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islam today

issue 58 vol. 6 April 2018





islam today

Contents issue 58 vol. 6 April 2018

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.


Visit to Canada, Report on Dr Shomali’s various visits


Humbleness in Christianity and Islam: A round table between Catholic Christians and Shi‘a Muslims


The Importance of Releting to Others


Mummy First by Batool Haydar

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


Innovative Graphics

Art In the Spotlight Digital Art Heritage Photography & Filmmaking In Her Own words by Morriam Grillo

Contact us Information Article Submissions Follow us on:


by Kubra Rizvi





Spiritual Retreats by Rvd Frank Julian Gelli

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


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.

April 2018

The Greatest Islamic Library nobody knows about Travel Guide to Muslim Europe by Tharik Hussain

ISSN 22051-250

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The importance of ‘invocation’ by Abbas Di Palma



The Blessings of I‘tikaf; a Spiritual Seclusion


The wonders of the Creation Children Corner by Ghazaleh Kamrani


List of Events What & Where


Visit to Canada


Dr Shomali started the session with a talk about the importance of unity in the community before moving on to an interesting Q&A session where the discussion covered many issues related to community education and how to face the challenges of living in the West.

n the 28th of February Hujjatul-Islam Dr Shomali travelled to Canada for a six-day trip. During his visit he delivered the annual lecture at the Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo as part of his ongoing academic engagement with the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. (see islam today April 2017 issue 46).

The following day, Dr Shomali was invited to give a talk at Carleton University, organised by the Carleton University and the University of Ottawa Islamic associations; Ahlul-Bayt Student Association and Thaqaleyn Muslim Association. The title of the talk was: ‘Reflecting on Connections: Integrating Islam in Western Society’.

The event was arranged in cooperation with the Conrad Grebel University College of the Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada. The event was also supported by: Global Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, Interfaith Grand River, Islamic Humanitarian Service, Studies in Islam, Rension University at the University of Waterloo. The title of this year’s lecture was: ‘Unity of God and Unity in God’. In his lecture Dr Shomali presented the concept of tawhid (unity of God) according to Islam, explaining how belief in the unity of God would lead to unity of people in God.

Addressing a packed auditorium of mostly Muslims students, Dr Shomali started with the premise that nothing that come from God is only for the benefit of few and that in Islam we always consider the relationship between God and the people. He stated that the path of God goes through people and the path towards people goes through God. A message from God is for all humanity but it acquires different forms depending on the

Whenever Dr Shomali travels to Canada, he always tries to visit universities, his Christian friends and the local Ahl-ul Bait communities. This time around he travelled to Ottawa to attend a number of private and public programmes. From Thursday evening 1st of March till Sunday 3rd of March, Dr Shomali attended the winter retreat with the Khawthar Learning Circle ‘s students and their families. (A full report to be published in the next issue of isam today). On the 4th of March he was invited to the Ark Centre of Excellence for an interactive session with brothers.

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background of the people who receive it. For example the Arabs made Islam part of their culture as did the Persians. The cultural forms that are generated from the interaction between the message (of Islam) and local customs, although useful are not to be understood as the message itself, said Dr Shomali. He affirmed that is important to distinguish between the cultural expressions and traditions of a certain group of people who embrace Islam or any religion for that matter and the core message of that religion. Dr Shomali used the analogy of falling rain. “When it comes from the sky rainwater has no colour, smell or taste, but the moment it hits the ground it will acquire the properties of the place where it has fallen” he said, adding that the result does not represent the essence of pure rainwater. In terms of Islam and its people, Dr Shomali stated that it is good to keep and encourage ones’ culture and customs but it is not right to tell people of the West that if they wish to approach Islam they should change their culture for one of the already established Islamic cultures. He added that: “‘People can keep their own culture, the way they dress, eat …., as long as they don’t contradict the principles of Islam. Islam does not come to replace someone’s culture. This would only create stiffening of position from one culture against the other. Like rainwater when Islam arrives it brings benefits to everyone indiscriminately and it is the people who will flavour that water according to their taste. Islam respects other cultures especially when these have been built over centuries, but if there is a need for correction Islam asks for limited specific changes.” Before returning to London, Dr Shomali also visited a the Ahlul Bayt school in Ottawa where he held a meeting with teachers and administration staff on philosophy of education in Islam. He also spoke to the students of year 7 and 8, about the significance of time and how to appreciate and benefit from it.l


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The annual lecture The Wilfrid Laurier University - Waterloo part part of the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary

Humbleness in

Christianity and Islam: A round table between Catholic Christians and Shi‘a Muslims Last February a group of six Christians and six Muslims met at the Focolare Centre for Unity in Welwyn Garden City. The meeting marked the first in series of informal sessions discussing moral and spiritual issues from Christians and Muslims perspectives. The Following are an introduction by Dr Shomali followed by a presentation by Frank Johnson, and one by Dr Shomali on the subject of humbleness


In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

am very grateful to God for giving us the blessing of having this session tonight, which I think is an offshoot of our long-term relation. The project that we started in Sofia, Wings of Unity, was an attempt to not just talk together, but to think together and invite God to speak to us. However, we were not telling God that He should speak to one of us and then we tell the others; rather, we asked God to speak to anyone. So, thanks to God, that experience was extremely useful and beneficial. Thus far we have had four rounds of Wings of Unity, as well as a summer school in Tonadico. Many new ideas resulted from those fruitful discussions.

my congregation and the rest are guests. So, I think when God sends prophets, the prophets look at all people as their people, and not by partitioning people. Consequently, this is an attempt to learn. We do not know how it is going to work, and at the same time we do not want to come with expectations that would limit us. However, we also have great hope that God would assist us further. Some months back when Frank [Johnson], Noreen [Lockhart] and I had a meeting in Islamic Centre, I said that I think we need to learn how to overcome differences of language and differences of mindset to be able to think in the way which is not Islamic versus Christian, but something which is Islamic and Christian, but not Islamic and not Christian as such; hence, a language which is universal, a language which is the language of our innate nature. I said that perhaps a good platform for that would be if a few of us who fully trust each other start talking and listening about some spiritual issues. Initially, it would be listening to a Muslim or a Christian, but little by little we want to reach the point that we just listen to one of us, not as Muslim or Christian. Therefore, we want to see how, for example, as an Imam I can be prepared to talk to a congregation,which is half-Muslim and half-Christian, without thinking the Muslim ones are

After another meeting with Lise and Frank, we thought we can start this initiative and perhaps discuss humbleness. Of course, not only would we talk about humbleness, but also express to God our humbleness and see how we can move together. Hence, it is different many other events which ask a Muslim to talk about a topic and a Christian to talk about a topic, each of them representing their faith. This project is an attempt to move closer to each other and, little by little, see if we can remove the partition, but not by losing our identity or confusing our faith. I think each of our faith, if it is a good faith, has the capacity to make us universal. So, this is our hope and I think I am very much in need of learning how I can understand the will of God without any colour, shape and culture and how I can express the will of God without putting it into any culture or colour. So, this is the idea. Thank you.l

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A Christian perspective by Frank Johnson (Co-director of the Focolare Movement in Great Britain)


he major fault that is present in all human beings is pride. It was pride that caused angels to turn into devils. It was pride that caused Adam and Eve to lose the earthly paradise. In fact, pride is at the root of all sin. Humility is the opposite of pride and the antidote to it. Unless we are able to acquire the virtue of humility, we will never make progress in the spiritual life. The root of the words ‘humble’ and ‘humility’ is ‘humus’ which means ‘earth’ or ‘soil’. Already in the Old Testament there many references to the virtue of humility. The Book of Proverbs is filled warnings of those who refuse to be humble. Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. The Psalms too have many references to humility. Psalm 25:9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Psalm 149:4 For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory The New Testament is full of blessings for those who put others before themselves. We know from God’s Word that he resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. How can we know that we are


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living in humility and ready to receive God’s blessings?

