Step One: Essentials Certificate Launch at SeekersHub Toronto Islamic Seminary

On February 4th, 2018, SeekersHub Toronto launched the very first class of the Step One: Essentials Certificate!

Over 100 students attended. SeekersHub Toronto was blooming with lively discussions, great questions and many newly formed friendships. It is an exciting step as we embark on this blessed journey of learning. This is also one of the first steps into turning SeekersHub Toronto into an Islamic Seminary, and launching the Steps Curriculum.

Steps Curriculum

Part of a five step curriculum, this first step focuses on the religious knowledge that every Muslim must learn in order to fulfill their personal obligations to Allah Most High. This gives you a clear grounding in your beliefs, worship, living the religion, in your spiritual turning to Allah Most High, as well as a clear understanding of the Islamic scholarly method.

If you are in Toronto and want to learn more or register to the Step One: Essentials Certificate, click here.

If you are outside of Toronto, you could register for the Global Step One: Essentials through the SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary, here.

A New Partnership

A new and very special partnership has been made between Seekershub Toronto and Global Deaf Muslims Canada (GDMC). Each class, interpreters will be present to interpret the entire lesson for the attending deaf community members. The first class was an absolute success for those attending and needing interpretation, Alhamdulillah.

We pray that Allah make us steadfast and consistent so that we may benefit and spread this benefit, with sincerity. And Allah alone gives success.

New Series on The Treatise for Seekers of Guidance at The Friday Circle in SeekersHub Toronto

The Friday circle

SeekersHub Toronto has launched a new series of lessons on Imam Muhasibi’s “The Treatise for Seekers of Guidance” (Risalat al-Mustarshidin) as part of The Friday Circle: A Gathering of Remembrance and Reflection. In this series, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani covers and explains this early text of Islamic spiritual guidance. This work contains precious gems of religious guidance on how to increase in faith, following of the Prophetic sunna, and how to turn to Allah with a pure heart and excellence of character.

Here is the video of the first lessons of this series, where Shaykh Faraz introduces the author, Imam Muhasibi and the text.

The Friday Circle is a gathering of gratitude, joy, and inspiration. It is an ideal gathering to end one’s week with spiritual upliftment and beneficial company. All are welcome—young and old, single and families. In this weekly Circle, led by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, we uphold the Prophetic sunna of group remembrance (dhikr) of Allah; sending blessings upon the Prophet (peace be upon him); and exchanging beneficial and inspiring religious reminders.

The Messenger of Allah (peace & blessings be upon him) described the circles of remembrance as gardens of Paradise. [Related by Tirmidhi]

Step One: Essentials Certificate Open to the Deaf Community at SeekersHub Toronto

SeekersHub’s vision is to make reliable Islamic knowledge accessible to everyone, anywhere in the world. As such, SeekersHub has partnered with Global Deaf Muslims Canada (GDMC), in order to make accessible the Step One: Essentials Certificate to the deaf community.

Each week, an interpreter will be present to interpret the entire lesson to deaf students. Alhamdulillah, the first class was an absolute success! Watch the following video as Zohaib Qureshi, the Executive Director of GDMC, describes his experience at the first class of the Step One: Essentials Certificate.

Zohaib invites the wider deaf Muslim community to take advantage of this offering and attend the classes. (The video is also close captioned.)

If you are in Toronto and want to learn more or register to the Step One: Essentials Certificate, click here.

 

Full Transcript of the Video

Zohaib: Assalamu Alaikum. GDMC and the Hub (Toronto) are working together on something very exciting. We will ask some questions. Would you like to introduce yourself to us?

Yasmin: Yes, my name is Yasmin Taher. I’m one of the team members here at SeekersHub Toronto. I’m very happy to be with you all Alhamdulillah (Thank God).

Zohaib: I showed up for this class, I was curious about it and I learned so much. I don’t want to learn by myself, I want everybody else to come. I wanted to ask you a few questions about the organization. What does the organization do? How does it benefit people? Do you have to register? Do you have to pay? If you can just explain a little bit more about the curriculum and about the course, so that people
get a better understanding of it.

