Page 1

Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque Damascus, Syria.

issue 55 vol. 6 January 2018




January 2018



issue 55 vol. 6 January 2018


islam today magazine is a monthly magazine


Visits to Canada, Scotland and the Netherlands


‘Seeing the face ofGod in other religions’


The Rights ofChildren


Imam Husayn's Message for humanity


Uniting the Ummah and inspiring towards Islam through love ofthe Ahlul Bayt(as)

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

Report on Dr Shomali’s various visits Trinity Lutheran Church - Edmonton

The 4th Peace & Unity Conference Arbaeen procession – Rotterdam

by Hannah Smith

Anousheh Mireskandari




To be a Woman


The popular and religious practice ofIstikhara


The Gospel ofJesus’ Wife

The Islamic Centre of England 140 Maida Vale London W9 1QB Tel: +44 20 7604 5500 ISSN 22051-250


Lifesaving skin replacement


Europe’s only Arabic language

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.


The nurse ofKarbala


List ofEvents

Layout and Design

Innovative Graphics

Contact us Information

Article Submissions Follow us on: islamtodaymag @islamtodaymaguk



January 2018

Turning Over A New Leaf Creating Space DOT guild: Developing Our Traditions Exploring Art Looking Forward by Morriam Grillo by Batool Haydar

by Abbas Di Palma

by Rvd Frank Julian Gelli by Laleh Lohrasbi

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

What & Where


Visits to Canada, Scotland and the Netherlands Between October and November, 201 7 Dr Shomali undertook a number of important visits. interviewed him after his return to get an insight into the purpose of the visits.


InthenameofGod theBeneficenttheMerciful bout two years ago I received a joint invitation from a group of Mennonite Christians and some Shi‘a Muslims from the city of Edmonton in Alberta – Canada, who had invited me and Professor Harry Huebner from the Canadian Mennonite University of Winnipeg, to go there and deliver a series of lectures. I quickly accepted because the invitation came from Christian friends and a Shi‘a Muslim organisation - to me this was a sign of unity and I thought I should support it. Unfortunately for some reasons the event didn’t materialise. About a year ago Professor Huebner and I received again their invitation for a serious of events and we started working on them. The main invitation came from ‘A Common Word Alberta’ initiative. The ACW is a worldwide enterprise launched in

Alberta Canada in 2007 as ‘a letter signed by 138 leading Muslims to the leaders of the Christian churches and denominations of the entire world. It proposed, based on verses from the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Bible that Islam and Christianity share the commandments of the paramount importance of loving God and loving one’s neighbour. It is an extended global handshake of inter-religious goodwill, friendship, and fellowship and consequently of world peace’.(from

The event was the 5th annual

Christian – Muslim Dialogue, organised for the last week of October which coincides with interfaith week when universities, Christian and Muslim communities all get involved. The planned event was to take place in

different locations between the city of Edmonton and Camrose. Professor Harry Huebner and I were supposed to be the main speakers. Unfortunately Professor Huebner fell ill and could not make it; however, he was substituted by three Mennonites: Professor Huebner’s son Chris Huebner, Dr Urma Fast Dueck both from the University of Winnipeg and Pastor Doug Klassen from Calgary. I arrived in Edmonton on 25th October. The opening event with Pastor Doug Klassen and I, was held at Islamic Shi‘a Ithna Asheri Associaton (ISIA). The theme of the discussion was: ‘The concept of self-sacrifice for faith communities as embodied by Imam Husayn (a) and Prophet Jesus(a)’. This was followed by a Q&A session. The whole event was excellent and attended by many Christians and Muslims. The following day our dialogue programme was held at Kings University. This was originally a Biblical collage but was later turned into a university. Dr Fast Dueck and I had a session on Dialogue on MuslimChristian Relations in which we talked about the history of our engagement and presented our reflections on the topic. This was followed by a Q&A session. In the evening we had a regular Thursday programme in the Islamic Shi‘a Ithna Asheri mosque. As it was also the anniversary of Imam Hasan’s(a) martyrdom, I talked about Imam Hasan (a), his advice and spirituality. January January 2018 2018


On Friday I led Jum‘ah prayers, attended also by some Christians. In the afternoon we continued our dialogue programme at the University of Alberta. The theme was ‘Contemporary Challenges; Islamic and Christian Responses – The Value of Life’. This was led by Dr Chris Huebner and I. It was a well-attended event and was followed by a Q&A. One Saturday we had the main programme for ‘The Common World’, titled ‘Christian – Muslim Dialogue more important now than ever’. Dr Urma Fast Dueck and I gave presentations on the topic. The programme was followed by group discussions with the participants engaging with the topics we had presented. This session was also very well attended with Christian leaders, activists, politicians and some members of the Legislative Assembly. In fact it was so popular that at one stage they had to close the registration.

The event was held in St Mathias Anglican Church. In the evening we had a programme in the First Mennonite Church. This programme was led by Dr Urma Fast Dueck and myself and was about sharing our personal accounts on dialogue for the youths. On Sunday we had a programme in the Trinity Lutheran Church in Edmonton. As it was the 500th anniversary of the Reformation a special service was held. Dr Fast Dueck and I were invited to address the congregation during the service. It was a very significant invitation because Dr Fast Dueck is a Mennonite Christian and Lutherans have some history with Mennonites. Moreover, I was a Muslim. We also had


January 2018

prayers by Catholics, Mennonites, Orthodox, Lutherans and Muslims. The church was packed and there was very nice atmosphere. My talk was about ‘Seeing the face of God in other religions’. Praise be to God, people were very enthusiastic and afterwards many came to talk and shake hands with me. ( see page 6) In the evening we had another programme in the First Mennonite church but this one was for the community. The speakers were both Chris Huebner and I with David Goa, formerly of Chester Ronning Centre, serving as moderator. The theme was ‘Peace Expressions in Islam and Christianity’. On Monday morning we had another programme under the title of ‘Dialogue / Peace Resources in Islam and Christianity / Christian/ Muslim relations-building & understanding’. This was hosted by the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life and held at the University

of Alberta in Camrose, about an hour’s drive from Edmonton. Our talk was followed by a Q&A session. This was more of a class but also open to the public. It was attended by around 50 participants who stayed for a two and a half hour session. My trip to Canada continued to Vancouver. There we had a meeting with our Kawthar Learning Circle students. I talked about the reaction between our deeds and rewards and punishment in the Hereafter. On the way back from Edmonton to the UK, I stopped in Toronto where we had a joint meeting with some of the KLC students and four of our Focolare friends.

Visit to Scotland


day after coming back to London I went to Scotland on the 2nd Nov. We went directly to Al Furqan mosque in Glasgow. We had a Sunni-Shi‘a dialogue programme which concluded with issuing of joint resolutions. It was a very constructive session organised by several organisations, including Muslim Council of Scotland, Ahl ul Bayt Society of Glasgow, Minaj al-Qur’an International and The Islamic Centre of England. This was reported also by some Asian media in the Urdu language. Some of the attendees had previously come to Iran through an invitation by the Islamic Centre of England. (islam today issue 52 October 2017) In the same evening I spoke at the 4th Annual Peace and Unity Conference organised by Ahl ul Bayt society of Glasgow. This was held at the Glasgow City Chambers. The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon was in attendance as well as representatives from other parties and different Shi‘a, Sunni and Christian organisations. The topic of this year event was ‘The Rights of Children’. Well received speeches discussed many issues related to Children’s safety and rights. (See full speech on page 7). On Friday we had a dialogue session at Jesuits’ Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Glasgow. This was a Muslim / Catholic Christian event. The Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference’s Committee for Interreligious Dialogue, was also present and chaired the meeting. In the evening I led a programme in Edinburgh for the Shi‘a Muslim community.

