Why I do the Ramadan Quran Program

For years I’ve encouraged laymen to read this most enchanting book. Some had simply fallen into acceptable heedlessness and always prioritised other things not getting around to it. They claimed to believe in the Quran but had no idea what it is that they believe because they hadn’t read it.

Many would tell me that they’d read it but not fully understood it. Others who’d been on numerous Quran courses would detail how pedantically they’d broken down the etymology of a word, or the numerous meanings for a phrase, but when I’d ask what the point of the actual verse or passage was I’d get a blank stare. Most would confess that whilst the content of those courses was interesting, they didn’t get much in terms of the bigger picture or that which was deeply action guiding or heart settling.

I asked myself: why do so many sincere people struggle to read it or to get what they’ve read?

Then, what I had been taking for granted dawned on me.

These lovely people don’t have any context for the divine message - where it sits in human history and it’s civilisations.

  • They don’t know the events God’s referring to nor their significance.
  • They don’t get why God’s talking to Jews and Christians in a ‘Muslim’ book.
  • They don’t get what God means by the various terms He employs.
  • They don’t get the logic of His ‘signs’.
  • They struggle to keep up with the message’s ebbs and flows.

The true religion of God that He speaks of in the Quran is alien because they’re already socialised into thinking about islam in a certain way. And it all holds them back. They’re taught a pre-conceived understanding of what God wants and says, which (mis)shapes their reading, makes it seem disjointed, and lacking coherence. Some understandably give up early on, others struggle their way through - only to end up severely unfulfilled or baffled.

For the majority of Muslims, the Quran quite frankly isn’t compelling or transformative. Most have no idea what God actually says - they believe in the idea of the Quran (as ‘something’ from God) more than taking it as truly functional guidance. It’s not hard to read, it’s actually quite easy. And when you get what God’s actually saying it’s downright addictive - a book you don’t want to put down. You’re in conversation with God.

  • Its law isn’t restrictive, it’s liberating.
  • Its ideals aren’t pie-in-the-sky, they’re practical.
  • Its references aren’t opaque, they’re illuminating.

It provokes the deepest and hardest soul searching you’ve ever done. It’s personal discovery. It’s serious therapy. An emotional rollercoaster: you’ll cry, you’ll laugh. Your crushed ego will feel deeply offended. Your chest will feel lightened with the baggage you shed. Your intellect will expand and your logic will strengthen. You’ll feel silly for things you believed or assumed. You’ll know God is alive and close by. You’ll feel mocked (by virtue of your own silliness) and scorned (for nefarious proclivities), but also feel special, loved and protected. You’ll make sense of your life. You WILL be transformed.

Most importantly, you’ll learn that it’s not calling you to the religion you’ve taken for granted. It goes far beyond ‘religion’ - it calls you to a 5000 year tradition of wholesomeness and something else entirely.

These aren’t big claims, these are literally the testimonies of past attendees. Having personally taken them on this journey has been an absolute honour.

Join The Ramadan Quran Program 2024 going through the transformative process above and living a true Ramadan experience. Make this the year EVERYTHING changed and got to know what it all means.

  • Live online (Zoom) 45 mins to 1 hour after Maghrib (GMT)
  • Pre-recorded podcasts for summary and context
  • 5 days a week, 1-1.5 hour sessions throughout Ramadan
  • Recordings available for 2 months post-Ramadan

To check out the Program, please click HERE

The True Religion. Plain and Simple.

What is the Arabic (and Hebrew) term “deen”?

The law and the code you live by.

There are two questions to consider:

  • Personal: Which code do you personally live by, that God will judge you by? (Of course, this also requires that you know that code and do not make assumptions about it.)
  • Social/Political: Which code do you ascribe yourself to for social/communal belonging?

In the Quran 3:19, God says that the only code He recognises and accepts as an expression of subservience to His will is ‘the submission’, referring to the submission of Abraham, the first messenger of God to human civilisation - one of many contextual references can be found in Quran 2:127-134 or 6:158-165. ‘The submission', in Arabic merely a verbal noun, is presented as an ellipsis (the omission of speech or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues).

God literally calls this method of submission as the ‘millah’ of Abraham (millah in Arabic being a code people hold to be revealed by God). The code was carried by Abraham’s descendants for approx 2600 years via the Hebrew Israelites, and then spread beyond them throughout the world via the Ishmaelites (and later on others) in the last 1400 years.

