issue 60 vol. 6 June 2018
TOGETHER ON THE WINGS OF UNITY FAITH
IMAM HASANâ€™S PERSPECTIVE ON POLITICS INTERFAITH
MUSIC IN RELIGION
issue 60 vol. 6 June 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.
Together on the Wings of Unity
Reflections from fellow participants
Wings of Unity: History, Methodology & outcomes
Visit to Focolare Movement
by Prof. Coda & Dr Shomali Editorial team
Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour Amir De Martino Anousheh Mireskandari
‘Imam Mahdi’ Islamic Centre of Rome The opening ceremony
Layout and Design
Contact us Information Article Submissions www.islam-today.co.uk Follow us on:
Faith Vs Renunciation by Abbas Di Palma
Music in religion by Rvd Frank Julian Gelli
A Parisian Paradise Travel Guide to Muslim Europe by Tharik Hussain
Imam of the people Children Corner
Publisher The Islamic Centre of England 140 Maida Vale London W9 1QB Tel: +44 20 7604 5500 ISSN 22051-250
Disclaimer: All information in this magazine is verified to the best of the authors’ and the publisher’s ability. However, islam today shall not be liable or responsible for loss or damage arising from any users’ reliance on information obtained from the magazine.
Imam Hasan’s Perspective on Politics by kubra Rizvi
‘The Art of Seeing’, a photography masterclass by Peter Sanders by Morriam Grillo
Toddlers & Taqwa: a Rmadan goal by Batool Haydar
by Ghazaleh Kamrani
List of Events What & Where
Together on the Wings of Unity
On their return from Italy, Mustafa Merali and Fatimah Alidina-Merali describe their life changing experience during their visit to Focolare Movement
n Saturday 14th April, 23 Shi‘a Muslims – including university students, seminarians and professionals from 15 cities, from Argentina, USA, Canada, UK, Italy and Iran gathered in Italy for what can only be described as an experience of a lifetime. For roughly five days in Loppiano and four days in Rome, we embarked on a two-part journey with our Focolare brethren. In Loppiano we learnt more about the Focolare Movement and got to experience their way of life, and in Rome we joined an international conference on
hope. Perhaps most of us did not expect that on this trip we would embark on a life-changing experience, a journey on which we would get glimpses of God’s love and His potential plan for establishing unity on earth around the Oneness of His being. The programme was organised by Sophia University Institute of Loppiano, Italy – an academic institute established by the Focolare Movement, represented by its president, Professor Piero Coda – in conjunction with the Islamic Centre of England (ICE) in London and Risalat Institute in Qum, represented by their director Huj. Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali.
The few days spent in Loppiano were packed with programs and tours as “These teachers spoke we were taken around the village to see the various schools, businesses about some of the practical ways and workshops that made up the in which they attempt to bring God to community. The participants arrived from their various all aspects of life. countries on day one and we They also try to instill in students the were settled into our respective
need to set aside oneself in order to welcome and love the other.”
accommodations. The next day began our introduction to Loppiano whereby we watched videos about the history and purpose of this small town which has become a kind of lab of fraternity; its diverse members try to build a sampling of a united world. We also heard testimonies from residents about the concrete ways in which they strive to live a life of mutual love and unity with one another. We then proceeded to attend the local mass, after which we lingered to meet and greet people from all over the world and from all walks of life. In the afternoon, we met with the heads of the various ‘Schools of Formation’. The discussion that ensued was intense and fruitful, and the hour-long planned session ran much longer than expected. These teachers spoke about some of the practical ways in which they attempt to bring God to all aspects of life. They also try to instill in students the need to set aside oneself in order to welcome and love the other. June 2018
We later managed to visit the School of Families and the School of Priests where we met and interacted with the various members of the Schools. We asked questions, held discussions and toured the facilities. The School of Families hosts families from different parts of the world to experience the culture of unity while immersed in the Loppiano atmosphere. Families spoke about the importance of communication and explained at length how they emerged stronger and more unified as a result of this program. In the School of Priests, it was interesting to hear about how priests from different parts of the world spend an average of four months at the formation center to live the spirituality of unity as a priority. With emphasis on mutual love, these priests do everything together in harmony, including praying, cooking, cleaning, and studying. Over the course of the next few days we visited Polo Lionello, the Centre for Economics, where we were given a tour of an exhibition displaying and introducing the Economy of Communion - an ethical business model that was founded by Chiara Lubich. The model encourages participating businesses to be an integral part of their communities, willingly sharing a portion of their profits to those in need, thus fostering a “culture of giving”. The talented handicrafts of Loppiano were a joy to see. We visited the studio of renowned artist Ciro who is famous for transforming everyday “scrap material” into beautiful pieces of art. We also visited Hung, the Calligrapher who made stunning wire sculpture. He is also known for his graceful Chinese calligraphy pieces, and we were honoured to have him create a piece for us as we all watched enthusiastically. Among the highlights of the Loppiano trip was the Fifth round of Wings of Unity held at Sophia University Institute.
The conference featured talks by Dr Shomali, Professor Coda, Roberto Catalano, Vincenzo Di Pilato and Sister Shahnaze Safieddine. The theme for this session was: “Mission of Prophets & Mission of Religions”. The discussion brought forth a deep sense of spirituality and connectedness with the Almighty. Drs Coda and Shomali demonstrated a humbling, yet inspiring example of qualities present in the leaders of the end of time. These godly scholars (and their teams of educators and directors) demonstrated a similar action, not in the sense of revelation, but in the sense of bringing to life the spirit of revelations. As they shared their views from the scripture, our hearts kindled with a united sense of devotion to the Almighty and His appointed saviours for the end of times; topping the spiritual fuel for this ongoing life journey.
On our last day in Loppiano, we participated in a sharing session with Sophia staff and students. Professor Coda and Dr Shomali both gave inspirational talks, and we all left feeling inspired by the deep sense of unity that we witnessed. After this great experience, our group was on a spiritual high as we bade farewell to Loppiano and made our way to Castel Gandolfo on the outskirts of Rome, home of the Centro Mariapoli. The picturesque views of the winding roads to the top of the hill, where one view opened to the
“These godly scholars (and their teams of educators and directors) demonstrated a similar action, not in the sense of revelation, but in the sense of bringing to life the spirit of revelations.”
