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These are the words of Imam Ensar Cutahija (Adelaide City Mosque), who delivered a talk at the multi-faith conference on climate change in late October at the Hawke Centre (Uni SA West Campus).
CORE OF THE PROBLEM
“Well, what is the real problem?”
It’s the way we live. It’s the idea of consumerism, that by and through material things we are taught that this is the way to happiness.
CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM
It’s because we have turned away from our Creator, lost our purpose, our souls seek satisfaction in the material. But we can never find it there, so we consume more and more, hoping that if we just have this or that then we’ll be happy. But we are not.
It’s only when we understand the true purpose of our life and surrender to the will of our Creator that we can find true happiness. Just see how everything follows the laws and patterns and systems laid down for them by the wise Creator. They all submit to God. It is only when we also follow the guidance and systems and patterns laid down for us by the Creator that we can also be in harmony with the universe and world around us.
ISLAMIC SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM
Islam teaches that we are responsible and accountable for everything we do. Our bodies, our health, our lives, our wealth, the planet and all that is in it has been entrusted to us, and Allah is going to ask us about what we did with it.
By being Muslim you are already on the first and most important step to being in tune and living in harmony with your environment. The whole universe is in a state of submission to the laws of it’s Creator. The very word ‘Muslim’ means someone who submits to God. In this profound spiritual sense a Muslim is in harmony with the universe.
The Almighty Creator said:
“There is not a living creature on earth, nor a bird that flies with it’s two wings, but are communities like you.”
The Qur’aan, 6:38
The Muslims know that this world is a test. You know that in good deeds and obeying your Lord and seeking His pleasure is the real path to happiness and success, and as you live and feel that, you become content with what Allah has provided you with and are happy with what suffices your bare needs. This is the way we can think in a completely different way from the enslavement of consumerism that is in part destroying our world.
We have been warned by Allah and His messenger against waste and excess:
“Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful.”
The Qur’aan, 17:27
Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-`Aas reported that the Prophet ﷺ passed one day by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqas while he was performing wudu (ritual washing of body parts in preparation for prayer). The prophet asked Sa`d, “Why this wastage?” Sa`d replied “Is there wastage in wudu also?” The Prophet said, “Yes, even if you are at a flowing river.” [Ahmad]
So even when there is plenty, we should take care not to be wasteful! Part of being a Muslim is being conscious, modest and moderate, aware and realising that one is accountable.
Ultimately all the problems burdening humanity come from sick hearts. Hearts that are detached from their real purpose which is knowing and remembering Allah, for in this alone do hearts find rest. So it is inevitable that when humanity is distant from their Lord, evils will emerge:
“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]”
The Qur’aan, 30:41
When we turn to other than Allah and set up false objects besides Him, in which we place our hope, trust and love, our hearts become corrupted and the earth on which we dwell also falls into corruption.
The solution, then, is to return to our Lord and to single Him out alone for our obedience and adoration. The hearts are then filled with the peace and tranquility for which they long.
It is empty, corrupt hearts that are destroying our world and it is only whole and fulfilled hearts that can mend it.
The cure for the hearts is a living, vibrant and real connection with our Creator, not merely some passive ritualistic emulation of it.
Of course many point out that the most excessive consumers and producers of carbon fuels are in fact Muslims. This is not however the correct manner in which to judge Islam itself. There are many reasons for this discrepancy between the claim to be Muslim and Islamic and the reality of what it entails. Part of the problem that besets the Muslim world is following a hollow ritualistic shadow of Islam. If we merely go through motions of the outer acts of worship without imbibing their inner dynamics we will not change anything. This is exactly the problem with many Muslims all over the world. They perform prayers without understanding a word. They fast by abstaining from food and drink but do not leave the evil in their words and deeds.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it and offensive speech and behaviour, Allah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]
This is a very profound statement, the one we should reflect upon in respect to all of the rituals of Islam. These outer rituals have an inner purpose. Islam needs to be lived inwardly and outwardly. Only then will it become the cure for the ills besetting our world.
