'Oh You Who Believe!' - Day One

The moment I secured the silver bracelet around my wrist, I knew that my life would somewhat once again be changed. It was the same feeling I had exactly 2 years ago to this week when I attended Almaghrib's course 'The Shepherd's Path', and I walked out of that event a different person as I had walked in. The past weekend at One Ummah was no different, and Inshallah I really hope we can all continue to ride the momentum.

I thought about randomly blogging about the thoughts than ran through my head during each of the workshops and lectures. But then I realized that this methodology would provide no order to the information I took away, and that I should work to organize the pages of notes I took into some sort of logical and user friendly format! Because as soon I stepped foot out of the Telus Convention Centre at 10:45pm on Sunday February 20th, reality hit me, and I realized I am going to need some sort of reminder each and every day about the impact that the Sheikhs' words had on me over the weekend.

So here goes nothing:

Note: Please do not take what I am writing out of context! This entry is based on the notes I took, I'm not preaching and I know that there are errors in what I wrote/it is not complete, since I was scribbling like a 'Muslim Maniac'! The following is more for my benefit as I try to make sense and implement all that I learned over the weekend, InshaAllah. 

Sheikh Ahsan Hanif: Surah al-Hashr
I was immediately struck by the smoothness and conviction with which Sheikh Ahsan spoke, his slight British accent coming through the words! His gentle yet firm demeanour was easy to follow along with, and made you want to take in everything he was saying. The focus on Sheikh Ahsan's workshop was on Surah al-Hashr, with emphasis on the final few ayats (verses). He started by saying that we are always constantly planning in our lives, short-term and long-term, and that we are always looking forward to. These plans are most often limited to the dunya (world) and not to the akhira (hereafter), and that this MUST change! Sheikh Ahsan said that we must strive to increase the taqwa (that belief within us that leads us to worship Allah) and treat it as a barrier between ourselves and the punishment of Allah. He went on to say that on the Day of Judgement, the only thing that WILL matter is taqwa, since when we die, people may remember us but eventually they move on with their lives; our possessions and wealth are divided; and the greater world continues without us. He likened increasing our taqwa as using a business frame of reference and posed this critical question: What are we doing to increase and invest in our taqwa? What have we prepared for TOMORROW?

How do we do this? Sheikh Ahsan emphasized that we must educate ourselves about Allah and our deen, and that we must not feign ignorance even when we DO know! He went on to say that the ayats describe how mountains crumble in the presence of the Quran, so what is the effect of the Quran on US, and how will we apply the knowledge it provides to us?

And then we heard the same message about Allah as future workshops and lectures would bring up. That despite all the transgressions we make, how we promise to get closer to Allah but then take giant steps back, he is forgiving and we can repent. The Sheikh then spoke about the hereafter, and how we will be presented with 99 scrolls with a list of our evil deeds, and they are so long they stretch far into the horizon. And then we will be presented with a single card with our good deeds written on it, and when the two are placed on either side of a scale, the card will weigh more than the 99 scrolls. I'm not sure about y'all, but that really provides me with hope, and this message of forgiveness was repeated over and over throughout the whole conference. Ameen!

Sheikh Abu Taubah
Sheikh Taubah was quite different from the other speakers, mostly because of his native home of New York City and having spent time in the military, his presence commanded your attention. Sheikh Taubah spent his workshop going over the verses of Surah al-Furqan, and one of the first analogies he spoke about is that 'we gotta walk like we have somewhere to be!', and that the slaves of Allah don't dwindle and walk 'like it's Sunday'!!! We have to walk with conviction! The rest of his speech offered other practical advice from the Surah such as when talking to someone you deem ignorant, greet them with 'wasalaamu alaikum' and speak to them gently. Sheikh Taubah went onto say that we should not talk about issues that do not concern us; and if we do need to say something about what concerns us, think about the time, place, and what comes out of our mouths. I wrote this word for word when the Sheikh elaborated "halal speech can turn into haram speech; but halal silence cannot become haram silence".  Ameen. The Surah goes onto say that when believers hear ayats being recited and they understand them, they continue to act deaf and ignorant, as if it does not apply to them; or in his words, "because it doesn't jive with you!" His closing statements were quite powerful, as Sheikh Taubah concluded by saying that if we did not worship Allah, he would have nothing to do with us, and that we should NOT think that we are doing Allah a favour by worshipping him, but that we are doing OURSELVES the favour, and Allah has favoured us by allowing us to worship. And Allah knows best.

Sheikh Yassir Fazaga
The moment I heard about Sheikh Yassir's background, I jumped for joy! He's not only a Sheikh and Psychotherapist, but is also the DIRECTOR of a mental health program in California! Holla holla! And this in no way biased my opinion of the Sheikh as being one of the strongest speakers during the conference, and I think my possie agreed!

The topic of Sheikh Yassir's talk was justice, OH SO relevant to the Middle Eastern situations that continue to brew and boil. He started his talk by saying that political oppression is only one such kind, and that others include domestic, child, senior, and police oppression, among others. His definition of justice was that it is ABSOLUTE, and never has exceptions, such that all humans have the right to justice. On the other side of things, Sheikh Yassir did suggest that Muslims are guilty of 'group selfishness', such that we tend to say that if things in the greater world around us don't involve us, then we sit back and don't do anything about it.

Justice was further defined as the ethics of sharing, and that no good is good if it's only for ourselves. If we are healthy, we need to work to ensure the health of those around us. If we are wealthy, we should ensure that others have wealth as well; and the same holds true with knowledge and intellect, ideas, etc. Overall, there are five things related to justice that we should be sharing:

1. Social Status
We need to acknowledge that all humans on earth have the same right to integrity and dignity. As Muslims, we believe that sins do not stain our being, but stain our character, and this was revealed to us from Allah (SWT). In order to oppress people, we go through a process of dehumanization and polarization, including labelling groups in order to justify our degradation of these targeted groups. This is wrong. 

2. Wealth
Sheikh Yassir gave an astounding statistic about the United States, something about producing about 5% of the world's GDP (gross domestic product), but spending 50% of the world's military resources. That is quite sick when you think about it. 

3. Power
Dictators were discussed under this category, about how delusional and narcissistic their thinking has to become in order to inflict the type of oppression they do.

4. Environment
Sheikh Yassir discussed the concept of everyone having equal access to the land and resources that the earth provides us with.

5. Responsibility
Sheikh Yassir urged us to volunteer and give back to the community, as much as we can, without reserve and concern.

Sheikh Yassir lastly summarized something powerful that Malcolm X stated, and it goes something like this: oppressors make you look at their shadows, not at themselves. Shadows sometimes appear larger than the person themselves, and the closer you get to the actual person, the smaller they seem. Ameen.

Sheikh Mohammad Faqih: Stand Firm
Towards the end of the evening, I didn't take too many notes since to be honest, I was exhausted. Sheikh Mohammad's talk was on standing firm, such that we need to stand firm against our desires and Shaytaan himself. Another concept he discussed was that Allah always hears our prayers, and that we often expect our prayers to be answered HERE and NOW (we are human, after all, and patience sometimes escapes us!). When Allah does answer our prayers and gives us what we want, we need to stand up for Allah and follow through with what we promised. That is the concept of standing firm. 

And to be honest, that's where I stopped diligently taking notes, it was after 10pm and it had been a LONG but exciting first day. More to follow on Day 2 soon, Inshallah! :)


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