بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Development – Dr. Abdallah Rothman
On Tuesday, we had Qur’an Class, in which we were reminded about the importance of placing our status as slaves – ‘Abd – of Allah above such considerations as… ‘What the people will think’ [as Muslims, we are supposed to consider… what’s Halāl, and what’s Ma’rūf – socially typical, customary, universally seen as good, and also: the commands of our Lord and Maker, Allah, take precedent above all else].
Next, we had an Islamic Law (Fiqh) make-up class. In Fiqh: we’ve been learning about, and discussing, Wudhu [Wudhu: ablution. How we wash before prayer/touching the Qur’an] and some of its technicalities. [Did you know: that there is a ‘minimalist Wudhu‘, so to speak? i.e. What is obligatory to be done in Wudhu is: wash the face. Arms, up to elbows. Feet, up to ankles. Wipe the first part of the head, maybe roughly a third. And that’s it: Wudhu technically done! An acceptable Wudhu, although there are some additions to the good Sunnah way…]
And in Theology, we’ve been learning about the Mihna. Historically speaking, ‘Islam’ (i.e. ‘Islamic civilisation’) had been distinctively religiously ‘tolerant’, both towards other religions such as Judaism, and also in response to certain creedal/theological differences within Islam. But there have been some anomalies, some exceptions. For example: the Mihna, a time when the caliph had ordered that individuals, religious figures, and so on, who had disagreed with his particular view as to whether or not the Qur’an was created… be imprisoned. Sort of like an ‘Inquisition’, the Mihna.
In History: we’ve been learning about Tasawwuf, AKA ‘Sufism’, and its origins, and so on. Ended up having something like a class discussion on the topic, during our break. And a member of our class had been recording the discussion, to send to his sisters and give them an idea of what it’s like, to be in our class, to be a student at CMC [the Cambridge Muslim College, an Islamic religious school, paralleling, let’s say, seminaries. And CMC has a BA program].
In total: we’ve got… 8 modules: 8 classes. And then some additional things we do. For example:
‘Development’, on Tuesdays.
This week’s Development, for we First-Years: we had an ‘Islamic Psychology’ session, essentially, led by the Principal of our college, Dr. Abdallah Rothman.
The contents of this Development session felt particularly pertinent, important, interesting, to me, and probably to the others also.
We have these hearts that we are trying to cultivate, work on, cleanse. Self-purification is a very important tenet of Islam. For example: we purify our wealth by giving in charity. The word for the charity we have to give, if we earn/possess above a certain amount of wealth: the word for it, Zakāt, comes from associated ideas, in Arabic, of cleansing, and of increasing. You don’t lose by giving: God Gives you more, and better!
Yesterday, and since I had a couple of things to deliver at the Post Office:
My housemate Sasha and I went on a little walk. Sometimes, when I am indoors, I feel quite restless. Walks are good.
On the way there, Sasha saw…
A cat. Specifically: a black-furred, fluffy cat. And Sasha loves cats.
Wherever there are cats, there is goodness.
That’s how Sasha sees things. So she approached the cat, which had been sitting outside someone’s doorstep. Also on this doorstep: a milk-bottle carrier, and some empty milk bottles. I have strange old memories of the ‘milkman’ delivering milk to houses. Having milk from glass bottles sometimes.
We heard that someone had been beginning to unlock the door from the inside. Sasha and I were going to scram. What if the person whose house it was were to wonder why these two strange girls were right by her doorstep, interacting with her cat?
The door opened, and a lovely, elderly, friendly face emerged from it. Jameela is her name: our neighbour. She has a cat of her own, and mentioned something about the goodness of cats in relation with Islamic tradition.
So, Jameela has a cat of her own. And then: two separate cats from the neighbourhood come to her house from time to time, expecting treats from her. They’ll make her “bankrupt!” as Jameela had jokingly remarked.
We had a good conversation with our neighbour. She told us about her father, who…
Had been the individual who had started up the Abu Bakr Masjid in Cambridge, a mosque on Mawson Road, which is quite popular among Muslims in the area, and even beyond [my friend Faaizah, who lives in London, goes there sometimes too].
