Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tariq Ramadan at York

I attended Dr Tariq Ramadan’s speech on Canadian Muslims and Citizenship at York yesterday. Lately I had been running into many bloggers, and it was no different last night. I met Safiyyah Ally, the host of Let The Quran Speak on a local T.V. channel here, who formerly used to maintain a blog and now writes as one of many at Disconnected Verses. Accompanying her was Asmaa of Randomly Placed. In fact, when another woman stopped me and went “Hey, Mezba!” I half expected her to be another blogger.

“Your face looks so familiar!” I told her, trying to think of where I had seen her.

“Idiot!” She replied, “It’s me, your cousin!”

What can I say, some girls look TOTALLY different in hijab!

The official title of the talk was Canadian Muslims And Citizenship – Roles and Responsibility. Dr Ramadan started with his observations that now Western Muslims seem to be categorizing themselves into two generalizations – the invisible “I am a Muslim but not practicing” or the “super angry, agitated and isolation-minded Muslim”. Then he said there are politicians who on one hand implore the Muslims to “integrate into society” yet by their actions, legislations and policies provoke the Muslims and push the right buttons to get an emotional negative reaction out of them. In the midst of all this, he said, it is our duty as Canadian Muslims to negotiate a middle path. Thus began his talk on how.

Before delving into the details, he gave a few objectives for Muslims here. First, he said, Muslims have to be sure they remain true to themselves, remain Muslims and live an Islamic life to the best of their efforts. At the very same time, they have a responsibility to the society in which they live. And then Dr Ramadan brought up the Canadian society.

It is a problem, he said, that many Muslims nowadays idealize Muslim countries when the rules of many non-Muslim or secular countries follow Islamic principles more. It is the duty of Muslims, he said, to reinforce the good in society and work to eradicate the evil. How, he asked, will you do that if you isolate yourself – you do not recognize the inherent good that is present in this society and in the hearts of Canadians, and similarly, he implored, how will you eradicate the evil if you do not study it, do not understand it or where it comes from?

Don’t be agitated, he said. Muslims are quick to react emotionally yet the Prophet always spoke softly, after much deliberation and thinking. A fast speaker is speaking on emotion, yet we have to have a vision, which means not reacting to every provocation. Having laid his groundwork, he now went on to specifics.
  • Respect yourself. If you don’t respect yourself, you cannot expect others to.
  • How do you behave with your parents? Lot of older Canadians, he pointed out, are unhappy with their kids because the kids grew up with the materialistic viewpoint of the 70s and have now sent the parents to old age homes to be lonely. Canada, like all Western nations, have an aging population and Muslims have to behave well with these older folk and that means starting at home.
  • Don’t be judgmental. You have to love the people you wish to change. You cannot go to a drug addict and look at him as a sinner and then preach to him. You have to love him. You wish to change him because you love him. Leave the judgement upto Allah and do your best to change the man. In other words, hate the sin, not the sinner.
  • Learn to forgive. A lot of people can get even, but truly not a lot can forgive. The Prophet, he pointed out, changed many of his enemies to friends simply by forgiveness. He told us to look up the story of Lubaba in the Prophet’s seerah.
  • One Quran, but many readings. Dr Ramadan reminded me of Dr Suwaidan here, when he again repeated that while there may be one straight path, there’s many different ways on that path. There are no second class Muslims, and Muslims have to learn to deal with the divisions and diversity of opinions that exist within the Muslim sphere before they can learn to deal with the greater diversity in our society. No one is a lesser Muslim because they do some things differently than you or I.
  • Be consistent in our standards and behavior.
  • Don’t just concentrate on Islamic education but also avail worldly education. Comparing Muslims of the past, he said not only we had scholars and muftis of religion but also of the worldly affairs. A scholar, he said, must remain in the service of the community. Today, he lamented, it’s the other way around.
  • Be vigilant of your rights. You have rights as a citizen but no government is going to protect it indefinitely. You have to remain aware politically, as well as contribute to this society. Get rid of this victim mentality and be an agent of change.

    He concluded by reiterating his five Cs (Confidence, Critical Mind, Communication, Consistency, Creativity) and added a bonus C of Courage. There was Q and A session afterwards, on which his answers to the questions on hijab, the unfriendly (or not) media and the myth of conflict between Western and Islamic beliefs were outstanding.