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Humility is the ability to be without pride or arrogance and it is a main characteristic that should be seen in those who follow Jesus Christ. Jesus is the best example of someone who humbly followed God’s plan for His life.

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, he was giving an example to all of his followers of how he wants them to live.

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet (John 13: 1-17) It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. St Paul too speaks often about the importance of humility, as for example in Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

St James (4:10) says: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. And Luke (14:11) says: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. God himself is humble because he is love. God humbled himself out of love. Therefore, not only does humility open us to God: it clothes us with Christ, the humbled God. Humility is the ornament of the godhead. The Word clothed himself in it when he became man. By it he lived among us in the flesh . . . And anyone who wraps himself in it truly makes himself like him who came down from on high and clothed his grandeur and glory in humility, lest the created world should dissolve at the sight of him. Isaac of Nineveh Ascetic Treatises, 20 (p. 76) Chiara Lubich also spoke often about our need to be humble. A virtue that unites the soul to God … is humility, the emptying of self. The smallest shred of the human that does not allow itself to be assumed by the divine breaks unity,

and with grave consequences. The unity of the soul with God, who lives within us, presupposes a total emptying of self, the most heroic humility….

This idea of being empty, nothing, in front of our brother or sister, and in front of God, is a constant theme in Chiara Lubich’s writings.

Humility also leads souls to unity with others: aspire constantly to the “first place” by putting self as much as possible at the service of neighbour.

Humility may seem an impossible virtue to acquire, but if, in the present moment, I make myself completely empty in front of my brother or sister who is speaking to me, then, in that moment I am living humility. The acid test of my humility is how I react to criticism or negative comments made about me. Sometimes I may say to others that I am useless, or no good at this or that. If I am humble I will be happy to accept such comments and agree with what is said about me by others, if I am still proud I will reject them and feel hurt and offended.l

Every soul that wants to achieve unity must claim only one right: to serve everyone, because in everyone the soul serves God…. Like St. Paul, though free, make ourselves servants of all in order to gain the greatest number (see 1 Cor 9:19). The soul that desires to bring about unity must keep itself in such an abyss of humility that it reaches the point of losing, for the benefit and in the service of God in its neighbour, its very self. It re-enters itself only to find God and to pray for its brothers and sisters and for itself. It must live constantly “emptied” because it is totally “in love” with God’s will … and in love with the will of its neighbour, who it wants to serve for God. A servant does only what his or her Master commands.

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An Islamic perspective by Dr Mohammad Shomali (Director of the Islamic Centre of England) In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful


irst of all, I think I can agree with everything you (Frank Johnson) said and I do not think there is anything problematic or that needs to be checked. In Islamic culture also the virtue of humbleness is extremely significant. In fact, I have always thought that it would be one of the few virtues that I can say are the most important virtues, as I mentioned some years back in a paper, “Key Concepts in Islamic Spirituality.” I discussed three virtues; humbleness was one of them. Thus, it is a very important concept which I have been constantly reflecting on. There are many different angles to humbleness; first, it seems that we have to be humble before God. Unfortunately, many times even believers are not humble before God and think they can do what they like and somehow just please God minimally. Or, for example, sometimes even unconsciously we try to deceive ourselves by doing our own things, but in the name of God. Hence, it is extremely important to be humble before God. Furthermore, it is also very important to be humble before the truth. Furthermore, it is also very important to be humble before the truth. Although it is easy to say, it is very difficult to be able to accept the truth regardless of who is telling the truth, even if he is my enemy.


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Indeed, it is not easy to be open to that truth; perhaps it is easier to accept it from a friend than a stranger, and certainly not from an enemy. Moreover, we need to be humble before people. In my opinion, one of the beautiful things that we find in our spirituality is how a virtue like humbleness simultaneously helps you in your relationship with God and with people. Other virtues perhaps help us more with God or more with people, but humbleness is one of those virtues that help us in both areas. Similar to the saying you mentioned, “Be humble and you will be uplifted,” we have a hadith: “Whoever tries to be humble for the sake of God, God will raise him”. It is not that he would be only raised in his relationship with God; he would be raised even in society because by nature people love humble people. I do not think anyone loves people who are too proud or arrogant, even amongst your children, you will love the one who is more humble. Gratitude is similar; the one who is grateful is loved by everyone. Consequently, humbleness is a virtue which is so fundamental that it can help you with your relationship with God, your relation with others, and even your relation with yourself because it is humbleness that puts you in the best condition for learning, changing, improving and receiving ideas and criticism so that you can grow.

However, the problem is that it seems humble people are not many; so, it is a question why such an obvious thing is so rare. Maybe I am not very optimistic, but I think it is not unfair to say that if we ask people, for example, in your office or community to introduce humble people, they would not say “I do not know where I should start; there are so many humble people.” It certainly seems that there are not that many humble people. Although being humble is one of the greatest achievements and we all understand that it is very irrational to become proud and arrogant, for we cannot become proud and arrogant when we are completely dependent and needy, the reality is that most of us are not humble most of the time. The question is why is this the case? It seems that we have a sense of worry, instability or insecurity which makes us arrogant. If someone does not feel confident or strong, he will try to secure his position by lowering other people and raising himself artificially. On the contrary, those who are confident and rich inside do not need to be proud or arrogant. We have a hadith which states that the only people who need to oppress are those who are weak. A weak person would oppress because he or she has some needs and wants to meet those needs; because he cannot do it by himself, he oppresses other people. Hence, there is an emptiness that such people want to cover up by being arrogant. Although

humbleness, in a sense, may look like poverty or emptiness, it is actually to be rich. For example, if you are a new teacher or the subject is new, you become very worried when students ask questions. If a student asks a few questions, you think that he has a plan to destroy you in front of everyone. However, if you are a confident teacher, not only would you not be worried about these questions, you would actually love people to ask very difficult questions because that would make the class more interactive and give you the opportunity to teach more. Therefore, if we really possess something valuable inside we should become more humble, and when you are more humble it increases your capacity for gaining more. As you said, God gives the gift of wisdom, for example, to those who are humble. We have traditions that, for example, God gives the gift of prophethood to those who are humble. For instance, one hadith states that God said to Moses, “O Moses, Do you know why I chose you over other people, gave you revelation and spoke to you?” Moses said, “No my Lord I do not know.” He did not say, “Yes, there must be many reasons that He chose me. Which one are you talking about?” So God said, “I looked at the heart of people in and out and I saw none of them more humble before Me than you.” Therefore, Moses was the most humble person at that time and God thus chose him. There is a story states that once God said to Moses, “Next time that you come to the appointment with Me, bring someone who is lower than you; so do not come alone, bring also someone who is lower than you.” So, Moses went everywhere and he could not find anyone that he could say he is lower than me. Then

