بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
We begin this one, here. Live, in a meeting/talk delivered by Dr Haroon Sidat.
Dr Haroon’s bio:
[Notes as he speaks:]
Dr Haroon’s family is from Gujarat, India; at a young age, he memorised the Qur’an. His grandfather migrated here, to Britain, and his grandfather had a particular love for Islamic Ulamā’ (learned individuals, our Scholars).
Dr Haroon’s grandfather ensured that his family, including his grandchildren, shared this love for the People of Knowledge.
Dr H went on to undertaking a six-year Islamic Studies course of studies (‘traditional’, and ‘Desi-style’,) after doing his GCSEs. He had been doing his GCSEs at a time when he feels there was less pressure, he says, compared to now, to get A*s… [The pressure we put on children, and on ourselves, to gain ‘worldly success’. At the expense of a number of good things, like… sleep. Familial bonds. Health.
“To some of you, it might be something ‘historical‘, but to me, it was a real event.
“It changed a lot of my experience as a child, growing up in Britain.”
Dr Haroon spoke to us a little about 9/11. The tragedy that occurred while Dr Haroon had been in his second year of that six-year Islamic Knowledge programme, at a Dar-ul-Uloom.
Going from ‘just people living in Britain’, as Muslims, as brown people… to being ‘suspects‘.
*One CMC student, from the cohort above: her cousin, I think she’d said. He lives in America. Had been in the second building when the Twin Towers were attacked.
This relative of hers: the clothes he’d been wearing in that day. Are packed up, since that day. Left untouched, in packet. Anjum says that people forget that there’d been Muslims working there, in the Twin Towers, at the time too.
*And, in seeking to understand and deal with the issue of so-called ‘Islamist’ terrorism… It would be completely foolish and unfair to dismiss or overlook the fact that Muslims are often the victims of such attacks. At Jumuʿah, at weddings, at funerals…
Appreciation of Culture, via Language.
*Language is inextricable with ‘culture‘.
At some of these Dar-ul-Ulooms, students learn the Arabic language via the Urdu one. Dr Haroon also went on to learn Persian, to gain a better appreciation of Islamicate culture.
He has three daughters, aged 9, 7, and 5. Safiya, Khadijah, and Haala. And he would like for them to learn Urdu, for them to better appreciate the culture of Islam, and for them to have a really enriching experience of the Islamic tradition.
To partake in “the beauty, the richness, and the depth” of our religion.
“I really want for my children to appreciate the richness of Islam, through other languages, as well.”
*I found this picture online, and found it so beautiful:
Things develop, they change, and typically improve, get better, adapt to developing times, over time.
Dr Haroon speaks about the change from the Madrasahs in Britain from being focused on going through content [at the institutions that had been founded by immigrants from the Subcontinent, for example in the 80s,] to working on the actual pedagogy. Delivery, teaching.
*”The word ‘India’ is a colonial [word, and framing].” It wasn’t called ‘India’ before: the area was known as Hind. A fact that the speaker had mentioned, which stuck out to me.
*Today (a day after this talk delivered by this trustee,) I went to watch my brother’s game: my brother + football = love. Maa Shaa Allah, bless him.
Our cousin Mazhar picked us up in his car, and dropped us off. Also in the car had been: Mazhar’s younger brother, my adorable cousin Isa, but don’t tell him I called him that [he’s in Year Seven, but we’ll probably always find him adorable!] and also a boy called Yaqub.
Yaqub, as Mazhar revealed to me: is the younger brother of someone Mazhar and I went to the same secondary school as. So strange, so interesting: it’s been a decade since our turn being in Year Seven.
Anyway. I mention this, about today’s football, here, since: it was quite nice to see my brother’s coach award a medal to one of the players today. The boy, bless him, looked like he’d been on the verge of becoming emotional, overwhelmed with emotion.
This sort of recognition: we need things like this in our Madrasahs. Praise postcards, medals, certificates and gifts.
*Currently, as a Madrasah teacher myself: I teach boys. Little boys. Energetic, active. Oh, and: competitive. Boys being boys is a good thing: Fitrah. Perhaps one way to gear their boy-ness towards good at Islamic school is: medals.
“Deobond was a response to lack of Muslim rule [after the British presence in India].”
