to benefit from one another. May God reward all the organisers, scholars, mentors and group leaders for their sincere efforts and devotion.” ATA winner Engineering Birmingham.

Batool Subeiti,

Student,

Chemical University of

Amongst the Hawza student ranks “… After arriving in Qom, I recall being taken aback after learning that there were some 50,000 students studying at the Hawza. Through lectures from scholars in the Holy city, we were ready to gain some insight into what these students were experiencing. There was no delay in us delving into the intensive Hawza-style course. Topics such as theology, anthropology, the Hereafter and the Prophethood were explored in magnificent detail as we basked in the proficiency of teachers who were well-educated, skilled and fully aware of the reality experienced by young Westerners. Forming the basis of our experience was the religious and historical significance of our environments. Being in a constant state of ziyarat (visitation) at the holy shrine of Lady Ma'sumeh(as) in Qom, and later the shrine of her brother, Imam Reza(a) in Mashhad, provided a rare and

exceptional spiritual experience. The perfect mix of knowledge attainment and spiritual connection was exemplified with lessons in the holy shrine in Mashhad. Beyond the remarkable experiences and knowledge, we were blessed with making firm friendships, be it by the exquisite fountains at Lady Ma’sumeh's Shrine, at the former residence of Ayatollah Khomeini or atop the majestic Khidhr Mountain. We gained the knowledge, experiences and friendships we had come to seek while simultaneously strengthening the connection with our Creator. This culminated in us leaving Iran with an exponentially more profound sagacity and that will undoubtedly be a valuable personal asset in the participants’ futures.- ATA winner Rida Shaban,

A-Level Student, West London.

A two-minute walk from Jamkaran Mosque “Starting the day by praying fajr prayers in front of the blue dome of Jamkaran is something that I will never forget. The atmosphere almost forces one to become peaceful and spiritual, the air itself is calm and relaxing. Walking in a place where Imam Mahdi(atfs) has walked, praying in a place where he


has prayed is something that will never become repetitive or boring. On the Allama Tabatabai Award trip, during our stay in Qom, we were blessed to have our accommodation just a twominute walk away from Jamkaran. The late-night trips and the thoughtful conversations have truly shaped me as a person. It is almost impossible for me to now walk without thinking about my Imam(atfs), for being in Jamkaran gives one the opportunity to build a connection with Saheb al Zaman (Imam of our time) like no other. This was combined with frequent trips to the shrine of Lady Masoumeh(as) Anyone who has visited this lady will agree that her company is like no other; her motherly love has turned her shrine into a refuge for all hearts. The Allama Tabatabai Award trip allowed us to not only experience the warmth of her love but the lessons and lectures

more photos ava

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we had allowed us to learn more about her personality so that we are able to appreciate her. Our experiences on this trip were ones which allowed souls to connect through constant meaningful discussions. Though I have learnt many things from ziyarat, true love will always be something that I learn more about every time I visit a shrine - a love that does not ask for anything in return; a love that is for the sake of God. When we love for the sake of God, we love purely, we do not get disappointed nor do we disappoint others. Our final destination on the trip was the shrine of Imam Reza(a) in Mashhad. We were welcomed generously by the Office of Foreign Affairs in the shrine. Everyone was touched by their kindness; they gave us

w.islan­today.ne

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a lecture about the Imam and offered us many beneficial books. These experiences have allowed us to see how we should act as lovers of Ahlulbayt(as). Although leaving the heart-warming company of Imam Reza(a) was difficult, we were reminded that the Ahlulbayt remains with us no matter where we are. We were taught by our teachers how to maintain a relationship with the holy personalities that we had visited. Even if we are physically away from their shrines, our souls can always be with the Ahlulbayt. As Ayatollah Bahjat says, “visiting the shrines is not the most important thing, what is important is that the personalities in the shrines visit you”. - ATA winner Kauthar Al-Kaaby,

Surrey.

A-Level Student,

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Life & Community

“Twas the Article b Batool Haydar offers her take on how to interact with the rest of our society during the Christmas season

Tis the Season to be jolly…’ Almost anyone living in the West, or having any exposure to it, can finish off that jingle. The world has shrunk and what once was a purely religious observation has now become a commercial phenomenon. Christmas and the accompanying holidays are a global event and as Muslims, we have to consider our interaction (and that of our children) with both its spiritual and material aspects. In terms of religious significance, a majority of Christians observe Christmas i.e. the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December. Some denominations in the East have a slightly different date, placing Christmas on the 6th of January and thus giving rise to the idea of the ‘12 days of Christmas’. Although it is now known that these dates are not accurate, they have become ingrained in cultures worldwide. Through the decades, as the holiday has gained popularity, it has been redefined and marketed as a more generic period of giving thanks and meeting family. The fact that it is the end of the Gregorian calendar year and that both school and work holidays fall during this time allows for a convenience in bringing together people from different schedules. Certain associated rituals like decorating a tree, the myth of Santa Claus and observing a feast that were adopted from existing pagan practices have allowed even those who are not strictly religious to indulge in the celebrations. The challenge for Muslims is how much to interact with this season and what to tell our children about it. For parents, the most dreaded questions are the

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ones prefaced with ‘Why can’t we…?’ and handling these queries requires a multi-pronged approach. The basic and most important issue is of course the observance of the holiday itself.

To Celebrate or Not to Celebrate Should we as Muslims observe Christmas or not? Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus(a). Commemorating births (and deaths) is not a new thing for us so joy upon his birth as a revered figure in Islam is as normal for us as it is on that of the Prophet(s) or the Ahlul Bayt(a). In this light, Christmas is a valid celebration that we can share in. True, the exact date of the birth of this blessed Messenger is not known, but since our fellow Christians have chosen the 25th of December, we can accept their observance of it. Accepting the event as valid however, is different from immersing oneself in the culture of it in the same manner adopted by non-Muslims. We cannot feel obliged to observe Christmas just as we do not expect non-Muslims to observe Ashura or any of the Eids. These historic events are intertwined with our faith and their physical manifestation stems from personal spiritual belief and love. One of the most beautiful aspects of Islam is that everything we do is prefaced with a purpose in mind – the core aim always being to gain a nearness to God. It is therefore almost impossible to justify putting up a Christmas tree for example or having Santa Claus ‘bring gifts’. If we feel we must share gifts during this time, it makes more sense to have a distinct reason for it: perhaps as a reward for an achievement over the year or

better still, a donation to charity as a sign of gratitude to God for making it through another year safe and sound.

