Sunday, December 24, 2006

RIS 2006 Days 1 and 2

I am having too much fun at RIS.

First, there are the bloggers. I met a couple of bloggers I wanted to meet for some time now. And then, there were the blog readers.

Imagine if you will, me standing right outside the prayer hall, after the prayers, waiting for my friends. I being less religious of course had prayed faster, hence the reason I was waiting. And suddenly, from nowhere, this girl comes into the picture.

“Hey you are Mezba right? I read your blog! I LOVE that blog.” (And don’t worry, the next sentence was “So does my husband!”)

Repeat twice and all of this was already worth the $40 admission fee.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf was genuinely funny. He followed the rabbi (who was good but dragged a bit near the end). When talking about the level of corruption in Muslim countries, Yusuf said that most of the world’s top corrupt countries were Muslim countries. In fact, Nigeria and Pakistan constantly tussled for the position of the no. 1 corrupt country. He joked that Nigeria only won because they bribed Pakistan for it.

He also talked about how Muslims love conspiracy theories.

“We all learned that Humpty Dumpty fell from the wall and all the King’s Horses and Men tried to put him together, but they couldn’t. In the Muslim world, they believe Humpty didn’t fell, he was pushed. And all the King’s Horses and Men just pretended to try to put him together again.”

Then there was Dr Tariq Ramadan. You would have loved him Suroor! In fact, my commentator Mango Addict and I think he secretly reads your blog. He spoke about ALL the issues you blogged about for the last few days - women’s space in the mosque, the bad treatment towards converts, wives’ rights, minority rights, racism amongst Muslims, inferiority complex of non-Arab Muslims and the superior religious value placed on Arabic items, and so on. His best quote I liked was “We Muslims spend too much time idealizing the past and dreaming about the future, while doing nothing about the present.”

Dr Tareq Suwaidan the charismatic Kuwaiti sheikh was present too. He talked about how the Prophet was also an ordinary human being, and cited an example of where one his wives was so angry with him (her husband) that she did not speak to him from the morning to the evening, and refused to do what he asked her to do. I can so imagine Isheeta commenting here “wow even the prophets had issues with women!”

Then there was Robert Fisk (world famous war correspondent), Haroon Siddiqui (editor in chief of the Toronto Star), Dr Quick (a renowned scholar of Africa who spoke about Darfur) and so on. Some of the speakers do tend to get a bit long winded but over all it was a stellar line up.

Dr Quick’s speech on the first day of how Euro-centric our manipulation of history has become was specially interesting. He said Colombus could not have discovered America in 1492 as there were already people living here. It’s like, he explained, him landing in Toronto today and claiming “I discovered you.” It puts great emphasis on the Europeans as civilized beings and the achievements of the aboriginals as something not noteworthy. He said history records the Dark Ages, yet the light was not off in Asia, Arabia, Northern Africa, Spain during the Dark Ages, they had enlightenment.

So what did I learn from the first two days?

Well, first, some beautiful people read my blog (and their husbands).

Second, those bloggers I met are really nice and super cool people.

Third, ok, sunnah is really important, but what is important is not the ritualistic act but the message and spirit behind the act. For example, when the Prophet put on Yemeni suit for greeting a diplomat, it doesn’t mean a Muslim diplomat had to put on a Yemeni suit to greet a diplomat but rather the fact that the Prophet put on his smartest looking suit to greet foreign dignitaries that is important.

Fourth, and this was really humbling. Four of us decided to pray Isha earlier than the scheduled congregation time, so we could leave early. I became imam and led the prayer for three of my friends. When I finished saying the salam, I turned around and saw that over 50 people had joined our little jamaat.


Fifth, Union Station is really crazy at night. I overheard one girl say to another, “he is one sexy girl.”


Anonymous said...

You guys are so lucky. These scholars don't visit us here. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf came but I was on leave and all my students fell for him, astagfirallah! When I returned they gave me taped videos and audios of his lectures and his photos. I think he is genuinely interested in reforming Muslims. Apparently he only sported dishdashas here whereas I think you mentioned he wears Western clothes in the West?

I have to do research on Dr. Tariq Ramadan. I have heard so much about him but I know nothing about him and if he is interested in issues I’m into then he must be interesting.

In the ME, we take Islam for granted. We never have such conferences and talks. Such a shame!

Oh, but yes Nancy Ajram is performing in Dubai on New Year’s Eve!!!

Anonymous said...

If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't even find out about RIS. Thank you so much, really!

Regarding your last sentence -
During a cat-fight one Pakistani actress called an Indian actress, "I'll get you, you son of a bitch!"

Anonymous said...

Wow! that sounds awesome..The humpty dumpty story is hilarious :)I love Tariq Ramadhan too..his book on western islam/muslims was really good/substantial Mashaallah.

Keep us updated on how it goes today. I enjoyed living vicariously through our RIS experience (and of course the blog fame is too cute :) )

Anonymous said...

Suroor, I am surprised you are hung up on what Hamza Yusuf wears too?!

I think the preoccupation on what he wears is just insane. I like that he dresses according to the occassion and doesn't always wear ME garb, just to prove a point.

Some right wingers, don't listen to him because he wears a suit?! Isn't that crazy?

Anonymous said...

We were able to make out to RIS yesterday (only day to get somebody to watch the kids). In fact I was wondering if I saw you too, but not sure exactly how you look :)

I have to agree Dr. Ramadan spoke very well and was also reminded of Suroor's blog.

But you didn't mention Sheikh Hamza Yusuf's little lecture about being cruel to animals!! It kind of struck me when he started talking about it, I immediately thought of your post.

Anonymous said...

