issue 59 vol. 6 May 2018
Life & Community
AN EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION FAITH
THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LAST NIGHTS OF RAMADAN CHILDREN CORNER
THE PROPHETS AS ROLE MODELS
issue 59 vol. 6 May 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.
The Kawthar learning Circle Winter Retreat Canada Lessons by Dr Shomali
Camping for knowledge
An Experiential Education by Batool Haydar
The spiritual significance of the last nights of Ramadan
The Universal need for Justice
Hermits against War
The Jewel in the Muslim European crown
Prophets as role models
Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour Amir De Martino Anousheh Mireskandari Layout and Design - Innovative Graphics
Report by Fatimah Mohammad
Playwright; Hassan Abdulrazzak by Moriam Grillo
by Julia Khadija Lafene
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by Abbas Di Palma
by Kubra Rizvi
Publisher The Islamic Centre of England 140 Maida Vale London W9 1QB Tel: +44 20 7604 5500 ISSN 22051-250
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.
by Frank Julian Gelli
Travel Guide to Muslim Europe by Tharik Hussain
Children Corner by Ghazaleh Kamrani
Listing of Events What & Where
The Kawthar learning Circle Winter Retreat
he Kawthar Learning Circle held its Social Wilayah winter retreat from March 1st - 4th at the Cedar Ridge Camp in Ontario, Canada. The theme for the weekend was, ‘For the Love of God’ with a focus on spirituality, marriage and family life, and community. The schedule included discussions and lectures with Shaykh Dr Shomali and Sister Israa Safieddine; outdoor winter activities and a children’s programme. The atmosphere of the retreat was a genuine reflection of social wilayah because everyone showed great respect, trust, love and sincerity towards each other and were eager to learn from Shaykh Shomali. The beauty of the natural surroundings enhanced the quality of the retreat as the chalet enabled participants to witness the sunrise and the sunset each day. A sense of unity seemed to have been achieved through the harmony between believers themselves and the signs of God’s beautiful creation. On the first night, Shaykh Shomali spoke about spirituality and its connection to the KLC and the community. If you
really want knowledge, there are three things you must do: seek the reality of servitude, practise what you know, and ask God for understanding. Each morning started with 15 minutes dedicated to meditation and dhikr before morning prayer, followed by recitation of Qur’an and du‘a. Afterwards, Dr Shomali gave a tafseer on Surah AlAlaq. He explained how God made this world sacred for learning and ibadah and to be at the service of haqq, so it is in harmony with those serving haqq. When the Angel Gabriel first embraced the Prophet (s), pressed him and said “iqra”, the Prophet(s) was unable to read until Gabriel repeated it four times. It was only when the Prophet found some letters of noor written in his heart that he was able to read. Dr Shomali highlighted the significance of the word iqraa and explained that what the Prophet had received was written, but not in the worldly sense. The names of God are not merely words; rather, His light and power can be accessed through these names and they become a means to feel His presence
and have a better encounter with Him. He illustrated that through ‘bismillah alrahman alraheem’, we are meant to plan and to enact things that are a manifestation of our understanding of God. The word iqraa emphasises the importance of reading and that God not only teaches us the content but how to deliver it; therefore, we need to open ourselves to His teaching and show Him that we want to learn. After breakfast, Shaykh Shomali gave a lecture entitled, ‘Tawheedi Devotion – The Marriage of Prophet Muhammad(s) and Lady Khadijah(a) in Today’s Context.’ The main thing for making a marriage work and keeping it strong is not age, financial similarity and not what other people in the community may think. What makes two people a good match is their common understanding of what they expect from life. Before marriage, you should first figure out what is your plan for life, then find someone who thinks in the same way. You cannot find someone who is perfect because there is no perfection in this world. You are going to learn many things in this process, but May 2018
The brothers’ session turned out to be a very fruitful discussion on the Islamic understanding of leadership with an emphasis on family relationships and their broader implications in society. Shaykh Shomali mentioned that there is a difference between developing
at least you are happy to learn. Lady Khadijah(a) was not a barrier for the Prophet(s) in relation to him carrying out his duties and responsibilities. If a husband sees his wife has talents, he should let her grow. Marriage should be something that you do to facilitate the other party’s pursuit of their goals. You have to see how you can let the other person grow and sometimes you have to accept that the other person may disappear from your life. Someone wrote this beautiful sentence, “Sometimes for the sake of the beloved, you have to sacrifice love.” I changed it a little bit, by saying,
“Sometimes for the sake of the beloved and the love, you have to give up your portion of love.” Meaning, sometimes, you have to sacrifice, but you don’t stop the other person. The other thing we find in this marriage is loyalty. In the most difficult conditions, Lady Khadijah(a) remained with the Prophet(s). If someone doesn’t have that integrity they cannot cope with the difficulties of life. Even after the death of Lady Khadijah, the Prophet showed so much respect and loyalty to her. One of the greatest signs of a mu’min is loyalty, which is very important in family life and marriage. After the morning break, the brothers and sisters had their respective sessions with Shaykh Shomali and Sister Israa
confidence in people and training everyone to become a leader. Leadership is actually the natural consequence of showing responsibility in carrying out one’s duty such that the best leader is the one who has the greatest understanding of responsibility and the capacity to sacrifice for the sake of others. Similarly, Islamic leadership when it comes to social and family interaction should be attained through an organic process of carrying out responsibilities in a respectful manner rather than through sheer authority, “Leadership is gained through carrying out duties, it is not a static and de facto right.” Sister Israa led two sisters’ sessions about the characteristics of the female helpers [Ansars] of Imam Mahdi(atf). The sisters participated in a brainstorming activity where they had to write down and discuss the most important qualities of an Ansar. Some of the attributes were knowledge, patience, humility, mercy, and charisma. Sister Israa then highlighted that in order to understand Imam Mahdi(atf), it is necessary to look at the Prophet’s(s) life.
She then discussed a supplication from Sahifatul Mahdi wherein the Imam is asking God to favour women who have haya’ (modesty) and ‘urfa (chastity). Haya’ comes from the word hayat (life) and implies that one feels a sense of internal embarrassment or shame while chastity is an internal quality (and modesty is how it plays out socially).
you do not know; be wary of acting on your own opinion and avoid giving religious edicts.
Afterwards Shaykh Shomali gave a lecture entitled ‘Negativity’. He mentioned that many times our experiences and character influence our understanding of Islam. It’s very important that we understand what the requirement of faith is, because our minds seem to notice negative points quicker than positive ones. A mu’min is the one who has balance; he does not only see the negative things or things that cause one to worry. He has trained himself to see everything that can affect his situation and decision. A mu’min should lean more towards the positive side, commonalities and being hopeful, which is in conformity with the Lordship of God. A mu’min should think that this world is in favour of mu’mineen, good intentions and actions. If you manage to establish this in yourself, it will affect many things. Always have the mentality that problems are like bubbles, but truth is like water. Two evenings were dedicated to the hadith of Unwan Al-Basri from Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq(a). He described a list of nine things to observe on the path towards God. The first three relate to controlling your appetite. The next three relate to controlling your emotions when dealing with others. And the last three relate to knowledge: ask the scholars about what
alert, conscious and having a reason for everything that we do. While we should not be absent on social media, we need to consider all the risks of posting something online. In the afternoon, the sisters had a session with Dr Shomali, when he briefly discussed the role of Bibi Aasiyah(a) as a role model for tawakkul. He explained how Bibi Aasiyah’s heart raised her and made her special; she showed the maximum power of humans, as she was able to resist external pressures.