The faith leaders must use their influence in raising awareness in their communities, starting with their places of worship. Together and only together, their voices can make the difference. Politicians will listen and corporations will act if sermons change the consumption habits and lifestyles of society.
We are not ‘eating to live’ but rather ‘living to eat’. This has to change.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught us to leave one-third of our stomach empty when eating a meal. He ate only when he was hungry and would never fill up his stomach.
We love our Prophet, but we love our super-size burgers more.
By having more than we need we nourish our selfishness and ego, becoming self-important beyond imagination. This is neither good nor moral. This is not our mission in this temporary world.
The Messenger ﷺ also reminded us that we cannot make good believers if we had enough food in our home and our neighbours go to their beds hungry without having food for dinner. By having said this he did not mention that our neighbors had to be Muslims to enjoy this courtesy – all they have to be is our neighbour!
I would conclude by the passage from the Holy Qur’an:
“And [the righteous are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but hold a medium way between those.”
The Qur’aan, 25:67
Here is what people are saying about the Community Dinner:
“Please pass on my thanks to everyone connected with last Saturday’s Ramadan Experience community dinner. It was such an enjoyable and informative evening, and the food was delicious! I had the pleasure of sharing some of the evening with Atefa and also with Sherifa, who were delightful company as they sat at our table and shared their insights in answer to some of our questions. The speakers were very interesting and the entire evening was enlightening and a pleasure.”
“I thought the call to prayer was so beautiful and I felt very moved. I also loved how a member of the youth group cam and joined us at our table – how brave! The Q & A was good because it opened up the discussion and it was great to hear a range of answers from the panel. I thought it was really well organised. However, you may need a bigger venue next time because word is likely to spread about how good it was. I know I intend to get more teachers from my school there next time.”
“(What I like most about the event was) I received a basic understanding of Islam. Meeting such positive people. This countering the negativity around Islam in the media.”
“(What I like most about the event was) Everything – learning a bit about Islam, sharing the lovely food, and meeting young Muslim women. Sada was especially friendly and willing to answer our questions.”
There is a lot of misunderstanding of Shariah in the wider community . With the NCEIS ( Melbourne University ) grant we were able to hold the much needed conferences on Shariah Law on September 30th , October 4th and October 14th of 2011 to suit different sectors of the targeted audience- professionals such as lawyers, governments department heads and representatives ,teachers, social workers, university students and people of other faiths.
We had a total of 125 participants over the three sessions, and the feedback has been encouraging. More information and workshops are needed .
Professional young Muslims were invited to speak to Muslim and non-Muslim students at Adelaide schools with a high number of Muslim students.
Teachers were present as well. Young Muslim professionals shared with them their experiences through school, university and now at workforce.
People who attended the programs : 361 students, 15 teachers directly, and 45 indirectly. Young professionals and 12 volunteers.
This program emphasised the fact that it is their attitude to life, their knowledge and skills, and their behaviour that determine their future. This program has also helped the Young Muslim professionals in taking a leadership role and mentoring.
Summary of ‘Train the Trainer Course’ evaluations on 29th and 30th of December 2012:
The ‘Train the Trainer Course’ was held for a period of two days, on the 29th and 30th of December 2012. Several topics were discussed every hour of the course. Most of the participants gave positive responses at the end of the first session. A lot of them highlighted Maqasid al Shariah, Usul al Fiqh and Ijtihad as the most interesting topics for them. Some of the issues raised were regarding the difference between the schools of thoughts (4 Mazhabs) as well as the lack of discussion on interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Similar to the first session, many positive responses were given by the participants for the second session. Most, if not all, were enthusiastic in attending future TTC courses. Topics of interest for the second session include Jihad and Polygamy. Due to the short duration of the program, however, many participants felt that the topics were not able to be discussed in depth. Some of the suggestions offered include longer duration for the future courses, more interactive discussion rather than passive listening and provision of references and materials for further study.