The Importance of Identity Just as Christians fully identify with their holidays, it is vital that our children do the same with the religious holidays that we have. Explaining from a young age the lunar calendar and how it shifts through the year helps children understand where to place their expectations. Making a big deal about the holidays we do observe – Eid and Milad un Nabi, for example – gives a child a sense of balance. They get to experience decorating their home, exchanging gifts and eating a meal together as well. Sometimes making a scrap book or having photos and mementos from this time helps to serve as a reminder for them if they begin to feel left out. The world we live in requires our children to be much more savvy and aware of different cultures and beliefs. It is never too early to explain even in a basic way that we don’t celebrate certain holidays because of what we believe in. Our children probably have similar conversations with their friends anyway. However, we must always – always! – maintain the greatest level of respect in our explanations, in order to teach our children to do the same. We might not believe in Jesus(a) in the same way that Christians do, but we do respect and love him in our own right. We can only extend the hand of brotherhood and communication if we teach this to the next generation.

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e before Christmas” The Wider Community While we each try and find a middle ground upon which to stand during these holidays, a good rule of thumb is to try to be sincere and use the opportunity to explore common ground. If you want to send over a box of chocolates to your neighbours for example, try to send a personalised note mentioning our respect for Jesus(a). When it comes to school events, most have a ‘Christmas Concert’ just before they close for the holidays. Depending on the content, if you are not comfortable with your child participating because of the music, the nativity play or any other reason, all it takes is a simple, polite note explaining your stand and requesting that your child does not participate. Such actions are important not just for the school to understand your individual beliefs, but also for your child to know that it is possible and perfectly acceptable to take a stand when culture and faith clash.

are not completely associated with? Or should they not reply and come across as impolite or alienating? Etiquette is such an integral part of being a Muslim that this conflict actually takes up a lot more mind-space than it seems it should! To make things easier, three options are offered. One: Don’t initiate the greeting, but if wishes are conveyed, simply respond. It has become a common phrase and doesn’t purely associate with your faith and belief anymore. Two: Respond with a ‘Have a good one’ or ‘You too’; something non-committal. Three: Adopt a more generic ‘Happy Holidays!’ greeting/reply.

All in all, Christmas will be observed and enjoyed best by those who have a religious connection to it. For the rest of us, it is a case of being observers who are happy because our brethren are happy. We are all on our individual journeys towards God and as long as we strive to remain sincere and don’t get carried away in rituals that have no basis in our faith, we will, God-Willing, find Him.l

A lot of Muslims feel torn when they are wished ‘A Merry Christmas’. Should they reply and inadvertently join in a celebration they

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Art The Sojourn of Life This month I have travelled up and down the country rubbing shoulders with fellow artists, made art for exhibition, listened to stories of displaced peoples and engaged in discussions on the therapeutic nature of art making. Each of these experiences have reinforced my understanding of the temporal nature of life and served as a reminder of our status as travellers in this world. And while I continue to feel quite philosophical about my experiences, let me take you on a journey and share what I have learnt…

ourselves by our own image of what we believe to be the truth. God encourages us to reflect much. Reflecting on the plight of migrants we can, if we choose, learn about courage, hope and vision. A sense that life can be better than it is. Our biggest mistake is that we believe that a journey’s end is a part of the life of this world. The Islamic dream is better than that and more lasting. A Sense of Place A recent conference at Bedfordshire University discussed the use of art in enabling an individual and collective sense of

Al Balad [The City] Migration Artist Exhibition The complexity of our humanness often serves to contradict the very nature of our being. We have an inherent need for community yet we yearn to be alone or separate. We want to belong yet we highlight differences and ostracise those who we see as other than ourselves. We need security but start wars and refuse those who seek refuge on our shores. These thoughts and more overwhelmed me as I attended an exhibition on the experiences of Syrian refugees at Milton Keynes College. I heard the harrowing account of a young man who had fled war in Syria only to find himself fleeing from the fear of death in Europe at the hands of individuals who felt their livelihood would be threatened by his presence. In Europe, it was Aristotle who first defined the idea of community as a group of people who shared common values. And although we do share the need for acceptance, it often manifests itself in an exclusive rather than inclusive way. Reflecting on the artwork and performances of newly arrived migrants, I was struck by the reality that we are all travellers migrating through this world, that our perception of rootedness in this world is no more than a shortcoming, a delusion of our earthly status and incongruous with our spiritual reality. God’s image of us is greater than that of ourselves. We have the tendency to want to plant roots, to stay, to settle, to forget that we are all journeying through life. When we settle we limit

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identity, place and belonging. Speakers discussed the effects of Brexit, the didactic concept in storytelling and ways of developing health and wellbeing through engagement in the Arts. Although I came away feeling inspired by the individuals I connected with, I was struck by a mindset that was focused on delivering high art to the masses. One artist, who was working on a project to develop a community space in the north of England, described how her funders had encouraged her to develop the project in a particular direction much to the dismay of the local participants involved. To top it off, the said funders had hired the services of consultants who were ‘problem solvers’ working with hard to engage communities in order to enrich their lives. What was very apparent was a hegemonic approach which left no choice for participants to develop a sense of agency within these projects that were devised to offer a sense of belonging and inclusion. What concerned me about this was that many of us from Black, Asian and minority and ethnic backgrounds struggle to feel that such place making projects reflects our story of migration to these Isles. Or indeed, a sense of place welcoming our presence into the mainstream. It seems that Art has yet to overcome issues with otherness and difference. There is an overdue effort necessary to include a variety of stories and histories with integrity rather than delivering exclusive outputs that serve as a one size fits all approach. Not only do projects that bring opera and costume design to

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former mining communities deny a voice to a community’s heritage, they also enforce a sense of appropriateness and acceptability. This same problem is reflected in museums and galleries across the country that do not reflect the changing face of British society and which continue to inform a cultivated sense of what should be, instead of looking at what is in its truest sense. Art Therapy in Action “Children in Northeast Nigeria are living through so much horror. In addition to devastating malnutrition, violence, and an outbreak of cholera, the attacks on schools are in danger of creating a lost generation of children, threatening their and their country’s future.” - Justin Forsyth UNICEF A chance meeting with Fiona Lovatt made me aware of the Lovatt Foundation, a charity working in northern Nigeria caring for 120 orphans through their Children of Borno project. The crisis in Borno is particularly acute due to the ongoing threat of Boko Haram. The eight-year insurgency has left communities shattered, leaving thousands of children without parents to care for them growing up as orphans. The Lovatt Foundation offers children a caring environment where children can live safely, flourish and grow.

