Thursday, December 27, 2012

RIS 2012 Notes

RIS : Reviving Islamic Spirit site here

I didn't attend all talks or stayed attentive in all of them, but here are some of the notes.

12/21/12



Tariq Ramadan 

(not sure what his speech is entitled, I came in about halfway)

Points:

1. Check our intentions. Do we want to remove power to gain power or because we truly believe in restoring justice ?

2. Stop being emotional and be aware of complexities, in reference to the Arab Spring and Palestine.

3. We have an intellectual role to play by:

-Understanding the situation by reading from reliable sources so that we are informed and equipped. eg: There is no social justice without education, without educating women, it is not the head scarfs that causes social injustice.

-As a democratic country, we have to be democratic in our own country and as well as in dealing with other countries as well. If we stand for democracy and liberty, than we can't just sit around while in other countries injustice is rife, eg Palestine.

(note: I'm loosely using we. It does not refer to any specific group, or in this case, it might refer to the Canadians/Americans/Westerners, well, however you deem fit to see it).

-Contribute not by going to war but to equip self with education




Ustad Moez Masoud 

Points:

1. Sometimes in your concern with struggling against injustice, you forget the adab in Islam. Name-calling, jeering, insulting against perpetrators of injustice is unIslamic.

2. Allah sends sakinah into the hearts of believers to increase their faith. This sakinah is serenity. When one has sakinah, one is open-minded and open-hearted to manifest change.

3. When you view the world at the vantage point of akhirah, it will help to manifest change.

4. Other than sakinah, one also needs yaqin. Allah will not change the world without muqinuun.

5. The syaitan is known as Al-Gharur, the deceiver. Let not life of this world deceive you and the deceiver deceive you.

6. Three important questions in life:

- Where did I come from?
-Do I have a purpose?
-Where do I go after I die?

7. Parallels between the story of King Odysseus and the Lotus Eaters and Imam Al-Ghazali's categorization of people.

The 4 categories:

-One who gets things done, enjoys what he does and finds a good seat (referring to the King Odysseus story as an analogy where the king and his men land on an island and the king sends them off to find supplies on the island and return to the boat. Good seat refers to the seat on the boat or ship, or whatever)
- One who gets things done, made it back just in time because he enjoyed too much, but didn't get a very good seat.
-One who is distracted, barely made it back and insisted to carry many things so he gets not a good seat and is burdened
-the lotus eater. never made it back and forgot his purpose. Two types: one who denies there was a mission and another who was aware of the mission but refused to return.

8. Religion of None is growing due to the actions of misguided religious people.

9. Syaitan's dream is not of atheism, but of false religion, because it easily leads to atheism.

10. Quoting C.S. Lewis's Screwtape to Wormwood: "The connection between religion and politics. Our position is more delicate. We don't want men to allow religion to flow in their life. We don't want religiosity in political people. We only want religion to become a means for him to move up.It is easy to trick humans into doing things in outer forms." eg. by making Islam as a means to social justice not to God, so that something appears to be Islamic, but the aim is misguided, it does not lead one to God. Islam becomes an ideology as a reaction to modernity, instead of believing in Islam because of it's truth. God doesn't want to be the means to an end. HE is the ends Himself. Believe in God because of yaqin. Not because of anything else.

references: surah fath, surah sajdah, not sure which verses.




Habib Ali al-Jifri

What The World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love

"One does not truly believe until what he loves for others is what he loves for himself." -hadith, I can't remember the citation for this, but this one is legit.

1. This hadith begins with a negation similar to the testimony of faith. Why is this so? Because it affirms the absolute reality of the importance of unity, similar to the absolute reality of the oneness of God.