Yasmin: Perfect, yes. SeekersHub is a non-profit charity. It’s main aim really, insha’Allah (God willing), is to spread knowledge: to spread Islamic knowledge to everyone everywhere around the world. And alhamdulillah (thank God) everything, absolutely all the programing that is being offered at SeekersHub
is free. Anybody can join, anybody can walk in, ask their questions, sit and learn from the scholars. So
alhamdulillah (Thank God), it’s a very open space.

We’re very excited to launch this particular curriculum. It’s called the Steps curriculum. And it’s very exciting because it’s a curriculum that introduces Islam and Islamic knowledge in a step-by-step format. So, it’s a curriculum where you are able to receive a certificate after completion. And this first step is a one-year program and you only come Sundays from 1 pm to 4 pm. Insha’Allah (God willing), you’ll benefit from the teachers, you’ll get to ask your questions, and you do receive a certificate of completion at the end of it.

Zohaib: Ok, is there an age limit for this. Or is there a minimum age for people to attend?

Yasmin: Absolutely not, we saw today, masha’Allah (with God’s will), a huge turnout for our first class. We
had, actually, a gentleman who was, I believe maybe 10 years old, and another boy who was about 7
years old or so joining. And we have aunties and uncles as well.

So, there is absolutely no age limit, minimum or maximum. The only thing is that person coming, wants to learn, they want o commit and take this seriously and learn about their religion and be able to benefit themselves insha’Allah (God willing) and their families and friends.

Zohaib: That is really amazing! Masha’Allah (with God’s will). It’s a great opportunity. Make sure you don’t miss out on that. Will there be an interpreter provided, going forward, for the classes?

Yasmin: Yes Alhamdulilah (Thank God), we plan to have an interpreter every class here. And so, I really encourage everyone to come out and benefit insha’Allah. And there is always a dedicated time for you to ask your questions with the interpreter to the teacher and to be able to clarify any points.

Even if it’s before class, we can schedule time and there are sessions during the classes where you are able to have that conversation and discussion and questions with the teacher and the interpreter present to clarify
any points taught in class.

Zohaib: That is amazing masha’Allah (with God’s will). Well, it was first time to join it and I thought I would take a look at it. And I was amazed. It is a great opportunity and it is good knowledge and Allah (God) will reward you and insha’Allah (God Willing) benefit us and benefit future generations to come.

For the kids, I had a question, if there are going to be Deaf children attending and if hey are not understanding something, would the Imam be willing to show up here at the location maybe half an hour before or if someone lives far away or close, would they have to come here, or do you have different locations as
well?

Yasmin: We only do have this one location, which is in Mississauga. We are located in a central area in Mississauga. Dixie and Eglinton is the main intersection. So, the teacher inshallah when required can be here a little bit before class to help clarify and answer questions here in person. As well, we do have a course forum where you are able to ask questions online ahead of time and we are able to take it up in class as well.

Zohaib: For anyone who lives far in the West end or East end, they would be able to take it online correct?

Yasmin: There’s also this program, the Steps program, being offered online, yes, that is correct.

Zohaib: Alhamdulilah, masha’Allah. We’ve been working together with SeekersHub and GDMC and we want to make sure it’s successful. Thank you for your time. Do you have anything else you want to add?

Yasmin: Alhamdulilah, we are very happy to be working with GDMC and we really hope to see more of the community come out and learn and really be able to show everyone else, you know, that you’re able
to sit here and learn in classes with teachers as well. So, don’t be shy, come to drop by even to just look.
And insha’Allah (God willing), we get to see more of you.

Zohaib: Insha’Allah, I look forward to seeing more of you here, not only myself. And so that afterwards we can have discussions and study groups. So be ready for that. Assalamu Alaikum.

The Fall Is An Opportunity To Rise, by Omar Sallam

Fall is slowly becoming Omar Sallam’s favourite season. Growing up in Eastern lands it was a time when weather gave respite from hot summers. In the West, it’s a beautiful time to notice changing colours in nature while exploring pumpkin spice lattes offered at local areas.