In the weekend sessions, Dr Shomali gave a lecture on ‘Hikmah in Speech: Social Media, the Internet, and our Moral Ethos’. He explained the necessity of being
He also responded to many questions related to motherhood and marriage. To make a marriage successful, Dr Shomali advised the sisters to lower their expectations, be practical, invest in communication, and know that men understand things differently than women. Ultimately, marriage is not about how much you can take but how much you can put in. Dr Shomali explained that being a mother is a very special gift but it requires preparation. Women need to be mentally and spiritually prepared, to study more, and to be aware of their thoughts and emotions. It is essential to not leave your children
completely free; it is important to build good relations with them, find good friends for them, and ask God for help. Parents should facilitate good habits in their children and develop in them a sense of kindness and responsibility. One of the highlights of the retreat was the artistic presentation by a sister on the concept of social wilayah. The video was made through a Prezi-like dynamic animation highlighting the meaning of wilayah, its implications, and the various modalities through which it manifests itself in the lives of people. The evening continued with a presentation by Brother Mubarak and Brother Jihad whereby they provided the history behind the KLC’s inception, its growth, challenges, and Shaykh Shomali’s natural choice to be its scholar and leader. Brother Mubarak highlighted that the success of the
KLC lied in reciprocating our teacher’s diligence and commitment to teaching and being proactive students in learning.
they have observed justice, family values, ihsan and benevolence, trust, honesty, and have kept their promises.
The final lecture of the retreat was by Shaykh Shomali entitled ‘Maintaining the Integrity of Social Wilayah’. There must be a community who would be next to Imam Mahdi(atf), who can say that
That community has to be established before the Imam comes because it seems unreasonable to think that the Shi‘a community, who are not able to establish unity and justice among themselves
would be helpers of Imam Mahdi(atf). Imam Mahdi(atf) will say, “I will come when you show your maturity in solving your local problems and then I will use you for the universal mission.” If you have a plan for the whole world, whom do you select? You select the people who are very successful.l
Comments “I liked ice-skating the most. We had Qur’an recitation and aslo played with books, Play-Doh, hide and seek. and did a play.” Hussayn (6 years old) “The kids really had a blast. They’re already speaking about the summer retreat. For the winter one, they had meetings about it – they wanted to plan activities.” Furkan “Disconnecting from everything allowed us to connect to what Dr Shomali said and his presence was very strong. Being in nature was different from sitting in the masjid. It made me realize the importance of being in the presence of a Godly scholar.” Gulam “I agree with everything that my husband said and in addition, I feel that society is so fast paced, this retreat allowed us to connect to everyone, especially being with the sisters.” Natasha “Of all the camps and retreats that I have been to, this one was the most special because they were all seekers. I was surprised how everyone was waking up for salat, going to every lecture and writing down notes. They were really putting in the effort. What made the difference were the social wilayah principles, especially since the Shaykh puts so much emphasis on them. You could see people were really trying to connect. I was really impressed with this. Everyone contributed which added to the spirit of the camp. Everyone was coming together for the same reason.” Wid and Muhsen
“This was the first retreat that I ever attended and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had and I will certainly go again and again. The sense of social wilayah at its greatest.” Zainab “Not just in the presence of a scholar – Shaykh Shomali has a tremendous amount of akhlaq. He’s someone who practices what he preaches. If a child came to him, he would be patient. Felt like you were in the presence of a spiritual guide; you felt the gravitational pull towards him and what he was saying. You felt that he’s with you and on your level.” KLC Student
“Our two daughters thoroughly enjoyed it and on the way back home were asking when would be the next camp. It was really beautiful being together. Having congregational prayers and du’as together over the four days. Many thought provoking discussions. It was a real blessing being in the company of individuals on the same journey towards God and seekers of knowledge. Felt like a dream.” Maryam
“Count me in for the next one. Enjoyed everyone waking up together for Fajr prayers. It reminded me of Madinah (Umrah) – brought back those types of memories. When I came back, I felt very different – it had a profound effect upon me.” Masud
Camping for knowledge Scholars and educationists gather to discuss the challenges of Islamic education for children in the UK Report by Fatimah Mohammad
uslim School Education Network (MSEN) held its 2nd Annual Educational & Spiritual Camp on 6th-8th April 2018 at Devere Harwood Estate in Milton Keynes. The programme was an exciting and unique opportunity to develop teaching methodology and techniques as well as work on spiritual enhancement and connection to God. The teachers’ camp aims to familiarise teachers with recent advancements in moral development and character education of the children. The focus of MSEN is to train teachers and community members, especially those who work in the evening and weekend Islamic schools, in the interactive teaching methods of various Islamic subjects in order to educate children of different ages and with differing levels of Islamic knowledge. The annual camp provides a platform to exchange teaching experiences, discuss practical and interactive teaching methods such as storytelling, games, quiz, organise workshops, model lesson presentations and arrange scholarly led discussions. MSEN was established in 2014 with the aim of helping both new and experienced teachers manage their schools and classrooms effectively and achieve educational objectives through quality advice from experts and scholars who understand the Islamic education system and the challenges faced Muslims living in the West. Among the scholars and professionals present at the camp were Ayatullah Ramezani, Dr Shomali, Dr Jahangir (MSEN’s president), Sheikh Bahmanpour, Sayed Makki, Sheikh Mohammadian,
Sheikh Abbas, Sheikh Rashid, Dr Naqvi, Sister Naqvi, Syed Masoomi and Mr Khaleeli. They took turns in introducing the best teaching methods and Islamic academic tools which make teaching more relevant and impactful. In this year’s MSEN teachers’ training camp, chosen subjects covered content, curriculum, techniques of delivering Islamic education, classroom management and working with pupils who have challenging behaviour. Lessons covered included ‘Challenges of teaching akhlaq (ethics)’, ‘Spiritual enhancement and awakening’, ‘Ahkam (Islamic rules) for children living in the West’, ‘Challenges of teaching Qur’an to children’, ‘Questions about God’, ‘Motivational interviewing and structured problem solving skills’, ‘Relevant Quranic concepts for children (age 11-15) and creative methodologies for teaching them’, ‘Holistic approach to Islamic education need, challenges and implementation’ and finally ‘The best practice model lessons on holistic approach’. The organisers also allocated time for spiritual considerations and reflection as well as private consultations with scholars at different times during the course of the three days. One of the original aims of MSEN was to promote networking. It started out with the objective of bringing weekend and evening Islamic schools together in order to support children’s Islamic education and build a strong network of teachers under one banner. Therefore, joint effort and collaboration between scholars and professionals was other objective of the camp. Participants had the chance to discover how to build relationships, work together to improve partnerships, improve
teachers’ and community alliances, and learn to navigate educational and parental challenges in today’s environment. At its inception, MSEN was established as an alliance of six Sunday schools from London and Luton. This has now expanded to 17 Sunday schools throughout Britain and Scotland. Membership and attendance of MSEN’s events is open to any individual who is keen to teach, involved in community projects or Islamic schools even though their schools or community might not be MSEN members. Participants for the 2018 training camp came from as far afield as the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. One of the main concerns of MSEN’s trustees has always been the issue of children losing their interest in learning about their religion, especially when they reach the age of 11-12. They found that the curricula and syllabuses which were used in Islamic schools were repetitive, direct, tedious, lacking interactivity and in some cases not very suitable and practical for children living in Europe. MSEN has started to create motivational lessons and activity plans for a wide range of Islamic subjects. It has completed the first set of Islamic curricula and interactive syllabuses in the hope of enabling Muslim schools to achieve the highest possible levels of knowledge and productivity.l Videos of the lectures are available on the MSEN YouTube Chanel https://www.youtube.com/channel/ UCiDaYbhgmJAbT1svuHubO-g
Life & Community
An Experiential Education Batool Haydar recommends a new approach to Ramadan, in which life flows and Ramadan does its magic
very year, as Ramadan approaches, we tend to become a little introspective. What will the month hold for us? How much have we really changed since the last one? Will this be the lifechanging Ramadan each of us yearns for? For me, this time of the year always stirs up a bit of a storm in my soul. I am usually frustrated by how little I have accomplished in the past eleven months and yet filled with hope that this year will be different. One aspect that remains constant however, is the question: What do I want to achieve? This question has now expanded to include my daughter as well. Until last year, she was too young to understand what Ramadan meant, but this
time around, she will definitely have questions and basic as they may be, they will set the foundation for her lifetime exploration of this Season of Worship and Mercy. I remember thinking last year that by this time, she would be ready for all the colourful and creative Ramadan-ready activity packs that seem to come up on social media. One of the wonderful things about time though is that as it passes it allows you to change and leave past ideas behind. My greatest brain-busting thoughts for a good deal of months have revolved around how I want to educate my child. Until she was actually born, I still held on to dreams of having a child who would be reading before the age of four and spouting facts about obscure
subjects by the time she was five. I was sure the best way to equip her was to provide her with as much knowledge as I could. This idea was possibly connected to my own experience of growing up, since much of my youth was spent in believing that depth of faith could be gained from expanding the breadth of oneâ€™s academic knowledge. As a child, I was a voracious reader. I have imbibed thousands of books since I first learnt how to read and while they have no doubt had a subtle impression on my ideas and perspectives, I can count barely a dozen that have left any sort of lasting impression on my mind. In fact, as an adult, I have had to consciously work on re-aligning many misconceptions I absorbed from my readings.
