Saturday, 9 July 2011

Professor Tariq Ramadan on Vision and Leadership

Professor Tariq Ramadan on
Vision and Leadership

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Come with understanding, with confidence, independence, critical thinking; serve yourself on the spiritual dimension and your community in the collective dimension, and then try to come with the sense of what are our priorities, said Professor Tariq Ramadan in his keynote speech at the Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) LDP Alumni Dinner, held at the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, London, on Saturday, 25th June, 2011.

Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies, at the Oxford University (St. Anthony College) and also teaches at the Oxford Faculty of Theology. He is visiting Professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, Qatar, Mundiapolis University (Morocco) and Senior Research Fellow at Doshisha University (Kyata, Japan). His latest books are The Quest for Meaning, Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism, Penguin, 2010; What I Believe, OUP, USA, 2009. .

To be rooted in our Islamic tradition
Professor Ramadan believed that there is no doubt that we have to be rooted in our Islamic tradition but we should be open. He said, “We should be open to all the other contributions that are coming from other traditions, religious traditions, Christian, Jewish traditions. But not only that, there are so many other philosophical traditions and even now people who are specialising and managing giving us something helping us better understanding of our scriptural sources or our traditions.”

“So it is to know where you come from and with whom you are living and what you are sharing. It does not mean that you are forgetting your principles but your principles are not closed principles,” emphasized Professor Ramadan.

Leadership: independence and autonomy
Speaking about leader and leadership from the Islamic point of view, Professor Ramadan said, “When it comes to being a leader and leadership it is the understanding of independence and autonomy which linked back to Islamic tradition is very important. You are teaching your kids to be educated; you are teaching yourselves because one day you are going to stand before God as an individual. I am educating my son, my daughter because at one point they will be alone before God. It means you have to face your responsibility. At some point leadership is all about this. It is to get the sense of what it means to be independent and autonomous. That one day we have to respond to the call; ‘O You who believe; It is a call to your conscience; it is a call to your intelligence; it is a call to your heart.”

Mature, independent, autonomous
“The whole philosophy before God you should be mature, independent autonomous; leadership is about that. Why the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the leader? He was leader; because if you look at all the companions; all the companions were leaders following the leader; that means who are following you I will know what kind of teacher you are. Without intellectual autonomy you are not the teacher. This is the meaning of Islam from the very beginning. That is why, we are respecting the companions; they are autonomous; deeply intellectual; intellectually autonomous. So they can think themselves. This is the first dimension.”

You are at home
“When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was rejected by his own people, and this happened with all the prophets, messengers sent before him, the point is whatever you say about me you are my people,” Professor Ramadan said and added, “The populist, the far- rightists, the Islamophobes, whatever they say about you, you are at home. You can’t come with positive contribution if you nurture in your hearts ‘us’ verses ‘them’. You can’t; because, psychologically speaking, there is a dichotomy between your contribution and the vision.”

Tension between our values and this society
This is possible from education and understanding. “There is three dimensions, at home is my autonomy, my contribution at home here with my people. But this is not easy,” said, Professor Ramadan and added, “It’s very difficult because everyday we are facing this tension between our values and this society. So this is the starting point of understanding. That’s the beginning of the journey but it is necessary to have it here to get your mind clear and your understanding clear on the dimension.”

Professor Ramadan asked, “If you are training leaders, my first question will be: tell me about your autonomy. What do you want to contribute? In which way do you want to gift? The leader is the gift. At the end, what is your connection with the society? Who is this you are talking about? Which way you are connected with the society? Not only your neighbour, everywhere.”

The more visible you are the
more problematic you are
“You cannot rely on TV on Radio; you are not going to make it. You have to rely on the community,” said Professor Ramadan and mentioned, “This is why many of the populist are very very worried about your presence. The more visible you are the more problematic you are. Because this new visibility is changing the mind, changing the hearts and this is the way forward but not the way narrow understanding of what Islam is in our tradition. I am coming from somewhere but I am sharing values what you are saying. We have shared values but we are coming from somewhere. We have a moral distinction. But it does not mean that our moral distinction is the only distinction within our community.”

“There are many distinctions. I have seen many Christians, many Rabbis, they are better than Muslims. We think, as Muslims, Islam is the best and the last revealed religion,” said Professor Ramadan and added, “It does not mean the Muslims are the best practiser or believer. This sense of humility is so important. You get that when you start to study, when you get to interact with people; you suspend your judgement. You can take the positive from everyone.”

