“And strive hard in God’s cause with all the striving that is due to Him: it is He who has elected you [to carry His message], and has laid no hardship on you in [anything that pertains to] religion, [and made you follow] the creed of your forefather Abraham. It is He who has named you – in bygone times as well as in this [divine writ] – (al-muslimeen) ‘those who have surrendered themselves to God’, so that the Apostle might bear witness to the truth before you, and that you might bear witness to it before all mankind. Thus, be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and hold fast unto God. He is your Lord Supreme: and how excellent is this Lord Supreme, and how excellent this Giver of Succour!” – Holy Qur’an 22:78 (M. Asad)
Frequent questions one often gets asked these days, is whether one is Sunni or Shia, what school of thought (madhab) to which one belongs or which “methodology” one adheres to… Isn’t this a sad state of affairs? Are these really such pertinent questions? A good question would be, to which sect did Prophet Muhammad belong, peace be upon him, or any of his immediate companions? Many will then point to the fact that a political dispute arose during that first generation, over who was to be the rightful heir of the Prophet, peace be upon him.
However, while this is true, my own analysis indicates that what was understood then by the group of companions, who in later generations came to be understood as laying the foundation for Sunni Islam and the group later understood to have contributed to the foundation of Shia Islam, this was not the same as what is now meant by the terms Sunni and Shia today… Many of the earliest scholars of Islam, such as Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib and Imam Jafar as-Sadiq, may Allah bless them, are scholars relied upon by all schools of thought and sects.
“VERILY, as for those who have broken the unity of their faith and have become sects – thou hast nothing to do with them. Behold, their case rests with God: and in time He will make them understand what they were doing.”
- Holy Qur’an 6:159 (M. Asad)
How many Sunnis really understand the Sunni traditions in any great depth? The same likewise applies for the Shia. Before continuing these disputes over ever more generations, shouldn’t we first at least strive to be Muslims? Isn’t the foundation of Islam the pure belief in the Oneness of God? Whatever happened to the Kalima Shahada? Brothers and sisters of all different groups will state categorically in response, we haven’t forgotten the Kalima! Insha Allah, I pray this is true. However, if Muslims maintain the Kalima at the essence of their faith, how can the Ummah be divided?
La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad-ur Rasul Allah
No god but God, Muhammad is the Messenger of God
At the heart of Islam lives this most profound of statements, the foundation of the beliefs of all Muslims. The only real god is God, Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the last and final Prophet. If we truly believe this, how then can we be divided? I implore all brothers and sisters to reflect deeply on this point…
The Kalima Shahada and the Holy Qur’an are accepted by all Muslims, regardless of their school of thought or sect. These pre-date all other reference material on Islam, even that compiled by the earliest scholars. During these last days of Ramadan, wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people could transcend their differences, realising that at heart we’re all one. After all, what is our primary nature, are we not all human? Every other description we adorn ourselves with, whether pertaining to our spiritual beliefs, our tribe or nationality, surely come secondary to this. First and foremost we are human beings, the children of Adam and Eve, in essence we are One Human Family. How beautiful would it be if humanity started behaving like one?
“O YOU who have attained to faith! Remain conscious of God, and be among those who are true to their word!”
- Holy Qur’an 9:119 (M. Asad)
Living Islam 2011. Please invite your friends and family. Your help is greatly appreciated.
9 Reasons To Attend:
1. For your children and their future:
A dedicated ‘0-5 yrs PlayZone’ will keep your little ones entertained. The parallel Scouts (6-12yrs) programme will excite and inspire your other ones…we cater for ~1,000 children with over 50 different workshops going on in parallel – the education and entertainment is fantastic and unparalleled! Finally, a special programme for ‘Young Muslims’ (13-16yrs, boys and girls separately) ensures no one is left out.
2. Student Village:
For the first time, a dedicated ‘Student Village’ with a targeted programme for college and university students. So if you’re between 17 and 25, you will have the opportunity to experience exciting activities, talks, workshops, seminars and debates in a focused setting, allowing you to get up close and personal with some of the most famous and talented scholars, thinkers and performers.
You (and those you are with) can listen to and learn from some of the leading minds in traditional learning and contemporary thought. With 10 major talks in our Big Top marquee, over 30 specialist seminars, thought provoking workshops and ‘up close’ opportunities for the questions important to you, the hardest decision you will have to make is which talks not to go to.
Held in the 100+ acre open grounds of Lincolnshire Showground, the surroundings of ‘Living Islam’ are serene, tranquil and green…much needed calm in a busy world.
Be part of this collective remembrance of God, of His Names and His favours. Friday prayers offered in the clean fresh air and under the blue country sky with over 5,000 Muslims. Prayers before the break of dawn and prayers beneath the stars. Praying for one another and praying with one another. ‘Living Islam’ will, insha’Allah, strengthen your faith, your hope, your confidence and your will. But you’ve got to be there.
6. Positive and Enduring Change:
Something wonderful happens at ‘Living Islam’, something that lives on after the event. ‘Living Islam’ moves people to change for the better. Hundreds have told us how it moved them…how about you?