When I started to think about where my own appreciation of Ramadan had come from, I realised that my clearest beliefs stem from memories of doing things together as a family unit. I may have actually done little myself, but being a consistent participant of the whole was enough. I may have forgotten most of the trivia I had gathered over the years, but I can still conjure the sense of security that I would feel every year on the Layaalul Qadr (Nights of Power) when my parents sat us down and performed the recommended rites together. We were a little pocket of worshippers in communion with God, and when our parents told us the angels were descending on these nights, it was as if we could feel their wings brushing our shoulders as we huddled together. These holy nights still bring with them a knot of anticipation in my belly and the feeling of electric energy in the air. I feel like a child going forth with an empty loot bag to collect all the goodies I can. All these thoughts have re-affirmed the approach I am considering taking with her schooling, religious as well as secular. So while I commend those mothers who devote so much time and energy to creating a daily, tangible atmosphere for their children, I find myself reluctant to do the same. When I think of what it is that I want my child to get out of life, what her definition of success should be, it always ends up at the word ‘humanity’. I want her to be a good Muslim, an example of how beautiful Islam and its teachings are a reflection of the Divine Intention in creating insaan (mankind).
Everything else that once seemed important to me - reading, intellectual excellence, innovation, creativity - have become means to the end. I no longer worry about when or how to introduce the alphabet to her, or if she’s ready to start counting, so it doesn’t make sense to concentrate on the factual when it comes to religious matters, either. It only matters that she succeeds at being human, whether it is through being a political activist or a housewife nurturing a single family (or both!) Yes, we might draw a moon on the eve of the first night and look for the new crescent. We might read stories about akhlaq (manners) and the importance of goodness. We’ll recite supplications together, or if that doesn’t work (and it doesn’t most of the time), I’ll let her play while I recite out loud within earshot. We’ll break our fast and make a big deal about letting others have the first date. We’ll keep a recitation of the Qur’an playing whenever we can during the day. And when we are waiting for the long afternoons to pass, we’ll spend some time remembering the less fortunate.
activities, other days it might mean lots of stories and yet on others, it might mean trying to find and enjoy the silence within. Whatever you want your child(ren) to take away from this holy month, whatever you want Ramadan to mean to them, it has to first mean that to you personally. It has to be something that is embedded inside you, a strong fire that can spark a similar feeling in others. The best preparation is to kindle that fire so that by the time the Holy Month comes around, it’s burning bright and ready to light up everything around you. A final prayer: May this Ramadan be The One; the one where we are able to emerge from under the shadow of our sins to stand in the cascade of Mercy descending from the heavens. May we be drenched so utterly and completely by it that the effects last in us for the rest of the year that follows.l
But mostly, we’ll just try and experience the atmosphere of the month and let it work its ‘magic’ over us. Some days that may mean sitting down and doing interesting
ast month I had the privilege of seeing a play by the acclaimed playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak an Iraqi born post doctorate researcher based in London.
Although Abdulrazzak received a PhD in Muscular Dystrophy in 1999, he is better known for writing plays that present pertinent yet difficult narratives. ‘Love, Bombs and Apples’ is one of them and a touching story told in four distinct monologues. Each monologue expounds the story of a young man battling with his own internal conflicts whilst recounting shared experience of the sociopolitical world they each encounter from their own perspective. I found his play captivating and really enjoyed each character and watching their stories unfold. The mix of honest introspection and staunch point of view was often uncomfortable but it was such a relief to be presented with questions and thoughts about the Muslim experience post 9/11 that are not often shared in a public domain. Of all Abdulrazzak’s characters, Abdul was my favourite, a young writer fresh out of university with dreams for a future he would never know. I could relate to his experiences of prejudice, feelings of isolation and internalised oppression. I loved his wit and appreciated the way he weaved his experience through his words to us as audience. Of all the characters I felt that Isaac was the most human. Although flawed, as all the characters were, Isaac expresses hope, fear, desire, love and the challenge of a shifting sense of loyalty. Being the only non-Muslim character, I felt a little cheated that he was given a
richer narrative with broader context that involved wholesome relationships with others, affording him a deeper context in which to explore his own morality. I approached Abdulrazzak later. Amongst other things, I asked him about his play and what inspired him to spend his time between scientific research and storytelling.