he saw an ill and ugly animal and said, “Maybe I can say this animal is lower than me, it is not a human being, but an animal,” but then he said, “I cannot even say this animal is lower than me because that animal has no guilt or sin.” Thus, he went to meet God without taking anyone and God asked, “Why did you not bring anyone?” He replied, “Because I did not find anyone lower than me.” God declared, “If you had brought that animal you would have lost your position.” Consequently, humbleness is absolutely important, but at the same time, it is extremely difficult. If you are humble it means that you have already made great success since it is not easy for a beginner to be humble. However, when you do become humble you are put on a motorway which quickly takes you towards God and higher positions. So, the important question is how can we become humble? Of course, being with humble people is very inspiring because you automatically and naturally are motivated to become humble. However, we may not find such people very easily or perhaps there are layers of pride within us that would not disappear by only being with humble people. So, I think this is an area that we have to work together and bring our experiences and resources together so that we realise how we can be humble, especially as faithful communities. Unfortunately, sometimes we bring our pride and arrogance to religion, between two denominations or between two religions. If we were really humble, then we were in a better position to enter into dialogue and discussion and find similarities. However, when we are not personally humble and we put any cleric dress, that pride comes in the way of unity, causing difficulties. A Muslim might say

that a Muslim must be the winner, or a Christian might say that a Christian should be the winner. Hence, though we may think it is for the sake of God, in reality, it may not be for the sake of God. This might be the same selfish game people do in different names and now we do it in the name of God. In summary, there is no doubt about the significance of humbleness in our traditions, but we really need to work hard on the practical side and try to achieve this humbleness. Moreover, if we do attain it then we should try not to lose it; as our fourth Imam says, “O God please do not raise me among people any rank unless you bring me lower in myself the same or more.” Perhaps as a first-year seminarian, I have enough humbleness, but when I go to the second year I need more humbleness. When I become, for example, a graduate I need more humbleness. Furthermore, when I become an Imam I need even more humbleness. Hence, humbleness is a virtue that we really need to work on, especially by seeing what we can learn from our spiritual and mystical traditions. Thank you.l

The Islamic Centre of England

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The Importance of Relating to others The following is Dr Mohammad Shomali’s paper presented to Muslim Council of Britain for their document titled: ‘Our Shared British Future Muslims and Integration in the UK’


s Islam a stranger in the West in general or in British society in particular? What understanding should Muslims have of Islam and themselves here? What should others think about Islam and Muslims?

To answer the above questions adequately we need to first reflect on the nature of divine religions in general and Islam in particular. Divine messages are always universal. We cannot think that the God of everyone would discriminate in His message by addressing some and excluding others. This is not the way that God can be understood. No kind teacher or doctor would deprive some people from a good thing that he has to offer. In the same way, any message which comes from God is for everyone. Indeed, we can go further and claim that everything that belongs to God is for all. For example, the Ka‘ba in Mecca which is known as the House of God, the Qur’an says: ‘This is the very first house which is built for mankind’ (3:96). The house of God is also the house of men, not the house of elites nor the house of some people. Anything that belongs to God is for everyone. A message may start from one place and spread; just like light can emanate from one place and project itself, illuminating its surroundings. No one can say this light is only for us. Islam is for all, as the Prophet was also sent as a ‘mercy for all people’ (Qur’an 21:107). Muslims are not only supposed to benefit other Muslims; rather they are brought forth for the benefit of all people (Qur’an 3:110). Islam started in Mecca and then expanded into the Arab peninsula, but it was never meant to be only for Meccans or Arabs or only for the Middle East. Before the Prophet passed away, he offered the message to people of other empires and nations, including the kings of Iran and Yemen and the Emperor of Rome. Thus, the message is universal. At the time of the Prophet, the message did not reach everyone. It spread slowly to other people. Generally, when


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the message is reaching out, it takes the form and shape of the people who have already embraced it. Islam is not an exception to this. To understand this better, we can look at the example of water which comes from rain and is pure but depending on the river bed, it can take different tastes. If it is a salty desert, the same water becomes salty and impossible to drink. Societies passed on the text of the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet but with their own understanding, rituals, cultures and customs. For example, it may look more Arabic or Persian or Asian than merely Islamic. This may be also the case for parts of Christianity to the extent that some people forget that Christianity also started in the Middle East and Jesus was from Palestine. One of the problems faced by the message is culturalisation. There is nothing wrong with cultures. Indeed, cultures play a great role in enriching and maintaining people’s experiences of their religion. People can use their cultures and talents to give different, colourful presentations of the reality but they should not let these secretly replace the whole or parts of the message. For instance, you can bring food in any container but the container should not become so important that it diverts people’s attention from the food or changes the taste or benefits of the food. Unfortunately, many times the way cultures or traditions or religious communities have tried to establish identity in their adherents was by distancing themselves from others. So instead of saying what you are, the focus was on what you are not. And this is problematic. This is a type of identity which is based on fear and exclusion. And certainly, this type of understanding is neither compatible with Islam nor able to work in the world that we live in today. If it has worked in the past, it is because the world was very divided and partitioned. You could live in a town or even a country in which there were no people of other faiths, ethnicities or cultures.

of our faith. How can we believe in God, the Creator of all mankind, and then fail to care for part of the creation of God? For us, not only does every human being carry the sign of God, but also every animal, every bird, every insect, every flower, every drop of water is significant because it is a manifestation of God. So now, we need to rethink our understanding of our identity. If we look at a human body, we have different organs and different parts. Every organ has some function hence every organ has some identity. But if their understanding of their role is to exclude others or to ban others, then we are not going to survive. You can be an eye, you can be an ear, you can be a heart, but you can only survive if you understand how to relate to others and define yourself in a bigger unity. This is not the world today. And this type of fragile understanding of identity is not going to work today, and definitely not in the future. We need to have a different type of understanding based on what you have and what you can offer to other human beings, and in turn appreciate what they have. Being able to relate to other people is an essential part of every person’s identity today. I cannot be a good Muslim or Christian especially today, unless I know how to relate to other people and how to accommodate them in my own identity. And certainly, for believers in God, this is also a very important part

This type of understanding is what we need. And when I look at the Qur’an, I see that this is actually the plan of God. God has made lots of arrangements in His creation and legislation so that we would move towards unity. I think what would help communities to develop a new sense of their identity and facilitate the process of opening up themselves to a wider unity, is to give them reassurance that there is no attempt to pressurise them to assimilate or to eliminate their identity or marginalise them. When cultures, traditions and religious communities feel more comfortable and safe, they open up more and become more hospitable and more respectful of each otherl

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Taking time off from parenthood to ponder on her own spiritual wellbeing, Batool Hayder suggests some tools to help us do that the same


arenthood is hard. Motherhood is even harder. No amount of mental preparation helps you to deal with the actual physical and emotional investment your child will demand from you. As days turn into weeks, months and years, it starts to sink in that a ‘lifetime’ commitment is literally that - for life. As Muslims, many of us enter our first conscious long-term relationship i.e. marriage with the firm idea that it will be a ‘forever’ deal, however, we all know at the back of our minds that we can walk away if things get really bad. In fact, when we fight with our spouses we often take breaks and step away from each other’s company. A spouse can give you space and time to calm down. Children afford you no such luxury. When your children misbehave, when they throw tantrums, when they argue and yell and tell you to your face that they ‘hate’ you; these incidents are more emotionally traumatic than when they come from a spouse, because this child is your flesh and blood. Yet, being a parent means that you have to always be the rational, reasonable, adult each time. There can be no sharing or taking turns in being the one to give in or to placate. It’s easy to find yourself drained emotionally more often than you’d like. Personally, when I tried to figure out why life had become so lacklustre and full of routine ‘adulting’, I realised that my lack of energy was connected directly to my feeling of being disconnected spiritually.

very much an active decision I had to make. If we want to pass on the love we have for God and our belief in our faith, then we have to live according to it with a passion. Our children must see us making time out of our daily routines to connect with our Creator. They have to witness the continuous choice we make to step away from the world and redirect our attention to the hereafter (aakhirah) that we are actually working towards.