Mashallah,if only I could come,sigh...Maybe today we could *stroll* around the area and you could meet us all! Yes, union station is one of the *craziest* places to be especially at night time,that's *our*station if we use the ttc.
LOL@suroor,nancy ajram?? :) sf

Anonymous said...

I loved the part when hamza yusuf was saying that the customs person asked what he was doing in toronto, and he said "giving a lecture... with a Rabbi" I loved the story, but it's kinda sad that she was extremely nice to him after she thought he was jewish, we do need to do some work as muslims! I loved tariq Ramadan's lecture (took notes too!), I am going to write an article for inshaAllah.

mezba said...

Suroor, what some of these scholars say here they will never be free to talk about in the middle east. Hamza Yusuf openly talked about a leadership crisis, ridiculed the Holocaust Deniers as living in a delusion (that's where the whole Humpty Dumpty thing came about) and talked about how Jews and Muslims are cousins. A rabbi spoke to an Islamic gathering. Stuff like this will never happen in the middle east, the same middle east where the Prophet allowed a Vatican delegation to pray in his mosque and so on.

I think Hamza Yusuf wears all types of clothes. I have seen him in a dish dasha but more often in Western attire, which is how it should be as he is Western.

Maliha: Thanks. I don't think much is happening on day 3 but for Abdullah bin Bayyah and one other session.

Mousehunter: Yes, I was waiting for one of you to say that! :-) The part where Hamza Yusuf decried those who throw stones at dogs made me go hmmmm...

sf, I have my pictures on my blog, so if you see me just come by and say hi! I love to meet other people.

mezba said...

Shaz, I was reminded of the joke, a rabbi, a priest and an imam goes into a bar.....

Anonymous said...

Maliha and Mezba, I totally support Western attire. My students ONLY listened to him because he was in dishdasha. That said so. Therefore, I assumed that’s what he wore. So, I think it was a clever thing to be able to know your audience’s mentality. I heard him on tape and he basically talked about history of Islam, harmless stuff, like you mentioned Mezba.

Anonymous said...

Dude!!! Robert Fisk was there!!!!!!!!! oooooooooh ... one man that I want to meet!!!

hey, take good notes and post 'em up, will ya?

Anonymous said...

Mezba dude.... you're awesome :) it was awesome to finally meet the guy behind the blog!

'liya said...

Just got home.. aww I would've liked to meet you.. I don't even know how you look though :S

Anonymous said...

RIS was awesome, and good job on highlighting the event :-) And yes! I forgot to mention to you, that when Hamza Yusuf talked about the treatment of animals, I thought of your blog too! Coincidence? Secret Scholarly Blog Readers??

Do you allow plugs on your blog? Judging from the genuine interest in Hamza Yusuf, I'd encourage people to check out the site of his organization in California, where he's settled right now. They have some free downloads as well, and don't forget to check out the other members of the org too. It's called Zaytuna Institute -

Anonymous said...

>>> Dr Tareq Suwaidan the charismatic Kuwaiti sheikh was present too. He talked about how the Prophet was also an ordinary human being,

Are you sure the sheikh said the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him was an ordinary human being?

The beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him was without doubt a human being but very unlike any other human being and most definetly not ordinary.

Anonymous said...

anon, can i just say that is really such an ignorant comment... seriously, have you ever heard dr. tareq suwaidan speak? he (saw) is just a man, not divine, is what he was saying. are you trying to say is dr suwaidan does not know the qualities and status of muhammad (saw)? i am confused about your point, and also why mezba posted your comment...

mezba said...

Suroor: it is true you HAVE to be aware of your audience, that is what makes one a good speaker. Of course whether you change your message or stick to it (just say it differently) is a different question. I have not heard Hamza Yusuf in the Middle East, so maybe you can help in that regard?

Sabrina: Robert Fisk started very well. He gave lots of examples where the media distorted part of the news so even though what they said was true, it painted a distored picture (by leaving out some crucial information, for example the fact that the Baker Report consulted experts who all belonged to a right wing think tank) and so on.

Isheeta: the feeling is mutual. You are one great person. Truly someone a person can proudly call a friend. You are an enigma rolled in spontaneity camouflaged with humour!

Liya: you too! I commented on your take on RIS on your blog.

Mango Addict: It was great RIS-ing with you too. Maybe those scholars do read our blogs eh? Oh btw Isheeta thought you were a cutie too. And plug away, as long as it's a good plug.

Anon, the Prophet, as Dr Suwaidan said, had many roles, and one of them was being an ordinary human being. It is in the Quran, is it not, that the Prophet is just like a man amongst us, except that he gets revelations?

We in South Asia have a tenancy to glorify the prophet to such an extent that we make him divine and associate powers to him that he did not claim for himself. Yes, he was extraordinary but he was also ordinary. And that is the wonder that is our Prophet.

Shaz, I allowed anon's point so I can reply and clarify.

Anonymous said...

ok mezba... you are forgiven :)

listening to the lecture now... since I saw the comment, I missed it at ris, so we got the cd.

M&M said...

good post, you summarized it really well. i was actually thinking of blogging about some things at ris that really made me think. I think I will soon.

Hamza Yusuf is hilarious. A great speaker. and thats so nice 50 people prayed behind you, mashallah. you get so much sawab for allowing them to pray in congregation.

Hafsa said...


Anonymous said...

"In fact, Nigeria and Pakistan constantly tussled for the position of the no. 1 corrupt country. He joked that Nigeria only won because they bribed Pakistan for it."

Oh yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about! I always knew I was a winner. Now I know why. Parents are paki, which makes me one. But for that extra level of insulation from losing out to Pakistan, I was born in Nigeria *high five*