Transcendence /,tran(t)â€™sendÉ™ns/ Beyond the illusion of progress into the metaphysical realm What lies behind us, and what lies before us is tiny compared to what lies within us - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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From the Editors’ desk
ngineers habitually carry alongside themselves a distinct fondness for rigidly laid out plans, quantifiable benchmarks and a robotic pursuit of results. This was my approach towards the magazine when I was confirmed as the Editor-in-Chief. It wasn’t long after that, that I realized my approach was not going to work. I realized that working with people who sacrifice their time and effort to contribute to a project because they care about the wellbeing of the community is fundamentally different from working with people who care about good grades, or employability. It is said that the companions of the Prophet PBUH were surprised when Abu Bakr nominated Umar to succeed him. Umar was known for his fury, and statesmanship requires composure. Abu Bakr’s response to the objection was “the burdens of responsibility will moderate him.” It has only been four months as part of the TMV, and I can feel the burdens of responsibility taking their toll. It has been a very personal transcendence for me. A struggle to venture beyond my usual assertiveness into a realm where decisions have to be made collaboratively. Transcendence is my journey, and I hope the journey of many of you, beyond my immediate comfort zone where I was able to understand that there is much more to life than a pavlovian notion of reward and punishment. Transcendence is a metaphor for the inevitable transitions we go through in life and that is how we have tried to present it within the articles of this magazine. A special thanks to all my team members, without whom, the publication of this issue would not have been possible. It was not a smooth ride, we went through crests and troughs, we had our fair share of reversals and strike-downs, but here we are past the finish line and in the end that is all that matters. To all my team members, a wholehearted Thank You! To the readers, you may enjoy what you read, you may not enjoy it. You may agree with the opinions presented in the issue, you may disagree with it. You may want to praise the work we have done, you may want to critique it. Whatever it is, I would be very happy to hear your opinion about the magazine. On behalf of the TMV 2019/20 team, I would like to thank you for picking up the magazine. I hope you enjoy reading the magazine just as much we enjoyed creating it.
Usama Bin Ansar Editor-in-Chief
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C O N T E N T S Theme
The Stories that Pass Through Us
On the Crossroads - My Take on the Faith, Culture and Identity in South Asia
Love and Sufism: A Pedagogical Tool for Transcendence
Beyond the Physical – Lessons from a Transcendental Journey
The Burden of Responsibility: Why Climate Change is a Human Rights Issue,
and Why we Should Care Finding Hope, Peace, and Tranquility: The Journey of one Soul back to Islam
2 Worlds, Same MSA
Meet the cover Artist
The Language of the Prisoner
Muslim Travelers: Beyond Ibn Battouta
S T A F F EDITOR IN CHIEF Usama Bin Ansar ASSOCIATE EDITOR Erub Khan VICE PRESIDENT COMMUNICATIONS Salwa Iqbal GRAPHIC DESIGN Maarya Zafar Farwa Mumtaz
DISCLAIMER: the ideas and opinions expressed in this issue do not neccessarily reflect those of the TMV staff or those of the Muslim Students’ Association at the University of Toronto
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HEAD CONTENT EDITOR Maha Abbas WRITERS Ureeba Rehan Mobeen Kamran Lama Ahmed Fizzah Mansoor Syeda Hasan Erub Khan Shefaly Gunjal Rownak Tabassum Usama Bin Ansar Shanzay Sethi
EDITORS Aliya Karmali Iman Naqvi Zarfishan Qureshi Mehreen Butt Bilal Arif Fatima Formuli SPONSORSHIP TEAM Nimra Javed Fatima Formuli Samia Mehzabin COVER ART Jude Ibrahim
THE STORIES THAT PASS THROUGH US ROWNAK TABBASUM
ur parents’ stories are not our own. The path they took to the place they stand today is not our path to take for granted. Their success — their failure, what part of it can we call our own? The stories — ones filled with pain, told so causally at the dinner table or shortly before bed — when did we start to brush it off as simple chatter. As children perhaps, we wondered about these stories, knowing that they were real, but misunderstanding their impact. When did we start to roll our eyes, and sigh, believing that such words were meant only to manipulate us and so we decided they were not real.
Our parents’ stories are not our own, but they are the prelude to ours. The immigration officer who interviewed us was a pale white woman whose English was so foreign. Of course my parents knew the language — just her accent made it so hard to understand words they already knew. She was the decider of fate — the woman who would let us into the West if she wanted. I was a little over a year old, and was squirming around in my mother’s lap. My mother doesn’t recall if what they said had made any sense — I had been so distracting. What she does remember is at the end, the lady smiled at her and said “What a cute baby.” My mother now laughs and tells me, “By Allah, I think perhaps you are the only reason we passed.” Certainly this could not be my victory. Certainly I did nothing…I do not recall sacrifice, or valour, or struggle. It was my parents struggle, their uncertainty, their fear, their prayers — answered in the form of a baby. Our first year in Canada, we shared a tiny apartment with two other families and their children. This land, so foreign, so strange, so uninviting, did not seem to hold up to the pomp and glamour they’d been promised. My educated parents, who’d worked in universities, their ancestors who’d doctors and lawyers, now they struggled in late night shifts washing toilets of fast food chains. I complained only about the expensive shoes I could not buy, the art supplies I could not have, the horses I could not ride. I complained about the tiny apartment, the food we ate, the camps I could not go to — yet in my heart I always knew … I never doubted that they did not give me their everything, but I still complained because the white kids did, even when they had more.