Acknowledging the Rahma (mercy) that now extended from it, can nourish them and enrich their lives once more. “Whatever good anyone chooses to contribute is welcome including and especially the prayers for the orphans and people being tested in this region.” - Amina Ibrahim, Lovatt Foundation Donations are welcome for the Children of Borno project. For more information visit www.lovattfoundation.org The Place to Be Exploring milestones Muhammad(s), a

in the journey of mercy to mankind.

Rumi’s Cave An exhibition celebrating the life of the Prophet(s) will take place at Rumi’s Cave. There are eight artists involved and each of them has created a piece based on a chapter of the Beloved Prophet’s(s) life. The artwork is accompanied by poetry articulating this momentous story. The exhibition is curated by DOT [Developing Our Traditions @ dotguild] and runs until December 21st. Rumi’s Cave, 26 Willesden lane, London NW6 7ST

As well as giving a basic education, Lovatt uses art as means of working through difficult memories and experiences. It is a way to reach deep feelings and express them in ways that words cannot. Lovatt shared with me how horticulture is used to offer a creative outlet to the children. Innocent youngsters who have witnessed their homes burned to the ground can once again look upon the earth with favour.

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

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Faith

ThteheexQperuier’nacn

Abbas Di Palma asks if it is time to revive Quranic teachings in a

way that could properly introduce to a contemporary audience

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uslims consider the Qur’an, the religious book of guidance for humankind. Its words bring peace, blessings and tranquillity to the hearts of the believers, both in the spiritual and physical realms. The Arabic root ‘qara’a’, from which the term ‘Qur’an’ stems from, indicates something that is recited. The belief is, Qur’an is the word of God, so its recitation amounts to recite from a Divine and holy source. It would be a mistake to limit the benefits of Quranic recitation for a class of experts. Nor it is correct to give the opportunity of learning how to recite the holy Qur’an exclusively to those who may make a professional career out of it. Having expertise in the recitation of the Qur’an is a necessity for all Muslims, and no one should be deprived of the spiritual uplifting that can be attained through its recitation. By ‘recitation’ here, we do not mean a mere aesthetic art with the purpose to delight people’s feelings by listening to it. As the Qur’an says, real recitation has a connection with belief: “Those to whom We have given the Book recite it with its true recital. They are those who believe in it.” (2:121) It follows that a sincere recitation should enable the reciter to connect one’s heart towards elevated and noble realities, witnessed in the path of faith. The recitation of the Qur’an brings a feeling of inner peace in the hearts and minds of believers, a sense of tranquillity that takes them away from their worldly routines and preoccupations. Reciting the Qur’an with good intentions

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and true belief is undoubtedly the fundamental and starting point of a sound recitation and it has its utmost effect in the spiritual life of individual and society as a whole. Yet, a correct recitation implies also an adequate pronunciation of the Quranic words. Due to this reason, many Muslim parents choose to send their children to learn the Qur’an at a very young age so that they can read, memorise and recite it. To be able to memorise and recite the Qur’an from childhood has many advantages: in this way, the Qur’an will be a companion throughout the life of the child which, God willing, will be subconsciously enlighten by it along the different stages of his/her life. Some people get frustrated during the process of learning to recite the Qur’an as they think they are not good enough. It is true, that certain people excel over others in beautifying their voices and melodies during their recitations. However, it is also true that all humans have the basic ability to recite the Qur’an with all its proper rules. Consequently, most believers with the hope that the recitation of Qur’an will form a spiritual support in their life, can also master the art of tajwid (canonical recital). Imam Jafar Sadiq(a) is reported to have said: “Indeed the one who is concerned with the Qur’an and memorises it while being difficult for him and has the scarce ability of memorisation, for him will be double recompense”. In the UK with the assistance of qualified Quranic teachers, many Muslim children under the age of 14 have already memorised the whole Qur’an, reaching a


iurer’nacneboyfhleeaarrnting

good level of mastery of tajwid. Usually, commitment to memorising the Qur’an for children consists of up to two hours daily lessons in the presence of a teacher and some time spent memorising alone, preferably after the early morning prayer and before going to sleep. A path that represents an alternative, challenging and virtuous lifestyle for a young person. In a society where the risk of bad influences, drug addiction and other criminal tendencies is on the rise amongst the youth, Quranic learning circle for young Muslims can provide some defence against the moral corruption and other social dangers. It is interesting to note that the Arabic word used for memorisation is ‘hifz’, whose etymological root is linked to the concept of ‘preservation’. The person who has memorised the whole Qur’an is therefore known as ‘hafiz’, literally ‘the one who preserves’. Here ‘preservation’ may not be limited to the physical recitation alone. A noble tradition from the great Imam Jafar Sadiq(a) points out: “The memoriser of the Qur’an who acts according to it will be with the noble and honourable messengers”. The complete hafiz therefore is, the one who acts upon the teachings of Qur’an and preserves its lofty moral and ethical meanings in his conduct and manifests them in his daily routines both in the private and public sphere. This means that moral teachings go hand in hand with Quranic education and therefore the complete ‘hafiz’ is the one who has mastered his ethical traits to a sufficient level. In this regard, the best moment to learn and apply moral values is during one’s youth. A youth is like a blooming flower still uncontaminated by the negativity of its

environment and if properly cared for can flourish in the best possible way. This is why; Quranic schools should be places of ethical learning where students learn the art of ethical living, which they are then able to transmit to others. To graduate from a school is not, in fact, the end of a process but rather the beginning. The person who has learnt the ‘Qur’an by heart’ becomes a teacher and it is a duty of a teacher to provide quality teachings for his students. Even if he is able to pass his teachings to only five students, and these students, in turn, do the same to five more students, and so on, the word of God would spread very smoothly. People would learn to abide by a moral standard of great value and society, as a whole, would benefit from this spiritual improvement. It is probably time to revive the pure Islam and Quranic teachings that have otherwise, been neglected or probably have not been properly introduced to a contemporary audience. Undoubtedly, being a student of the Qur’an can be an amazing experience, and it would be difficult fully comprehend the magnitude of it unless we have been touched by its special love that comes from practising its teachings with pure intentions.