2. Can we truly believe in Allah if we don't love Allah ?

3. One way to love God is to know God or to reflect on the manifestation of beauty of God in His creations.

4. When the heart is attached to Allah, the veil from the delusions of the heart is lifted.

5. Three things a person experiences when he has found the sweetness of faith:
- loved by Allah and the prophet
-love another person for none other than Allah
-hates to return to disbelief

6. Love is connected to taste, experience.

7. The glory of God is not veiled. Al-Zahir - the manifest, Al-Batin - the inward and concealed.

8. The veil is that which between the heart and God.

9. God is closer to us than our jugular vein. "If you are truly genuine in your search for Me, then I am near." When you ask where is God ? or if you search for him, you look into your own question, what made you ask that question in the first place ? Search for God not in the surroundings, but in your heart.

10. God is too glorious to be contained in space and time. Nothing surrounds God.

11. The "veil" is actually our ego, me, myself, etc. (reminiscent of Buddhist teachings of anatta ? I think)

12. The way to live the veil is to not be obsessed with the self, and not to transgress bounds, hence the hadith says until you learn to "love" other people for what you love for yourself, you will not (lift veil -> know God -> love God) believe.

13. If you say "I love a pious neighbor because he is pious" is conditional, it is deficient and an illness has befallen fitrah. This love should be unconditional to any human being even if it is to the person you hate. Christianity teaches love thy enemy. This ability to love is a test. You have to acknowledge this as a challenge that requires strength. Ironically, discussions of love is perceived as a weakness in discussing Islam. One must also know how to control his anger. If you can overcome your ego, at this point, you will know God, because you have exposed to yourself the reality of your soul.

14. When you know how to love someone unconditionally, you will perceive the meaning of how God love His creations. It is unconditional. He loves you for no reason. He doesn't have to create you, and yet He does, and He loves you as your are. Yet we are always conditional when it comes to loving God, eg. "I will only love Him (believe in Him) if you can prove He exists, and He is good." However, the human ability to love God is conditional, and that condition is to know yourself and lift the veil of ignorance.

15. (He mentions something about the "other". Quite reminiscent of Paolo Coelho's novels about overcoming the "other".) The Other is the false inclination of the ego. eg "I am doing this for recognition, not for God." or perceiving people as "other", con-notating something alien and unfamiliar.

"I am a pearl deep in the ocean, and I want my beauty to be known."





Mufti Mustafa Ceric
In The Absence of Caliphs and Pluralistic Societies

1. There is difference between faith, morality and religion.

2. Every human being is born with the ability of trust of faith. (He relates it to Freud's id as something inherent).

3. When we say syahadah, we are merely repeating what we already know in our souls.

4. Being religious doesn't mean you are moral. Morality is something that is deep in your mind or soul to differentiate right and wrong. Is it subjective or objective? (I don't remember what he said about this or he left it as an open question)

5. Religion is not necessarily faith or morality. It is organized theology. It is a human construct.

6. The three foundations of Islam:
-syahadah : personal confession of faith (asy-hadu not nasy-hadu)
-syariah: community that is based on morality. NOT necessarily hudud.
-khilafah : civil society

7. The more we only speak of Islam, the less Islam we have in our lives. You are not a defender of Islam, but Islam defends you.

8. The challenge is to build a just society.

9. There are 12 civilisations, 7 are deadm 5 are living: India, Japan, China, West, Islam, and only Islam is attributed to religion.

10. Four things you need to know how to do:
-Turn slavery to freedom
-Turn mythology to science
-Turn might to right
-Turn theory of state to legitimacy of state, and this is the big challenge

references: ayyuhal walad Imam al-Ghazali




Tariq Ramadan
same topic, he mentioned he had two points but wasn't clear on the headings.

1. Work in context, we need people who specialize in 11 fields, eg: psychology, science, philosophy etc

2. We need right questions for the scholars and students for the scholars.

3. The problem in our society is we avoid talking about power and this usually leads to the misunderstanding of the dimensions of power. Power is reduced to only the notion of political power.

4. The state is not an ends, it is a means the same way spiritual power is not an end, it is a means to be closer to God.

5. There is a crisis of authority when dealing with religious resources.

6. Avoid reducing power to just a political structure. Eg. Not reducing Salafiyah to literalism. The Salafus-soleh are people who were open-minded to challenges, were not literal to the text. They are faithful to the text, but are courageous to the world.

