R I S
S P E C I A L
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London Link 7p5 inches x 10p25 inches.pdf
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Habib Ali AlJifri
Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Shaykh Muhammad Al Yaqoubi
Prof. Tariq Ramadan
Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah (Tentative)
Imam Zaid Shakir
Sr. Dalia Mogahed
Imam Siraj Wahhaj
Dr. Amr Khaled
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
Salman Ahmed (Junoon) Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui Ustad Nouman Ali Khan
Imam Suhaib Webb Mesut Kurtis
Dr. John Esposito
Grand Bazaar Talent Show Baby Sitting Matrimonials Halal Food Court Children,s Program
DEC 27th-29th 2013 METRO TORONTO CONVENTION CENTRE RISCONVENTION.COM
Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan: The attitude of gratitude
Dr. Tariq Ramadan: Changing the present and dreaming the future
Sr. Yasmin Mogahed: The storm is coming
Reviving the Islamic Spirit — Relive, Revive, Rejoice!
Ayaa’s Journey to Palestine
Entrepreneur in focus: Ahmad Hamdan
Saleme Fayad Photography
Pioneers of London
Success is married to rejection
As salaam u alaikum (peace and blessings be upon you), We are extremely happy to present our RIS (Reviving the Islamic Spirit) 2013 special to you—our readers. The RIS Convention has become a tradition every year, where international scholars gather in Toronto to enlighten young and old alike with inspirational and informative talks. With an impressive line-up of speakers from all over the world, London LINK Magazine is pleased to be a part of it by sharing the works of three such inspiring figures: Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, Dr. Tariq Ramadan and Sr. Yasmin Mogahed. We are honored to have them as contributors for this RIS special issue. Revival of any goodness cannot take place until we honestly account for our present situation and develop clear strategies to change our condition. Our faith in the ability of today’s youth and our support to nurture their positive Islamic character can rekindle the light of faith within us all. I wish to convey my gratitude to the RIS team for choosing London LINK Magazine to be an ambassador of their hard work. Together, let’s revive the spirit of positivity and action from December 27th - 29th 2013. Sincerely, Naeema Farooqi founder / editor-in-chief
founder / editor-in-chief: Naeema Farooqi ; business development/ advertising manager: Aayjay ; the design team: Naira Ahmed & Lina El-Shamy (studio-noon.com) ; featured contributors: Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, Dr. Tariq Ramadan, Sr. Yasmin Mogahed; contributors: Dua Dahrouj, Leila Almawy, Aya Dama, Saleme Fayed, Asma Ahmadi, Thasneen Ansi, Fahim Khan, Mona Haider
Cover: (left-to-right) Khadijah Hamidi, Najatullah Khan, Sakinah Khan, Mustafa Hamidi -- RIS Special 2013, Changing our condition: Rekindling the light of faith. Cover and content photography: N. Farooqi, Location: Centre for Social Innovation, Toronto, Ontario
page 4 // volume three, issue seven
The attitude of gratitude by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan
In the final Meccan era, one of the first reactions the Prophet raised when he first delivered his message was that of shock. This was coupled with ridicule and people became dismissive of his message. It eventually transformed into somewhat of an oppressive reaction. Not only were they insulting and condescending, but situations also turned physical. Muslims were tortured, and in some instances our messenger was not even spared. Hence, the situation of Muslims was getting progressively difficult. Nowadays, people who accept Islam are faced with many challenges. Their families become completely distressed that they have become Muslims, or their friends become shocked with the knowledge of their Hijab (veil). Or the friend they used to go to the bar with does not come out with them anymore. The situation that the prophets’ companions were in was far more complex. Becoming Muslim back then not only meant that your family thought you were insane and that you joined a cult, but you also became socially, economically and politically outcast. Hence, it was okay to offend you, not just verbally but even physically. Accepting Islam was not easy for these companions. Hence, in those difficult times, Allah revealed verses to help the Muslims cope with their struggles. This was Allah giving them encouraging words. Much like when we go through hard times and we rely on people for support. “A magnificent book that we have sent down to you, so that you pull people out from darkness into light.” Darkness is a manifestation of discomfort and difficulty, and Light is associated with ease. Other similar versus are: “Allah wants to lighten your burden”; “Allah would not put any difficulty in the religion for you.” By definition, the purpose of religion is to make your life easier. The sufferings that the Prophet’s companions went through are one of the reasons why we get to profess our religion and creed freely. We are supposed to be a people of direction – we are on a mission. Yet, that comes with challenges. In that context, Allah brings us the story of Moses. If there is one subject that the Quran emphasizes and communicates a good majority of its teachings through, it is history. It is through those case studies of the prophets that I want to highlight that they are not just mentioned as history lessons, but in the context of an existing conversation. Allah was talking to the Prophet and the companions about perseverance through difficult times. Thus, he begins talking about Moses so that they understand that when we learn about prophet Moussa (Moses), we are not just learning about prophet Moussa, but about ourselves as well. The chapter starts with pulling them from darkness into light. The verse, “We gave Prophet Moussa our miraculous signs and giving him the instructions to pull people from the darkness