My sister was born a Canadian, she died in the bath when she was two. My father was just going to the other room to grab a towel. I was too young to cry, but old enough to know that this feeling was pain. “You know ma, this pain, it’s a burden” I was in third grade and I had just learned the word burden. My mother tells me that it is not my burden, it is hers. My brother was born a Canadian as well. He grew up with me. He took to drugs when he was in high school. When he got older, he ran off with some girl and didn’t graduate from university. The last we heard was that she’d left him and he was looking for work. I used to tell my mother that it wasn’t her fault, but she never stopped believing it was. My father would only scoff and say, “There must be something in the soil here, the kids all grow wild.” He was my annoying little brother. He was my parents’ tragedy. I remember I cried to my guidance counsellor in middle school once, telling her that my parents had been yelling at each other. I didn’t realize that the fight about being late was trivial, that the fight about spilled milk was easily forgot, that in the bigger scheme of things, spilled milk didn’t amount to anything. She stayed with my father even after my sister died. My father stayed with her when she grieved my brother. In reality, that
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“White picket fence, isn’t that what you read in your english class?” My mother said. “The American Dream?” “We did not leave the friends we knew, the parents who loved us, the familiar air back home, for this place so that — so you could sit all day watching TV or go out and party and pretend to call that freedom.” I looked away. “We came to this place to prove ourselves. We send money back home to people who can not support themselves. You know their poverty. Your father and I could not be here, if we did not transcend all their expectations of us. Why cannot you do the same?
spilled milk was never going to end them, if my sister hadn’t. If those menial jobs hadn’t. If my brother hadn’t. If Canada hadn’t. Canada stretched them, pulled them apart; they were laughed at, given dirty looks for not understanding some custom, some rule they weren’t aware of. Yet somehow — somehow, down the line, whatever it was that held them together, brought them to better jobs, a bigger house, a place where they couldn’t be laughed at so easily anymore. My mother told me about how my father cried to her some nights when they first came to Canada, telling her he wanted to go home, leave it all behind. My father never cries… “That’s because your dad throws all his pain on top of me.” There was a lull. I do not know why she had brought this up in the first place. “Does crying help?” I couldn’t stop myself. “Does it make things better?”
Transcend my expectations, go to school, get a PhD, have a brilliant job, have a family, do it all.”
“Pain doesn’t like to just sit, it moves about…and then I can’t help but cry”
“Do you know how difficult it is? To do all — any of that!”
“Where does the pain go?” “Allah - he takes that pain away. You can’t put it in other people. People can’t handle it. They can’t understand it like He can.” My mother yelled at me for not wanting to wear hijab when I was in highschool. Back then, I was convinced she didn’t understand me. “You’re forgetting who you really are!”she boomed. “I want to be my own person, ma!” “No you don’t, you want to be like them!You’ll lose yourself.” When she said wear the hijab, she meant don’t lose faith in Allah, because she ended with, “At the end of the day, Allah is all you’ll have left. Back then too, I complained I didn’t want to go to university. I remember I didn’t want to get married. I didn’t want children. I wanted to be free, I thought. 6 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | NOVEMBER 2019 | XXV
“Do not explain difficult to me. You do not understand difficult.” I wanted to respond, but the more I thought I understood difficult, the more I could not say I did. “You’re saying that I owe you, aren’t you ma?” “You would be nothing without me. You can’t even make your lunch yourself now,” She took a pause before starting again, sounding agitated. “If you want to repay me, it’s a lost cause anyway. What parent doesn’t have dreams about their children’s future? After your sister passed away, after your brother… the dreams I saw in them, now you are the only one who can fulfill them. That is unfair too, I know” I did know this. I felt this everyday. I said nothing. Anything I could have said somehow sounded cheap, immature.
“You are never going to repay me. I just don’t want you to one day wake up, and not be proud of yourself. I see when you try as well.”
“So what do you want from me, ma — what does your success look like?” “Success is doing something amazing and still having people to share it with.”
“I am sharing it with you.” “What?” she said looking confused. “Success is doing amazing, and having someone to share it with?” “Did I say that?”
That’s when I realized it. I realized then…why my mother never left my father. Why he never left her. Why even when hope seemed lost, they held onto Allah. Why when everything seemed to drown them, this is what kept them afloat. I understood their valour, their sacrifice, their struggle.
“Yes.” She laughed, and didn’t say anything for a while.
After I got accepted to my doctorate, my mother took me home. She had prepared a meal I loved in my childhood. My father was upstairs with my spouse and child. I looked at my mother, old and wrinkled, but without any loss of spirit.
“I am also sharing my success tonight.” “And what’s your success, ma?”
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ON THE CROSSROADS
MY TAKE ON THE FAITH, CULTURE AND IDENTITYâ€™S IN SOUTH ASIA Fizzah Mansoor
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espite being born in and having grown up in Pakistan, my family’s Indian roots were always front and centre; in the saris both my grandmothers wore, in our pride in our dialect of Urdu, in our desperation to marry within the community so the forthcoming generations would continue to dress and speak like us, all to avoid disappearing - every immigrant’s worst fear. At no point was I allowed to forget that we belonged to the Muhajir community, a collection of different ethnicities that had immigrated to Pakistan in the years following the country’s independence in 1947. Yet, the customs are changing, despite the struggle to continue them. Saris are considered either too old fashioned or too risqué for “proper” Muslim women and have largely been abandoned in favor of the more ubiquitous local shalwar kameez. The accent and dialect my grandparents wore like a badge of honor has been awkwardly shed by their own children, who prefer to speak in their new cities’ local slang. To their grandchildren, their identity as immigrants (second and third generation, but immigrants nonetheless) is just a weight on top of their shoulders that they don’t know how to shed. In the wake of rising tensions between India and Pakistan, the identity crisis deepens. One is told by both sides that the other is inherently evil and monstrous yet one is never allowed to forget that both are an integral part of one’s identity; you may belong to only one now, but in the shape of your eyes and the color of your hair, it’s impossible to ignore that you have a connection to the other. South Asian identity is fragile. What initially began as a culture that embraced and thrived on its religious pluralism has now devolved into one that is fragmented and fearful, that vehemently rejects what is not familiar. The only thing we have in common now, it seems, is the dislike that divides us. Of course, a lot of