What motivated you to engage in a vocation far beyond your science background exploring such challenging themes? I have always written stories and poems although they were mainly shared with my friends, cousins and immediate family. However, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, my country of origin, I was compelled to write a play (Baghdad Wedding) that showed a different side to Iraq than the one presented in the news. There was such a focus on the looting of museums in Baghdad and the acts of violence by insurgents that some people in the West ended up concluding that Iraq was this barbaric place and it had always been so. I was keen to show another side of Iraq by
focusing on the educated middle class and to remind the audience that the destruction of Iraq by the West didn’t just start in 2003 but happened during the preceding decade when crippling economic sanctions were imposed on the country. There is a sense of a common story or thread being woven through Love, Bombs and Apples. What is the core message you wish to convey in your writing as a whole? I guess I want to present stories that are not immediately obvious, ones that challenge the stereotype about Muslims or that address the politics of the Middle East but in a sideways, complex fashion, capturing the humanity and the complexity of characters. Israeli occupation is not the immediate concern but it becomes so as the story develops and this makes it unusual in the context of telling stories about Palestine. I guess what I always look for in a story about the Middle East is an interesting, unexpected entry point into the story, one that takes us away from the headlines and into the hearts of the characters. All the characters in Love, Bombs and Apples are seeking very ordinary, human objectives that make them clash with the bigger political picture around. This is typified by the story of Sajid, who thinks he has written the definitive post 9/11 novel only to be arrested by the police who think he has written a terror manual. While the play presents honest accounts of personal experience giving voice to marginalised groups and narratives, is the
richness of Isaac’s character a means of securing a more cosmopolitan audience than the storyline would otherwise allow? No, not at all. The show developed rather organically. The first draft of the first monologue (the story of the Palestinian actor) was written back in 2009 at a time when Gaza was being bombed by the Israelis. When we were putting the show together in 2014, Gaza was once again being bombed. We had the first three monologues but realised there was room for a fourth monologue. And I thought it would be rather appropriate to revisit the Palestine issue but this time from a Jewish American perspective. I was inspired by an article I had read in the New York Review Of Books as well as an online lecture by Norman Finkelstein that spoke of the generational gap in the American Jewish community regarding Israel. The older generation which lived through the 1967 war when Israel faced an existential crisis, grew up with a sense of allegiance to the country because they saw it as the underdog, whereas the sons and daughters of that generation, who often, though not always, have a liberal outlook, have only known Israel as the aggressor. Hence I wanted to create Isaac’s story in order to dramatise that generational tension. His story may appear to be richer than the others but that is only because his position is so complex. I wanted to take my time with the story to paint the world of Issac’s powerful father, a staunch Zionist for whom Israel can do no wrong and who has a kind of irresistible male charisma versus the
world of Isaac’s Jewish girlfriend who sympathises with the Palestinians. This way you can feel the power of the dilemma Isaac faces when he is forced to make a choice between his father and his girlfriend. So I guess it was the complexity of that story that resulted in it being the longest in the play. I
hope that the audience will emphasise with all characters regardless of their background because they will be able to put themselves in their shoes. Lastly, your portrayal of a radicalised young man who is lost in his skewed perception of the world around him, his only saving grace being his loyalty towards an elderly relative, was so arresting. It remained with me as a feeling above and beyond its memory. How are you able to create such depth of character while commandeering the audience’s attention to explore difficult themes as entertainment? When ISIS first appeared on the scene, news channels would comment on their high definition videos that were available on You Tube. It was possible to watch these videos easily and what
struck me about them is how much like an advert they appeared. They were selling an idea: the caliphate, a land where Muslims from the West could go and hold their heads high, where they could erase the borders between Muslim nations that the colonial oppressor put in place for their own ends. The beheadings and the brutality came a little later. Those early videos were appealing to a certain kind of person who had never found their place in the West. Something about those videos reminded me of the Apple product adverts which often sell you the ideology behind the product as much as the product itself. So I wanted to create a character that is lost between these two sets of adverts, these two sets of ideology, both empty in their own way. Near my home is a Westfield store and there I observed many young people going in to the Apple store just to touch the products. Many of them probably fantasised about these products which were out of their reach economically. That is in a way symbolic of success in the West which is out of reach for many young Muslims who face racism and prejudice, making them potential victims of extremist ideology.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.
The spiritual significance of
the last nights of Ramadan
Julia Khadija Lafene summarises some of the inner practices we can follow during Ramadan, in particular during the last ten nights
ost of us are aware of the basic rules and purpose of the Holy month of Ramadan. While we might think of fasting as mainly physical, since it is a holistic prophetic practice and discipline, it is also psychological, emotional and spiritual. So our inner spiritual potential in Islam and our outer physical adherence to the prophetic way are interdependent. This is the middle way. This means that the outer practices of Ramadan, while beneficial in themselves, must be combined with deeper spiritual practice and understanding in order to reap the full benefits and blessings of this special time. The month of Ramadan is usually divided into three parts of ten days each. In the first part it is recommended to establish the basic outer practices and understand their meaning: obedience to God’s laws & gratitude to Him for our sustenance; refraining from things which are haram (forbidden) or makruh (not recommended); experiencing & empathising with the deprivation of the poor and needy; strengthening moral behaviour & solidarity of Muslim family
and society; improving one’s health and feeding the spirit by enjoying the blessedness of the month! At this time one could also carry out a physical purification of the body through detoxification accompanied by de-cluttering of one’s house and possessions. ‘For everything, there is a zakat and the zakat of the body is fasting.’ (Prophet Muhammad(s))Zakat is basically purification. During the second period we continue with all these and begin mental decluttering, that is breaking some of the bad habits of the nafs and replacing them with good habits. For example being impatient and quick to anger can be replaced with patience and forgiveness. During the third period, we continue all these but intensify our spiritual practice. We need to be consistent with outer practice in order to benefit spiritually. We all think we know the meaning of shirk, i.e. worshipping other gods than God, but at a deeper level, shirk means worshipping ‘to be seen by others’ and seeing an ultimate cause in anything other than God. It is said that fasting is for Him, meaning that other people need not know whether we are fasting or not. The Prophet(s) said that ‘In Ramadan, the gates of the garden are opened and the gates of the Fire are closed.’ Also said, ‘Everything has a door and the door to acts of Devotion is fasting’. This means that God has given us Ramadan as a special opportunity to
receive openings from Him. Of course, He is always there, but we put up veils and distractions between us and Him. To remove these veils as well as outer abstention, we practise ‘inner abstentions’.
. Restraining our thoughts from preoccupation with a base or worldly concerns. . Turning our thoughts and intellect towards contemplation of God’s attributes, and trying to cultivate those attributes in ourselves, for example, generosity, compassion, fair dealing. . Restraining our fantasies. We can use our power of imagination for good, for example, meditating on God’s light. . Trying to get rid of delusions and illusions, for example, the illusion of status, wealth, ownership, importance, and attachments. . Seeing God in everything – even what appears to be ‘bad’ has meanings and lessons for us. Because we have more time when we are not eating and drinking and watching TV etc, God has given us space to practise these and gain the ultimate joy of His presence. We can reflect on the weaknesses of our Self and ask ourselves questions like what are my attachments? What do I love about my life other than God? After the ritual prayers, we can ask Him for guidance in changing our self, for example, ‘I am too attached to my control over my family/my wealth/ my status;
help me to give this up by remembering God and taking practical action.’ If we sincerely practise these abstentions we are truly fasting and will achieve the state of the ‘tranquil soul’ (nafs al mutma’inna) when we are not possessed or controlled by the lower self. The Night of the Decree (Laylat al Qadr) is especially important for these inner practices. On this night the Holy Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet in totality. Scholars take this to refer to the inner revelation/meaning, as the outer was revealed over a period of time (17:106). We are recommended to spend a few days and nights in ‘Itikaf (retreat), in silence, leaving behind all our normal activities. Mobile phones especially are switched off! We eat very sparingly at Suhur (early breakfast) and Iftaar (breaking the fast), maintain silence, and try to stay awake during the night, as it is well known that most spiritual progress occurs late at night until dawn.