into light” is the exact instruction given to Prophet Mohammed and his companions. There are a lot of parallels between Prophet Moses and us. Allah then talks about Moses and how he delivered the message to his people, what the pharaoh was doing to the believers of the time, and how he was slaughtering their babies. One child being killed is an unthinkable crime. That is not imaginable for us. This is the situation these people were in. I am setting the stage because the prophet was going through a hard time. Allah says “there was a group of people before you that went through harsher times.” He then says, “Tests to the Israelites were enormous.” Moses himself acknowledges that it was a huge trial. Hence, the Prophet reminds them how prophet Moses managed to encourage his people. As Moses was giving his sermon, people in the audience had their children killed; their hearts were wounded. Allah made a grand declaration for people to heal; people’s hearts were broken. Perhaps we would have thought that the revelation is “to be patient”, because the situation is difficulty. Allah is declaring to them to be grateful, yet that is the last thing on a person’s mind if they lose a child. Allah is shifting perspective because you cannot acquire patience until you have acquired gratitude. All of us have problems. Being Muslim does not excuse us from our problems. Being Muslim helps us deal with the challenges. Humanity will never be free from problems. We all have problems. The human tendency is that we cannot stop thinking about our problems. When I am driving I am thinking about the bills, and the kids: I am thinking about the work problem, the project that has not been finished, the assignment that has not been done, and the grades at school. We are constantly thinking about our problems, and we are constantly in bad moods. Our moods and sentiments are contagious. When we are in bad moods, people around us get into bad moods. When we are upset, the whole family is upset. We ruin the entire family’s atmosphere. Now they are spending millions of dollars just to discover that if you smile at your employees and you have a positive attitude, productivity will increase. It is not an incredible discovery; it has always been there. We are constantly thinking about what went wrong. Allah offers the story of the Israelites who were in a far worse state than any of us and who were stuck and could not see a way out. They were enslaved and controlled by a military state and their children were routinely slaughtered. What does Allah have to say? “Even if you were to be grateful...” The condition “if” is mentioned in the past tense – If you were to be grateful, not if you are grateful. The Arabic present tense alludes to continuity. Allah is not even asking for continuous gratitude, he is just saying show me one instance of gratitude. “Even if you were to be grateful, I will ensure to (without a doubt) increase you.” It is the strongest, most emphatic form of language
accessible in the Arabic language. The verb “to increase” is ambiguous – you have to add some specification. There is always some qualifier: increase in faith, increase in guidance, increase in knowledge, increase in something. “If you were to show one instance of gratitude, I will absolutely increase you”. But he did not want to say in what, because he did not want to limit it. We must look around for things we are thankful for. If I cant find anything I look at my clothes and thank Allah for having clothes. If I am speaking, I am grateful to Allah for having a tongue that works and eyes that can see. We don’t own these – I didn’t pay Allah anything for them. A gift’s value sometimes cannot be determined. We usually think of value in the monetary sense. What is the price on your leg? What about one eyeball? So long as we are breathing and are alive, there are things for us to be grateful for. No matter what is taken – if it is a child, my career, or my ability to speak. If you are not able to find anything you are grateful for, then you are a victim. There is no increase for you. If you and I can find things to be grateful for, Allah is guaranteeing that he will replenish things we have lost anyway. We just maintain a positive and grateful attitude. We say “Alhamdulilah”, but we do not mean it sometimes. Say “Alhamdulilah” and mean it. Say, “I am grateful, I am appreciative.” Yes, you just lost your job but more could have gone wrong and Allah did not do that. Allah has kept you safe from so many other problems. Allah then says: “And if you were to be ungrateful...” The incredible mercy of Allah in this ayah is that he does not mention a “then.” He left it open and then said my “punishment is intense”, but he did not say, “then my punishment is intense.” The two things would be connected, if the letter “faa” (then) was there. “If you are ungrateful at all just know that my punishment is intense.” Allah is practically saying: even though I am not making a direct correlation due to my mercy, be grateful for that at least. Be grateful for the lack of “faa” there. SubhanAllah. One of the side lessons in this verse is that Allah spoke in the plural, which means our state of affairs can truly experience dramatic change if we can influence public attitudes. Our religion is 90% attitude. You just have to have the right attitude. I call it, ‘The Attitude of Gratitude’. If we have that attitude, Allah will increase us in opportunity, unity, progress, development, and in finding solutions to our problems. All of that will happen if we develop a grateful and positive attitude. Allah says that help from the unseen comes when the believer has the right attitude. Even though you haven’t done anything yet, gratitude is in the heart. It is not an action. Allah does not say, “if you are grateful to Him, he will increase you”, Allah says, “If you are grateful.” That is all. This means it is not limited to be appreciative of Allah. If you are grateful to anyone: your parents, your teachers, your friends, all the other people and all the other sources of help and blessings around you, your children for bringing a smile on your face, or your husband or your wife, He will increase you. You have to become a person of appreciation for your life to get better. If you are going through a problem maybe you and I are not appreciative enough. Our mindset has to change.