this was compounded by centuries of colonialism and its deliberate, racist policies that were meant to divide the population in order to make their exploitation easier. The modern, independent nation states, it seems, have largely been unable or at times unwilling to go past the colonial legacy. The menace is well and alive on both sides of the border. In 2017, the Uttar Pradesh state government removed all mention and imagery of the states most prominent tourist attraction, the Taj Mahal from its tourism brochure, choosing instead to focus on the state’s Hindu and Buddhist heritage sites. This news was met with widespread criticism and confusion; the Taj Mahal is what most of the world pictures when it thinks of India, a romantic fantasy. How could the government consciously overlook its greatest asset while promoting tourism? The ugly but true answer is, because it was symbolic of the grandeur a Muslim empire enjoyed. This did not stop here. Over the years, the establishment has ventured further and the next frontier seems to be changing the names of towns in order to strip them of their Muslim identity; an important example was the renaming of Allahabad (also located in Uttar Pradesh) to Prayagraj. The city of Akbar Allahabadi, a revered advocate of
Hindu-Muslim unity, and among the most prominent voices of his time against British colonialism, no longer exists on the map of India. Many have commented that Prayagaj was simply the correct historical name of the city before the Mughal Emperor Akbar renamed it Allahabad. While this is true, the fact remains that there was no indigenous movement demanding a name change on this basis. To South Asian Muslims on both sides of the border this was a cause for greater concern; it was viewed, above all, as another facet of the rising nationalist jingoism which has come to dominate political discourse in the subcontinent; one which preys not only on the vulnerable minorities, but on their histories as well. By demonizing the Mughal dynasty as violent usurpers and tyrants who were determined to oppress Indians and enact their own form of foreign rule, what the Indian establishment is doi is that it is actively working to destroy Islam’s prominence and its impact on the subcontinent’s prolific past. In Pakistan, similar nationalist policies are being enacted. In the aftermath of General Zia’s fervent attempt at “Islamization”, the discourse around Islam and what constitutes an Islamic identity has narrowed. This has resulted in changes of attitudes towards religious minorities, who have progressively been driven into suspicion. In addition to the overtly visible change in Pakistan’s treatment of its minorities through the decades, there is also a shift in public attitudes towards cultural practices themselves. An example of this is Pakistan’s selective patronage of its art forms; in an article for Prism, a prominent local magazine, Wajiha Athat Naqvi explores why Pakistan patronizes some art forms over others. The spiritual Qawwali (though not without its critics) is extensively promoted and discussed as one of the great musical styles while Khyal, another expressive style of music which has most of its practitioners in Pakistan, but is more abstract and decidedly non-Islamic in its subject matter, is not given nearly as much attention. In a sense, Pakistan too, has always been committed to propagating only one half of its Indo-Islamic cultural heritage - only the one that holds Pakistanis in direct opposition to the Indians as if just a few centuries ago the two were not mutually inclusive. Attempts to separate the cultural identity from Islamic identity will ultimately be, in my opinion, prove to be futile. Islam doesn’t exist in a vacuum from those who practice it. Adherence has been historically influenced by culture, and conversely, culture has been influenced by Islam. The Indian Subcontinent was the perfect example of how this process of internalization and growth works. The subcontinent’s culture was massively influenced by Islamic thought and principles. To actively deny and erase those contributions is to destroy the culture itself. “Desi” and “Muslim” are not mutually exclusive terms. Rejecting geographical influences on Muslim culture, and/or Muslim influences on Indian culture will lead only to greater fragmentation of South Asian identity.
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Love and Sufism: A PEDAGOGICAL TOOL FOR TRANSCENDENCE UREEBA REHAN
ne of the great conundrums of our time is the question of what defines the human race as the human race—what quality subscribes who we are? Is it our intellect? Our ability to turn our thoughts and ideas into capital? Is it our speech? Is it the selfish zeal which drives our bodies into action? Is it the vivacity in our very movements as we stumble through this life? Or is it something else entirely? In his Fuquhat, Ibn Arabi looks past these attributes and instead makes another connection between the human race. He states, and I quote, BY GOD, I FEEL SO MUCH LOVE THAT IT SEEMS AS THOUGH THE SKIES WOULD BE RENT ASUNDER, THE STARS FALL AND THE MOUNTAINS MOVE AWAY AS IF I BURDENED THEM WITH IT: SUCH IS MY EXPERIENCE OF LOVE.
And there it is, the whole package. The answer to the universe and all that we know in it. If it can be said: the reversal to entropy. In 1946, Austrian writer Viktor Frankl wove love into a story about survival so beautifully that it seemed like any genocide could thereon be overcome. Plato wrote about platonic love. The Greeks drank Eros like a glass of wine. Saints threw themselves onto the doorsteps of fidelity. And yet, the western world does not recall these figures when love weaves itself into their everyday interactions; they think of figures from the East. There is a concept in Sufism called ibn-al-waqt, which, for the sake of brevity, means to surrender yourself to the present moment. To grasp ibn-alwaqt you would have to first grasp wujud, which, in Sufi metaphysics, is not just the recognition of God’s existence but also our duty as humans to find Him. For Arabi, wujud is our fundamental reality. It is the Real. To know wujud would mean to be real, and to be real would mean to know yourself to your full capacity. If we look at the backdrop of our everyday lives it is apparent that our thirst to find out who we are is parallel to finding out how we are what we are.
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As we try to question and construct and make sense of the boundaries of our creation, we are, in essence, in a state of transcendence. What are we acting for? Who runs our states? To whom do we owe the furor of our discourse? To know God you must love God; and to love God you must first know Him. And to launch yourself into this momentum you must first know yourself. One of the overarching themes in Imam Ghazali’s Ihya’Ulumuddin is the idea that love for God is the highest form of love towards which humans can aspire. Love (mahabbah), holds hands with knowing (ma’rifah). To visualize, your brain holds hands with your heart. And so how do we come to know ourselves? How do we reach that state of enlightenment where we transcend the boundaries that keep us rooted to this worldly life? The first step is to recognize that there is nothing self-empowering about transcendence. It does not lead to a sudden fondness of the self, or towards autonomy, or towards human supremacy. Instead, it makes us break away from all the pride and privilege that we hold about ourselves; it demolishes the ego; it makes us realize the role we play in this Anthropocene. To transcend means to lay victim to the virtue of humility. Arabi says, IF IT HAD NOT BEEN FOR THIS LOVE, THE UNIVERSE WOULD NOT HAVE APPEARED IN ITS SOURCE.
