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islam today

issue 56 vol. 6 February 2018

REPORT

WINGS OF UNITY: EFFECTIVE AND AFFECTIVE DIALOGUE FAITH

HIJAB: A MUSLIM WOMAN’S FREEDOM AND IDENTITY TRAVEL

THE MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN SHRINE OF BULGARIA


Contents

islam today issue 56 vol. 6 February 2018

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United under the mantel of the Prophet

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Celebrating the Birth of the Prophet

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Wings of Unity: Effective and Affective Dialogue

“Unity of Ummah in the light of the Sirah of the Prophet of Islam” conference Report by Dr Mohammad Khalid

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.

The Islamic College in London Report by Fatima Muhammad

by Roberto Catalano Editorial team Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour Amir De Martino Anousheh Mireskandari Layout and Design

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Artificial Intelligence – The New god?

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You, Me and Him

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Art

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Spirituality Vs Psychotherapy

by Mohsin Abbas

by Batool Haydar

Innovative Graphics

Contact us Information Article Submissions www.islam-today.co.uk Follow us on:

info@islam-today.net info@islam-today.net

In the Spotlight / One to watch / Contemporary Islamic arts/ On Show / The Place to Be by Moriam Grillo

islamtodaymag

by Abbas Di Palma

@islamtodaymaguk

18 Hijab: A Muslim Woman’s Freedom and Identity by Kubra Rizvi

Publisher

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

Pope Francis warns against nuclear War

by Frank Julian Gelli

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.

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The Muslim-Christian Shrine of Bulgaria

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The Creation

Travel Guide to Muslim Europe by Tharik Hussain

Children Corner by Ghazaleh Kamrani

26 Listing of events What & Where

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United under the mantel of the Prophet Dr Mohammad Khalid reports from the “Unity of Ummah in the light of the Sirah of the Prophet of Islam” conference

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he Sparkbrook Masjid and Islamic Centre in Birmingham organised a conference last December titled “Unity of Ummah in the light of the Sirah of the Prophet of Islam” , attended by ulama (religious scholars) and representatives of all Islamic schools of thought. The programme was an excellent example of unity and cooperation for the cause of Islam and the Muslim (community). The event commenced with the beautiful and soul stirring recitation of Qur’an by Mahmud al-Fozi, from Jamia alAzhar, Egypt, and was followed by the welcoming remarks of Mufti Mohammad Farooq Alvi (the prayer leader of Sparkbrook Mosque and organiser of the conference). He voiced his appreciation for all the scholars who had accepted his invitation and joined him on this

sacred occasion. He called this auspicious event an opportunity to show love and brotherhood, an occasion in which to remember the life and message the holy Prophet. Dr Mohammad Khalid elaborated the objectives of the conference in detail and the distinctive features of Sparkbrook Masjid and Islamic Centre. A renowned scholar, Sahibzada Misbahul Malik Luqmanvi (representative of Jamaat Ahl al-Sunnat), welcomed the theme of the conference and congratulated the organisers for arranging such a great programme uniting all ulama from different backgrounds and schools of thought for the single objective of following the Quranic directive: “And hold together the Rope of Allah unitedly and be not divided”. He hoped the programme would open more avenues for the Muslim community and scholars in promoting unity and brotherhood in

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the face of new challenges. He urged other ulama to arrange similar programmes in other centres. A great scholar, Shaykh Muazzam Ali Qummi, khatib (prayer leader) of Hussainiyah mosque, put his emphasis on the concept of unity of the ummah and explained the need for unity in the wake of today’s challenges in successfully conveying the true message of Islam to the other communities who have not yet received it. The well-known scholar Shaykh Imdadullah Qasimi, (President of Jamiat Ulama of Britain and imam of Hamza Mosque in Birmingham) strongly welcomed the topic of the conference and declared it to be the need of the hour. He expressed his happiness to see both Sunni and Shi‘a ulama together on the same stage working for the same purpose. In his brief talk, he urged

all ulama to be sincere and strongly discourage those who intend to promote sectarian hatred and division within the Muslim community. A prominent scholar and orator, Shaykh Abdul Hadi (president of Jamiat Ahl ul Hadith Salafi UK) focussed on the notion of unity in the light of the Qur’an and Sirah and illustrated that unity of ummah is not only something based on the need of the moment but a clear injunction of the Qur’an which has to be achieved in all circumstances and at all times and should not be put aside for any reason. He expressed his sadness at how some Muslims are unaware of the notion of unity which has been commended by the Qur’an time and again. Shaykh Amir Hussain Naqvi stressed the foundations of the unity of the ummah, particularly between Shi‘as


and Sunnis, explaining that both stand on the same and clear principles of Islam, and today there is a need to return to the same foundations for the sake of the community and humanity. He reiterated that the division and rift has created havoc undermining the cause of Islam. He pointed out that this is the result of the work of those elements heavily engaged in sowing the seeds of division and hatred among Muslims for their own vested interests. He stressed that we cannot combat these forces unless we are united in the real sense. A special guest and renowned research scholar, Shaykh Arif Abdul Hussain (The director of Al-Mahdi Institute), also stressed the great advantages unity can bring to the ummah and humankind as a whole. He emphasised the prime objective of the evolution of this ummah for the betterment of all people irrespective of their backgrounds and religions. “Today we have assembled here not only to show our unity, rather to renew the covenant we have made

with God” he stated. He expressed his sorrow about the current plight of the ummah saying it has drifted away from its real purpose for which it was created. He urged ulama of all denominations to devote themselves to the cause of unity and brotherhood and make sincere efforts to understand each other genuinely and to benefit from each other’s experiences in order to overcome differences. He further added that our differences are related to only the minor issues of the religion while the fundamentals of faith are the same and are divinely revealed and eternal. He also stressed the need for Islamic dawah (propagation) and serving non-Muslims as well as Muslims. Another special guest, Allama Ghulam Rabbani Afghani (President of Jamaat Ahl Sunnat UK), also appreciated the theme of the conference and expressed his happiness at seeing both Sunni and Shi‘a ulama together here for such a noble cause. He also touched upon disunity, something which has been forbidden by the Qur’an, and which has horrible consequences. He

asked ulama and community leaders to realise these tragic results of division and be united against those so-called religious leaders who are still engaged in dividing the ummah and spreading sectarian hatred. Guest of honour at the conference was the UK representative of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, Dr Muhammad Ali Shomali from the Islamic Centre of England in London. Dr Shomali emphasised the necessity of a correct understanding of the Qur’an. It is in some specific verses of this Holy Book that God presents to us the true character and mission of the Prophet Muhammad(s). Dr Shomali explained that despite the interpretation of some misguided Muslims who equate our Prophet with war and harshness, the Qur’an presents a completely different picture of our Messenger. His mission was a mission of peace

and spiritual salvation. Though he had to deal with military threats and wars, a task that he undertook with bravery and success, this was not his primary role. Any study of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (s) will show that he was a model of moral rectitude bringing divine light into this world. Dr Shomali concluded that an Islam that brings tensions and division is not true Islam, and if we want to honour and make our Prophet happy we should have more meetings such as this. Finally, Br Sikandar Zulqarnain (President of UK Islamic Mission) thanked all ulama and guests for their valuable talks and showing unity and real brotherhood on this important occasion. The conference was also attended by prominent community leaders from all backgrounds, MPs, councillors and some representatives from nonMuslim communities too.l

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ecember 2017 marked the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad(s), the Prophet of mercy. The Islamic College in London commemorated the occasion on December 6th with a magnificent celebration attended by students, staff and members of the public.