Trip to the Netherlands


n Friday 10th of November Dr Shomali arrived in the Netherlands for some academic visits and to speak at the Arbaeen procession held in Rotterdam. In the morning, he visited the Islamic University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam and met the Rector, Dr Ahmet Akgunduz, who kindly gave him a copy of his recent publications on Islamic Jurisprudence, and then Dr Ahmet Dundar, who gave him a tour of the University. In the afternoon, he also visited Brill Publishers, well-known for its scholarly publications on Islam, in particular the Encyclopaedia of Islam. Sheikh Shomali held useful meetings with both the Chief Executive and the Acquisitions Editor for Middle East and Islamic Studies. Brill will be celebrating its 335th anniversary next year. Dr Sheikh Shomali also visited Leiden University, the oldest university in Europe and a place where Islam is studied. Leiden University was founded in 1575 and is one of Europe’s leading international research universities. Dr

Shomali was taken around the University by Dr Ahab Bdaiwi who is a lecturer in charge of the programme for Islamic and Arab philosophy. He explained that among its new initiatives the University is planning to offer degrees in Islamic and Arab philosophy. On Sunday 12th November the Shi‘a Community of the Netherlands organised Arbaeen procession in order to deliver the message of Imam Husayn (a) to the people. The procession was a silent one with no banners except in the Dutch language. The colour of choice for the procession was white rather than the traditional black which could have been confused with the colour of ISIS. The participants of this procession were drawn from different communities and ethnic backgrounds and from different parts of the Netherlands. Their gathering to commemorate the Arbaeen of Imam Husayn (a) was held in January 2018


one of the squares of the city centre of Rotterdam. The programme started with the recitation of verses from the Qur’an in Dutch and in English with one speech. They also distributed leaflets in Dutch. A large screen hired for the occasion showed lectures about Imam Husayn (a) in English by various scholars such as Dr Chris Hewer and Rev Nadim Nasser. Sheikh Shomali was invited

to give a talk in the square in English. (Full speech on page 8). He was positively encouraged by the efforts of the Shi‘a and decided to accept the invitation. On Saturday night the Shi‘a of Rotterdam also had a programme for Arbaeen in their centre in which Sheikh Shomali gave a key talk on social wilayah.

‘Seeing the face of God in other religions’ Sheikh Shomali at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Edmonton – 29th October 2017


thank God the Almighty for giving me the blessing to be here and be part of your service on such a special day. I am also very grateful to the organisers to inviting me to their very special celebration. In both our traditions we find that everything which is created by God is also His manifestation, a sign of Him. Whether it is small or large in our sight, it is unique and special for God. In everything, we should be able to discover the signature of God. If you consider the work of an artist, a small painting or big one, when the signature of the painter is on it you would value that painting even more. I think for us believers, it is a challenge to train ourselves, our minds and our hearts to be able to see the signature of God everywhere. This is what we refer to as ‘the face of God’; in both our religions we have a concept of seeking the face of God. I was thinking about this concept. Of course we know that God has no body so that He would have a physical face, in the sense that we normally use ‘face’


January 2018

for human beings. The face, for us humans, is a very important aspect of our being. If I want to have the best and all-out encounter with someone it should be a face to face one. If I talk to you but face the other way, this is not a good encounter. Likewise, if my face is turned towards you but you are facing the other way this is not a good encounter either. Face to face or eye to eye encounters are the best situations to enter into a dialogue. The beauty of God, on the other hand, is that He is always facing us. It is only we that turn our face away from Him. In the Qur’an we read: “Wherever you turn, the face of God is waiting for you”. Naturally, we may find the face of God more obvious in holy places; in churches, in mosques, in monasteries... We should train ourselves on how to keep our eyes open towards the face of God because he is everywhere. Whenever we go somewhere, we should remain focused on God and be able to see His face in everything. One of the biggest challenges for a human being is to be able to see the face of God in other faiths. For some religious people, this might be the most difficult thing to do. However, this should be the easiest thing, but it is difficult for us to see the face of God in other traditions or some other scriptures or other religious denominations. I think this needs maturity. I am delighted to be here today and see these signs of

maturity. At the same time we should be very loyal to our own traditions and act according to what we believe, in an honest way and submit ourselves to God. We should see value in other people’s religious traditions, respect them and pray to God together. The best thing we can do is to pray to God and praise God together. If there is any conflict – and I pray there will not be – it should stay outside the walls of the holy places; it should be out of the minds and hearts of believers. If we have conflicts, these should be outside of our religious traditions and not within, outside of our practices and prayers and hopefully, we can learn how we can take this peace within to the outside world. Please let us all work together and do not let anyone bring conflict and tension to our holy places, to our holy prayers and to our relations. May God be always with you and be your support and guide!

THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN The following is Dr Shomali’s address to the 4th Peace & Unity Conference hosted by the Ahl AlBait Society Scotland, whose 300 attendees were drawn from faith communities, public services, and academics. This year’s conference theme was ‘Children’s Rights’.


Peace be with you

am very grateful to God for giving me the blessing of being here for the second time and after my last visit to Scotland in February when I was invited to address the Scottish Parliament during the Time for Refection session. Children’s right is a very important topic and I thought perhaps my contribution might be more useful if I explained the significance of children from the Islamic perspective. To be able to understand exactly the contribution of Islam in this matter, it would be important for me to explain the condition of children before the advent of Islam. Arab society in the Arabian Peninsula, just before the coming of Islam lacked humanity. It was a society suffering from ignorance and darkness and perhaps those who suffered most were children. Children did not receive sufficient attention and mercy, especially girls. The Qur’an clearly blames and condemns the people for burying their daughters alive.

hostages. Because of this, they developed this attitude towards females. But Islam brought respect for children, especially for girls. Our Prophet(s) used to show the maximum respect for children, especially girls. I would like to mention a few examples from the life of the Prophet and then make a comment which I think it is relevant for today. One anecdote which is very beautiful demonstrates how our Prophet Muhammad(s) used to show his love for his children and grandchildren. He often kissed his grandchildren, something seen as a sign of weakness in the society of the time. A man was expected to keep his feelings inside. Once someone was surprised that the Messenger of God kissed his grandchildren and told him: “I never kiss my children”. The Prophet replied: “If you don’t show mercy, you will not receive mercy.” One has to show mercy to children so God shows His Mercy to you. In another anecdote that may have happened more than once, when the Prophet prostrated in prayers sometimes his grandsons, Hasan and Husayn, climbed on the back of the Prophet and he would take his time to come out of prostration, even if in congregational prayer when many people would pray behind him. The

Prophet had so much love for his grandchildren that he would prolong his prostration so that they could finish playing and come down from his back. Only then he would stand up. Once when the Prophet was about to start the prayer, - as you know we start our prayers with the pronunciation of Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest), Imam Husayn could not pronounce Allahu Akbar properly. On that occasion, God ordered the Prophet to repeat the words. He repeated the words seven times until the young child could also pronounce it properly. Showing respect and love towards the children is the essence of religion and humanity. We have a beautiful hadith (narration) from the Prophet(s) which I believe can summarise many things he said: “Love children as much as you can, you should love and have affection for the children”. Rahma (kindness) is to give love to children without expectation; expecting something in return is not kindness. The Prophet also said; “if you promise something to children you have to keep your promise.” Sometimes people might promise something to children to keep them happy but later on they cannot keep their promise, this is not right. The Prophet said: “Your children look at you as their sustainer as if you are the world.” So whether it is our

The Qur’an says of those who received news of the birth of a girl: “His face would become dark with anger and say, what shall I do with this shame?” Of course, there is a history of this that goes back to the past, when tribes attacked each other and women were taken as January January 2018 2018



children or any other children we should look at them as if we were responsible for them because they look at us as their protectors and sustainers. One of the worst things that could happen is when an innocent child has put his or her trust in us adults, and we mistreat them or abuse them. Our seventh Imam Musa al Kazem (a) says: “God never gets angry as much as when women or children get abused.” So when children are abused God is most unhappy with us. We have to work together to spread the message of protecting all the children of the world who are both innocent and a gift of God. According

to the Islamic tradition all babies, even those miscarried, go to heaven. We have a saying that when God tells a miscarried baby to go to heaven he/she replies: I won’t go to heaven unless my parents join me. I would like to share an idea with you. When we buy a computer or a mobile we are advised that if we want a longlasting battery we need to charge it fully, we have to do the same thing with children. We have to give our children as much love, peace and tranquillity as we can, so that later on in our lives we don’t have any difficulties. Children who receive love from their parents, in the school or from the community will lead a more stable life and will not wish bad for other people. I am sure many of the adults who do criminal acts had a

difficult childhood devoid of love and warmth. We have to make sure that we give unconditional love and mercy to children so that throughout their lives they keep beautiful memories of their childhood and get positive energy. Whenever they have a problem they can draw on the light and hope in their childhood to empower themselves. So let’s work together to give as much love and tranquillity to the children to make this world a better place for them regardless of their ethnicity, faith or race.