Who then is Muhammad? He is God’s final messenger from the Ishmaelites, upholding the code of Abraham his forefather, and delivering the final amendments of the Law to mankind. He is God's response to the prayers of Abraham and Ishmael, thinking of their descendants upon building the Ancient House at Makkah (then Bakka): "Send them a messenger from their own to deliver your signs (revelations) to them, teach them the scripture and wisdom, and purify them." (Quran 2:129) God's Law was first revealed to Abraham and then amended over thousands of years via 100,000s Prophets reflecting changing contexts and circumstances. The final amendments were eventually given to Muhammad.

So here we are today with the history of human civilisation behind us, revelation and the code to inform us as we look forward into the unknown future. It is all enough to guide us to live productive and contented lives with which we give thanks to the Most High, and flourish emotionally, psychologically, and physically.

In general, the contemporary Western Muslim is oblivious to all of the above, let alone a more detailed breakdown. The term Islam in today’s western context is a social marker of ethnic identity, and a political marker of minority identity. As a modern 'religion' it is the expression of ‘Millah’ of Abraham in a rudimentary 'village religion' which is over-simplified and mixed with folk religion. In everyday life, the sincere Muslim is a theist initiated into this culture. Their religion is taught to them with an ambiguously defined 'spirituality' inspired by ethno-cultural identity and norms - it ends up a desire for a theism and the spiritual coached in the ethnic and political familiar.

The true Torah/Nev’im/Gospel/Qur’anic faith - characterised by God as the “Faith of Abraham”, is truth. Today, Islam is the 'village religion' version of the Religion of Abraham which has skewed and misconstrued it on every level. Judaism and Christianity also started this way. Moses and Jesus were on the religion of Abraham, but those who later claimed Moses initially did to the Religion of Abraham what Muslims are doing now, until eventually it became Judaism. Same with those who later claimed Christ.

Are Muslims really taking the same wayward path like the other two? Yes, it seems so - it all starts with village mentality and folk religion, evolving into a separate entity. It should come as no surprise since the final Prophet of God said, "You will tread the same path as was trodden by those before, you inch by inch and step by step, so much so that if they had entered into the hole of the lizard, you would also follow them in this. His companions said: God's Messenger, do you mean Jews and Christians (by your words) "those before you"? He said: Who else?! (Muslim)

Some might argue that Islam is not village religion since it has a complex theology and legal formulations. Yes, but so too does Christianity and Judaism and that doesn't make them legitimate. Many systems of thought go off on a tangent and then become complexified, based on perverted views, by later generations. Ziyad b. Labid said: The Prophet mentioned something and then said, “…that shall be in times when knowledge (in the form of guidance) is gone.” I said: "Messenger of God, how shall (such) knowledge disappear when we recite the Qur'an, and have our children recite, and our children shall have their children recite it until the Day of Judgment?" He said, “Woe to you Ziyad, I considered you the most intelligent man of Madinah! Do not these Jews and Christians recite the Torah and Bible, but know little of what is in it?" (Ibn Majah)

In fact it's something to think about: nearly every time the Prophet would discuss the misguidance of believers, he would draw on the Christian and Jews as an example. Why? Because he was warning on the ways in which the devil perverts believers and draws them away from the religion of Abraham and into their own sect. And another point to note: the sectarianism God refers to in the Quran isn't the daft sects of Islam, but the sects of the religion of Abraham, namely Judaism and Christianity. Unfortunately, Islam is forming into an Abrahamic sect rather than standing as the religion of Abraham itself.

But the Qur’an as the final testament of God is a true and accurate representation of God’s will. For those who read it with the intention to actually understand it in neutral terms (in as much as they can) rather than sing its phonemes, then the above is all patently obvious.

So how is it most Muslims miss this? How is it that Christians and Jews don’t know this?!

Because some humans (with varying agendas) have clouded it and are committed to their new formulation, emotionally blackmailing sincere folk with godly aspirations to commit to unthinking, irrationality, and superstition. Simple.

What we need is no-nonsense faith - The faith of Abraham in clear and simple terms. In context. Reflecting its environment. Making sense.

Is there ‘barakah’ in the sounds of the Quran?

This article is to clarify where ‘barakah’ actually comes into play when reading the Quran, according to God Himself. To begin with, there are three distinctions I’d like to make:

  • Reading mindfully: To read something one understands (semantics) and pay attention to the content (pragmatics).
  • Reading without understanding: To read something one understands without paying much attention to the content (semantics but no pragmatics).
  • Phonemic practice: To sound out the vowelised Arabic script of the Quran not understanding what is being sounded out (no semantics nor pragmatics).