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.

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Prophet Mohammad(s):

The Messenger of peace and prosperity On the eve of Prophet Muhammad’s(s) birthday, Suhaib Ahmad Khan reminds us about the need for a dialogue of peace and unity amongst Muslims and non-Muslims in keeping with the teachings of the Prophet

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he prospects for peace, unity and coexistence are inextricably linked to the accomplishment of a certain level of religious, moral and socio-cultural progress. It cannot be attained in an environment of conflicts, confrontations, misunderstanding and instability. The relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims has deteriorated. The worst situations and misunderstandings have created anxiety, fear, apprehension and trepidation among peace-loving humanity. The present furious commotion and confusion impede good relations and cripple our dynamic interactions. It has also created fickle conditions for clashes and confrontations in various circumstances. At this juncture, there is a critical need for a comprehensive dialogue towards making peace, unity and coexistence through moral, religious and socio-cultural transformation between the followers of faiths. There is also a

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need for a comprehensive assessment of the existing scenario to bring about mutual understanding among them. The word Islam itself is derived from ‘Salam, meaning peace. So naturally, Islam is a religion which promotes it. Islam is a religion which teaches compassion, altruism, and solidarity in times of hardship and ease, all of which brings peace. As far as compassion is concerned, Muslims are commanded to be kind and just towards fellow Muslims and non-Muslims. “God does not forbid you from behaving cordially and justly towards those (non-Muslims) who do not fight you for religion and who do not drive you out from your homes: for God loves those who are just.” (Qur’an 60:8) The Prophet Muhammad(s) was sent as a mercy for the whole of mankind, not just Muslims. He demonstrated great kindness,

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compassion, generosity and politeness towards non-Muslims. A major part of the Prophet’s mission was to bring peace to the world. One of the ways in which he strove towards this end was to attempt to convince people that all men and women, albeit inhabiting very different regions of the world, and different from one another in colour, culture and language, were, in fact, blood brothers and sisters. His message was crucial, for a proper relationship of love and respect can be established only if that is how human beings regard one another. To inculcate such feelings, the Prophet would preach to his followers, “You are all Adam’s offspring and Adam was made of clay.” And in his prayers to his Creator, he said, “O Lord, all your servants are brothers.” The Prophet tried to avoid any material conflict between him and those to whom he was addressing his teachings. No matter what price, he would let no worldly rivalry come in between himself and his congregation. The Prophet Muhammad(s) guided people through the Qur’an and Sunnah and their virtuous teachings of equality, justice, peace, tolerance and moderation. Throughout the first thirteen years of his Mission, he preached in Makkah but it was in the face of bitter opposition from the Makkans. When it became impossible for him to stay there, he left for Madinah. Wars were waged against him, but he showed his antagonists that the power of peace was far greater than that of war. One outstanding example of this policy was the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. By constantly waging war against the Muslims, the Quraish tribe had made Muslims and non-Muslims into two separate parties eternally at loggerheads with one another. Both sides were spending all their time preparing for war. In this treaty, the Prophet accepted all demands of the Quraish in return for a ten-year truce. The terms of the Treaty were so one-sided that many Muslims considered it a humiliation, but in reality, it paved the way for what the Qur’an called a “clear victory.” This treaty put an end to the animosity between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. Muslims could freely communicate the teachings of their faith to non-Muslims who in turn were free to accept them. No worldly rivalry or prejudice stood in the way of the dissemination of faith. The Prophet’s most important task was to bring peace to the world and so he urged people to accept the fact that regardless of skin, colour, language, lifestyle or dwelling place, they were all brothers and sisters. The Prophet himself led the way with his kindness, humility and good humour. The Prophet’s experiences ranged from penury to prosperity, from defeat to success, yet whatever the degree of well-being or hardship, he steadfastly trod the path of moderation. At all times and right till the end, he remained a patient and grateful servant of the Almighty. The Prophet told the people that “every religion has some special characteristic, that of Islam being modesty.” In the absence of such a virtue, no community can have lasting peace. The Prophet’s own modesty, coupled with his great strength of character, is depicted in a well-known story of an old Makkan woman who hated the Prophet. She would throw rubbish on

his head from the upper storey of her house. He never once remonstrated with her about this. One day, when the Prophet passed through this area, no rubbish fell on his head. Thinking that the old woman must be ill, he inquired about her and found her indeed ill in bed. When she discovered that the Prophet had come to see her, she began to weep, “I ill-treated you, and now you come to enquire after my health!”. Such was the strength of character, patience and tolerance the Prophet demonstrated in refusing to be provoked, preferring rather show kindness and magnanimity to one who had wished him ill. The Prophet would exhort his followers to live in peace with their fellow men, saying, “A true believer is one with whom others feel secure,” one who returns love for hatred. He used to teach the believers that anyone who would return love only when love was given belonged on a lower ethical plane. The true believer never reasons that only if people treat him well that he will treat them well in return. He is accustomed rather to doing good to those who mistreat him and refrain from harming those who do him harm. The Prophet himself set the example. All his recorded words and actions reveal him as a man of great gentleness, kindness, humility, good humour and excellent common sense, with a great love for all people and even for animals. Despite his position as a leader, the Prophet never believed himself to be greater or better than others. He never made others feel small, unwanted or embarrassed. He urged his followers to behave kindly and humbly, releasing slaves whenever possible, and giving in charity, especially to very poor people, orphans and prisoners, without any thought of reward. In the dominant western conception, peace is associated with the absence of war or organised violence and justice with an absence of gross violations of human rights. Peace is maintained through the threat of coercion and the institutionalisation of regulations and decision-making procedures. Peace and conflict resolution are thought about in terms of rational order or problem solving predicated upon reason. But peace occupies a central position among Islamic precepts, where it is closely linked to justice and the flourishing of humanity. Indeed, peace signifies an additional presence of human dignity, economic well-being and ecological balance. Peace in Islam begins with God; God is peace, for peace (al-salam) is one of the ‘most beautiful names’ of God. Peace, unity, co-existence prosperity and stability are the most important elements of Islam. It must be known that every religion respects individuals and of course Islam is no different from that. Those people who commit violence in the name of Islam are not representatives of this religion. Rather, they are committing horrendous acts against the teachings of God and His Messenger, Prophet Muhammad(s).l

Dr Suhaib Ahmad Khan holds a doctorate in Arabic language and literature from Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi India.