It had only been through “struggle and struggle” that Jameela’s father had managed to establish this masjid. People used to pray Jum’uah [Jum’uah: congregational Friday prayers,] at a house, perhaps somewhat far away. But Jameela’s father worked, tried, ‘struggled’, to get this one set up. And there it is, Maa Shaa Allah. Flourishing; important to the community.
If you build a masjid for Allah: He builds for you a house in Jannah.
Ethnically, Jameela and her family: are Indian, Tanzanian. She’d told us about her siblings: most of them are successful professionals, Maa Shaa Allah.
Jameela herself is retired, but had been an ‘Education Officer’. One of her students went on to become Deputy Speaker of the Tanzanian Parliament, Maa Shaa Allah. Two of her siblings are medical doctors. One works in the corporate world. And so on. And then: there’s her sister who had become mentally disabled as a result of something to do with the Partition [of India,] I think Jameela had said.
That’s what Jameela does now: she has her cat. And the neighbourhood cats who visit her. And she takes care of her sister who is disabled.
She made me smile because she said I have a “beautiful name”. And when she’d asked me where I’m from (ethnically,) and I’d said Bangladesh, she’d said: beautiful. That’s what her name means in Arabic: (the feminine form of) beautiful. Her father, she’d said, had named her and all her siblings based on certain words in the Qur’an.
‘FaSbir Sabr-an Jameelaa’.
[That’s Surah 70, Verse 5].
‘Exhibit a beautiful patience’.
- Keep going. Keep going, not just in struggle, but… in beauty.
- God has got you, my friend. You’re in the very best Hands. You’ll see the beautiful results soon enough. Your Lord Knows everything. All Power is His.
Where there are cats, [and when the cats in a place seem calm, sociable, and well-fed, …] there is goodness:
My baby brother loves his cat.
My friend from CMC, A’iyshah: I saw, today, that her laptop screensaver is of… a really cute kitten.
People who love cats. Are elite!
- Incidentally: normally, I don’t like hugging people all that much… But I love to hug my brother [though he normally fights me and then runs away]. And also A’iyshah: something about her is just so adorable, lovable, open, and warm, Maa Shaa Allah! Perhaps her warmth is… thawing my heart: I actually actively wanted to hug her, today, and that is rare for a me, really.
The Post Office.
[I’m at a café at the moment. Smallish wooden table. Having to share this table with: a woman, and presumably her five-year-old son, at one end of the table. They’re eating cakes, looking at something on her phone. A maths game?
In the middle of the table: a couple on a date? They’re talking about Economics. About inflation, the definitions of Demand and Supply. She’s a Business student.
And then: at this end of the table, there’s a me. I’m typing. Human beings are just so… fascinating.
… I swear I’m not from another planet or anything…]
When Sasha and I went to the Post Office, (yesterday,) she’d wanted to buy a magazine or maybe a few. Sasha likes crafts. Making ‘zines’ (mini, handmade ‘magazines’).
Living in a small town is so interesting: the contrasts, with London. Like with the bus system. And people seem kinder here, definitely. More friendly and so on, more… at ease with themselves, and with life?
Parts of Cambridge seem like… they’re still in the Britain of the 1980s. Not that I was even alive then. But: reading magazines, doing things fairly ‘slow’, wanting to know what, I don’t know, Victoria Beckham’s doing these days. A Chinese takeaway, an Indian grocery shop or two. And knowing one’s neighbours; knowing the name of the lady who works at the newsagents [Becky].
[The male half of the date [?] that’s going on in front of me… Just corrected the girl’s grammar. ‘More newer,’ she’d said…]
At the newsagents where Sasha had wanted to browse through magazines…
This is a headline I’d caught a glimpse of. I’d also seen this news maybe on YouTube.
Paul Williams, AKA ‘Blogging Theology’, is a channel I’d recommend subscribing to!
At the Post Office: I managed to cut my finger a little. On: a Sellotape dispenser, no less. You’re not meant to touch the spiky metal part, Sadia. You’re 21 years old, come on!
The concept of healing is cool. The human body, the human being. And all that we are equipped with. Subhaan Allah. So much to appreciate, certainly.
Here is a cottage, thatched roof, that looks like… its mum cut its hair, after putting a trapezium-shaped nacho bowl onto it [not to be mean, of course, to people whose mums cut their hair, maybe, after putting a trapezium-shaped nacho bowl onto it. A £20 haircut in this economy?!]:
And here is how we compress cartons, in our house, before putting them into the recycling bin: [This oat milk, from the Co-Op, is good!]
