Yesterday I attended a lecture given by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (SHY), an American Islamic scholar, and deemed one of the most renowned Muslim thinkers in the Western world. He is the author of Purification of the heart.
My best friend told me about this event and really, made sure I did not miss the opportunity. We both attended and as nerdy students of life as we are, we both took notes. When you have an opportunity to listen live to a prominent thinker, you don’t want to let the wisdom pass by.
The event was titled “An Evening with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf: Where is Your Heart? A Prophetic Guidance in an Age of Confusion”. SHY addressed the fundamental problem facing Muslims in modern society today and coupled it with encouraging reminders to get through such “turbulent” times.
There were many tear-jerking moments, mainly because SHY has an ability to transcend your heart with the purity and calmness of his words.
Here are the main takeaways:
1) One of the major crises facing our community is the lack of knowledge
Lack of knowledge leads to, or is a form of corruption. When you lack knowledge, you become distracted. Muslims have become so distracted in this world, they forget there’s another in the hereafter.
SHY therefore reminded the crowd to remember the basics, which is that Allah SWT is our creator and that we will eventually return to Him.
How to identify this form of corruption?
– It can be someone with knowledge, but that is corrupted
– Or that the person lack proper knowledge altogether
– The person only has preference for the dunya/worldly life
2) Reason divorced from guidance leads to problems, trouble, chaos.
SHY said certain knowledge is fixed, eg. scientific knowledge. Physics learnt in the US is the same in China as it is in Malaysia. But it is the worldview applied to the knowledge that leads to different outcomes.
He said Muslims, at the height of their power centuries ago, did amazing things for their communities. Much of today, is not just thanks to Western development, but very much due to the intellectual and scientific discoveries made by our Islamic scholars.
Muslims must therefore guard themselves with sound knowledge, and share it so that it may benefit their communities, strengthen their ummah.
SHY paid a tremendous compliment when he cited the work of Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, perhaps Malaysia’s most respected contemporary Muslim scholar, widely respected for his scholarship on traditional Islamic sciences and philosophical thinking.
“Syed Muahammad Naquib has been the single most influential person on my understanding of secularism in Islam and understanding the crisis of knowledge we face today. I have read Secularism in Islam, and continue to read his books,” said SHY.
Which brings me to my final point.
3) In times of great confusion, distrust and religious intolerance, Malaysia is fortunate to:
i. Have a culture of ‘adab’ (etiquette) and respect its cultures. Many western societies are losing this.
ii. Have a religious tradition rooted in the Ghazalian view of Islam. (Malaysia’s worldview of Islam follows the teachings and scholarship of Imam Al-Ghazali, undoubtedly one of Islam’s greatest philosopher and theologian, a Sunni mystic from 10th century Persia). We must preserve this practice as there will be many other ‘worldviews’ that try to erode a stable religious society like ours.
iii. We have a functioning Government. I was quite surprised he mentioned this under the pretext of Islam. But I learned something new, which is that respect to Government is rooted in our Islamic tradition.
Citing a quote by Sidi Ahmad Zarruq (13th Century Sunni from Morocco), he said Muslims should guard themselves from things that can turn those around them upside down. As such we must have ‘adab’ and show respect to – our parents, our teachers, and our leaders.
SHY acknowledged that no Government is perfect, and there will always be some level of corruption. However a functioning Government is the basis of order in society, and we must have order to thrive in society. This is on both a worldly, and an Islamic point of view.
“A government may be oppressive, but years of oppression is better than one day of anarchy. The latter is completely unbearable. Just look at what’s happening to certain countries without governments. If you ask their citizens, they would agree that having a Government is a blessing,” said SHY.
He reminded the crowd that should you feel dissatisfaction with your government, don’t dissent (as this is not encouraged, so pray that the hearts of your leaders change in order to treat its people better.)
“People always want things to change. But they hardly want to change themselves. The same can be said for governments and its people.
“If you want to change the condition of your society, you have to work from the grassroots. Change the morality of the people, make them closer to Allah SWT. This is the methodology of the Prophet SAW,” he said.
Before closing with a dua, SHY said that suffering is the essence of life in this dunya. There will always be trials and tribulations, however showing gratitude for God and giving thanks to his blessings is enough to get you through hard times.
“Everything in this world is deficient and will leave you feeling deficient. Only Allah SWT is enough for you. Remember Him and everything will be ok,” he said.