A-úthú billáhi minash shaytánir rajím. Bismilláhir Rahmánir Rahím!
My talk today is addressed to the young brothers and sisters who joined the college this academic year, especially those who are good enough to join us here today. I hope that you have been able to adjust properly to the new life and the new environment around you at the campus. You must have noticed by now, the difference between your old world, at the school, and the new world at the campus. The college is not only physically larger, but it has many more students and a different teaching style. Here, there is a wide range of interests, groups, hobbies, clubs and societies – from those related to political parties, to religious groups, to sports clubs and many others. Here, there is an Islamic Society, a prayer room and a caring Muslim community which has been associated with the Islamic society for many years.
A great place to start is here, at Friday prayers. By being here today, you are not only fulfilling your Islamic duty, but you are also providing yourselves with an opportunity to get to know your Muslim brothers and sisters, the young as well as the not so young!
There is more to being a Muslim on campus. Attending Friday Prayer is not the end of your responsibilities. You have certain responsibilities to yourselves and to the Muslim community in general, which, no doubt, Allah will reward you for.
First of all, you must keep in mind that you are here to learn and to acquire knowledge, to be a better person capable of helping yourself, your family and your community. This is part of you duty as Muslims. Not only will you be benefiting yourselves, but you will be greatly improving the image of your religion. By becoming well-educated, literate young people, you will be challenging the western assumption that all Muslims are either ignorant, backward fanatics, or illiterate, oppressed women.
For those of you who are British citizens, you have to work harder, you have to strive to excel. This may improve your employment chances when you graduate. Unfortunately, people with Muslim names will have less than fair chances for work unless their grades are significantly better than those of their non-Muslim competitors.
I have said this before and I do not mind saying it again, that it is important to be proud of being Muslim. So many Muslims we hear about change their Islamic names ; Hussein becomes Hamy, Mohammed becomes Dudy and Jamila becomes July, These young people hide their Islam, as it is something to be embarrassed about. This is not right. There is a lot to be proud of about being Muslim: historically, the activities of Muslim scientists and scholars formed the basis for the European Renaissance, a debt which many historians tend to overlook. Muslims have had a stable and just society for more than 800 years; and morally, being Muslim means that you adhere to a set of beliefs and forms of behaviour that elevate you above those who do not share them. If homosexuals can go on about ” gay pride” Then how proud should we be, knowing that we are on the right path?
What does this imply practically? It means that I should not be ashamed to let people know of my Islamic heritage; whether it be through what I say, what I wear, what I eat, what I spend my time on or whatever. If you are going to pray, say, “Excuse me for a moment. I need to go and pray,” instead of some made-up excuse, like “Excuse me, I need to meet someone,” or something like that.
Surprisingly, this is not as difficult as it may sound. People usually approach universities with an open mind: and it is likely that they will not mind at all. It may even evoke some curiosity in some people. If people see you doing things diligently and sincerely, they develop a respect for you and your religion, even if they do not believe in it.
The effects of Muslim pride are beneficial in a number of ways. It backs up other Muslims on campus, who no longer feel isolated about being Muslims. Seeing someone else who is proud to be a Muslim lifts another Muslim’s spirit incredibly. When people see Muslims being so proud, it evokes curiosity and interest in them, which may be the door for Allah guiding them to the correct path. You will be surprised how many times you will be asked questions about Islam, without having to do anything active.
When the opportunities do arise, inform them about Islam; in this way you will be fulfilling your duty for Da’wa. You do not have to be too forceful in this, as it says in the Quran:
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom, and good, well behaved teaching and discuss with them in the best way possible. (16.125).”
In this way, you may affect their perception of Islam. They may not become Muslims but , at least, they will know a little more about Islam from an authentic source rather form some misinformed or misinforming person.
What is the point of being proud of Islam if its effects are not reflected in your actions? Muslim pride should be backed up every step of the way by the corresponding actions. There is no point in talking to people about the importance of good manners in Islam if you do not follow it up with your own actions. Actions speak louder than words.
If you decide to be proud of your Deen, then you have to reflect all the good attributes that make you proud to be Muslim, honesty, sincerity, trustworthiness, cleanliness, politeness and so on. When people see these characteristics, they will not only like you and admire you but they will also be curious as to its origin; and seeing you as a Muslim will now give them a somewhat more positive image of Islam than they may have had before. This also means that you should fulfil your Islamic obligations in other ways as well. For example, there is no excuse for you not to pray on campus. There is a prayer room that is available to you at any time. It is much more preferable if you could pray together as a group whenever you can.
As well as your responsibilities at a personal level, it is always good to participate in the collective and communal activities of the Islamic society. Becoming a member helps in several ways. It helps the society financially a little bit, it provides it with some information about people who want to help with Islamic activities and gives them leverage with the university administration – the more members a student body has, the more it can get from the university in terms of funding and facilities for Muslims.
In return, you can expect things like social events, lectures, conferences, lessons, and discussions. There are many senior and post graduate students that you can ask for help and advice. There are many members of the community who are highly qualified who will be more than happy to help in any way they can. This is one of the reasons that makes our relationship with the society so special.
Your membership and participation in the activities of the Islamic society will be a valuable and helpful contribution towards the achievement of its objective. These objectives , will no doubt include the following:
- Making it easier for Muslims to be Muslims on campus by providing facilities for Muslims and lobbying the university administration on their behalf
- Creating a bond of brotherhood or at least, a team spirit, encouraging care and co-operation among the members and the community.
- Educating Muslims about their own religion.
- Defending Islam when it is necessary.
Spreading the Message of Islam throughout the campus., not by shouting, provocation and hostility, but by good examples, good manners, and wisdom. Every year, there are many students in this country, America and Canada who convert to Islam, by the grace of Allah and through the good examples provided by their Muslim colleagues.
The Islamic Society is run by volunteers who probably do not have much more free time than you, so do not expect a “professional service”. They put in a lot of energy just to keep the society running, and even more effort is involved if special events are to be held. The very least you can do to support them is to show up at these events. Showing up indicates that there are people out there interested in Islamic work.
Feel free to speak your mind and make suggestions but remember that in any association with more than one person in it, you are going to get differences of opinion. These differences should be about how we do things, not about the underlying reasons for doing them. The key is not to let these differences of opinion damage or divide you, remembering that you are Muslims and that one of the defining characteristics of Muslims is that they love one another. The prophet said:
“One of you does not truly believe until he likes for himself what he likes for his Muslim brother.”
[du’á in Arabic]
Ameen! Aqeemus Salaah!