volume three, issue seven // page 5
Photo credit: RIS Photography
And Moses looks at his crowd and says “And if you remain ungrateful and everybody on this earth altogether, then Allah is independent”, he does not need your positive mentality; he does not need you to say “Alhamdulillah”. He is already self-praised; he does not depend on your praise. The religion does not need us. You and I are going to be gone and this religion will move on. Allah will give us victory with us or without us. The Da’awa (the calling) of Islam will spread with us or without us. We are all dispensable. Those who are involved in Islamic work may say “Man if I don’t do it, who is going to do it? Thank Allah that I am around.” There is a saying that goes: “The graveyard is full of indispensable people.” People used to say about those who have died, “What will we do without you.” Now they are all in the graveyard. Part of being grateful is that Allah honored us with the opportunity to serve. Something that Moses’ followers had to be grateful for was the fact that they lived around a time when a messenger was among them and he gave them direct sermons. They got to be considered as the companions of Moses. That is an honor. Hence, the Muslims in Mecca were extremely grateful for being in the company of Prophet Mohammed. What greater honor could there be? Their attitude was not, “I should be patient” but, “I should be grateful I am going through a tough time because Allah honored me to go through this tough time. He thought I was good enough to go through this. I get to join the ranks of the Prophet.” Some people quit Islamic work when things don’t go well. They say, “Brother, I used to help
out but I don’t help out anymore, they don’t appreciate me. They really test my patience.” When things get tough, that just means Allah is testing your metal – it doesn’t mean you should quit. It means you should go on. It means Allah wants to give you extra credit. If things are tough, that means Allah knows you can handle it. These are not the reasons to quit; these are the reasons to go on. The problem is not what holds us back; it is what pushes us forward. The Prophet said, “The expert in the Quran is ranked amongst the highest and noblest angels.” A student was listening to this and said, “Well, I am not an expert,” and the Prophet went on to say, “The one who recites the Quran, stumbles on it and finds it really hard gets twice the reward.” Some scholars say that he gets twice what a normal person would get, while others say he gets twice what the expert gets because Allah made it extra hard for him. Allah is not concerned with quantity, but with quality of effort. Hence, now the student who is doing the worst in class is the most motivated in class because Allah promised him twice the reward for struggling with it anyway. I want to share with you a small gem from the Quran about gratitude. The Arabic word for “blessing” is “Ni’ma.” There are two plurals Ni’am and An’um. In Arabic, they have the singular, the pair, the plural and the super awesome plural. Ni’am is super plural. An’um is weak plural (less than 10 or easily countable). Allah mentions the weak plural once and the super-plural once. Allah talks about Ibrahim: “Ibrahim was grateful for a few favors of Allah.” That’s odd. Wasn’t Ibrahim the most grateful of the people who ever lived? Why would Allah use the weak plural? Allah says, “If you were to
count the singular favor of Allah you wouldn’t be able to encircle it or grasp it.” Most people cannot even come up with full gratitude for one favor, therefore, Ibrahim pulled off a few favors. Allah says, “Allah unleashed his uncountable excessive favors on to you,” – the ones you can see and the ones you can’t see. This means that all of us are showered with so many favors that it is impossible to count. They are not just plural they are super plural: Ni’am. “He showered you with uncountable favors.” This is what we have to become: people that are constantly looking for reasons to thank Allah. We are the people that begin our religion with the phrase “Alhamdulilah”. This means that pessimism is out of our vocabulary. We are not pessimistic people because we are people of “Alhamdulilah.” We are always looking at the brighter side. And if you are not looking at the brighter side, you do not understand what it means when you say “Alhamdulilah” in prayer. I was sitting in an arabic class with three people in Queens, New York about 12 years ago. It started with ten people and on the fourth day, there were three people left. The teacher said, “Just say “Alhamdulilah” and let Allah do the rest.” This conference started from one or two people that sat together and said we can do something. People said we wouldn’t be able to contact those Sheikhs. Yet, here we are today. Let’s be optimistic. Let’s change the face of what this community looks like. Let’s transform the teaching standards, the social standards, and the ethical standards of the entire community. Let’s uplift ourselves. Lecture given at RIS 2012, Toronto, Ontario.
page 6 // volume three, issue seven
Changing the present and dreaming the future by Tariq Ramadan I want to share with you some ideas about the future. I will start with some introductory remarks. It is my perception that we have continued the process of interfaith dialogue among ourselves without taking into account the reality of our present world. Our world has changed tremendously, especially during the last 10 years. We are going from one crisis to another; social crises, civilization crises and cultural crises and we have to deal with all these crises. In the present time we are perceived as naïve, simplistic, far from the world. This is my perception and of others around me. I think that it is our responsibility, if we are true before God, true before our conscience, to come to a realistic and true commitment. As we represent the faiths of the people, we have to deal with this reality and we have to face up to our responsibilities when we are dealing with these crises. If we are speaking about hopes we have to start by being realistic and face up to the responsibility. If we want something to happen, we should try and change not only the way we are dealing with each other but also the way we are dealing with the world we are living in. When we speak about hopes and dreams, there is the Prophet’s peace upon all of them, who are dreaming the future and transforming the present. It should not be the other way around. By dreaming the present you are not helping me to deal with my problems. Therefore, dream the future, change the present and this is the way we have to deal with our values, with our teachings. If I as a Muslim man, try to share my views with fellow citizens of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or indigenous spiritual traditions, I and others like me are very often perceived as naïve people, dreamers, far from reality. Is this true? If many perceive us like that, elementary psychology is telling us that we have to ask ourselves if there is any truth in this perception. I think there is. Our discourse is sometimes far removed from the reality of people’s lives. We speak about love but as soon as we seek to promote love in this world, it becomes difficult. To love is difficult. We speak about peace, but to get peace, inner peace and collective peace, that is difficult. We speak about the importance of family. But people want concrete answers on how to build a family in this world today, within this reality of social crises and psychological crises. We are living in a world where we need to give answers. My prayer and my hope are for us to be humble, more realistic and more committed to giving answers on how to get peace. Let us not only talk about peace but also tell people how to get there. Let us speak with people how to move closer towards the realm of love, with dreams of the future, as one family of humankind. As Muslims
