The Muslim experience for over a thousand years was that of a majority ruling class. Examples were the great empires of the Mughals in India, ottomans, Ummayds in Andalucía and Abbasids in greater Syria. For many Muslims today, the experience is very different as they are a religious minority in society that feel no empathy to Muslims.
In Britain, the various Muslim communities have been navigating a new and difficult terrain. Wider society has a secular framework in which God and religion are generally not welcome in the social, work or political sphere. Faith is often left at the church door on Sunday afternoon. Secondly, Britain is proud of its Judaeo-Christian heritage, but suffers from incredible amnesia when it comes to its Islamic legacy. It is well known that the various Islamic empires and civilisations helped start, shape and direct European Enlightenment. The Muslims were at the forefront if philosophical, scientific, cultural, artistic, and health progress for hundreds of years.
Despite the differences in language, culture, faith and customs, the early Muslim immigrants often tried to integrate and contribute to the success of their new homeland. Their children and grandchildren grew up with the confidence of being equal citizens. They participates in all areas of human life; they joined the army and the police, they practised medicine and law, they became teachers and engineers, and most of all, they participated in the political process. Today the mayor of London is a Muslim, the Home Secretary is a Muslim, and Muslims are members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Muslims in the political process are not there to raise Muslim issues or to prioritise Muslim issues over others. They are there because they love Britain.
And then came the earthquake: first Al Qaida, and then the ferocious beast that was Isis. It preached the destruction of the nation state, allegiance to a fake khalifah somewhere in the Middle East, Hijrah to Syria as an article of faith, and hatred for all non Muslims.
The Prophet (peace be upon) preached that, “The Muslim is the one from whose hand and tongue all people are safe. And the Believer is the one who gives safety to the wealth and lives of all people.”
Yet Isis preached the opposite of this direct command, instead teaching their followers to klll, maim, stab and bomb innocent people on London Bridge, in Manchester Arena, in Woolwich and Borough Market. Although thousands of confused and lost Muslims did travel to Syria to live and die there, the overwhelming majority rejected the hateful ideology of Isis.
A beautiful teaching of our Prophet (peace be upon him) came alive during a time of great tragedy recently. The hadith states: “O people. Spread peace, give food, and pray at night when people are asleep. You will enter paradise in peace.”
The tragedy was the terrible fire in a tall block of London flats called Grenfell Tower. The fire began during the night when most residents were fast asleep. But it was the month of Ramadan and a group of Muslims were returning home after the nightly Tarawih prayers. They saw the fire, called for the emergency services, rushed into the tower, banged on doors and windows, and dragged out the traumatised residents. 72 people died during that night, but the number would have been much greater if the Muslims had not rushed to help.
The help did not stop their. The local Manar mosque opened its doors to the terrified and confused survivors. Muslim volunteers worked round the clock to provide bedding and clothes, food and water, nappies and baby food. Despite the fact they were fasting themselves and had not slept for days, they continued to provide physical help as well as moral support and love for weeks to come.
Six months later, a memorial service for the dead was held at the iconic and beautiful St Pauls’s Cathedral. Among the choirs, clergy, musicians sat a group of Muslim girls wearing white hijabs. These girls had been invited to sing a moving nasheed called ‘InshaAllah’ as part of the service.
As a member of the East London 3 Faiths Forum, I will be attending our annual party in December. This will celebrate Christmas, Hannukah and Eid Milad un Nabi. There will be religious songs, laughter, lots of food and no alcohol. An opportunity to spread peace, share food and shake hands with our neighbours.
This is from a speech given by Imams Online Senior Editor Ustadha Khola Hasan at the Muslim Peace Forum Abu Dhabi on Friday 7th Dec 2018