Imam Husayn's Message for humanity Dr Sheikh Shomali Arbaeen procession - Rotterdam, 12th Nov 2017


irstly, I would like to thank you all for taking the time to be part of this programme and to show your love and dedication to the message of Imam Husayn (a). May God accept your efforts in the most generous way and may God Almighty write your names on the list of those visiting Imam Husayn (a) this Arbaeen. What I would like to share with you and our non Muslim friends is a quick review of what Imam Husayn (a) has done and see what humanity can get as lessons now and in the future from his message. First of all we know that God the Almighty had special plans for humanity right from the beginning of creation. From the time that human beings were created God wanted us to live with honour and dignity. God says: “We have honoured all children of Adam.” (Qur’an 17:17)


January 2018

Honour and dignity are what every human being deserves. And there is nothing more important than having an honourable and dignified life. When division and conflicts appeared, God sent us the Prophets and the Messengers to guide us towards unity, peace, justice and solidarity so that we would be able to have an honourable life. Unfortunately, throughout history we human beings passed through different stages and phases of conflicts and disagreement after we had become united. We become united and then we get un-united. This has repeated again and again. Even the Qur’an tells us that Prophets came to unite people by bringing a unifying message but their followers after a while became divided over the same message (2: 213) therefore God sent new Prophets to stress again the unifying factors. Abraham (a), who was a key figure in the

history of mankind, a meeting point between Christianity, Judaism and Islam, had a special role to play in the plan of God for humanity. He is the one who demonstrated in the best possible way the significance of the unity of God. He was also a caring father and the patriarch for all humanity. A man who was very hospitable, a man who was concerned about everyone and was finaly chosen by God as His friend (khalil). And then through the children of Abraham (a) we

had all the messengers and prophets. We have Isaac and all of the the Israelite prophets until Prophet Jesus(a) and through Ishmael, we have the Prophet Muhammad(s) and Imams including Imam Husayn (a). In the Bible, Genesis, chapter 17, verse 20, and some other chapters of the same book God refers to his plan of giving a great nation to Abraham (a) through Ishmael and Hagar. In chapter 17, verse 20 God says to Abraham that through Ishmael he is going to give a very large nation and 12 rulers in that nation. That nation is Islam and that is a branch of an Abrahamic tree. Abrahamic religion constitute already more than half of the population of the world. But unfortunately not long after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad(s) who was the last Prophet and the one who brought the message of peace and love as the Qur’an says, some power-seeking people hijacked Islam, and took Islam away from the Prophetic message. They claimed the name of the successors of the Prophet but they had no interest in true Islam. In the personal, social or political life there was no spirit of Islam and therefore a separation started to emerge in the Islamic community between power and the real faith, between state and religion. Imam Husayn (a), the grandson of the Prophet, was not happy to be part of an unjust system and kept himself separate from the power. He lived for 10 years during the time of the reign of Muawiyah. A peace treaty had been already agreed by his brother Imam Hasan (a) and Muawiyah. Both grandsons of the Prophet, Hasan and Husayn, tried not be associated in any way with that so-called Islamic Caliphate or Islamic government of their time. Unfortunately, when Muawiyah was about to die he asked everyone to pay allegiance to his son Yazid who was by any standard a corrupt and immoral person. Nobody was happy with Yazid as an ordinary member of the society, let alone as the leader of the Muslim community. A major problem started when Yazid took power and wanted to force Imam Husayn (a), a man from the progeny of Abraham (a) and Ishmael and Muhammad(s) to pay allegiance to him and to accept his authority. This is when Imam Husayn (a) gave a lesson for all history that you cannot be silent when the dignity and honour of humanity are under threat. You can avoid violence even if you are going to lose your legitimate power to other people who are not legitimate and are taking over the power if this serves the interests of the community keeping unity and peace. But when they want you to be become a part and parcel of a corrupt and unjust system and use you to give legitimacy to their corrupt actions, you should not accept or tolerate. Imam Husayn (a) proved this by sacrificing his life, as did his dear companions and family members – 72 men in total. Imam Husayn (a) gave his life bravely refusing to endorse an unjust system and unjust Caliph, and this is the lesson for us.

The best gift we have from God, more valuable than even our lives, is our honour and dignity. Imam Husayn (a) said: “Life is very important but life under the flag of the unjust people, without dignity, when you are being humiliated is not worth living”. So this is the message we have to take from Imam Husayn (a). It is a message that is ever more relevant to humanity, calling for honour and dignity for all the children of Adam. From the East to the West, from the North to the South, men, women and children should be able to have a dignified life and they should be able to be free and decide for themselves what kind of life they want to live. I hope God Almighty enables us to learn in different ways the message of Imam Husayn (a) and share it with all of humanity. I would like to conclude by saying that Imam Husayn (a) is the icon of justice and dignity and a role model for the whole of humanity.

January 2018


Uniting the Ummah and inspiring towards Islam through love of the Ahlul Bayt(as) Hannah Smith reflects upon her trip to the latest global unity and

Islamic awakening conference in Tehran


t the end of November, I had the great privilege to attend the latest conference organised by the World Assembly of Islamic Awakening (WAIA) in Tehran, Iran. The conference, titled 'Lovers of the Ahlul Bayt(as) and Takfirism Issue' brought together 600 Muslims, both Sunni and Shi‘a from over 100 countries. I was part of a small British delegation. The conference was a follow-up to ten global conferences held in Tehran by the WAIA in 2011 on the theme of Islamic Awakening. This was my second trip to Iran and the visit was just as inspiring as the first time I visited for the Women's Islamic Awakening conference in 2011. Despite having visited Iran six years ago, I was still slightly anxious before my trip because this time I was travelling alone and being a white British convert I was confronted with a number of somewhat quizzical reactions to my choice of travel destination by native non-Muslim colleagues and family! However as soon as I set foot in Iran and I was greeted by the warm hospitality of my hosts including a VIP reception in the Imam Khomeini airport, I knew that I had made the right decision.


January 2018

At the hotel, I soon became acquainted with the theme of the conference, love of the Ahlul Bayt(as), as I caught up with old friends and became acquainted with new ones, our nascent congeniality lit by the light of the Ahlul Bayt(as) burning in our hearts. As a convert to Islam coming from a Muslim-minority country and a lover of the Ahlul Bayt(as), I was surprised to find myself met with such warmth by Muslims from all over the world and it is from this that I began to re-discover the power of the Ahlul Bayt(as) - the most important theme of the conference! It got me thinking if this huge warmth and love between those who love the Prophet's family was an effort by us mere mortals to show the respect we hold for others who also share our love of the most sublime beautiful human archetypes? After a day of relaxation, the conference proceedings began in the prestigious conference venue. Here the delegation of 600 Muslims including leading scholars, politicians and activists were welcomed by the organiser of the conference, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Ali Akbar Velayati. Dr Velayati gave a beautiful speech introducing the conceptual bases of the conference:

creating unity between Sunni and Shi‘a through mutual love of the Ahlul Bayt(as), and countering the propaganda of deviant forms of Islam by spreading knowledge of the example of the Ahlul Bayt(as), a concept so simple it is hard to fathom how our respective communities across the world have failed to recognise this perfect antidote to ISIS! When the actions of ISIS are held up against the lives of the Ahlul Bayt(as) – who showed the utmost restraint and compassion at all times – no one can be in doubt about the legitimacy of ISIS barbarity. Even when defending themselves on the battlefield, with no choice but to fight or die the Prophet's family continued to gently preach and invite their enemies to the beautiful path of Islam. Perhaps it is the historical legacy of persecution of Shiite Muslims, who maintain the strongest link to the Ahlul Bayt(as), and their subsequent history of taqiyyah (dissimulation) and insularity, which has left the lovers of the Ahlul Bayt(as) so weak in propagating the story of the Ahlul Bayt (as). Wait, can we even call ourselves lovers if we do not strive in the utmost capacity of our being in this mission? Doesn't loving a person entail having an affinity for their values and behaviours? In the case of the Ahlul Bayt(as), our duty towards them is thus to fulfil their desire that we continue to propagate their message and strive to emulate their perfect example.