Next, here is Sasha’s plant, Fig. And my plant, who is Fig’s cousin:
Max. Max Al-Monstera. His first name isn’t short for Maximus.
And nor is it short for Maxwell, no no.
Max’s name is short for:
Max(…imum Growth), since… we prioritise growth, (and not stagnation, and also not unhealthy, unhuman, ideals of ‘perfection’,) in our household…
I’m feeling somewhat tired. Winter days can feel like… a heavy blanket. And the human being doesn’t hibernate, per se, but… We enjoy cosiness, don’t we? And cosiness feels even better with the contrast against the sheer cold, intensity, darkness, of Winter outside.
I’m tired; I’ve got things to do. This be Dunya after all. The ‘Lowest Place’.
Our Jannah… awaits.
These days, in this life o’ mine:
Small town vibes. Cats. The Post Office. Supermarket runs. And community: that’s always good, isn’t it?
- Just bought a loaf of bakery bread for 44p here in Cambridge, at a Co-Op [British supermarket]. Reduced from £1.75, likely since it’s closer to the end of the day. Did you know that you can freeze bread, and simply microwave it when you want to eat it? Well, now you do.
- Bread. I love bread. AlHamduliLlah.
Today, at lunch, I’d noticed that there’d been a guest at CMC. We are allowed to invite our own guests over, for lunch.
I’d been sitting at our table, the women’s table. Talking, eating [fish pie, and a pastry, today, AlHamduliLlah!]. And, then: listening. To the conversation that had been taking place at the middle table, where two of my classmates, Khalid and Raiyan, had been sitting with our guest, Claire.
Khalid had been saying something about the (perceived, attempted, but artificial) detachment between ‘religion’ and ‘science’. About how, separated from an epistemological basis: we can’t claim to ‘know‘ things. It’s no longer gnosis [gnosis: knowledge, insight,] but: various fragments of information, and ‘facts’.
Well, I’d been trying to listen in on this conversation as if it were a podcast. [The discussions that take place in the CMC refectory (lunch room/hall) can just be… so interesting, fascinating, and mentally/spiritually stimulating!]
And I’d said something to A’iyshah about how interesting that conversation sounds.
Khalid then, very kindly, extended an invitation over, at our table. He’d said that they’re discussing female scholarship, and that I could join their table if I wanted to. And so I did.
Turns out: Claire, and Raiyan and Khalid, met one another at the recent interfaith event [that I’d wanted to also go to, and even booked tickets for. But then: I’d been called in for my masjid job interview on that very day!].
Claire: comes from a Roman Catholic background, and is studying towards receiving a diploma from a religious federation that is part of the University of Cambridge, I think.
And, today, we’d been speaking about religious institutions. Authority, and patriarchy. And about women in religion.
‘Female scholarship’ is definitely a norm among Muslims. It’s not so among Roman Catholics, according to Claire.
Christians and Muslims: we have different views concerning Eve, the first woman, our mother, for example.
We, Muslims: don’t attribute an ‘original sin’ to her, specifically. And, spiritually, a woman’s value is equal to a man’s, although our gendered natures are different.
Male and female: we are, to reference the Qur’an, ‘azwāj’. We’re pairs, and we complement one another.
Man is a majestic and beautiful creation, and woman is a beautiful and majestic creation. Partners. Different, and both are certainly, indisputably, of real value, within our human world.
It’s incredible, Subhaan Allah.
- Islam is a patriarchal religion: we cannot, for instance, discount the importance of fathers, fatherliness, fatherhood. We don’t have ‘female Imāms‘, for example; also, a father can never have the honour of bringing life into the world. And nor can a mother ever be a father.
Sometimes, when people take issue with ‘patriarchy’, it’s not really ‘patriarchy’ that they seem so critical of. Hierarchy is beneficial, for one thing, and it brings about necessary, natural order and function instead of their opposites: chaos, and dysfunction.