This dunya is a splinter; the camouflage to our suffering. Think of all the times you taught somebzody else in your life to love who they are. We do not realize this, but deep down, at the root of things, each and every one of us has adopted love as our pedagogy. That is where we all began. Maybe transcendence is synonymous with loving. I’d like to think that, despite all of the ugliness, we can overcome the quiet ways vice travels through the humdrum of this dunya. Maybe we can’t reverse entropy but can make it somewhat bearable. Maybe love is the salve which will do it.
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Beyond the Physical
Lessons from a Transcendental Journey
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magine being forced out of the neighbourhood you grew up in. Imagine being disowned by the closest members of your family. Imagine losing two of your closest relatives in the span of a year. Imagine being pelted with stones. Imagine being called a madman, a lunatic, a delusional poet by the same people who, a few years ago testified to your trustworthiness. This was the situation of the Prophet PBUH right before the Mi’raj. Al Isra’a Wal Mi’raj which roughly translates to “Night Journey and Ascension”; refers to the two-part journey that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH undertook from Makkah to Jerusalem and then onto the heavens. This journey has tremendous significance to Muslims around the world. On the 27th of Rajab, the night assumed to be the night of the Isra’a, it has become tradition to fast during the day and praying long into the night. However, if we were to take a step back and view this event from the wider context of its symbolic importance in the life of the Prophet PBUH and in the lives of ordinary Muslims in Makkah at the time we can achieve a higher appreciation for the Mi’raj. The Night Journey happened nearly two years after the Year of Sorrow, when He PBUH had to deal with the grief of losing his beloved wife, supporter and one of the first people to accept Islam; Khadijah (RA). In the same year he also lost his uncle, Abu Talib, who raised Him PBUH after the death of His grandfather. In addition to the personal loss the Prophet felt, the demise of Abu Talib also meant that the tribal protection Abu Talib offered as an elder in Makkah, came to an end. Consequently, the Quraish, the tribe which dominated Makkah’s socio-political landscape and were until that point predominantly opposed to the message of the Prophet PBUH, became more audacious in their persecution of Muslims. They began to openly threaten the life of the Prophet PBUH. Physical attacks and attempts at humiliating Muhammad PBUH and his companions intensified to a degree that would not have been conceivable in the lifetime of the Prophet PBUH. To make matters worse, the attempts at humiliation were not limited to Makkah either. The Quraish, using the leverage they had as custodians of the Holy Mosque, had spread the word that the Prophet PBUH was a madman. The effect of this propaganda manifested itself in its utmost ugliness in 619 CE, when the Prophet visited the town of Ta’if to seek sanctuary for the Muslims. He PBUH was allowed an audience with the chieftains of Ta’if but when they heard His PBUH’s invitation to Islam, they responded egregiously, dispatching their slaves to harass the Prophet and chase Him PBUH out of the city. They pelted Him with stones to the point that His shoes filled up with blood. The behaviour was so deplorable that Allah (SWT) sent the angel Jibril to offer the Prophet aid by crushing the settlement. The Prophet was in immense grief. He PBUH could have accepted the proposition and the oppressors would have been punished for their misdeeds however, the Prophet restrained. Instead of cursing the people of Ta’if and complaining to Allah (SWT) for the hardship by lamenting over his fate, the Prophet set a spectacular example of the humility expected of a Muslim in times of crisis. He made a du’a, asking Allah for help, reiterating to Himself the belief
that when Allah is with someone there is nothing to grieve about. From an objective point of view, Ta’if was the worst point in the Prophet’s PBUH life, in terms of public sentiment towards Him PBUH. It was after the incident of Ta’if that the Prophet PBUH was taken on the miraculous Night Journey, transcending space and time to rise up to the heavens and meet His PBUH creator. Prophet Muhammad PBUH was taken to Jerusalem and then up to the heavens. During this journey, Prophet Mohammad PBUH met his predecessors, the Prophets before Him PBUH and visited a level of the heavens where not even the archangel Jibril, the leader of all angels, is permitted to enter. The fact that Prophet Mohammad PBUH was given the honour to visit places where not only no human being but also no angel has ever been given the permission to visit, right after some of the most testing days of His PBUH’s life, is a powerful reminder that when Allah (SWT) takes something away from us, He SWT replaces it with something better. In this case Allah (SWT) rewarded the struggles of the Prophet and rewarded him with nearness to Him (SWT). In our lives, when we are struck with any tragedy, it is an opportunity to evaluate our relationship with Allah (SWT). Imam Shafi’i perfectly internalizes this sentiment when he says: “My heart is at ease knowing that what was meant for me will never miss me, and that what misses me was never meant for me.” It is also important to mention the reaction to the Prophet PBUH’s journey as it was received by the people of Makkah. At the time, the disbelievers reacted with their characteristic ignorance, calling the journey fabricated since in 619AD it was not humanely possible to travel from Makkah and Jerusalem, let alone to the heavens and back, in less than a month. Here again, we can see the contrast between the reactions of the Muslims, people who believed in Islam, and people who disbelieved. For example, when Abu Bakr (RA) was asked if he believed what the Prophet PBUH narrated, he replied: “If He PBUH said it, then I believe him.” This is insightful because it highlights the cautiousness within Abu Bakr (RA) to accept something so far beyond his imagination, but it also encompasses his unwavering commitment to the Prophet PBUH. As in this statement he reaffirms his belief that the Prophet always tells the truth and that he believes Prophet Mohammad PBUH is the messenger of Allah (SWT). Therefore, accepting the story of Al Isra’a Wal Mi’raj was not difficult for him. The story of Al Isra’a Wal Mi’raj contains a significant amount lessons about the spiritual transcendence the Prophet PBUH went through. However, its core message of not losing faith in Allah in the face of hardships and staying steadfast to the core beliefs of Islam lies within the context of the life of the Prophet and the state of the Ummah at the time. At its core the story of Al Isra’a wal Mi’raj is about keeping faith in Allah (SWT) in the face of hardships as well, remaining steadfast in the belief of Islam. We understand these messages through the examples from the lives of the Prophet and his companions.
