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Monday, August 20, 2007

Imam Zaid Shakir - The Muslim: A Servant and Neighbour

Part two of two

Q & A

·Q. There is a big focus on mosque’s reconnecting with the youth and the issue of home-grown imams, what should the mosques do?

A. So how to re-engage the youth, and home-grown imams. Firstly, to acknowledge that they haven’t been engaged in the first place. So it’s a case of engaging not re-engaging.
The key is sponsoring and facilitating programs that involve the young people that extends beyond study circles, and halaqas, etc. Not everyone is engaged by these things in the beginning. You need hiking, sports leagues, basketball teams, cricket, etc. – and the mosque needs to sponsor such events. Creating activities where a Muslim young person sees himself/herself as being capable of being normal and being Muslim. Young born Muslims who are growing up in this society have been shaped by this society: they want to be normal, they don’t want to be different. So if we create a space for them to be normal and Muslim then they will succeed. But if normal means you can’t play sports, or do marital arts, or come to the mosque to relax then it creates a crisis, the outcome being leaving Islam officially or nominally or coming to accept that they’re not normal. Therefore, mosques need to engage the youth in activities that their non-Muslim friends are also engaged in but in a wholesome environment. For example, The ADAMS Centre in North America created the activity centre before they created the mosque: they pray in the gym. So the Muslims and the non-Muslims who attend play sports then they pray. So creating a youth friendly environment in and around the masjid.

Secondly, getting the young people involved: elder men don’t have time. Women and the young have time and the latter have so much energy to make change. The Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) didn’t have a youth axillary, rather the youth were intimately involved with the entire community.

Regarding the home grown imams we need home-grown, indigenous, programs and learning centres whose vision is shaped by this country, and until you have that you won’t have home grown imams. So you go to Iran, the imams are Iranian; Turkey, the imams are Turkish. You go to Britain and they’re Bengali, Algerian, Pakistani, etc. So the situation has to change. This is not to belittle the contributions of those who have come before us but there’s a disconnect, generally between the scholars and the youth. There’s an incongruity between way young Muslim women live their lives in Britain and the lives Muslim women led when are elder leaders were growing up. So the important thing is to have home grown institutions. Wallahu ’Alam. Allah knows best.

·Q. How can we establish a seminary like Zaytuna in this country?

A. You have good people here, like Aftab Malik, you just need to take the Nike philosophy and ‘Just Do It’.

·Q. How can we transcend the racism between the recently immigrated Somali community and the Pakistani community?

A. In Hamilton, near Toronto, there’s a non-Muslim centre to receive recent immigrants that the Muslims in that community get involved with. Many Somali’s who immigrate here are forced because of the terrible situation if Somalia right now. So the Muslims should work with and establish centres that help recently immigrated people to acclimatise to this country. Ibn Masu’d (May Allah be pleased with him) profoundly said, ‘Human hearts have been naturally inclined to love those who do good to them.’

This goes back to neighbourliness: if even a part of the community help acclimatise the Muslims then this will improve relations across the entire communities. Also, you need to open the masjids: Muslims these days are very territorial. We have to make the masajid neutral territory and every Muslim is welcome. And to have people feel welcome you can’t just have a sign on the door, inviting people in. Have Somali day in the local masjid – ask them to tell their stories; what does Somali food taste like? I’ll tell you, it tastes like everything else you just have to have a banana at the end. So make people feel welcome by putting a welcome sign in our hearts no on our mosques.

·Q. You mentioned self esteem and academic achievement. Many Muslims who do go and get and education don’t get a job, or find it more difficult to get a job. What would you say regarding this?

A. You shouldn’t look at education this way. You know, you might get a job, you might not. Education should be seen as a tool to enrich yourself personally. It should not be seen to get a job: whether you drive a taxi or work in a skyscraper in London. Education is personal enrichment that gives you a skill set (discipline, time management, meeting deadlines) that helps you in life. In Zaytuna, the college educated students do better. And of course, self-esteem increases with education. Remember, if you quite once, you’ll always quit. And if you have trouble finding a job, or even if you don’t, then think outside of the box. Challenge people’s perceptions. Look at Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, they used their skills to benefit themselves.

·Q. Where do you see the Muslims in the West with the current state of affairs?

A. I see a bright future. People think we have it hard but in Iraq and Palestine people are dying, being prevented from receiving treatment, women have to give birth on the side of the road because they’re not allowed to go to a hospital. That’s difficulty. We have to realise that we have tremendous opportunities that we need to take advantage of. What are the challenges that all people face the West? We mentioned them above (see Conclusion). Islam addresses these challenges so we need to get out of the mosque and get out of this insular mentality that works against us, because at the moment we’re not out there so people can’t even see the alternative example. Just meeting people has a large impact. In America they took a poll and 50% of Americans have a negative perception of Islam, but 70% of those who just knew a Muslim had a positive perception.

We also need to remember the adage, ‘Beware the wrath of a generous host’ The Ulema’ say that our relationship within this community is reciprocal to that of non-Muslims in Muslim lands. Our position is exactly the same. And the ‘ulema also say that if we dislike this place, we should leave.

But we have a tremendous opportunity. You know around 200 years ago a number of scholars predicted that the West would accept Islam. A scholar said that the West was pregnant and it would give birth to the child of Islam.

Remember this is Allah’s world (Exalted is He!). So only He knows the future, but we have to take the means. Taking the means is to take advantage of the opportunities our hosts have offered us. Remember that nobody is stopping you from propagating and inviting people to Islam: this beauty. So we’re calling people to sound sexual ethics, sobriety, brotherhood amongst humanity: we have to make it real amongst ourselves, but we should call people to these things. We should be proud that we have held on to the heritage of the Prophets. For example, every religion has a hijab, but they have discarded it. So sisters should be proud that they’re holding on to this inheritance. This impresses so many non-Muslims who see this adherence to a tradition. Also, the beard is the man’s hijab and the only difference is that it’s on the bottom of the man’s head, not at the top.

Finally, remember, we don’t need an Enlightenment, if we did we might become like the other religions! We need to understand our religion. The important thing is faith, if you badger people you won’t see change. Everyone needs to grow in their own time . The future’s bright. And you have to believe that. Be beautiful and you’ll see the world as beautiful and you need share it. Allah (Exalted is He!) is beautiful and loves beauty. Shaykh Hamza says that we’re the first generation that has made our religion look ugly: and a lot of that is because of what we do. All we need to do is beautify ourselves and Islam will be unstoppable. People are coming to the religion because they see what we don’t see. When I went to Syria, some people there were amazed that I became Muslim: why would you want to do something like that? They didn’t see the beauty in Islam.

·Q. Culture

A. I just want to mention something about culture. Culture is very important. Islam has always been propagated along with the culture that it was spread. So the Sahaba (May Allah be pleased with them) sang songs and the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) watched the Abyssinians dance with Lady Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her). Remember, all the poetry we have, all the Qasidas, are songs. Dancing, dress, and food is all part of the culture and it’s beautiful. Culture is an integral part of the human experience. So when you do away it in the name of purification you’re going to fill it with something worse. In Saudi Arabia, etc. what has filled the vacuum? They don’t have the burda or qawalis, etc. They have Madonna, and Michael Jackson, etc. In Indonesia people are converting to Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism because people are being that their culture is bida’. (innovation)

So if you’re strict Alhamdulillah, but let people work things out. If someone is praying 5 times a day but listening to U2, let them work it out: soon they’ll get past that.


Du’a by Imam Zaid (and a song!)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:09 am

    One word : EXCELLENT!!