Traditional Knowledge, Modern Audience and the Timelessness of Islam
‘Knowledge knocks on the door of action. If it receives a reply, it stays. Otherwise, it departs.’
Lote Tree, in an age gripped by atheism and an unwavering belief in Science, answered the call of Islamic knowledge. In picturesque Winslow, at the Redfield Centre, a quaint cottage offering all amenities, Lote Tree hosted the Winter Retreat 2016. Shaykh Ayman Al-Akiti in the sanctuary of the Redfield Centre explored the concept of the Creed of Islam using the work of Imam Al Haddad, for all who attended the retreat: men, women and children.
Among the attendees was also Shaykh Zubair, familiar to those who frequent the classes he holds; these classes act as Iman boosters throughout the year. The retreat also facilitated a boost in Iman since attendees offered Fajr to Isha Salah in Jammat, Dikr and nasheed recitals, Mawlid and question/answer sessions with the Shaykhs.
The Redfield centre surrounded by nature in every direction holds several bedrooms, washing facilities, a fully equipped kitchen, two separate living rooms and a spacious hall. Attendees were afforded space for slumber, eating, rest, socialising and prayer.
Most importantly the tranquillity the Redfield centre affords—birds can be heard singing early morning as attendees woke for Fajr—proved it an ideal venue for spiritual reflection over the weekend.
Lote Tree ensured attendees were well fed. The food was remarkable. But rather than professional catering and serving service, Lote Tree had something else in mind: all hands on deck. Though the meals were prepared off-site the attendees participated in heating food, serving and cleaning up.And of course that process included the male attendees. As some are aware even the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) is reported to assist with housework:
“Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) used to keep himself busy serving his family ( كَانَ يَكُونُ فِي مِهْنَةِ أَهْلِهِ ) and when it was the time for prayer he would go for it” – Bukhari .
This opportunity to revive a Sunnah could not be missed.
Equipped with course material attendees studied Aqeeda based on the work of Imam Al Haddad 1 . The course was a useful reminder of Aqeeda, providing most with renewed understanding of Aqeeda while affording more proficient learners a unique opportunity to engage with the subject at length in Arabic. Aqeeda is the foundation of Islamic faith stemming back to the Prophet (SAW) himself. The Shakyh gave a concise history of the formation of the various schools of Aqeeda and found himself grappling with modern day concerns during the retreat. Discussions revolved around the Big Bang theory and Evolution.
Moreover, as the endless spew of superhero film releases indicate, the struggle between good and evil still perplexes the mind. Accordingly Shakyh Ayman found himself wrangling with the question: If Allah exists why does he allow bad things to happen? Floods, famine and wars? The Shakyh among many explanations to this theological conundrum evoked one of Allah’s 99 names: Al Hakim – the wise,the judicious. Imam Al-Haddad tackles this matter directly in his Aqeeda by reminding us of the verses in the Quran when Allah says that “they question Him but they are the ones who will be questioned” and “He does as He chooses”.
To exhibit Allah’s wisdom and sound judgement when placing us in adversity he told the following anecdote: during his studies in Indonesia his friend and peer could not afford books; the friend borrowed the books from him and memorised the text before returning the books; when questioned in class the friend explained this situation to the teacher, he could not afford the books and therefore memorised the text from the borrowed books. The ones who owned books had not however memorised the text. As it happened, the friend because of his adversity was top of his class. This evaluation of Allah (SWT) stands as a much needed challenge to contemporary atheist arguments such as that of Richard Dawkins who in The God Delusion for instance states: ‘The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a
[…] capriciously malevolent bully’.
The God, Allah (SWT), of the Quran, of Islam, however is both Al-Muntaqim, the avenger and Ar-Rahmaan, exceedingly merciful, Al-Ghaffar, repeatedly forgiving, Al-Muʿizz, giver of honor, Al-ʿAdl, just, Ar-Raʾuf, kind,worthy of our continued remembrance and reflection.
Lote Tree by the will of Allah (SWT) enabled attendees on this weekend retreat to enrich their Islamic identity with little disturbance to their everyday lives. Everyday life however continuously intrudes on and interferes with Islamic identity. Shakyh Ayman insisted that the only method to counteract this intrusion and interference is Istikama: perseverance and consistency in Ibadah, in worship; certainly keeping our Salah habitual and frequently offering salawat on Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). Simply put, the mantra little and often, is the best approach to achieving goals Islamic or otherwise.