Use quality at right place and at right time
Speaking about the character and quality of the leader, Professor Ramadan mentioned, “The leader is not only the one who gives but also the one who is able to listen, to get from the community. One of the dimensions of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) leadership is to take the qualities from everyone at the right place and at the right time. When he needed someone to be tough, Omar was important; someone to be open and sensitive to the people, Abu Bakr Siddiq was important. So you use the quality at the right place at the right time for the right people. The Prophet was choosing the people depending on the quality. So you knew the context and you knew the people.”

Vision for the future
Professor Ramadan continued, “Leader is someone who serves. If you lead, you serve. If you get the knowledge you have to use this knowledge to help the people who don’t have this knowledge.”

Intimate verses collective dimension
After the quality of service come the priorities. “When leader is asked to serve you have the intimate dimension and the collective dimension. In the intimate dimension the first that you have to serve is to yourself. This is why when you start with the dua what we got from the Prophet (peace be upon him) if you are asking God you ask for yourself first and then for others. You start from you, because you be careful. If you start from the community, it might be that to serve the people you lose yourself. You are so much involved into activities that you are forgetting your own heart. That is why we have to get it right from the very beginning,” he said. .

Professor Ramadan continued, “On the spiritual side you start from yourself and you ask Allah to have this sound heart; to help you to purify your heart; to help you; that Allah the Almighty is helping you; not because you are Islamically active that you are spiritually right; anyone of us knows that; it is not that you are active, you are spiritually right. You can forget yourself; you can be neglectful on many dimensions.”

Purification of hearts
Professor Ramadan kept on repeating one Hadith where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said; you pray during the night and change world during the day. “But you don’t change the world during the day if you forget sometimes during the night. You cannot get it all. Because if you want to change the world during the day and if you don’t have on your side Allah. It’s metaphor. During the night to isolate yourself, to think about yourself; about your own priorities. Because our leadership is not only of our efficiency; it is about ethics, about purification; purification of your nafs; starts with yourself.”

Active Muslim and agitator Muslim
Professor Ramadan made a distinction between active Muslim and agitator Muslim. “Active Muslims know where they are going. Agitator Muslims are not sure; they are doing so many things that they are forgetting the vision; agitated Muslims are people who lost the central and who are lost the way of direction. Active Muslims have a vision; .and this is independency and autonomy; that we get there; that you are confident; and it is on going struggle; no one reach that level; this is Jihad and Jihad started at that level,” Professor Ramadan said.

Autonomy, contribution and my people
After mentioning three dimensions, autonomy, contribution and my people, Professor Ramadan said, “My people are the people where I live. Even if you look at the way Zakat should be spent, the people around you.” Professor Ramadan argued, “The poor people one day before God will ask you what about us; we were close to you. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said your poor people; and you have poor people here. Muslims are very poor; and they need your support. The Rules are proximity first and then you think about other dimension.”

Muslim community in Britain
Talking about serving the Muslim community in Britain, Professor Ramadan enquired how we are going to serve this community here in Britain. He said, “The starting point of serving your people is to know them; and to know them is to know two things; two knowledge: the priority of Islamic knowledge we need this of course; because there is something which is specific from our religion and also this country and this country means that you need to get very deep understanding from within.”

Be specialist
Professor Ramadan argued, “We need people in different field comprehensive vision but with skills, specialist. Don’t be superficial in all the fields; choose your field and go ahead with your field. You want to work for education; yes, be specialist, the skills that are needed at the highest level.”

In the Q. & A. session, Professor Ramadan touched specially on multiculturalism and integration. About multiculturalism, Professor Ramadan said, “The populist is doing this. And they have four features: one, the simplicistic answers to complex questions; second, the creation of the others; and the others today are the Muslims and so we are the others. Islam is not the European religion; it cannot be an American religion; they are the others. So the sense of victimhood, we are the victims of their colonisation; they are colonising us. So nurturing the victim mentality,” said Professor Ramadan and added, “This is emotional politics.”