    It was a 2 hr talk and I am not doing justice to his really excellent speech as there are far more points and specifics that he delved into. Besides, as I said, some women really look different in hijab. Distractions, distractions!


    'liya said...

    Oooh I really wanted to go and then totally forgot. It looks like it was really interesting, thanks for the summary, he's a great speaker :)

    youngMuslimah said...


    wow, great post! I SO agree there on the judgmental point. People would just love to say 'oh she's not wearing hijab, what a loser' etc..
    I wanna hear him! Is he on youtube?

    Em said...

    That was very beneficial, jazak Allahu khairan for sharing. Thanks also for the link to Safiyyah's new portal -- I've missed her pregnant discussions.

    "You have to love the people you wish to change". I think this is the most difficult -- even harder than forgiving.

    Rawi said...

    great notes! i hope to get a chance to see him one of these days. if only those freakers didn't reject his visa...

    mousehunter said...

    Wow...too bad we missed it...but as I mentioned to you...nobody to watch the kids. But when you told me you were off to York U, I knew I'd get the low down. And it sounds amazing. The first time I heard him speak was at RIS this past winter, about the 5 C's. He really has to be heard by a more wider audience. I think, and its really sad, but those that listen to him already agree with him (preaching to the choir), but those that need to hear his words may never do so! Anyways...great synopsis.

    Achelois said...

    Thanks for this Mezba! No one can appreciate your efforts to sum up Dr. TR's discussion than those who can't hear him speak.

    "we have to have a vision, which means not reacting to every provocation" - oh, I've been doing that a lot lately. I tell you I'm the most tolerant person in Blogosphere! ;)

    Anika I said...

    I thought it was an ok lecture. It was somewhat generic, alot of what we already knew, or should know. A good reminder I suppose, that we should implement our idealogies and start locally. Ive heard more intensive lectures from him, and I was expecting that. Even some disgruntled auntie came up to us and starting complaining how she got nothing out of it, that she wanted to gain more knowledge. Good summary though, if we do just adhere to such simple steps, Canadian society may be different, Insha'Allah.

    mezba said...

    Liya: I almost forgot! But when a few friends told me, then I remembered. They went early and got my ticket, however they didn't save a space for me (scroundels! lol) but I got to sit up front and concentrate on the talk more.

    Youngmuslima: I don't really know. He wrote some good books.

    Em: very true.

    Rawi: I don't think he will be coming to the USA any time soon. In face, don't know how much more can he come to Canada given the Conservatives' hold on power here.

    Mousehunter: I think what you are saying is true - but if he can influence some of the people he is listening to go on and do greater things, than much the better. But he also said in his talk that he held a round table discussion and talk with York professors that morning, there was a media session too, so maybe it's all good.

    Achelois: hehe.. you are so tolerant you killed off Suroor!

    Anika: actually this is the first time I am really hearing him speak. I mostly missed his sessions at RIS (as they were either too early in the morning or too late in the evening) so haven't heard him speak. To tell you the truth, I prefer his style rather than the boombastic style of Imam Zaid Shakir, who is not my style at all.

    As for the content, I agree it was a broad theme and perhaps could have been more specific and example oriented, however that's why I said the Q/A session particularly the media question was good.

    Anika I said...

    Oh and lol at the "distractions". :P Most girls wear it so as NOT to distract poeple!!

    staufiq said...


    It was a good lecture....i felt a bit out of place...felt like it was a lot of young kids running around....but was worth it....did you go the imam zaid programs 2 weeks before?

    Anonymous said...

    Mezba, thanks for the summary. It was really helpful.

    "You have to love the people you wish to change."

    Ah this really spoke to me, considering how royally pissed off and frustrated I seem to get at Muslims these days. Sigh.


    a Muslim said...


    Great post. This guy doesn't sport a beard? I find it odd to see shaykhs beardless.

    staufiq said...

    Salamz, Thanks for sharing your notes. I was at the lecture too, and i totally forgot to bring my notebook.

    AKA said...