*Deobond, here, is in reference to a particular style of Islamic school, linked to Darul Uloom Deoband, a large Islamic institution in India. Established in 1866.
A response to the loss of Muslim power.
“It was a way of maintaining Sunni Orthodoxy, if you like, in an area where this was quickly being taken away.”
The British were bringing in new methods of ‘education‘, interpreting and treating Islamic learning and knowledge as though it were ‘useless’.
*The Islamic Way has this inherent flexibility to it, an appreciation of ambiguity. Whereas the colonial Brits’ positivistic outlook could be quite ‘black-and-white’.
What is ‘education’?
It’s learning… what is important.
According to the UK government website:
“Education is the engine of our economy, it is the foundation of our culture, and it’s an essential preparation for adult life.”
So, to them: the three primary objectives of education are…
Economy. Culture. Life Skills.
These objectives are important for Muslim students as well. But, first: Adab. i.e. Manners. The purpose of life is not ‘economy’. And ‘culture’ is never ‘culture’ without some sort of ‘religion’.
For us, AlHamduliLlah: true religion.
And life skills: certainly important.
According to British MP Nick Gibb, Minister for Schools here in the UK, school is about:
“introducing them to the best that has been thought and said, and instilling in them a love of knowledge and culture for their own sake. But education is also about the practical business of ensuring that young people receive the preparation they need to secure a good job and a fulfilling career, and have the resilience and moral character to overcome challenges and succeed.” [Source.]
Thought is important, but how do we actually validate what is the best of what has been thought and said?
We love knowledge and beauty, but how could we satisfyingly ever love them ‘for their own sake’?
[AlHamduliLlah: we have our objective guiding compass with regard to these considerations. Islam.]
I agree with the latter points about career: we want for our children to be financially stable, and that is a real consideration. We want for the work they do to feel and be fulfilling, and meaningful.
Resilience is important. Moral character, certainly. Viewing challenges optimistically, ultimately.
And succeeding. What is success, to us?
“My grandfather came to my graduation [when Dr Haroon had completed those six years of Islamic Knowledge].”
His grandfather told him, in what he himself remembers as being a “very moving moment,” that though he (Dr Haroon’s grandfather,) is older than him (Dr Haroon) in age, ‘you are older than me in Knowledge‘.
Dr Haroon went on to complete a degree in Economics. He comes from a working-class background, and, thinking practically: he wanted to make money.
Whereas in Islamic Learning circles, institutions:
“You’re taught virtue quite a lot.
“It’s quite embedded in the culture.” Even in the way they had been taught to respect books, and pens. And even paper. There was an Adab, a body of manners, and a sense of respect, that they had to develop and learn.
“We were taught all the granular details of how to hold a pen. e.g. you don’t throw a pen.”
The essential teacher-student bond, also: crucial. ‘Spiritual‘.
At university, [by contrast,] things are ‘quite different’.
“It took me a while to adapt to this worldview.”
To Dr Haroon, university education ended up being a “piece of cake.” He acquired a First Class degree in Economics, Maa Shaa Allah.
Another statement that stood out to me from his talk:
“You haven’t mastered a class until you’ve read the entire book.” [And so, even when university tasks would be asking that students only read particular sections of the textbook, Dr Haroon would be reading… the entire book. Holism is important, in the Islamic learning tradition.]
*Dr Haroon struggled quite a lot, in his first year of university, to write essays. But attended a class on it, and his skills significantly developed over time.
“I found International Studies and that sort of stuff really interesting.” For example, looking at and into the Cold War.
Dr Haroon acquired placements at two high-flying global consultancy firms. Qualified as an accountant, but realised that that was not a lifestyle he wanted to be in. Although the money was good. 6 days a week, and Sunday was ‘rest day’. But even on Sundays, Dr H found: he would be on his laptop, working.
Corporate life, according to him: “eats you up”. It ‘hollows you out, from the inside’, and can lead to individuals leading very ‘empty’ lives.
*Teachers and institutions should really inspire hearts and minds. We are not just ‘minds’ and pockets to fill with money. We’re not just faces and trophies. We’re: hearts and souls.
Memory is quite important in the Islamic learning tradition, and honing skills of memory is often greatly beneficial to Islamic Studies students who also study Medicine, or Engineering, or otherwise.
“We don’t memorise for the sake of memorising.