As a family member Fall also can come with mixed emotions. Children going back to school or youth going back to University is a time that ranges from moaning to misery or a chance to get in touch with friends after the summer holiday. For parents it can be a bittersweet moment seeing children leaving homes to school for the first time or a time of celebration from a tiring summer of parenting and family fun.

Regardless of where you fall in the spectrum, Fall is a great chance for us to celebrate school, work, and family through clear and far reaching intentions. For this we turn to our noble Prophet Ibrahim peace be upon him to take us by the hand.

1. Foundation of full rewards

“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. You are the All Hearing, the All Knowing.” [2:127]

Before the start set your sight on acceptance of your act. Be it school, work, family, worship, or business. As the scholars teach one makes one’s intention sincere, renews it often, and tries to expand it and grow it. Even when can’t do an act due to lack of resources but is sincere, one can get a full reward.

“Verily, the world is only for four kinds of people. There is one whom Allah has granted wealth and knowledge, so he fears his Lord regarding them, upholds family ties, and acknowledges the rights of Allah over him. He will be in the best position. There is one whom Allah has granted knowledge without wealth and he has a sincere intention and he says: If I had wealth, I would have acted like this person. If that is his intention, then he will have the same reward as the other. There is one whom Allah has granted wealth without knowledge and he squanders his wealth in ignorance, he does not fear Allah regarding it, he does not fulfill his obligations to his family, and he does not acknowledge the rights of Allah over him. He will be in the worst position. There is one whom Allah has granted neither wealth nor knowledge and he says: If I had wealth, I would have acted like this person. If that is his intention, then he will have the same sin as the other.” [At-Tirmidhi]

2. Sound submission

“Our Lord, make us devoted to you and make our descendants into a community devoted to You” [2:128]

Have the intention for sound actions with excellence in what you do. If you don’t have necessary knowledge of your act learn the basics. If you know the necessary basics, then do that act with utmost devotion. While this isn’t always easy, it is easy to keep looking back at this supplication and trying over and over again. For example one can just pray alone, or aim to pray with others, or pray in a masjid with high devotion.

“The group prayer is twenty-five degrees higher than the prayer in your house or the prayer in your place of business. Anyone who does wudu’ and goes to the mosque with no other object than to do the prayer, Allah will raise him up a degree with every step he takes, and a wrong action will fall away from him. When he prays, the angels pray for him all the time he is in his place of prayer, ‘O Allah! Forgive him! O Allah! Show mercy to him!’ One of you is in the prayer as long as he is waiting for the prayer.” [Agreed upon]

Take an act and establish a minimum you don’t want to fall below, a medium where can normally maintain, and a challenging level for aspiration and start on it.

3. Take a U turn as needed

“Show us how to worship and accept our repentance” [2:128]

None of our actions are without slips and falls intentionally or not. Commit to assessing your intention and action by finding any faults and fixing them right away. “Allah Almighty will stretch out His hand during the night, turning towards the one who did wrong during the day, and stretch out His hand during the day, turning towards the one who did wrong during the night, until the day the sun rises from the place it set.” [Muslim]

That Hadith gives us daily hope at times when we slip, when we break our resolutions, or if we relapse into a bad habit we quit. This Fall we should commit to going back whenever we fall. Going back to what’s right whenever we err is one of the highest stations to attain in this life.

A helpful attitude is to feel the humility that no act is complete except by Allahs guidance to be inclined to the act itself, during the act, and after the act is done. So when stuck or unsure turn back. Because turning back to Allah is our only way ahead!

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The Virtues of Jerusalem and the Believer’s Five Duties Towards It

Masjid al Aqsa is one the holiest mosques for Muslims. It was once the direction of prayer and is the place where the Prophet ﷺ led all the prophets in prayer and ascended to heaven to meet his Lord.

The noble sanctuary has had numerous conditions set upon it since the occupation began and has now been closed for the first time in 48 years. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explains the virtues of Masjid al-Aqsa and the Muslims duty of concern for the furthest sanctuary:

May Mercy and Justice prevail, in the ways resulting in the greatest ultimate good for all people, in the ways most pleasing to God. Truly, God is our sufficiency and He is the best of guardians.” – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani has made the slides from this talk available, you can download them here.