This is a night of great significance when creational energies are at their most powerful. ‘In it descends the Angels and the Spirit by permission of their Lord – empowered for every affair – Peace! It is until the break of dawn’. (97:5) The word for spirit–ruh- is related to the word for ‘breeze’ or ‘breath of life’ which was breathed into us at our birth and gives us special spiritual renewal on this night. So if our hearts are pure and we are in our optimum state of trust, equilibrium and readiness we may receive the blessings of inner peace, tranquillity and certainty, which we can build on during the rest of the year. Muhsin Fayd al-Kashani, a sage of the 10th century, described the benefits of Ramadan as follows: ‘Fasting is a screen from the evils of this world and barrier from the punishment of the next. When you fast, make the intention to restrain yourself....purify your innermost from any impurity,
distraction or darkness which cuts you off from the meaning of allegiance to the fact of God the most High. Fasting eliminates the elements of the lower self and reduces the grip of desires. From it comes purity of heart and faculties, the wellbeing of the inward and outward, gratitude for blessings, beneficence to the poor, increase in supplication to God, humility and weeping. Fasting is the rope of taking refuge in God and the cause of the breaking habits and desires.... the benefits are immeasurable.’ Basically, therefore, the true fast is not just abstention from food; the greatest spiritual benefits can only be received through practising the inner abstentions, which are intensified during the last ten days.l Jullia Khadija Lafene graduated in Modern History from Oxford University. Since embracing Islam she has studied Islamic Psychology and Self-knowledge.
e d W u c a t i o n
Abbas Di Palma takes a look at the early spiritual education for children
hen a person looks for information on conception and pregnancy, he/she will find lot of material about the time to start taking folic acid, what to eat and what not to eat before and after the delivery, and so on. All these details are concerned with the physical aspect of the foetus but not with the spiritual, intellectual and emotional development of the child. On a religious level the role of the mother during pregnancy has a fundamental impact to build the future personality of children. One of the most important thing that will have effect on the life of an individuals are the sentiments and the emotions of the mother during pregnancy. Feelings as wrath, fear, depression and anxiety produce a change in the body that will influence the foetus during its growing. Especially if the mother is subject to these emotional states for long time, the danger of a negative impact on the psyche and the soul of the child would be more. It has been proven also that the foetus can hear the voice of the mother as he can hear
many sounds coming from the external world. It seems however that the foetus prefers the human voice, especially the voice of the mother. Some Muslim mothers recite the Qurâ€™an very often and try to always be in a positive state of mind so that the foetus may be positively influenced from the first day. Although it is not necessarily the case the prayer of the parents are not to be underestimated in any circumstance, even before the actual birth of the child. On a spiritual level, the mother should lay down the foundation for her child to be a good Muslim and this can happen since the first development of the foetus. Several narrations from the holy imams say that the pregnant mothers should always stay in state of ritual purity, or at least as much as they can; this is because God prefer those who purified themselves and it is said also that angels are in this way much closer. Furthermore, the mother should stay away from sins as much as possible as sins would have a negative impact on the foetus and its personality. According to scientific reports, the brain is already present during the eighth week of pregnancy. At this stage many women may not consider this fact but it is an issue worth to think about since early stages because the brain is a
fundamental part of the child that will support him for the rest of his life. This same brain may have a role in choosing or rejecting Godâ€™s path as soon as physical and religious maturity has been reached. It would not be wise to harm the brain during its early development inside the womb. As Muslims, we must learn all valuable information in order to transmit our children the genuine message of Islam. The holy Qurâ€™an and the noble invocations are very important in this regards as the womb is the first school of an individual from which he may apprehend many valuable things useful not just for this world but also and foremost for the next one which is his final destination. Then, after the pregnancy the support of both parents will be very influential for the future development of the child and the shaping of his personality. We cannot ignore the
general without considering that their safeguarding and well-being will greatly help the new generations by creating harmony and stability amongst all parts of society. Especially if the focus is a godly lifestyle, the child will receive a special type of confidence that will help him to face any type of difficulties and finally achieve perpetual peace that eventually would be distributed wherever he goes.
sound growth that should happen under the care of both parents as it is from them that love, compassion and humanity can be instilled in the best way to the child from his very early start.
received from someone who act with dishonesty or who spend most of his time in illegal activities won’t be of a quality one and more immorality will most probably stem from it.
Such attitude will also improve the conduct of the parents themselves that will not focus only on their dos and don’ts but also on the mercy that from God would flow from them directly to their children.l
In most cases, if not all, the growth of a child is also influenced by the environment and the education provided by the parents. A famous narration confirm this by saying: “All children are born in a natural state, then his parents make him a Jew, a Christian or a Zoroastrian”. The parents who speak to the child with sincere words full of love and compassion will definitely have a different impact on him than those who speak with them with insincerity and whose heart have been evidently contaminated by sins, immorally and disobedience to the Creator. A child may benefit from his father who spend his incomings for him: here the focus should not be the financial or material benefit but the very kindness, compassion and the purity of intention that will help the child in acquiring beautiful traits. Certainly, the support
Much of what can happen to our children in their life is usually the result of part of our responsibilities. To live for the upliftment of the family is not a wasted life. Unfortunately some tendencies in modern societies tend to look down to the foundation of the family and to the household in
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.
The Universal Need for Justice Faith
Justice has a significant role in our worldview, be it based on our religious conviction or solely on human desire, says Kubra Rizvi
he Prophet Muhammad(s) proclaimed the message of Islam at a time when the Arabs buried their daughters alive. Through his words and actions, he reminded Muslims to love children and be kind towards them. Although this aspect of Islamic teachings is well-known and emphasised, we may not be aware of the Prophet’s emphasis on being just towards children. From the very beginning, children should witness justice from their parents; even the smallest issues should be handled with justice. It is these actions which we may consider trivial that develop the quality of justice within the child. The Holy Prophet(s) saw a man with two children; he kissed one and did not kiss the other. The Prophet(s) said, “Why did you not treat them with justice?” In another tradition, he states, “Keep justice for all your children in your mind even when some of them are away. If you desire treatment of love, kindness and justice from your children, then give them similar treatment.”
Consequently, as parents, we have a duty to teach our children about justice and raise them to be committed towards justice. Parents who are just do not show preference to a son or a daughter, or a child who is more beautiful or intelligent; they have the same feelings of love and affection for all of their children. Just as the Prophet(s) guided us 1400 years ago, psychological studies (K. McAuliffe, P. Blake, F. Warneken, 2017) have found that children, even infants, can recognise unfairness. Infants as young as 12 months expect that resources (such as sweets) should be divided equally between two characters in a scene, whereas nursery-aged children will protest if they receive less than their peers. As children get older, they are willing to punish those who have been unfair, whether they are victims themselves or when they witness someone else being treated unfairly. However, although children in general develop a sense of when they have been wronged by a young age, the tendency to recognise unfairness when others
are wronged varies across cultures, according to Katherine McAuliffe and her colleagues. The drive to be treated fairly is a basic human response, indicating that the sense of justice is universal and innate, but the sense of equality for others - or social justice - is not so innate. This finding is very useful in understanding why, although the desire for justice is so innate and universal, we do not observe a world filled with justice. It is quite the opposite, a world filled with injustice. Findings suggest that we need to learn social justice. According to Dr Eileen Kennedy-Moore, parents and educators have a responsibility to teach children about social justice by helping them to imagine how others feel and becoming aware of current and historical injustices. If we role model kindness and compassion to those who are suffering, like orphans and the poor, our practical concern will teach our children more than mere words. Every week during Friday prayers we are encouraged to remember those suffering
According to the Qur’an, one of the reasons that prophets were sent was to establish justice, “So that mankind may maintain justice” (57:25).
injustice worldwide. In fact, according to the Prophet(s), all believers are like one body; if one part of them is hurt then all the others feel the pain. Imam al-Sadiq(a)says, “As pure and cool water is craved for by a thirsty person, so do people desire to have justice and equality and their taste is sweeter and better for them. There is nothing better than justice.” Unlike other virtues which may have exceptions or extremes, justice stands alone as the only virtue which is good in every case, while injustice, its opposite, is always abhorrent. It is a universal value regardless of faith, ethnicity, or nationality. Even those with no faith will profess to love justice and detest injustice. Justice is such a universal value that the Imam compares it to thirst. All humanity feels thirst; likewise, all humanity longs for justice, especially when the world is full of injustice. The concept of an awaited saviour of humanity who will establish a just world is found in many religions.