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س ذَا ِئ َق ُة ا ْل َم ْو ِت ٍ كُلُّ نَ ْف Every soul shall taste death
ِس ِب ِه نَف ُْس ُه َونَ ْح ُن أَ� ْق َر ُب ِ�إ َل ْي ِه ِم ْن ُ نسا َن َونَ ْعلَ ُم َما ت َُو ْسو َ �َو َلق َْد َخلَ ْقنَا ال ْ ِ إ َح ْب ِل ا ْل َورِيد And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein
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َاس ِ�إنَّا َخلَقْناك ُْم ِم ْن َذكَ ٍر َو أُ�نْثى َو َج َع ْلناك ُْم ُش ُعوباً َو قَبا ِئل ُ يا أَ�يُّ َها ال َّن ِلتَعا َرفُوا
ِيب ٌ فَ ِ إ�نِّي قَر
So we have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another
Behold, I am near
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limate change is an existential threat to life on Earth. Even the more ambitious goal of restricting average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels would do little to save our most vulnerable communities. A 1.5 degree increase would mean 33 day long heatwaves every year, decreases in wheat and soybean yields in the already poor tropical zone, a 40 cm rise in sea levels by 2050 and the exposure of 90% of the worlds coral reefs, the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, to bleaching. All this by the year 2100. By the time we approach 2 degrees, the planet would have entered a positive feedback loop: accelerated warming, the disruption of food chains, and the initiation of irreversible damage to ecosystems. That could be the beginning of the next mass extinction on planet Earth, the beginning of the end for the Anthropocene. Disaster is, at this point, fairly inevitable. It would take an immense amount of resources, sustained public pressure, and political goodwill to change the course we are on. In easier words, we would have to bear taxes, tear gas and layoffs. Although, if we persevere long enough, we might just be able to limit the scope of the impending disaster. Given this reality, the question I end up asking myself time and again is that, is the effort worth the pain? Why should I, as a Muslim, care about climate change when as a basic tenant of faith I believe that life in this world, and by extension this world itself, is temporary? There is probably no straightforward answer, nor do I intend to provide one in this article. What I do intend, is to present my rationale of why I am convinced that we should care. “How would you decide on disputes between people, O Mu’aad,” the Prophet PBUH is reported to have asked Mu’aad Ibn Jabal when dispatching him as governor of Yemen. “I will refer to the Book of Allah,” Mu’aad replied. “If you don’t find the answer there,” the Prophet PBUH responded. “I will refer to your teachings,” Mu’aad responded. “And if you don’t find it there either,” the Prophet PBUH asked again. Mu’aad replied, “I will try my best to form an opinion and shall spare no effort.” The Prophet PBUH then patted Mu’aad on the chest and appreciated the answer. The two secondary sources of Islamic law, Ijtihad (legal reasoning) and Ijma (scholarly consensus) are rooted from this narration. As these two sources deal with issues not explicitly mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah, scholars had to draw lines around what constitutes a need for new legislation. Thus the Maqasid, the objectives of the Shariah, were developed. At least three of these objectives, the protection of life, lineage, and property are directly under threat from climate change. So, why should we care about climate change? We should care because to care about the protection of the lives, the property, and the lineage of our fellow brothers and sisters is an objective of divine law. Yes, Islam places an emphasis on striving to build a good hereafter, but never does Islam detach itself from the practicality of the world. One only needs to look into Prophetic narrations about trade and commerce to realize the extent to which Islam goes in its pursuit of economic justice. Islam very clearly laid out consumer protection laws, anti-trust regulations and constraints on financing all focused on protecting the consumer, the weaker of the two parties in a retail transaction. Islam went lengths to limit the exploitation taking place in Arab society before Islam. It promised paradise in return for raising the same daughters people used to bury alive because they were considered undesirable. It elevated the status of those who were discriminated against because of their lineage and built a social system within which all were equal. Islam
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also eliminated the discrepancies of a legal tradition where the rich were dealt with lightly and the poor harshly. There is great emphasis placed on the need to become a just community which provides its members a respectable life, free of exploitation. The need for justice is central to the message of Islam. So, should we care about climate change? We should care because Islam does not allow us to be bystanders, while people around us are effectively being robbed of their livelihoods and driven into misery. “By Time. All mankind is at loss. Except those who believe, and do good deeds, and preach what is right, and are patient.” - Surah Al-Asr. I had a chance to talk to Dr. Asim Qureshi from the British Muslim advocacy group CAGE. One of the questions we wanted his perspective on was, what is the Quranic ethic on living in injustice? The Quranic ethic, as it convincingly seems to be, when injustice is prevalent, we have a duty to resist. “The greatest Jihad,” the Prophet PBUH said, “is the worth of truth in the face of an unjust ruler”. The allowable response of last resort seems to be that if overwhelmed, one should run away like the people of cave. Submission, however, is simply not a plausible option. Climate change rests on the shoulders of policy makers and industrialists who have vested interests in throwing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There is clearly a well-defined group of oppressors, and another well-defined group of those oppressed. It is, therefore, our responsibility, one stemming directly from injunctions in the Quran, to resist the system and if nothing else, make our voices heard. So, why should we care about climate change? Because speaking truth to power is the virtuous deed. Think of a farmer in the mountains of Afghanistan from whom Allah is withholding the rain. There is probably nothing he can do except pray to Allah to make it rain. Now think of yourself on a normal day. An individual active on social media, with a multicultural group of friends having connections around the globe. You have the ability to reach out to your parliamentarians by the click of a button. You have the ability to use the internet and learn about the islands of plastic forming in the pacific, threatening whole ecosystems or the melting of the polar ice caps. Now take a moment and contemplate. Is the responsibility that the farmer bears upon himself, and the responsibility we bear, the same? Don’t these extra connections, these links, this awareness we have bring with them an extra set of obligations? Aren’t we accountable for how we used our resources? I believe the answer is a resounding yes. Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal was tortured for his rejection to endorse the kings interpretation of Islam, but he persevered. Then the king changed, and with Him, so did official theology. The new ruler was more sympathetic to Ahmed, so he sent him some money. Imam Ahmed looks at the money and starts crying, supplicating to Allah, “O Allah, don’t test me with this.” Remember this was an old man who had been tortured all his life, and now upon being presented with a gift, he began to cry. He understood both the responsibility additional resources bring along and the potential for corruption they carry with them. Let us acknowledge that being in the privileged position we are in, we are not only responsible of looking after the vulnerable and speaking truth to power, we are especially responsible for it. Our responsibility transcends the needs our own selves. This is why I believe we should care about climate change. The world will end one day, but it hasn’t ended yet. We must keep planting the tree, because making an effort is our responsibility, success and failure is strictly the domain of Allah.