References for seekers:

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On Jihad, Knighthood, and Just War Theory, by Mohammed Safi

Mohammed Safi reflects on the new attacks on activist and community organizer Linda Sarsour for her usage of the word “jihad”.

Knighthood and knights are considered positive things in American culture and western culture more broadly. Although historically many knights have done horribly evil and barbaric things, as intelligent people most of us can parse that and say what we value about knighthood are the positive manifestations and meanings while not valuing the negative ones. Even if some of us believe most of the positive things are made up, we are intelligent enough to understand that the positive images in society are praiseworthy even if they are fictional.

The terms, warfare and soldier are not very different. Both of those terms can be viewed in a very positive light even though there are horrendous expressions of each both in our past and present. Generally people (even pacifists) can understand that there is a difference between a horrendous expression of oppression and warfare and a just war and just war theory. This is why soldiers occupy an almost sacred place in our public discourse. Even when some of them might not live up to it, people understand that many of them sacrifice a lot, and it’s really the positive image that people praise more than any one given person or act.

Defining our own sacred term

Given all of that complexity there are still people who want to tell us that jihad can only mean one thing, and is only represented by the criminal, theologically heretical, morally inept groups we see on television today. To tell Muslims they can’t define their own sacred term and that instead terrorist groups are the ones who get to define it is intellectually disingenuous and frankly ignorant. Why the hypocrisy?

Jihad means many things but its linguistic definition and the core way it’s used in our tradition is to strive and struggle against evil for good. The primary way we do that is we strive against our own egos, desires, and demons and work on our hearts. But we also strive and struggle in our societies to form better societies that promote goodness as opposed to evil. This is how Muslims generally use the term and how Linda intended it.

Jihad can also be used to mean just warfare. She didn’t use it with that meaning in mind since she used it to mean what I mentioned above. But since people are up in arms yes Islam does allow for the state to engage in warfare just like almost all nation states do. But it does so with clear limitations on what can be done and when it can be done. It protects the innocents both human and animal and it even protects the environment. Muslims might not practice this but this is what is found in all of our texts and in our tradition. Even more importantly those engaging in this type of just war are supposed to be people who have been spending their lives fighting their own desires and egos, their own greed and anger and violence.

If one followed such dictates then Jihad would be in only the most just of cases by the most spiritually transformed of people. Does that mean Muslims throughout history lived up to this, no. But some did. Just like not all knights and not all soldiers live up to the positive image we have of them. No one gets to hijack our sacred terms or dictate how we speak about our religion.

Resources for seekers

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When Reviving The Islamic Spirit Came to Malaysia, by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

The wildly popular Reviving The Islamic Spirit convention went to Malaysia for the first time this year. Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil, like others in the region, jumped at the opportunity.

When I think of the RIS (Reviving The Islamic Spirit) Convention, I think of Canada – very far away. Imagine my surprise and delight when I heard that RIS was coming to Malaysia in March 2016. Tickets were sold out fast, and scholars like Dr Umar Faruq Abdullah, Shaykh Ninowy and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf graced our sunny shores.

Meeting fellow Australians was a wonderful bonus. Some of our family members flew in, and my husband and I met old friends we hadn’t seen in years. Some of them were now married, others had more children, and we met friends who had just returned from RIS Toronto.

The venue – Putrajaya International Convention Centre – was spectacular, the Grand Bazaar brimmed with all kinds of Islamic books, calligraphy, apparel, and the volunteers were warm and welcoming. The scene was set, and we were ready to be inspired.

My husband and I have a toddler, so with the help of my mother-in-law, we could take turns going up to the main auditorium. Alhamdulilah, I was able to attend the very first lecture, with Shaykh Ninowy. His beaming face greeted us, and marked the beginning of a a transformative weekend. During the first night, my husband listened to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Rashidah Ali. The following night, it was my turn. Our tag-team continued over the weekend, especially because we had two very long days: 10 am to 10 pm.

