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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

 

Reflections on the Walk of Doom at the SeekersHub Retreat

Fatimah Gomez reflects on her time at the SeekersHub Retreat, and what the Walk of Doom taught her about faith and spirituality.

The night was still and quiet, pinched with a slight crisp coolness that hung in the air calmly. The gentle echo of my footsteps bounced off the surrounding trees as I made my way to the Pavillion to join everyone for Fajr prayer. I wasn’t used to waking up this early at 4:30 in the morning. The cold air made my teeth chatter and my sleepy eyes hardly had any room to blink because they were already more than halfway closed.

My gaze travelled upwards to the sky and my eyes suddenly were wide open, drinking in the scene above where it was lit with millions of stars that clustered it. If my eyes lingered for long enough, I could make out the glittering pathway of the Milky Way. So many winking stars peppered the heavens above me, unseen to those who live in the city.

I recalled what one of our scholars had told us the day before about Allah’s creation. Shaykh Waleed Mosaad had mentioned that when the revelation of the Qur’an ceased, Allah’s communication with us humans didn’t. But rather, all of Allah’s creation that surround us is a sign from Him, and it is up to us as servants of Him to interpret what they mean. Right now, I was dazzled by the scene above. Imagining all those stars and planets to fill the universe, and myself as an individual was like nothing compared to the beauty of Allah’s creation.

I hurried along my way, not wanting to be late. As we prayed in congregation, standing side by side, I was moved by the strong and firm pact of sisterhood that wedged itself between our hearts. I’d never felt the love of sisterhood to be so strong, so non-judgmental and caring.

After praying Fajr and wishing a good morning to many of us there, I would go down by the rocks that hung themselves over the lake below, where in the afternoon many of us would go swimming and kayaking. There at the rocks,a few of us would sit together in complete silence, with the undisturbed water beneath our feet. The misty fog crawled silently like a floating ghost across the surface of the lake, fast disappearing as the minutes ticked by, taking along the night as it was extinguished by the breaking sunrise.

SeekersHub Retreat

I mean really, where can you get to unwind and reflect in such a way when you’re living in the depths of the city? Out here we were being forced to disconnect, as there was no Wi-Fi and limited network service We were able to disengage from the distractions of our modern-day world, all the while being gently led to the focus that all of us shared deep within ourselves—Allah as the Ultimate Goal.

The Walk of Doom

A number of sisters, myself included, would later take an hour-long hike around the lake, after being challenged by Shaykh Riad Saloojee. We were to find something along the way, and many of us debated whether it would be something physical or spiritual.

The hiking trail, called the Walk of Doom, proved to be a difficult one. We tripped over hidden roots, climbed steep and rocky hills, and got very sweaty.  Every time one of us wanted to give up and turn back, we would remind each other of the mysterious gain that was said to be achieved at the end of our journey.

And then, the truth behind the purpose of our hike hit me. Our hike came to an end and the path through the trees broke out into an opening that led to a small, sandy beach that lay in the glimmering water, gleaming with the sun’s reflection. The sun warmed our shining faces as it glowed down on us, and we all breathed a collective sigh in realisation that our journey was finally over.

Our hike on the path had not only taken us on a physical journey, I realised, but also a spiritual one. Shaykh Riad Saloojee had been trying to show us an example of the trials and tribulations of this life. We had to go through ups and downs, stumbling and supporting each other along the difficult path, but it all had been temporary, it wasn’t made to last, like anything else in this Dunya. I realised this as I gazed across the shining lake, realising how much I had learned just by listening to the advice and instruction of our teacher, taking the time to reflect on the signs of Allah’s creation. The struggles and tests of this world will eventually come to an end the day we meet our Lord.


Fatimah Gomez is 15 years old, and the second eldest  of five. She’s currently in high school and has had a passion for writing since age 9. Recently, she completed her first book for Muslim youth, which she intends to publish soon. She enjoys playing and watching soccer, training for taekwondo, jdm cars, discovering the beauty in art and poetry and connecting with Allah’s creation.


Resources for Seekers

Did you miss the Retreat in Toronto? You don’t want to miss this.

Missed the Retreat? Don’t miss this.

Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan of South Africa will be teaching at SeekersHub Toronto on May 24th at 7.30 PM EST.  You can attend either in person or stream live online. 
Join Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan and Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, as we discuss the need to call to Allah, and develop learned communities.
We will discuss the importance of these communities in the West, and how current issues can be overcome by the light of traditional knowledge.
You will learn how YOU can actively participate in this movement, by playing your part in spreading and giving Prophetic Light, and helping make positive change in the world.
Watch this video below, where Shaykh Abdurragmaan Khan advises students about renewing intentions before the SeekersHub Toronto Retreat.
post retreat event

Reflections from SeekersHub Toronto Retreat: Sound Hearts Sound Societies

Sound Hearts Sound Societies: Religion is sincere concern

Sound Hearts Sound Societies: The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Religion is sincere concern,” and when asked for whom, he responded, “for Allah, His Messenger, His Book, the leaders of the Muslims, and their common folk.”
This hadith, which is said to comprise one quarter of our religion, highlights the fundamental relationship between true religion and having deep concern for the societies we live in.
But what does true concern look like, and how does one act on that concern in a way that is pleasing to Allah?
It was in response to these and other pressing questions of our time that SeekersHub Toronto held its retreat called Sound Hearts, Sound Societies.

We are today witnessing a broken and fractured world in dire need of healing, care and transformation. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said that he came to “perfect noble character.” 

Those virtuous traits – like mercy, service and generosity – have never been more necessary than now.
Over the course of five days, we learnt how the Prophetic character (peace and blessings be upon him) can be revived in our times, and bring peace and security to the world around us.
The Heart of The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)12002932_986174041420124_3532484039761763097_n
“The purpose of seeking knowledge is to give life to Islam,” Shaykh Hamdi said. He went on to explain that the person who dies while seeking knowledge in order to bring life to Islam is only one degree beneath the Prophets.
After this powerful reminder, Shaykh Hamdi Ben Aissa and Ustadha Umm al Khair held collaborative sessions on the reality of the heart of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).They discussed the concern, strength, and unwavering mercy that led to his tremendous character.
Ustadha Umm al Khair further went on to describe the love and concern that Allah has for His Creation.
Oftentimes, rahma is translated as mercy, but a more encompassing meaning of it is love, she contended.
“Allah’s love is already given – we do not have to deserve it. So, we should never hesitate to call on Him, even in the midst of sin.”
Etiquettes of Companionship
Ustadha Umm Umar and Shaykh Faraz Rabbani gave further practical advice on upholding noble character by covering a summary of Imam Sulami’s text on the etiquettes of companionship.
“What do you need to maintain ties? A sound heart that is striving for Allah, disciplining of the lower self, and leaving disputes,” Shaykh Faraz said.
Ustadha Umm Umar explained that the critical eye within us is meant to be pointed at ourselves – not at others.  We have to nurture mercy and sensitivity towards fellow people, contrary to what our society would tell us.
11118254_986382701399258_6985663156340404160_nShe particularly emphasized that we cannot mock one another, even though we’re taught this is acceptable.“It’s as if we’ve been drinking poisoned water for so long that we cannot even taste the poison anymore,” she said.
In summary, it is not possible to maintain good relations with people without deen.
Adab and Spirituality
Underlying all of the talks was the centrality of  adab, or proper etiquette, to our religion.
“Adab enters into every single part of our living,” Shaykh Yahya Rhodus said. “In our deen, you begin, continue, and end with adab.”
Adab – which refers to the right way of doing things – is being lost in modern times. Yet, it is the very point of the Sacred Law and the hallmark of our pious predecessors, he explained.
IMG_3681“Imam Malik (Allah be well-pleased with him) never took a hadith from someone until he saw their eyes well up with tears out of love at the mention of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him). He made love an objective condition!”
Shaykh Yahya and Ustadh Amjad Tarsin also discussed the importance of spiritual routines.
Baraka is when a little goes a long way, and daily routines allow for baraka to manifest, they explained.
The example of our predecessors
One of the highlights of the retreat was when teachers related inspirational stories about righteous servants of God around a bonfire.
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Shaykh Walead Mosaad told us about his teacher, Shaykh Ramadan Bouti (Allah have mercy on him), who he had the honour of traveling overseas with. 
“At the end of the trip, I told him I was sorry that he had to travel with me. He told me, ‘I couldn’t have imagined traveling with anyone besides you.’”
That was the gentle love and concern he had for his students.
As the retreat concluded, the teachers reminded us of the importance of consistency and asking Allah to help us retain the spiritual momentum built up over a few days.
We pray that Allah Most High accept the time and efforts of all those who put together this beautiful program, and allow us to implement everything we learned, ameen.

Registration for the 2016 SeekersHub Retreat is open. Register now for the Oneness of Love