However, Dr Velayati's speech did not just wake me up to the power of the Ahlul Bayt(as) in countering ISIS or uniting Sunni and Shi‘a sects but to the boundless appeal of the Ahlul Bayt for all humanity. I started contemplating why I and others love the Ahlul Bayt(as)? Again, I was surprised to feel myself become aware of such a simple concept, I think I had not been truly cognisant of how influential the speech and actions of the Prophet's family have been in my own conversion. The exemplary example of the Ahlul Bayt(as) has probably been the most decisive factor in helping me to understand what it means to be a Muslim, how a Muslim should live in this world and perhaps most important of all for a convert, why a person should be a Muslim. The conference had woken me up to a new perspective on my own conversion and a potential avenue for attracting people to Islam, what I deem the ‘lovability' or ‘lovableness' of the Ahlul Bayt(as), the attraction to those qualities which the Ahlul Bayt(as) had in abundance like kindness, generosity, compassion, patience, humility, forbearance and

self-sacrifice that are sure to melt the hardest of hearts. How could any human not love the Prophet's family when they hear about stories like Lady Fatima(sa) giving away her wedding dress to a beggar because she had nothing else to give and because the Prophet had taught her to give away the things that she loved? It feels like the Ahlul Bayt(as) are Islam's hidden treasure, and we have forgotten their true value. As a community we are very good at remembering the sublime moral stand and self-sacrifice of Imam Husayn (a) and his family, and now in the UK we are beginning to show signs of spreading this story outwards through initiatives such as 'Who is Husayn?', but this is only tapping the beginning of the huge potential for bringing people into the fold of Islam through love of the Ahlul Bayt(as). The conference lasted two days in total, over which hundreds of presentations were delivered about the role of the Ahlul Bayt(as) and the issue of takfirism from a large number of analytical perspectives. The conference delegation was also blessed to receive a rousing speech

from Imam Khamenei at his private house where he similarly echoed the lofty objectives of the conference. The conference ended with a VIP day trip to Mashhad, an opportunity for us to connect and pay homage collectively and privately with our beloved Imam Rida(a). All the pilgrims came back with a much-needed spiritual pick-me-up and a blessed sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, a fitting end to an inspiring trip.

Hannah Smith has a Masters

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

January 2018


Art Turning Over A New Leaf

Winter is seen as a time of dormant emergence. The leafless trees we have lived with for months now begin to represent a normalcy that will soon be overtaken by blossoms and the onset of spring. But before this, snowdrops and other winter flowers remind us that the beauty of nature is not lost and all exists in cycles, dying only to begin again. A new year is a time for all of us to renew intentions, vows, hopes and dreams as well as another opportunity to develop common ground with those of other faiths and cultures and develop a greater understanding of our shared stories. This is something that DOT Guild has been created to do with an ethos that I am very excited about. Creating Space DOT guild: Developing Our Traditions

“A personal reason for being involved in DOT is to show my children that creativity is important, we are important and we have the right to do the same as anyone else.” - Juma Harding-Dimmock DOT has grown organically since the initial coming together of a group of artists at a networking event in London last spring. It was the idea of maintaining the momentum that encouraged the development of a guild where creatives could come together for a common purpose. The term DOT is an abbreviation for ‘Developing Our Traditions’ and also refers to the Arabic nuqta that has varying roles in defining the identity of Arabic letters but all letters are said to begin from this. In essence, this nuqta/dot defines the beginning process, the final result and all that lies in between, a beautiful metaphor for exploring journey, spirituality and purpose. DOT founders with artists a Blessed Footsteps exhibition

12 12

January January2018 2018

The founding trio is comprised of mixed-media artist Farah Soobhan, Graphic artist Juma Harding-Dimmock and Photographer, Isa Noorudeen. All were driven by a need to create a platform to support British Muslim artists and more importantly, create spaces for the British Muslim experience to be explored and promoted through artistic expression. Farah Soobhan has always been passionate about supporting fellow creatives by providing a platform and encouraging the development of a shared experience. She was inspired by the support system she witnessed between Muslim artists in France where they were Pop Art Farah Soobhan © supporting one another, exhibiting and performing together. DOT are concerned about building a heritage for the next generation. To reclaim a prominence of Islamic Art heritage but with a modern slant that allows Muslim artists to explore more personal themes and expression. This in turn challenges established ideas about what Islamic art is and should be. Is it merely reconjurring of traditional methods or can it include new ways of thinking and a new direction that can choose to embrace convention or mark out new ways of creative expression? “DOT primarily focuses on British Muslims, and this is fascinating because being a British Muslim enables us to showcase the work of people from such diverse backgrounds, welcoming people who have not only been born Muslims but those who have embraced the faith bringing multiple levels of cultural heritage and points of Juma Harding-Dimmock©

view, each person adding to our tradition, our narrative.” - Juma Harding-Dimmock “At every opening night we are all brought to tears and we are all reminded again of how needed this is.” - Farah Soobhan Although juggling this project with work and all that is involved in raising a family, Juma and Farah are great advocates of running workshops and teaching creativity to young people and an exhibition of the work of children and young people is in the pipeline as are exhibitions in Birmingham and Paris. “Throughout history, the oppressed create the most moving, insightful thought-provoking art. So for me, I

this major spiritual transitional stage of my life, I could not find my way. My work before Islam was heavily charged by politics and black history. But I lost who I was, and what was important to me.” It was through networking with inspirational Muslim women creatives that she was able to find her feet and use her creativity as a way of exploring her own journey of spiritual development. Juma believes that DOT is needed today as it is vital to “proving to none other than ourselves that we are much more than what we are portrayed be. Intelligent, insightful people who have a right to do what they love and be appreciated for what they do and who they are. Just like anyone else.” DOT plans to build upon what they have started, to branch out further, so that their ideas can be experienced by more people and the sense of belonging, ownership and creativity can be shared with all who participate.

Juma Harding-Dimmock© wanted to see what Muslim creatives are making. How are we coping, how are we reacting and responding?” Juma Harding-Dimmock, who studied Fine Art at Central St Martins, felt that her creative process suffered when she became a Muslim. “I was given so many limitations and restrictions when I converted. I became overwhelmed and my art suffered. Rather than utilising Dot Exhibition at Rumi's Cave

Battle of Uhud - Juma Dimmock Harding

Majesty. Be a child again and marvel at the simple things…patterns in nature, the sounds of birdsong, and the formation of clouds. Or consider the golden ratio or Fibonacci spiral, both reflections for us of a far greater reality. If your setting is mainly urban, even modern architecture refers back to nature, even the modality of structures refers back to the unseen nature of atoms or chemical structures. I challenge you to see all things anew and to be grateful.

Looking Forward

The Summer Exhibition is an annual event held at the Royal Academy of the Arts in London and showcases the work of budding artists and established creatives alike. It is an opportunity to show and sell work in one of the largest public art shows in Europe. The deadline for submissions is February 12th. For more information go to er-exhibition

Exploring Art

The Great Outdoors Although it’s cold and the last thing on our minds is being outdoors why not do it just for the sake of it? Nature is one of the greatest reminders of God's

Moriam Grillo is an international

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

January 2018



To be a Woman The life of a woman today is plagued with wrong questions. Batool Haydar suggests rephrasing ‘Why should I...?’ with ‘What God wants me to do...?’ to find better answers.


mongst the many challenges of growing up female in the 21st Century, I have found the greatest to be that of figuring out my identity as a woman. ‘Who am I?’ becomes a question that has overtones coloured by my gender. I am torn by the various ideas presented both by society and faith. Am I to be a secular feminist, finding liberation in breaking boundaries, voicing my opinions and going against the norm or am I to bind myself in the seemingly-domesticated role that religion presents to me, giving in to a greater cause? Should I be a dutiful daughter, sister, wife and mother or should I simply be a woman, seeking out greater achievements and heights to rise to? Over the decades, I have oscillated from one extreme to the other and paused at almost every stop in between. I have come to believe that finding - and maintaining - that sweet-spot of balance is part of our life-long journey. The process of discovery would have been futile though, had it not been for the presence of role models such as Sayyida Zaynab(a). To know of her, to read her words and to have the blessing of coming back again and again to her story is a point of stability that re-aligns the spiritual compass. One of the things I find most amazing about Karbala is how timeless it is. This is an aspect that is mentioned often in sermons, but the various ways it proves itself to be so is what is wondrous. The particular issue of the role and identity of women in Islam is a prime example. When I was younger, I would hear my grandmother and mother speak of the lessons we could learn from Sayyida Zaynab(a) and they would usually list her hijab, her patience