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Reflections on:

Peace and Submission Eternity exists in your soul, not for your physical body, so best to feed your soul and not worry too much about material gains says Nadia Jamil

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ometimes the most profound experiences in life take place after the most challenging of times. Things don’t make sense because most of the time we want life to fit our expectations. After a while, we come to face the reality that tells us it’s harder to take a boat upstream than let it glide downstream. Ask yourself, how bad do you want something? Once you have figured out what it is, start working towards it. Achievers talk less and do more. Make a decision and then watch a shift in your focus. Imagine and dream that one day you can hold it in your hands. It won’t be a very smooth ride though. The trick is to master the art of converting adversities into opportunities. Once you figure out how to do that you will never go bust for the rest of your life. No one is completely left on their own in this test of life. Help comes along the way in form of people, events or places. You just need to pay attention because someone has been by your side all along. Accept what’s happening as it is. If you find an element of fun in what you do then all fears and insecurities will leave you. You will find yourself connected with the flow of life. You will feel at home and in harmony with everything. No one said it would be easy to reach a place of contentment but it’s there for you to grab and nothing is impossible in front of human determination. When failure strikes know that there

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is nothing for you to hold onto here. Those before you couldn’t take anything with them and one day your moment of passing will arrive. So don’t stress if you feel like you are losing your grip here. Eternity exists in your soul, not for your physical body, so best to feed your soul and not worry too much about material gains. Most material objects are stardust that is molecules and particles joined together. Focus your curiosity on that energy which is holding these particles together. Complete submission arrives when you let go completely in hard times and focus your energy on what you have. There is no way you can fight the will of God. I see people in a race every day trying to beat each other. Are they chasing a fake sense of achievement? As a wise man once put it beautifully ‘experience of life is a mere bridge we are crossing over to get to the other side’. You cannot build anything long lasting on this bridge of life. Do you want to cut a deal or do you want to do the right thing out of love? ‘There are three kinds of people, the first who cuts a deal with God and does well for the return of good, the second type who does well out of fear of punishment or disappointment, and finally a free person who does well out of love without any expectation of return or selfish gains.’ (Quote from Imam Ali(a)) Divine individuals in the past separated themselves from


their selfish egos. They went far beyond this material world and became one with the higher energy. They mastered the art of life. You too should not lose this connection with reality. Be part of life yet be separate from its vices. You will then begin to realise that love, joy and peace have been around you all along. Don’t become a slave to anyone or anything. What’s yours will find you one day. Give back to humanity as much as possible so that one day when you leave this world you leave with ease. If you feel stuck in one place today then focus your energy on going inside yourself to search for answers. Most pain and suffering is self-inflicted. It starts from a place of failure where your expectations weren’t met by this world. You find yourself falling from grace suddenly. Everything you thought that used to make sense doesn’t feel right. Your mind starts making hasty decisions to stay in the race of life. Life is nothing but an experience. True happiness and peace come from a place deep within a person where they no longer run after anything. They reach a point of contentment where all that is happening is accepted by them. They get so lost and consumed with chasing something that it becomes necessary for the universe to inflict them with some form of a disappointment so they can see the real picture. It’s like making a runner run without water. Finally, this runner gives

up and collapses. When you put all your trust and faith in God you will see that all matters of life not only start making sense but you slowly start finding your way back to a place of contentment. Today might not be that day for you and perhaps you will chase more after what you desire but finally, you will come to a stop to catch your breath. It will be in moments like this where true self-discovery will take place and patience will gradually come. You will not only stop chasing after this world but you will also slow down to truly appreciate the gift of life. Give back to this world as much as you can and know that the One who created you looks after you even in your sleep. He is with those reflective individuals who remain patient in all trials and tribulations. Life is beautiful for those who ponder and keep their hopes alive. They have given up on building a castle in this world, instead their eyes are fixed on the other side. Their hearts have found peace with the light of God. There are no mistakes in life only lessons for us to grow and polish our inner selves. Say goodbye to your own fragile power and make way for the power and forces of God. Wait for moments of self-discovery for they hold secrets to understanding what’s hidden deep inside you. December 2017

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Interfaith

Tyranny & the slaughter: The Feast of the H

Frank Gelli points out how ‘the Feast of Holy Innocents’ represents a

sad side of Christmas

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few days after the joyful presence – and perhaps the sentimentality – of the child Jesus in his manger at Christmas, the liturgy of the Church invites reflection on something very dark, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, falling on 28th December. It commemorates the massacre of the babes of Bethlehem by King Herod, the monstrous tyrant ruling over Palestine/Judea. A puppet ruler, installed by the Romans, and a man so vile that he executed his own wife Mariamne, her mother and two of his own sons. The second chapter of St Matthew’s Gospel narrates how the tragedy unfolded. After Jesus was born, the Magi, Persian wise men, came from the East to Jerusalem, inspired by the sight of a star to render homage to the infant Messiah, foretold by the prophets. The news alarmed Herod, afraid of God’s justice. Pretending friendship, he asked the Magi to let him know where the holy child was. The wise men did indeed find and worship baby Jesus but, warned by an angel in a dream, they did not inform the tyrant. Enraged, Herod ordered the extermination of all the male children of Bethlehem and the neighbouring region, who were two years old. Providentially, Joseph and Mary had taken their little child and escaped to safety into Egypt. King Herod, in persecuting Jesus, was truly an emblem of

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Satan and his minions. The killing of the innocent is a crime that cries to Heaven for vengeance. Little children are vulnerable beings, harmless and innocent by any definition. How many perished at the bloody hands of Herod’s butchers? The Ethiopian and the Greek Churches in their liturgies count fourteen thousand victims on that occasion. Probably an exaggeration but the numbers are not as important as the horrible crime itself. Christians venerate the Holy Innocent as the first fruits and flowers of martyrdom and also as a token and a foreshadowing of the future execution of Christ. And the spotless sacrificial lamb, and of so many Christian witnesses down the centuries.

