You are not going to reform any society if you don’t love the people with whom you live.  You should be a mercy to the worlds.  How can you be if you come with minds that judge and not with hearts that love?


Highlighting the Islamic teachings of giving and contribution, a leading Muslim intellectual has called on the Muslim community in Canada to play a positive role in promoting the welfare of their society.

“The very essence of faith is not to look at yourself through your weaknesses but look at yourself through your potential power,” Professor Tariq Ramadan told the audience at the annual winter dinner of the Islamic Institute of Toronto.

“The power of this faith is to have a positive perception of yourself.”

In a speech themed “Reflections from the Heart” last week, Ramadan spoke of the moment when Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) received the first revelation from Allah, through the Angel Jibreel.

“You come to the experience of the Prophet, peace be on him, and you get the sense of this journey,” he said.

“Allah took him from a very specific situation and, step by step, helped him to understand, through the revelation, the very essence of our religion.

“The first thing that was converted with Jibreel coming to the Prophet was the self-perception – what you think you can’t do alone, with Him you can,” he added.

“This is the power of faith – you can do it, bismi rabik.

“If you think of yourselves in the light of the others, if you think of yourself in the light of the attacks and responding to questions coming from people, you end up at the periphery of your religion,” he said.

“You end up responding to questions coming from outside and not at the heart of your tradition.

“It is important not to be focused and obsessed with ‘what shall I say if I am asked’ but what should I understand when I am alone with Allah.”


Ramadan spoke of the ‘conversions’ that Muslims should go through to experience the essence of their religion.

“The power and the strength that came to the Prophet, peace be on him, as the chosen, the purified, as the beloved is in fact the understanding that Allah took him step by step and made him understand the essence of Islam,” Ramadan said.

“The very essence of this religion is liberation.

“Change the way you look at yourself, change the way you look at the world and change the way you look at the society,” he told the audience.

The second conversion Ramadan mentioned in his speech was how Muslims relate to the natural world.

“Second, look at the world around you. You have in this country, nature and this environment – celebrate this,” he said.

“But to celebrate the environment, it means you have to study.

“There is nothing in the world that is not prostrating to Allah. If you look at them with your minds you do not get it but you get it if you look at them with your heart,” he said.

Ramadan is one of Europe’s leading Muslim thinkers and has often condemned terrorism and extremism.

An author of 20 books and 700 articles on Islam, he was named by Time magazine as one of 100 innovators of the 21st century for his work on creating an independent European Islam.

Serving Society

Professor Ramadan passionately spoke of how Canadian Muslims should relate to the society.

“Change the way you look at the society – don’t try to talk to the rich and powerful to change, be close to the poor – these are your people,” he said.

“When you serve the poor you educate the heart,” Ramadan said.

“If you serve somebody who has nothing, it means that you might be close to Allah.”

Professor Ramadan then asked the audience to reflect on their presence in Canada.

“You should know why you have to thank Allah for being in this country,” he said.

“You can keep on thinking about the countries of origin that you left but you have to convert this into something – thank Allah for being in Canada.

“And if you don’t know why you have to thank him, you must start checking and looking for an answer.”

The prominent intellectual also spoke of the role of Canadian Muslims in their society.

“You are not in Canada by accident; there are many things in this society that are better than in Muslim majority societies – say thank you and start working,” he said.

“The best way to thank Allah is to serve the people in all the fields and it has to come with generosity,” he urged.

“To believe is to give – to give to anyone who is in need; to give to women who are facing discrimination or violence – we give and we support and we protect.”

Prof. Ramadan concluded his presentation by asking the crowd to carefully consider their relationship to their fellow citizens.

“You are not going to reform any society if you don’t love the people with whom you live,” he said.

“Some of us Muslims are in this binary vision; we are Muslims – we are good and them – they are not.

“You should be a mercy to the worlds,” Ramadan said. “How can you be if you come with minds that judge and not with hearts that love.

“You will not complete your faith if you don’t love for your fellow human beings what you love for yourself – so in the name of God, serve Him, love and give.”

Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada’s 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the country.

A recent report from the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life said that Muslims are expected to make up 6.6% of Canada’s total population in 2030.

Muneeb Nasir
Originally published in OnIslam

“In relation to ourselves, to our neighbors and to societies, we must develop counterpowers, spaces of spiritual, intellectual, social, political, cultural and economic resistance”

Men being men, vigilance must be the watchword. In his philosophical essay Human, all too Human, Nietzsche enumerated several of the characteristics of the human being above and beyond religions, philosophies, cultures and beliefs.

They included a hypertrophied ego, a taste for power, gregariousness, pretension, social role-playing, etc.: a never-ending human comedy in which men create illusions, lie to themselves, and deceive themselves and others.

