The SeekersHub is a Societal Obligation to Support (And Other Gems from Dr Umar)

Dr Umar has been here in Toronto for the past month, but because of school and other commitments, it was only at the end of his trip that I was blessed to see him. On Thursday night I went to the Hub for a beautiful mawlid led by Dr Umar, followed by Dr Umar explaining two Hikams of Ibn Ata’illah. That would have been enough gifts for the month, but the next evening the Hub hosted an incredible discussion about the paper “Living Islam with Purpose” with Dr Umar, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Imam Afroz Ali and the Hub in general. It is difficult to summarize the event because there was so much wisdom said that night, but  below are some selections from my notes.

Imam Afroz Ali

  1. Why do you do what you do? The critical answer is Allah, but the question is, how do you do that? Service is an honour. Sadaqa (charity) is not simply about wealth, but we’ve reduced it to an experience with credit cards. Our focus should be on efforts not results. Results are aspirational, but it is in our efforts that we experience themercy and justice of Allah. We are supposed to be people of sacrifice not expectation. We shouldn’t just check things off a list, we should have presence of mind when we act. We should avoid ABC (Activist Burnout Syndrome). We need to walk the walk rather than talk the talk. Don’t be people who are donkeys with a bunch of books on their back. Don’t be mediocre Muslims. It is important to have a certitude of abundance rather than an attitude of poverty.
  2. Important to have attitude of sustainability. In Sydney there are mosques very close together because of ethnic divisions and this is a breakdown of the imperative of sustainability. Need to have paradigm shift of organizations that are not for profit to organizations that are for benefit.
  3. The maxims of Islamic law are not mechanical thinking, they are ways to higher purpose.

Dr Umar

  1. Reason I wrote this paper is that there is a need for communities where reason is cultivated and respected. Because sometimes it may be that someone is citing the hadith and other sources but it just may not make sense. Islamic law has polysemic teachings, which means that they are open to many interpretations.  Dissent hones the legal mind.
  2. Societal obligations are important because they cannot be made up. In Islam, water has rights. I’m sorry if that cramps your style.
  3. When we do things it’s about tapping into the religion of the Beloved (may peace and blessings be upon him) The Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) changed tribal society.  Our civilization is like the peacock’s tail. Unity in diversity, not unity in conformity. Societal obligations are like a fire in the neighbourhood, you can’t just walk by because you have an appointment. Same thing if you see someone being mugged. We need to help people. But we don’t think about priorities, we think about do and don’t do, do and don’t do, do and don’t do.
  4. If you’ve memorized the Qu’ran and don’t learn the meaning. you’ve missed the boat Youu have to live by what you’ve learnt. Aql is the first ethical principle. We’ve got to empower our reason.
  5. The core maxims of Islamic law are an incredible bridge to other cultures and traditions. Europeans used to be impressed with Muslims because they worked so hard.
  6. When mosques are so unwelcoming, then at least create sacred space where we can grow. In some mosques they just go “PRRRRRR” to get through the Qur’an in Ramadan. You think you’re going to get rewarded for speed reading?
  7. Often in the Muslim world, it’s not the brilliant students who are becoming scholars.
  8. We need indigenous scholars, from this culture. Some brothers are here for 20 years, but they haven’t studied the language. Imams need english intensive courses. We import imams because they don’t cost too much, but then we ask them to do things of ten imams. We ultimately need to develop curriculum and we need the best teachers and best minds.
  9. Part of adab is knowing whether anything I have to say will be listened to or not. It’s a whole science to correct people. Have to know, when, how, and whether you have knowledge to do so.
  10. Shariah is vast but you would not believe this because of the way some fuqaha (jurists) try to make it. Whatever problem you have, be very clear shariah is not a problem. Because the shariah has solutions to everything. Fuqaha should not be memorizers of rules. Law is there to solve problems, not alleviate them. You have to learn about how you translate being in blessed lands to your own context (talking about people  who have difficulty adjusting after studying overseas).
  11. Remember: if you are not at the table, you are at the menu.
  12. Turkish people have roots in traditional Islam and they have their heads on their shoulders.
  13. Key to transformative education is a transformative teacher.
Shaykh Faraz:
  1. If you read something that disturbs you, important to first affirm something as true, whatever is true with Allah. Then take means to knowledge.
  2. Also remember, there is no such thing as “fard ulema” There are societal obligations, and we all need to support the scholars.
  3. The sunna teaches us that most dichotomies are false. Sunni path is both. We uphold what is right with due consideration of people and circumstance. Be aware of where Allah has placed you. Prophet didn’t just listen to what people said, but listened to people’s hearts. Listen to what people are really concerned with, and allay concerns. Don’t explain your motives, explain what you want to do in the light of their concerns.
  4. Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him)  taught us to always consult. For example, the Prophet  (may peace and blessings be upon him)  consulted his wife when he first received revelation. Fiqh means understanding, not that you memorize and pull right book of the shelf.
Dr Umar:
  1. What is imperative in this religion is to teach the unknown religion.
  2. Theology is the first obligation but we don’t study it anymore.
  3. Community is essential to religion and we need dynamic communities. This (the SeekersHub) is community, and with this, religion becomes powerful. With strong communities, don’t have identity crisis. Hub is a societal obligation to support.
  4. Need talented people to work and sacrifice. People have a right to the deen.
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