Massacre of the Innocents - Fresco

In the person of Herod and his barbarity, we discern how ambitious, cruel and blind tyranny is. God is not mocked, however. The hideous tyrant did not live long to enjoy the kingdom for the sake of which he had shed so much blood. Haunted by the ghosts of his victims, remorse and despair affected his mood and disturbed his sleep. Herod soon became ill. A filthy and painful disease broke out all over his body. Ulcers tormented his flesh and worms and lice festered over him. The smell emanating from his loathsome sickness was so offensive that his courtiers could not abide it. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus relates that the tyrant, maddened by his sufferings, ordered many of his top-ranking subjects to be killed. ‘I know my people detest me and will rejoice at my


he Holy Innocents

ents - Fresco in Church of Santa Maria Assunta,

death’, he ranted on his death bed; ‘I must make sure many of them will die with me!’ At last Herod expired five days after he had put another son, Antipater, to death. Are murderous attacks on children, direct or indirect, distant, remote crimes that our civilised world has mercifully long overcome? I wonder. A devastating toll on children is the result of the Syrian conflict. The beasts of ISIS and al-Qaeda have even trained small children to become executioners. As to Yemen, according to UNICEF since the Saudi-driven bombing war on Yemen began an average of six children every day have been killed or maimed by explosive weapons. Kids are killed by Saudi air strikes on markets, schools and hospitals. On top of that, another charity, Save the Children, warns that more than two million children are malnourished and thousands have died from preventable illness. A deadly cholera epidemic has broken out and is infecting one child every minute. Over half a million cases have been reported so far. As for the little ones who are still alive, can you imagine the trauma, the terror, the psychological wounds inflicted by living under daily attacks from ferocious air strikes? As to Palestine, the plight of many children under occupation by way of humiliation, imprisonment or daily harassment is all too well-known. A minor but, for me, a

San Gimignano Tuscany, central Italy

telling example of cruelty occurred years ago when the Israelis denied the children of blockaded Gaza that most natural and innocent of all childish pleasures: toys. Toys were among the items the Israelis forbade to be imported into Gaza. Christmas is the great Feast celebrating the birth of the Messiah, the bright morning star, the same portentous harbinger of good news that guided the Magi to Bethlehem, to pay honour to the Holy Babe. Later in his earthly ministry, Jesus affirmed the high spiritual status of that precious, innocent age when he told off his Apostles who were trying to shield him from perhaps too lively little kids. He said: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them. For to such belongs the kingdom of Heaven.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them.

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.

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Places

Travel Gui de to

Musl i m Europe With travel writer and European Muslim heritage specialist Tharik Hussain

Albania’s medieval mirage

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andering around Berat’s old town is like stumbling across a medieval mirage. Tiered, snow white, Ottoman houses cling to gentle slopes either side of the River Ossum. The smell of freshly baked bread wafts out of smoke engulfed chimneys and beautiful, large wooden doors decorate narrow, cobblestoned alleyways - each barely wide enough for two donkeys to pass. Berat’s stunningly well-preserved historic quarter is quite possibly the finest example of a classical Ottoman town anywhere outside of Turkey. When medieval traveller, Evliya Celebi arrived in Berat in 1670, he found a flourishing town, home to poets, scholars and writers: “It is a huge open town, entirely outside the walls of the fortress. It is situated in a large area along the bank of the [...] river to the east and south of the upper fortress and is covered in vineyards, rose gardens and vegetable gardens. There are 5,000 one and two-storey stonework houses with red-tiled roofs. They are well built and attractive houses with gardens and are spread over seven verdant hills and valleys. Among them are over 100 splendid mansions with cisterns and fountains and an invigorating climate.” Known in antiquity as Antipatreia, Berat is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world

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- the first settlers arrived in the fourth century BC. The town’s picturesque ‘hanging’ white houses reportedly inspired its later name - taken from the old Slavic, ‘bel-grad’, to mean ‘white city’. Its legacy today is down to the Ottomans who conquered the town in 1417 and built mosques, bathhouses, schools, tekkies, and of course, the famous white houses. The Ottoman efforts are the reason Berat was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. Its historic houses are rightfully deemed a “rare example of an architectural character typical of the Ottoman period”. UNESCO also recognised Berat as a place that “bears witness to the coexistence of various religious and cultural communities”. Celebi reports meeting Greek and Albanian Christians living side by side with the local Muslim population when he visited. Sadly though, the once thriving market he witnessed is no more: “Through the entire bazaar flow streams of water which ensure such cleanliness that a man could sit down on the road and let himself be enraptured by the surrounding beauty. The lads in the shops are like royal princes, never struck by the light of the sun. Most of the shops on the two sides of the streets have wooden roofs. Here it is that friends, companions and lovers spend all their time chatting up the boys as they work, and there is no shame in it either.”