I couldn’t attend all of the lectures, but a few lines from the weekend resonated with me: “Your father is the scholarly tradition, and your mother is the beautiful cultural tradition.” Dr Umar Faruq Abdullah reminded us of the importance of both, in our journey of seeking and applying knowledge.

Imam Khalid Latif, a NYC chaplain, captured us with his oratory and sincerity. He challenged us to have weekly meals with someone different to us. Why? Because that’s how we learn how to have a heart as big as the Prophet’s (upon him be blessings and peace) – by embracing difference, and truly listening to one another.

Many of us were thrilled to hear from Dato’ Dr Afifi al-Akiti, a Malaysian scholar who lectures in Oxford University’s Faculty of Theology. With his trademark Nusantara adab, he made the point that it would be wiser to stick to the ‘pagoda’-style mosque roofing in this part of world, instead of copying the dome-like style. Pagoda roofing allows heavy tropical rain to run straight to the ground, whereas domes lead to water stagnating on the roof.  SubhanAllah.

The RIS volunteers did a stellar job. They were so helpful, friendly, and unfailingly polite. I am especially grateful for the volunteers who helped at the Family Lounge. From offering balloons, smiles and opening doors so parents could balance babies and bags, they helped to provide much-needed ease.

The Family Lounge at RIS was very well-organised. It was spacious, comfortable, and the live feed was clear. There was plenty of space for the younger children to run around and play, while their parents watched the live feed. There was even a designated area for diaper changes and nursing. The children’s program in the next room was also fantastic, and divided between the younger kids and the older kids.

Next year, I forward to the inclusion of lady scholars to the line-up at RIS Malaysia. The voice of female scholarship is so needed in today’s world. Anse Tamara Gray, for example, combines 20 years of traditional Syrian scholarship with her down-to-earth American practicality. She speaks with the combined wisdom of a shaykha, daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother.

I pray that Allah reward the scholars who shared their knowledge and time, the organisations who helped make this happen, and the volunteers who helped so tirelessly. May Allah reunite us all in the Garden.

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Beautiful Calls To Prayer From Around The World, by Aiysha Malik

Our friends at the delightful parenting blog, Mamanushka, have produced a playlist of adhan (call to prayer) recordings from around the world, which we are pleased to share here:

Writer Aiysha Malik writes, “I live in a city filled with choirs and churchbells. Harmonies fill the air while we walk through the town and bells ring melodiously from towers on holy days and Sundays – hopeful reminders that sacred connections can still be found and are, indeed, cherished and nurtured. And even more wondrous, whenever my ears catch these tones, my heart is reminded of another sacred sound…”

Read on at Mamanushka.

Resources for seekers on the adhan (call to prayer)

You Kafir! – The Rising Trend Of Declaring Muslims As Disbelievers

In recent times, the phenomenon of declaring other Muslims disbelievers (kafir) has spread among the Muslim community. But what does sound classical Islamic scholarship say about it?

Many people have adopted a very lax approach concerning the declaration of disbelief, such that hearing to the expression: “you disbeliever” has become the norm. Such laxity has caused the spread of tribulation, the audacity to shed blood, the violation of human dignity, disobedience towards parents and severing of family ties. Many such people have even taken to fighting, on the misconceived grounds that it is their obligation to correct ‘invalid’ Islamic doctrine. Many Muslims have fallen prey to this bizarre notion, due to widespread religious illiteracy, as well as tactful scheming by proponents of such ideas.

Find out more in Issue 2 [PDF] of the Sanad Network’s Misreadings of the Wayward series.

 

Further resources for seekers

Letter To A Cape Townian Muslim, by Shaykh Riad Saloojee

Shaykh Riad Saloojee looks back at Cape Town. Triggered by the live stream dhikr from Awwal Masjid, he reminisces on the sounds and sights, the daily happenings and grand occasions, and penned this lovely letter of farewell to the city he loves and had to leave in haste.