Celebrating the Birth of the Prophet

The programme, hosted by Sheikh Mirza Abbas, started with the recitation of the Holy Qur’an by Mr Haidar Muhammad Mehr and was followed by a number of speeches.

Dr Sheikh Isa Jahangir, the first speaker, congratulated and welcomed the attendees on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday which is the same date as the birthday of Imam Ja’far Sadiq(a). In his speech, Dr Jahangir stressed the sense of affection and proximity towards the Prophet felt by all Muslims. By quoting some relevant traditions, he explained the practical ways for us to contribute to the Prophet Muhammad’s(S) mission. He stated: “One of the most important practices is to endeavour to bring the hearts of people closer together”.

The programme continued with the recitation of nasheed (an Islamic eulogy) and poems by Sheikh Ayub Rashid and four students of the Hawza department of the Islamic College, which brightened delighted the ceremony and delighted its participants. The second speaker, Dr Amina Inloes (from the research department of The Islamic

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College), addressed the topic of love in the Qur’an and Islam. Referring to the relevant verses and traditions, she noted that one of the miracles of the Prophet was establishing unity among the divided Arab tribes in Arabia. As a person who embraced Islam many years ago, Dr Inloes shared some of her experiences in interacting with Muslim communities and emphasised the importance of understanding Islamic societies with their different cultures, ethnicities and nationalities. She also described the tranquillity and peace brought by the Prophet Muhammad(s) and how these should be applied firstly at individual level then within society. Her talk was followed by a 10-minute video clip related to the foretelling of the coming of the Prophet Muhammad(s) by preceding prophets. The programme continued with a speech by Dr Shaykh Zeeshan Qadri from Minhaj-ulQur’an. He explained the meaning of sending salutations upon the Holy Prophet. He emphasised that according to some Islamic traditions, by doing so, the Prophet reciprocates by sending salutations upon the sender. Dr Qadri concluded the first part of his talk with a nasheed for the Prophet. In the second part, he focused on the subject of the quality of actions. Mentioning verses from the Holy Qur’an he said that quality of intention and practice is better than the quantity of action. He also added that since the blessings of God are countless, our responsibility is to be grateful, and one of the ways of being


grateful is to celebrate and commemorate the life of His Great Prophet.

the message itself, hence a message of mercy brought by a prophet of merc”.

The ceremony continued with the reading of poems by Mr Tehrani and recitation of nasheed by Sayed Jalal Masoomi.

Dr Shomali further stressed that even the Prophet Musa(a), when addressing the Pharaoh, initially spoke to him in terms of mercy and reconciliation. He further explained that there is no verse in the Qur’an where God asks the Prophet Muhammad(s) to be soft but rather the opposite. In fact, in situations of war, God exhorts the Prophet to be a bit harsh in battle as a necessity, indicating that his character was not hard but soft by default. Taking people from darkness to light is God’s objective because he is loving and merciful and He does it by means of a compassionate messenger.

The final and keynote speech was delivered by Dr Sheikh Mohammad Ali Shomali who underlined the importance of using the Qur’an correctly as a source of knowledge and explained the level of expertise required to understand the Quranic view on a particular subject. He explained that while there are topics in the Qur’an that can explicitly be understood by anyone, others require a high level of insight and expertise. Dr Shomali stated that there are two important concepts and Quranic views that necessitate proper understanding above all others. These relate to what is the mission of the Prophet and the type of person entrusted to conduct such a mission. Dr Shomali stressed that if one wants to reach a proper understanding of Islam, its nature and what it has to offer to humanity according to the Qur’an, he or she should first focus on the verses that relate to the message itself and secondly on the verses that speak of the character of the Prophet Muhammad(s). From the Qur’an Dr Shomali pinpointed the common element shared by both the Prophet and Islam which is rahma (mercy). He emphasised: “When it comes to the Prophet, God chose someone with a soft personality. One of Islam’s main characteristics should be reflected in the characteristics of

Dr Shomali cited the Quranic verse as a clear description of the Prophet’s concern for humanity and the core of his mission: “There has certainly come to you an apostle from among yourselves. Grievous to him is your distress; he has a deep concern for you, and is most kind and merciful to the faithful.”(9:128) Dr Shomali ended his speech by thanking both organisers and participants for their involvement in the celebration. The programme ended with the award of prizes for the book reading and poetry competitions and a delicious dinner. l Report by Fatima Muhammad Video of the event available from: https://www.facebook.com/TheIslamicCollege/

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he group of Wings of Unity met again for the fourth round. There were about twenty Catholic Christians and Shi‘a Muslims at the Sophia University Institute of Loppiano. As in the past, we experienced a moment of great cultural richness, but above all spiritual richness. The topic chosen was certainly not the easiest and was undoubtedly anything but to be taken for granted: revelation. Islam and Christianity differ not just a little on this theme, and if the positions are not put into the context of an environment of peaceful exchange and deep listening, they tend to become rigid and even conflictual. Instead, as on prior occasions, even if diversity was not lacking and was often anything but marginal,

there was a great warmth. The warmth took my breath away, and I imagine that those who were present also felt the same way. For two hours everyone was still immersed in listening not just with interest but deeply involved. The impressions I gathered at the end of the evening were quite different from the clichĂŠs we gather every day from the mass media on the relationship between Muslims and Christians. The message that has been communicated through these common experiences of life and thought is that dialogue is possible even in the face of the differences and difficulties that seem to block this spirit.

Wings of Unity: Effecti ve an d Affecti ve D ialo gue By Roberto Catalano

we lived an experience of effective dialogue because there was the affective dimension that was the result of these days spent together. This is not to say that it was sentimental - far from it! The affective part is born precisely from a long experience of mutual listening, acceptance, and the capacity for dialogue that welcome the other, even if they are different, and without any pretension or expectation of modifying positions or points of view. In effect, this experience of dialogue is the experience of life even before being an intellectual experience, and it truly becomes such only if rooted in the existential dimension. We had proof of it the evening before our closed-door seminar in front of about 150 inhabitants of the city of Loppiano, coming from different countries and nationalities. We shared the progress made over the last year and a half and we reached the point of communicating the deepest aspects of this experience. Even if the evening was completely improvised, what emerged with clarity was the vital dimension of this frame of thinking entitled Wings of Unity. We spoke of the summer school which was held last August in Trent, but also of our personal experiences and theological and philosophical understandings that are emerging both on the individual and communitarian levels. In the hall

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Still, the strongest experience was once again the one lived with Mohammad, Mahnaz, Israa, Shahanaze, Hanieh, Sharazad, and so on. It was the experience of discovering that before anything else we are brothers and sisters – even before being Christians and Muslims. This does not mean to give in to an attitude of confusion. The characterizing elements of each one of those present were well-defined and clear. What makes a difference is the atmosphere of fraternity that was created thanks to this attitude of brotherhood. In fact, even brothers and sisters remain very different from one other. It is an experience that is difficult to describe unless one lives it. But once it has been witnessed, it is impossible to forget and dialogue becomes a reality! l


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Life & Community

Arti ficial I ntelli gence – Th e N ew god?