Where in the world: Berat is a town in the

Today, the city’s heritage is focused around three main sites. Firstly, the neighbourhood in and around the 4th century BC, Kala Castle, high above the main town. Here several churches dating from the 13th century can still be visited, and it is the ideal place to take in the impressive panoramic views across old Berat. Beneath the castle, dissected by the Ossum River, are the town’s famous photogenic neighbourhoods. On the river’s south side is Gorica, the traditionally Orthodox Christian part of town, and on the north is Mangalem, the old Muslim quarter. Hidden within these three areas are several of key historic monuments. The beautifully decorated Bachelor’s Mosque sits at the foot of Mangalem and is a wonderful example of 19th-century Ottoman art - heavily influenced by western European styles. Around the corner is the Xhamia e Mbretit or King’s Mosque, built shortly after the Ottoman arrival by Sultan Bayezid II in the 15th century. Also believed to date from the 15th century is the Teqe e Helvetive - a Sufi lodge built and still used by the Helveti (Khalwati) order. For a truly classical experience, head for Berat’s Ethnographic Museum, which is in a beautiful 18th century Ottoman house that is just as interesting as the exhibitions inside. Visiting these is one thing, but nothing quite beats spending a night in your very own Ottoman ‘house’. Although many of the rentals are reconstructions, their location high up in the hills, combined with your daily trek through those narrow, medieval pathways, guarantees an authentic Ottoman experience.

centre of Albania, straddling the Osum River. It is directly south of the country’s capital city, Tirana. In and out: The best way to get to Berat is to fly into Tirana, and then take either a shared minibus taxi - a furgan - or a bus directly to Berat. If you are visiting from any of the other towns like Elbasan or Vlore, a shared furgan will be your best bet. Top tips: Berat has a healthy, observant Muslim community and the best way to meet them is by heading to the Lead Mosque. The road, Rruga Antipatrea, leading from Mangalem to the Lead Mosque is also the hillside Ottoman houses to the mosque is also a good place for fast food outlets that are explicitly halal, such as the Piceri Medine.

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 www.tharikhussain.co.uk"

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Children Corner

Dear Children, Assalam Alaikum

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he month of December marks an important date for the Christians around the world as they celebrate the birth of the Prophet Isa(a) (Jesus). For Muslims, Jesus is a veryimportant Prophet of God. In fact in the Qur’an he and his mother Lady Mariam (sa) (Mary) are held in high esteem. Like previous prophets who were given the gift of performing miracles by God, Jesus also performed many miracles to prove he was a messenger of God. In fact Jesus himself was miraculously born of Lady Mariam without a father. The Qur’an tells us of Jesus and his mother in this words: “…and We made her (Mary) and her son (Jesus) a sign for the worlds." (Qur’an 21:91)

While still in the cradle “He will speak to people in the cradle and in adulthood, and will be one ofthe righteous.” (Qur’an 3:46)

The Qur’an also tells us of specific miracles performed by the Prophet Isa(a), confirming that God gave him this ability: “We gave Jesus; the son of Mary, clear evidences [miracles], and confirmed him" (Qur’an 2:87) The followings are some of the miracles performed by Jesus as mentioned in the Qur’an. One of the miracles of Jesus is that while still in the cradle, he spoke out to protect his mother Mary from accusations of having a child without a father. When she was asked about this strange event Mary just pointed to Jesus, and he miraculously spoke. Jesus said to the people:

"‘Indeed I am a servant of God! He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. .... and to be good to my mother, ... Peace is to me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised alive.’”

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“… ‘Indeed I am a servant of God! He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. He has made me blessed, wherever I may be, …and to be good to my mother, ... Peace is to me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised alive.’” (Qur’an 19:30-33)


Healing the Blind The Qur’an also mentions that Jesus gave back sight to the blind: “And I also heal the blind..." (Qur’an 3:49) Despite some good knowledge of medicine people of that time would never have been able to cure blindness. For this reason this kind of power was given by God to Jesus, so people could understand that he was no ordinary person.

Return ofProphet Jesus(a) Both Islam and Christianity expect the return of Jesus towards the end of time. Muslims believe that when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus, God miraculously hid him and raised him up to Heaven. He will return together with the Mahdi (atfs), at an appointed time by God: “... they said, “We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Prophet of God”, though they did not kill him…, but it was made to look like that to them… certainly they did not kill him.” “God raised him up toward Himself, and God is all-wise." (Qur'an, 4:157–158)

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Illustrator Ghazaleh Kamrani

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What & Where Through December 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

Through 22 December Nahj al-Balagha Studies (Weekly sessions) The Nahj al Balaghah (Peak of Eloquence) is the most famous collection of sermons, letters, commentaries and narrations attributed to Ali ibn Abi Taleb(a), the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad(s). Compiled in the 10th century CE by Sharif Razi, the book represents a rich body of Islamic knowledge. Students taking this course will be introduced to the eloquent thinking and knowledge of one of the great personalities of Islam. This course is designed for students of all religions who are keen to learn about the primary sources of Islam. The selected sermons of Nahj AlBalaghah cover various topics such as monotheism, the hereafter, morality, wisdom, intellect, the Qur’an. Venue: The Islamic College, 133 High Road, Willesden, London, NW10 2SW Time: 6.30 PM – 8.30 PM Fee: Free. Registration is mandatory. Contact: shortcourses@islamic-college.ac.uk

5 December Understanding text and stone: A history of Christian symbols in Mamluk architecture As part of the University of York Open Lectures Islamic Art Circle, this talk will analyse the case of Christian spolia and symbols, in Mamluk architecture, with cases ranging from utilitarian, esoteric, and commemoration of Christian individuals. Dr Sami de Giosa is the current Barakat Fellow at the Khalili research centre (University of Oxford), previously working at the British Museum as a project curator. He completed his PhD in Islamic art at SOAS, with a thesis on the revival of art and architecture in Cairo, under Sultan Qaytbay in the late Mamluk period.