The Burden of Responsibility Why Climate Change is a Human Rights Issue, and Why we Should Care Syeda Hasan and Usama Ansar
“If you could see the day of judgement approaching and you have a sapling in your hand, plant it” – Musnad Ahmed, Hadith 12,491
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FindingHope,Peace,andTranquility: The Journey of one Soul back to Islam Erub Khan & Shefaly Gunjal
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At what moment in life do we question our existence? At what stage do we contemplate our purpose? Where do we look for answers? When do we realize that the answers we seek lie before our very eyes? These were the questions that lead Stephanie* to Islam. Stephanie was raised in a family where religion was more of a custom than anything deeper. Growing up, religious practices were seldom questioned, with no clarification as to why they were in place, which often left her feeling lost. She spoke to me about her struggles with anxiety and stress throughout her undergrad at UTM, common among almost half of the students at the University of Toronto, according to a 2018 report. Looking back, it became clear to her that she didn’t have a guiding path or a larger purpose. Nonetheless, despite being unable to see it in the thick of it, by Allah’s Will, everything that happened to her eventually lead her to Islam. Stephanie was born in Montréal and moved around the world until she eventually came to Toronto ten years later at 17. Living in Europe for most of her life, Stephanie was hardly exposed to Islam or Muslims until she came to Toronto and was surrounded by diverse cultures. While she had sound ideals and values, it was hard for her to stay consistent in her belief system because she didn’t really have one – her beliefs were not rooted in the strong foundation that Islam provides.
How did your family react to your conversion?
Growing up, her parents were taught about a lot of the religious conflict in India and that translated into a dislike of Islam. This was further perpetrated by the influences of the media. “That really takes a hold on people who are already uneasy about the idea of this religion, and to have a media outlet confirm that [is] all it takes,” she says, speaking to the struggles of born Muslims and reverts alike. Nonetheless, Stephanie considers herself one of the lucky reverts whose parents still support her despite being unable to accept her conversion to Islam.
How did you come to Islam? What was your journey like?
She recalls how, upon arriving in Toronto, most of the friends she made happened to be Muslim. She learned a lot about the culture, language, and customs, many of which were rooted in Islamic principles. These were the foundations for an interest that began to blossom at 20-years-old in a Halal restaurant she worked at over the summer, when she began her third year at UTM. It was at this time where she started actively learning about Islam. “I kind of had the feeling that one day I was going to convert. I always thought it was going to be when I was financially independent. I didn’t want to cause any problems with my parents,” she says, voicing what is often a concern for converts and anyone choosing a life away from their parents’ values. “I didn’t want to take that risk.” This feeling of interest in Islam only increased during Ramadan: “It was really beautiful to see the culture of Ramadan and to see everyone praying together just before eating iftar.” She recalls feeling a sense of belonging in the Muslim community, something she had never felt before. By Allah’s will, Stephanie also benefited from an important factor in her journey: reliable resources. By spending time with friends who had a lot of knowledge of Islam, and were on journey of learning themselves, she was able to ask questions whenever she wanted, and to feel comfortable doing so. The journey towards faith, however, wasn’t entirely conscious: “It wasn’t with the intention of ‘Oh, I’m going to convert’. It was just learning.” The moment that would effectively mark her departure out of her old life and into Islam, she tells it, came i on one of those rare warm days of winter. She mentions scrolling through her phone and seeing an Islamic reminder. The post triggered a noticeable switch in
her heart. Her belief in Allah was undeniable after this switch, “To someone who’s never felt faith before, I didn’t even know what that feeling was. [T]here was this void in my heart that was [suddenly] completely filled with belief and love for Allah. I knew then that I believe in Allah.” What exactly did you believe in at that time? That there’s something greater than what we enclose ourselves to or that there’s a greater purpose or that life doesn’t just end here? What force made you believe? Stephanie believes it was more about what she was missing, the idea of being created with a purpose, that brought her to the religion. Her previous life operated on a scientific belief that this world and our existence is purely coincidental, and that humankind was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. She remembers justifying this belief in logic, but now sees that it held her back and made her feel like she had no purpose. A purpose that she kept looking for in different places, but never really found. “There was always something missing,” she tells me. You weren’t driven with ambition towards different goals? Some people have goals to make a lot of money or have a successful career. She rejects this, saying that for her, it wasn’t so much about specific material goals, instead it was about wanting to become the kind of person she could be proud to be. She wanted to have the ability to help others and to help the planet. Her outlook in life denied her the capacity to reach her full potential to achieve these goals. “Things like self-doubt and anxiety always held me back,” she says, explaining that her outlook at the time was largely hopeless and nihilistic, in the timeless vein of: “What’s the point of doing anything if we’re all going to die anyways?’” Faith changed everything. She says that in her newfound belief, “I had Allah guiding me. I didn’t have to worry about coming up with all these rules for myself that a human isn’t capable of making – we don’t have knowledge of Allah’s Plan.” She experienced first-hand how going out in the world without a solidified foundation of belief, values, and morals makes it easy to lose sight of yourself. Islam became, for Stephanie, a compass: “If I had any question about how to deal with this issue, I could read about it in the Qur’an. I could learn about it from the Sunnah. I had the most perfect example to follow – that of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him).” Everything she learned about Islam, to this day, makes sense to her, giving her a comfort that she had never felt before. The change in her outlook is radical, and for the better. Unlike the nihilism and pessimism of before, she states, “I can be confident about the way I do things and why I do things. It is all for the sake of Allah.” Three year later, and now in grad school, Stephanie continues to learn about Islam to strengthen her faith. When asked what she would advise anyone struggling with school, work or just life in general, she says, “The more stressed you are, the more you need to stick to your prayers, to Islam. Trust that Allah will always provide a way for you and He will never burden you with more than you can bear.” To those who are interested in learning about Islam: “Talk to people but take everything with a grain of salt. Know who you can trust and never be afraid to ask difficult questions – Islam has an answer for everything, it is just a matter of opening your mind and your heart.” * Name was changed to Stephanie for confidentiality
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A S M e m a S , ds
l r o W 2
Some of us have more in common than youâ€™d think... 20 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | NOVEMBER 2019 | XXV
Don’t forget to use the budgeting tool! Ford cuts affect us all!