By Mohsin Abbas Could we see Artificial Intelligence declare itself a new god? Where does Islamic theology stand on AI and as it starts to take over many human vocations, could Islamic jurisprudential decisionmaking of the religious authorities one day be taken over by artificial intelligence? Are Muslims even involved in the challenge of ensuring that AI operates ethically and safely as it approaches humans in its intelligence capabilities?  These are just some of the plethora of intriguing questions for faith communities raised by the scientifically propelled rise of intelligent machines in our age.

digital super intelligence” according to his former boss. In light of this AI could in the future be asking the question ‘is God just like me?’ too. Humans do often imagine themselves to be god-like so why not AI - shirk and kufr fatwas at the ready for a machine?

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These are all questions for Muslim jurisprudents to consider but the Ulama won’t decide what the reality of AI will be in the West for sure and our societies’ answers to the rise of AI, according to Shaykh Amin Evans a British Born Islamic scholar, may reveal more about what we human beings are about than what AI might be. However, as he also suggested, we are afraid of assembling something just like us without a moral conscience and in fact we are probably more of an artificial intelligence than the neo-artificial intelligence.

A former employee of Tesla founder, Elon Musk, previously involved in the design of AI ‘self driving cars’ has dramatically declared, recently, that he is developing an artificial intelligence (AI) god that humans could worship. Anthony Levandowski recently founded a non-profit religious organisation calling for the creation of a “Godhead” based on AI. Mr Levandowski should be “on the list of people who should absolutely not be allowed to develop

He also raises the intriguing thought that God’s creation of humans could technically be termed an AI with a base carbon structure as opposed to the silicon based AI machines. Consider also he says “the current human species’ relegation to history of previous forms of humanity such as the Neanderthals” - Imam Jafar Al Sadiq(a) once replied to the question of humankind’s origins too with an allusion to previous and possibly coexistent intelligent life forms that replaced one another. “Tell us of Adam?” They asked him and he replied “Which

n a broader temporal level will hypercapitalists simply invest in this phenonena simply to use AI to take more power, make more profit and relegate the spiritually-inspired even further from the corridors of decision-making?

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of the Adams would you like me to tell you about?” Who were these Adams intelligent life forms with differences or were they all the same and why did they supersede each other in this world or other parallel worlds? Perhaps humanity is already guilty of replacing other previous God-created AI’s only to be replaced by a ‘Frankenstein’ AI monster of its own. Although current AI throws up few ethical issues that are not already present in the design of cars or power plants, the approach of AI algorithms toward more human-like thought portends predictable complications. Social roles may be filled by AI algorithms, implying new design requirements like transparency and predictability. Sufficiently general AI algorithms may no longer execute in predictable contexts, requiring new kinds of safety assurance and the engineering of artificial ethical considerations. AI’s with sufficiently advanced mental states, or the right kind of states, will have moral status, and some may count as persons - though perhaps persons very much unlike the sort that exist now, perhaps governed by different rules. And finally, the prospect of AI’s with superhuman intelligence and superhuman abilities presents us with the extraordinary challenge of stating an algorithm that outputs super ethical behaviour. These challenges may seem visionary but it seems predictable that we will encounter


them and they are not devoid of suggestions for present-day research directions.

control. No wonder leading experts in the technology are sounding alarm bells.

For all the promise of an AI revolution, there are mounting social, ethical and political concerns about the technology being developed without sufficient oversight from regulators, legislators and governments. Artificial Intelligence (AI) undoubtedly risks provoking a public backlash as it increasingly falls into private hands, threatens people’s jobs, and operates without effective oversight or regulatory

Researchers have also suggested that the benefits of AI might be lost to a GM-style backlash, and a brain drain to the private sector is harming universities. They also found that expertise and wealth are being concentrated in a handful of firms and the field has a huge diversity problem.

human race will just have to come to terms with the imminent rise of artificial intelligence. It is up to mankind and more so even Muslim scholars to instil the Divine ethical and moral codes in AI, necessary to perhaps help humanity achieve a better world than we have managed by ourselves thus far. It may even help to save humanity from being destroyed by this 21st century human generated spawn.l

Like it or not, though, ‘the genie is out of the bottle’ and there is no way back. The

Syed Moshin Abbas is a broadcaster, journalist, and documentary producer. He established various not-for-profit vehicles for the delivery of Islamic arts, cultural and education projects in Britain.

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Yo u ,

Me

and

Him W

hen we look back at the past, we can often pinpoint certain circumstances or events that An unexpected guide helps Batool Haydar seek out God stand out as times of awakening, in ordinary places. as ‘eye-openers’ that changed our perspective from that moment onwards. We refine ourselves through every such experience and grow towards becoming the real us. I had one such defining moment a couple of weeks ago and it came in the form of an unbelievably tiny 22-week-old angel of a foetus. I had a chance to spend a few minutes with the baby (I cannot call her anything else) and as I looked down into the little cot where she lay, her tiny head with the little pink crochet hat turned sideways as if asleep, it was impossible to comprehend that she was never going to take a breath, that she had left this world before even entering it. I could not begin to organise my thoughts. Here was a not-quite-finished and yet beautifully complete human being. The nurse referred to her as ‘non-viable’ but everything about her seemed to announce the glory of God. The little hands, the little feet, the tiny mouth, the shut eyes, the perfectly shaped eyebrows! Such detail in a being who was barely halfway to being fully formed. It may sound poetic, but it is the simple truth that she was in herself an ayah - a very viable Sign - of the Majesty and Perfect Design of God. When I came home and looked at my toddler, I had to sit down with the weight of gratitude that wrapped itself around my heart. Was it not for the abundant Mercy of God, would she have made it to full-term and emerged as a living, breathing child? ‘What did I do right to deserve her?’ I asked myself and immediately realised how wrong the question was. The mother who had lost her child had done nothing wrong. Children are not, after all, gifts given out for good behaviour from our Creator. It made me think about how we define parenthood, as well as other familial relationships. We talk about our parents, siblings, spouses and children as ‘blessings’ or ‘gifts’ and they are, but this is not their main purpose for existence. All these individuals are a means to an end. They are in our lives for a reason: to teach us something about ourselves, to give us the opportunity to fulfil our obligations and to help us on our Journey towards our Lord. We tend to forget this in all the hype that surrounds these relationships. Sisters/friends are supposed to accept you just as you are and do ‘crazy’ things with you, spouses are supposed to be soul-mates met in the most romantic of manners and fulfilling story-book ideals, children are supposed to be angelic little devils who drive you nuts but you still ‘love ‘em to bits’. In reality, however, life is social-media perfect for a minority. The question is does it even need to be so? Who sets the standard for what a good relationship should be like? With billions of unique human beings on this earth, is it even possible to have a standard? Yes, principles like honesty, steadfastness and piety are universal, but habits and personal idiosyncrasies mean that even these principles will manifest differently in different people. The only unchanging constant in all our relationships is God, if we would only acknowledge and recognise His Presence. For a majority of us, He is simply an Observer, overseeing what we do and how we do it. He sends us blessings (for which we are happy and try to remember to thank Him) and sometimes tests (that we question and never forget to complain to Him about) and that’s about it really. How many of us ever really involve Him, let alone make Him the focus, of our relationships? When we look at our spouses, for example, and feel a rush of warmth within our hearts, do we ever think ‘God, You are reflected in the qualities he or she is displaying and that is why I feel this love?’ or when we are irritated by their actions, do we look at them and think ‘God, you love this person and sent him/her to me as gift, our union is through Your approval so teach me to forgive them and love them as You do’. When I looked afresh at my daughter, I wondered why I hadn’t noticed the miracle she was more often. Why had I not see the Design of God working in her stubbornness as she learns to have an opinion, in her turning the room upside-down because of her healthy curiosity

