Thursday, January 31

Loving the Beloved of Allah Click for more info

To be totally honest, I had no idea who Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi was before being told about his talk tonight. He was the guest speaker at this year's Imperial College Islamic Society's "big event" (see here for the last one).

The "beloved" in this case refers to the Prophet of Islam, which some of you may recognise as something of Sufi terminology. It only occurred to me once I had taken my seat and heard Qari Muhammad Zarzour and Sidi Rafique do their singing thing how Imperial has progressed since my time there; this wouldn't have happened ten years ago when the only people who showed an interest in Islam were either part of a political group or hard core traditionalist. It's a welcome development provided the Isoc maintains the balance.

It was also interesting to see the diversity of the crowd. I think that students were outnumbered by the non, and judging by the way a large number stood up for the Shaykh's entrance this was looking to be bigger than just any university isoc event.

The Shaykh himself was a powerful, strong and confident speaker; I was impressed by his manner of communication and was held for some time by what he had to say. He had a sense of professionalism and wisdom around him indicating that he had been around for a while and knew what he was talking about, and more importantly how to pass that knowledge on.

A large proportion of the lecture covered love itself - the different types and targets of one's affection. Interestingly he noted that there was no concept of marital love in the Quran; the book uses the word "mawada" instead which is more about mercy and friendliness but is often translated as "permanent love". I think I prefer the Shaykh's translation myself although there's always room for that other stuff too.

Applying these types of love to Islam, we heard how we should separately love God (and that our awareness of God increases with that love), his messenger and then Islam itself as a concept. This romanticising of religion is pretty typical of the bits of Sufism I've read and heard about so it wasn't that surprising now.

Focussing on the Prophet, we were told how we have many reasons to love him. Firstly we should since our God does. Secondly (and kinda similarly) Islamic teachings indicate that to love him is a form of worship. Lastly we should love him "materially" due to his total perfection in looks and manner.

This was then followed by historical references to this love of The Prophet resulting in the advice that although loving The Prophet ("more than your father, son and all of mankind") is not an obligation, it's the only way to achieve a perfect belief.

There was no Q&A session but since the Shaykh had been talking for over an hour, I was grateful for this. I have to admit that I zoned out a few times, although that was probably due to me being distracted rather than the talk itself.

Overall, I can't really say that I took much away from tonight; probably because my balance sways in the favour of pragmatism rather than the spiritualism of Sufism a lot of what was said kinda went over my head. That's not to say it wasn't interesting in its own right; judging by the reaction of the audience I suspect I was in the minority with this opinion anyway.