All in all, the participants were broadly satisfied with how the course was conducted.
18TH MAY, 2013
The second part of the exhibition was titled ‘Muslim Women: Countering Stereotypes’ and was held on Saturday the 18th of May. Here, four successful Muslim women spoke about their experiences and careers and how Islam has remained a part of them throughout their lives. The purpose of this was to alleviate the stereotype of Muslim women being ‘oppressed’ and ‘conventional’.
Sister Azidah got the ball rolling with her enlightening presentation. Azidah invited the audience to think about society’s expectations and stereotypes of women. That is – how do you characterise “successful women” or “good wives”? The audience responded with characteristics such as being ‘loyal’ and ‘supportive’.
She noted that everyone will have their own opinions and a range is to be expected. Muslims are instructed to live by the standards set by Allah in His revelation, the Holy Quran. So she spoke about the two women highly commended in the Quran – one a young lady and the other a wife. Azidah shared that the women were Mariam or the Virgin Mary as the West know her, and the other is the Pharaoh’s wife, or better known as the adopted mother of Prophet Moses/Musa. The wife of the Pharaoh refused to worship her husband and chose the one God instead. Mary was a young single mother who had to flee from her people because of her pregnancy. Azidah then asked the audience to reflect in what ways these two women fit the conventional ideas of successful or good women. Neither was what society would generally consider typical role models. In contrast these women stood out for their independence, courage and grace under difficult circumstances. Most important to them was being true to their Lord and Creator, rather than fulfilling society’s expectations of them.
There are many other women who meet the conventional ideas of good women and could easily have been picked as examples instead. Azidah concluded that in holding up these two women as examples, the Quran invites us to rethink what stereotypes we impose on ourselves and others. There will always be misconceptions and false standards. Like the two women we can choose to free ourselves by acting in the light of revealed guidance.
After this brilliant presentation Sister Laila El Assaad, a teacher at the Islamic College of SA, a SACE moderator, a wife and mother of three told her story. The first thing that Laila said was that she never felt any different to her non-Muslim friends. Her struggles were the same as other women. She told the guests about her family history and life growing up. Working at the Islamic college Laila is around young Muslims all day and she said she felt that the girls in her school were strong and resilient contrary to what the stereotype placed on them may be.
Melati Lum was the second speaker. Melati is currently working as a trial lawyer for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Melati is also a committee member of the Women’s Advisory Committee of SA Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission, and a board member of Islamic Foundation Australia. Melati’s main point is that Islam never stopped her from doing the things she wanted to do. She has had the opportunity to travel overseas and work with the UN. She has participated in sports such as taekwondo even with a hijab. While Melati no longer wears the hijab – this seemed surprising to some of the audience members – she explained that she wore it without trouble for 17 years. Her decision to remove it was a personal one.
Finally, Miriam Silva addressed the guests. Miriam participates in a number of boards, Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission, the Muslim Women’s Association and Rotary as well as carrying a full-time job in the financial field. Miriam mentioned that she had grown up with Laila and Melati and had gone on a similar spiritual journey. Miriam’s presentation was more career focused but the three suggestions she gave for overcoming issues can be applied to life in general. These were to be yourself, hold yourself accountable for your actions and be of service to others; to have courage to move away from your comfort zone; to have mentors and seek advice from those who are more experienced than yourself.
After the presentations the guests were introduced to Elham who was demonstrating and displaying some of her calligraphy art work. Elham has a BA in theology, and completed a course in Traditional wood art and Traditional music in Iran.
When we returned to the meeting room, the ladies happily answered questions about their careers and the Islamic faith. Many of the questions were regarding stereotypes about Muslim women and how they can be overcome. The main messages that came from this discussion were that there are over a billion Muslims in the world, we cannot generalize among one billion people. The event ended on a happy note at around 4:30pm with more conversations amongst guests and speakers.