Mummy First

Life & Community

I wish I could say that I have been able to simply pick up where I had left off and have started lengthy sessions of contemplation and worship. These are still out of my realm for the moment. In fact, I have found myself approaching my Creator abashedly, suddenly aware of how much of my ‘lack of time’ complaints have been of my own imagining.

So while my schedule remains pretty much the same, these are a few things I have tried to incorporate into my routine, but with a more direct focus on the intention to find a closeness to God that I can then hopefully pass on to my children. 1. Recite the Salawat. Often.

In the whirlind of looking after my child and handling work, as well as what seemed like every chore under the sun, I had reduced my relationship to God to the very basic requirements. It didn’t seem like I had done this out of choice. There just wasn’t any time to spare for the recommended acts anymore. It took many days and nights of introspection to realise that while neglecting my spirituality may not have been a conscious act on my part, re-igniting it was


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One of the most recommended amongst the adhkaar (supplications), sending salutations on the Prophet (s) and his Holy Household(a) has an immediately calming effect. Just take a deep breath and recite it ten times, directing your thoughts inwards and reminding yourself that these personalities are the essence of Life and always there for you. The more you make a habit of this, the more you will find yourself managing to do things you never thought you could.

2. The Tasbih of Lady Fatimah(a) Given as a gift to Lady Fatimah(as) by her father, the merits of this recitation are countless, and mentioned over and over again in numerous books. As it was given to her in lieu of her request for a servant to help her with house chores, this tasbih is often passed on amongst women as a way to alleviate the pressure we often feel when our to-do lists get out of hand. And it works! Make a habit of reciting thing after every one of the daily five prayers and be amazed at its effects. 3. Recite the holy Qur’an daily It might seem obvious, because this is such a commonplace statement. We all know we should recite the Qur’an every day and most of us do. It may be the recommended chapters after the daily prayers or a few pages before going to bed. What I am suggesting though is to recite a few verses, along with their meaning and exegesis with the sole intention of understanding how they apply to you personally. What is God saying to you in those verses? What does He want from you? Even if it is just five or ten verses a day, recite with the intent to discover God’s Message to you. 4. The Prostration of Thanks

closing-act before we stand up and fold away our prayer mats. A quick repetition of gratitude, a rote request for forgiveness and we are done. If we take just a minute or two more to thank God for a specific favour or apologise for a particular sin, it allows us to make that direct connection - even for a few seconds - that we can then carry with us even when we walk off the prayer mat and return to our daily routine. If you have been luckier than me and already do these regularly, I would suggest picking the next-level acts that you wish you could do, and simply doing them. The important thing is to do them consistently and to do them obviously and loudly (where possible) in the presence of your children. They need to see your actions in order to absorb them and think about them, before they can be ready to accept and imitate them. These may seem like extremely simple ways to approach spirituality, but children start off simple anyway. When I started stating my gratitude specifically and out loud, my daughter showed no interest in joining me, but today she suddenly sat down next to me and began to thank God for her toys, her blanket and the curtains! Which only goes to show that God knows we need a bit of cheering up even as He answers our prayers...l

This is an act we are trained from childhood to perform at the end of every prayer. Too often, however, it becomes a routine

April 2018

islam today




his month I’m presenting you with an eclectic mix of art forms. Each artist is a change maker in their own right, using their craft to express personal stories and creating change through their own unique practice. They are a powerful reminder of the role our similarities and differences can make in enriching the lives of others.

In the Spotlight Jumana Moon - Storyteller

“When Jumana Moon was a guest at our weekend school to tell the story of Isra & Miraj (the night journey of Prophet Mohammed(s) the whole room was enraptured, including the parents. Jumana’s storytelling transports you to another time and another place and you really don’t want her to stop and when she does it is as if you have been rudely awoken from an enchanting experience.” - Humera Khan, An-Nisa Society Jumana Moon is a Muslim storyteller based in London. She received a first class degree in Arabic and English Literature at the University of Westminster before turning her attention to the honourable craft of storytelling, a vocation inspired by her upbringing in Brussels, Lome and rural Buckinghamshire. Moon describes her stories as originating from Muslim folklore and sacred tradition with tales, myths and legends from lands near and far.


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Moon says as a child, her imagination was fed by a good, rich diet of story, mythology, folktales and the changing landscapes she lived in. Having lost neither the love of travelling or tales as a storyteller, moon is able to transport the minds of those who listen to faraway places. With a particular love of narratives from the Islamic tradition and heritage the Qur’an, hadith, seerah and stories from the rich canon of devotional poetry, Moon conveys a wealth of possibilities that remind one of the sacredness of life and the need for purpose and direction. For the last five years Moon’s craft has been used as a tool to facilitate interfaith dialogue through her collaborative work with Jewish Storyteller Adele Moss. “We often tell stories together, exploring similarities and differences between the two faiths.” -Jumana Moon Moon’s oratory also reflects an enduring love of stories from the British and European folk traditions and Greek mythology, encouraging an initiative which allowed her to hone her skills by setting up ‘Stowtellers’ a storytelling club in Walthamstow, East London where members meet monthly to share traditional stories.

Digital Art Ian Garr

“Drawing inspiration from my European roots and adopted Islamic heritage, my work is a fusion of modern art, Celtic and Islamic design. Reflecting the untidy of humanity, the natural world and a celebration of the ties that unite us.” Ian Garret

Ian Garret is an artist, designer and teacher based in London. He reverted to Islam 21 years ago and has carved a name for himself with his unique brand of Islamic art. Garret produces digital images of Islamic landscapes inspired by his love of sci-fi and comics. These images begin as paintings before undergoing digital manipulation. His jewellery is also innovative and reflects Garret’s exploration of CAD design and 3D

Moon is an advocate of green faith and presents ecological stories to encourage environmental concern and sustainable lifestyles.

printing. Based on mystical knot work of the Middle Ages, his work reflects the similarities which are embodied in Islamic geometric design. Garret believes it is this theme of commonality that underpins his work and reflects his

cultural and spiritual heritages.

Heritage Painting Reciting the Qur’an - by Osman Hamdi Bey 1910

“Osman Hamdi was also very famous in the field of museum management in Europe. As a painter he produced many works depicting places in Ottoman society. They almost serve as historical documents. A top official in Europe, the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph, bought one of his paintings.” - Professor Fatma Ürekli, the head of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University’s History Department. Born in Istanbul in 1842, Osman Hamdi Bey was a Turkish anthropologist, painter, art historian and archaeologist. He is also known for being the first museum curator in Turkey. Whilst he enjoyed an extensive career in the Arts, Science and Law, he always returned to painting. He played a significant role in the modernisation

and transformation process of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century and is known as a pioneer of painting in Turkey.