we regard man and woman to be brothers and sisters. Yet, it is difficult to be sisters and brothers. It is difficult for me to be your brother. It will be difficult, if you would dare asking me to forgive you. To understand why you are doing what you are doing today is difficult. Let us hope that we are committed and that we are trying to change the world. But while we are promoting this interfaith dialogue let us take into account that our world has changed. We are dealing with ignorance, with people not knowing each other, and today we are dealing with something more vicious and perverse than all that: a new ideology of fear. Fear is promoted everywhere: wherever you go, to the south or the north, to Muslim, Christian or Hindu communities, everywhere you will see and feel the same the same: fear. We are not secure and we do not feel secure. In the United States, there is a great deal of fear after 9/11. In Israel, Palestine, India and other parts in the world, everywhere is fear. It is not only a state of mind, which we are witnessing. It is also used by politicians and by religious people, people of faith. If we are true and understand the meaning of faith, we will have to deal with fear. Then we can begin to understand that we live in a world where emotions are promoted and emotions have nothing to do with spirituality, in fact they are its opposite. Emotions are superficial reactions. Not superficial in a bad way, but the first reaction surfacing when something happens. Spirituality is something different. It is about effort, about something that you experience deep in your heart. Spirituality is the way to master your emotions, not to be or to submit yourself to your own emotions. It is of vital importance to talk about our spiritual teachings. What do they tell us of mastering emotions? Why is it so important to go beyond our emotions? Because they put us in a position where we perceive ‘us’ versus ‘ them’ and where we have to defend our identity. That mindset is perverse, it is vicious in the world that we are living in to see each other as separate, always protecting myself from you and you protecting yourself from me. It makes dialogue quite impossible. Today we are living with virtual wars, we are scared and we do not know how to deal with this. At the local level this ideology of fear is nurturing and is nurtured by suspicions. In which way do we trust each other? At a conference it may be easy to trust each other, but in our daily life it is different. How can we transmit this mutual trust at the local level, at the grassroots level? This is the commitment, this is the challenge, to create spaces of mutual trust, to move away from this globalized fear, to return
to our own traditions and plan to contribute something concrete. This is my hope: first to reconcile us with the complexity of the world around us and to make it clear that to have a spiritual heart and to nurture a spiritual heart, you need to build a critical mind. Spirituality has nothing to do with naivety. Spirituality has nothing to do with just dreaming. It has to do with a critical mind enabling us to make an effort, a spiritual effort to take a distance from our emotions and to try and understand the world. It means to learn to listen and it is not easy to listen when you are emotional. Very often people are speaking about Muslims saying that we do not listen. We listen suspecting you to say what we want you to say and so we do not listen to the words said. This is happening daily, this is concrete life. We have a complex heart, living in a complex world. To learn to listen is not just dreaming about being together, it means to get to know each other more and to promote something which is very simple. Let us be committed to reconcile us to this world with complexity and not make simplistic statements about love and peace and family. Such statements are far from the people, so people will listen to us from very far. This is when we think that we are a minority. We are promoting majority values, majority teachings, majority feelings, but we are far, and we speak alone and as a minority. Why? It is not because people are far from the content of what we say. It is because we are far from their lives. That is a totally different thing. If we move closer to the complexities of daily life, it is my hope that all that we are doing is a road to the civil society at the social level. Let us work together so that our ethical input becomes visible, our understanding of the ethical imparity before God to say something about social issues. How should we promote ethics in our society? Let us take education as an example. Is it our sole ambition to add one hour on religion in our school systems? Is that all we desire? Should we not see the importance of ethics in a more global, integratedmulti-disciplinary way? I am convinced we must promote ethics in every discipline. To be satisfied with only one additional hour per week will again mean disconnecting ethics from reality. It will not convince students of our deep commitment towards creation. To promote ethics in every discipline makes visible our deep concern about education, social justice, discrimination and gender issues. It is promoting a new, deep femininity and it is more than a struggle for rights. It is a struggle for being. We must engage in the world showing that we are committed to understand and promote majority values. People who want to change the world are challenged by two biased feelings: that they are a minority and that they are victims. If we are true to our religious traditions we have to get rid of those feelings. We are not victims and we are not a minority. If we are true before God, we will understand that this is a challenge. We have to be the subject
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Photo credit: RIS Photography of our history, subjects of our own lives and not victims of the lives of others. Let us change this mindset and reconcile us with complexity. This is the way to connect with other people. Let me conclude with two final remarks: Firstly, we have to be accountable when attending international interfaith meetings. If we engage in dialogue only at conferences, then we are not living up to our spiritual commitment. We must be committed to go back to our communities and share what we have learned and put our words into actions. Secondly, we must invest in trusting each other. Mutual trust is possible. I was in Sarajevo a few weeks ago and there, ten years after the war, an Eastern European was asking a Western European: “Let me ask you one thing: After what happened and us being Muslims, how could I trust you?” This question of trust is essential. How are we committed to promote this mutual trust? We must network at the local level, understanding this global strategy and ideology of fear, and we must create spaces for mutual trust. When we do that, we are changing the present and dreaming the future. Lecture given in Geneva in June 2005 during the conference organised by the World Council of Churches: “A Critical Moment in Interreligious Dialogue” -- edited by Hans Ucko
page 8 // volume three, issue seven
The storm is coming by Yasmin Mogahed Today, I’m going to talk about poverty. Yet, the poverty I speak about today isn’t the apparent kind. You see, before we can begin to speak about a concept, we need a criterion. We need definitions. In speaking about poverty, we need to understand that there is external poverty and there is internal poverty. And one is far more dangerous than the other, because while one form of poverty determines how we live temporarily, the other form, determines how we live eternally. Today, I will speak on the latter form. Internal poverty is the poverty of the soul. It describes the unmoved soul. The soul that has been created, but has still failed to realize why. It is the soul that lives a purposeless life. The heart that beats, but has already died. Because while the body cries and bleeds and feels pain from the material world, the soul is untouched by these things. There is only one thing that can cut or stab or impoverish the soul. There is only one thing that can kill it: to deprive it of its’ only true need: to be close to its’ Originator. To be near God. Spiritual deprivation is the true impoverishment. True poverty is standing poor on the Day of Judgment. Despite this Reality, we continue to live this life feeding our bodies, but starving our souls. The sad irony of this focus is that the body we tend to is only temporary, while the soul we neglect is eternal. When a body dies. We cry. But the death of the body is not true death. It’s only the removing of a shell and the movement from one realm to another, Truer realm. We weep for the departing bodies. But our hearts are unmoved by those bodies which are alive, but whose hearts and souls have died because of the alienation from that which gives them life: God. What impoverishes and kills the heart? It is allowing the heart to love anything as it should only love God. See the heart was created with a very particular nature and for a very particular purpose. When you fail to use any created thing for the purpose for which it was created for, it breaks. It drowns. It starves. It dies. The heart was created by and for God. The heart was created to know and love God. The heart was created to be given to God. To be filled with God. The heart that is given to or filled by any other thing, suffers the most painful impoverishment and death. The human heart is like a boat in the ocean of dunya. The boat that allows the oceans water to enter breaks and then drowns. The human heart that allows this dunya to enter, breaks and drowns. And becomes owned. Owned by this life. Owned by our gadgets, our facebook, our jobs, the distractions, the fashion trends, the marketing tools, the money, the power, the status. The heart that is owned by this life is a prisoner of the worst kind. The heart that is owned by any other master, than the Master of masters, is the weakest of all slaves. That is true oppression. True death.