    Mezba, thank you so much for the synopsis of the night! I had heard about the event and wished I could go (but obviously getting on a 22 hour flight for one even just didn't seem logical lol) so now at least I get an idea of what happened :)

    mezba said...

    Anika: sometimes the hijab is the best distraction! Some women actually look better in one, surprisingly.

    Staufiq: no I didn't. I don't usually attend such lectures outside of RIS.

    Muse: I know, eh! We also need lots (AND LOTS) of patience.

    A muslim: He DOES have a beard. How does it matter though?

    Staufiq: The guy beside me had a huge ass camera that he kept taking pics almost every other minute. I wonder why he needs SO many pictures.

    AKA: He might come to Aus, so check his website!

    Asmaa said...

    Safiyyah Ally was accompanying me, not vice versa ;)

    a Muslim said...


    It does matter. Beard is fardh period

    Anika said...

    To: A Muslim - beard is NOT fardh. show me the proof in the quran. its Sunnah. hijab however IS fardh.

    mezba said...

    Asmaa: Noted.

    A Muslim: It shouldn't matter. The length of a person's beard is not an indicator of how strong his argument is.

    Besides, you are wrong, beard is not fard. See this.

    Anika: Yup and true.

    a Muslim said...

    Anika: Salaam. The Qur'an explicity says to follow the Sunnah. To reject the sunnah is to disobey what Allah said in the Qur'an, and if you claim to follow the Qur'an and you don't follow the sunnah...then you're outight contradicting yourself.

    Mezba: Salaam. and the hadiths? do you believe in them?

    (1) Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said "I have no connection with one who shaves, shouts and tears his clothing eg. in grief or affication."
    - Reported by Abu Darda (R.A.) in Muslim, Hadith no. 501

    4) Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) says: "Trim closely the moustache, and let the beard flow (Grow)."
    - Narrated Ibn Umar (R.A.) in Muslim, Hadith no. 498

    (8) Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: "Anyone who shaves has no claim to the mercy of Allah"
    - Reported by Ibn Abbas (R.A.) in Tibrabi

    mezba said...

    aMuslim: no one is saying the beard is not sunnah. What we are saying is it's not a fard.

    There is a difference between "reject the sunnah" and not "observe the Sunnah". For example, the 4 rakat sunnah before Zuhr prayer is Sunnah however if you don't pray it, it doesn't mean you have rejected Islam, even though it's a strong sunnah and Prophet has explicitly stressed its importance to us at all times.

    Similarly we should not make halal what is haram AND not make haram what is halal.

    Allah says in the Quran, 66:1, "O Prophet! Why holdest thou to be forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to thee? Thou seekest to please thy consorts. But Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."

    This was Allah admonishing the Prophet when he decided to abstain from honey because it allegedly gave him bad breath!

    So we are not to forbid something Allah has made lawful (shaving). Beard, as stated, is a sunnah, and that's pretty much it.

    a Muslim said...

    what do you have to say about those hadiths I quoted?

    mezba said...

    I think I have been pretty clear on it. Beard is a sunnah and not a Fard.

    According to you it's a fard.

    a Muslim said...

    (8) Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: "Anyone who shaves has no claim to the mercy of Allah"
    - Reported by Ibn Abbas (R.A.) in Tibrabi

    what would this mean?

    BTW- I don't think a brother to be more 'muslim' b/c of hair on his chin. Just goes to show his love for the Prophet and the desire to be like him.

    mezba said...

    I have never heard of the collection of Tibrabi before. A search on Google shows most of hadith in this 'collection' seems to be beard related. I might be wrong, but don't think he is one of the 6 authentic books (not that there may not be a few hadith in those books that are also doubtful).

    First, EVEN if this hadith is true, in what context is it said? For example, the Prophet blessed all (male) pilgrims who shave their heads. Three times. Before he blessed people who just cut their hair (i.e. not shave their heads). So that hadith would only apply in a pilgrimage context. And also, what does shave mean here?

    It is actually a huge stretch to take a beard from being a sunnah into a fard.

    This debate is now closed, as it has nothing to do with Tariq Ramadan's speech any more.

    Anonymous said...

    Em just thinking about it.. what if we are able to do that. Dat beautiful asset we earn...
    . Then its worth being difficult and its worth to be included in our daily prayers... :) Assalam Alikkum