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or in her destruction of my personal items as she explores her personal ingenuity? All these things had been described to me as the ‘reasons why kids drive you crazy’ and ‘why you can’t have a life of your own after having kids’. However, they are actually magnificent, practical examples of how God’s constant, dynamic creation is in motion and how completely dependent we are on Him in the process. Why then would I want my old life where I only knew God through my own complacent self, when I can now see aspects of His creation that I could never have imagined existed before? By exposing me to different people, He has immersed me in an ocean of emotion and thought that was inaccessible to me before. The more challenging the situations I face, the more I have an opportunity to discover my own abilities and strength, the better I understand myself and the greater my awe and thankfulness is towards Him. It is as if He was dangling bait before me and now that I have well and truly bitten it, He is reeling me in towards Himself slowly, but surely. The question is how much of this will be a ‘battle’ because of my ignorant resistance and   how much will be an eager love-struck submission. The father of the little-lost baby announced the news to us with the words ‘Alhamdulillah, God took back His Trust from us.’ Powerful words. Strong words. Words filled with love, both for the child and the One to Whom she belonged. Sometimes God takes people from us for a test, sometimes He leaves them in our lives for the same reason. Every gain and loss has a reason, a purpose not just for this world but for the hereafter as well. It is this balance that we must keep at the forefront of our minds in every moment of every day. Just as a baby arriving into this world too soon cannot survive successfully because it is not completely equipped for the environment of this life, so we too will not be able to exist successfully in the hereafter if we do not develop the necessary capacities required for that environment. May God continuously show Himself to us at every turn and keep us all safe from ever crying out: “O my Lord! why hast Thou raised me up blind, while I had sight (before)?” (Holy Qur’an, 20:125)l February 2018

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Art I have spent the last two months visiting a Palestinian gallery in the centre of London. A stone’s throw away from St Pancras International, the P21 gallery is an exciting addition to the London art scene. It’s place where people from all works of life can meet and share experiences. With art at its centre, this space has the potential to build bridges across communities, something I have witnessed and am excited to see continue.

In the Spotlight Artist: Anissa Berkane - Exhibition Dhikr Pictural

and superficial world that paints negative stories of what we hold sacred. To this end, Dhikr Pictorial is a breath of fresh air. “Anissa Berkane’s particular style conveys holy inspirations and calls for a mass of emotions, regardless of the myriad of interpretations lying beneath each canvas. In reality, the whole series of Dhikr Pictural is a sublime ode to life that addresses a personal dialogue to each of us. The artist took 20 years to bring this project to life, so take your time in enjoying it.” -Toufik Douib, Curator Anissa has exhibited in several national and international (Berlin, St Tropez – 2007) events. Dhikr Pictural was shown in Algiers (2015) and Teheran (2016). “This exhibition is an invitation made open to everyone regardless of their race or faith. Over all this time spent on researching in the sciences and the mathematical codes of the Holy Book, the Qur’an, I today share this collection wishing that it will raise discussions and suggest answers for many people around the world and those who only see terror in this Religion, when its true core is uplifting and blessing.” - Anissa Berkane

Dhikr Pictural inspires to reconnect truthfully with the Self and look beyond the unknown, to eventually reach out to what is Divine.” - Toufik Douib, Curator The exhibition Dhikr Pictural by Algerian artist Anissa Berkane is the result of a twenty-year artistic journey hinged on intellectual inquiry and spiritual process. The nineteen paintings represent a loving and compassionate remedy to the hostility and injustice in the world. Berkane graduated from the Academic school of Fine Arts in Algeria and after being initially interested in Orientalist art, soon shifted her focus to nonfigurative, abstract painting. Her work is powerfully dynamic in its composition. The unconventional nature and use of painterly application makes her work exciting and her patterning nuanced and unexpected. Berkane’s style is unique as is her modus operandi; dhikr is at the foundation of her practice and Berkane recites dhikr or listens to Quranic recitation whilst creating her work. The mystique of mathematical symbolism is subtly conveyed in each piece. Each painting is an invitation to journey, from image to image, through a universe that offers the hope of change and progression. It aims to inspire a more positive reading of our holy book and a more truthful reflection of ourselves and our place in a highly consumerist, high speed

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One to wathch Curator Toufik Douib, artwork by Anissa Berkane

One to watch

Toufik Douib Toufik Douib is an independent curator and event director. Born and bred in Algeria, his interests lie in curating projects which promote a global and intercultural understanding of Algerian and Maghreb identity. Using art and culture as a platform Douib uses his artistic scope to develop greater understanding and initiate dialogue. Toufik has been working on various projects that aim to illustrate Algerian culture and its rich and complex history. These include a collective visual art project entitled ‘Algerianism’, a digital art collection ‘Home-Lend’ and more recently the critically acclaimed ‘Pop Art from North Africa’. Douib is committed to developing dialogue between cultures and uses his events to bring together artists, facilitators and speakers of all nationalities to contribute and engage with wider audiences.


Contemporary Islamic arts: Ubiquité by Maison Meftah

preserving the secret and the integrity of methods that are in themselves a revival of the heritage of humanity.”Maison Meftah (text from website) This beautifully unique Arabesque-inspired work was presented in London by their younger sister, Mounia Meftah. For more information visit Maison Meftah

On Show disPLACED Curated by the Contemporary Arts ReSearch Unit (CARU) disPLACED showcases the practice-based PhD research of Lebanese artist Alissar McCreary among a group exhibition. The works are all artistic responses to the theme of displacement. This exhibition runs to February 10 at the P21 Galler y.

The Place to Be P21 Gallery 21-27 Chalton Street, London NW1 1JD “Ubiquité is a dialogue between an artist designer and a master-craftsman. The fine openwork generates a metal lace sublimated by light, projecting shadows that expand the borders of the object. The cubic shape, with a dematerialised structure, seems to move with the angle of contemplation, until it momentarily vanishes, making us forget the hours of work necessary for its genesis. “- Maison Meftah (text from website) Maison Meftah is a Moroccan artisanal craft venture founded in 2010 by the Meftah brothers, Ilyas and Adil. The two brothers, guided by a mutual aspiration to celebrate traditional craftsmanship, celebrate their cultural heritage by exploring new and innovative ways to create modern interpretations of Islamic art. Through exquisite detailing and subtle numerical content, the brothers have created an intricate handcrafted cube. Made of polished brass, no more than 30cm square and three months in the making, the resulting work fuses traditional Islamic art with postmodern symbolism. “For Ilyas, it was the urge to experiment and push the envelope of this distinguished legacy by putting it to the test of ultra-modernity and functionality.” “For Adil, it was the role to play in safeguarding traditional techniques, in

The P21 Gallery is Palestinian owned charitable trust established to promote contemporary Middle Eastern and Arab art and culture. The London venue has been designed to maximise the potential of contemporary art as a discourse, through multimedia exhibition spaces and supporting facilities for public functions, workshops, training and education. The space also holds a reference library stocked with audio visual and printed material. There is also a cafe on the ground floor serving a specialist array of coffees. Open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 126pm Wednesday 12-8pm Saturday 12-6pml

Moriam Grillo is an international award-winning artist. She holds Batchelor degrees in Photography & Film and Ceramics. She is also the founder of the Butterfly Project.

