Getting Serious About Religion (The Final Lecture of the U of T MSA)

To end an amazing year of events and classes, the Muslim Students’ Association at the University of Toronto held a lecture recently titled “Getting Serious about Religion” featuring the SeekersHub own Dr Bano Murtuja, and Shaykh Abdul Hakim Quick. For me, it was one of the best, most meaningful lectures I’ve ever been to, and I’m enormously grateful to Dr Bano for gracing us with her presence that night!  The event had two major lessons. The first was the subject of Dr Bano’s remarks, that intention, knowledge and service are essential, and the second was something we all felt deep in our hearts: female scholarship is something that is sorely needed to build strong communities.  When you have people you admire in your life, you want to emulate them, and Dr Bano was a reminder for all the women in the room that academic excellence, community service, seeking sacred knowledge and being a wonderful person are all compatible. So alhamidullah for the blessing of strong female exemplars, it truly changes the way you understand yourself and the things you should be devoting your time and attention towards. Notes below from the event, and the talk in its entirety can be found here.


Shaykh Abdul Hakim Quick

  • In the 1970s, there were were two major masjids in Toronto. To see another Muslim at that time was a big deal. And at that time, Hart house was a key place of Islamic thought. The university is special because it brings together people from different areas, and it empowers Muslim women in the way that they should be.
  • Now we have quantity (in terms of people and masjids) but we need quality.
  • We need people who understand the religion and are balanced.
  • The mosque is not a mens club, it is the House of God.
  • We are all transitioning out of this life into the next life.
  • Have tawakkul of Allah (trust) and Allah will help you. When the birds fly out in the morning, they don’t fly out with anxiety about their provision, they have trust.
  • Advice: Establish prayer in your life. So don’t  just pray, establish prayer, so that whatever is going on in your life, you have that connection. And know the rules about different ways to pray. So that whether travelling, sick etc, connection with God is firm.
  • Establish shura in your life So that you conduct your affairs in mutual consultation.

Dr Bano Murtuja:

  • To keep priorities straight, need intention and action.
  • Our intentions and actions need to be straight in order to fulfill the trusts that we’ve been given. Both (intention and action) require knowledge. To have the highest of intention, one needs the right knowledge. Need to know what we should be striving towards, what we should be reaching towards. One’s actions should go beyond oneself.
  • So how do we make every day a means of gaining blessings in this world and in the hereafter? This world is ultimately a trade, it’s a tradeoff, and ultimately it’s a tradeoff that we really shouldn’t become bankrupt in. Ultimately what we’re doing is we’re buying next life with deeds we do here. Which is why scholars have described this world as a place where we gather the seeds of the next life. But the thing is, the next life is where we harvest the plants, that’s our capital.  When do a trade, don’t just want capital back, want to make a profit. And so not just about doing that which is obligatory upon us. We have that which is an obligation upon us. We get up, we pray 5 x a day, and sit back down again. Most of us will brush it off and say ok, lets watch television, surf the internet, chat with mates,  But effectively what you’re doing by making you daily actions of that nature, of purely the obligatory is that only getting back your capital. What you put in, that’s what you get out. But there’s no profit. So the plants you get in the hereafter is not your profit.
  • Book Recommendation: Imam Ghazali’s The Beginning of Guidance (book that answers this question most comprehensively)
  • This book shows us how to take daily actions and stop it from being your capital, and start making a (spiritual) profit.
  • The more we prepare for an act, the more success we will have with it. The more  you prepare for prayer, more success will have with it.
  • Imam Shafi’ was described by one of his female teachers as the person who perfected wudu. That was all she said about him because that was the station of putting the correct intention in every one of your actions.
  • Water means of purifying the inside as well as the outside. There are prophetic duas to make as you wash each limb during wudu.
  • Good intentions attached to every one of your actions should purify the inside of every one of your actions.
  • If you purify inside of your actions, the outside becomes that much better.

Engaging with Community Activism

  • If want to engage community activism effectively, should be in service. Every one of your actions should be about service to other people
  • The one who serves the one who studies, makes that study possible. The one who serves the one who teach, makes that teaching possible. So when you are in service to other people, you not only give success to your own time, you take a part of their success too. And you recognize that whatever accolades anybody gets in this world is from the All-Mighty anyway, so don’t need to be at the forefront. You don’t need to be the one who gets the recognition. And you don’t need to be the one who does the stuff, you can be in service to others. And that’s enough.
  • Be in service.
  • But also as Shaykh Usama Canon taught us, if you want to engage effectively with community activism, you have to put your judgements aside. You have to deal with people where they are at, now where you want them to be at. And sometimes the holier than thou attitude is particularly problematic.
  • When someone who is vulnerable comes to you for help, say I love you. Make your actions be a reflection of the mercy of the Beloved of Allah.  Do not say I love you when, I love you if, I love you but, just say I love you, I accept you the way you are, I extend the mercy of the Beloved of Allah to you, as you are, where you are.
  • The Prophet  of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) gave people the space to come to him as they were. It was in his companionship, in watching him, in loving him, in being the recipient of his love and his mercy, that they changed.

In terms of work…

  • In almost all cases, the issue is not the job you do, but how you do it, and the intention you have in doing it.
  • Almost all profession can be a means of doing good.
  • We should accept the place that Allah has put us, and should stop being there when job is contrary to the ethics and teachings of the Beloved. But otherwise, have the right intention, follow the ethics and teachings of the Beloved and strive for the pleasure of Allah in all that you do, and you can’t go wrong.
  • In all of that though, you need to have the right requisite sacred knowledge.
  • Many of us expect to follow the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) but have very little idea of who he is.
  • Take people as they are, you are not judge, jury or executioner.
  • In terms of protest, important but with boundaries. Never go beyond boundaries set down by most beloved of Allah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had many enemies, but his enemies never questioned his noble character. Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) came to perfect noble character, that was his mission. You can have your capital, you can do what you’re obliged to do, pray five times a day, keep your fasts, give your zakat, but what makes you the best person you can possibly be is when you perfect your character that goes alongside all of that. When you follow the ethics and character of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
  • In sum: get the knowledge, make the intention, and be in service.

Question Period:

  • Important to seek beneficial knowledge. The companions would memorize a bit of the Qur’an and then implement.
  • If you want to learn Arabic and go abroad, why isn’t every second now being spent pursing that goal? Don’t have to wait till you go abroad to start that goal.
  • Need to learn foundation of religion.
  • Best for us to do things that we are deeply passionate about, instead of doing things that we think would be good for society, that society has a need for. I firmly believe that Allah equips us with certain qualities and gifts, and if we just focused on perfecting and using those things, we’d be able to get to Him just fine
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