Photography & Filmmaking Maythem Ridha

Maythem Ridha is a photographer and filmmaker who spent his formative years in Iraq before moving to the UK with his family. He has over 20 years’ experience creating award-winning films cataloguing the lives of ordinary people in North Africa and the Middle East. Ridha studied Photography at the University of Westminster and his portraiture and street photography are documented in his recently published book Beyond

Moments: Morocco. Ridha also teaches workshops and master classes in photography and filmmaking. Ridha has won many awards, most notable is the Alhambra Award for Excellence in the Arts.





Spoken Word Artist Shifa Choudhury “Female, born and raised in Luton, writing was always my strength but nobody had encouraged me to pursue this until I went back into education as a young adult and my teacher showed me that someone does care about me. Her faith in me allowed me to start writing and performing and it helped me to stay out of trouble and I haven’t looked back since. My writing is deeply rooted in my experiences of violence as a young person.” Shifa Choudhury Shifa Choudhury is a bright and talented young Muslim women who like many artists, uses her craft to explore and make meaning of complex life experiences. Her performance art is powerful and dynamic. Hers is an emotive expression that speaks of vulnerability, whilst confirming an inner strength. Off the stage, Choudhury is quiet and unassuming but with microphone in hand and in full flow, she is a tour de force. l

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.

April 2018

islam today



The Blessings of I‘tikaf; a Spiritual Seclusion

Tasnim News Agency © by Mohammad Hassanzadeh

I‘tikaf is more than just a religious ritual; it is a time to assess ourselves and our relationship with our Creator, says Kubra Rizvi


lthough Islam focuses on the individual and his relation to God, it also emphasises the individual’s role in society; thus, asceticism has been discouraged. However, similar to other religious traditions, a form of spiritual seclusion or retreat for a few days is found in Islam. In fact, even those with no religious inclination undertake various forms of spiritual retreats. There are many benefits for such a retreat, especially with respect to one’s spirituality and relation to God. The Prophet Muhammad(s) said, “The person who secludes himself (in the masjid in I‘tikaf) in true faith and hope (for the reward of God), all of his previous sins shall be forgiven.” The Holy Prophet used to perform I‘tikaf for a duration of three days in the first ten days, second ten days, and last ten days of the month of Ramadan.


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One of the other most recommended times for I‘tikaf is during the ‘white nights’ of Rajab, the night of the 13th, 14th and 15th. According to Shi‘a jurists, I‘tikaf should be done in one of the four masjids: Masjid al-Haram, Masjid alNabi, Masjid al-Kufa and Masjid al-Basra; however, it could be done in any other mosque with the hope of acceptance. The literal definition of the word I‘tikaf is to stay in a particular place. In Islam, it refers to staying in the masjid for a certain time period in the worship of God while maintaining certain conditions. I‘tikaf has no specific form like salat (prayer); for example, one can stand, sit, sleep, or supplicate. Of course, what is important is that one refrains from what is prohibited. Firstly, one must make the intention of performing I‘tikaf for the purpose of seeking nearness to God and no other reason. The minimum number of days in I‘tikaf according to Shi‘a jurists is three days. Although I‘tikaf is a recommended

act, it can become obligatory if a person makes an oath to God to perform it, or upon completing one day when it becomes obligatory to complete the three days. Another type of intention would be if it is performed on behalf of deceased relatives. The person in I‘tikaf needs to fast while he is in I‘tikaf, and he or she must have permission if required for performing I‘tikaf. The minimum duration for the state of It‘ikaf is three complete days from sunrise of the first day until sunset on the third day. Therefore, it lasts for a minimum of 3 full days and 2 nights. Obviously, any act which nullifies the fast would be prohibited. Furthermore, applying and smelling perfume with the intention of deriving pleasure is not allowed during I‘tikaf. Worldly discussions and arguments are not allowed, nor is it permitted to leave the masjid except for reasons which are allowed in necessity. Even though it is

a form of spiritual seclusion, I‘tikaf is not isolation, for people are allowed to visit; friends and family can bring necessities such as food to break the fast. I‘tikaf is not just any holiday or retreat; it is a time to return to God and devote ourselves to Him. It is not social isolation, but a time of healing and reassessment. Islam encourages us to take account of ourselves, and when we do that then we work on areas which need to be developed. Thus, I‘tikaf facilitates self-evolution; it forces one to reflect on the self and to forget the temporal world, and concentrate on God. One can talk to God by supplicating through recommended du’as or hear the words of God by reciting the Qur’an. Indeed, the one who performs I‘tikaf leaves his house to be the guest of God in His house (the masjid). Each action in Islam is prescribed with the wisdom of God; hence, although the spiritual rewards are recounted and emphasised, there are undoubtedly other beneficial aspects of the actions in Islam. I‘tikaf is no exception. Although to my knowledge no studies have been conducted on those who perform I‘tikaf, an interesting study was published in the journal Religion, Brain and Behaviour (2017) about the effect of spiritual retreat on the brain. Dr Andrew Newberg and his team conducted brain scans and psychological surveys of 14 Christian participants (aged 24 to 76) before and after a seven-day spiritual retreat. The participants spent most of their time in silent contemplation, prayer and reflection. Findings indicated alterations in the brain’s reward centre. The participants reported less fatigue and stress, and more feelings of selftranscendence. Furthermore, brain scans revealed decreases in dopamine and serotonin binding, which made these two neurotransmitters

more available to the brain. Neurotransmitters are often referred to as the body’s chemical messengers. Serotonin is one of the calming neurotransmitters, while dopamine is one of the stimulating ones. Dopamine relates to our ability to stay alert and concentrate on mental tasks, so enhancing dopamine levels can help to improve motivation and enthusiasm for life. On the other hand, serotonin is the neurotransmitter that is predominantly responsible for regulating our sense of calm. Hence, serotonin promotes feelings of contentment, satisfaction and well-being, which in turn prompt relaxation and peace. Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders are thought to be directly related to imbalances with neurotransmitters. Consequently, spiritual retreats, like I‘tikaf, may help us renew our purpose in life and covenant with God, as well as provide us with a sense of peace and awareness of His presence. In one of his speeches, Ayatullah Khamenei praised the youth who fervently perform I‘tikaf. In addition, I‘tikaf Minhaju ul Qur’an -City-

he recommends reciting the supplications from Sahifa Sajjadiya (a book of teachings and sermons by Imam Sajjad(a)). He says, “It is Rajab now, the month of praying, turning back to God, and supplication. It is the month of becoming similar to the Commander of the Faithful. Let us strengthen our relationship with God so that we can go through the various stages of life with strong determination, steadfastness and awareness.” Imam Ali(a), the only personality to be born in the Holy Ka‘ba, prayed 1,000 cycles each night, and even the other Imams would exclaim that no one could be like him. However, in the month of his auspicious birth, and even more so in the night of his birth, as his lovers we can strive to acquire some of his characteristics, especially his devotion to God. Indeed, it may be practically impossible for some of us to perform I‘tikaf as it is stipulated. Nevertheless, all is not lost. Perhaps after our children are asleep, when we have turned off the TV and our phones, we can sit on our prayer mats and nurture our connection with God by praying, reciting the Qur’an and recommended supplications. Thus, we will welcome the holy month of Rajab, the harbinger of the season of spirituality: Rajab, Sh‘aban and Ramadan.l

The importance of Abbas Di Palma talks about the importance of reciting the Ahl ul Bayt(as) invocations in their original language


nvocation (du‘a) is a form of voluntary prayer in which the believer implores God Almighty so that he may be helped during hardship, his sins may be forgiven, his attitudes rectified and that he may finally get close to Him. It is a significant aspect of a spiritual life and all monotheistic religions place emphasis on it. Such emphasis is particularly found in the invocations of the Imams of Ahl ul-Bayt that have been preserved down the centuries. Although other Islamic schools have stressed the role of invocations, the quantity and the spiritual traits of those reported by the family of the Prophet(s) have always distinguished their followers. Indeed these special invocations are the sources for many arguments presented in theological discourses and the missing link between history and spirituality or, in other words, between the human and the divine. Considering the famous narration of the Prophet; “I leave you two weighty things: the book of God and my family” one can easily deduce that the invocations of Ahl ul-Bayt(as) are a major portion of the precious prophetic legacy. Invocation consists of beseeching God while being aware of our dependency on Him and that only He is Independent


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from all needs. It is therefore the most intimate recognition of our servitude manifested in the profound attachment and subordination to Him in our life.