Even someone who does not believe in religion will still desire justice because justice is the universal law around which the whole system of creation revolves. Justice is so essential that it is even one of our fundamental beliefs and a condition for any social position in our jurisprudence. The true meaning of the word justice implies that everything is in its own proper place. Consequently, any violations of anyone’s rights are contrary to the principle of justice. According to the Qur’an, one of the reasons that prophets were sent was to establish justice, “So that mankind may maintain justice” (57:25). If justice is established, it means all forms of oppression, injustice, tyranny, discrimination and bloodshed would be abolished. In her Sermon of Fadak, Lady Fatima(a) said that justice is prescribed to establish proper harmony in the hearts. When justice is established in the world just as it was filled with tyranny, the rancour and hatred in our hearts will be replaced with peace and harmony.
In the blessed month of Sha‘ban, we celebrate the birth of Imam Husayn(a) and Imam Mahdi(atf). There is a special relationship between these two holy Imams, and perhaps the most salient aspect is that they are both symbols of justice. Imam Husayn(a)sacrificed everything when he rose against an unjust ruler, while Imam Mahdi(atf) is the one who will fill the earth with justice. It may be for this reason that he is the awaited Saviour of Humanity. A world full of justice is not a dream or an imaginary scenario; it is indeed the reality the world is moving toward. In Nahj al-Balaghah Imam ‘Ali(a), who was rightfully called “The Voice of Human Justice” by George Jordac, states that Imam Mahdi(atf) “will show you the just way of behaviour.” Hence, the followers of Imam Mahdi(atf) will be those who are ready to establish justice in their own souls and hearts, families, and communities worldwide. We pray to God to hasten the reappearance of Imam Mahdi(atf) and include us among his followers who will witness such a just world.l May 2018
Hermits against War Can hermits be forces for peace? the example of the pillar saints, asks Frank Gelli
he definition of a hermit is that of a person living in solitude. When one considers that the harshest and most-dreaded punishment that can be inflicted on a prisoner is solitary confinement, one realises the severity of a hermit’s life. In Christianity, however, being a hermit is a free choice, emanating from the highest religious motives. Surprisingly, saints like the pillar-dwelling ascetics
of Syria and Asia Minor show how a hermit can also be active in promoting peace among people, individuals and nations. The first famous stylite hermit to live on top of a pillar (‘stylus’ is Greek for column or pillar) was a Syrian shepherd-boy called Simeon (390459 AD). Especially devoted to bodily austerities, such as long fasts, he lived in various monasteries in Northern Syria until his Abbot felt he was going too far in self-denial and asked him to
leave. To give an example, he is said to have passed the whole 40 days of Lent in imitation of Christ, without either eating or drinking, so that he nearly died. On another occasion he had his leg fastened to a rock with an iron chain. Wisely, a priest told him it was better to forge an iron will, subservient to God’s will, than to be physically chained. Simeon obeyed and had the iron fetter removed. His reputation for holiness quickly grew among the surrounding
Ruins of the ancient baptistery near the Basilica of St Simeon where the Saint lived on a pillar for about 40 years, Qala›at Samaan, Syria. The baptistery was built a little after the main church but is an important part
people and many thronged about him day and night, begging for his prayers and blessings. The constant press vexed him. He didn’t know what to do, until Christ told him in a dream: “Simeon, you seek to escape the world horizontally. Much better to do so vertically.” That was the beginning of the hermit’s lifelong, heroic ministry from the top of a high pillar. Paradoxically, Simeon’s vertical flight meant that more people flocked to see him. Many were genuine pilgrims, others sightseers in search of wonders, from all walks of life, high and low. And from all nations, Persians, Arabs, Armenians, Scythians, Egyptians, they all came to him. Roman Emperors like Leo, Theodosius and Marcian sought his advice. When Theodosius was contemplating war on the Persians, Simeon restrained him: “Don’t you appreciate Christ’s words? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God’. Pursue not war but peace then, so that at the end of your life, when you are forced to relinquish your earthly crown, a heavenly, imperishable crown will be yours.” The Emperor obeyed and the war, at least for the time being, was averted. The hermit also strove to bring peace between estranged spouses. To a man who complained of his wife’s sharp tongue, Simeon said: ‘If you treated her kindly and gently, like a Christian husband ought to do, she would not behave like a shrew. Correct your behaviour then and you will see your wife’s conduct change accordingly.’ While preaching to pious crowds from his improbable pulpit, Simeon never neglected his awesome austerities. The pillar platform apparently did not exceed three feet in diameter, which meant he could not lie down on it. He only stooped or leaned and often in the day he bowed his head in prayer. He made exhortations to the people
Old monks cells hermits on the rock of Meteora, Greece twice a day, every afternoon, and would hear confession privately from people who climbed near his platform on a ladder. As to his bodily intake and evacuations, the amount of food and drink he daily consumed was so small that he compared his output to that of birds… Inevitably, Simeon’s holiness had imitators. Another Simeon, named the Younger (Feast Day, 5 May), and a St Daniel Stylite were among them. The former saint, again, had much influence on rulers and common people alike. Even before ascending to his pillar, he was celebrated for his miracles such as taming wild animals, healing the incurable, reading the thoughts of others and foretelling future events. He would say that ‘there is no such crime abhorred by God than the shedding of innocent blood’. He compared unjust wars to sacrilege and blasphemies and repeatedly lambasted the Byzantine Court for its aggressive adventures. Tradition has it that on one occasion a powerful courtier was so annoyed by the saint’s peace-loving sermons that he dispatched two assassins to dispose of the man of God. They got as far as the foot of the pillar and, armed with daggers, by night began to scale it on a ladder. They had nearly reached the top when a fiery shape, an angel warned them
off. The scoundrels were so frightened that they fell off the ladder. The noise summoned the local people and the badly injured hit-men were chased away. Although hermits still exist in the Eastern Orthodox Church, our secular age would consider a pillar saint to be as mad as a hatter. Admittedly, they were a little extravagant. The Church accepts that holiness can take extreme forms, shocking to human eyes, if God so wills. Nonetheless, working for peace, saying a firm no to unjustified wars is perhaps one of the most valuable messages the ancient ascetics have left us. Syria, the land where some of the Stylite saints lived, preached and ministered, is currently being torn by terrible violence and bloodshed. Some fear that Western nations are cynically about to take advantage of the Syrian civil war to intervene and cause even more murder and mayhem. The nonviolent witness of St Simeon and his brothers is thus as topical as ever. And so is Christ’s promise: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of 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.
Travel Guide to
Muslim Europe With travel writer and European Muslim heritage specialist Tharik Hussain
The Jewel in the
Muslim European crown
omeone once said, “When you have visited the Alhambra once, you spend the rest of your life waiting to go back…” Few phrases better sum up Europe’s most famous Islamic monument in Granada, Spain. Yet, it is not the Alhambra per se that one is eager to return to.