Professor Ramadan was saying again and again integration is over. Professor Ramadan argued, “This is the contribution; it is the European British religion that we are at home; this is positive position. This is to say I am repeating this everyday; integration words are over; and the success of integration is to stop talking about integration. Go ahead now with what we are saying, but don’t be on the reactive mode; on the defensive mode. Know something, what they are saying at the national level, they are not what they are saying at the local level.”

“At the local level they know it is working and are going much better than what they are seeing in London. Something is happening at the grass-root level. So let them talk and do the job. But don’t waste your time responding. Sometimes the answer to this is silence.” advised Professor Ramadan.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Be a good example and convey the Message

Be a good example and convey the Message
Dr. al-Shiddy at London Central Mosque

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Be a good example, be active, and convey the message, invite others to this exhibition, said Dr. Adil al-Shiddy, President of the Global Commission for Introducing the Messenger, in his Friday Khutbah. (Sermon), at the London Central Mosque, Regents Park, on Friday, the 17th of June 2011.

The Prophet – best example for all Muslims
“Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the best example for all Muslims We cannot find better than the Prophet (peace be upon him). He is the person who was caring for Muslims. Allah the Almighty said, ‘We did not send you but a mercy for human beings.’ Therefore, he is caring, patient, loving for the people,” said Dr. al-Shiddy in his Friday sermon and added, “Therefore; we should listen to his advice, to his consultancy.”

Character and Akhlaq of the Prophet
Dr. al-Shiddy in his Friday sermon spoke about the character and Akhlaq of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He said, “The Akhlaq and character of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is mercy, justice and being humble.” The khateeb advised Muslims to “follow those characters, apply them and implement them in our lives. Because of those characters there was good relationship between him and all the people in general and non-Muslim in particular. The Prophet loves people, stays with people. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The best men are those who give good and care for others, especially the non-Muslim.”

Dealing with non-Muslim
How to deal with the non-Muslim? The khateeb mentioned about the way Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to deal with non-Muslim. He said, “Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a good example to deal with non-Muslims. He was doing dialogue, debating, inviting them to his message - Islam. There are four levels: The first level is: knowing others; the second level is: acquainting with them; the third level is: cooperation and the fourth level is: taking and making allies with them; as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did in his life.”

While mentioning about the fourth level which is taking allies and making allies for the service of Islam, Dr. al-Shiddy said that even before Islam, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) attended and entered into covenant for the sake of the oppressed people. He was mentioning about the covenant Half-al-Fadul which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made with the disbelievers of Makkah for peace and security in Makkah before the advent of Islam. Dr. al-Shiddy said, “Before Islam, he attended and entered into covenant for the protection of the non-Muslim, the people of Quraish, to support the oppressed. This covenant was a just one and ‘I wish to witness some covenant or treaty like this after Islam,’ the Prophet (peace be upon him) said.”

The khateeb mentioned a verse from the Qur’an where Allah the Almighty said, ‘We created you from male and female to get to know each other.’ As an example or evidence for knowing each other. After quoting the above verse from the Qur’an, Dr. al-Shiddy said, “Cooperate and acquaintance with them; knowing others, not harming others, especially those who do not harm you,” said Dr. al-Shiddy.

Convey the message of the Prophet (pbuh)
The khateeb mentioned something about command from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The first command is to take the command; to convey his message. This is the responsibility for us to convey his message. This is a command for us. And it is the responsibility that we should shoulder.”

Dr. al-Shiddy then mentioned the second thing is honour, the honourable command; it is from the Prophet (peace be upon him); as command, to honourable command. The third thing or the other thing is being patient, being humble, and giving it and making it easier for us. It is not the whole religion; even though just for one time; it is not the whole religion but it is just making easier for us.”

While mentioning about the command of conveying the message of the Prophet (peace be upon him), the khateeb reminded Muslims about their forefathers. Dr. al-Shiddy said, “Our role is to giving the message as our forefathers take the religion, Islam, to the different parts of the world and now it is our turn to take the message of Islam forward.”

Be optimist
In the second part of the Sermon, the khateeb talked about the importance of Deen (religion). Dr. al-Shiddy said in his Friday sermon, “Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) all through his life was very optimistic, especially at the time of hardship and adversity; and also at the time of some of the battles when the enemies surrounding him; he was very optimist.” The khateeb mentioned the battle of the Trench as an example and said, “the consequences are all only for the pious people.”