stunning Lake Albano and the other the valley leading to Rome, were the perfect setting for the interfaith conference. The Focolare Movement was hosting an international conference for their Muslim friends entitled “Giving Hope Together: Christians and Muslims journeying in the charism of unity”. Around 400 Christians and Muslims from all over the world gathered for this four-day event. The program included keynote talks by religious leaders, testimonies and experiences by different participants. The talks covered topics such as “Suffering in Islam” presented by Dr Shomali, and “Suffering in Christianity” as well as talks on Lady Mary from both religious view points. Various workshops and sharing circles split the big group into smaller ones, so that all were able to interact and network with fellow brothers and sisters in a more intimate manner. An open afternoon was organised for Saturday the 21st April to invite other guests to partake in this conference, and here Professor Coda and Dr Shomali introduced the Wings of Unity project to all in attendance. Throughout the conference, one attained a new sense of appreciation for the multicultural mosaic of the brethren in faith who shared in this collective unity between Christians and Muslims. It also offered a lens of recognition and reflection of the global peaceful movement of the Focolare, aiming to bring everyone closer to God, irrespective of their declared doctrinal affiliations or lack thereof. Our trip to Loppiano and Unity conferences in Rome were both avenues of reflection, meditation and grounding of oneself back to the ultimate reality; being one with the Almighty. It provided a spiritual boost and cleansing, turning one’s heart (as one of the Focolarini beautifully articulated) into a blank page awaiting God to write His will upon it so that we can fulfill it (as prescribed).l
Reflections from fellow participants: All gratitude belongs to Allah SWT to whom I am ever indebted for this invitation to the summer trip to Italy. In many ways it was but a pilgrimage to higher forms of unity in God; one that was collective, selfless and God-centric. The trip to Loppiano felt like a dream come to reality and provided a heartwarming glimpse at what life in the future (at the end of times) may hold God-willing. Loppiano and its inhabitants provided an ideal sample of what a society governed by high standards of moral ethics that aims to bring unity with God would look like. The organisers, teachers, students and population in general demonstrated an outstanding sense of brotherhood and sisterhood in God and an intense sense of devotion to serving Him and being one with Almighty by being one with his creation. The trip to Rome was very special. It was certainly a conference that was first of its kind compared to others I have attended. As we participated in Juma prayers and ending the conference program with our Christian brethren during their Sunday Mass service, we underwent a similar sense of spiritual uplifting (and arguably higher on both occasions) as they were closer approximations to what spiritual devotion would be like in the forecasted advents of Imam AlMahdi and Jesus peace be upon them. Dr Salaam al Attar (London, ON) This trip made me appreciate different aspects of Islam more and the hope that it’s possible to build a utopian society. I’ve also started understanding more deeply the importance of the human connection and living the words of the Quran that we recite daily. Sister Adeelah Nasser (Houston, Texas)
Leaping in Loppiano Passport ready, journey proceeds Italy the destination, time to lay down more seeds Flying into Florence, as picturesque a city you will see Then travelling onwards to Loppiano, busy with trees Instant calm, instant serenity People determined to love for God in His Sublimity No space for enmity We were in the presence of Spiritual wings of unity Old friends from around the world were reunited In essence their hearts can always be sighted The mark of one is their character Rationality, deeds, efforts and virtues are what matter We sought the path of Absolute Truth Even though sometimes we get distracted by a sore tooth We can still smile in this world of suffering When you have love, the pain can even be sweetening From Loppiano to the old castle land outside Rome We embraced a conference for which many had come Muslims and Christians from across the continents Sitting together being reminded of the blessings The Divine had sent The Holy Prophets and Virtuous Mary are flag bearers for the ship of Truth, to join is free This ship sails on, they know their destination but the Question arises do we? Energised seeds of hope can become branches of light Let’s pray we get to see that sight, the pure light in all its Might Dr Ahmed Khweir (Glasgow, Scotland)
In The Name of our God The Most Merciful and Kind Who made everything we find Before our eyes and mind His Mercy contains all things Under the sun and where lies The unreachable high rings Of the vast expanding skies His garb is that of Tawheed Manifested in multitude He gives and gives to those in need Not seeking their gratitude His Word is Truth; His Action: Light No gift decreases from His Might He is The Beginning, The End Towards Him all hearts and minds tend The key to knowing Him is here: Know yourself, and you will find The One who nurtures humankind From your own heart, He is more near And so He brought us to this sea To drink from a pure source and see His beautiful signs everywhere We thank God for our Unity Dr Mostafa El-Diwany (Montreal, Canada)
Wings of Unity:
History, Methodology & Outcomes by Prof. Coda & Dr Shomali Italy, 21st April 2018
he following is part of an open session of a four day conference organised by the Focolare Movement, entitled: ‘Together to give hope. Christians and Muslims on march with the charisma of unity.’ This session was attended by numerous leaders and promoters of dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The first and last questions were addressed to Dr Shomali and the two middle questions were addressed to Dr Coda.
Introduction by the presenter What Prof Shomali and Prof Coda will talk to us about is the story of ‘Wings of Unity’. Prof Shomali met the Focolare movement many years ago in England. Both sides have led many groups of students to Italy and the city of Qum in Iran for a better understanding of Christianity and Islam. For the last three years in the context of an itinerary of dialogue, a cultural exchange was born between Prof Shomali and Prof Coda and their students at the University of Sophia (Loppiano – Italy), and the name of this initiative is ‘Wings of Unity’. Dr Shomali, what is the Wing of Unity? First I should express my deep gratitude for giving us the blessing of being here together praising God. As you know we have known the Focolare movement for many years and
had many discussions in the UK, Italy and other countries for almost two decades. One of the things which drew my attention from the very beginning was Loppiano and I have a great love and affinity towards it. We kept in touch bringing many groups of students from the Seminaries in Qum to Italy to know more about the Roman Catholic Church and visited many other Christian organisations. We had Catholic/Shi‘a rounds of talks. But I always wanted to know about the spirit of Loppiano. So together with my wife we brought a group of ladies from seminaries in 2013 and after that we invited Roberto Catalano, Cristina, Paul and yourself to Iran. In Qum we talked about the next step and I thought it might be good for our sisters to come for four weeks to observe ‘formation’ in Loppiano. In February 2015 we brought a group of 15 sisters. Thanks be to God, we had a wonderful time. I began to understand the importance of our relationship. Up till then we had known each other for 18 years and I had very carefully observed the movement in different parts of the world.
It was my understanding that we have already established a good level of love, mutual understanding, respect and trust, but it also seemed that we were somehow stuck; we did not seem to be going forward. In one of the meetings in February 2015 in Sofia University, we had an exceptional gathering with students and staff in which we felt a deep sense of unity. In the same meeting, Piero asked me to go back to Sofia to teach. In April 2016 I went back to Sofia to teach a group of MA students. I had four sessions on ‘Islam and Dialogue’. At the end I had a meeting with Piero in his office and that was for us a historical meeting. I told Piero something that a Muslim might never have said to a Christian or vice versa. I said: “We have known each other for a long time and we have trust and love for each other but we do need more guidance from God to move forward. If we sincerely tell God that we have done our best to understand His plan for unity, then God will guide us. However, I believe I cannot say to God, I have done my best if I only read read Muslim literature and only discuss with Muslim scholars and perhaps you feel the same. If we want to understand the plan of God for unity then we must think together. We should ask God to talk to us without conditioning to tell me first and then I would tell the others”.