None of these distinctions are intended to be pejorative: they are merely terms I intend to use so that the points I make here in good faith are clear.

My point in this post (like all others I write on this theme): 

It is one of the greatest obligations (wujūb) in the shari’ah to read the Quran mindfully. That means reading the Quran in a language we understand and paying attention to what God said. Bar legitimate impediments, sufficing with phonemic practice is wrong. God puts it plain and simple.

Read more

Nail Polish and Ablution: a colourful conversation

The validity of ablution (wudhu) for women wearing nail polish has been a persistent question posed to jurists in the modern era given that nail polish is a relatively new phenomenon. My aim here isn’t to negate variant views - nothing significant is lost by not wearing nail polish all the time and I feel both sides of the debate have reasonable positions. 

This is not a fatwa but a brief informative article, primarily for members on the Digital Learning Hub, to offer some clarity around the issue. I’m cursorily providing both sides of the debate with two different hats as any scholar ought to be able to do. It’s also important to keep in mind that jurists have differed on issues far greater than nail polish without resorting to juvenile polemics. 

Read more

The 'Halal Police' vs 'Haram Police'

There are many things that are strongly pushed as being haram (unlawful) and presented as a decisive matter, and to say otherwise in many circles amounts to heresy or the common ‘following one’s desires’. Whilst we ought to be tolerant it is unfortunate when interlocutors fail to exhibit the same. Rather than there being one decisive conclusion, most of these issues have been subject to much debate over a millennium, and often, the majority of scholars from all schools of legal interpretation have actually held views to the contrary. Rather than being 'mainstream' many of these views have been somewhat fringe.

I believe these issues ought to be addressed robustly (and I hope to do so over time), and that people should be educated about the different and legitimate ways in which the shar'i sources can be understood or interpreted. We need to do this not only because some restrictions cause unnecessary challenges to people’s lives, but because even the most mundane of issues can cause impediments to the progress of Muslims in wider society. There seems to be an active effort under way by those in the scholarly realm to restore some balance that has been upset by conflations, misrepresentations and an attitude that sees restrictiveness as godly. On the latter, Allah said: “Believers, do not ask about matter which, if made known to you, might make things difficult for you…” (5:101) The Prophet said: “The most criminal of Muslims are those who question things that are not prohibited, and consequently those things become prohibited because of their incessant questions.” (al-Bukhari and Muslim).

But the main point of this post is this:

In our redress, people should not assume this is a free for all. We are not the 'halal police’ who simply seek to make permissible that which God hasn’t. Nor must we do this with the simplistic excuse of making things 'easy' since taklif, that is legal obligation from God, necessitates that we will be challenged and one purpose of divine commands is to test the nafs. We must be moderate and take a composed and sensible approach:

  • If the 'haram police’ go to one extreme, we must not go to the other with extremely far-fetched conclusions to present something as halal.
  • If takfiris throw people out of Islam willy nilly, it doesn’t mean that everyone is a Muslim no matter what.
  • If some believe we must be vehemently anti-government even when the govt does something legitimate, it doesn’t mean we must acquiesce to all policies.
  • If one argues absolute taqlid of a cleric, it doesn’t mean that we become anti-madhab or anti-taqlid.
  • If someone reduces the shariah to the hudud (capital punishments), it doesn’t mean we become militant secularists.
  • If some advocate a modern day caliphate simplistically predicated on the mediaeval “age of empire” and view the world through the lens of post-colonial grievances, it doesn’t mean we negate the idea of an Islamic political philosophy/theory and notions of Muslim governance as a means of Muslim self-determination.
  • If some are anti-Western it doesn’t mean that we hold every western cultural product to be appropriate for believers (this also goes for eastern cultures).
  • If men mistreat women, it doesn’t mean we legitimate man-hating. If feminists argue for complete gender deconstruction or the fall of religion (viewing it as unjust patriarchal hegemony) it doesn’t negate the fact that misogyny exists and attitudes in most cultures need to evolve.

Most people who take positions at one end of a spectrum are usually reacting to something, but if we go to the other end, we’re also being reactionary. The nature of 'truth' is that it is not a reaction nor is it defined as the opposite of falsehood; it is an entity that stands independent, regardless of whatever else is going on.