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Venue: Bowland auditorium, Berrick Saul building, University of York, YO10 5DD Time: 6.30 AM Fee: Free More info: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/

5 December Islamophobia, literature and culture Part of the Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Seminar Series 2017/18 Speaker: Professor Peter Morey (Birmingham) Venue: ERI 224, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT Time: 2.00 PM – 4.00 PM

The Route to China: A Seaborne Exploration in Medieval Islam This is the first lecture under the auspices of the new Centre for Islamic Archaeology of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. Lecture will be given by Professor Dionisius Agius FBA Venue: IAIS Building/LT1, University of Exeter, Stocker Road, Exeter, EX4 4ND Time: 5.30 PM – 8.00 PM Enquiries: Professor Timothy Insoll T.Insoll@Exeter.ac.uk

7 December Muslim Responses to Westernisation: Retreat from the secular path The resurgence of Islam in Muslim politics and society in the late 1970s signalled a “Retreat from the Secular Path”. This discussion will also be placed within the broader context, the realities on the ground - what major polls (Gallup and PEW) have reported majorities of Muslims, the silent and often the silenced majority, have to say about the West and the role and relationship of Islam to state and society. The lecture will be followed by a panel discussion the next day, Friday 8 December, 5-7pm, on Muslim Responses to Westernisation: Living in Non-Islamic Societies. Venue: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, UCL, Gower Street, WC1E 6BT

Time: 6.00 PM – 8.00 PM More info: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/

9 December GLOW Join hundreds of participants in a sponsored night walk across the most iconic bridges in London and help raise vital funds for pregnant Syrian refugee women and their new-born babies. We literally want you to glow at this event – carry torches or glow sticks, adorn yourselves in glow paint or any other way you can think of to light up this special night! The money you raise will go towards providing free medical care to pregnant Syrian refugee women and their newborn babies, you can find out more about our Birth project here. Venue: Vauxhall Station, London, SW8 2LR Time: 6.00 PM – 9.00 PM Minimum fundraising target: £100 More info: www.islamichelp.org.uk/glow Total Ninja (in aid of Winter Blankets worldwide) An SKT Welfare event with over 20 impossible obstacles and two levels to battle through. Race and compete with other ninjas, test your endurance and make your training count. The first Beginners level is a series of challenges and obstacles designed to test your balance, agility, strength and problem solving skills. Test your endurance and progress to level two. Once you’ve mastered that, you move onto Intermediate – a much more treacherous path, designed to eliminate the weak and prepare those who are destined to become…the Total Ninja. Venue: Tenax Rd, Stretford, Manchester M17 Time: 1.00 PM – 2.30 PM Registration: https://goo.gl/forms/

Islam and Medicine – A BIMA North West Seminar Talks by experts on the following topics: Contribution of Muslims to modern day medicine and hospital care, physical and psychological benefits of fasting

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and praying Salah and chronic pain management from an Islamic context, Prophetic medicine tips and Hijama (Cupping) & the 5-2 intermittent fasting diet, Surah Ad Duha as a cure for depression, medical ethical issues around fasting and praying. Venue: European Islamic Centre, Werneth House, 79 Manchester Rd, Oldham, OL8 4LN Time: 3.45 PM – 6.45 PM More info: info@britishima.org

Artist’s Talk: Hassan Massoudy In conjunction with the exhibition, Breath, Gesture and Light, Hassan Massoudy will give a talk about his work and creative process. Hassan Massoudy was born in 1944 in Najaf, southern Iraq in a traditional Iraqi society. He moved to Baghdad in 1961, where he learnt the various classical styles of calligraphy, and studied graphic design and fine arts. Peace and tolerance are central themes of his work. Venue: October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, WC1N 3AL Time: 3.00 PM – 4.00 PM More info: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk

11 December

To understand why, when and how we teach Islam (and other religions) in a Catholic school. To understand some principles which underpin teaching Islam (and other religions as well as to explore the topics taught in Islam and develop teachers’ own knowledge and understanding. Appropriate activities and resources for teaching about Islam will be explored. This day may include a visit to a Mosque. Organisers: Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster: Education Service Venue: Vaughan House, 46 Francis Street, London, SW1P 1QN Time: 9.30 AM – 3.30 PM Fee: £105 More info/booking: https://www. eventbrite.co.uk/

16 December Safavid Iran and Ottoman Turkey: two ceramic traditions A 45-minute gallery talk by Anne Haworth, British Museum. Suitable for all levels of knowledge. Venue: Room 34, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG Time: 1.15 PM - 2.00 PM Fee: Free, drop in

Principles of Islamic Spirituality This class introduces selected aphorisms from a standard premier of Islamic Spirituality, Principles of Islamic Spirituality (Qawa‘id al-taṣawwuf) by the Moroccan jurist Aḥmad ibn Zarruq (d. 899/1493). Venue: Cambridge Muslim College, 14 Saint Paul’s Road, Cambridge, CB1 2EZ Time: 6.00 PM – 7.30 PM More info: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/ 12 December Exploring Other Faiths – Islam The aim of this course is to consider how to approach the teaching of Islam in a Catholic school Content.

16 & 17 December Muslim World Expo With unrivalled opportunities for Exhibitors, this event has been tailored exclusively for the consumer market. Be prepared to see an array of Exhibitors covering all aspects of the Muslim World including, but not limited to: Business, Beauty, Fashion, Arts & Culture, Weddings, Real Estate, Banking, Education, Travel & Tourism. Venue: ExCeL London, 1 Western Gateway, E16 1XL Time: 10.00 AM – 5.00 PM Tickets: £0 – £37.76 More info: http://muslimworldexpo.com/

16 - 31 December The Comedy Show Tour This winter, as the temperatures drop, Human Appeal will be turning up the laughter with a little help from funny men Preacher Moss, Nabil Abdul Rashid, Jeremy McLellan, Ali Official, Bilal Zafar, Prince Abdi and Aatif Nawaz. Don’t miss this fantastic chance to chase away the winter blues for a great cause. The Comedy Tour is coming to a city near you. In support of our Winter Appeal – ‘Winter Kills’ The victims of winter are the world’s most vulnerable people, including those living in poverty and conflict zones and those fleeing conflict. It’s at wintertime that those suffering most need our help. So, please gather your family and friends in support of this great cause. Venues: Varied Time: 6.00 PM Fee: £5 More info: https://humanappeal.org.uk/

23–26 December The Behlool Society Girls Winter Camp 2017 This year our camp ethos will focus on personal development, women’s empowerment and understanding our role in the era of the twelfth Imam. The camp will bring together various elements such as: Interactive Workshops, Leisure Activities, Debates, Presentations and Team Building Exercises. Alongside these fundamental aspects of the camp there will be both Islamic and secular workshops. We will also be doing fun activities such as Crazy Golf, Bowling and Laser Tag! Venue: Duxbury Road, Leicester, LE5 3LR For ages: 11 yrs – 15 yrs Fee: Full Price £99.99 (Subsidised Price £70.00) More info: https://www.eventbrite.com/

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.

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islam today issue 54 December 2017