“One of the things which drew my attention from the very beginning was Loppiano and I have a great love and affinity towards it.” -Dr Shomali
We asked God to help us, no matter which mouth or mind He chooses. So Piero agreed with me and asked what we should call our project. It just came to my mind, ‘the wings of unity’. Because unity, like a bird, should have two wings, because even with two small wings you can fly but with one big and strong wing you cannot fly. Prof Coda, Prof Shomali referred to a moment of great unity, a moment of fundamental importance, what happened? I remember that morning when we spoke for almost two hours and I had the sensation, in what Dr Shomali was saying, that there was a desire, a proposal that carried the stamp of God. It wasn’t something born simply out of a strategy or a thought. I am not sure how to describe it. In both our (religious) traditions we know what it means to perceive God’s
presence, He makes himself present in our lives, our hearts and our minds. I felt this presence strongly. Therefore immediately within the responsibility that I have been given as the dean of this university (Sophia University) in search of a way to live in the spirit of unity, it became clear that this was an idea to welcome. Immediately in order to fully interpret what was behind Dr Shomali’s praying for God to guide us, I felt that - having learned from Chiara during these years that we followed the spirit of unity - that our reciprocal love, starting from our own traditions, has the courage of (accepting) otherness. This reciprocal transparency can express itself in a promise. Having seen (in the past) the example of Chiara in the Malcolm X Mosque in New York meeting Imam Muhammad, I asked Dr Shomali if we should ask God to take into his hands our hearts and minds, to awaken the energy that He wants, both
faithful to our own tradition but open to go all the way to do what He wants. I remember that Dr Shomali immediately accepted this with great joy and I remember his gesture touching my head which I have interpreted as if he wanted to say this is coming from God. We felt this was an exchange in God’s way, we felt this strong presence, and so we made these pacts without preconditions, each one with his own deep faith and a desire to walk together. That’s where we started from. It has been only two years since then and all the steps we have taken have been marked by this complete unity of intention that transcended us. In fact we were the first in being surprised by what was happening. What are the first fruits of this encounter? I think the title that Dr Shomali wanted to give and I loved immediately, Wings of Unity, was appropriate. The wings are us but the wind that allows the wings to fly is God’s spirit. So we started with meetings of small groups from Sophia University and the Islamic Centre of England and in this atmosphere we exchanged our understanding of the unity of God and unity in God, our unity, the way we see it through our own traditions. I remember the first encounter in the room. Dr Shomali said effectively: what we have here is a new place of dialogue. Unity is the aim towards which we move. Our traditions and God’s Spirit push us towards this direction. But unity already exists and is the look of love that God has upon us. We are already one in that look of God’s love but this needs to be
“...when we want to measure how much we have in common or how much we differ, we start to count the elements, such as we both believe in unity of God, one point, ... or how twenty practising Christians and translated into physical terms. We we pray differently…. This is a twenty three practising Muslims, began to understand that there for whom faith is the most important was a methodology of dialogue that huge mistake. thing in life, united. The presence of was not external to each other but ” -Dr Shomali other people was not something to be internal, through the roots of one’s own religious tradition that could open us to the divine breath. So far, we have had five sessions of this dialogue. We decided to involve our youth and we asked ourselves if we would succeed in this experience. We organised the first summer school on the mountains of the Trentino region (Italy), with 20 Christian and 20 Muslims. This has been a miracle of unity. There was joy from the youth; they are more prepared to experience this reality. We have also had two female researchers from the Islamic Centre of England who have been an incredible gift as they spent almost four months at Sophia University immersed in university life. Now one of our students would also like to do his doctorate joined with the University of Qom as a Christian to know (Islam). In December we will have the first Week of Unity, a formative course of seven days for our youths in which we will try to transmit to them what we think God’s teachings are in our own traditions and the experience that comes from practising them.
Dr Shomali, in which way does Wing of Unity forms/trains youths toward peace and dialogue? We have had five rounds of dialogue and in these dialogues which came about after two decades of real practical dialogues we came to understand much better the significance of Unity of God and Unity in God, as Piero said, not only on this platform but in many other places. Just last September in Kenya we had a programme about ‘Unity of God and Unity in God’. In Canada in several universities I talked about this topic, and also at the Scottish parliament. Sometimes there are ideas that I am thinking about and I want to check this with my friends, Muslims and Christians, together on one platform, I raise this in these meetings. I get comments from Muslims and Christians too and this is really beautiful. So what is interesting for us is that we test it in our laboratory. So we tested it in the summer school where
tolerated or something neutral but they found the presence of others in their own relationships with God useful. There was a moment in Dolomites when some of the youth gathered, gradually others joined in and they praised God together and they had such a wonderful time that one of the participants from Montreal told me I pray to God to die in the same tranquillity that I had in that moment. So this is possible that if we really believe in God and give Him the place He deserves then we can be truly united because it is in God that we can be perfectly united. There is a common mistake, when we want to measure how much we have in common or how much we differ. We start to count the elements, such as we both believe in unity of God, one point, or believe in prophecy, another point, or we pray differently…. This is a huge mistake. In my opinion if we believe in One God, this is more than 99%. God is so important that anything else besides Him becomes insignificant. So if we have deep love and devotion for God, then I can see my brother who is also devoted to God is much closer to me than my blood brother if he is not that submissive to God. So this is the core idea that we try to examine and stablish. So if we work together and prove the power of love for God through our joint testimony it would have such an attraction that no one can resist. I hope by working together God finds in us the value to use us for His plan for unity.l
Life & Community
TODDLERS & TAQWA: A Ramadan goal
Batool Haydar wonders at how to understand the spirit of the holy month of Ramadan inside out
his year I realised that Ramadan-decor has become a ‘thing’ and I’m not sure how I feel about it. A part of me likes the idea of preparing for this holy month in some special way, taking out the good cutlery and making an effort to dress for prayers and iftaar. The tradition of making ‘Ramadan foods’ that are unique to every culture (and family!), the setting up of supplication times; there’s something about these little routines that create the atmosphere of Ramadan. However, a part of me is wary about the growing trend of trying to make this month ‘festive’. I find I am okay with the idea of handmade paper-chains and colouring crescent posters because there is an element of intention, focus and personal involvement in these activities. Also, they are both cheap and creative - my favourite combination. However, when it comes to bespoke decorations involving door-wreaths and ‘Ramadan moon’ trees that look eerily like Christmas trees, just moon-shaped - then a part of me inside begins to quiver uncomfortably. The over-cautious part of me begins to have visions of future generations celebrating a commercialised Ramadan that has become just a shell of the true spirit of this holy month. I see Ramadan becoming a season for frenzied rushes to the shops for decor, ornaments and gifts in the same way Christmas and other religious festivals have become over the past decades. I am afraid of losing the true understanding of how spiritual this month is in the excitement of preparing materially for it. That’s why when I got a chance to review ‘The Pool of Paradise: A 30 Day Curriculum’ by Elizabeth Bootman, I could not say no. The book is promoted as an extremely simplified version of the celebrated literary masterpiece of Persian literature by poet FaridudDin Attar, ‘Conference of the Birds’. The original poem is a story about the journey of thirty birds, each representing
an essential human flaw, towards the Creator. It is about shedding away the layers of attachment to this world that burden all of us and reaching the realisation of True Unity. I was interested to see how these deep, philosophical ideas have been explained for children. The chapters were very short, repetitive really in the argument presented by each bird to their leader, the Hoopoe, and his response that convinced them. I got the feeling that the original piece was able to explore each flaw in greater clarity because an adult can understand - and appreciate - the nuances of human character. Children work with a simpler range of emotions and cannot comprehend certain feelings. The few themes that were in the book were relevant though: fear, insecurity, pride, disobedience, all of which even a toddler can relate to on some level. There are prophetic stories interspersed that would be of interest to older children as well a few questions at the end of every lesson. I found the questions a little vague and I’m not sure how well they would be able to answer them. However, children can surprise us with their wisdom, so I look forward to revisiting them when my daughter is older. The best bit about the book was the suggested activity of drawing a pool and having a child stick the picture of each bird with its related moon-phase everyday around the pool so that by the time the story ends after 30 days, all the birds are gathered around the pool and in seeing their reflections, they finally realise the truth of their relationship with their Creator. The author, Elizabeth Bootman, runs the SirajunMunira website and is particularly interested in introducing the spiritual and mystical side of Islam to children. There are quite a few books available on her site and it might be worth a look if you have precocious children or want to develop a greater maturity towards the essence of religion in them from a young age.
