Month June

  • The breathtaking glories of the Alhambra

    My fans amongst you may be wondering about my recent silence – I´ve nipped over for a few days to Granada in Spain to catch a glimpse of the Alhambra, a place that has been on my to-visit list for quite some time. I studiend Spanish at school and was at one time in my youth, fairly fluent. Both the language and the history of spain and its interconnections to the Muslim world mesmerised me. And so in the last few days I have found myself retracing some of the glories of Europe and of the Muslim world. It can only be a result of both that amazing creations like the Alhambra have come into being and stayed in existence.

    Granada and Cordoba and the Alpujarras, all of which we have visited over the last few days have been fascinating and full of ironies, more of which in coming blogposts.

    If you have comments about your own visits here, please post them up and share your thoughts…

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  • Uncertainty leads to dogma

    Yesterday evening I was invited to a dinner hosted by the Muslim Council of Britain in honour of Ebrahim Rasool the Premier of the Western Cape Province in South Africa. Wondering how I had blagged such an invitation, I was politely reminded that I have a very readable blog, and perhaps I might care to mention it?

    Ebrahim Rasool is a very engaging chap. He has great oratory skills which combine an elegance of language with insightful wisdom. He spoke about the challenges the Muslim community has faced over the years in South Africa. The community there has been an integral part of the changes through apartheid. He himself was thrown into prison during that time, including a year and a half in solitary confinement, just him and a copy of the Qur’an. He calls that time a ‘crucible’, where you can be proactive, or you can be defensive. He sees many of the situations Muslims face today in the same way. He says Muslims should pray less for ‘ease’ and pray more for God to ‘broaden their shoulders’ so that they can go through this ‘crucible’ and come out stronger and better.

    He discussed a vast array of ideas, but two of them caught my attention. The first was the concept of consistency. Muslims should be consistent in their demands for minority rights. They need to support protections and requests by minorities, not just their own. Further he said, Muslims should grant the same rights to minorities when they are in power as the majority, as they demand for themselves when they are a powerless majority.

    His second point drew from his own experiences in South Africa with regards to the ulema. He explained that whenever there was an issue of importance to the Muslim community, the scholars would make a point of leading the debate or protest, whatever it might be. When the ulema do not do so, a vacuum is created for the extremists to step in. In addition, he felt that those who criticised excessively the scholars did not realise that they were taking away a crutch which society depended on, leaving many individuals bewildered and lost. You cannot take away a crutch without replacing it with something else. The critics did not fill the gap with anything else causing a vacuum, and vacuums he repeated often lead to uncertainty, and uncertainty leads to dogma and extremism. If there is something amiss with the scholars and you can’t replace them then reform is the next choice.

    It was good to hear someone offering positive criticism to the muslims in the UK, based on real experience and practice.

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