A striking expression in the Qur’an states: “Call me and I will answer you” (40:60). The real caller here is God Himself who invites us to His mercy.

It is possible to invocate God by any sincere verbal expression coming from the heart, presenting our feelings, fears and emotions, in front of Him. Although words sometimes may not flow spontaneously, or may not be found suitable to express our sentiments it is here that the invocations of the Ahl ulBayt(as) can be used as a distinctive tool to communicate with God.

Some good etiquettes for the supplicant are mentioned in the Qur’an such as sincerity (40:14), fear and hope (7:56), awe, yearning and reverence (21:90). Another motivating characteristic that is mentioned is the suffering soul: “Is He who responds to the desperate one when he calls upon Him and removes evil?” (27:62). Here it is understood that the person afflicted by suffering is more easily transported towards God. Indeed invocation is the heart of supplication as it expresses the most profound meaning of submission and abandonment to the Lord of the universe. It manifests the purest concept of faith, it keeps it alive and it renews and strengthens it in every moment.

However, invocation should not be a mere aesthetic recitation for cheering up our mental state, especially when it is expressed loudly with a beautiful voice. It is something much deeper leading the believer to open the door of happiness, to find oneself in front of God while presenting his whole self as a simple creature, standing, sitting, prostrating or weeping, in great need of his Beloved. It is the moment in which each of our most intimate secrets is willingly revealed, and no barriers are put up between the creature and the Creator. The believer asks his Lord to help him for what is not in his capacity. Such an attitude increases the intimacy between the supplicant and God.

Some believers may witness such profundity with awareness but without realising the literal meaning of what they are saying or hearing. They might recite an invocation from the Ahl alBayt(as) and become emotional about it but in fact not focus on the meanings of the words. However, we should be aware that there is a special communication that God has reserved for his sincere servants that is understood only from the bottom of the heart.

‘invocation’ Yet, the recommendation is to recite the transmitted invocations in their original language which is Quranic Arabic. It is true that the truths spoken by the Imams through their invocations, in essence, transcend the barriers of conventional languages. However, intermediation of language is allowed for grasping lofty meanings. Such a tool is a connection between words and concepts. Therefore it is a gift from God even if it may be subject to corruption by human hands in some cases. Also, corruption of language can lead to corruption of thought or, even worse, to corruption in cognition of the meanings.

Muslims today do not doubt the celestial origin of the classical Arabic language which is manifested in one divine speech, the Holy Qur’an. It is true that the holy Qur’an is also a linguistic composition but its eloquent achievements have not been achieved by any thinker, writer, poet or philosopher consciously or unconsciously trying to imitate Quranic wisdom. Since man should correctly relate himself to contemplative realities which language can fully represent, God has enclosed in Quranic Arabic the terms with which to describe them. It is clear at this point that we are not talking anymore about a science

related to linguistics, grammar or phonetics but a science of language that only prophets and holy Imams possess. Herein lies the importance of reciting the invocations of Ahl al-Bayt(as) in their original language which are the best and most accurate exegesis of the Qur’an that can be spoken of.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.

April 2018

islam today



Spiritual Retreats A time to be with God in silence and seclusion

Retreats are oases of spirituality in the desert of secular culture, says Frank Gelli


t the start of his public ministry, Jesus went alone into the desert and fasted forty days and forty nights, the Gospel relates. To prepare for Easter, the feast of the Resurrection, Christians are not expected to retire to a physical desert but many choose to remember the Lord by going away into a retreat. That means time spent quietly, in silence and meditation or following spiritual exercises. It could take place in a special retreat house or in a monastery or convent. Michael Ramsey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, described the point of a retreat as ‘being alone with God’, not to cut oneself off from fellow human beings but ‘to grow in love and zeal, for the sake of God and neighbour’. Retreats can be just for a weekend or one week or more. They are either informal, with the person setting his own programme and timetable, or more structured, in a group. A conductor, usually a priest or monk, can be booked to set biblical readings, give counsel, spiritual talks or just discuss things with the participant. Worship is part and parcel of a retreat, with prayers in a chapel, attending Holy Communion or going to confession. Silence is encouraged. (Mobile phones strictly to be kept switched off. And forget about Facebook or Twitter!) Most of us exist under a daily bombardment of news and


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chatter of all kind, often superfluous or even debilitating. Silence can be a useful tool to cut that off for a while, to focus on

a deeper dimension. Sure, some people may think it odd or even threatening to spend meals in silence. Actually, as an experience it can be quite liberating. After a while one begins to discern what are the things that really matter in life. Perhaps the most famous set of instructions on retreats is St Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Ostensibly, it is a manual for the retreat director but anyone can learn from studying it. Based on progression of stages, it echoes Jesus’s own tests and trials in the wilderness. According to Scripture, three times the Devil tempted the Messiah during the forty days. Each time Jesus rejected the temptations and the Devil fled.

St. Ignatius de Loyola Statue at Boston College.

Similarly, the person doing the retreat will at times experience difficulties. Like feeling inwardly desiccated, dull or even bored with prayer and worship. The Evil One is likely to be behind those negative feelings. The skilled spiritual director will help the person to deal with them, to ascend to a higher level, one of self-knowledge and joyful, dynamic alignment with the will of God. The Christian retreat tradition of course belongs especially but not exclusively to Catholicism. The Orthodox Church too has a rich spirituality that includes the practice by lay people to spend time in solitude in a monastery.

St Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.

I once visited perhaps the most iconic of such places, Mount Athos, a mountain and peninsula in Northern

Greek monastery on Mount Athos. View from sea. Dionysiou. Faith, church.

Greece. Inhabited by about 2000 monks, it houses twenty independent monastic establishments. I was there for two weeks of almost complete silence. The atmosphere was bracing to such an extent that I briefly considered becoming a monk. Wisely, my spiritual director dissuaded me. He was right. It was only an ideal, not a genuine vocation. However, Mount Athos is a superb place for a retreat. I have recommended it to parishioners and friends ever since. Although the holy season of Lent is customary for doing a retreat, the idea is not limited to that time only. Any time is good for a spiritual refresher. Sometimes it is necessary to make an important decision, about a job, a career, going abroad or getting married. Going away to be quiet, to pray, meditate in silence and consult with a good spiritual adviser are excellent ways of being certain about your choices, what is right for you. And God may speak to the believer’s heart whenever the time is ripe.