However, there are references within the stories to traditions that are inauthentic, I would definitely say this book requires parental reading beforehand and should not be left to a child of reading age to explore on their own because without some personal investment on one’s own part, they are simply tales and could actually become confusing rather than enlightening. The entire story is very much about detaching from the world and all possessions, which is something that we need to reflect on صour daily lives throughout the year and not just in the holy month of Ramadan. I’m glad I found this book. I might not embrace it in its entirety, but I can definitely adapt it to suit our lifestyle. In fact, I think I might learn more from contemplating the individual challenges of the birds than my toddler will for now. In the meantime, I think - for this year at least - I will continue to keep the ‘decor’ side of things low-key and concentrate on the intangible ideas, in small doses. Ramadan preparations for us will include simple things like going to buy dates, deciding when to invite friends and family over to share iftaar with us, getting new Qur’an bookmarks and special attar scents for prayers. It will also include setting up some sort of plan for what we want to achieve this month whether it be in terms of reciting lesser-known supplications, exploring the literary works of the AhlulBayt(a), focusing on conscious charity or making an effort to apply Quranic injunctions to our everyday lives. My hope and desire is to be able to internalise the meaning of Ramadan so completely in our lives and in the subconscious mind of my child that when she grows older, we can indulge in some of the external activities and not risk being distracted from the actual essence of this month, which is to concentrate on strengthening the connection we have with our Lord.l
‘Imam Mahdi’ Islamic Centre of Rome
The Opening Ceremony
n 5th May 2018 the “Imam Mahdi” Islamic Centre of Rome officially began its religious and cultural activities. The opening ceremony started in the early afternoon with a conference on the “Role and Responsibility of Islamic Centres in Italy”. After a brief introduction by Salman Di Cola, one of the founders and an active member of its Central Committee, who spoke on the history and the activities of the Association since 2005, four honourable guests each delivered speeches to an audience who positively interacted with the speakers. The first speaker, journalist and writer Pietrangelo Buttafuoco, pointed to the fact that Islam and Italian culture are not as distant as they may seem. Shaykh Ibrahim Iungo, Sunni scholar and Islamic teacher, followed, underlining the importance of mosques and religious places for prayer where the name of God is mentioned. Shaykh Iungo thanked the Islamic Association for the opportunity and prayed that we all may persevere to walk together in God’s path. The ceremony was followed by a talk by Father Haddad, a Syrian Catholic Priest. He praised the founders of new Islamic Centre and stressed the necessity of tolerance and respect amongst all faiths. Father Haddad has already cooperated with “Imam Mahdi” Islamic Association in various conferences in
churches and other public gatherings. Finally, Shaykh Abbas Di Palma, president of “Imam Mahdi” Association, concluded by saying that a place of worship should be the essence and the centre of social life so that people may live with more blessings and a bigger aim in their daily routines. A video clip was also shown highlighting the activities of the “Imam Mahdi” Islamic Association since 2005. The audience, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, was amazed at how a small group of Italian converts initially met
on the streets or in each other’s’ houses when no place was available to them and only after years of patience and sacrifice were they able to rent a small garage in Rome. With God’s grace and after twelve years, they succeeded in purchasing the new building. The conference hall was so crowded that many people had to stand outside the building. The day was a success for a small Shi‘a community in the heart of Rome. In the evening an illuminating occasion was created through supplications
and worship to remember the spiritual benefits of the month of Sha‘ban and celebrating the birth of the 12th Imam. Believers from different parts of Italy
attended this very intense day, an event of joy for the believers who opened the first Islamic Shi‘a Centre in Rome, in the capital of one of the most historical
attended the programme; amongst them Ammar De Martino, a veteran pioneer in spreading Shi‘a Islam amongst the youth. In his speech he said that finding the teachings of Ahl al-Bayt was the greatest achievement in his life. It was a touching moment for the whole Shi‘a Italian Community to meet him again in Rome bearing witness to the fact that “what is done for God will bring its fruits”. People and delegations from London, India, Madagascar, France and Austria
lands of Europe and close to the Vatican, the cradle of Catholic Christianity. One of the peculiarities of the Italian new Islamic Centre is the different spaces allocated for worship and cultural activities. The conference hall, also functions as a multi-language library and it is often visited by Muslims and non-Muslims alike to study and research Islam. Books are mainly in Italian, Arabic, English, Persian, Urdu, French and Spanish. There are variety of books on Islam and other religions
and philosophies. Books like the Bible, Dante’s Divine Comedy or Plato and Aristotle’s works are easily accessible for students and researchers of all ages. The prayer hall offers a sanctuary for the believers to practise their faith while the in-house Alim (clergy) provides counselling and family services such as marriage and divorce. The ‘Imam Mahdi Islamic Association’ is a religious independent organisation supported by the efforts of it parishioners. Despite suffering from financial strain, it has always been able to face the problems without compromising its independence. The core of this Italian project is about the teachings of the Qur’an and the Ahl al-Bayt. Even the cultural affairs are seen as an extension of such teachings if carried out in a correct manner. Since the very beginning, the publication of books has been seen as a religious effort for the betterment of the community rather than an act of proselytism. At the end of the evening a meal was served. A mention is due to all the brothers and sisters who helped out in providing the meal, something that is often seen as a less rewarding job in the eyes of the public but is certainly not so in the eyes of the Almighty. After the programme, people stayed on in the centre through the night, taking the opportunity to strengthen their bonds of brotherhood. Believers prayed the mid-nightly prayer (salat allayl), a supererogatory act of worship that is done before the Morning Prayer, enjoying the experience of “peace until the rising of the dawn” (97:5).l June 2018
t is always interesting to ponder the notion of life as a journey. A journey of such depths that it can be described as a psychological negotiation of time and space that peaks and troughs in a variety of emotional states. What is also interesting is the idea that each day or moment is also a journey. A series of intertwining journeys that happen within the major journey of our lives. In April I experienced one such journey whilst taking part in ‘The Art of Seeing’, a photography masterclass led by the esteemed photographer Peter Sanders. The event was held in Granada Spain and centred on photographing the beautiful settings within the environment. This experience was of monumental significance to me on many levels and served as a reprieve from an incredibly hectic schedule. But the significant part was the opportunity to enjoy the companionship of like-hearted people and the beauty of our Islamic heritage. And there is more. This served as the backdrop to a time of reflection and witnessing which on one level enabled the taking of better photographs but on another, facilitated a period spiritual introspection. As the organiser Faisal explains below, Art Of Seeing is a journey of many aims. But, for me it was an opportunity to use art as a means to a greater level of spiritual realisation.
“Art of Seeing is so much more than a photography course. Over and above the superb technical help that is available, I was pleasantly surprised by the spiritual and philosophical aspects of photography that Sidi Peter and the other instructors bring to the fore. The emotional nourishment that comes from escaping the daily grind and being amongst the most beautiful group of like-minded people is something that will stay with me for a long time.” Mohammad - AOS Participant in Granada How did Art Of Seeing come about? Although the first Art Of Seeing was in 2012, the initial idea came about nine years ago. I’ve always been into photography and following Peter Sanders amongst other artists. I have always had this feeling that art is an important way to develop oneself and also to bring a message across. So when I met Peter Sanders personally in 2009 I said I would like to learn from him because I think he has a very powerful way of bringing a message across through his photographs. And not only did I want to learn
from him, but I thought it would be very egotistical of me to just think of myself knowing back then that there are a lot of other people who would also like to learn. So, I posed the question to him to find out if I could organise these journeys for others to benefit from. He was very happy about that and so together we created a platform where art has become a way to express yourself, learning more about yourself and letting yourself be able to transform through the process which in this case is photography. How would you describe what you offer? What we offer is a unique combination of companionship, art, academic learning and a hands-on way of becoming the type of person you need to be to take the photographs or make the art you want to in order to get your message across. And we believe the best way to do this is through travel as this takes you outside of your comfort zone and makes you more vulnerable. This unknown space of experience gives more opportunity to excel and offers a greater chance to become a master. I think we are all traditional thinkers and recognise that learning from a master is always the best option if you want to develop your own artistic skills.
