Reviving the Islamic Spirit …and the need for it

Alhamdulillah it is good to be back to writing again. Who ever thought my next post would be written laying on a bed in the same hotel I was staying at last year in Long Beach, California! More importantly, that I am back here to attend again the RIS conference. RIS for Reviving the Islamic Spirit, is a fantastic affair..why? Not simply due to the amazing line-up of speakers, the ability to deliver topical sessions year after year, the ever growing attendance and the palpable feeling of ‘barakah’ in the air… but also because this massive event was first envisioned and has been organized and put together every year by youth volunteers. Yep, young working Muslims in Toronto first started it and now after 9 years, they have branched off to a US version too. I am very happy with the latter as its cheaper for me to attend :), but the Toronto convention is about 3 times larger.

Indeed, initiatives like this are so essential. It is a time when events on the global stage are calling us everyday as Muslims, to rise up and let our voices be heard. It is time for us to define ourselves. And to do that, first we must learn Islam. Perhaps then appropriately, this year’s conference is titled ‘Removing the veil of Muslims from Islam’!

Now that I mentioned it, I wonder about that ‘palpable feeling of barakah’ present… is it because of this beautiful truth, where the prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who said, in a hadith Qudsi… Allah Kareem! And Allah knows best

On the authority of Abu Hurairah (radiAllaahu anhu) that the Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) said :
Whoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, ALLAH will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Resurrection. And whoever alleviates the need of a needy person, ALLAH will alleviate his needs in this world and the Hereafter. Whoever shields [or hides the misdeeds of] a Muslim, ALLAH will shield him in this world and the Hereafter. And ALLAH will aid His Slave so long as he aids his brother. And whoever follows a path to seek knowledge therein, ALLAH will make easy for him a path to paradise. no people gather together in one of the houses of ALLAH, reciting the Book of ALLAH and studying it among themselves, except that Sakeenah (Tranquility) descends upon them, and Mercy envelops them, and the angels surround them, and ALLAH mentions them amongst those who are with Him. And whoever is slowed down by his actions, will not be hastened forward by his lineage.
It was related by Muslim in these words.

On that note, the exciting news is that RIS has launched a website, allowing live streams of the talks as well as access to previous talks. It is not free however, I think that is necessary to fund the project. I heard RIS Toronto has been running in the green, but RIS USA has been in the red unfortunately. They only began last year so inshaAllah it will soon catch up. Here is the website.
Check it has some nice features.

I also remembered I had ‘reported’ a previous RIS I attended… here are the links if in case it is useful… rather disjointed, but will hopefully give you an idea for the feel of this event; part 1 and part 2.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a sweet song by Maher Zain, performed last year at RIS much to everyone’s joy. This version is from Toronto though

‘God is beautiful and He loves beauty’

The above is one of my absolutest favouritest ahadith!!! They say you can find heaven on earth or you can find hell on earth. It is true, and it’s all about the attitude you face life with isn’t it? It sometimes feels like the angels smile with you as you surround yourself with what is beautiful and pure. As you ‘find seventy excuses before accusing a believer’, as you ‘speak the good or be silent’, as you stay in dhikr (remembrance of God) and everywhere you see His beautiful blessed ‘face. Oh how gloriously beautiful our Lord must be, He who created such beauty on earth.
It is spring in Vancouver and impossible to feel ‘sad-ly’..there is such a quiet energy in the air, suppressed joy, exhubarence at the incredible swift growth that is soon to take place. Ah, one’s soul in sync with the universe, is in complete peace, completely trusting God. Pray that is always so.

Here is sharing some of that beauty, random photos from around my neighborhood taken some time ago. This earth is an amazing creation indeed. Imagine then, heaven!

Not sure what these are called, but they are lovely

ahh…cherry blossoms…

and more cherry blossoms….these are actually from a few weeks ago, they are fuller and framed in new leaf now.

New leaves a’comin to face the world

Happy evening at home with flowers by the sofa

Peace to all.

Generating real scholars and Zaytuna

Assalamu alaikum, peace to all. It’s been a while since I logged on here. Many life events came in the way…mashaAllah very happy ones :).

