To my Christian friends a very Happy greeting for a wonderful Christmas celebration. I hope you enjoy the time outside of the commercialization of the religious day and that it is good for you and your loved ones!
My day was spent partially with Al Maghrib Institute for Ilm Fest here in Southern California. I went there last minute and unfortunately could not stay for the whole event as I had a family obligation later on. But I am really glad I went for the portion of the event I was there for. The whole theme of the day long program was designed around Surah Al Muminun, specifically focused in on the first ten verses of the Surah. Shaykh Faqih introduced the program and shared with everyone the fact that the Surah was the basis for the program and that it offers Muslims the definition of “success” and a platform for attaining that success in a program that could be summed up into six major. Looking at the first ten versus I quickly saw how the whole program fits together because each subsequent session was focusing in on those specific components found in the Surah’s first ten versus.
Shaykh Usman Khan then provided a very beautiful recitation of the Quran along with reflection that I believe was worth mentioning here- How many believers of Allah are there? Its very philosophical question to ask, however, his explanation was more individual based in that one should be asking oneself- Do I truly believe in Allah? I believe he suggests that the answer to that question was to understand the difference between information and knowledge. He suggested folks today have lots of information and access to information, but knowledge and information are not comparable, in that knowledge is a process that ingrains itself into an individual and there is breadth and depth built into it through experience and process. Whereas information is sort of like memorizing statistical records of your favorite NBA players.
Then Dr. Abdul Hakim Quick took the stage to elaborate the 6 major areas but what was amazing about Dr. Quick was what he said about the industry of success. There are people out there making millions of dollars off of telling people how to succeed, and giving programs and how-to-guides on it. Dr. Quick shrugged it off saying that Muslims don’t need to pay money for this because Surah al-Muminun tells us precisely what success is and how to attain it. He said there are six categories or areas Muslim need to focus on to succeed, however, I only caught five during his speech but made the assumption the sixth category was within the first ten versus and have stuck it in below in my list:
- steadfastness in salah.
- Avoiding vain and frivolous talk.
- Giving Zakat- but this is actually more than just zakat (its the concept of giving to the poor)
- Keeping your chastity and modesty
- Keeping your trusts and promises
- Remain vigilant in Salah.
As you can see, Salaat is repeated twice, it starts the list and finishes the list. Amazing how that works, right? But what I quickly realized as we went into the next in-depth look at category 1 and 2 was that the list of categories is great, but its not just as straightforward as “doing” something. Salah is just not the “act”of praying. Like everything in Islam, or religion for that matter, things are not as simple as they seem.
Shaykh Qadhi went on for the last session, but in his talk I found that he hit it on the nail- its not a matter of finding a how-to-step-by-step-process that guarantees anything. Its a process of growth and continuous effort, as Muslims we have to focus on that aspect in order to attain success. But the kicker, according to what I heard of Shaykh Qadhi’s lecture, was that the word for “success” in Arabic is “najaaf”. But the first ten versus of the Surah don’t even have “najaaf” in them, but rather the word that translates into english as “success” is not actually translatable to English because no English word encompasses the immensity of what the Arabic word is trying to present. The Shaykh said that the simplest definition would be “attaining victorious success- in this life and the hereafter- through the striving of the person toward that state by the process”- roughly speaking, but don’t quote me because this is all written off of what I remember.
The event has its downs. I think like anything human, we won’t ever make things perfect and I had my own set of peculiarities that gave arise to my gripes. I would prefer having more time just listening to the “substance” then listening to the tangential stories or doing wake-me-up-activities because I was there for such a limited time and couldn’t stay for until the events conclusion at 11PM at night.
There were a whole bunch of other really nice things I learned like the fact that if you were to find out what the Prophet SAW was truly like there are a set of versus in the Quran that sum up his character according to Aisha RA, or that there is a Shaitan (little Devil) who is specifically named for distracting believers in prayer by reminding them about all the things they forgot about when they weren’t praying. I think there are so many gems you can walk away with and if you weren’t at IlmFest 2011 here in SoCal, you truly missed out!