islam today

January 2018

and her ability to carry the burden of sorrows with nobility as highlights. Over the years, as women have expanded their horizons and sought new boundaries, I hear of her strength and courage, of her fearlessness in standing up to the dictators of her time. The shift in focus has been reflective of our journey as women. So for example, history says that she sounded like her father - Ali bin Abi Talib(a) - when she delivered her eloquent sermons in Kufa and Syria. As children, we heard this interpreted in a more literal sense, in that her hijab was protected even in her voice. Now we are able to appreciate that this referred to a deeper quality of the actual content and style of her words. We have grown from speaking of her sermons to actually studying what she said. All of this is amazing progress. However, the conflict within us (within me at least!) continues. How to reconcile the things Islam asks of me - dutifulness, patience, humility - in the face of what the world demands of me - progress, action, confidence. I think the answer lies not just in the one or two years of Sayyida Zaynab(a)’s life when she was highlighted in history, but in the five decades that history is silent about. We know of her in those years only through a few statements made by those around her. Her grandfather spoke of the sorrows she would bear throughout her life, that she would be Umm alMasa’ib (The Mother of Sorrows). Her father would travel with her at night, under the cover of darkness. Her husband said she was the best of wives. We know that she had a wealth of knowledge that

she shared with the local women, educating and empowering them so much so that Imam al-Sajjad(a) refers to her ‘Aalimah Ghayr Mu’allamah, meaning, she who has knowledge without being taught. This smattering of facts is what we have as a background history. Yet, it is this silent period in her life that provided the foundation upon which she was able to become the saviour of the message of Karbala, and in essence, of Islam. To this day, the greatest sacrifice in history, the Dhibh al-’Azeem spoken of in the Qur’an, is inextricably entwined with Sayyida Zaynab(a) such that it is impossible to speak of one without mentioning the other. I truly believe this is because Sayyida Zaynab(a) focused her life on being a servant of God and everything else was defined by her goal in seeking His Pleasure. When the need was to fulfil her responsibilities as a member of her family daughter, sister and wife - she gave herself to it fully in the manner expected of her by Islam. When circumstances demanded more of her, she rose to fill whatever role was needed. In the space of one afternoon, she went from being a woman protected by her brothers, her sons and the sanctity of Islam to be the protector of others, defender of the Imam of her time, spokesperson, activist and protestor against oppression - all while being a prisoner of war. She went from doing things that only a woman can to achieving things that even a man could not. The pure contrast and range of roles that Sayyida Zainab(a) took on though is so complex and varied that she stands out as a unique example of what women can achieve. She was able to not only stand up, speak out and protest against the greatest dictator of the time, but she was able to do it because she was female, because she was not seen as a ‘threat’ in the same manner as Imam Husayn(a). While men could be met on the battlefield and killed, women could not be treated in the same way. This gave her the opportunity to pass on a message that men would not have been allowed to even voice. The fact that Sayyida Zainab(a) had both the foresight as well as the courage to do take advantage of this shows an inner strength and confidence that surpasses circumstances. In her sermons, she

often declared her complete reliance on God. In Syria, she stated to Yazid: “I express my complaint only to God and have trust in Him.” This utter faith reflected in her every word, expression and act was the culmination of a lifetime spent in building and nurturing her relationship with God. Only someone who knew that she had placed her life in the Hand of the Greatest Power could have the courage to stand up to those who were perceived to be powerful in the world. It also shows - I believe - that Islam suggests, but does not impose, roles on men and women. We tend to think that religion divides the human race into two distinct - complimentary - halves and that, men and women have gender-based spaces to occupy in society. However, these roles are not mutually exclusive. For women today, the conflict between choosing a life based on personal preferences as compared to Islamic ones is too common. Where does one draw the line between creating an identity and sacrificing it? Does submitting to what Islam (i.e. God) asks of you mean you are restricting your potential? Is freedom in choosing what you want to do or in choosing what you believe God is asking of you? These questions plague women in all walks of life, through all their years. I have found that rephrasing these questions sometimes leads to the easier answer. Instead of wondering: ‘Why should I have to give up my career to have children?’ asking ‘Why has God entrusted the next generation of human beings to my care?’ changes one’s perspective. Is the question: ‘Why should I have to choose between marriage and a career?’ or is the question: ‘should I restrict myself to succeeding alone or should I dedicate myself to building a new, healthy unit of society for the future’? At the end of the day, the best lesson from Sayyida Zaynab(a) is to always ask yourself: what does God want and what does Islam need from me? And then to fully submit - lovingly - to your Creator in achieving that, regardless of how society or your own ego might view it. Perhaps then we may, GodWilling, be amongst those that He is pleased with.l

January 2018

islam today


T he po pul ar and r e l i g i o us pr ac t i c e o f I s t i k har a Abbas Di Palma explains the how and why of Istikhara

Istikhara' literally means ‘looking for good’ or ‘asking for good’. In the Muslim world often consists of a religious practice performed when a person is uncertain about a decision he must make. At the said point, the believer asks God for help and seeks His guidance through prayer, supplication and turning his heart to Him. It is not surprising that a believer who has faith in his Creator would look for God’s best decree whenever he is going to start something new such as choosing a school, spouse, during travel, while purchasing something, etc., asking Him for the best, especially


January 2018

when he is not certain about a choice that has to be made. There are several forms of istikhara that can be individually performed mentioned in many religious books. Some of these forms have become quite popular in certain areas and communities and in some cases are practised with much assiduity. One of them is the istikhara performed with the Qur’an. It consists of making a specific intention and invocations, opening a copy of the Qur’an, reading a passage from it to get an affirmative or negative answer, in accordance with the Quranic passage, on what to do in respect of the decision that needs to be taken.

A similar type of istikhara is sometimes performed with a rosary in the way prescribed in several popular, devotional and religious books. However, there is also another type of istikhara practised from the early days of the Islamic period. What has been widely reported in this regard is performing a two-units prayer followed by special supplications asking God for the best course of action and the best outcome in front of a particular situation. In some narrations, only special invocations have been mentioned with no reference to the two-units prayer, most probably referring to cases in which a ritual prayer is of difficult

amongst the ones whom He wishes from the creation”. his type of istikhara valorises the power of invocation as the best form of approaching God. It is worth to note that the point here is not to abandon our faculty of thinking or stop seeking advice from others, but to start with God in our minds and hearts before any other step or consideration takes place. The istikhara is a form of supplication aimed at seeking God’s guidance when doubtful and when difficult decisions are to be taken. Its purpose is to strengthen our trust in Him while going ahead with performing our duties within the limits that have been set for us in the outer world. It has been said that the more intensively a person supplicates, the stronger the answer will come from God, and the clearer the decisions to be taken will appear to him.

performance (such as lack of time, unbearable hardship, etc.). It is reported in one narration on the authority of Imam al-Sadiq as follows: “Offer two units of prayer and seek forgiveness from God. I swear by God if a Muslim asks for God’s outcome, indeed He will definitely choose the best choice for him”. In another narration, he said: “If anyone of you intends to do, then he should not consult anyone of the people until he starts consulting God”. And when he was asked the meaning of ‘consulting God’ he said: “You start by asking God to make a good choice first, for verily if you start with God, then He will put the best choice for you

Sometimes such divine answers can reach directly the heart of the believer straight after the prayer and supplication while at other times it may get clearer during the course of his actions. Sometimes the answer could also be delayed due to divine wisdom, whose reasons may become evident later on, or even in the Hereafter! As a matter of fact, our relationship with God and our constant communication with Him should inspire in us an unprecedented type of confidence adorned with special peace and tranquilly. Due to these personal implications of the istikhara, some scholars have said it is better to be performed by the person himself and not by someone else on his behalf. Since it is a form of supplication about a believer’s concern, and a supplication usually comes from deep within the heart, it would be good for him to perform istikhara by and for himself.

It is probably because of the lack of direct answers, or the inability to see them during the course of actions, that the istikhara with a rosary or the Qur’an became more popular as the answers through it are more direct and much easier to get. The same reason may also account for the practice of asking another person to perform istikhara. On the other hand, it is believed that a supplication from a more pious person may be accepted faster as his/her piety would bring a stronger answer or result for the istikhara performed. Whatever the case may be, “asking God for the best outcome” and “seeking God’s advice before taking a step” are both valid forms of istikhara. The way that it should be performed is a choice that falls on the believer himself but what is universally accepted is the importance and necessity of trusting in God and asking Him to put His mercy in our affairs. If we think we have total control over our affairs and we can manage them in the best possible way relying exclusively on ourselves, it will be certainly one of the most difficult tasks to entrust them to someone else. However, if we realise that we own nothing, and that everything we use is just a concession and mercy from God, we would be relieved to rely on Him and to follow His advice and decision for many of the problems we face in our lives.