Sometimes the Almighty manifest himself as ‘a still small voice’, as he did to the Prophet Elijah, after he too had been, like the Messiah to come, on a retreat of forty days and forty nights on this way to Horeb, ‘the mount of God’. Some Muslims may see in the idea of a retreat an analogue to their tradition of I‘tikaf. Like when believers during months of Rajab, Sha‘ban or Ramadan withdraw to a mosque, away from worldly affairs, for a period of prayer, fasting and reflection. They listen to regular recitations of the Qur’an, attend classes and lectures on Islamic teaching, learn and discuss. Appropriate moral and spiritual behaviour is expected from participants, such as refraining from gossip, seeking to appear superior in discussion and the like. Usually a scholar conducts the programme and offers advice and directions. The commonalities with the Christian tradition are obvious.

life as a solitary monk in the North African desert. Later he realised a tougher challenge lay in locating, but also combating, ‘the desert in the city’ – actually the title of one of his books. A desert not in the biblical, positive sense but as a heedless condition opposed to spirituality. Given the rampant desacralisation of life in the cities of the secular West, retreats are like oases of cooling water. They represent ways of connecting up to the One, eternal source of life and love, the Creator. May they prosper and continue.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.

Inspired by the example of the hermit Charles de Foucauld, the Italian writer Carlo Carretto passed ten years of his April 2018

islam today



Travel Guide to

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

The Greatest Islamic Library nobody


knows about

here are many reasons people come to Dublin - admiring beautifully decorated ancient Qur’ans is not one of them. Unbeknown to the vast majority of Muslims around the globe - even those living in Dublin - Ireland’s capital city is home to quite possibly the finest collection of Islamic manuscripts in the western hemisphere, if not the world. “What? … Inside Dublin Castle there are ancient Qur’ans and Islamic manuscripts?” Muhammad, a part-time employee at the Dublin Mosque, run by the Islamic Foundation of Ireland, seems uncertain about what I have just told him. He has spent the last hour showing me around the quaint 19th century Donore Presbyterian Church building - now his local mosque detailing the building’s history and architectural merits. He also showed me their new extension, which integrates a wall of the former Donore school - dating from 1891 now the mosque’s new education facility. “Inside there are classrooms for teaching Arabic, Qur’an and English,” he proudly stated, pointing out the building is also home to the mosque’s library. That was when I mentioned my visit to Dublin Castle’s Chester Beatty Library, catching him off guard. Muhammad confessed he knew nothing about the Islamic literary gem that sat a mere 25 minutes’ walk from where we stood.


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The Chester Beatty Library was first opened in a large building in a wealthy suburb of Dublin in 1957, and moved to its current location inside the 18th century Clock Tower of Dublin Castle in February 2000. The opening of the new, light, airy and modern public building coincided with the 125th year birthday of its main benefactor and founder Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, an American-Irish mining magnate with a taste for exotic and rare literary items. Of the 20,000 books, manuscripts and scrolls, the multi-millionaire businessman amassed 6,000 items are amongst the rarest and most beautiful Islamic artefacts on earth. This includes 270 complete or fragmentary Qur’ans dating as far back as the eight century - within a hundred years of the Prophet Muhammad’s(s) life. Sir Beatty was collecting Islamic artefacts long before it became fashionable. His collection of Islam’s holiest book includes one of the finest Illuminated Qur’ans ever produced - the Ibn AlBawwab Qur’an - copied in Baghdad in the year 391 AH (1000 - 1001) by Abu’l Hasan Ali ibn Hilal, the medieval Muslim calligrapher and illuminator par excellence. The Persian master who is better known as Ibn al-Bawwab, a name that literally means ‘son of the doorkeeper’, because of his father’s humble profession, is said to have only produced 64 copies in his lifetime. There are six manuscripts around the world that bear Ibn al-Bawwab’s name, but it is believed the Qur’an in the Chester Beatty Library, inscribed in a naskh-rayhan combination style of script, is his only genuine piece of work to have survived.

Another Quranic gem is the explosion of deep blues, reds and greens wrapped in gold lace that make up the decorative frames for the chapters inside the Ruzbihan Qur’an. Produced in the Iranian city of Shiraz in the mid-16th century, it is named after its copier, the master illuminator and calligrapher, Ruzbihan Muhammad alTab’i al-Shiraz. Non Qur’an treasures in the collection include nearly 1,000 individual Mughal-era paintings, an Ottoman Illustrated volume of The Life of the Prophet Muhammad, copies of works by the great Persian poets Firdawsi and Hafiz, and some of the earliest Arabic translations of Hellenic work. The library’s Islamic items are mostly from the Arab world, Iran, Turkey and India. A selection of these are always on display in the library’s two permanent exhibits; The Arts of the Book and The Sacred Traditions. The Chester Beatty Library, which was named European Museum of the Year in 2002, is entirely free for visiting members of the public, and has facilities to accommodate researchers. l

Where in the world: The Chester Beatty Library is in the Clock Tower of Dublin Castle, which sits on the south bank of the River Liffey in the heart of Dublin city, the capital of Ireland. In and out: The easiest way to get to the library is to fly into Dublin International Airport, and catch the 747 bus that takes you to the Dublin City South Carnegie Centre - from there the castle is a five minute walk. Top tips: From the library take the 150 bus towards the city’s South Circular road and get off at Warrenmount Donore Avenue so you can walk around the corner to the handsome 19th century Donore Presbyterian Church that is now the Dublin Mosque. This is a great place to meet local Irish Muslims and grab a halal bite to eat in their delicious on-site restaurant serving Middle Eastern and North African fare.

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

April 2018

islam today


Children Corner

Dear Children, Assalam Alaikum


ollowing on the teachings of Imam Ali(a) from his sermons on the creation of Moon, Sun, Earth and of small creatures such as ants and locusts, Imam Ali now moves on to describing birds.

He remarks how the birds are so amazingly subject to God’s commands. “God knows the number of their feathers…He has made their feet capable of standing on water and land… God knows all their different species.” And then he names them; the crow, the eagle, the pigeon, the ostrich…

In sermon 165 of the book Nahjul Balagha he talks about one of the most amazing wonders of the Creation, the Peacock. The Imam states that the Peacock is created in the finest and best form. Its colourful feathers and its long tail are arranged in total harmony, and the creation of the peacock is “an example of God’s delicate product, and marvel of His creation.”

Imam then refers to another of God’s creatures that manifests His deep Wisdom, the bat. He refers to an animal that is the opposite most beings in that it becomes active during the night and rests during the day. The bat has such weak eyesight that it can’t stand the day light. Although daylight brings everything to life, the bat is designed to sleep during the day and becomes lively during the night. Imam Ali(a) sees the grand work of God in the creation of bats. 24 24

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The wonders of

the Creation In sermon 109, he tells us how God is aware of all the actions of His creation, animals and humans alike. He knows what we do, what our intentions are; He knows things about us that even the closest person to us does not know. He is aware of the movements of fish in big oceans, the noise of the waves and the heavy winds. He knows what we do in private; he knows our good actions and bad and sinful ones. We are all His creatures and surrender to Him. Everything exists by Him. He is the

reason and the aim, beginning and the end. He gives and takes. He is our strength when we are weak and down and He is our comfort when we lose someone. When we talk He listens, when we think He hears, even when we are silent. And we all go back to him. We will bring you more about our world and God’s Creations through lessons of Imam Ali in forthcoming issues.l

Illustrator Ghazaleh Kamrani

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What & Where Through April

7 & 8 April

Tafseer of the Holy Qur’an Conducted by: Shaykh M S Bahmanpour Venue: The Islamic Centre of England, 140 Maida Vale, London W9 1QB Time: Every Friday starting at 7.30 PM 30 March to 2 April