7. Something Different:
Arts and Crafts for you to learn and enjoy. There will be creative workshops and taster learning sessions by expert artists for those who have always wanted to. Alternatively there are many sports activities organised for all ages, men and women, a Parachute Display, Fireworks, Bungee Jumping, Bouncy Castles, Horse Riding, Paintballing, Abseiling and Archery to name a few.
In the evenings you can relax to our light entertainment with nasheed artists, comedians and acts from around the world.
9. Rare and Unique:
Catering for some 5,000 people, ‘Living Islam’ is the largest residential Muslim family event in Britain. Held every 2-3 years, ‘Living Islam 2011’ is a rare opportunity to have a unique experience…the next ‘Living Islam’ event is not planned until Summer 2013 so don’t wait till then!
Help us save Ehsan’s life – See sample letter below
London – 11 January 2011
A 19-year-old Iranian man is facing imminent execution on charges of attempting to rape another man (sodomy or lavat), even though the allegation was withdrawn by the accuser. There is no evidence that the accused youth is gay.
Ehsan was 17-years-old when he was arrested in late 2008 in Shiraz, in the province of Fars, after a man pressed charges against him and two other youths, alleging that they attempted to rape him.
Under torture that may have lasted over a month, only Ehsan, who is the youngest of the three accused, confessed to the charges. The Fourth Branch of the Criminal Court of Fars province, in Shiraz, found him guilty of lavat and sentenced him to hang. Ehsan has since withdrawn his ‘confession’, saying that it was extracted under torture.”
The execution of Ehsan is opposed by a coalition of Muslim organisations from across the world: the Association of British Muslims (AOBM), Faith Matters, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), USA and Canada, Canadian Muslim Union (CMB), Members of The Royal Order of Noor of Buayan, Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) and el-Tawhid Juma Circle.
“We appeal to the Supreme Leader and Chief Justice of Iran to show mercy by revoking the death sentence and releasing Ehsan. The evidence against Ehsan is weak. The accuser has withdrawn his allegations. It is unIslamic to sentence a person without 100% proof of guilt,” said Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director of the Association of British Muslims.
Under Articles 108 to 113 of the Iranian penal code, lavat is proved either if a person confesses four times to having committed sodomy or by the testimony of four righteous men. Neither of these legal conditions have been met. Ehsan confessed only once and under torture. Four righteous men have not testified that they saw him commit sodomy.
Ehsan denied the charges in court in front of the judges. He mentioned that his confession was made under torture.
Furthermore, the alleged victim dropped all charges against all three boys before the trial. One out of the five judges pronounced him not guilty and asked for his immediate release. It appears that the four remaining judges used the clause “judge’s special knowledge”, or allowed the forced confession as sufficient to convict the boy to death. Either way, it seems the trial was grossly flawed.
Ehsan was detained when he was 17, a adolescent, and kept in a juvenile detention centre up until a month ago. Since his execution order was approved by the Supreme Court (Branch Thirteen) he was transferred to Aadel Abaad Jail in Shiraz, where is awaiting execution, which could happen any day now.
Saghi Ghahraman, chair of the Iranian Queer Organisation (IRQO), told the Human Rights and Press Director of the Association Of British Muslims (AOBM), Dan Littauer:
“We should urgently ask the Iranian judicial system to show sympathy to a mere minor who has been falsely accused. Either forgive and release him or have another trial and investigate the evidence more thoroughly.”
“Ehsan’s family is terrified of government and security service reprisals if their family name appears in the media, and so is Ehsan’s lawyer. This is why we are not releasing Ehsan’s full name or the name of his lawyer,” said Ms Ghahraman.
“As has happened in several cases in the past, you don’t need to be gay or lesbian in Iran to be in danger of execution for homosexuality – a simple, unfounded accusation can be enough to see you sentenced to death,” added Dan Littauer, Human Rights and Press Director of AOBM.
The Muslim coalition oppose Ehsan’s execution on religious grounds, arguing that the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) was known as Rahmatulil Alimeen – Mercy unto all the Worlds. Surely, it’s better to follow the example of the Prophet and be merciful…
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, “…if anyone slays a human being unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind…” 5:32 (M. Asad)
This verse highlights the high priority Allah places on the sanctity of human life. Unless there is no doubt whatsoever of a person’s guilt of a very serious crime, no one is granted permission by Allah to take a human life.
In Ehsan’s case, the evidence is extremely tenuous. The Holy Qur’an strongly highlights the importance of justice and being merciful, as did Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib when he said,“God’s verdict is judicious and full of wisdom. His pleasure implies protection and mercy. He decides with knowledge and forgives with forbearance.”. (Sermon 159, Nahjul Balagha)
“And when those who believe in Our messages come unto thee, say: ‘Peace be upon you. Your Sustainer has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy – so that if any of you does a bad deed out of ignorance, and thereafter repents and lives righteously, He shall be [found] much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.’” Holy Qur’an 6:54 (M. Asad)
Further information: Dan Littauer, Human Rights and Press Director of the Association of British Muslims, firstname.lastname@example.org +44 207 193 3125 Skype: aobritishmuslims