Hujjatul-Islam Abbas Di Palma

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

January 2018



The Gospel of Jesus’

Celibacy has been an honoured vocation in Christianity but it has in the meantime created a mystery surrounding the marital state of Jesus. Frank Gelli explores this mystery


id Jesus have a wife? Five years ago a tiny papyrus scrap in the Coptic language appeared to suggest he did. It bore the incomplete words: ‘Jesus said to them, my wife…’ Bit of a bombshell. The canonical Gospels do not refer to a Messiah’s spouse, nor do indeed the other New Testament writings. The multifarious Gnostic texts that are known to us, as well as ancient Jewish polemicists, which might have had a mischievous interest in mentioning such a person, also are silent about a Mrs Jesus of Nazareth. Needless to say, the traditions of the Christian Church have maintained hitherto that Jesus was unmarried. What to make of the papyrus’ claim? Harvard Professor Karen King, addressing a conference in Rome, gleefully nicknamed the find ‘The Gospel of Jesus’ wife’. A feminist, she rejoiced in the supposed setback to a certain Christian ideal of celibacy as superior to the married life. The Council of Trent had actually issued an anathema against those who held the contrary. Although the Catholic Church no longer teaches that, the impression that sexuality and holiness may be difficult to reconcile still holds sway in some quarters. Regardless, the Vatican called the papyrus a forgery. Radiocarbon dating cast doubt on the find’s authenticity. A scholar thought it absurd that in the text the words ‘My wife’ are written in bold type as if to


January 2018

emphasise the meaning. Karen King herself later admitted the papyrus was of spurious origins. However, the challenge remains: was Jesus married? And, if not, why not? First, nowhere does the New Testament state that Jesus was unmarried. Hence the argument that he had no wife is an argument from silence. A notoriously weak type of reasoning. Nonetheless, if the lucky lady ever existed, she must have kept a very low profile for having escaped notice so thoroughly. It won’t do to argue that the early Church covered up the evidence. The Gospels, for example, do refer to Jesus’ brothers and sisters. On the face of it, a difficulty for the Christian belief in Jesus being God’s only son. Yet, the reference was not omitted. Nor was the embarrassing assertion of Jesus’ relatives that ‘he is beside himself’. Such passages prove

that, had Jesus had a consort, the Gospel writers could have mentioned her, however unpalatable the idea. Similarly, they undermine the quirky claims of novelists like Dan Brown, author of the entertaining Da Vinci Code, according to which the Messiah’s wife had been doctored out of history by scheming male clergy. It may also be worth pointing out that Jesus appears several times in the Qur’an, in the narrations (ahadith) and other texts belonging to Islam. They too, as far as I know, never speak of a ‘Jesus’ wife’. Given past theological controversies between our faiths, had there been evidence of such a spouse, why not mention her, to stress the Prophet Isa’s humanity? On the contrary, I learn from a distinguished Islamic scholar that in the Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 160, Imam Ali

declared that Jesus had neither wife nor children. Second, although celibacy and virginity have been honoured vocations in Christianity, equally has marriage. Jesus performed his first miracle – turning water into wine – at a wedding ceremony, not at a monastic ordination. The historical marriage service in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer says that marriage was instituted by God and that it signifies ‘the mystical union that is between Christ and his Church’. A similar imagery is evoked by St Paul, himself a married man. Denigration of marriage has usually been a characteristic of weird heretical sects, such as the Cathars and the Albigensians. The Catholic Church considers marriage one of the Seven Sacraments and even maintains, alone in Christendom, its indissolubility. Thus, there would have been nothing essentially undignified about a married Messiah. It is important to say that. Doctrinally speaking, matters are far from being simple. Being married normally implies having children. Jesus’

hypothetical offspring - what would their theological status have been? Namely, Jesus being the Son of God, as Christians believe, what would that make of his children? Grandchildren of God? That would be nonsense. Mary became pregnant by the supernatural action of the Holy Spirit and that was a one-off, unique, unrepeatable. Still, Christology – the study of the nature of the incarnate Christ – asserts the perfect union of two natures, the human and the divine. They cannot be separated or confused. How would Jesus’ physical children have fitted into that? The mind boggles. Another, more mundane but real problem, is that among the Hebrew Semites into which Jesus was born marriage was absolutely and universally the norm. Everybody got married. That was the accepted, universal custom unless a man suffered from impotence or malformation. Yet, there were Hebrew sects and communities where celibacy was pursued, such as the Essenes. The Jewish historian Josephus testifies to their existence and

practices. Could Jesus have belonged to them during his youth? The Gospels say that Jesus was about thirty years old when he came forward publicly as the Messiah. Prior to that, the last time there is a reference to him is the Gospel of St Luke, where his age is given as twelve. So, there is an eighteen-year gap between the two recorded events. What was Jesus of Nazareth up to during that time? His earthly trade, the Gospels suggest, was that of a carpenter. But he might conceivably have done something more, apart from work. The truth is that Jesus’ sentimental life – call it married life, or ‘love life’, if you wish – is a mystery and I suspect will always remain so for us mortals. Of course, God knows best. 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.

January 2018



Lifesaving skin replacement From Syria to Italy, a lifetime of suffering ends well. Laleh Lohrasbi recalls the story of Hassan, the Syrian boy struck down by a potentially fatal condition


assan is only 9 years old, but he has suffered much more than a lifetime. Every single day, especially the first seven years, his life was overshadowed by a deadly disease. However, after a breakthrough operation, now he can go to school, play football and live a normal life like any other boy. Hassan was diagnosed with epidermolysis bullosa (EB) shortly after birth. His family were told that there was no cure for the disease. One year after Hassan and his family moved to Germany, escaping the war in Syria, Hassan’s condition got worse. EB is a rare inherited skin disorder. Sufferers have genetic mutations on one of the genes that helps produce the protein which attaches the upper layers of skin to deeper layers. As a result of the mutation, sufferers’ skin can become blistered from just a mild bump or friction. Patients with EB are sometimes called ‘butterfly children’ because their skin is as delicate as a butterfly’s wings. Complications from the disease can include skin cancer and deadly infections. Hassan’s disease is considered the most severe form of the condition sufferers can have trouble eating as blistering can also occur within the body. Around 40 percent of children with the condition  won’t survive their first year, and most don’t live past five. In June 2015 when Hassan was 7 years old, he was admitted to the burns unit of a children’s hospital in Bochum, Germany. By that time, around 60 percent of his epidermis - the top layer of his skin - was gone. His back, flanks, and limbs had become a continuous landscape of untreatable open wounds, red and raw. Much of it was badly infected. The pain was excruciating. Dr Tobias Rothoeft, a paediatrician at the Children’s Hospital who Michele De Luca treated Hassan, described the deadly condition of his body at admission: “He suffered from severe sepsis (a blood infection) with high fever, and his bodyweight had dropped to a mere 17 kilograms (37 pounds) - a life-threatening condition.”


islam today

January 2018

Five weeks later, Hassan’s doctors had run out of options and were planning to start end-of-life care; trying to make him as comfortable as possible after all other attempts to heal him had failed. It was the time when Hassan’s father asked for experimental treatments, so doctors in Germany reached out to Michele De Luca, an expert in stem cell biology at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy. They wanted to see if it would be possible to transplant genetically modified stem cells onto Hassan’s body that would correct the mutation that causes EB and generate new, healthy skin. “Dr De Luka has promised to give us enough skin to heal this kid,” Dr Rothoeft told Hassan’s father. Stem cells have the ability to turn into any type of tissue. De Luca’s team had  previously shown that such a technique could be feasible for EB patients by transplanting a few sheets of skin grown from stem cells in the lab onto a patient’s legs. Doctors took a small square of healthy skin from a non-blistering part of Hassan’s body, and De Luca’s lab in Italy used that skin to create the genetically corrected stem cells which could grow into sheets of skin for grafting. The sheets looked like clear plastic.