What can participants expect to gain from their experience? It’s always hard to say what they take away because it’s so different for each person but I think that if they already take away that you know they have come to a place where there are like-minded people or people at least on the same journey. And then knowing that they are out there, as a family of like-minded people that for me is so valuable. Because these are the connections that are made during the journey we have, the connections that stay there and you know even grow after those trips. When the journeys come again and people come back, it is these connections that we believe are so powerful. And obviously we believe the photographer who will come will become a better photographer. It happens all the time, but basically, we believe this is about becoming a better person and having a good connection with other people. That in the long run will be the most important thing to come out of Art Of Seeing. Where do you see AOS going from here? We have done nine AOS journeys so far. We have been to Turkey and Morocco many
times and have just been to Granada for the first time. In October we will be going to Pakistan insha-Allah. The Art of Seeing is really unique. I haven’t come across a similar trip, be it photography or any other medium. There is no such thing. So, I am very proud to be able to be the person organising this with the great team I have, thank God. I am just hoping we can continue the frequency of the trips we do and go to many other places in the world. The world really is our oyster and, God willing, we hope to do this more often. “I found Art of Seeing Granada Spain to be inspiring and supportive. The locations were breathtakingly beautiful, and the daily schedule was maximised for our learning and enjoyment. This is my second Art of Seeing Journey and one walks away with the feeling that one has gained access to, and credibility among, a highly creative, sensitive and spiritually aligned community.“ Murtaza; AOS Participant in Granada & Moroccol
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 P ro j e c t .
Imam Hasan’s Perspective on Politics Taking the example of the peace treaty of Imam Hasan(a),Kubra Rizvi examines the responsibilities of leaders to their community and vice versa
hen we hear the word “politics,” images of unjust, greedy and corrupt rulers may spring to mind. Even at a more personal level, the word is considered negative when associated with issues in the family, community, workplace,or even the local Islamic centre. There is certainly a misconception about politics and its function, and if it even has any compatibility with Islam. The general definition of politics refers to activities associated with the governance of a country or activities aimed at improving someone’s status or power within an organisation. However, an even more general understanding of politics would be that it covers all of our interactions with others. In this sense, each individual is a politician and someone who is involved in politics during his or her daily life. To clarify, take the example of a friend who gives you a present and how you respond when asked if you like it. Indeed, 16
our answers may be quite diplomatic; hence, politics is all about how we interact with others. As in all other areas of life, the AhlulBayt(a) can properly guide us in each facet of our life. This issue is elucidated further by Imam Hasan(a). When someone asked him to define politics, he said, “Politics means observing the rights of God, the rights of the living, and the rights of the dead. The rights of God are that you should obey His orders and avoid what He forbids. The rights of the living are that you should observe your duty to your brothers and not tarry in serving your people. You should be faithful to the one in authority among you as long as he is faithful to his people. You should speak up in his face should he deviate from the right path. The rights of the dead are that you should remember their good deeds and overlook their bad ones. They have a Lord who shall ask them about whatever they did.” Hence, the Imam breaks down
politics into three categories: the rights of God, the rights of the living and the rights of the dead. Most of us probably had not thought that the rights of God and the rights of the dead would apply to politics. As in all actions of our life, politics should also always consider what God has commanded and prohibited. Indeed, that is what piety is all about. In the Islamic perspective, as explained by our Imams, politics and piety are inseparable. Such politics would then indeed be compatible with Islam and its teachings. Regarding the living, Imam Hasan explains that we should always fulfil our duties, we should not hesitate to perform community service, we should be faithful to those in authority as long as they serve the people, and that we should not be afraid to speak up if they have done wrong. Regarding the deceased, we should remember the good deeds and services they had done. These are indeed great words of wisdom from the
Imam whose actions and politics were not understood in his time and, sadly, are even misunderstood today. It is important to realise that each Imam made decisions based on his circumstances. If faced with different circumstances, they would make the choices made by the other respective Imams. Prophet Muhammad(s) states, “al-Hasan and al-Husayn are Imams whether standing or sitting,” referring to their different political strategies. It is not just rhetoric or exaggeration to say that Imam Hasan was the first martyr of Karbala, for his sacrifices laid the foundations for Karbala. It is exactly for these reasons that much propaganda was spread about him. The peace treaty of Imam Hasan was his Karbala, his way of defending the religion. To understand Imam Hasan’s position one should examine Imam Ali’s interactions and politics during and before his caliphate. Regarding his
politics, Imam Ali(a) states, “If it were not for piety, I would be able to use tricks better than all deceitful Arabs,” and “I swear to God that Mu’awiyah is not cleverer than me.” The political and insightful decisions of Imam Ali, Imam Hasan, and indeed all the Imams, were based on piety as well as wisdom. Prophet Muhammad(s) said, “If intellect could be represented in human form, it would be al-Hasan.” When people addressed him in derogatory terms because he had made the peace treaty, Imam Hasan explained the wisdom behind his peace treaty in his tolerant manner. He said that they did not have the ability or patience to understand what he had done for his people, which was better than all the things that the sun rises and sets upon. Then Imam referred to the actions of Prophet Khidr, such as when he made a hole in the boat. Although Prophet Khidr’s actions were according to the Wisdom of
God, Prophet Musa could not remain patient because he was unaware of the wisdom behind the actions. The reason Khidr put a hole in the boat was that an oppressive king was taking all the boats; therefore, if a boat was made defective he would not take it. Imam Hasan thus explained that he was forced to make the treaty because he did not have the support to fight Mu’awiyah. Islam would have been finished if it faced an internal war at that time. Nevertheless, in such circumstances, Imam Hasan(a) not only revealed Mu’awiyah’s deception, but also protected Islam and the believers, especially Imam Husayn, with his decision. On the 15th of Ramadan when we celebrate the birth of the first beloved grandson of Prophet Muhammad, we pray that we gain a better understanding of his life and strive to implement his teachings in our own lives and communities.l June 2018
vs n o i t a i c n en u
Abbas Di Palma talks about the pain at the crossroads; between faith and denial
I t is part of the creed
of faithful individuals to believe that God is Omnipotent, Just and Merciful. These three divine qualities are seemingly difficult to understand in relation to trials and tribulations which at times affect human life. In fact to God belongs all these qualities, but how can we justify the pain and suffering inflicted on many believing people trying to dedicate their life to lofty goals such as prayer, charity, benevolence, etc… Some find no answer to this enigma and drastically change their lifestyle ending in some cases in the renunciation of their belief in God. It should be said that in many cases such conclusions do not stem from rational conclusions but from emotions like “wrath against God” or “delusions from the expectations”: it is not a mature and rational awareness to bring the loss of trust in God but rather a very negative sentiment that pushes the individual far from Him. In this way the person finds a ‘justification’ to rely on his/her incredulity. Pious
and mystics history have
