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SeekersHub Toronto Retreat 2018: Planting Seeds of Faith

“Planting Seeds of Faith,” was the theme of the SeekersHub 2018 Retreat. With the world in desperate need of spiritual nourishment, we reorient ourselves by planting and cultivating these seeds.

This year’s retreat was graced with a wonderful array of scholars from diverse backgrounds, including Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and his wife Ustadha Shireen Ahmed, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, Shaykh Riad Saloojee, Shaykh Amin Buxton, Shaykh Walead Mosaad, and Shaykha Muniba Mohammed.

The retreat was a full five days and four nights, in the beautiful Muskoka region of Ontario. The day started at tajahhud time, where participants gathered in the lecture hall, beautifully lit and decorated with Islamic calligraphy and lanterns.

After the early morning remembrance and Fajr prayer, there was a rest period. After breakfast, attendees gathered in their cabin groups and reviewed the previous day’s lessons.

Throughout the day, the various scholars spoke about different themes that related to personal self-development, and cultivating faith within ourselves.

Shaykha Muniba Mohammed spoke about love of Allah, and how to achieve it. She taught that love of Allah comes when love of material things disappears, which comes from much dhikr and fikr-or supplication and reflection.

Shaykh Riad Saloojee spoke on the reality of faith, covering different parts from the Hikam of Ibn Ataillah. He covered topics such as suffering, how we gain life experience, and struggle. For example, many people get confused at why there is so much turbulence in life. However, after accepting that life will include struggle, a person will get better at withstanding them.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spoke about overcoming hurdles to personal reform. These hurdles, such as greed, laziness, procrastination, and lust, prevent us from developing in our relationship with Allah.

Shaykh Amin Buxton taught the tafsir, or commentary, on Surah Furqan, which gives a description of the believers and the qualities they posses. These qualities include humility, gentleness, patience, mindfulness of God, moderation, honestly. At the end, he said that if a person does not have these qualities, they should at least surround themselves with people who do, as they will be a good influence on them.

Shaykh Walead Mosaad spoke about the reality of dua, or supplication. He mentioned that most people turn to Allah when they need something. However, the reality of dua is more than just asking for what you need; it’s beholding Allah is all His attributes, and progressing through your neediness.

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin spoke on the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his centrality in our religion. We are commanded to love Prophet in the Qur’an, and our tree of faith is watered and irrigated by him. Our love of him comes naturally when we come to know more about him, because he has done so much for us.

Shaykh Yahya taught us about inner traits that impede development. High on the list were the qualities of riya and ujub. Riya is to seek recognition for one’s deeds, and ujub is when a person is impressed with themselves because of the good things they did, not acknowledging that Allah was the One who enabled them to do it.

 

In the afternoon there was opportunity for activities such as canoeing, hiking, archery and swimming, as well as a program called Heart Clinic, where participants could sign up for one-on-one sessions with the teachers.

In the evening, after dinner and Maghrib prayer, there would be a general session, as well as a nasheed performance. This would be followed by campfire and evening remembrance.

The SeekersHub Retreat was a wonderful change to take a step back form the daily grind, and reconnect with our Creator in a beautiful natural environment.


Resources for Seekers

 

Spiritual Activism: Uniting Soul, Mind and Body

There is no inherent disconnect or contradiction between Islamic spirituality and social or political activism. In fact, Islamic spirituality is not only relevant but essential to all forms of activism, says Shaykh Riad Saloojee.

Islam provides a view of human reality that is cogent, holistic and practical. This view is always sensitive to both the constant and changing needs of the human experience. It is from the remarkable and miraculous beauty of Islam that all elements of the human identity are fused together seamlessly.

The spiritual heart

The spiritual heart, with its need for timeless truths and values; the intellect, with its need to conceive and chart a course for a life of freedom and happiness; the senses and limbs, with their energetic need to do, to affect, to change – all have their place.

Heartless spirituality, runaway reason, and barren, mechanistic action have no place in Islam.

Allah says:

By the passage of time. Surely, mankind is in loss. Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience. (Qur’an 103:1-3)

The fire of belief

The seat of belief is the heart. The heart is the locus of normative perception, experience and will. It is the fire of belief that sparks all movement and action.

The overflow of belief with its normative ordering of our world – the experience (and not mere rational conceptualization) of Divine oneness (tawhid), and the desire, momentum and resolution generated by this – gives birth to action.

That action, the work of goodness, is the emotional and physical manifestation of the exigencies of tawhid and its values of justice, equity, kindness, moderation, love and generosity. This work is first manifested within me, in my worship and my relationships.

If I do not change, I cannot be an agent of meaningful change in others and the world around me.

Each of us is key

This goodness, if true, must ripple outwards, touching my most intimate circles and then further, to affect my environment – family, neighborhood and community; the social, economic or political.

I seek to impact my surroundings for the better for I am one thread in the social fabric. I need and am needed. I affect and am affected. Each of us is a key in the door of another.

And thus I counsel to, with, and for truth and the values it engenders, because it is an essential aspect of Divine Majesty (jalaliyya); and I counsel to, with, and for patience and the values it engenders, because it is an essential aspect of Divine Beauty (jamaliyya).

Spirituality and activism

At every level, we cannot conceive of a spirituality that does not necessitate action. We can not fathom action barren of spirituality. The relationship is integral. Our faith is a unity of the belief of Iman, the action of Islam and the spiritual excellence of Ihsan.

This is how we are meant to live: in active spirituality and spiritual action, and for those engaged in more public advocacy, spiritual activism.

In the next article, “Bleeding Heart”, we will take a closer look at the locus of spirituality, the spiritual heart, insha’llah.


About the Series

This written series will pair with a new, forthcoming podcast, Spiritual Activism by Shaykh Riad Saloojee. He will present a paradigm for a spiritually-inspired activism that is what it was always meant to be: a vehicle for nearness to the Divine through genuine individual and social ethical change.  

This series will comprise of seven discussions that explore the foundations of Islamic spirituality, the spiritual ethos that is the basis of all activism, the ailments of activism unhinged from spirituality, and an application of how spirituality must inform true environmental activism.

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.