As believers, we are not defined by our differences to the 'other', God has given clear guidance and we follow that guidance regardless of who happens (or doesn’t) to concur with it. Because of our commitment to it we feel no need to incessantly argue with others, we remain confident but humble, and proceed. Fiqh or aqidah for the laity exists to inform them how to live and remain in God’s grace, and not to argue. Even if you have no intention to do so, be on guard and don’t let others pull you in. Respond in the words of the wise, “God is our Lord and your Lord, to us our actions and to you yours, so let there be no argument between us and you. God will gather us together and to Him we shall return.” (42:15)

The Ramadan Quran Program 2022

To sign up: click here!

Develop your Quranic literacy with a holistic overview of the entire Quran during Ramadan with Sh Mohammed Nizami, providing summaries and thought provoking insights to enable you to meaningfully engage with God and connect the invaluable points He makes.

This is a unique opportunity to make this Ramadan the most productive one you have ever achieved. Alongside the daily readings and substantial recorded seminars to get through, we have live sessions every other day, as well as daily lessons and discussions on our dedicated forum.

A lot of us want to get through the entire Qur'an, but whether it's distractions or boredom, it rarely happens meaningfully, if at all! So this is that opportunity you might have been looking for - not only to go through the Quran, but to do so in a way that'll leave you really informed and with something of substance to take beyond Ramadan (as we're supposed to).

We will have a dedicated message group (Telegram app) where all participants can engage.

Welcome to your online masjid, Ramadan 2022!

How to use the Program
  1. Read the allotted portion (a few times if you can!) and read the breakdown
  2. Watch the video for that portion. The videos are numbered. For example, 2. The Cow.
  3. Join the live seminar.
  4. Stay tuned to the dedicated Telegram forum for updates and Quranic musings (short videos and audio)

Please note:

  • You can read and watch the videos as many times as you want!
  • If you're busy and you want to binge read and watch a few days material in one go, and then attend the live session a couple of days later, that's not a problem. Be sure to make notes of your questions so that you remember them later on.
  • Quran Ramadan Sessions on Zoom
  • Sessions are 2 hours, approx 30 mins after Maghrib (GMT)
  • All live sessions are recorded
  • Access to the course continued for 2 months after Ramadan

To sign up: click here!

Reacting to change

Different people react to change and the unfamiliar in various ways. The odd lot enjoy the challenge and bizarrely relish the idea of having the rug moved from under their feet. Others hold on for dear life. Some subconsciously commit to their ways but only out of comfortability. By studying the lives of prophets who called those claiming faith back to the Lord of Abraham, we see that change has always involved strife and division, and such a consequence has been accepted for the sake of the greater good that lies beyond it.

Unfortunately we don’t live in a neutral space. It would be wonderful to deliver God’s guidance without simultaneously having to contend with misinformation and inanity that has led believers to spiral into unproductive places, or commit to ideas or ways that impede their progress. Often people don’t even know they’re in such places and so change seems unnecessary. Occasionally I highlight the situation (but without getting personal) only to dispel the idea things are anywhere near great. Others, due to age and maturity, recognise after years how they’ve been impeded wanting to make sense of how it happened and now what to do. Those with an ‘outsider’s perspective’ assume this is what I greatly focus on but I really don’t. Those with an ‘insider’s perspective’ around me and on our courses witness how we build things from first-principles, learn what God has said and are inspired by it, and study the logic of God’s directives. Our environment is one aspiring to positivity, godliness, civility, being accurately informed, and personal improvement (and understandably some simultaneously want to make sense of where it went awry for them over the years, some already know, and some started without baggage).

As an erudite student characterised it, “You show a mirror which no one likes and go a step further showing people that they are responsible for the disheveled reflection that they see. It’s not just about not talking of all the stuff that makes people feel fuzzy and euphoric, it’s the accountability and rectification that must proceed from facing the music, which is an excruciatingly painful process. You pull out the no excuses card, nothing to hide behind, no victimisation, no blame games. The mirror shows a reflection that people don’t like, not because God chose to withhold beauty from us, but our own lifestyle and choices have led to this shabby state. Who likes hearing that? Which in a weird way is actually a positive message. You’re not calling people ugly. You’re telling them there is so much beauty and potential for goodness to be extracted from them that its criminal to be content with the current state of affairs. Initially there is a blow to the self esteem, but eventually we should see that accountability will do us good. Much good.”