emphasised the role of rida (Divine Pleasure) which implies satisfaction for what God has prescribed for them. Rida is indeed one of the first traits of spiritual wayfarers since the beginning of their journey is one of the most difficult qualities to be attained by ordinary people. The spiritual state of satisfaction signifies neither asking for anything additional to God nor wishing to change a particular situation. This is not something required from common believers whose satisfaction with God as their Lord and Islam as their religion suffices for their spiritual nourishment. However, when common believers are struck by afflictions, they do not have the resolve to solve their problems or to rectify their feelings and it is very hard for them to find a way out of their negative state. Generally speaking, such delusions are mostly provoked by a wrong understanding of God. If we depict God through our constructs and similitudes, sooner or later we will realise that such a mental ‘idea’ does not fulfil
our expectations. Many illnesses of the soul are rooted exactly in a wrong perception of God which in turn is the cause of a wrong perception of ourselves. Although it is true that God, as part of His mercy, answers those who call Him however, a superficial understanding of the God-man relationship may easily lead to unhappiness. In reality God is far above from mental idolatrous inferences: He is not obliged to answer any supplication and if He does it, it is only by His mercy. To believe that we can force the divine will by our whims is just a religious superstition. Such ability is religiously understood by human perception within the limits of divine wisdom. So, God may not listen to the request of an evil-doer; and similarly He won’t listen to those religious devotees who independently make their own plans for their own sake only and finally ask God for blessings. One needs a colossal amount of selfawareness and faith to be able to fully understand God’s plan but
the same awareness of His presence should bring confidence to the believer that to Him is the ‘return’ and it is Him who is leading the way back to Him. All the hardships of the world cannot be considered worthier than He Himself, our final destination. Furthermore, the awareness of His presence should push us to invoke Him so that He can intervene and help us in a particular situation. God will then either free us from the problems we have or free us while we are dealing with the problems causing us to realise causes and effects of our situation through a natural process. It is possible that we won’t be able to grasp His full wisdom but after a period of time, while looking at the past, things may become clearer on how God acts and interacts with His creation while proceeding with His plans. Indeed God does not abandon His creation as He is ‘the wali’ (guardian) of those who believe in Him. It is the wrong idea of God, of ourselves, or of our faith
and devotion, that creates confusion in our hearts. Delusions follow but instead of doubting of our way of life, our understanding of faith, one starts accusing God of abandoning him or thinking that He does not love him or that God has betrayed him. We must remember that “He is the One that is God in the heaven and God in the earth” (43:84) and He doesn’t accept theological compulsion nor naive devotion. A false idea of God is like an idol obstructing our relationship with Him; we should therefore rebuild our perceptions in order to bring them closer to Quranic realities. In the Qur’an, God speaks about Himself and the way man should be. False notions often fall between us and Him, nourished and boosted by external whispers, so that His words become altered in our minds by means of personal concepts. Finding a way to align our will with His word without being subject to external factors prevents us not only from being disappointed by God’s will
but to complain about the events happening in our lives. The Qur’an was revealed as a miracle to the people and none of them could produce something similar to it. The hearts of believers and disbelievers were affected by the wonderful recitation of its verses. Nonetheless, many people did not align their will to God’s words making themselves disappointed in what was revealed or, in more general terms, in God’s will. On the contrary, those who believed in its message were persecuted, tortured and oppressed but there was something transcending their physical and psychological hardships that still made them greet each other with the expression “peace be on you”: that was the most prominent aspect of their lives and paths to felicity.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.
Music in religion
From Benedictine singing nuns to whirling Sufis, Frank Gelli asks if music is a friend or foe of religion.
ne does not naturally think of traditional nuns of the Order of St Benedict as popular singers, yet the sisters from a rural Missouri monastery, The Heart of Mary, have become something of a hit. Their albums are ranked as best-selling by Billboard, the US main album chart, along with trendy names like ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Hamilton’, the super-popular musical. Bit of a miracle? Or perhaps just thanks to the nuns’ melodies as being jolly, spiritually good? The motto of Benedictine monks and nuns is in Latin: Ora et Labora. Pray and work. They combine activity with adoration. In Christianity worship and music go hand in hand. Even the most extreme puritan fundamentalist could never appeal to the Bible against singing or dancing because the psalms are religious songs. Many of them come with musical directions addressed to the choirmaster, including reference to stringed instruments. King David danced with joy when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem. St Matthew’s Gospel relates that Jesus and
his disciples after the Last Supper sang a hymn. As to church tradition, the psalms figure in settings like Vespers by eminent composers like Monteverdi, Vivaldi and Mozart. Gregorian chant is indeed one of the glories of monastic liturgy. The Missouri nuns are in good company. As to Judaism, music of course has been part of Jewish life since biblical times. The Book of Exodus says that Moses himself led the people in songs of divine praise. The sacrificial worship of the ancient Jerusalem Temple included music. Both in synagogue services and in Jewish homes music continues to play a part. Chanting and melodies are still integral to the religious and cultural life of Jews. I have myself watched two orthodox rabbis singing beautiful lyrics by Simon and Garfunkel. Indeed, singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen asked rhetorically: ‘Without music, would we be Jewish at all?’ In Islam music plays no part in mosque worship and some Muslims reject it altogether as part of their religious life. However, there are large swathes of Islam in which music is not frowned
upon but highly valued, such as in many Sufi fraternities. When I lived in Turkey I made a point of travelling once a year to the city of Konya, to share in the inspiring Mevlevi festival, held in memory of Jelaluddin Rumi, the great poet and mystic, one of the glories of Islam. The dancers of the Sema dance, a.k.a. the whirling dervishes, were accompanied by an array by instruments, from drums to flutes. The overall impression was one of powerful contemplation, a drawing of the pious person closer to God. One of the most fascinating aspects of Iranian religious and popular culture is the Tazieh play. Some go as far as to call it ‘the sacred drama, or the passion play, of Islam’. It portrays the momentous sacrifice of Imam Husayn and his family and supporters at the battle of Karbala, during which they were slain by the cruel forces of a tyrant. My Iranian friends witness to its strong emotional impact on anybody involved, from spectators to actors. It is worth emphasising how the action, the spoken words and the singing of a Tazieh play are accompanied and enhanced by the participation of a variety of musical
instruments. There are drums, trumpets, cymbals and flutes. Clearly, Tazieh drama, also performed outside of Iran, in other parts of the Shi‘a and Muslim world (I was fortunate to see examples in London and Leicester), has a deep religious role and significance. To be fair, not all types of music are likely to convey a contemplative or spiritual dimension. The Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini wrote a violin sonata, The Devil’s Trill, which he claimed had been dictated to him in a dream by the Evil One himself, in exchange for the musician’s soul. Allegedly, the sonata has a diabolical influence: if one listens to it, afterwards something weird will occur. Similarly, Tolstoy’s novella, The Kreutzer Sonata, tells of a man murdering his wife after he discovers her affair with a violinist. The two lovers had been listening together to Beethoven’s composition and the husband considered the music responsible for the adultery.