For the Alhambra - from the Arabic alqala’at al-hamra, to mean ‘red castle’ because of the red hill it is perched upon - is an entire palatial city with a mixture of monumental segments constructed by various Muslim and Christian rulers. The section that is on the cover of every guidebook and in the mind’s eye is what might be deemed the ‘jewel’ in this Muslim European crown - The Palacios Nazares or The Nasrid Palace - that exquisite series of quarters once home to the dynasty after whom it is named. This is the Alhambra that hypnotises the visitor - the delicately balanced symmetry of the Courtyard of the Myrtles, the stunning Patio of Lions where elegantly slim pillars resembling a forest of palms - hold aloft mesmerising, engraved arabesque arches. Both spaces are open to the elements and use the water in ways that leave the uninitiated aghast. “Water forms the mysterious life of
the Alhambra: it allows the gardens to grow exuberantly green, it gives birth to the splendour of flowering shrubs and bushes, it rests in the pools reflecting the elegantly arcaded halls, it dances in the fountains and murmurs in rivulets through the very heart of the royal residence. Just as the Qur’an describes Paradise, “An orchard flowing with streams.””- Titus Burckhardt, German-Swiss connoisseur of Islamic art and architecture. Then there is Comares Tower with its dazzling facade of intricate carvings and Arabic calligraphy praising God and His Messenger, and the Hall of the Kings where each honeycombed stuccoed arch resembles the one before it like a vision of infinite mirrors. It goes on and on. This is what the seekers come looking for. This is what evokes that dreamy, imagined epoch of European history we call ‘Al-Andalus’. And yet, ironically, the city of Granada and the Alhambra only reached its own cultural zenith long after the ‘Golden Age’ of Al-Andalus had come to an end. That age began in the early 8th century and lasted up until the middle of the 11th. It was founded by the Muslim European Umayyad dynasty, an offshoot of the Syrian-based Umayyads, centred around their capital city of Cordoba,
which at its height was the most enlightened city in all of Europe. “Many of the traits on which modern Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, various types of medicine, and hospitals, all came from this great city of cities.” - Prince Charles, Prince of Wales The Alhambra was actually being built as Al-Andalus was crumbling and becoming a series of disparate feudal kingdoms - taifas, and its founder wasn’t even Muslim. The Alhambra, or a palace on the hill where the Alhambra now stands, was first built by the great Jewish scholar, poet and vizier Samuel Ibn Naghrillah at the start of the 11th century. The Muslim rulers of Granada at the time - the Zirid sultans - lived in a palace in the Albayzin - Granada’s historic quarter. As each taifa was being slowly picked off by the Christians descending from the north, an Arab whose family trace their roots back to Madinah, called Muhammad Ibn Yusuf Ibn Nasr, took hold of Granada in 1231. It was Ibn Nasr that decided to make the Alhambra his family home and it was his dynasty – the Nasrids – that was
Where in the world: The Nasrid Palace is inside the Alhambra Palace city atop a hill to the east of the city of Granada in southern Spain. The hill overlooks the historic district of the town known as the Albayzin.
In and out: The best way to get into Granada is either by flying into the local airport from many European cities or flying into Andalusia’s busiest hub, Malaga and getting a bus (around two hours) to Granada’s main bus terminal.
responsible for its expansion, fortification and development into a palatial city, complete with a market, mosque, residential quarters, baths and gardens. By 1264 the Nasrids were the only Muslim rulers left in Christian Iberia, and somehow for the next two and half centuries, they alone flew the flag of ‘Muslim Spain’. This is also the era, in which Granada flourished, achieving its own cultural golden age (1344-1396); a period in which the most sumptuous parts of the palace city were also constructed. The Alhambra remained the home of several Nasrid rulers right up until the late 15th century and the reign of Abu Abd Allah - known as ‘Boabdil’ in the West. This final Nasrid ruler was defeated by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II and Isabella I in January of 1492. The symbolic acquisition of the keys to the Alhambra palace city that year by the Catholic Monarchs also drew to a close 781 years of Muslim rule in Spain. For the next couple of centuries, the Alhambra was popular with various Spanish Christian monarchs,
Top tips: The finest view overlooking the Alhambra just happens to be where the city’s first purpose built mosque in five centuries sits; on a hill in the Albayzin directly opposite the palacecity. Pop along to the Mezquita de Granada to pray alongside Granada’s modern Muslim community - the largest in all of Spain, and for great photo opps of the view across to the Alhambra. Washington Irving came upon a decaying monument that had become the dwelling place of “a loose and lawless population: contrabandistas ....thieves and rogues of all sorts...”, and wrote about this in his seminal book, Tales of the Alhambra, released three years after his visit. The book sold well and captured the imagination of the West. In 1870, the Spanish authorities declared the palace city of Alhambra a national monument and work began to renovate and restore it. Then in 1984, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list as the “only preserved palatine city of the Islamic period” of Spain.
who made their own additions to the complex, including the impressive round Palace of Charles V. However, by the time a certain American writer wandered through Granada in the spring of 1829, the Alhambra had fallen into neglect.
Today, the Alhambra Palace city in Granada is Spain’s premier tourist attraction and probably the most visited European Muslim monument on the continent.l Tharik Hussain spends much of his time travelling across Europe in search of the continents fourteen centuries of Muslim history. You can follow his work at: www.tharikhussain.co.uk
Prophets as Lessons from the Nahj ul Balagheh series
Dear Children, Assalam Alaikum
s we said in our previous issues we are going to tell stories related to Imam Ali(a) and his words of advice given to the people of his time which are also valuable for us today. The sayings of Imam Ali(a) are recorded in a book called Nahj ul Balagheh. In one of his sermons (sermon 160) Imam Ali(a), speaking to those in charge of governing people encourages them to be hopeful and have faith in God, and not fear anything or anyone except God. We should remember to be good towards other people and obedient towards God. He says we should understand that God is the All-Powerful and we should have trust in Him and no one else. It is important that we give more importance to God than anyone or anything else. Imam Ali(a) reminds people that a simple life is better than having a desire for everything and to be good to others is the best thing to do. The Imam gives some examples from the lives of the Prophets. He says by knowing how prophets lived, we can recognise what is bad or evil and what God likes or dislikes us to do. He suggests to people, especially those in power, to use the Prophets of God as role models. He gives the example of the Prophet Muhammad(s), who had a difficult life as a child but remained thankful to God and was always 24
ready in serving and helping people without the desire of getting rich and powerful. The second example he talks about is the Prophet Musa(a). Even though Musa was given a very important role to lead his people, we would only ask God to give him simple food [bread]. The Prophet Musa(a) kept himself slim by eating simple food, possibly only vegetables. Another example of a prophet living a simple life is the Prophet (a) Dawood [David]. Imam Ali(a) says: “if you want to make Dawood(a) your role model let me tell you that he used to make baskets with dry leaves from date trees with his own hands and would say to his friends and companions, ‘which of you would help me to sell these baskets’, and the income of such sales would have been sufficient for him. He ate bread made of barley bought with that money.” The other example is that of the Prophet Isa(a) [Jesus] son of Maryam(a) [Mary]. Imam says:
“Jesus(a), is one of the most important Prophets of God. He would use a stone as his pillow, would wear rough garments and eat dry bread and this was sufficient for him. The moon was his guiding light at night and his shelter in the winter was the sky of the east and the west. His food was fruit and vegetables and what grew from the earth for the cattle. He had no wife to have a love for and no children to worry about. He had no desire for the world so he would not bring himself low in front of the world. His means of transport was his own two feet and his servants were his two hands.” He then describes more about the Prophet Muhammad’s(s) way of life. “Look at the life of the Messenger of God, who is a source of pride and greatness. God sent the Prophet as a messenger, bringing
good news and a warning to humankind. He was the best of the creations in childhood, purest when growing up, the humblest one in adulthood, the most trusted among people and the most giving to those who approached him.” As Imam Ali(a) said, the lives of the Prophets give us a good measure to recognise what is good or bad. The more we follow their examples the more we should consider those persons good and trustworthy and should follow them. Our role models are Prophets [the messengers of God] and the chosen and pious Imams of Ahl ul Bayt(a). The more a lifestyle is closer to their examples, the closer we get to God. Until the next sermon.l
Illustrator Ghazaleh Kamrani
What & Where Through May Tafseer of the Holy Qur’an Conducted by: Shaykh M S Bahmanpour Venue: Islamic Centre of England, 140 Maida Vale, London W9 1QB Time: Every Friday starting at 7.30 PM
Through to 23 June Exhibition: ARABÉCÉDAIRE This solo exhibition is dedicated to the influential Egyptian modernist painter Hamed Abdalla (1917-1985). ARABÉCÉDAIRE explores Abdalla’s extensive archives, looking at him both as an artist and as a researcher. This will be the first exhibition in the UK of this significant Egyptian artist. Venue: The Mosaic Rooms, A.M. Qattan Foundation, Tower House, 226 Cromwell Road, SW5 0SW More info: http://mosaicrooms.org/ event/arabecedaire/
1 - 11 May
further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
generations endure displacement, poverty and refugee-hood.