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Faith

Spirituality Abbas Di Palma discusses the difference between mental wellbeing and peace of the soul

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human should ascetically kill the old personality ne cannot deny the benefits that a and his vices, and give birth to a new man with person can obtain by consulting a its virtues while rejecting all that doesn’t conform to professional psychiatrist but one should the natural and Sacred Law. Communication with underline the difference between the God by prayers and invocations is the key and the spiritual aspects of our nature and the psychological Godly-given incomparable medicine that cannot be ones. The former is related to theology and religion replaced by any psychological treatment. and deals directly with the soul while the latter with Today many people deny a relationship with God the subconscious and mental state. and prefer to reveal their most intimate secrets in Our modern era, with its schizophrenic lifestyle, has TV-shows or to psychotherapists. When a person increased the illnesses of the human soul whose is aware of his role and causes become manifest by nature, he should not belittle persistence in immorality and himself or to be ashamed ignoring of ethical values. Our modern era, of the truth: only those who Unfortunately, many people, with its schizophrenic do not know themselves by detaching themselves from lifestyle, has increased the are slaves of their prejudice true spirituality, are unable to illnesses of the human and are embarrassed by the distinguish between a spiritual soul whose causes become products of their imagination. problem and a mental one; manifest by persistence in If we want to live a spiritual consequently, in many cases, immorality and ignoring of life we should allow our the psychotherapists play the ethical values.” thoughts and visions to role of spiritual healers by derive only from the mercy trying to save souls and to of God, leading to eternal happiness and Hereafter. give patients everlasting peace. On the other hand spiritual scholars play the role of psychotherapists by Mindset by itself is not sufficient to solve all our considering sin as an illness to be cured by human problems as we are not just ‘rational beings’ - provided and psychological means needless of the divine with a thinking faculty - but indeed we are called to grace. observe the ‘divine life’ through being sanctified by In reality on a spiritual level, things work quite God’s grace. differently and ‘spiritual remedies’ are to be found To live a godly life requires knowing who we are, to in a distinct way. In many cases, psychotherapy aims have a goal in life and to pursue it even if it is a to recall in the mind of the patient remembrance hard task, without becoming disheartened by our of his past while spirituality teaches that evil, once shortcomings. In reality problems and hardships, repelled, is annulled and must not come back in any and even our failures, do not burden our life but it is form: wrong thoughts are often causes of temptations the meanings we give to them that assist or trouble potentially leading to the previous unwanted state. A

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Psychotherapy us. If we see our difficulties as something insuperable and irremediable we condemn ourselves to live desperately but if we are aware of our limits we can surpass them with the help of God who has no such limits and leads us towards the goal for which He created us. We can strive to reach human perfection by fighting our dark impulses, identifying them by holding ourselves to account and by asking God to eradicate our old tendencies so that the light of faith may dwell in us as was the case with the prophets and saints. I am not claiming that we are all perfect human beings but good people may live their life according to the meaning attributed to it while elevating themselves with divine assistance, pushing away the chaos Spiritual life implies personal development and a constant meeting between divine grace and human answers (provided by willpower). We can summarise the aspects of this spiritual development in cognitive growth; which allows us to know the supernatural world and love always more and more; moral growth which brings the completion of faith by good deeds; emotional growth which allows wise people (like parents, elders, etc‌) to rectify the negative pulse in the younger generations, and social growth which leads to respect and stimulates the values and potentialities in other people. Therefore, true spirituality includes all these elements: knowledge, love of God, of us and of others or, in other words, a pure moral individual and social life. Man is often reluctant to accept the will of God and prefers to act as he wishes. He tries to find comfort in things that cannot give him peace and in contrast he finds what is good for him as incomprehensible and unpleasant. That is why he/she tries to find shortcuts

wherever possible, however, he still feels unhappy because it is, in fact, his inward chaos that makes him think that what he thought he liked is an achievement. Yet, if we look at our problems and difficulties with the eye of faith we would be able to embrace what we avoided all along with love, understanding that herein lies the secret of happiness. The secret is firstly understanding God’s act and secondly acting according to His plan. If we are stubborn and we act as independent beings needless of divine assistance we obstruct the realisation of the divine plan, letting our disorder and disharmonies keep us aloof from any tangible peace for the soul. In conclusion, we must keep in mind that the soul is not only related to the psychological state but that its unhappiness is rooted in much deeper causes. The cure for this is to be found in a pious and religious life, not merely through the prescriptions of psychiatrists.l

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

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Hijab: A Muslim Woman’s Freedom and Identity Kubra Rizvi re-examines the various dimensions of the Islamic hijab worn by Muslim women

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onsidering the recent attention Ofsted has drawn to Muslim schoolgirls who wear the hijab, the Islamic covering, it is important to have a proper understanding of hijab and the reasons it is worn by millions of Muslim girls and women across the globe. Undoubtedly, hijab is one of the most debated issues concerning Muslim women in contemporary society. The typical modern view of hijab is that it is a symbol of woman’s oppression and her inferior status; thus, many people think that liberation and freedom come with the unveiling. However, has a woman who is free of the hijab found freedom in our society? Has unveiling given her an equal status with men? The truth is that a woman cannot find equality and dignity in a society that does not respect her for who she is. She cannot be honoured if her appearance is more important than her intellect and character. Islamic hijab grants a woman the honour and respect she deserves. It allows her to achieve her potential and be whoever she wishes to be. When a woman wears hijab, she is only the servant of God; therefore, no other force can control her. Because the prevalent meaning of hijab is a veil, many people think that Islam wants women to remain behind a curtain, to be imprisoned in their home, and never to leave it. According to Ayatullah Mutahhari, the word satr was used instead of hijab in


the sense of ‘covering’, and the word hijab is newly used in Islamic thought. Islamic hijab refers to a woman’s modest dress; it does not mean that she should be kept secluded in her home. There is nothing in hijab that restricts a woman’s freedom to express her views and opinion, to own property, to have an education and a career, or to choose a husband. Islamic hijab means that a woman covers her whole body except the face and hands; of course, her clothes are loose-fitting and she observes other etiquette regarding makeup and jewellery. Though hijab is usually only thought in terms of protecting a woman from the gaze of men, it provides much more than just a physical cover. In fact, it is a cover that acts as a repellent of every kind of crime and vice which destroys the individual and the society. Consequently, people deal with a woman wearing hijab with the perspective that she is a human being. Thus, hijab is a weapon and a barrier, not because women are weak, but because society is. It is a spiritual barrier, an empowerment, and a guarantee that a woman will be judged by her inner spiritual beauty rather than her outer superficial appearance. Women are equal with men in every respect to their religion, even in instructions to modesty. Modesty is an integral part of faith for both men and women; both are to be modest and cast down their glance. It is also noteworthy that men are commanded to lower their gaze first, and then women are instructed to do likewise. Since it is by the grace of God that any individual obeys Him, wearing hijab is a reflection of that submission to God. It is a symbol of Islam, the religion of submission to God. It should by no means be reduced in terms of just covering from men who are unrelated, as that is just one of its purposes. Indeed, hijab is so much more. For example, we cannot view the purpose of marriage in Islam as just a means for the satisfaction of desires. Indeed, marriage is recommended because its purpose is a spiritual and