Some things are so ridiculous that simply pointing them out makes it seem like you’re ridiculing them. It’s not you but the nature of what you’re observing. The Prophet was adamant in bringing people together telling the early believers to spend on unbelieving families and to keep ties, but pointing out the Qurashi ways was enough for the notables of Makkah to tell his uncle, Abu Talib, “You give us your nephew who has rebelled against the religion you and your forefathers have followed, and has sown the seeds of discord among your people and ridiculed their practices.” (Ibn Hisham) This outrage is driven by the feeling of being impugned, irrespective of right and wrong. During the first emigration to Abyssinia Ja’far b. Abi Talib touchingly told the Negus of the decency the Prophet called for and how his people irrationally reacted.

Now some people assert that we mustn’t look to the Hebrew Prophets as case studies because 1) only Muhammad is an example, and 2) Muhammad was soft/lenient with his followers/co-religionists. Both notions are misplaced. 

Firstly, God explicitly tells us that Abraham and others are an example to follow (see: Quran 60:4) and the entire point of telling us the stories of past prophets is to take them as examples (it’s not exactly meant to be entertainment). Additionally, such an assertion is only made by laymen - no theologian would ever state this.

Secondly, as a Prophet, Muhammad was not sent to his own believers but to pagans, but the Hebrew prophets were sent to those claiming to be Abrahamic believers. So in the context of this discussion, the Hebrew situation is far more analogous. But let’s not forget that Muhammad was just as decisive with his people (Quraish) as the Hebrew prophets were with theirs, and his own companions were deferential so he had little reason to be stern or provocative with them, but when the occasion called for such an approach with the newly converted he was particularly forthcoming.

Now when it comes to addressing the current situation and studying reactions the following prophetic examples are quite insightful. For example, Moses recognised priorities and that unity for the sake of it wasn’t God’s will, but Aaron misprioritised: “Moses said, ‘When you realized they had gone astray, what prevented you, Aaron, from coming after me? How could you disobey my orders?’ He said, ‘Son of my mother– let go of my beard and my hair!– I was afraid you would say, “You have caused division among the children of Israel and have not heeded what I said.” (Quran 20:92-24) Aaron did not deal with the problem out of concern of being blamed for ‘division’, but clearly that was a secondary issue for Moses.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus informs his disciples (in Arabic hawariyun - see Quran 61:14 for reference) to spread the word warning his Jewish disciples about their own co-religionists, that “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. But beware of men; for they will hand you over to their councils and flog you in their synagogues.” (Matthew 10:16-17) The notion that change involves strife and division can be an unfortunate but foreseen consequence of change in the social world. Waraqah b. Naufal told Muhammad: “I hope to live to see your people drive you out.” The noble Prophet asked, "Never did a man come with something similar to what you have brought but was treated with hostility. If I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly." (al-Bukhari) Similarly, the consequence of change was anticipated by Christ: “Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:16-17) Christ’s point wasn’t that he intended to cause this, but that it would be an unfortunate consequence given the nature of the Children of Israel and their antipathy to change.

But these consequences have little to do with the person pointing things out. 

They are reactions and thus in the hands of those called to change - it’s up to them how they react and what they make of the situation. If things are negative or divisive then that’s because onlookers have chosen to make it so. It’s about their perception. In part, the tales of the Children of Israel in the Quran is an intended lesson to believers: one can either transcend his/her sensitivities for the greater good and for the sake of God, or otherwise react like the Children of Israel, “Whenever a messenger brought them anything they did not like, they accused some of lying and put others to death.” Note that it was what “they did not like” - it was a matter of their perception. God shows us that one can choose to focus on the actual message like the sincere to God who were called to truth over millennia (like the sahabah or the hawariyun), or intentionally avoid the change by making it about the caller like the people of Noah: “But the leading disbelievers among his people said, ‘He is merely a mortal like you, trying to gain some superiority over you.’” (Quran 23:24) Rudeness is culturally defined, what some find offensive others do not. But the Prophets were certainly provocative as every narrative relates, and in this era of public noise and confusion drowning out what is sensible, people need provocation to steer another direction. A person chooses to put their sensitivities first viewing a well-intentioned nudge as negative, or they’re happy for something that will help them grow putting their heightened sensitivities away.