In 1983, two boys accidentally set themselves on fire. More than 97 percent of their bodies were burned. Their lives were saved by the physician Howard Green, who grafted regenerated skin onto the burned parts. Green’s technique has since saved countless lives and fuelled the entire fields  of stem-cell biology and regenerative medicine. De Luca studied with Green in the early part his early career, and this procedure is almost identical to the one his mentor developed, except for one crucial part. He added gene therapy to the mix, modifying the stem cells A sheet of the laboratory grown genetically modified skin Photograph CMR Unimore behind the regenerating skin to correct the mutations behind Hassan’s condition. “What is nice about this study is the combination of gene and cell The surgeons spent two months grafting the skin grown in therapy together,” said Higgins, whose own work focuses on their labs onto the boy’s body through three surgeries replacing skin regeneration. “The success of this combined cell and gene about 80 percent of the skin. He spent months recovering, therapy will have huge implications for the field of regenerative covered in bandages, before being discharged from the hospital medicine and the treatment of genetic diseases.” in February 2016. The new epidermis was attached like a patchwork quilt, covering almost his entire body. Within a month, the graft had integrated into the lower layers of skin. “Once the epidermis has regenerated, the stem cells keep making the renewal of the epidermis as in a normal (healthy person),” said De Luca. “All the data we have … are telling us that this is going to be a stable situation.” Two years on, the skin is healthy, he doesn’t need to take medication or use ointments and when he gets a cut it heals normally. A potential risk of the treatment is that © The Atlantic the introduction of genetic changes could increase the chances of skin cancer – although the study found no evidence that dangerous mutations had been caused.

An article in The Atlantic, dated Nov 8, 2017, revealed that De Luca’s team is now running two separate clinical trials to test their gene-corrected skin grafts on around two dozen children with EB. His ultimate goal is to develop an effective and standardised procedure that could be carried out during early childhood, to prevent the painful blisters before they happen, rather than restoring lost skin after the fact. “It will take years to get there but it’s clearly doable,” he says. “Maybe this will be the last thing I’ll do in my career.” l ©The Atlantic

Figure A shows Hassan before treatment. Images C to E show his extraordinary recovery T. Hirsch et al Nature ©

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

January 2018

islam today



Travel Gui de to

Musl i m Europe

With travel writer and European Muslim heritage specialist Tharik Hussain

Europe’s only Arabic lang “Kayf int?” enquired the middle-aged Maltese woman as she greeted her friend. “There, did you hear it that time?” I ask in a hushed tone. My 7-year-old daughter looks up at me, her little eyes squinting behind a rather fetching pair of pink ‘Hello Kitty’ sunglasses. There is a puzzled look on her face she isn’t convinced. “Ok”, I say spotting a fruit and veg stall. “Ask that shopkeeper for three apples. …But ask for it using Arabic numbers.” “What?” Amani is even more confused now. “Trust me,” I say grabbing her tiny little hand and wandering over to the man sitting beside a series of large wicker baskets. The elderly man is wearing a grey flat cap to shade him from the sun and when he greets us, it is with a fantastically toothless grin. I watch as my little anthropologist, dressed in a sunny, lime-coloured dress, points to the pile of green apples in one of the baskets and shyly says, “thalatha, please”. There is a pause and the old man blinks. Is it the bright sunlight, or astonishment? He then repeats the number in his native language, holding up three fingers to confirm. “Tlieta?” Amani nods. “Aiwa” she whispers. The man smiles warmly, recognising the familiar phrase - almost phonetically


January 2018

identical to the local ‘iva’ for ‘yes’. He hands my delighted daughter three of the shiniest apples he has and I pay him. “He understood!" Exclaims Amani in an excited half-whisper as we head back to mum and her sister Anaiya. “How did he know Arabic?” We are near Triq Villegaignon in the beautiful town of Mdina in central

Malta. ‘Triq’ is the prefix used for almost every Maltese street name - it comes from the Arabic ‘tariq’ to mean ‘way’ and of course ‘Mdina’ is the Arabic word for ‘city’. Around the corner is Triq Mesquita leading up to Misra Mesquita, where once upon a time there must have stood a mosque. Malta is home to one of Europe’s most fascinating remnants of Muslim heritage. However, unlike previous examples in the Travel Guide to Muslim Europe, this isn’t heritage you visit or see - unless you count street signs.

Malta’s Muslim heritage is something you hear on the tongue of its people. The tiny, Catholic Island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea has two official languages, and one of them, Maltese, is the only ‘Arabic’ language of the European Union, and the only one in the world written in the Latin script. This is why maps of Malta reveal names that will be highly familiar to Arab speakers like ‘Rabat’ and ‘Sliem’ and the coastal ‘Bahar ic-Caghaq’. Maltese comes from an ancient European Arabic known as SiculoArabic, or Sicilian-Arabic. Now extinct, Siculo-Arabic was a type of Arabic that developed on the Italian island of Sicily after it was conquered by the Fatimids in the ninth century. It continued to be used when the Normans arrived in

Where in the world: Malta is a small island nation made up of three

islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, between Italy and North Africa. The capital city is Valletta towards the northeast of the main Island of Malta.

In and out: The best way to visit Malta is by flying into Malta International Airport, just southwest of Valletta, or by ferry from Italy.

Top tips: One of the most fascinating Islamic artefacts in Malta is the


1090 and ousted the Muslim rulers. The Normans adopted the language and became history’s first ‘NormanArabs’. As well as learning to read, write and speak Arabic, the NormanArab rulers even commissioned works in the language. The most famous example of this is the ‘Book of Roger’, by the famous Muslim Geographer AlIdrisi, commissioned by the ‘NormanArab’ king of Sicily, Roger II around 1138. Although Siculo-Arabic died out in Sicily, the language made its way over to Malta during Sicily’s Muslim and Norman-Arab period, via settlers. Modern genetic studies appear to confirm this showing Malta’s population have a shared ancestry with Sicilians and southern Italians. Today, almost 40% of the words in the Maltese language has Quranic Arabic roots - like the phrase at the start, which uses ‘kayf’ from the Arabic for

Majmuna Stone, kept in the Gozo Museum of Archaeology. It is the tombstone of a young girl called Majmuna who died in 1174 and has a Kufic epitaph on it. The Majmuna Stone is one of the only physical relics that has survived the ancient Muslim presence in Malta.

Majmuna Stone - The Gozo Museum of Archaeology

‘how’ and ‘int’ from the Arabic for ‘you’. The rest of the language is made up of Italian, French and to a lesser extent, English. Studies have shown that a Maltese person can understand around a third of what someone from their nearest Arab country, Tunisia, might say to them in their native tongue, which is also descended from SiculoArabic. However, whilst Tunisian developed as an Arabic language in the conventional sense, Maltese has been subject to 800-years of gradual

Latinisation, and therefore shaped by Romance languages such as Italian and Sicilian. This has made Maltese a unique Semitic language quite different from the standard and classical Arabic languages found around the world today, and the only one written in the Latin script. In spite of this, Maltese remains a ‘living’ legacy of Sicily’s ‘golden Arab’ period and Europe’s only Arabic language.

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"

January 2018


Children Corner

The nurse of Karbala Illustrator Ghazaleh Kamrani

Dear Children, Assalam Alaikum


his month we are celebrating the birth of a special person, Lady Zeinab(s). She was an important person in the event of Ashura, when Imam Husayn(a), his friends and family were martyred at the hands of the tyrant of the time Yazid, son of Muawiya .

1 Not only did she have to look after the children left behind in the camp of Imam Husayn(a), she was also an inspiration to the ladies of Bani Hashem who were anxiously witnessing the martyrdom of their sons , husbands and fathers on the battlefield.

2 24

islam today

January 2018

All the men were on the battlefield except for Imam Sajjad(a) the son of Imam Husayn(a)who due to illness could not go to fight against those who assaulted their camp. Lady Zeinab looked after the Imam as he was her own son.

In the Shi‘a tradition, Lady Zeinab(s) is known as the nurse of Karbala as she took care of the ill and wounded during and after the event of Ashura with a selfless courage. In Iran her birthday is marked as a special day dedicated to all nurses, known as Nursing Day.


In this issue our Illustrator Ghazaleh Kamrani has drawn some images to remind us of this great lady and the noble work of nurses. In image 1, she has pictured Lady Zeinab looking after Imam Sajjad(a). Images, 2, 3 and 4 shows the work of nurses today who look after ill children as well as adults.