lifelong journey toward God with one’s spouse. Likewise, hijab is a symbol of Muslim identity; it may even be the greatest apparent symbol of Muslim identity. Furthermore, it simultaneously promotes modesty and chastity, essential values for a pure and ideal society. The Islamic hijab was ordained with the purpose that women could be leaders of society, not prisoners in the home. God would not have ordered women to observe the hijab if they were supposed to stay confined in the home. In no way does Islamic hijab prevent women’s active participation in society. It does not prevent women’s talents from blossoming. Many women in Islamic history exemplify the significant role of women, not only as active participants but even as the leaders and saviours of Islam and humanity. Lady Khadija(a) was Prophet Muhammad’s first and most beloved wife, who was always at his side, giving financial support and moral inspiration. Furthermore, she was the first person to believe in him and defend him with her wealth and position. Among the first martyrs of Islam was Sumayyah, the mother of Ammar Yasir, a very close companion of the Prophet. Lady Fatima(s), the daughter of Prophet Muhammad(s), challenged the caliphs after her father and fought for her rights. Lady Zaynab(s) courageously saved Islam after the martyrdom of her brother Imam Husayn(a) by protecting Imam Zayn al-Abidin(a), unveiling the deeds of the tyrant Yazid, and ensuring that Husayn’s sacrifice would never be forgotten. Among all the tragedies she suffered, the loss of her hijab was indeed the greatest sorrow. According to psychological studies, some of the effects of hijab are formation identity and social support. In a 2015 study by Qurat-ul-ain Gulamhussein and Nicholas Eaton, it was found that loose-fitted clothing was a potential factor for resilience in Muslim women in the US. An otherwise invisible religious minority becomes identifiable due to hijab, making them susceptible to

discrimination. Nevertheless, this fact itself gives them a stronger purpose and sense of identity. A study in New Zealand concluded that the practice of hijab is associated with an increase in psychological wellbeing, greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of psychological distress (Jasperse et al., 2012). Ayatullah Bahauddin states that a woman who wears hijab is like an illuminated sun. His statement fittingly contrasts the clouds of darkness which constantly endeavour to engulf society. Hijab should always be encouraged and viewed positively, especially by those who have young daughters, sisters or friends who are near an age when they will decide to wear it. Although wearing it will become a routine and habit for her, it will in no way diminish the fact that each time she wears hijab she is performing an act of worship and submitting herself to God. Hijab is the identity, beauty, piety and purity of a Muslim woman, who follows the religion of peace. It does not denigrate a woman, but rather raises and honours her. A woman who observes hijab is not hiding or afraid; she is strong, courageous and proud of her faith.l

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Interfaith

Pope Francis

warns against nuclear War Pope Francis’ Christmas card holds the message of Christ and Church in opposition to ‘the doomsday machine: the third world war’ says Frank Gelli .

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here is a small card that Pope Francis distributed around the Vatican over Christmas. It shows a small Japanese child carrying his dead brother on his back. ‘The fruits of war’, it says on the reverse, along with the Pope’s own signature. It is a powerful graphic indictment of the horrors of wars, past, present and future.

Confronted with such blindness, prophetic and peace-loving voices like that of Pope Francis are all the more necessary to remind Western leaders of the madness of any strategy relying on the threat of using weapons of mass destruction.

The recent book by Daniel Ellsberg, ‘The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear Planner’, makes for instructive reading. Ellsberg was an American military analyst who The American photographer J.R. O’Donnell was a soldier based achieved worldwide fame for leaking a top-secret study by the in Japan after the end of WWII. In the cities of Hiroshima and Pentagon, thus helping to end the Vietnam War. Nagasaki he took many harrowing pictures. They record the Earlier he had worked for the RAND effects of the atomic bombs President Truman Corporation on nuclear weapons. ordered to be dropped on Japan. There Delving into his book is like were so many civilian victims that “The Pope’s position on reading the script for a horror their relatives had to queue for nuclear weapons flows out of the movie. For example, the hours at crematoria to have traditional Catholic teaching on destructive impact of the the bodies disposed of. The warfare. It is a hallowed doctrine, Nagasaki atom bomb that Nagasaki child on the Pope’s killed the little boy on the card appears impassive, still elaborated over centuries by Saints Pope’s card was measured traumatised by the horror. He and theologians like St Augustine in 20 kilotons or TNT energy is waiting for his turn to come so and St Thomas Aquinas.” yield. Today hydrogen bombs, that he can consign the tiny body of however, are reckoned in megatons, his smaller brother to the flames. On the a THOUSAND times more devastating than back of the card, Pope Francis notes that ‘the grief atomic ones, not to count radioactive fallout. And the US of the child is only expressed by the biting of his lips encrusted wants to keep and ‘modernise’ its doomsday machine. How with blood.’ many innocent children like the Nagasaki boy would be In his annual ‘state of the world’ address to diplomats slaughtered by exploding a hydrogen bomb? accredited to the Vatican, the Pope has quoted another Pontiff, John XXIII, at the height of the Cold War: ‘Nuclear weapons The Pope’s position on nuclear weapons flows out of the must be banned’. Francis warned that a conflagration could traditional Catholic teaching on warfare. It is a hallowed start with an accident, ‘by some chance and unforeseen doctrine, elaborated over centuries by Saints and theologians circumstance’. like St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. The Church recoils As he also mentioned the current situation in Korea, one from bloodshed, faithful to Christ’s example. He did not kill wonders whether he might have had in mind President anyone but let his own innocent blood to be shed for the Trump’s bellicose words when he threatened the North salvation of humanity. However, the Church also recognises Korean leader with ‘fire and fury’. that in some well-defined and limited circumstances war may Last year 122 states, the Vatican included, agreed to a UN be justified, or even necessary. There must be a just cause, treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Some nations, such as the US, a right authority and a right intention. Self-defence is a just France and Britain, all nuclear powers, opposed the treaty.

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cause for going to war and indeed the UN Charter states that it is the only ground for war. Only the UN Supreme Council can authorise it. Right intention means that desire for revenge cannot be a legitimate ground, either. If it is true that President G.W. Bush invaded Iraq to punish Saddam Hussein because, he said, ‘he tried to kill my dad’ that would make that war unjust. Crucial also are the conditions relating to how a just war must be fought. The innocent – meaning civilians, noncombatants - cannot be subject to deliberate, direct attack.

Civilians like women, children, babes at arms, old people. And the destructive action must be proportionate to the ends to be achieved. It is impermissible to annihilate a whole city, along with its civilian inhabitants, in order to knock out one or two ammunition factories. The destruction of Dresden by the Allies in WWII might be an instance of the latter. On the basis of these two criteria, it is clear that a nuclear attack should be condemned as illicit, a moral enormity, a crime against the Creator himself. However, the appalling prospect of a nuclear doomsday must not detract from opposing smaller but still ruinous

wars. Francis believes that a ‘Third World War’ is already happening through the numerous conflicts, ethnic cleansing and atrocities across the world. Yemen, Syria, the Rohingya… the dismal list could go on. Children, of course, are some of the most vulnerable victims of war. Even the most hardened and unsentimental person is repelled by images of small kids suffering. That’s because they are innocent, by any definition. The Russian novelist Dostoyevsky wrote that the suffering of children is an argument for atheism. Pope Francis instead wants to make it an example of how belief in God must

result in serious commitment to protecting the little ones from violence, murder and mayhem. Above all, peace must at all times be the overarching aim of all men and women of goodwill. As Christ promised: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers because they shall see God’.l 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 Places

Travel Guide to

Muslim Europe

With travel writer European Muslim heritage specialist Tharik Hussain With travel writer andand European Muslim heritage specialist Tharik Hussain

The Muslim-Christian Shrine of Bulgaria

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eep in the forests of northeast Bulgaria, where green, grassy hills come tumbling down from the Romanian border, there lays an intriguing holy man revered by both Muslims and Christians. The Demir Baba Tekke, is in woodland close to the village of Sveshtari, about 40 minutes’ drive from the nearest town, Razgrad.

