Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Along the 17th-21st February 2014, Discover Islam Week (DIW) took place at my campus (Guy’s Campus) run by the King’s College London ISOC. DIW in short is a national programme that takes place across universities within the UK hosted by their Islamic Societies (ISOCs). They aim to invite and clear the misconceptions of the religion to their wider communities, such being characteristic of missionary faiths, which is particularly important in a secular age, where the lifestyles of the masses is devoid of a spiritual and a credible moral compass, and in very blunt terms, purposeless, unfulfilling and fleeting. It’s to welcome people who are perhaps unaware to a newer way of life that can bring forth true happiness to them. In this article, I will be highlighting and reflecting on particular aspects of my experiences up and until its end on Guys Campus.
So the way DIW set out to achieve its aims is by basing their events around the proclamation of the Islamic faith also known as the shahada in a chronological fashion.
لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا الله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ الله
lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāh, muḥammadun rasūlu-llāh
“There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
One of the first events was a lecture by Hamza Tzortzis called, ‘Tell me about God’. I remember back in 2011 when I went about establishing my belief in God, I went through numerous arguments questioning His existence. What I found was that this belief was not subjective to blind faith; rather that it encompasses a rational and logical understanding firstly and foremost, without which it would be impossible to affirm a relationship with the One who created me, and therefore a barrier towards finding out about my purpose in life. This is because the relationship between the Creator and His creation is in fact ironically simple- whatever it is that anybody makes, what he or she produces is indeed built to perform a set of functions to then fulfil a distinct purpose. Such is the relationship between the Creator and His creation. So if this relationship is overlooked, then you will never know what your life and purpose is actually about.
When you seek to understand the purpose of your existence, it is required of you to question the existence of God, the Creator, to go about finding why you were then created. Something that stood out for me in Hamza’s lecture to paraphrase was a point about being ‘drunken by your senses and therefore forgetting the critical questions’.
Because this is exactly what happens.
See this is evident in how the majority of us go about living our lives from birth. From seeking an education and completing that degree, to having a job and earning money, to forming relationships and starting a family, to entertaining yourself by watching those movies and going to those parties to sing, dance and mix with people, to playing a sport and physically investing yourself in becoming the best at it to win a nationwide tournament, to by the end of it, retire from that job, enjoy your pension and spending time with your grandchildren. Life for each of us follows a common order, entailing you to live through a ritual of events for the rest of your life, similar to a Sims character. No question ever arises about why you were born to begin with, why you were created to begin with, which is why many of us overlook any connection to God, and therefore our sense of purpose is never actually clear to us because we have never even thought about it. So why we do what we do, is nothing more than to satisfy our long-term instincts, such as earning, loving, procreating, achieving, etc as well as fulfilling our organic instincts, a few being thirsting and hungering. In essence you are drunken by your senses, for you do that which fulfils you in that moment, or for the moments that are to come, with no regard whatsoever to those critical questions.
It reminds me of a verse within the Qur’an, in particular the last part of it:
“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.”- Surat Al-Ĥadīd, 57:20.
I felt as though Hamza introduced the rational belief of the Creator well, which takes me on to the next event, a lecture by Ustadh Alomgir Ali who goes on to speak about the Qur’an and how it is that this book, is the word of God.
The way I fundamentally came to understand who the author of the Qur’an is, is by comprehending just how the Qur’an itself could not have possibly been fashioned by a human being. A verse that Ustadh Alomgir referred to was the following:
“And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah (chapter) the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah , if you should be truthful.” – Surat Al- Baqarah, 2:23.
As you can see, what the Qur’an does is confidently set out a challenge to those in doubt to make something like it, and Ustadh Alomgir stated that, “all attempts have not only failed, they have died in history.” An example is in 1988 Georgetown University, in which there were PHD students under an Islamic studies programme and they were to as a class project make a ‘surah’, which they published as ‘Surah Muslim’, and only those that listen to it ignorant of the qur’anic language hence incapable to appreciate the linguistic power of the Qur’an, will think that this attempt of a ‘surah’ is somewhat like the real deal. But in truth, nobody has been able to produce a surah like those in the Qur’an. (Source: Nouman Ali Khan, Bayyinah Institute). Not even the greatest poets during the time of its revelation could beat this challenge, as they too recognised the distinctiveness, supremacy and other worldly nature of it.
It reminds me of the story of At-Tufayl Ibn Amr Ad-Dawsi. To summarise, he was told by the enemies of Islam, “Tufayl, you’re an important person, and there’s a man there; he has magic in his words, and we don’t want you to be infected. You’re important to your people, but if you want to come so badly here’s some cork; so if you see this man and you hear those words, you will know them as they’re very powerful; so you put this cork in your ears and you run.” So Tufayl takes the cork and he hears the Prophet (peace be upon him) reciting the Qur’an; and recognises that this has to be it, and then he plugs his ears with the cork and makes a run for it. And half way in through his tracks he stops and thinks, “Why do I have to run? I am the leader of my tribe, I am one of the best poets in Arabia, I am the master of language, a perceptive poet and able to distinguish between the good and bad in poetry, I don’t have to run from these words!” So he comes back to listen to the Prophet (peace be upon him), takes the shahada, and narrates the story himself.
