Belated Reflections from Day 3 of the Knowledge Retreat

Written a few days ago, but posting now. apologies, the internet has been unexpectedly dreadful!

Hello friends! I write these words as the third day of the Knowledge Retreat begins! The computer has been incredibly finicky and internet access has been spotty, but I think more regular updates should be forthcoming from here on. (And I’ve taken notes on the RIS and the KR so far, so insha’Allah nothing is lost.

Khayr, how to describe the Knowledge Retreat? It is intense, mubarak, and beautiful, and I’m enjoying it enormously. In particular Dr Abdul Hakim Jackson’s class on the text Taj al’Arus is gorgeous, and I eagerly await each session. The other teachers at the Retreat include Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad and Habib Ali al Jifri. (Even just typing those words, i can feel thrills of excitement remembering the different classes). Their lessons are deep, and limited sponge though I am, I’ve been trying to soak up what I can. I’m sure there is much  I am missing as they move through all the wonderful things they have to share with us, but my heart is still happy. Imam Zaid is teaching a class on verses that start with ya ayuhal naas (oh humanity) and we’ve had one session with him so far about verse 21 from Surah Baqarah, the 2nd surahof the Quran.

Taj al’Arus, the text Dr Jackson is teaching is by Ibn Ata’illah, and so far we’ve been focusing on tawba (repentance). Habib Ali al Jifri is teaching on anger (I think from the Ihya), Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad is teaching selections from the text Marvels of the Heart (also from the Ihya), Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah is talking about tasawwuf (spirituality) principles and Shaykh Hamza is scheduled to teach the Qawaid of Islamic Spirituality, by Sidi Ahmed Zarruq.

First though, Habib Ali. It is worth mentioning that while yes, one major thing I’ve taken away from this gathering are his words, more importantly, it is the memory of his state, may Allah increase him in all good, that I want to hold in my heart. For instance, he is always smiling. Always. He can be giving us important reminders and admonitions, and yet throughout it all, he has the most beautiful smile, and a wonderfully calm and peaceful manner about him.

It’s hard to describe, but at RIS we had a speaker who spoke about the unshakeable happiness some people have when you meet them, and no matter what happens, they are completely sure and tranquil,  because they know that they are on their journey back to God. And Habib Ali definitely fits that description.

His classes are in Arabic and English (he speaks in Arabic and it is translated) and I find myself intensely wishing I had a command of the language, and making that intention to seriously learn insha’Allah. Make dua for me. =) But despite not knowing the language of instruction, the beauty of his lessons shines through.

More than classes, it is the spirit in the hall and in the different spaces that is exciting to see. There isn’t a lot of time between lessons and prayers to get to know others, but even just being in the hall, seeing bright scarves, different outfits, gorgeous abayas, and the spirit among students is lovely! I haven’t taken any photos on the trip so far, but I hope I’ve captured many moments in my heart: friends pulling chocolates out of their bag, being offered lunch, Habib Ali making salawat, the Fez singers and so many other moments I’ll share insha’Allah over the days to come.

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