On my last visit there, I was led by British archaeologist Chris Fenton who lives with his wife in a nearby village and regularly takes people on tours to historical sites across this mysteriously fascinating corner of Bulgaria. It was a warm and sunny August morning when Chris turned his 4x4 off a narrow country lane and into a rather crude looking parking lot close to thick forest. “Here we are,” he announced, switching off the diesel engine. The car park was covered by asphalt that was crumbling at the edges. A few rusting bins overflowed with rubbish

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and two picnic benches sat under the shade of a tree. We headed towards them. Behind benches, hidden by some large bushes, was the trail - a set of steep, winding concrete steps that descended into the heart of the woodland. As we made our way down, colourful pieces of material tied to branches arched overhead creating a canopy of tiny rainbowsI, I noticed an Ottoman-era tombstone on the hillside. It was at an angle and the words had worn away with age, but the carved headstone - shaped like a turban - was still easy to make out. Bulgaria’s Muslim history began in the 14th century when the Ottomans conquered the lands just a short sail across from their native Turkey. The Turkish Empire remained in power over Bulgaria until 1913, leaving the country with nearly six centuries of Muslim heritage. Much of this is in the shape of Ottoman monuments that can still be found scattered across the central Balkan nation. They range from crumbling mosques, stunning bridges and bedestans to forgotten tombs. The Demir Baba Tekke actually sits on an ancient Thracian site, which dates right back to the fourth century BC and is


Thracian Tombs of Sveshtari, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

probably connected to the nearby royal Thracian tombs that were discovered under a mound in the 1980s,” explained Chris. We were near the bottom of the steps now and the thick greenery gave way to a vast clearing where the turbe - Turkish for ‘tomb’ - sat surrounded by steep, hills and more trees. It was an impressive heptagonal stone structure with typical Ottoman architectural features. The entrance had a cone-shaped lead roof, whilst the main compartment was covered by a lead dome. A perimeter wall of locally quarried stones ran around the edge and in one corner of the complex, under a shelter was ‘Basparmak’ - a ‘holy’ water source believed to have miraculously appeared to the saint buried inside the tomb. Visitors to the shrine still observe the age old ritual of taking three sips and washing their faces at Basparmak. Local Muslims believe the man buried inside is Demir Baba, an Alevi warrior saint. When the current structure was built in the 16th century, it quickly became a site of religious pilgrimage. This led to the construction of a mosque, lodgings and an imarat (soup kitchen) around the tomb. Today, only a small museum stands next to the tekke. “But it’s not just Muslims that come down here. Christians also visit the tomb. They don’t believe it contains the body of Demir Baba though, they think it is the body of Saint George,” said Chris, walking over to the entrance of the tomb. Unbeknown to many, Bulgaria’s Ottoman period was also a period of religious diversity and pluralism. Historical accounts show that Muslims, Christians and Jews often lived harmoniously side by side, and in some instances, adapted each other’s beliefs and practices. As we stepped into the cool, heptagonal mausoleum, we were greeted with a sacred space, carefully and respectfully divided down the middle. On one side, arranged neatly were Christian icons, candles, rosary beads and crucifixes. Opposite, images of Shiite Imams, Hasan and Husayn hung alongside Arabic inscriptions on the wall. Underneath were piles of prayer beads, rugs and more of the colourful ties we had seen outside. And above us, in reds, greens and blues were mystical calligraphic patterns. “They say, the followers of the order know the secret meanings of each of these inscriptions. Sometimes one image or pattern can contain all three names; Allah, Muhammad and Ali,” said Chris pointing upwards. Near our feet, the triangulated tomb in the centre was covered with further offerings, including a candle that had recently burnt out its wick.9 Outside we could hear muffled voices now, and decided to vacate the space to allow the other visitors to pay their respects.

As we passed them at the tomb’s entrance, I tried to ascertain whether they were here for Demir Baba or Saint George, but I couldn’t. l

Where in the world: The Demir Baba Tekke is close to Svhestari, a small village about 42km northeast of the city of Razgrad. In and out: The best way to visit the shrine is by flying into Varna International airport and then hiring a rental car, as the shrine is in quite a remote location not served directly by public transport. Top tips: Combine your visit to the tomb of Demir Baba with a visit to the nearby Thracian Tombs of Sveshtari, a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing impressive Royal Thracian tombs discovered in 1982 that date back to the third century BC. 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 Corner Children Dear Children, Assalam Alaikum

The Creation

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s you may know Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb(a) was the cousin of the Prophet his Muhammad(s) and successor and the first Imam of Shi‘a Muslims. He was taught by the Prophet himself. His words and teachings, together with his advice to his followers have been so wonderful and educational that a learned man called Al-Radi collected his speeches in a book called Nahj ul Balagha, so we can all read and learn from it. Here we will be remembering some of his words and share his knowledge, Imam Ali(a) starts with praising God and recognising His greatness. He mentions that God created the universe with no help or any model and then God put an order into everything.

Everything in the universe should work properly and God has seen to it that this happens. Imam Ali asks to look around us. The planet we live on rests and stands on nothing and this is all God’s doing. He mentions the wind. When it is windy and there are clouds, God moves them around with the wind; otherwise we would not have fresh air or rain. He refers to the beauty of the sky at night. You see shiny stars in the darkest of the sky. Stars shine beautifully as if they are a string of lights decorating the sky. Have you ever thought if we did not have the

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Sun and its bright light, if we did not have the Moon to turn around it what would happen? Imam Ali reminds us that the Moon and the Earth circling around the Sun give us days and nights, months and years. This helps us to know how old we are and recognise the passing of our lives. He also tells us about the days and nights. When the light of the day goes and the dark of the night comes, the stars shine although it is dark. That is because they reflect the light of the Sun, although we don’t see it. He eagerly asks us to look closer to the plants, trees, water, stones and mountains. Water; which we cannot live without, and we

have oceans full of it. He explains the role of mountains; which are like poles keeping the Earth. He then praises God for all His beautiful creation. All these elements are signs of God, His creations. They are all created for us, so we can understand and appreciate His greatness. Next time you go outside count as many elements of His creation as you can find. You will be surprised by your findings, and you will find out how much work has gone into God’s creation.l

Illustrator Ghazaleh Kamrani

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What & Where Through February 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

1- 22 February Course: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World

The Gap Between Us This is the first UK solo exhibition by artist and film-maker Basma Alsharif, featuring three key works from different periods of the artist’s practice. It is a homage to the Gaza Strip, Ouroboros follows a man through five different landscapes, upending mass-mediated representation of trauma. Venue: The Mosaic Rooms, Tower House, 226 Cromwell Road, London SW5 0SW More info: http://mosaicrooms.org/ events/category/exhibitions/list/