Spiritual revival 2018 Itikaf of month of Rajab (13 -15 Rajab) conducted by Sheikh Mirza Abbas. A‘mal, lectures, Qur’an recitation, duas, Ahkam and contemplation. Venue: London, Masjid Imam Ali 852 Harrow Road, Wembley HA0 2PX Time: 10pm 30 March till after Iftar on 2nd April Fee: £10 More info: 6 – 8 April

MSN 2nd Annual Educational & Spiritual Retreat camp 2018 Teenagers’ religious & moral education, scholarly led discussions, personal reflection, supplication sessions and one to one consultation. Opportunities to update your knowledge and experience. Venue: Devere Harwood Estate, Milton Keynes, Mursley Road MK17QPH Fee: Standard £180 members £140 Register on line at:www.msenetwork. org/camp2018 7 April

Family Half term fun day (Global) @ Blackburn Venue: Bangor Street Community Centre, Norwich St, Blackburn BB1 6NZ Time: 1:00 to 5:00 pm Cost: Free Contact: 01254 503311 / 079 2058 8049

Young Friends’ sleepover: how to be an archaeologist – Age: 8 to15 Young Friends can come and find out about the history of archaeology – from the first excavations to what they do today, and what role they have played in the history of the British Museum. See what we can learn from ancient tombs and crack forgotten languages. Discover the story behind some of the objects in the collection and how they came to be in the Museum. At the end of the evening Young Friends and their guests will spend the night sleeping in the Egyptian and Assyrian galleries surrounded by kings from the ancient world, followed by breakfast in the morning. Venue: The British Museum Russell Street Time:Saturday 7 April, 18.15 Sunday 8 April, 09.00 Tickets:£45 To book: call 020 7323 8195

islam today

April 2018

Venue:The Bermondsey Square Hotel, Tower Bridge Rd, London. SE1 3UN Cost:£19.99 Time: 1pm For more information: Email 16 April Abrahamic Texts Group Jews, Christians and Muslims are invited to join us as we discuss texts from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Qur’an and our later traditions on the subject of Living with Difference: Incarnation. Presenters:Rabbi Janet Burden (Jewish) TBC (Christian) TBC (Muslim) Venue: London Inter Faith Centre, St Annes & St Andrews Church, 125 Salusbury Rd, London NW6 6RG Contact:Laurence Hillel 07801 286819 Time: 10:15 AM – 12:30 PM

7 April to 15 May

Workshops on Recitation of the Holy Qur’an Islamic College of London is offering a series of workshops to serve those who love the Qur’an. Level 1: Tajwid and rules of recitation Level 2: Voice and tune in the recitation of the Holy Qur’an (Prerequisite: Knowledge of Level 1) Level 3: Different narrations in the recitation of the Holy Qur’an (Prerequisite: Knowledge of Levels 1& 2) (Age 16+) Venue: The Islamic College, 133 High Road, Willesden. London NW10 2SW Tutor:Seyed Jalal Masoomi Fee: £20 (Registration fee per workshop) More 14 April

Easy Conversational Arabic Half-day Spoken Arabic course. An opportunity for a lovely learning event


alongside a chance to socialise (ladies only). Refreshments/treats provided.

17 & 18 April Emergent Religious Pluralism(s) An Interdisciplinary Conference at the Woolf Institute. The concept of religious pluralism has been at the centre of major political developments and discourse in recent years.... Across Europe controversial attempts, both legal and political, to manage the challenge of religious diversity has led to heated debates on how to deal with difference. At the heart of these developments, the very ideal of religious pluralism itself is being contested. But how have changing realities on the ground informed the ideal of religious pluralism itself in different parts of the world? Convenors: John Fahy and Jan-Jonathan Bock, Sami Everett Fees: £35 or £15 (concession) Lunch and refreshments are included in the fee. For further details: email

24 April

30 April

Mapping the Mediterranean by the Cartographers of Medieval Islamic Societies

‘Lost Maps of the Caliphs’: The Fatimid View of the World -seminar

Islamic cartographers perceived the Mediterranean as a sea which unites all of its shores, making them one geographical entity, contrary to the European perception of a sea which divides the world into three continents. The map of Ma’mun, devised in the early 9th century, represents a major improvement in mapping of that sea. ...Towards the end of the 15th century, Islamic cartography was increasingly influenced by the new European traditions of mapmaking, and was rapidly losing its originality. The Piri Reis map of the Mediterranean bears witness to this claim. Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, Russell Square: College Buildings Time:5:45 PM to 7:00 PM Admission:Free - All Welcome Contact email: Tel: 020 7898 4330

25 April

Islamic Textiles from Iberia: Re-evaluating Their Role in the Mediterranean Context Dr Ana Cabrera-Lafuente, Marie S.-Curie Fellow, Victoria and Albert Museum, London Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT) Time: 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM Organiser: Rosalind Wade Haddon Contact email: Contact Tel: 07714087480 Values and Meaning in our Contemporary World: A Series of Seminar Led discussions on Contemporary Themes Venue: London Inter Faith Centre, St Annes & St Andrews Church, 125 Salusbury Rd, London NW6 6RG Time: When: 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Cost: £5 Contact:Laurence Hillel 07801286819

Yossef Rapoport, Queen Mary University of London Organiser: Dr Ceyda Karamursel Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) room WLT Time:5:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Quranic Schools in Northern Nigeria – seminar Hannah Hoechner will discuss her latest book ‘Quranic Schools in Northern Nigeria - Everyday Experiences of Youth, Faith, and Poverty’, published by the International African Library. Hannah Hoechner describes how religious discourses can moderate feelings of inadequacy triggered by experiences of exclusion, and how Quranic school enrolment offers a way forward in constrained circumstances, even though it likely reproduces poverty in the long run. A pioneering study of religious school students conducted through participatory methods, this book presents vital insights into the concerns of this much-vilified group. Discussants: Mashood Baderin (SOAS), Robert Launay (Northwestern University) Chair: Louis Brenner (SOAS) Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings room 4429 Time: 5:15 PM to 7:00 PM Contact email:

2 May

Centre for Palestine Studies Annual Lecture: The Nakba in the Present The year 2018 is marked by two competing 70th anniversaries – that of the creation of the state of Israel and that of the Palestinian Nakba. In his lecture, Elias Khoury; Lebanese writer, novelist,

university professor and prominent public intellectual will discuss the following themes: 1) The Nakba as ethnic cleansing, and how it has been depicted in Israeli and Palestinian literature; 2) The Nakba as a settler-colonial process that is still ongoing; 3) The error in comparing the Nakba to the Holocaust, and Edward Said’s concept of ‘the victims of the victims’; 4) The Nakba as an open book. Chair: Gilbert Achcar, SOAS Venue: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS Time: 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM Admission: Free - All Welcome Contact: or 020 7898 4330

Rowan Williams: The importance of interfaith in terms of social justice Woolf Institute Lecture series offers this third event as part of the series by Dr Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and former Archbishop of Canterbury. Venue:Woolf Institute, Westminster College, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0UB Time: 17.30 Further information: enquiries@woolf. 5 & 6 May

The Fourth International Conference on 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. Organiser: The Islamic College Venue:133 High Road, Willesden, London, NW10 2SW Website: https://www.islamic-college. Contact number:+44 (0) 20 8451 9993 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.

April 2018

islam today


Islam today issue 58 april 2018  
Islam today issue 58 april 2018