Remember that nurses are not only women, there are many very good and caring male nurses too. Nursing is a very important and God pleasing job which takes a lot of patience and kindness. For us Muslims Lady Zeinab(s) is a great role model.l

4 January 2018

islam today


What & Where 8 January

Combating Terrorism: Lessons from Iraq

Iraq has cleared ISIS from its territory, but many foreign terrorist fighters have returned to their countries including about 400 to the UK. The organisation also has sleeping cells in more than 50 countries in the world. Military defeat by itself is not enough to eliminate the danger these terrorists pose to humanity at large. The decisive battle against them is ideological and the responsibility primarily lies on the Muslims themselves. The speaker will discuss the roots and causes that give rise to radicalism, violence and terrorism including political, economic and social grievances and teaching extremism in the name of religion. Dr Hussain Al-Shahristani Dr. J. Simon Rofe Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS University Time: 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Register on: Eventbrite Contact email: Speaker: Chair:

8 – 1 2 January Persian Calligraphy, Nasta'liq Script By Keramat Fathinia

This ten-week exercise-based Persian calligraphy course is a continuation of a previous course suitable for all levels. It is based on a one-to-one teaching method, so everyone will be given the instructions based on their own level and previous experience. Materials and tools are not included in the course fee, but you will be advised where to get them from. London Middle East Institute, MBI Al Jaber Building, 21 Russell Square Time: 6:30 PM 8:30 PM Fees: £250 plus £10 to £20 for materials and tools. To register: visit the SOAS Online Store. Contact email: Contact Tel: 020 7898 4330/4490 Venue:

1 5 January

Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT) Time: 7:00 PM 8:00 PM Organiser: Rosalind Wade Haddon Contact email: Contact Tel: 07714087480

CALL FOR PAPERS The Islamic College would like to invite abstracts to be submitted for its fourth conference specialising in the growing field of Shi‘i studies. This conference will provide a broad platform for scholars in Shi‘i studies to present their latest research. Papers are welcome on any aspect of Shi‘i studies.


1 2 January

The Power of Belief: Can religion be separated from politics?

Mahatma Gandhi said: “Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.' This panel discussion will interrogate this notion, with reference to 40,000 years of religious history, Enlightenment ideals of secular governance, and a forward-facing look at how global politics might evolve to better serve humans' spiritual needs. BBC religious affairs correspondent Martin Bashir. Venue: BP Lecture Theatre, British Museum Time: 6.30 PM - 8.00 PM Fee: £10 - Members/Concessions £8 Chaired by:

More info: 1 3 January Holistic Healing

There have been many advances in medicine in the last decade, and without a doubt more is yet to come. But what is Prophetic medicine and what does it really mean? We take a look back in history and present to you: ‘Holistic Healing’, an alternative view to conventional medicine. It promises to be an unforgettable night of inspirational talks, uplifting spoken word artists and breathtaking recitation of the Holy Qur’an. Join us for an enlightening evening on prophetic medicine, shedding light on the Gaza healthcare crisis and raising money in aid of Palestinian refugees. Venue: The

1 0 January The Hadassah and Daniel Khalili Memorial Lecture in Islamic Art and Culture


Dr Simon Rettig, Assistant Curator of Islamic Art, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

January 2018

Atrium London, 124-126 Cheshire St, London E2 6EJ Time: 5.30 PM - 10.00 PM Fee: £25 - £30 More info:

The Fourth International Conference on Shi‘i Studies 201 8 (5 - 6 May 201 8)

Abstract submission deadline: 15th January 2018 . Deadline for completed papers: 2nd April 2018 Suggested topics: https://www.islamic- Please email abstracts to The history of Islamic piety before Sufism

Christoph Melchert, University of Oxford Organiser: Dr. Ceyda Karamursel Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: WLT Time: 5:00 PM 7:00 PM

From 1 9 January The Gap Between Us

This is the first UK solo exhibition by artist and filmmaker Basma Alsharif, featuring three key works from different periods of the artist’s practice. This exhibition’s central work will be Ouroboros (2017) Alsharif’s first feature length film, screened here in a gallery context for the first time. The Mosaic Rooms, Tower House, 226 Cromwell Road, London SW5 0SW More info: Venue:

20 January Gangstas’ Paradise

We often talk about how divided our society is. We often talk about unification. The first way to unite our communities is to come together and try to solve the issues plaguing our communities. Join us for an evening of inspiration where a range of topics will be discussed including: struggles of reverts, Tackling Gangs & Violence, Reforming ex –

prisoners, Gangs, Bad Friends & Choosing Friends Wisely. Rio Grande, 144 Woodhead Rd, Bradford BD7 1PD Time: 5.30 PM - 10.00 PM Fee: £12 More info: Venue:

Venue: Woolf Institute,

Madingley Road,

Cambridge, CB3 0UB Time: 10.30 AM - 2.00 PM Fee: Free, but booking is essential More info:

25 January Our Mosques Our Future

A one- day conference organised by the Muslim Council of Britain. The first mosque in history – the Prophetic Mosque in the city of Medina – was a space where people came together not only in ritual worship but also as families and as a community. It played a vital role in interfaith work, charity and education. Today there are an estimated 1,500 mosques in Britain. British Muslim communities must ask themselves: Are our mosques today failing to follow the Prophetic model? How many are truly providing services beyond just a prayer space? And in an increasingly challenging environment, how is the role of the mosque in 21st century Britain changing? Join us for an action-packed day featuring TED-style talks, keynote speeches and interactive workshops exploring the challenges and opportunities for mosques in Britain today. Venue: To Be Confirmed Time: 9.00 AM - 6.00 PM Fee : £16.50 – £32.44 More info:

Forbidden Fruit: Translating the Qur'an in early modern Europe

The Arts and Humanities Research Councilfunded Christian-Muslim Relations project team at the University of Birmingham warmly invite you to its first public lecture. In early modern Europe the Qur'an was the victim of prejudice and the beneficiary of curiosity. The lecture explores the various reasons for translating it and the obstacles the translators encountered when having their translations published. The lecture will be followed by a reception and a launch of the latest Christian-Muslim Relations project publication. Speaker: Professor Alastair Hamilton

(School of Advanced Study, University of London) Venue: Arts Building Main Lecture Theatre (Room 120), University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, B15 2TT Time : 4.30 PM - 6.00 PM Fee: Free, but registration required. More info: departments/theologyandreligion/

26 January 23 January Ask a Rabbi/Ask a Mufti: Rethinking Religious Authority in Judaism and Islam

This workshop is an innovative attempt to create a conversation between anthropological and socio-legal perspectives regarding religious authority in everyday Judaism and Islam. By bringing together a broad range of scholars we will begin an inter-disciplinary dialogue about religious authority. During this workshop we will identify common core principles and encourage cross-cultural perspectives as we address the similar and different historical, social, cultural and political factors that have created two different models of religious authority.

Persian kingship after Alexander the Great

A 45-minute gallery talk by Alexandra Magub at British Museum. Suitable for all levels of knowledge. Room 68, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG Time: 1.15 PM - 2.00 PM Fee: Free, drop in. Venue:

to establish that Islam provides guidelines to deal with conflicting views. The course explores whether we can avoid or lessen differences and how we can be united with the presence of differences. Learn how to identify an acceptable difference from one that is illegitimate. The course analyses the underlying causes that lead to differing and discusses the guidelines that rank differences into those that are major or minor and how we can practically deal with them. The course also responds to the question, what should our stance be concerning shadh (unusual/illegitimate) opinions even if they be from scholars? Organisers: Sabeel Retreats & Seminars Venue: London TBC Fee: £75 More info:


2 February Call for Papers: Annual Palestine Research Seminar

For the sixth year running, the Centre for Palestine Studies at SOAS will host a oneday research seminar series aimed at providing a platform for PhD students working on Palestine or Palestine-related issues to present their projects and discuss theoretical and research issues. The series will comprise three sessions each of which will put into conversation three researchers and a discussant to talk about their work. Could you kindly send a brief (300-word) abstract and title for your paper to Dina Matar (CPS advisory board member) at by 8 January 2018. The list of speakers and discussants will be announced on 10 January 2018. Organiser: Centre

for Palestine Studies and Centre for Media Studies Venue: MBI Al Jaber Building, 21 Russell Square Room: MBI Al Jaber Seminar Room Time: 10:30 AM 6:00 PM Contact email: Contact Tel: 020 7898 4330

26 - 28 January The Art of Differing – Sisters’ Retreat

This course is presented with the premise that the existence of differences seems to be an unavoidable phenomenon, but intends

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.

January 2018



December 2017

Islam today issue 55 january 2018 web ready  
Islam today issue 55 january 2018 web ready