different types of music, linking them to diverse feelings and moods. Frivolous or unbecoming harmonies, likely to provoke immoderate laughter or frenzy, were banned. Martial music, on the other hand, was suitable for soldiers, as it encouraged courage and discipline. One can imagine what Plato would have made of modern acts like Eminem, the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden! The title of the Benedictine nuns’ new album is ‘The Hearts of Jesus, Mary and
Joseph’. It is meant as homage to the Holy Family of Christianity. Their music is intended to honour especially the paternal role of St Joseph as the foster father of Jesus. Its value is not merely aesthetic. Considering that the family is the fundamental unity of society and, sadly, partly under attack in many Western countries, one can see the nuns’ music as combining both lovely sounds and a bracing moral message. Surely that is an exemplary function.l
Plato, the Greek philosopher, taught that music should be part of the proper education, moral and aesthetic, of people of his ideal state, The Republic. However, he distinguished between
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 Travel Guide to
Muslim Europe Muslim Europe With travel writer and European Muslim heritage specialist Tharik Hussain With travel writer and European Muslim heritage specialist Tharik Hussain
A Parisian Paradise
he Grand Mosquee Paris is in Paris’ Latin Quarter, south of the River Seine, close to the city’s Botanical Gardens. It is the French capital’s little slice of Moorish magic - its very own Alhambra if you will. Centred around a stunning riyad-like courtyard of arabesque arcades with an elegant oysterpatterned fountain in the middle, the mosque is a magnificent homage to the classical golden age of Islamic art and architectural style known as ‘Andalusian’ or ‘Hispano-Moorish’ - one that matured and thrived between the 8th and 15th centuries in Muslim Iberia. This style is typified by colourful tiles of beautiful geometric patterns, intricately carved vegetal motifs and elegant slimline pillars - inspired by classical Byzantine design, as well as cursive Arabic calligraphy. It is truly ‘European-Muslim’ in both style and content. All of these features are so faithfully recreated in the Grand Mosquee Paris that when you step inside it is as if you have wandered into a mosque nestled somewhere in the crowded medinas of Fez or Meknes. Like its ancient Moorish counterparts, the Grand Mosquee also boasts a towering square, 33-metre high minaret clad in mesmerising patterned blue tiles that soars into the Parisian sky and a central prayer hall topped with a green triangular cone, as opposed to a dome - a feature that came
much later. Inevitably, there is also a delightful garden of creeping vines, overhanging palms, and blooming flora complemented by the flow of gently trickling water. Such mosques first appeared in Spanish cities like Seville, Cordoba and Granada, at a time when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in relative harmony under Muslim rulers. Fittingly, one of the most remarkable tales about the Grand Mosquee Paris describes how it saved descendants of another legacy of that period - the Spanish Jews - during one of Europe’s darkest hours. Shortly after the mosque’s foundation, Paris was occupied by the Germans in World War II and the city’s Jews faced expulsion and death. Many of those that lived near the mosque and had Muslim friends were Sephardic Jews - Jews who heralded from Moorish Spain. They had much in common with Paris’ North African Muslim community; both were descendants of the ancient Moors, spoke Arabic, did not eat pork and practised male circumcision. It is believed up to a hundred Jews were provided with false documents by the mosque claiming they were Muslim so they could gain safe passage out of France and survive the Holocaust. It is a remarkable tale that has been dramatised in the acclaimed French movie Les Hommes Libres (Free Men).
The idea of a mosque in Paris was first proposed by the Ottoman Caliph, Abdul Hamid II, who spent many years lobbying the French authorities to provide a place of worship for the Muslims of France. They eventually yielded and on October 19, 1922, at a ceremony attended by Muslim notables from across the world, the first stone for the Grand Mosquee Paris’ mihrab - the niche where the Imam stands - was laid. The building of the mosque was also seen as an acknowledgement for Muslim soldiers who had died fighting for France in World War I. “We cannot thank our African brothers enough for their fidelity and dedication,” said Paul Fleurot of the Council of Paris on the day the mehrab stone was laid, describing the mosque as a monument to the memory of the fallen Muslim soldiers of France. The mosque was inaugurated by President Gaston Doumergue on 15 July 1926 and the first prayer was led by the popular Sufi Sheikh, Ahmad al Alawi, founder of the Alawiyya Sufi order. Today the Grand Mosquee Paris is split into four distinct segments, the religious; grand patio, prayer room and minaret - more or less off limits to non-Muslim visitors, the scientific; the madrasah and the library, the garden; 3,500 square metres of green serenity, and the commercial; the cafe and hammam.l
Where in the world: The Grand Mosquee Paris is in Paris’ Latin Quarter, west of the Botanical gardens on 2 Place de Puits de l’Ermite 5e, Paris. It is easily identified by the large green cone that covers the main prayer hall and the towering square minaret of stunning geometric tiles. In and out: The Grand Mosquee Paris is very well served by public transport. There are several Metro stations within walking distance of the mosque, the closest two are Censier-Daubenton and Jussieu, and both are served by the pink 7 line, whilst Jussieu is also served by the yellow 10 line. Top tips: For a fully-informed wander, join one of the morning or afternoon guided tours laid on by the mosque. Afterwards be sure to stop off in the delightfully quaint little cafe on the corner called La Mosquee cafe, where you can sit in the shade of fig and olive trees to sip sweet, refreshing mint tea and taste deliciously nutty North African sweets
Tharik Hussain spends much of his time travelling across Europe in search of the continent›s fourteen centuries of Muslim history. You can follow his work at:www.tharikhussain.co.uk
Children Corner Dear Children, Assalam Alaikum
Imam of the Lessons from the Nahj ul-Balagha series
s we mentioned before Imam Ali’s(a) words of advice given to the people of his time are equally relevant today. That is why here, in Children’s Corner, we have randomly selected sermons from the collection of his words for you to become familiar with. In sermon 100, Imam says: “Be attentive that the example of the Household of the Prophet Muhammad’s(s) -Ahl ul Bayt-is like the stars of the heaven; when one star sets (or dies) another one rises”. Here, the Imam is referring to the continuity of true Islamic teachings provided by the Prophet Muhammad(s) through his family, even after the
occultation of Imam -Al Mahdi (atf), by the will of God Almighty. The following extract from sermon 224 is one of the most remarkable. He says: “Was I given all the seven heavens with all that they contain in order that I may disobey God by depriving an ant of the husk of a grain of barley, I would not do it.” An ant can be considered one of the smallest creatures of God. Imam Ali(a) who was known for his fairness, generosity and kindness, summarises how good it is not to deprive even an ant of its sustenance, even so little as a tiny grain. This brings us to think: Who
people can accept that a person who feels like this could be an unfair and unjust person especially when judging bigger and more important affairs of his community.
On the Qur’an, he says: “Certainly, the Qur’an is wonderful in its outward form, and its inner meanings are profound.” Sermon 18 Muslims believe that the Qur’an contains the words of God Almighty transmitted to humans through the revelation given to the Prophet Muhammad(s). This is not the first time that God chose to talk to people indirectly through His chosen messengers but it was the last. In the Qur’an God has completed all He wanted to say to humanity in order for people to learn from it and obey Him. Here the Imam emphasises not only the importance of the Qur’an but also its beautiful nature. At the beginning of Islam new Muslims were lucky to hear the words of the Prophet first hand, but there still were people who misled others for their own benefit. In respect of Imam Ali and his position after the Prophet Muhammad, we have
received undisputable reports when the Prophet spoke or mentioned Imam Ali(a) which indicate his importance in preserving Islam: Sayings such as: “I am the House of Wisdom, and Ali is its Door,” or in the narration of Ghadir Khumm in which the Prophet Muhammad(s) clearly declared: “to whomever, I am a leader, Ali is also their leader.” The Prophet instructed everyone to pledge loyalty to Ali. In sermon 187 Imam Ali(a) emphasises his leadership directly to us. He says: “Amongst you, I am like a lamp in the darkness. Everyone making his way through the darkness has to get light from it.” Whoever wants to follow the Prophet Muhammad’s(s) teachings can easily do so by following the guidance and teachings of Imam Ali(a) and his household, the 11 Imams who came after him. They are like stars, when one sets another rise.l
Illustrator Ghazaleh Kamrani
What & Where Through June Tafseer of the Holy Qur’an Conducted by: Shaykh M S Bahmanpour Venue: Islamic Centre of England, 140 Maida Vale, London W9 1QB Time: Every Friday starting at 7.30 PM
1 June Muslim Women and Radicalisation An exploration of Muslim women’s involvement in violent religious politics, specifically Islam. Dr Katherine Brown (University of Birmingham) examines the ways in which gendered jihadi narratives motivate and enfranchise, and how they combine with everyday experiences of living and politics. She also examines how counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation programmes impact on religious women’s rights and Muslim communities in the UK.