Venue: Woolf Institute, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0UB Time: 5.30 PM Entry: Free, but booking essential More info: http://www.woolf.cam.ac.uk/ whats-on/events/ 5 May
Speakers: Professor Karma Nabulsi-Will Avi Shlaim Venue: Royal Horticultural Halls, The Lindley Hall, Elverton St, SW1P 2QW Time: 5.00 PM - 9.30 PM Tickets: £25 More info: http://www.ukislamicevents. net/#event|nakba-narratives-london|9935
The Art of Speaking from the Heart
A Silent Refugee
The art of speaking from the heart, a monthly poetry workshop led by poet and performer Sukina Pilgrim. These monthly workshops are tailored to bring out the creative voice and reflections within you, using creative writing, group sessions and paired discussions. Open to all levels, no experience is necessary. Absolute beginners and seasoned writers welcome.
Fundraising event with guest speaker Dr Uthman Lateef. The aim is to raise awareness on how we can make a difference to the people who most need our help in Yemen, Syria and Rohingya. There will also be an auction as well as eye-witness accounts. A three-course meal will be provided.
Venue: Rumi’s Cave, 26 Willesden Ln, London NW6 7ST, UK Timings: 2.00 PM - 6.00 PM Fee: £15 Website: https://www.rumis.org/events/
The Art of the Islamic Pattern A two-week intensive course on Islamic Patterns. Students will be taught the basic principles of geometric design and then progress to patterns from medieval Iran/Persia, where Islamic art reached an extraordinary peak of perfection. Venue: Hub67, 67 Rothbury Road, Hackney Wick, E9 5HA Timings: 10:00 AM – 4.45 PM (3:15 PM Tue, Thurs) Fees: see the website. Booking: http://artofislamicpattern.com More info: 07900466866/ 07906844321
Join us for an evening of inspirational speeches, mouth-watering food, activity-packed crèche and never-seen-before auction and raffle prizes! All while we help orphans in Iraq who are suffering from critical illnesses and preventable diseases. Venue: Premier Banqueting London, 1 Canning Road, London, Harrow, HA3 7TS Time: 6.00 PM - 11.00 PM Tickets: £50 More info: http://noororphansfund.org/
5 & 6 May The Fourth International Conference on Shi’i Studies - The Islamic College 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. Venue: 133 High Road, Willesden, London, NW10 2SW Website: https://www.islamic-college. ac.uk/publications/shiistudies/ Contact number: +44 (0) 20 8451 9993 5 - 13 May Ramadan Preparation Seminar
The Importance of Interfaith in Terms of Social Justice A talk by Dr Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and former Archbishop of Canterbury. For
Noor Orphans Annual Gala Dinner
Venue: Amba Hotel, Bryanston St, Marylebone, W1H Time: From 5.30 PM Fee: £25 More info: http://www.ukislamicevents.net/
May 15 will mark 70 years since the mass displacement of Palestinians from their land in 1948, who remain exiled in their millions until today. Those that experienced the Nakba in 1948 have since witnessed up to four successive
Please join us for this unique and interactive seminar by Tadabbur Institute about the blessed month of Ramadan. Maximise your chances to make the best out of the month of change, development and reconnection with the book of God.
Venues: Sheffield, Cardiff, Manchester, Leeds Tickets: £10 (Lunch provided) More info/Details: email@example.com 8 May How to Eat Well in Ramadan HSBC Muslim Network, in association with HSBC, is delighted to announce ‘How to Eat Well in Ramadan: A Nutritionist Explains’, where our guest nutritionist Sylvia Salvendy will be coming in to speak on health and well-being during Ramadan. She will answer questions, clear misconceptions and provide sample menus. Venue: HSBC, 8 Canada Square, Floor 34, Room 17, Canary Wharf, E14 5HQ Time: 6.00 PM - 7.30 PM Fee: Free More info /booking: https://www. eventbrite.co.uk/e 9 May (TIMES) Forum 2nd Annual Post-graduate Symposium The Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (TIMES) Post-Graduate Forum has been formed to facilitate discussion amongst Post-graduate taught and Post-graduate research students interested in any of the fields related to TIMES including theology; philosophy; history; law; politics; social policy; and the arts literature language and culture of the Islamic world. Venue: Muirhead Tower, Main Lecture Theatre, G15, University of Birmingham, B15 2TT Time: 9.00 AM - 5.00 PM Entry: Free More info: https://www.birmingham. ac.uk/ Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 10 May Islamic illumination introductory workshop In this Islamic illumination introductory workshop, you will complete a small
illumination with gouache gold, outline it with black ink and paint the background. You will also learn the history of Islamic illuminations and see various examples from the masters. Venue: Cass Art Islington, 66-67 Colebrooke Row, N1 8AB Time: 1.30 PM - 5.30 PM Fee: £48.80 More info: https://www.eventbrite. 12 & 13 May Palestine on the Thames Join us in marking the 70th anniversary of the Nakba by exploring its meaning to many of us. The theme is ‘Nakba In My Present’ and we will be holding a number of presentations by speakers, sharing their views, feelings, experiences about what Nakba means to them. We will also host a vibrant programme including art, workshops, stalls and pop-up shops. There will be a raffle, excellent food and good discussion. Venue: 26 Willesden Ln, NW6 7ST Time: 10.00 AM - 8.00 PM Website: https://ashaam.co.uk/event/ More info: email@example.com 14 May Author Evening: ‘20 Q&As on Black Europe’ An evening with author Stephen Small, Professor of African American Studies at University of California, Berkeley. His book puts Black people in Europe at the centre of analysis, defines and interrogates the key aspects of Black Europe, and describes and elaborates the circumstances of Black people across twelve nations in Europe. The primary focus is on citizenship and institutional racism – rather than on immigration and assimilation. An analysis of gender is at the core of the book. Venue: IHRC Bookshop, 202 Preston Road, Wembley HA9 8PA Time: From 6.30 PM More info: www.ukislamicevents.net/
14 May to 16 July wPersian Calligraphy, Nasta’liq Script By Keramat Fathinia This ten-week exercise-based Persian calligraphy course is suitable for all levels. It is based on a one-to-one teaching method. You will learn the writing techniques of the Nasta’liq script during the course, and the first session will start with a general introduction to the traditional tools, materials, and various Islamic calligraphy styles. Keramat Fathinia is a Persian calligrapher who has been teaching calligraphy for over 16 years. Venue: MBI Al Jaber Building, 21 Russell Square Room: MBI Al Jaber Seminar Room Time: 6:30 to 8:30 PM Fees: £250 and £20 for materials and tools. To register visit: https://store.soas.ac.uk/ Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org Contact Tel: 020 7898 4330/4490 17 May Book Launch: Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration and Identity Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is the former Pakistani high commissioner to the United Kingdom and Ireland. His most recent book, completes an unprecedented quartet of studies examining relations between the West and the Muslim world. Venue: Woolf Institute, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0UB Time: 8.00 PM - 10.00 PM Entry: Free, but booking is essential More info: http://www.woolf.cam.ac.uk/
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.