True poverty. As human beings we enslave ourselves to different things. Some of us in here are enslaved to money. Some of us have enslaved our hearts to other people. We love them as we should only love Allah. Some of us are enslaved to status or to our careers. I tell you to ask yourselves what do you love most? Most of us in this room will say we love God most. We say this with our tongues. We say this in our minds. But our hearts, our actions, say otherwise. How do you know? Ask yourself: what is your refuge? When you’re most broken, where do you go? When you’re afraid, where do you hide? When you need, who do you ask? What do you fear most? What do you stay up at night worrying about? Who, what, makes you cry most? What do you think about most? What occupies your mind in salah? Is it really God? Is it really Allah on your mind most? Is it really your fear of standing before Him that makes you cry in your bed? No. Probably not. It’s the person who left you. The money you lost. The career you couldn’t have. The raise you didn’t get. What are you afraid of most? Just the thought of losing what thing causes you so much anxiety that you feel it physically? Is it your husband, your wife, your money, your job? Is it your image? Is it your figure? What is it? When you’re given a choice, what do you do? When Allah says to dress and act a certain way, and society says the opposite, which do you choose? Who defines beauty for you? Who defines success? When Allah says interest is haram, but your financial ambitions command otherwise, when societies standard for the size of your house or brand of your car command otherwise…which do you choose? Who defines richness? Who defines poverty? What type of poverty are YOU most afraid of? The truth is we choose what we love most. When we love money most, that’s what we choose. When we love people more, they fill our hearts. We think of them most. Our life loses center. We leave the orbit of the Creator and enter the orbit of the creation—a painful and unstable orbit. In the orbit of the creation, we rise and fall with the wave of the creation, the wave of praise and criticism, our standards for success and failure come from the creation, from society. The standard for richness, the standard for poverty… comes from the creation. From society. But I think in teaching Islam, there’s a point where we went wrong. I think, somewhere along the line we turned Islam into a list of do’s and don’ts. Into “harams and halals.” We teach our children about Hell fire, before they can even say “AlRahman-ur Raheem” (the most gracious the most merciful). Sunday school has become a place to teach you all the things that are ‘haram’ to do and all the punishments that you’ll be dealt if you do them. When someone converts, the first thing they’re told is that they need to change
their name and stop celebrating Valentine’s Day. Somewhere along the line I think we started going about Islam from the outside in. Instead of the inside, out. But, we need to ask ourselves: How did the Prophets do it? One of the companions relates that Ayesha said: “If the first thing to be revealed was: ‘Do not drink alcoholic drinks.’ people would have said, ‘We will never leave alcoholic drinks,’ and if there had been revealed, ‘Do not commit illegal sexual intercourse, ‘they would have said, ‘We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.” (sahih bukhari) She goes on to explain that the first verses to be revealed were about the Day of Judgement and about Allah. What is our mother Ayesha (RA) talking about here? She is diagnosing, in her wisdom, why we have so many Muslims today saying “We will never leave alcoholic drinks,” “We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.” “We will never give up smoking hooka or pot, or pornography. We will never give up dating and all the so called pleasures associated with it.” We refuse to give up these things because we have not yet understood the heart of Islam. For years we have been bombarded with the self-righteous ‘haram police’, but never have we been exposed to the ‘heart police’. The Prophet pbuh has taught us why we end up falling into this type of corruption, why we fall into these types of sins which we insist upon. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Truly, what is lawful is evident, and what is unlawful is evident, and in between the two are matters which are doubtful which many people do not know. He who guards against doubtful things keeps his religion and honour blameless, and he who indulges in doubtful things indulges in fact in unlawful things, just as a shepherd who pastures his flock around a preserve will soon pasture them in it. Beware, every king has a preserve, and the things Allah has declared unlawful are His preserve.” But we stop there! But the hadith doesn’t stop there. This hadith begins by talking about staying away from haram and sticking to the halal, and that’s usually where we stop. We are taught that certain things are forbidden and we are commanded by our teachers and parents to stay away from them. But the hadith didn’t end there. And yet *we* end there. We end it at: “Stay away from haram and doubtful matters.” Period. But the Prophet, pbuh, continues the hadith telling us HOW. How can we stay away from haram and doubtful matters? How can we protect ourselves from the preserve of Allah? Through islah ul qalb. Rectifying our hearts. The hadith continues: “Beware, in the body there is a flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt, and behold, it is the heart.” The heart is the master. You see, human beings are all about love. We obey what we love. Whatever fills this lump of flesh called our hearts dictates how we act. And when it comes to love, we make a lot of claims. We claim to love a lot of things. But like the great poet once said, “Love is like a law suit. It requires evidence.” What is the evidence of love? What is the direct