Tickets: £10 More info: https://pennyappeal.org/
6 & 13 June IUS – Weekly Ramadan Iftars 2018 6th June - Sheikh Javad Shomali – Using Qur’an in everyday life 13th June – Sheikh Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali – Understanding God’s Mercy
Venue: Abrar House, 45 Crawford Place, Edgware Road W1H 4LP
Contributions are welcome: http://bit. do/iusiftar18
More info: 07806511378 10 June Al Quds Day Walk (IHRC) Join the Justice for Palestine Committee’s annual event to march in support of the oppressed people of Palestine.
and expand on Auerbach’s ‘Mimesis’, addressing how faith and fiction slip into perceptions and representations of historical reality. Papers will focus on the Qur’an as literature (responding to Auerbach’s reading of Mark as literature); Beckett and quietism; medieval women’s literature; Jensen’s ‘Gradiva’ and Freud’s ‘Moses’. Venue: Woolf Institute, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0UB Time: 11.30 AM - 6.00 PM More info: http://www.woolf.cam.ac.uk/ whats-on/events/workshop-people-ofthe-book-people-of-books
Late Ottoman New Media: Journal Reading and Visuality During the Hamidian Era (1876-1909) Dr Ahmet Ersoy, Associate Professor, Department of History, Boaziçi University, Istanbul and 2017-2018 Senior Fellow, Research Centre for Anatolian Civilisations, Koç University, Istanbul
Venue: Hay Festival, Good Energy Stage Time: 10.00 AM More info: https://www.birmingham. ac.uk/university/colleges/artslaw/ events/2018/hay/brown-katherine.aspx
Venue: Embassy of Saudi Arabia, London, 30-32 Charles St, Mayfair, London W1J 5DZ Time: 3.00 PM - 6.00 PM More info: http://www.ukislamicevents. net/#event|al-quds-day-2018islamic-human-rights-commissionlondon|10058
Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre Time:7:00 to 8:00 PM email: email@example.com Tel: 07714087480
1 & 2 June
Al-Noor Annual Boat Race
Be The Change Nationwide Iftaar Tour
Persia after Alexander the Great: decline or revival?
The race is an event established by the Al-Noor Foundation at Fairlop Waters in the London Borough of Redbridge. It is open to all schools, faith groups, charities and corporate organisations and aims to unite the community whilst giving people the opportunity to raise money for charitable causes that are close to their hearts, by simple registering for a boat (17 people max) and participating in the race.
This Ramadan, Penny Appeal is organising the perfect Iftaar for you and your family with an enlightening evening of spiritual reflection and traditional Nasheeds. The perfect way to break your fast and experience a traditional Islamic Iftaar in your home town surrounded by your community and the traditional sounds of home. All proceeds go to Hifz Orphans campaign. 1st June - Taiba Lounge Leicester, 62 Evington Valley Rd, LE5 5LJ 2nd June - Crown Banqueting, 7 Upper Trinity St, Birmingham B9 4EG Time: 7.00 PM - 10.00 PM
A 45-minute gallery talk by Vesta Curtis, British Museum. Suitable for all levels of knowledge. Venue: Room 68, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG Time: 1.15 PM - 2.00 PM Fee: Free, drop in.
13 June Workshop: People of the Book - People of Books This workshop aims to supplement
Venue: Fairlop Waters, Forest Road Barkingside, Essex, IG6 3HN Time: 9.00 AM - 4.00 PM Boat rentals: £750 - £1000 (No previous experience required) More info: http://www.al-noor.co.uk/
24 June Moving stories: a Refugee Week special event Come to the British Museum for a day of performances, films and workshops to celebrate Refugee Week, presented in collaboration with Counterpoints Arts. 2018 marks 20 years of Refugee Week celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees. Get involved and find out about the positive contributions refugees have made and continue to make to the UK. Venue: Great Court and galleries, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG Time: 11.00 AM - 4.00 PM Fee: Free, drop in.
Hyderi Cup 2018 This 5-a-side football tournament annually supports the Martyrs Appeal in Pakistan and Iraq. Venue: Goals Manchester, 3 Irish Town Way, Manchester, M8 0RY Time: 11.00 AM - 7.00 PM Fee: £20 per player, £15 per sub More info: https://www.ius.org.uk/
29 June - 1 July Charity Trek for Rohingya Ben Nevis charity trek to raise money in aid of Rohingya refugees. Registration Fee: £75 Fundraising target: £200 More info: Contact Zakir on 07889 636200
30 June Challenging Islamophobia in Schools MEND, Muslim Engagement and Development, would like to invite you to an afternoon of Islamophobia training for teachers and employees in the education sector. We will be presenting our Islamophobia PHSE
materials which centre around bullying, hate crime and playground Islamophobia. Help us to roll out these important materials to schools in Birmingham. Venue: MEND Office, 28 George Street, Balsall Heath, Birmingham B12 9RG Time: 1.00 PM - 5.00 PM Entry: Free More info: https://mend.org.uk/event/
1 July Islamic Education Expo Highlighting some of the best service providers in the Islamic Education field, this is an event in which you will find all your needs catered for under one roof. If you are connected to a Muslim Supplementary School, Mosque, Weekend School, Tuition Centre or home-schooling, then this event is certainly for you. Venue: Birmingham Central Mosque, 180 Belgrave Middleway, Highgate, B12 0XS Time: 10.00 AM - 4.00 PM Entry: Free (paid workshops available at £22.15 each) More info: https://www.eventbrite. co.uk/e/islamic-education-expo-2018-
HHUGS Sisters Bootcamp 2018 A sweat-breaking, muscle-aching boot camp of fun, energy and total dedication! Enjoy a comfortable female-only environment and day of fitness hosted by qualified instructors from Safari MMA. HHUGS (Helping Households Under Great Stress) invites you to join sisters for a fun, active and energetic boot camp for a great cause. Venue: Safari MMA Manor Park, Emaan Fitness, Unit 7, 56-62 Church Road, Manor Park, E12 6AF Time: 11.00 AM - 4.00 PM Registration fee: £20 Fundraising target: £250 More info: https://www.eventbrite. com/e/sisters-bootcamp-2018tickets-44258570576
Riding a Donkey Backwards (Children’s Storytelling Event) Why would a man ride a donkey backwards? Who would spoon yoghurt into a river? And what’s the use of painting a blank picture? Get ready to find out as Khayaal Theatre and Sean Taylor romp through 21 riotous riddles and stupendous stories all about the ancient Muslim folk character, Mullah Nasruddin. Children 6+ will love watching these traditional Islamic tales being brought to life by an awardwinning company that captures their humour, wisdom and relevance to the times in which we live. Venue: City Hall, Centenary Square. BD1 1HY, Bradford. West Yorkshire. Time: 3.00 PM Fee: £3 Suitable for: Ages 6+ years More info: https://bradfordlitfest. ticketsolve.com/shows/1173587347
5 July Arabic, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Taster Evening This part-time Certificate of Higher Education (Cert HE) explores Middle Eastern societies, religions and cultures and the history of Islam. It enables students to develop or improve their Arabic language skills and progress to a range of degrees in the Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department at the University of Leeds. Venue: Lifelong Learning Centre, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, LS2 9JT Time: 5.30 PM - 8.00 PM Entry: Free More info: https://www.eventbrite.co.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.