We should start marketing for the dinner soon
Idk yet but Forever 21 is shutting down, maybe I’ll find something there
What are you wearing to the dinner?
Another MSA dinner, looks like I’m going to have to try and get out of my curfew again
Wow I can’t believe TMV is 25 years old!
The magazine looks great!
Thanks but its 25 human years, in Jinn years it’s like 500 or something
Thanks, we launched a new kids issue last year
Alhumdulilah what a successful event!
Yeah, but I can’t feel my feet
Wow you were right, you really can’t taste the coconut jelly
Oh man I’m in a lot of trouble it’s way past my curfew
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GRAPHIC DESIGN // PATRICEIA YU
The Muslim Students Association has been serving the community on campus for 54 years. Join us as we continue this important legacy.
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The Language of the Prisoner AN INTERVIEW WITH SUHAIYMAH MANZOOR- KHAN FIZZAH MANSOOR SHANZAY SETHI AND A TEAM OF COLLABORATORS
uhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is a British spoken word artist who writes about the experiences of Muslims in the west. She, and her poem “This is not a Humanizing Poem” was featured by Amnesty International in its directory of “inspiring poets and incredible poems.” Suhaiymah has also recently published a collection of her poems named “Postcolonial Banter.”
The TMV had a chance of interviewing her. We talked about her poetry, her activism and her unapologetic critique of modern society. An abriged and paraphrased version of that interview is being published here.
TMV: Your website starts with a verse from Surah Nisa stipulating the need to stand up for justice even if it goes against one’s family, whether it is against the rich or the poor. That is a very powerful message. What does it mean for you to stand up for justice? Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan (SMK): The ayah is something I find really intense because the idea of submitting to Allah is so powerful in itself and that comes with a set of responsibilities. In today’s time it is much more important because we have access to resources that can help us decide what side of the coin we want to take and for me it is important to stand up with the ‘haq’ so that injustice can be exposed. As a Muslim it is a responsibility that is constantly mentioned in the Quran as well.
I definitely feel that this a fundamental form of communicating, sharing, producing knowledge and talking about things that are more likely controversial. Speech is something that is a form of dialogue and that form of communication is happening with the audience so wherever there is speech there is a listener. And I see that as a political act that you can always choose to either keep quiet or speak out the truth. For me I came to a country watching slam poetry and I have always seen poetry as a language of the prisoner, the marginalised, but for me it is also the language of the Arabs and the Quran.
TMV: How did you get involved in the spoken word scene; was it just a chance encounter or was it always there, perhaps writing, as a hobby before it became official?
TMV: Even before university, but especially in university, where we have a chance to live outside the bubble of the community we grew up in, a lot of us struggle to find a place for ourselves in the midst of a society built upon very different principles than those of ourselves. Your first work I had a chance to listen to, “This is not a Humanising Poem,” I found it moving in this regard. When you say,
SMK: I have always enjoyed reading and writing, like Matilda was like my favourite story. I always wrote but around in my teens I discovered prose and poetry and then started to write it. During my second year of university I was going through this patch and got signed up for an open mic. From then on there is no looking back. I got pulled into it and found it as a perfect way to express my thoughts and opinions with no academia pressure pilling onto me.
Love us when we’re lazy Love us when we’re poor Love us in our back-to-backs, council estates, depressed, unwashed and weeping, Love us high as kites, unemployed, joyriding, time-wasting, failing at school because if you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one that’s not human
TMV: Campus activism, and within that the Artists, have traditionally been on the forefront of - quote end-quote “radical” - political activism, be it song writers whose songs have political undertones, or authors whose novels highlight social ills or even comedians who satirize the absurdity of power. Art has, at times, been the forefront of speaking truth to power. Would you say that for you spoken word serves a similar purpose?
I think it really strikes a chord by sending out the message that we are normal people and even if the way we act is different, that is no excuse for anyone to disrespect us. It is a powerful message. What was the inspiration behind this?