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Photo credit: RIS Photography consequence of this powerful emotion? Think for a moment about human love. What happens when someone is in love with another person? That person will desire nothing more than to serve, please and be close to the one they love. And this service is not motivated by begrudging obligation, but rather a deep inner drive born directly out of that love. Love speaks for itself. When you love someone, you do what pleases them. And your greatest joy is in pleasing and serving the one you love. It is an honor to serve the one you love. Imagine if you are in the presence of a famous person. I know I’m not in Southern California, but supposed you met Will Smith, how would you act? “Can I get you something?!” “A glass of water?” “Can I tie your show?!” Imagine getting to tie Will Smith’s shoe! And then you’d go back home and tell everyone: “I TIED Will Smith’s SHOE!!” You may not care about Will Smith, but you understand the sentiment here. There is an honor in serving the one you love. There is tashreef. And it is only once that love is gone or weakened, that serving the person goes from being an honor to just being a burden. It goes from tashreef to only takleef. Sadly, our worship of God is like this: Just a burden. We don’t pray to seek refuge from the storm of our lives. If we pray at all, we do it to get it out of the way! Or because our parents will keep nagging us if we don’t. Somehow we’ve forgotten that if we don’t pray, we harm no one…not Allah….not our mothers….not our fathers. We harm only our own selves. You see on the Day of Judgment, every man and woman will stand alone in front of Allah. And there is nothing anyone can do for you—except by the permission of Allah. On that Day a mother will be willing to throw away her own child just to save herself! Please understand the Reality we have forsaken because we are so caught up with our phones, our apps, our friends, our parties, our
highs. We’re so caught up with the cute guys and the pretty girls. Please understand, ignoring a Reality doesn’t make it less Real. It’s still going to happen. Being unprepared for something doesn’t stop it from happening. If you chose to stay up all night partying, instead of studying for your final, it doesn’t mean the final won’t happen. It still will. And you only end up failing. If we spend this life just partying, pretending that the final isn’t coming, it won’t stop it from happening. Nothing will stop death. Nothing. Nothing will delay the Day of Judgment. Like that final, the question is only: are…we…prepared? Or are we too busy playing? Imagine that the news reported that a huge storm was coming. Imagine that we were told that unless we seek shelter, we and our families would be destroyed. What would we do? If we really believed that a storm was coming, we would run to shelter, right? Only a person who didn’t believe the forecast, would continue playing and ignore the countless warnings. Only if you thought it was a lie. Only if you didn’t really believe. But how could someone KNOW–really know–that a storm was about to hit, and do absolutely nothing to protect themselves and those they loved? Would anyone say, “I’m too busy hanging out”, “I’m too busy on my phone or facebook to run to shelter”, “I’d rather check out this guys’s profile than protect myself from this storm”? No one would say that. And yet, every single time, we put off our prayers, put off wearing hijab, put off giving up dating, put off leaving our poisonous bad company, put off abandoning alcohol…that is exactly what we’re saying. The fact that we cannot leave these haram things, the fact that we insist: “I will never leave alcoholic drinks,’ ‘I will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.’ ‘I will never give up smoking hooka or pot, or pornography. I will never give up dating and all the so called pleasures associated
with it.” That fact that our worship has become only a burden, is a sign that there’s a problem internally. There a problem with our sight. We don’t really see the Storm coming. We don’t really see the Day of Judgment. We haven’t purified and rectified that lump of flesh the Prophet (pbuh) spoke about. And as a result, the rest of our bodies, the rest of our actions, the rest of our lives have become corrupted. We don’t really see Allah with our hearts. And we haven’t built our love for Him. We haven’t really used our heart for the very purpose for which it was created: To know, to serve, and to love God. Remember that the first verses revealed were not about haram and halal. They were not about dating or drinking or smoking or pot. They were about the fact that as a matter of certainty, just as certain as I am standing in front of you today, that you and I, will meet our Maker. You and I, will stand in front of Allah and we will be asked. What did you love most in this world? What did you spend your life doing? What did you run after? Will it last? The things you chase.... will... they...last? Will they help you....or will they hurt you....when the illusion of this life has passed? We need to come back to Allah, before it’s too late. And Often what keeps people from turning back is that they believe their sins are too great for Allah to forgive. To this thought, Allah speaks: Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah . Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (Quran 39:53) This is an excerpt from Yasmin Mogahed’s article / RIS talk 2012. To continue reading, please visit: http://www.yasminmogahed.com/2013/02/10/ ris-lecture-the-storm-is-coming/
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Photo credit: Dua Dahrouj
Reviving the Islamic Spirit — Relive, Revive, Rejoice! It’s that time of year again! When over 20, 000 people from around the world come together for the same single joyous occasion; RIS— Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention in Toronto, Canada. Lectures, intellectuals, spirituality, entertainers, bazaars, children’s programs, family, friends, food, and much more! What’s not to love about it?
Then, at the age of 14, I attended my first RIS convention. It was a trip filled with fun moments with my family, where we shopped at the RIS bazaar filled with everything imaginable (including food!), enjoyed entertainment by famous talents, and benefitted from inspirational, thought-provoking lectures addressed by international scholars.
Living in a world that consists of different cultures and faiths, it would be ideal for us all to understand one another, but the reality is we do not. Therefore, to want see that change, we must first revive our understanding of ourselves and to even challenge our self to learn about other faiths and cultures. That is the soul of RIS, the opportunity to understand.
To understand the true value of such an event, I would like to share a personal story in which RIS impacted me.
Not only was this an enjoyable experience, it also became an opportunity for me to relive that moment when I was 11 years old. The lectures enabled me to reflect upon that moment so clearly and to finally resolve the questions that had kept me puzzled. At the end of this three-day journey, educating myself through introspection and knowledge allowed me to come to a profound realization. My classmate did not hate me, nor did this person hate my hijab, they just did not understand it.