Assalāmu‘alaykum wa raḥmatullāhi wa barakātu,

I am writing this letter to you. But it’s also for me.

I left Cape Town for Canada in haste because of illness. I didn’t have time for a proper goodbye. It was a hard and fast break from the past. There was no time to reflect or reminisce or recollect.

A month has passed. My attention was devoted to convalescing. But even as my physical strength was returning, alḥamduliLlāh, I felt an inexplicable and barren sadness.

I first attributed this feeling to the frigid winter, grey-clouded skies and cabin-fever. I mentioned it to my wife. She told me to listen to the Awwal Masjid dhikr on MixLR.

And when I finally did yesterday, every dear memory of my 11-year life in Cape Town revived in me – and my frozen heart shattered into a million tears.

I’ve never been one to feel homesick. Is home really a physical geography? Other countries, too, neighbour on sea and mountains. How important is culture and custom in itself? Some prize difference even as others hold fast to the familiar. Geography, culture, custom are all valued only for the meanings woven into them by the fabric of our lives.

When the dhikr played, there was no memory of a Point where you could see an endless ocean South, East and West; or a mountain sculpted perfectly into a table (but only when you came at it from its good side); or daily weather so coquettish that it forces you to pack for four seasons; or waiting for fresh koeksisters on Sunday mornings with an aunty in curlers, a fireman and a policeman; or the shukrans of cashiers that are clearly not Muslim.

When the dhikr played, I remembered the adhān you could hear every time salāh came in, no matter where you were; I remembered the Jumu‘ah Mubārak messages to remind you that this was not any day, but the ‘Eīd of the week – where men and boys attended in angel-white thawbs, women in Ka‘bah-black abayas; I remembered how everyone wore a fez in the masjid; I remembered the congregants that raised their voices in Divine remembrance after salāh with a formula that, though the same, was always intoned with genuine emotion; I remembered people lingering in dhikr and du‘ā’ long after the mosque emptied; I remembered the familiar faces of elderly botas making the mosque their home during their twilight years; I remembered the takbīrs of ‘Eīd; I remembered people who took the Mawlid more seriously than life itself; I remembered my teachers who worked side jobs to make ends meet so that they could continue to teach; I remembered mapping out routes to visit the wondrous, resting places of the Awliyā’ and how some of those places must be earthly-pictorials of Paradise itself; I remembered the Burdah and how those who came, came with love, and how I wished to be among them; I remembered a teacher of mine who kept teaching at the height of a debilitating illness, day after day, night after night. And other memories, so poignant, so moving, that I only have strength to bring them to heart in fragments.

On the Day when we are called to account for our histories, it is only the space-time of His remembrance that will matter: those times, places and spaces where we remembered Allah, celebrated Him, loved Him, congregated and departed because of Him. What else is more worthy of being deposited in the vaults of our commemoration? Or of being the precious, shared capital of our social experience?

And this – the customs, cultures, times, places and spaces – are simply inanimate forms given life only through the hearts that inhabit them – hearts that love Allāh, love His Messenger (ṣallalāho ‘alayhi wa sallam), revere the symbols of His dīn. Hearts that illuminate you, remind you, provide you true solace in the winter of your life, and give you the strength to keep walking to Him, and never stop, come what may. What is more valuable in all our histories? More worthy of mourning for its loss?

It is from His Divine Beauty that the true beauty of Cape Town lies in His remembrances and the reverence for His symbols, at a time when one of our greatest crimes lie in a collective religious life of academic, political or social pursuit conceitedly cultured with the profanity of our heedlessness.

The Messenger (ṣallalāho ‘alayhi wa sallam) told us that the one who does not thank people does not thank Allāh. To melt this tundra in me, I have to say to you – teacher, colleague, fellow student, friend – may Allah reward you during these 11 years for the invaluable company of your heart’s remembrances. May He increase you in His remembrance and the lifelong pursuit to beautify your character.

“Play the Awwal dhikr in your background,” my wife said.

Yā Laṭīf, may it be, and never cease, always and forever. Āmīn, Thumma Āmīn.

Cover photo by Mickey Bo.