Different people have different goals. Ours is change and holistic realignment, with deep educational and critical engagement. We want believers to be the best they can and I personally don’t believe that can happen without being good with God, God being good with them, and then understanding what it is that God actually wants. Some are so unthinkingly committed to the familiar because they’re afraid of what they don’t know or initially recognise that they resort to spreading mistruths about others out of desperation. We shouldn’t be led by their insecurities but by our own confidence. Putting aside technical shar’i discussions on ‘accuracy’ and ‘authenticity’ which most are not equipped to ascertain, merely glancing at the Muslim condition tells you that things aren’t working. Simplistic explanations such as we’re not ‘blessed’ are wrong, the shari’ah has a material/worldly function which isn’t being realised. Generally, I don’t believe that the ‘outside’ world is to blame (the Prophet taught that it will always be the way it is), and in all the analysis of how things are, seldom do people or analysts critically and strategically address the condition of believers from first-principles.

Change is the hardest social objective there is and its leaders seldom escape demonisation - it's par for the course. Popularity is easy and many know full well how to get millions of followers on social media and how to be loved by everybody - it’s easy to see what appeals to the popular Muslim psyche. But then it makes everything about quantity rather than quality turning our endeavours into superficial popularity contests. Of course, being popular is nice and intuitively what we all like, but there are necessary tasks with which popularity will always remain in tension.

If we seek positive realignment (islah) and improvement then we cannot afford to react like peoples of the past:

“Their messengers came to them with clear proof, but they tried to silence them saying, ‘We do not believe the message with which you were sent. We have disturbing doubts about what you are asking us to do.’ Their messengers answered, ‘Can there be any doubt about God, the Creator of the heavens and earth? He calls you to Him in order to forgive you your sins and let you enjoy your life until the appointed hour.’ But they said, ‘You are only men like us. You want to turn us away from what our forefathers used to worship. Bring us clear proof then.’ Their messengers answered, ‘True, we are only men like you, but God favours whichever of His servants He chooses. We cannot bring you any proof unless God permits it, so let the believers put all their trust in Him. Why should we not put our trust in God when it is He who has guided us to this way we follow. We shall certainly bear steadfastly whatever harm you do to us. Let anyone who trusts, trust in God.’” (Quran 14:9)

Dear University Students

I write this in the hope that you’ll understand some important points about deen at university. We’ve also been (western) British university students and experienced what it means and life after it. The purpose of elders is to help you understand things, a bit like a cheat sheet, so you can take the most efficient, productive way forward. So the following is important to keep in mind:

1. You are probably 18-23 years old. 99% of you do not know Classical Arabic. 99% of you have not studied the scriptures nor the Law of God. You have more knowledge of the subjects you studied at GCSEs than you do Islam, so logically your opinion on deen is severely underdeveloped. What you do have is inherited culture and the preachings of populists (which is little deen and more self-interest). The vast majority of yesteryears university students find that most of what they think they stand for as students, whether religious or political, they deeply question by the end of their 20s.

2. Subservience to God isn’t academic, it’s life. The Sahabah didn’t debate, they lived their imaan throughout the day. Not only are you young but very much inexperienced with life, some of you are living on your own for the first time in your lives (and even then cushioned by campus life or student loans). Others have still not ever had to take care of themselves as independent adults without the parental safety net. In the next two decades (and especially as your kids grow into teenagers) you will learn and experience much joy and pain that will shape you into very different human beings - you’ll hopefully growing in intelligence, sensibleness and maturity. Everything will change: your religious views, your political views, your social views. (If you are) Don’t be so sure about everything, in fact don’t be so sure about anything. Be open to growth and development, revising your views, primarily that which makes you a better and radiant human being. If what you’re doing/thinking/saying isn’t making you nicer, kinder, more polite, gracious and a deeper thinker, it’s not “truth”, it’s a problem. Your debates are not actual debates, they’re banter - uninformed competing opinions. This isn’t just you, we were very much the same! The greatest thing you can adopt at university is intellectual humility - it’ll help you to grow and be amazing.

3. Often you are being played by competing sectarian and political interests. Your salafism or sufism is meaningless and the entire conversation is superficial. What you think is an exhibition of profound shar’i knowledge really isn’t - it is a mishmash of a few verses or hadith, nothing wholesome nor a complete picture. But it works on you and you think it’s “truth” because you know little. It’s been this way for DECADES and has severely limited the experiences of many students before you, or shaped them in unproductive ways where they struggle later on in life.