But, rather: perhaps these individuals had/have dysfunctional relationships with their own fathers. And have perhaps faced abuse, including ‘spiritual’ abuse, at the hands of such men. Some Muslim women thus turn away from ‘Islam’ and become extremely ‘secular’, ‘feminists’. They come to ‘understand’ that ‘Islam’ is what their, perhaps, harsh and abusive male caregivers/governmental regimes are presenting to them. And so want to turn completely away from that…
I feel like I have more to write about, in this article. Like about: the Qatar World Cup, and ‘LGBT’. And maybe some more about Islam in Britain.
But, also: it is Week 9 of CMC. It’s been wonderful, and even the challenging aspects have felt meaningful, AlHamduliLlah.
And, but: Winter is basically here. Perhaps I am entering human-hibernation-mode at the moment.
Near our house here in Cambridge:
There’s this ‘Bird Café‘… That someone has seemingly set up in loving memory of someone else, since there’s also a memorial plaque near it:
Near this ‘Bird Café’, also, is this ‘Bug Hotel‘:
[Reminds me of aspects of my childhood. Like when: I really wanted a bird-feeder. And so made one out of paper, and put melon seeds into/onto it. And then my parents bought me an actual metal-net bird-feeder from Tesco. And a pot to give birds water from. It was really nice to watch them come to our balcony.
And the ‘bug hotel’: at Smyths [Toy Superstores,] we would see the ‘Bug Hotels’ there. We were active, outdoorsy kids, my cousins and me, AlHamduliLlah.]
It has been just over a week since I became an evening teacher at Cambridge Central Masjid.
So far, with my class, (whom I love, and love teaching, AlHamduliLlah!) we have covered concepts (from a book for children based on the teachings of Al-Ghazāli,) including:
- Maintaining a ‘bright, shiny’ heart
- Staying away from arguments, and the goodness in that
- Being a consistent person: not being a hypocrite [it is very cute indeed to listen to 7/8-year-olds try to pronounce ‘hypocrite’, bless.]
- Not being envious of others. But, rather, sharing others’ joy, as Muslims
We’ve also looked at Surah Bayyinah (‘The Clear Proof’) and Surah Qadr (‘The Power’) from the Qur’an.
I’ve really been loving learning with my students, AlHamduliLlah. Learning the ‘basics’, which are the fundamentals of our Deen.
And so, even if/when people may… misrepresent ‘Islam’ to us… Even if they are ‘authority’ figures to us, later on in life. [Seeking excessive power and control…]
We should know our basics, our fundamentals. A brilliant thing about Islam is that, there is such a big emphasis on community and on the lived, living tradition. And:
You don’t need to go ‘through’ somebody else, in order to speak to, love, and be Loved by, God. Come as you are, so long as you are sincere. Your Lord Made you: every subtle millimetre of your being. He will take care of you.
[For example, at CCM Madrasa, we’d spoken about… that story about the woman who’d been a sinner, a prostitute [okay, I didn’t exactly use the word ‘prostitute’ in telling this story to these little kids. A woman who did bad things]. Maybe she would have been shunned by other people, rejected, not accepted.
But when she’d seen a living creature, a dog, who had been thirsty: she went to give the dog water.
And Allah Knew this woman, this beloved creation of His. He Knew her heart. He forgave her.
Never overlook the profound value of ‘small’ things that you do. Love, and religion, is often in the ‘small’ things. The ‘quiet’, sincere, ‘effortless’ and genuine. And in the ‘small’ and consistent things…
It is not loud, not always calling for popular attention, not grandiose [grandiose: exaggerated, grand, pretentious.]]
Allah is With the downtrodden. The broken-hearted. The weak, the struggling. He is Closer to you than your own jugular vein.
Allah is your Ultimate Provider. Ar-Razzāq.
He is the very One who Designed, and Fashioned, you. Al-Khāliq, Al-Musawwir.
He Knows you, and everything, best. Al-‘Aleem, Al-Hakeem.
Even before you were born into this Earth: your soul had been present, Created by Him. Your prenatal self: Allah Knows.
To feel… more at ease, and content. With whom we are, so fundamentally. And that Allah is our Lord; we are His slaves. Maslow spoke of ‘self-actualisation’ that had been separated from gnosis. We’re not just ‘us’ by ourselves: we have a Lord. To truly be realised, ‘actualised’ is:
To fall prostrate to Allah, Ar-Rahmān, Ar-Raheem.