“There’s a lot of liturgical benefit to memorising.”
First, we seek to memorise. And we follow this up with understanding.
“The third stage is then: how do you develop that?”
Dr Haroon says that if a man has a good wife, then he has “everything“. He and his wife, who is a dentist, travelled the world for a while. She trusted him, it strongly seems, with his decision to leave his ‘comfortable’, well-paid, job. The couple wanted to go to Syria. But then: the war broke out.
Allah presented a good opportunity to Dr H: a paid-for PhD. A ‘Jameel Scholarship’, which he had completed in 2019, at Cardiff University.
*We want to, and for our children to, really excel. Holistically. And also: not in a way that ‘hollows them out from the inside’. A good attitude of holism would include: prayer, and health. And rest.
Our human relationships are also of high, high importance. Irreplaceable, and we cannot do without them.
*We are interrupted, here, because I just want to say that I love my masjid, the Cambridge Central Mosque. I love that place: what a blessing, AlHamduliLlah.
Suḥbah: companionship. Being with Ulama and pious people. You can’t learn this from books, or from watching YouTube videos.
“I’m less of a believer in online education; I’m more of a believer in on-site education.”
“We need to raise the game, in terms of our scholarship.”
“We need scholars who are intellectually robust, [and] pastorally compassionate, as well.”
To this end, sometimes, when Dr Haroon receives a religious question, he will pass the question on, and refer the one who’s asking, to his sister, who is a learned Muslim woman, Maa Shaa Allah. Human connections are important, and sometimes, for example: it would be better for a woman to take on the role of assisting and supporting a fellow Muslim woman.
Everything has a correct place.
And Wisdom is about putting/keeping things in their rightful places.
Language is meant to be careful, considered.
Being intentional, with speaking, and with writing.
Our elders are/were “people of their time.”
“We are living in the now, and we need to focus on the now.”
Where has God Placed you? In which time, and in which places?
This is all Divinely Intentional!
*In terms of Madrasah education: we want to build on the legacies of those who had come before us: we seek to do the best, based on the circumstances we find ourselves in now.
Following the Prophetic Paradigm: consider the society around Muhammad (S A W), pre-Revelation. But Muhammad (S A W) did better. He would perceive and forgive degenerateness and immorality. He was honest, and beautiful in character and in conduct. He was, to use that saying: ‘the better person’. Just: in whom he (S A W) had been.
What we’re going to do, is: be Muslim. Be us.
Organic Milk and dat.
On Friday, we found glass bottles of organic milk at our college (CMC: the Cambridge Muslim College. An institution of Islamic learning and thinking in England).
I: had a sealable sandwich bag, a reusable one, with porridge sachets in it. I had breakfast at college, with some honey.
*For two days thus far, I’ve been: putting my things in a gym bag I have. Wearing trainers. And walking, sort of speed-walking to the college. I sometimes have a racing mind, head filled with thoughts, which can branch out. Perhaps diagnosable as ‘ADHD’ in modern terms, but I do love my energetic brain. AlHamduliLlah.
Anyway. I think that something that helps, certainly, with having a racing engine mind is: out-walking it. Walking faster than your thoughts. I think it helps with focus in my classes, AlHamduliLlah: more mental… clearness.
[I would also like to thank my friend, Dr Iqra, for inspiring me with my fitness journey. She eats vegetables, like raw spinach, as snacks, Maa Shaa Allah!]
“We sell ourselves short [sometimes].” We can do far better; we have Allah with us.
Don’t place unhelpful limits on yourself, and on our places in the world. On our institutions, and on what is possible. It’s Allah’s Universe, and here we are, living in it.
How will we reach people’s hearts?
And their minds?
What does an ‘education’ that is good for the soul look like?
Getting out of your comfort zone.
More things picked up during Dr Haroon’s talk:
Beyond ‘theory’: it is necessarily experience that will challenge and change you. And ultimately and maybe even without you distinctively noticing it: it will better, and develop you.
*We have to be acquainted with communities.
Islam fits into the world, and with communities, quite organically. It’s beautiful.
Complete, constant ‘happiness’ is not possible in this Dunya, this abode of tests and trials.
Yet we seek to be ‘happy’ to the extent that we can be so, here. Before we go to Jannah.
What actually is human flourishing?
We cannot achieve this state if we are cut off from the source.