4. Many ‘speakers’ who advise you on life have never lived yours. They didn’t go to British universities. They didn’t even grow up in your context or western environments (and still don’t!). They have no idea of your experiences, not the ones you live everyday nor those that you will face. They’ve never worked or competed in the environments you will have to. They have no idea how to competently and confidently negotiate tricky situations (so they teach you to run away!). Many of them have yet to grow up themselves - they operate in insular bubbles where juvenile debates take place that are absolutely irrelevant to actual life. They rope you into bizarre and useless feuds and arguments impeding your space and time to grow into highly decent, intelligent and emotionally resilient human beings. You have gone to university to learn - you don’t need ideologues, you need highly educated, informed and experienced cultivators. When you leave university your job is to take godliness into the world informed by divine guidance. Often what you get in university are a bunch of talking points: either practically useless, or progression impeding. Many of these speakers are simply looking to boost their social media profiles, they have no idea how to cultivate you for the future. Or they’re caught up in their own sectarian projects they impose on you. It’s about what YOU need for the future, not the superficial nonsense they’re caught up in today.

5. Focus on Quranic literacy and the skills that will develop your character. Pay attention to Quranic stories and parables. Leave legal debates to jurists. Aqidah will get you absolutely nowhere except probably make you a horrible person, and keep your fiqh differences to yourself - focus on perfecting practice of God’s Law rather than pontificating. Get to know the Quran like you’re meant to know your course texts. You have 3-4 years to be literate. Learn Arabic if you can. Only engage in positive conversation, and avoid negativity. Understand that social media will not help you grow as a human being - there’s a crisis looming: in the future people are going to find themselves emotionally and intellectually messed up in all sorts of ways because they developed on a staple of social media content. Yes, it’s great for entertainment but terrible for cultivating sound minds and hearts.

6. You don’t have to be contrary, behave weird, or express ethno-cultural difference to everyone else. Practice being tawhidic shar’i-minded westerners. University is a great diverse place, so whilst you will inevitably have differences to other non-believers, you can be a committed and stout believer and still fit in without forcing your difference or making it an identity point. It’s a great place to learn the art of diplomacy and negotiation. This way you can be confident about who you are, whilst being affable with your environment instead of abrasive.

7. University is not LIFE (even though it may feel like it lol). You’re only there for a few years - you’re not going to start some global revolution! And all the talking points today will immediately fade after graduation. Your concerns will turn to marriage, rent, career and social life. But you’ll make some great friends, possibly your future spouse, and carry your university experiences with you. Make them the type that positively launch you into actual life - not the myopic and narrow interests of those using you.

I wish you all the very best and hope you grow to be the intelligent and progress-oriented believers I know you can, that serve God and bring about the outcomes God wanted for all of us. The future will be yours and we'll be gone - we want you to do far better than we could.

Sh Mohammed Nizami

Anti-Asian vs anti-Muslim hatred: The Rafiq case

I’d like to point out that this article desperately simplifies a multifaceted issue with intricacies that require unpicking. I envisage many ‘buts’ with rebuttals and counter-arguments. Here I’m simply attempting to start the conversation on anti-Asian vs anti-Muslim hatred. Before I do so, a few important points:

Read more

A thought on intelligence and the faithful

It’s hard to keep track of time these days but we know we’re getting older. So are the kids. Despite being young our generation will soon be gone and the future will be theirs. But what future are we passing on? What kind of existence are believers living today? What have we fallen into? It’s not a matter of ‘catching up’ but being ahead, exuding confidence in what is actually superior (rather than misplaced confidence in the absurd), and with agility staying ahead of the curb. The Quranic sabiqun (see 56:10) engender this: those at the forefront driven by their imaan (affirmation and sense of trust in God) and high achievers in whatever they do, as God wills. “They are the closest (to God.)” (56:11)

But this is not what people are commonly taught is from God.

We’re frequently told that God put us on earth, only for the akhirah (afterlife). This idea is then commonly presented in a way that suggests people need not concern themselves about life on earth. Or their happiness. Or their worldly productivity. Material acquisition is pointless because life is just momentary, wealth is distracting, “You’ll be rich in Jannah”. Every lawful aspect of life, especially by those who cannot perceive of achieving them, is deferred to “Jannah” as an excuse to mitigate the duty to excel in the now. Believers need not put in effort and excel, plus resources count for nothing. (Even in the realm of shar’i learning some YouTube videos suffice.) The power and influence required to safeguard a shar’i environment will simply descend from the heavens - or by protesting with placards. Apparently there are no social and physical causal processes, it is not actions that fundamentally breed results. Everything will simply be the result of ‘blessings’ that come about from the ‘correct’ creed, observing restrictions, and ritual worship. 