Be confident
The khateeb admitted that the conditions of Muslims sometimes make us pessimist but he advised, “Be confident; the future is for this deen, for this religion, Islam. The future is everywhere for this deen as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in one of his Traditions (Hadith), ‘people who are inhibited, disheartened, disappointed, and are pessimistic; they must not build any honour. Those despair, losing hope, are the character of pessimist, the disbelievers.”

Be proud of your deen, religion
Dr. al-Shiddy also mentioned, “Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was very optimistic. This is the message should be given to the youth to be confident; to be proud of their deen of their religion, Islam. We need to give confidence, pride of our deen, of our religion, Islam, to our youth.”

We should be a good example for others
Referring to those people who are engaged in preaching in the West, the khateeb said to them to be very active and follow the example of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Dr. al-Shiddy said, “All the Muslims you are here, particularly the preachers in the west, to convey the message of Islam to the others; to be very active. Take the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as an example and the followers and the companions when they conveyed the deen everywhere.”

“Look at the graves of the companions. They are not in Makkah and Madina, but everywhere, in Turkey, in Asia, and in Africa. To take example of those companions, for the Tabligh, convey the message everywhere;” said the khateeb and maintained, “We should be an example, a good example for others; One thing, if you cannot convey, at least you apply Islam on yourselves.”

The khateeb also said, “It is a chance for us to be a good dayee by applying the character and akhlaq of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in our behaviour.”

The khateeb also said, “Lots of Muslim organisations pay a lot of efforts, time and money for many projects. But the best thing is you. Do a good example; others will look at you as a Muslim and consequently they will follow the teachings of Islam.”

In this Islamic Cultural Centre, mentioned Dr. al-Shiddy in his Friday Sermon, there is an exhibition on the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and it is a chance, he said, “for you to invite friends, neighbours for this exhibition, as it is an example of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).”

“Be a good example, be active, convey the message, invite others to this exhibition,” said Dr. al-Shiddy.

The khateeb concluded his Sermon by making supplication “praying for the Muslims everywhere, to protect them, Muslims here and some Arab troubled areas, and prayed to Allah the Almighty to protect them and stop the bloodshed in some places such as Syria, Libya, Yemen and other places.”

Exhibition Islam
Exhibition Islam was officially opened the doors to its permanent exhibition gallery in Central London. The opening ceremony for the exhibition gallery titled ‘Muhammad- A Mercy to Mankind’ was hosted on Thursday 16th June and was attended by over 150 prominent members of major faith and community groups from across the UK.

The Exhibition Islam team was congratulated at the launch of this three-year project to design and build a ground breaking permanent exhibition in the UK. Exhibition Islam was also praised for its continued efforts to provide the British Muslim community with a unique service that has been instrumental in changing perceptions of Islam and Muslims in the wider society and has benefited community relations nationwide, according to the press release of Exhibition Islam.

Lord Sheikh
About this Islam Exhibition, Lord Sheikh said, “The exhibition will convey the true message of Islam and will enable the visitors to have a better understanding of our glorious religion.”

“I am sure that you will agree that sometimes difficulties arise between communities as they do not have understanding of each other’s religion and the exhibition will certainly help in dispelling misconceptions and hence will assist in the promotion of a better understanding of Islam,” wrote Lord Sheikh and added, “A great deal of effort has been expended in preparation of the exhibits and these will certainly have impact in creation of good knowledge of Islam.”

The Islam Exhibition is a marvellous idea and a great opportunity for everyone to go to the Islamic Cultural Centre, London and visit the exhibition with friends, families and neighbours, both Muslims and non-Muslims, for having a better understanding and knowledge about the life of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as well as the Message of this glorious religion, Islam.

Speaking at the opening, Shahid Munir, Director of Research at Exhibition Islam stated: “This permanent exhibition serves many of these purposes in allowing the wider community to come together at this wonderful location in the heart of London. We hope that this permanent exhibition itself becomes a beacon from which wider initiatives can be launched to aid society in understanding the true message of Islam. It is little known that Muslims had interaction with the United Kingdom and Ireland over 1,300 years ago. Muslims have lived, ruled and contributed to Europe for over 1,400 years, helping to advance sciences and aid wider society.”

In this connection, I would like to advise people to contact Islamic Cultural Centre, London, about the opening hours of the Islam Exhibition before they plan to visit the exhibition.