7. When someone says democracy is not part of Islam, it is a narrow understanding of Islam. It is a superficial reduction of the text, because the text needs to be read in context.

8. In surah al-Alaq, God commands the prophet to read. This means knowing God and knowing what is being sent to him. Then God commands him to go to his people to tell them of the message. God has given the prophet the power to do so, the power to resist people to attack him and the power to be strong so he wouldn't go astray.

9. Understanding the Quran and implementing it faithfully is power. When you approach people with truth, they understand your power.

10. You have to understand where power comes from in order to wield it.

11. When a mosque built, it is so that people know what is the center, or the direction. It is a visible sign of your faith, a visible dimension of spiritual power. You assess the dimensions of a mosque by its activity.

12. Your faith is your power, but it has to be positively visible.

13. Other dimensions of power is culture, language and creativity. Intellect.

14. Next is economic power. Don't enter the world of economy with an obsession. You want to promote profit with ethics, not just to be as good as other people, but you want your trade to be legitimate.

15. Ask yourself if you are an added ethical value as a means to an end in your religion ?

16. In the absence of a figure of central power, the khalifah, we have to get it right when it comes to power. Instead of dreaming of a caliph, we have to take on all dimensions of power. It is not about idolizing the past. The history of Islam is the history of mankind, not angels. Models are historical, principles are universal. (that's his famous catchphrase)

17. The power of counter-power (from his new book).

18. We need to give power to women at all levels, and more female scholars. You can't have males talk about female realities.

19. Don't let people define words for you. Definitions come from the dominant. Use the correct definitions and be clear about objectives.



Self-reflection/comments:

I didn't take notes last year, but this year I did, well, at least for some of it. It's kinda sad Hamza Yusuf isn't here this year, he was one of my favorite speakers, his speeches are always jam-packed with economic concepts and political theories. It's a very practical application of religious principles and concepts.

When I first came to RIS last year, I was so excited over Tariq Ramadan, star-struck even, but this year I felt that his speeches were less structured because he didn't sign-post his headings well. I just realized the points in his speeches were practically similar, but still relevant, all the same, especially about the intellectual roles we have to play as well as the dimensions of power.

There was also another speaker named Amr Khaled, but I felt really sad because I can't understand Arabic, he spoke in Arabic with subtitles but the subtitles were not up to speed with what he said and some of the humor in his statements were lost in translation.

What I find compelling from Habib Ali's speech on the first day is the statement that only when you are able to love other people unconditionally, you come to realize the depth and unconditionality of God's love for you. That made me a lil teary, I have to admit because I constantly ask myself how do I know how much I love God, or whether or not I actually do love Him. As human beings, it is kind of hard to try to love intangible things, but God, that transcends all things love us all the same despite our having that setback. And yet, despite being intangible, God is close. And I find it really interesting, here is a person who is most closely related to our prophet, and yet when he spoke of all those things about love, I can't help but find connections with what I learned in Buddhism, in Hinduism, in Judaism, in Christianity. This was the man that is most closely related by blood to the prophet but yet there he is, giving a universal speech, which shares so much similarity with teachings in other religions.

Mufti Mustafa Ceric was interesting. Being a prejudiced person that I am, at the word of mufti, I picture those local muftis that people worship their fatwas, but this guy mentioned a phrase "religion is a human construct", which would drive local mufti-obsessed people back home wild with rage, and insist that faith and religion is the same thing. So, this guy gets my hats off, because it made sense to me that there is a difference between faith, morality and religion, which would answer why people don't need religion to be moral.

Moez Masoud's style was cool and collected and it's very pleasant to listen to. I like that he gathers quotes and examples from a multitude of genres. His speeches were easy to follow. And his point about syaitan favoring false religion as compared to outright atheism is the most compelling and it serves as a reminder to constantly check our niat in practising our religion.

So, all in all, it was a good start. More posts to follow about the next two days of RIS.

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