The creed? Well it’s all based on resistance. We must resist ideas, resist politics, resist everything. Often we don’t even know why we’re being resistant! We know what we don’t stand for, but we’re not quite sure what we do stand for. Besides the fact this is unproductive, it’s all unnecessarily tiring. With all the focus on the negative, the positive hasn’t offered much meaningful direction. Adam popped into existence spontaneously but was also gradually fashioned from earth and kicked out of heaven (not sure how he got to Earth). God is neither here nor there, nor nowhere nor everywhere. God has eyes, two eyes, no eyes - everything or nothing “in a way that befits His majesty.” Say your “Quls” or the spirits will snatch your body. Or a witch/wizard will control you. Or someone’s eyes will get you. Science is evil. Vaccines don’t work.

The restrictions? Don’t show this nor cut your hair like that. Don’t wear perfume, shape your eyebrows or beards. Don’t enjoy yourself except with food, but most things you can’t eat (so overeat what you can!). Go to the mosque but don’t let the women in or you’ll be tempted to fornicate, maybe even in the mosque! Don’t take out that loan even if you need the capital, it’s like having sex with your mother. Don’t mingle with the disbelievers, but live in “their” country, obey “their” laws and pay taxes. Be frightened of God. Don’t say God, say Allah. Don’t be western. Don’t be happy, death is nigh. But smile, it’s sunnah…and “Islam is easy.”

And what is ritual worship? Holding prayer beads. Lots of units (rak’at) of prayer (salah). Reciting Arabic phonemes from a holy book. Hunger for a month. A two-week walking holiday in Saudi Arabia. Wearing ‘Islamic’ eastern clothing with western trainers, jeans and jackets. It’s all for God so don’t be critical.

“You know what your problem is? You’re just logical.”

Is this somehow meant to be a negative?! How has the level of conversation amongst those who have the Qur'an and ways of the final Prophet plummeted to this? 

The reason I’m writing this (as when I write most things) is because a good and intelligent sister with righteous intentions put it, “This appeals to my intellect and sits with revelation, but how do I know I’m just following what I want to hear?” Subservience to God is not suffering and silliness. And the same can be argued by an unbeliever - is it not the intellect that they ought to rely on to see the truth of Abrahamic monotheism? And a disfigured patchwork presented as deen that sounds absolutely nonsensical is just that. The intuitions of many sincere believers will tell them that this is so, “but then again, if everyone is saying it who am I to argue?” But everyone isn’t advocating such absurdity and most of us know living like the above is no way to achieve anything. Such ‘religious' takes will never produce anything of value, neither in this life or with God in the hereafter - and it’s certainly not good practice to (mis)represent God’s will with such ugliness and expect favourable outcomes. Personally I’ve never come across anything so dissonance-inducing. 

But what about the textual ‘evidence’ for all of this? Well anyone can offer evidence for the greatest absurdity. The Christians for Trinitarianism. The Hindus for paganism. The religious extremists for murder and mayhem. The way of godliness and the intellect is the way of Abraham and his progeny: Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, David and Solomon, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Our rational and godly philosophy remains, as expressed by the shar’i philosopher Ibn al-Qayyim, that “the foundations and edifice of the shari'ah are built on wisdoms and benefits to a person, in their living and (life) journey. All of the shari'ah is justice, mercy, benefit and wisdom. Every issue that goes from justice to oppression, from mercy to its opposite, from benefits to loss, from wisdom to imprudence, then it is not the shari'ah even if it is made to appear so through interpretation (of revelation)." (I’laam al-Muwaqiin) These judgements we make, as Ibn al-Qayyim infers, through the intellect. It doesn’t matter if it’s an eastern or western/northern or southern intellect - human intellect is human intellect with the universal capacity to reason. The believers in God and His messengers are meant to be people of intellect and reason. They are meant to be the civilised and elite. They have been gifted with guidance and wisdom (hidaya and hikmah). 

Ibn al-Qayyim likewise wrote, "…the principles of the followers of prophetic guidance (Ahl’sunnah) in which is manifested the evidences of the Qur'an, sunnah, narrations, critical deliberation and intellect." (Kitab al-Ruh)

How have we come to a time in which we actually have to advocate the use of reason in order to determine what’s intelligent and what’s inane?