Whether you are Muslim or not, young or old, female or male, we all live different and unique experiences. The RIS Convention is a place where we are gifted the opportunity to educate and inform ourselves in an attempt to grow and make sense of the experiences Allah (swt) has given us, both good and bad.
In 2001, I was 11 years old when one of my classmates after school decided to pull my hijab off and call me all sorts of names, simply on the basis that I was a Muslim. At the time, I did not understand what I did wrong for someone to commit such an act. Did this person hate me? Did they hate my hijab? This experience kept me puzzled as I grew older.
The enlightenment of RIS awaits you! Relive, Revive, Rejoice. — Dua Dahrouj For more information about RIS; please visit the website at www.revivingtheislamicspirit.com
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Ayaa’s Journey to Palestine
This summer I embarked on a journey of a lifetime. I, along with a Delegation of 39 other Palestinian diaspora youth from North, Central and South America to as far as Australia, travelled to Palestine. That faraway land we hear so much about and yet, know so little about. But much to my surprise, I was the only Canadian. Surely this is a poor reflection of the strong Palestinian presence in London and overall in Canada? So, I can only hope that by recounting my own story of a visit that did more than simply change my life, I can both reassure and persuade you to visit Palestine and indulge in the most beautiful experience life has to offer. It all began with an expected seven-hour wait at the Allenby Bridge; a seemingly endless terminal that stands between Jordan and Israel. Then, with butterflies in my stomach, I moved my foot across the border. Immediately I was overcome with a euphoric sense of home. One that deepened once my eyes caught sight of the hundreds of Palestinians waiting to greet us upon arrival in Bethlehem. And as we made our way through
Photo credit: Ayaa Dama
the picturesque historic streets towards the Church of Nativity it dawned upon me: we Palestinians remain one. Notably, I had gone to Palestine on the “Know Thy Heritage Leadership Program” sponsored by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF). The aim of the program being to encourage diaspora Palestinians to learn of their native land. Our first task was accordingly to know the ins and outs of the Holy Land (within two weeks!) So, we visited places of utmost historical importance within the Westbank and occupied Palestine including Jerusalem, Haifa and Ramallah. From hours spent conferring with shopkeepers in the Old City of Jerusalem over the evolution of embroidered Toubs to jumping onto buses simply to gaze into the serene and mesmerizing landscape, it was hard to accept this as reality. Over and over again, we drove up and down the windy mountain roads. This experience was beyond words. Each region, town and street has a uniquely irresistible charm.
Most importantly, Palestine is home to a population of extraordinary warmth. We spent most evenings being entertained by youth councils throughout the State; an initiative aimed at providing a greater insight into Palestinian cultural heritage through dance, singing and art. Particularly poignant was the use of traditional folklore dance, dabkeh, to convey stories of marriage or war and loss. In stark contrast, us Canadians usually launch into dabkeh to celebrate. Palestinians have preserved their traditions and cultural heritage well. In so doing, the people have a heroic sense of strength and togetherness. Even more remarkable is how the youth have taken on leadership roles to uphold their customs and way of life. And within as my journey came to a close, I realized that a corresponding responsibility rests with us, the Palestinians in diaspora. Indeed it is only when you set foot into the land of Palestine that you learn what it really means to be Palestinian. — Ayaa Dama
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Entrepreneur in focus: Ahmad Hamdan Owner, Babaz
Ahmad Hamdan is the young owner of Babaz Shawarma located on Wharncliffe Road North in London. He is a bright business graduate from Fanshawe College and has worked at the store with his parents and team membersexams or no exams! Babaz offer a mouthwatering array of Middle Eastern dishes. Ahmad says that their shawarma, souvlaki, falafel, burgers and salads are the best sellers and he claims are the best in town! Shawarmas are their main specialty, with succulent meat pieces wrapped up in a pita loaded with many sauces. Ahmad can be seen serving shawermas with a smile and customer service that is pretty hard to beat!
Photo credit: London Link
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Canola fields of Alberta
Saleme Fayad Photography Growing up in Lac La Biche It’s an honor to share where I was raised, grew up, and now visit annually with my children. Growing up in small town Lac La Biche, Alberta on a farm with the lake minutes away from our doorstep instilled a strong foundation of values, appreciation for nature and the simple things in life.