SMK: Definitely, spoken word does. The thing about spoken word for cultures especially like ours that aren’t European, is an uninitialized way of serving the broader community with our cultures, identities, geopolitical factors and creating a way to tell our unheard struggles. 24| THE MUSLIM VOICE | NOVEMBER 2019 | XXV
SMK: It is a bit complicated for me. When there is an act of violence by Muslims, we are essentially asked to prove our loyalty and distance ourselves from the perpetrators. It is this idea that our humanity is conditional based on our proofs of loyalty we can provide; and this is something we often end up doing to fit in. My argument is that we should not do that because it perpetuates the belief that there are
some people whose humanity should be stripped off because they are bad people. I believe that I should not be asked to prove my humanity and should not be asked to fit in. The binary of good and bad Muslims is something that is problematic itself because if others have the privilege to choose the side of the coins then why can’t we as Muslims? No matter how reprehensible a human is we should not have a right to dehumanise them. And that is something that exists in Islam because our belief is that only Allah is allowed to make distinctions and reprimand people. That is solely His right not ours. As a Muslim community when we try to fit in the stereotype of good Muslim, we give these people making the rules a further excuse to marginalize ourselves. TMV: We live in a world marred by poverty and injustice, but in many cases also by more subtle things like persistent anxiety and lack of morale and despair. A sort of hopelessness not only with all that is wrong in the Muslim world from Burma, to Kashmir to Palestine to the DPRC and Congo but also in our societies, like the rise of the surveillance state, austerity, the demolition of the welfare state. How do you retain hope in this scenario? SMK: People ask me if I really believe in a world without prisons and without nation states, and what I say is that it’s not about whether it’s possible, but whether im willing to fight for it. I know this world is temporary and we will all face Akhira, and it’s really worth doing my best as much as possible because there is
nothing to lose. There is all this violence going on around the world and losing hope would mean to not believe in Allah, because you’d be saying that you don’t believe in purpose or meaning. We’re not going to be changing our conditions if we’re not hopeful; those who have ambition and hope and imagination are the ones who change things. If we believe the heart is transformable, then we must believe the world is transformable, and to doubt this is to doubt the power and might of Allah. Islam is hope. TMV: Finally, to conclude, perhaps the hardest question of the day. What advice would you give to young muslimahs who are also interested in spoken word poetry and feel that they lack the confidence or perhaps do not ‘fit in’ in the media scene in the west. SMK: I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing, Matilda was my favourite story as a child. I think when I was in my teens, I found that support for my work online, and so I would just write for myself and share it. I watched a lot of slam poetry from the US, and the only reason I ever shared my poetry in the first place was because I was having a hard time, and the nurse’s advice to me was to do something I wouldn’t normally consider doing, and that was slam poetry. When I did perform, I felt so exhilarated by it, and it was hugely cathartic. It was this alternative way to express my feelings, like an alternative epistemology and there was no burden like how academia has where you need to prove your opinions, like on racism.
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MUSLIM TR BEYOND IBBN
hen you hear about Muslim Travelers in the Medieval period, your mind probably wanders off to Ibn Battuta. While he was a prominent world traveler of the Muslims’ Golden Age, there are so many more Muslim Travelers that deserve some more attention. I will shed some light on those underappreciated Muslim travelres: Naser Khsraw, Ibn Jubayer and Al- Idrisi. Travel has been a big part of Muslim history ever since the prophet Muhammed (PBUH), he travelled often to the Levantine/ Belad A’Sham (usually Syria, but that also could be Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan) and he urged the Sahaba to go to Al- Habasha (modern day Ethiopia), which was also the first Hijrah. He also travelled to Yemen and between Mekka and Madina (Hijra), and to Jerusalem for the Israa and Miraj. The prophet was a traveler and had a love for cultural exchanges himself. After him Muslims spread out from China and to Western Africa, spreading Islam and exchanging cultural experiences. Travel and cultural exchange has been integral to Islam since the very beginning, and even mentioned in the Quran, reinforcing cultural exchange and knowledge: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (49:13). Muslim scholars travled the world seeking knowledge ‘ilm’. They sought ‘ilm’ about and from different tribes’ cultures, during the peak of Islamic civilization. Hence, It could be argued that travel and the height of Islamic civilization peaked at the same time. Carrying forward this legacy of travel to the Golden Age of Islam, Nasir Khsraw was a Persian poet, philosopher, mathematician and scholar. He travelled to Mekka 279 years before Ibn Battuta. He decided to embark on a 7-year journey traveling from Iran, to Mecca nd Cairo. He wrote a book Safarnama an account,
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containing detailed descriptions of the political, economic and social state of the 100 cities and villages he visited including: Cairo, Jerusalem, Medina and Mecca in 1046-1052 AD. He also discussed the different customs, educational systems, scholarship, different religious practices and holy cites in his book. Some of the cultural encounters he describes in his book includes: the peaceful co-existence of Muslims, Jews and Christians in Damascus:
______________ “The Christians impose a tax on the Muslims in their land which gives them full security; and likewise, the Christian merchants pay a tax upon their goods in Muslim lands. Agreement exists between them, and there is equal treatment in all cases. The soldiers engage themselves in their war, while the people are at peace and the world goes to him who conquers.” (p. 301).
It seems that a big part of travel for Khrsaw was developing an understanding of the intercultural and cross-religious relationships that existed within each city or village he encountered. Similarly, Ibn Jubayr a Muslim Traveler from Al Andalus who wrote Rihla a book documenting his travels. He embarked on a journey to Hajj in 1185, while documenting his various cultural encounters throughout his journey. He traveled to Egypt, Madina, Mecca, Damascus, Jerusalem, Sicily and Baghdad. Like Khrsaw, Ibn Jubayr was focused on the educational institutions, cultural exchanges and educational curriculums. However, differently from Khrsaw he also focused on the details of the spaces’ architecture. Specifically, he focused on describing Mecca, scholars relied on his early descriptions of Mecca and other sacred cities in the medieval Muslim world. “It has four corners and is almost square … the principle corner is twenty-nine cubits ... and is the one containing the Black Stone … the venerable door is raised above the ground eleven and a half spans. It is of silver gilt and of exquisite workmanship and beautiful design, holding the eyes for its excellence and in emotion for the awe God has clothed His House in … the door has two silver staples on which is hung the lock. It faced to the east and is eight spans wide and thirteen high. The thickness of the wall in which it turns is five spans, the inside of the blessed house is overlaid with variegated marbles and the walls are all variegated marbles. “(p. 78) Al-Idrisi; however, chose to focus his travel accounts on drawing maps and his map of the world were the most accurate maps known to the world for three centuries. Al-Idrisi was born in Morocco and travelled around Europe and North Africa. The extensive travel accounts of Muslim merchants and travelers, as well as, his own travel helped him visualize the most accurate world map of the pre-modern era. In the book Moorish Empire In Europe Al -Idrisi’s work was mentioned as:
The compilation of Edrisi marks an era in the history of science. Not only is its historical information most interesting and valuable, but its descriptions of many parts of the earth are still authoritative. For three centuries geographers copied his maps without alteration.” _____________ These are three of so many Muslim travelers, who have made discoveries about geography, culture, architecture and science. The brilliance and contribution of these scholars has had an effect on much of our modern-day education. The love for learning and curiosity about the world’s many wanders is a thread sewn so deep into the fabric of Muslims’ identity. It’s time for modern day Muslims to seek out the adventurer in them and start exploring the world and its many cultures again.
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