*When I’d first started teaching at the CCM Madrasah, a fellow CMC student and CCM colleague advised that I:
Ensure that the children are happy there. And that had been his main piece of advice for me as a teacher.
It makes perfect and complete sense: our memories are attached to… our emotions. Moreover: in ‘education’, we are teaching children… what is important. And that they are happy is no doubt at all: important.
In response to a question asked by someone, Dr H advises that, in order to develop a good study ethic:
Develop and have an “inquisitive mind.” And a critical one.
Have a good ‘work ethic’, and a good play one!
- Write notes, develop your thoughts. Explore. And try to deepen your knowledge, and also abstract what you know.
It’s not ‘just to pass an exam’. The ‘exam’, actually, is life, friends. Finally:
Focus. You don’t have to ‘do everything’, engage in every Twitter war, and so on.
A couple of days ago, Thursday: I felt happy. My day wasn’t ‘Perfect’ in the Jannah sense, but it was certainly… happy. AlHamduliLlah.
I: speed-walked to college. History then Law then Theology. I’d felt sleepy (post-lunch sleepiness) in that last lesson of the day, but perked up when something interested me.
*That’s one thing about ‘diagnoses of ADHD’. I don’t want to ‘lose’ the fact that I can fully engage with things when they feel particularly interesting to me. Ya know?
Anyway. We had a new tenant come round to view the house: she’s going to move in soon, In Shaa Allah. A sister who’d accepted Islam in 2011.
I also, that day, taught one of my GCSE students. His mum wanted for us to focus on Religious Studies, so we did. We learned more about Christianity. Which is rather similar to Islam, in several ways, of course. But we believe that the fundamental theology that Isa (Peace be upon him) had come to the world with… was changed, by some of his ‘followers’.
After 1.5 hours of tutoring: I was hungry.
Shirley, one of my housemates, wanted to order herself some takeaway. From a Halāl restaurant. But: there was a minimum payment thing of £12.
This was: an opportunity, and we do love those. Positive surprises, and good opportunities: I love them both.
Sasha, Shirley, and I had takeaway that evening. Transferred Shirley back. Ate good. AlHamduliLlah.
This reminder was quite significant to me: I’d come across it on Thursday.
A post-lunch discussion had been taking place at one of the tables in the refectory (i.e. lunch room). Headed by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad.
Dr Talal, CMC’s academic director, very kindly gave up his space and brought up two chairs for myself and my friend A’iyshah to sit at the table. A fascinating discussion, AlHamduliLlah. About the modern world, and our place, as Muslims, here within it.
Our objective is, always: to be conservational. Of Truth, of the beauty of what we have, our tradition.
And conversational. With the world around us; with communities; with how things change, and happen, and with technologies.
Yesterday, after college (Logic class, which is challenging, and also quite beneficial in how it helps us with thinking) and after the talk from Dr Haroon… And after teaching at CCM (where one of my students, Yahya: his mother and little brother Amin had been in the room with us! Amin is soooo cute, Maa Shaa Allah. He showed me one of his toys, and then handed me two of his little cars, bless him). My parents picked me up (after my dad sort of jokingly implied on the phone that he’d forgotten to come and collect me from Cambridge, as per our plan) and we ate out together.
My dad drove us back to London. Where, the next day, I would attend my brother’s match. Their team won, AlHamduliLlah! I accidentally got really invested in this game, as I do with my brother’s matches. I was shouting.
“Come on Saif!!!!!!”
“Come on Lennon! Come on Jibreel!”
“You’ve got it!!!!!”
I had my brother’s friend’s mum for company today. Aryan’s mum. Aryan and Saif had attended the same pre-school together; they were friends. And then they’d reunited and become friends again at this football club. And nobody knew, until Aryan’s mum recognised my dad. And my mum. And even me, from back then. She realised that Saif is the same toddler Saif that her son had been at pre-school with. And then, some five or so years on: there they were, good friends again, Maa Shaa Allah. God’s Will, God’s Plan.
May Allah bless their friendship, always.
*Saif’s team won 2-0 today. First goal scored by Aryan, and second goal scored by Saif. Maa Shaa Allah <3. We love to see it, we really do.
One of the boys from the opposing team swore at my brother at one point. My brother says:
“And then we won. Instant karma.“