Link to a fuller version of the story: http://www.islamicweb.com/history/sahaba/bio.AT_TUFAYL_IBN_AMR_AD_DAWSI.htm).
So the point that Ustadh Alomgir addressed was that the Qur’an can rightly be proved to be the word of God, as it is in itself a ‘coherent linguistic miracle,’ something that can be understood quite easily and rationally.
Leading on from there we had Dr Uthman Lateef deliver a lecture titled ‘Muhammad, the man who changed the world.’ It was about how the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was as a messenger of God, referring to ‘his excellent human conductance’, his trials and challenges, his variety of human interaction and how he was able to impact even the most difficult of people. One story that was a real tear-jerker was the one of Julaybib (ra).
He was a dwarf who was deformed in his appearance, his parents were not known and neither was his lineage. He grew up in a community that was prevalent in class warfare and as a result was an outcast, such that children would mock him and nobody would allow him in their company. However, Julaybib (ra) found a friend in the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Prophet (peace be upon him) had once asked him, “How would you like to get married my dear Julaybib?” And got him married. Sometime after that, a battle took place and the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked the Sahaba to go and to see if anyone was missing from them. When he learnt that Julaybib (ra) was missing, the Prophet (peace be upon him) tearfully said, “But I have lost my Beloved Julaybib, go and find him.” They found the body of Julaybib (ra), to find that he had been martyred. The Prophet (peace be upon him) held the body of Julaybib (ra) and said, “O Allah he is from me and I am from him. O Allah he is from me and I am from him. O Allah he is from me and I am from him.” On that day Julaybib had no pillow except for the arms of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
What really struck me about this story is how relatable it is in today’s society. That class warfare is still very much prevalent. One of the greatest social problems that exist when growing up is bullying. If you look different, if you look anything less than conventional, that be due to your looks, your weight, your skin colour, your height and so on, you become by default a victim of bullying. Then you have that associated ‘stigma’ attached to the victim, because everyone else now feels that the victim is too inadequate to even be seen with them. There is no compassion, no empathy, and no consideration as to how that unfortunate individual is feeling. There is no thought about how detrimental this could be for him/her, because they can’t accept that person for how they look.
But our Prophet (peace be upon him) saw beyond those things. He didn’t succumb to social pressures nor fall prey to the culturally immoral standards. He understood people and taught them where the value within the human being lies. He cared for and loved people, and allowed for them to understand what really matters. He gave people like Julaybib (ra) a chance that nobody else gave, enlightened him and saved him from his insecurities. An outcast like Julaybib (ra) went from being in a state of despair to finding his self-worth, and was able to die a noble death. The Prophet (peace be upon him) really loved people despite all the odds with all his kind-loving concern in utmost wholeheartedness. And these things about a person will most definitely bring about the best in them.
Link to a fuller version of this story: http://www.ummah.com/forum/showthread.php?136658-The-Sahabi-Julaybib-(RA)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) lived through his entire mission in this way. Dr Uthman Lateef ended with the following sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him):
“The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.”- Daraqutni, Hasan
“Whoever amongst you wakes up, secure in his house, healthy in his body, having the bare amount of food that he requires for the day, then it is as if the entire world has been captured for him, with all that it contains!”- Al- Tirmidhi.
His take on these was that we can service God by servicing other people, and all we need to be able to do that is be mindful and thankful the food we have to keep us going throughout the day, and that is where being rich lies.
By the end of the week we had Women’s Day. A marquee was set up in the courtyard on campus, food and drinks were being served, informative stalls had been arranged, non-muslim sisters were offered to have a headscarf be put on them, and the public had the opportunity to ask questions and find out about Islam, specifically about women. What I find useful when taking part in the conversational element of da’wah (invitation to Islam), is that it is important to listen with the intention to understand them, so if this part is ignored, then it is all the more likely that the wrong approach is taken and as a consequence the da’wah we give is based upon our prejudgement, instead of it being based upon the reality of that individual. This is positive engagement and it is the way our Prophet (peace be upon him) interacted with people and how he invited people to Islam. I found myself enjoying this particular event because of the joy that comes about as a result of a sustained unity aiming to benefit other people.
Overall, I really enjoyed DIW at Guy’s Campus. The notion of coming together with the same purpose gave me a lasting sense of fulfillment. The brotherhood, the sisterhood made it all the more of a spiritually uplifting week, and I’ll be looking forward to taking part in it for the years to come, God-willing.
Hope you have enjoyed this read! Much love, Apple.