1 February

The latest addition to the range of specialised and fascinating courses taught by our Islamic Art & Architecture expert Roberta Marin. Venue: Arab British Centre, 1 Gough Square, London, EC4A 3DE Time: 4 weeks Fee: £130 More info: http://www.arabbritishcentre.org. uk/courses/modern-and-contemporaryart-from-the-arab-world/#collapse

2 February

Diverse Approaches to Mental Health This seminar celebrates the first year of partnership between Muslim Networks in Public Health England, NHS Improvement and the Department of Health. Time: 12:00 PM - 2.30 PM Venue: Wellington House, 133-155 Waterloo Rd, Lambeth, SE1 8UG London Entry: Free More info: http://www.beehive.so/ activity/activity_details/3703

Film Screening: ‘Taq Kasra’: Wonder of Architecture Directed by Pejman Akbarzadeh, Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture is the first-ever documentary film on the world’s largest brickwork vault. Taq Kasra was in serious danger of ISIS attacks in 2015-2016 and this was the main motivation for documentary maker Pejman Akbarzadeh, based in Holland, to travel to Iraq twice and film the arch before it was potentially destroyed.

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Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, 10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG Time: 7.00 PM - 9.00 PM Entry: Free More info: https://www.soas. ac.uk/lmei-cis/events/

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Young Muslim change-makers The Muslim charity sector is stronger than ever, attracting thousands of volunteers and millions of pounds every year. Join us as we discuss topics related to ethics, sustainable growth and the desire to create change. Venue: Abrar House, 45 Crawford Place, Marylebone, London W1H 4LP Time: 6.45 PM - 8.30 PM Details: Free entrance Contact: umair@thecitycircle.com

5 February IMES Research Seminar: Arianne Shahvisi

7 February Imaging the Politics of the Refugee Crisis Featuring: Issam Kourbaj (Syrian Artist in Residence at Christ’s College) and Simon Bainbridge (Editor of the British Journal of Photography’s 2016 The Migration Issue). Anyone who donated to the American Civil Liberties Union in the wake of Trump’s election was given a digital copy for free, making it a highly politically charged documentary photography compilation. Venue: Seminar Room SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT Time: 12.00 PM - 2.00 PM Entry: Free More info: http://www.crassh. cam.ac.uk/events/27578

8 February Author Evening: ‘Great Muslims of the West – Makers of Western Islam’ with Muhammad Mojlum Khan The GREAT MUSLIMS OF THE WEST is a unique, inspiring and authoritative study of the history, culture and heritage of the Western world from an Islamic perspective. This book argues that Islam – like Christianity – has always been a Western religion and culture. Venue: IHRC Bookshop, 202 Preston Road, Wembley HA9 8PA Time: 6:00 PM Entry: Free More info: http://www.ihrc.org.uk/events/

10 February Conference: The New Colonialism: The American Model of Human Rights IHRC is convening a conference to unmask the more systemic problems that undergird US

Problematising Migrant Domestic Work in the Middle East: A Philosopher’s Perspective. A free seminar by guest speaker, Dr Arianne Shahvisi (University of Sussex).

Exceptionalism. This conference will focus on the Americanisation of Human Rights, and the praxis of human rights, arguing that they have become a tool of US-led foreign policy rather than a transformative discourse that seeks to liberate

Venue: Room G2, 19 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LD Time: 5.15 PM

individuals, groups and indeed large sections of society who are oppressed by unjust systems.


Venue: Sarah Fell Room, Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ Time: From 9.30 AM - 4.30 PM More info: http://www.ihrc. org.uk/events/12025

Tavakoli from University of Toronto explores the use of modern scientific tropes in Iranian political, cultural and historical discourses.

Time: 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

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12 - 14 February

Part 2: ‘Engineering Governmentality’

Idols and Figural Images in Islam: A Brief Dive into a Perennial Debate

After the Conquest: Converging Approaches to the Study of the Iberian Reconquista Popularly known as the Reconquista, the Christian conquest of al-Andalus in the Iberian Peninsula has long been a popular area of research. Although there have been some major breakthroughs over the past thirty years, a historiographical impasse has hindered transnational collaboration between different scholars and schools of thought. Venue: Woolf Institute, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0UB Contact: Rodrigo Garcia-Velasco (rig25@cam.ac.uk) More info: http://www.woolf.cam.ac.uk/

#Visit My Mosque Day– Milton Keynes The KSI Muslim Community of Milton Keynes would like to invite you all to visit our Mosque for some tasty refreshments, and find out more about what happens in our community centre. Venue: KSI Milton Keynes, Peverel Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK1 1NG Time: 1.00 PM - 4.00 PM More info: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/

19 February IMES Research Seminar: Ruba Saleh Refugees, Embodied Memories, and Intimate Politics: Palestinian Tales. A free seminar by guest speaker, Dr Ruba Saleh (SOAS). Venue: 19 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LD Time: 5.15 PM

19 & 20 February Scientific Tropes in Modern Iranian Politics In a two-part historical analysis, Professor

Part 1: “Jinns to Germs”

Time: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, 10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square: College Buildings, WC1H 0XG

21 February Book Launch: Law and Revolution: Legitimacy and Constitutionalism in the Arab Spring Book Launch for Law and Revolution: Legitimacy and Constitutionalism in the Arab Spring (Oxford University Press 2017) by Nimer Sultany. Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House), North, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG Time: 6.00 PM - 8.00 PM More info: https://www.soas.ac.uk/law/events/

22 February #Islamophobia20 (Runnymede Trust) The Bristol launch of the Runnymede Trust’s new report exploring the impact of Islamophobia on British Muslims. Venue: Social Sciences Complex, University of Bristol, Priory Road, BS8 1TU Time: 5.00 PM - 7.00 PM More info: https://www.eventbrite. co.uk/e/islamophobia20-bristol-launchevent-tickets-41488639638?aff=es2

25 February Real Ninjas Self Defence Workshop For Muslim Women A self-defence programme for Muslim women aged 16+ organised by a couple running regular classes and workshops throughout the U.K. and South Africa. Venue: Lote Tree Initiative, Uxbridge House,

Evershed Way, Burton-On-Trent, DE14 3LH Time: 4.00 PM - 7.00 PM Fee: £25 More info: http://www.ukislamicevents.net/

This lecture aims to explore some of the questions and debates concerning idolatry and figural representation from the beginning of Islam until today. It will focus in particular on the specific terminology used in the Qur’an and Hadith in order to distinguish the semantic and conceptual categories that were used by Muslim writers to classify various forms of art-making along with their associated practices. Speaker: Christiane Gruber, University of Michigan Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, 10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square: College Buildings, WC1H 0XG Time: 6.00 PM - 9.00 PM Entry: Free, registration required. More info: https://www.soas. ac.uk/lmei/events/

27 February Palestinian Citizens of Israel: Power, Resistance and the Struggle for Space An investigation into the Palestinian communities living inside the Jewish state, and their attempts to resist and reshape the physical and symbolic borders that discipline their lives. Through conducting over one hundred interviews, Sharri Plonski conducts a comparative analysis of three contemporary cases in which Palestinian citizens struggle for land and space in Israel. Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, 10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square: College Buildings, WC1H 0XG Time: 5.45 PM - 7.00 PM More info: https://www.soas. ac.uk/lmei/events/ 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.

February 2018

islam today

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Islam today issue 56 february 2018  
Islam today issue 56 february 2018