The common man is nothing more than this, claimed Nietzsche; only the exceptional artist can rise above the human condition.

The moral philosophers, from ancient Greece to Kant’s practical reason—by way of the Confucian, Hindu, and Buddhist spiritual traditions, as well as the three monotheistic religions—also affirm that such is the human’s sorry state, the single cardinal difference being their claim that the common woman and man possess the intellectual and ethical capacity to overcome their state.

Humankind is in shadow; if it aspires to full existence and to light, it must seek education and critical intellectual mastery, the counter-power of the individual and collective conscience.

Mankind must be positively and constructively wary of mankind, of their fellow man, of their families, of the members of their faith community, of their fellow-citizens. Depending on whether they are alone or in a group, they are not the same; not the same in a minority as in a majority; not the same in power or in opposition; theirs are not the same victims, the same executioners.

The same persons, wearing different hats, are no longer the same: beware of self, and keep an eye on those like you.

The final verses of the Qur’an, seen in this light, are troubling: at the end of a revelation of light and of the moral horizon, the repeated appeal for the protection of the Unique against mankind delivers up the secret of our societies: with or without God, alone or in society, oppressed or oppressors, we remain human, all too human. Dangerously human.

History is replete with ideologies of freedom, justice, liberation of the downtrodden and the exploited, that have been turned against the very people they had mobilized, or that have reproduced the same logic of exclusion and terror toward those whom they claimed to set free.

No civilization, no political philosophy, no religion can claim a monopoly of its contradictions, of its opportunism, of the hopes dashed, despoiled, manipulated. The liberal and financial illusions of capitalism, the promises of equality and justice of socialism and communism, the moral ideals of the Islamists have been invoked and shown to be empty… All have guilty blood on their hands. No exceptions.

The great capitalist democracies protect their interests and sow death and dictatorship in the name of their “civilizing mission;” the socialist and communist resistance, in the name of justice, as inVietnam(and so often repeated) end up exploiting, killing, torturing.

Yesterday’s victims of extermination, who lay claim to such status, have become today’s oppressors, as withIsrael(and with so many other peoples and ethnic groups around the world).

Muslim leaders, self-proclaimed reformers, Salafi literalists or violent extremists, who had promised the Islamic ideal of peace and justice end up enmeshed in power struggles, conflicts of ego and self-serving interpretations, reproducing little more than repression, the death of intelligence, and the elimination of their opponents.

Grim realities; grim truths.

While we speak of liberating uprisings in the Middle-East and in Africa, while we speak of universal consciousness, while the shared values of democracy or the ideology of the free market and the liberal economy seem to be imposed on all of us, we must remain more than ever vigilant. Those who, in the West, yesterday supported dictators now support the people in the name of the same logic of self-interest.

Those who yesterday supported the peoples may well end up supporting dictators, as in Syria or in the petromonarchies, in the name of dark interests and calculations.

The mass movements, the emotions, the shared illusions are dubious councilors; the crowd can be carried away, can become collectively blind, blinded, and dangerously ignorant, easily manipulated.

The world is a complex place and the influence of the media in its representation and its power of communication and interpretation is a remarkable amplifier of emotions, and of illusions. Instantaneous and mass communication is the mother of mass naivety.

Should we then lose hope? Is there any hope? But to lose hope is as dangerous as to nurture false hope. Where then can we find hope that is responsible?

In relation to ourselves, to our neighbors and to societies, we must develop counter-powers, spaces of spiritual, intellectual, social, political, cultural and economic resistance.

True critical consciousness begins precisely with this essential requirement: an ethics of counter-power that observes and seeks to master and to forestall the slippage of its own ego, the potential betrayals of its sisters and brothers in faith and in struggle.

A counter-power that resists the excesses of power but does not hesitate to identify the latent oppression that slumbers among the minorities, the oppressed and the victims of today.

The ethics of counter-power require an ethical counterpower: in the name of the overreaching principles of freedom, dignity, and justice, the humanity of humankind must be submitted to ethical judgment, one that is never compromising, compromised or selective.

Such a position cannot mean that we flee human society, social or political commitment: quite the contrary. In the light mankind’s destiny, and of its human, all too human characteristics, there can be no question of offering power to those who will abuse it without counter-parties, without requirements.

To power we must hold up the demanding and determined mirror of resistance, and of counter-power, one that will make no concessions, neither to our brothers, nor to our foes.

This is the awareness that, in the final analysis, is the cradle of just and reasonable aspiration, where the oppressed, the poor, women, the excluded, who so often count for almost nothing in the circles of power, emerge as subjects of their own history, and become the motor of historical change.

The power of counter-power is but another name for conscience, a synonym for faith.

Originally published in  the Arab Gulf news and reprinted here with permission of the author.


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