My brother calf roping in the local rodeo
Lac La Biche Lake, Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park
It was the place we all took for granted, and the saying “you never know what you have until its gone” proves true. There aren’t any malls, McDonald’s, little entertainment, and all the luxuries we’ve become used to. You learn to think outside the box and work with what you have. I now try to instill these values in my children as I feel it builds character. After living in a city for 11 years now, my perspective has changed and I have a deeper appreciation for my hometown. It reminds me to slow down, breathe, and appreciate the little things, as they really are the big things. I will always remain a small town girl at heart. — Saleme Fayad is a natural light Family and Lifestyle Photographer based out of London, Ontario who enjoys “Capturing the beauty of life.” You can find her on Facebook under Saleme Fayad Photography or visit her blog: salemefayadphotography. blogspot.com
My daughter savoring the moment of being up so high
Hilltop view of the farm
Event in photographs:
Pioneers of London Photographs by: Fahim Khan
volume three, issue seven // page 15
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Success is married to rejection
Photo credit: NF
In the past five years I have been “studying” successful individuals. These are people I have either interacted with intentionally, or followed on social media, or carefully read upon. As educators and parents we are enamored by success; we pray incessantly that our kids are one of those who are successful. Do we know the criteria for success? Is it clear in our minds? Are we working towards this daily with our kids? Who are deemed as successful? What qualities are considered to be successful? And how can we inculcate those qualities in our kids to set them up for success? There is something about the number five that is intriguing. Educators have agreed upon having no more than five expectations for kids. Anything above five is overlooked. When in doubt, stick to five. I will employ this strategy and state five success criteria that I have personally observed in successful individuals. Successful individuals are: positive; persistence; effective time managers and organized. Successful people have at least one individual they trust for support and sound advice. Successful individuals have a positive outlook in life and know how to handle rejection and failure that nurtures persistence. Criteria one and two are related. I want to start with rejection and failures. In North America we are so careful to protect our kids from experiencing failures and rejections. I think, as adults, we don’t know how to deal
with our feelings of rejection or failure and so we don’t want our kids to go through these uncomfortable feelings. We need to realize that kids are resilient. Help them deal with rejection. Help them realize that failure is an integral part of life. Build your kids to embrace rejections, because once they do, they won’t be afraid to be ready for life’s possibilities. Individuals become negative because they take failures personally. They don’t know how to sift through feelings of failure, and therefore their outlook in life becomes more negative, which affects criteria number one. Both criteria one and two build persistence. They teach kids to keep at a task until it is completed, to never give up. Successful individuals have effective time management skills and they are organized. It is not how smart one is; it is how well one manages their time, which also goes hand in hand with planning and being organized. By organized I don’t mean having a spotless work area, rather it is: when one takes care of their things; when one knows where their things are; when they have a system of tracking their to-do lists. Successful individuals keep their thoughts in check. If your thoughts are positive, you are a positive person. If your thoughts are happy, you are a happy person. What do you think about regularly? What do you think about when someone is mean to you?
The Prophet (pbuh) says that the shaytan dwells in the blood of individuals. So if we do not take control of our thoughts, the shaytan will happily provide us with lots of negative thoughts to chew on. Which takes us back to criteria one and two. How one becomes positive starts with having positive thoughts. Success and winning are married to rejection and failure. Get comfortable with rejection, embrace it, and welcome it. Successful people have at least one person that they trust, to whom they go for support and from whom they get authentic and sound advice. Successful people interact with at least one individual regularly who keeps them in check. This person tells them when they have done something wrong, brainstorms with them how to make it right, and pats them on the back when they do something right. This person is very honest but also someone whom your child enjoys. Dr Bruce Ferguson from the University of Toronto calls for a “caring adult” for every student/child. He says that having one “caring adult” in a student’s life can make all the difference. These criteria are timeless, and transferable. I find parents consistently focus on academics, but evidence shows that children do not have to be academically brilliant to be successful. —Asma Ahmadi
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Recipes — Recipes & photos by Thasneen Ansi www.thasneen.com
Ground beef- ½ lb
Onion, minced- 1, small
Leeks, rinsed and chopped small- 3 cups
Potato, diced- 3, large
Green pepper, minced- 1, small
Jalapeño pickled, minced- 7 slices
Butter- 2 tbsp
Paprika- 1 tsp
Dried basil- 1 tsp
Dried oregano- 1 tsp
Ground cumin- ½ tsp
Ground black pepper- ½ tsp
Coriander powder- 1½ tsp
Vegetable or chicken broth, low-sodium- 4 cups
Ground black pepper- ½ tsp
Cream- ½ cup
Garam Masala- ½ tsp
Salt- if needed
Bread crumbs- 2 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Preheat oven to 375 F. Soak the skewers in water for 15 to 20 minutes; this will prevent them from burning. In a large bowl, combine all the above-mentioned ingredients. If using a long skewer, cut into halves. Make a round shape out of the ground beef mixture, roll it over the skewer, and spread it well. Place all the skewers on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and greased with non-stick cooking spray. Spray the cooking spray over the beef kebabs as well. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven, flip the beef skewers over and bake for another 10 to 15 more minutes. Serve warm over a bed of rice or couscous or with salad.
Wash the leeks under running water, discard the ends and chop the leeks. Place a large soup pot or pan over medium heat. Add butter, let it melt. Add chopped leeks, saute for a few minutes. Add potatoes, saute for a minute. Add dried basil, dried oregano and ground black pepper, combine well. Add vegetable or chicken broth and cover the pot. Let simmer till the potatoes turn fork tender. Puree the cooked leeks/potato in vegetable broth using a hand blender. Return the pureed soup back to the pot, add cream and heat at low heat for a couple of minutes stirring continuously. Taste, add more salt or ground pepper if needed. Serve hot in a soup bowl along with croutons or crackers. If you prefer you could sprinkle some cheddar cheese over the soup while serving.
3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Leek Potato Soup
Baked Ground Beef Kebabs
2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.
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Places & Photography // Waterton Lakes, Alberta, Canada
Book Review // Don’t Be Sad, by ‘Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni Don’t Be Sad is a book based on how the teachings of Islam guide you to the path of happiness. It is full of practical advice on following the sunnah and seeking guidance from Quran can help you get over the most trying times in your life. It offers guidance to the readers, both young and old, in a modern world context in getting over the tests and tribulations of this world. This book is available for purchase through Amazon or most Islamic bookstores.
email at email@example.com
Featured photographer // Mona Haidar “This image was captured just outside Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, a majestic place where the Canadian Prairie meets the Rocky Mountains. I was struck by the juxtaposition of the natural beauty of the land and the solitude of the vintage abandoned wagon perched in the middle of the vast Prairie, mountains loaming overhead.” —Mona Haidar
Photograph by Mona Haidar, photographer, teacher, and mother of three who was born and raised in London, Ontario. She currently resides in Calgary, Alberta and works as a stock and landscape photographer. Her website is: www.mhimages.photoshelter.com
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London Link Volume 3 Issue 7 (RIS Special Issue)