However there have also been a bunch of posts in my head that have piled up over the days I want to put down…hoping to get started today. The first of May, a beautiful spring day that has only gotten ‘springier’ since the first gorgeous day on Friday. And blessed am I to be living in one of the most beautiful places on earth! Shukr wa Hamd Allah (thanks and praise to God). On that note, one long planned blog is to share that spring beauty with posting some pictures up here I was fortunate to take. You see, after years of having only a poor camera (the cheapest I could find) that I bought simply to be able to take pictures of slides from talks at conferences (my cheat-sheet on remembering large volumes of data that gets presented at scientific meetings ;)….this was before they banned the use of cameras at talks saying it was distracting..hrmp!), the past boxing day I found a dandy one going for 50% off and still within budget (100$). So this spring I did find odd moments off to walk about and test it out. Rather hoping to do so more and so expect a few photo-journal entries inshaAllah. Hope you will like them and my camera and eye won’t let me down 🙂

That long preamble done. Here is what I wanted to write of today. The need for good scholars in our community. Its well known (or may not be known at all) that the Muslim ummah has lost or had greatly reduced its history of good religious scholarship the past two to three hundred years, mainly due to the effects of Colonialism. However its roughly been about half a century since the fall of the last Colonial empire (I mean the British…and lets not go in to the USA driven neo-imperialism the world is witnessing now), and mashaAllahu ta’ala we now are witnessing more and more the resurgence of Muslim thought and scholarship.

There are now great luminaries in the Muslim world who are transforming their communities and energizing the Muslim ummah with thought and action. Also important, these are not self-trained, but those who have patiently studied with the best scholars left in the Muslim world that has been somehow preserved in-tact through the ages. Scholars like Sheikh Murabit al Haj who has lived his entire life learning and teaching the Quran in the Sahara desert and did not see a single ‘white’ person until Hamza Yusuf Hanson took his long camel ride to meet him (see this blog post for a precious insight in to Sh. Murabit al Haj’s life). That meeting as the now Sheikh Hamza recounted once, inspired by a dream that he and his teacher had both shared. Subhahanallah (glory be to God), God’s work is being done and will be done despite ever cynic and skeptic that ever lived. Sheikh Hamza is one of the best scholars in the world today. A true polymath he excels with ease on any topic. Mashaallah I’ve spent many a day listening to him speak as I cook/clean and truly learned volumes. Sh. Abdul Hakim Murad, or Professor Tim Winter of Cambridge University, Imam Zaid Shakir who has developed so many community service initiatives, a former USA army man, are other amazing scholars I can think of off the top of my head. If you haven’t heard them, do youtube them… they will offer a glimpse in to true Islam and open your mind and heart to heights and truths that are as deeply peaceful as they are uplifting. And if you have, please do share these gems with me! I will greatly appreciate it!

To resume, Sh. Hamza and Imam Zaid have begun Zaytuna College. The first Muslim ‘seminary’ in North America based at Berkeley University in California. Please do check out their website. I am very excited about the new generation of leaders that are being taught here. The first batch of students are a beautiful mixture of experience and background ….and… of the 15 students, 9 are female!!! (sorry, couldn’t hide my excitement :D..oh how great it will be to see the resurgence of the Muslimah scholar).

If you can do consider becoming a zaytuna companion. An ‘ansar’ to a worthy cause. Sh. Hamza modeled a reward program for the ansar based on the life of the prophet (peace be upon him), where instead of the calling a donor a ‘gold’, ‘platinum’, ‘silver’ etc depending on the amount of funds you give, he said the most precious in their eyes are the first ones to help, regardless of how much they helped with. The first to answer that call. Now isn’t that very touching… it makes me wonder of the great power of our beloved prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) to move hearts… Zaytuna companions are treated as intimate friends of the college and given recourse to all the guest lectures that the students there get to attend. I cannot insert a post of Zaytuna programming in here, but this link will take you to their youtube channel inshaAllah

Also I wanted to share this talk given by Sh. Hamza on the lives of men. It’s a 2.5 hour lecture and is available in parts on youtube (I’ll share the first part and you can find the rest) or as a whole, but that is poorly edited (I’ll share that too). I think he gave it at the ‘workshop on Islam for high school teachers’ conducted in Abiqueu in New Mexico based solely on what the architecture of the room looks like (!). This is a truly amazing series conducted free by DaralIslam an organization that sounds very impressive but that I do not know much more about.

The idea of the workshop seems to be to educate high school teachers, predominantly non-Muslim, on what Islam is all about. Super!

Here are the youtube videos on the talk ‘the lives of man’ .. first the 10 min video, 1 of 16 parts

and full length here