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January issue of Emel OUT NOW (Imam Ghazali feature)

cover design: omair barakatulla
Emel issue 76

Feature: Imam Ghazali, The Pursuit of Happiness

"Nine hundred years after the death of Abu Hamid Muhammad Al-Ghazali, we find ourselves in a conundrum. We live in a world fraught with blood-shed, economic strife, and social disintegration. We live in an abundance of material wealth side by side with abject poverty [...] Our soul flutters uncomfortably as it searches for satisfaction - often in transient forms that only succeed in heaping greater misery. We confuse ugliness with beauty; have difficulty discerning between right and wrong; eschew justice in the pursuit of pragmatism. In such circumstances, can anyone provide an antidote to our modern world?

Understandably it is difficult to see how a medieval scholar born in the small town in Tus, Eastern Iran in 1058 can come to our assistance. Ghazali's world was very different to ours where Abbasid caliphs contended with Fatimid caliphs and real power lay with the sultans. [...] Whilst one can easily see Ghazali's contribution to medieval Islamic civilisation, it is more difficult to do so with modernity. Ghazali's father determined that his son should dedicate himself to the service of Islam, and though orphaned at an early age, young Ghazali's keen intellect ensure that he studied in the best institutions of Islamic jurisprudence By 1077 he had studied under giants such as the theologian and jurist Al-Juwayni. By 1091 he was lecturing at the prestigious Nizamiyya in Baghdad to hundreds of students. [...]

In 1092 Ghazali was at the peak of his career, a celebrated professor in the most prestigious university in the world, resplendent in material comfort, courted by the great and the good, and surrounded by a loving family. Yet he felt something was missing. What more could he want? [...]

Just like Descartes five centuries later, Ghazali became deeply skeptical and questioned absolutely everything. How could he be certain that Islam was true? In fact, how could he expect anything to be true? How could he trust his own senses? "One looks at the stars," he says, "and it is the size of a gold coin. But then astronomical evidence proves that it is greater in magnitude than the Earth." Perhaps three is really more than ten, he speculated. With greater candour, he admits that his doubts would be continued had God not restored his faith in reason."
{Documentary, The Alchemist of Happiness by Abdul Latif Salazar}

The First Racist. Editorial, Sarah Joseph

"I am better than he... Those five words of Iblis are constantly found within human experience. It seems that is is so easy for us to feel superior over our fellow human beings. History shows us, from the slave trade to South African apartheid, from Aboriginal annhilation to the de-facto extermination of the native Americans, that the feeling of racial superiority has led to the most horrific brutality and injustices. Man has too often said of others, 'I am better than he' to the degree where he found it possible to treat human beings of a different rance and colour as chattels and property. Islam's absolute and unanbiguous refutation of such a position is clear to see. The Qur'an says, "We created you into nations and tribes so that you could know one another no that you can hate one another," and the Prophet was clear in his last sermon, 'All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white, except by piety and good action.' Yet racism is prevalant within the Muslim community.

Before I was married, as an Englishwoman I had offers of marriage because I was 'fair'; but I have seen men and women being rejected for marriage because they were dark. [...]

Racial superiority is not the only expression of Iblis' attitude towards Adam. In Britain, there are problematic issues of class division [...] And of course, the issues of beauty superiority, particularly with the ever-increasing attention on looks from global advertising and the celebrity industry are pervasive. There is another form of superiority that is on the rise but is against the very ethos of the body from which it springs - and that is the feeling of religious superiority. [...] Religious superiority does not have to be about violence and hellfire. It is the feeling inside when you decide that you are better than another because you wear hijab and they don't, because you have a beard and he doesn't, or your religious practices are better than others. It is the constant judgement of another. That is the arrogance that condemned Iblis and it can be our undoing too."

Cool quotes
  • The Messenger ﷺ of Allah said 'the ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr'. (Muslim)
  • 'Faith is knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.' - Khalil Gibran
  • An ant can detect movement from 5cm of earth.
  • A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time - 0.01 of a second.
  • £10 billion is the monetary value of food thrown away in the UK every year.
  • "Population size, history, Arabic ethnicity, language; are these the necessary components that deem country Islamic?" {Read' Anatomy of an Islamic Country' by Shelina Janmohamed Spirit 21}
  • From 'Diary of a beardless Rumi': "That's my miswak, I never go anywhere without it. It's more a part of me than my boxer shorts."
Feature: East London Mosque, A Century of Service
"East London Mosque is in its centenary year. It was founded on pluralistic ideals and had non-Muslims as founding members."

my arm & Lucy
Freedom To Choose, by Lucy Bushill-Matthews

"There has been much fascination with the recent converion to Islam of Lauren Booth, Tony Blair's sister-in-law. Muslims are almost universally delighted that yet another 'sister' has chosen to embrace the faith; in contrast, by Booth's own account, many people have reacted with 'shock and horror'. But don't we all have the freedom to choose? The Qur'an upholds the principle, 'let there be no compulsion in religion' (2:256). Article 18 of the 1948 Universal declaration of Human Rights states: 'Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.' [...]

When the Prophet Muhammad began preaching to the community around him in 610 CE, he was initially alone as a Muslim. In that era every Muslim was a convert. Muslims rejoiced when somebody accepted Islam, and the polytheistic tribal leaders of the Quraish became increasingly agitated, at one point banishing the entire Muslim community into a barren valley for three years.

Today converts are also greeted with mixed reactions, albeit without such severe consequences. [...] Unfortunately many Muslims have not examinsed the foundations of their faith; many Muslims are Muslim simply because their parents are.

My children are already protesting at their Islamic upbringingg, which attempts to include moral values and habits. 'I want to have my own free will', announced my pre-teen daughter, distressed about parental insistence on keeping her room in some kind of order. 'My life would be so much better if I wasn't Muslim. I have to pray and feed the rabbits, read the Qur'an and ridy my room - no one else had to do anything.' I have been asked a number of times by people, some of the Musims, 'when will you make your daughter wear the hijab?' as if the matter lay in my hands, instead of being an intensely personal choice. And, eventually I will even have to allow my child the right to live in chaos, although I am unwilling to give her that choice while she lives under my roof.

But what about those who choose to leave? It says in the Qur'an (4:80), 'As for those who turn away, we did not send you as their guardians.' In the Prophet Muhammad's time, and with his knowledge, Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh left Islam and converted to Christianity until he died. We may not agree with the choices that our family and friends make, including the choice to enter or leave Islam, but in these matters each person is acquaintable ultimately to God, and not to another person."
Lucy-Bushill Matthews, author of 'Welcome to Islam - a convert's tale'.

"Recesssionista Chic", deconstruct-upcycled innovative fashion from Junky Styling.

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1 comment:

  1. Wow, this looks like one cool issue! I haven't read any really classical Islamic literature. I recently finished The Sealed Nectar and am now preparing to read al Ghazali's "Duties of Brotherhood" It's a late start on getting to know such a giant in our history, but better late than never, right?


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