Monday, December 5, 2011

Nov- report- HALIFAX

Halifax is growing Muslim hub.

When you think of Halifax, Nova Scotia, you imagine the famous Dr Jamal Badawi- the prolific scholar whose cassettes I would listen to in the 80’s and lobster. Yes, and it’s lobster season and the cost of a permit is almost half a mil!

Now after visiting Halifax recently I would add to my memory ‘a familial community of successful Muslim professionals who are humble and progressive.’

I often see Halifax as the point of departure of African slaves on their way back to North Africa- the free town of Liberia. After talking to the famous Black history historian and Muslim activist Dr Afua Coopers, now the Chair of Black History at Dalhousie University, I came to realise that many of the Afro Canadians that I know and you may know like the Downeys are originally from the Muslim slaves brought under colonialism to these parts of the Free World. She said there almost 50 such settlements and the marked observation of Muslim presence can be seen.

I saw three main centres of Muslim worship and the main Masjid at the central Halifax is purpose built and beautiful, costing millions with one of the oldest Islamic schools in the province of East maritime. Meeting with Ziaullah Kahn who runs a dynamic and loving center for Islamic Dawah and development gives us the easy reminder that Toronto needs to do more in this department. He runs endless progressive educational program for New Muslims and inmates. I even met Mr Muhammad Yaffa, his next in comrade who is busy with Interfaith dialogue in the Muslim minority province.

At the Dartmouth mosque, which is the oldest, the Muslims who came in the early 60’s felt they could no longer pray Juma in the church when Allah had blessed them with wealth and abilities. Many were professors and doctors with lots for foreign students attracted to the province. They bought land and a house and today that new building has an annex for the Muslim women in the city. The Imam there is doing a fantastic job among the youths, Non Muslims, the professionals and interacting with the wider community is crucial. He is Moulana Hamza and is Canadian born and has studied in England.

I spoke at the big Ummamasjid for Juma and was amazed of the steady outpour of appreciation for the khutba as I recalled some of the activities we do in Toronto within the communities. I also spoke about my book on Intimacy at the Dartmouth mosque and again was met by both brothers and sisters with great compliment for a topic that is still taboo. The questions were deeply reflective as students from Saudi Arabia, India and elsewhere gather there to further their studies and are faced with many issues in a new land far from a Muslim majority. One doctor happened to have served the late Shaikh Uthaimeen and he remarked that he has never heard any one speak on such intimate topics and offered insights on organ donation from an Islamic perspective. He concurred that such an act is done professionally in some Muslim countries whereas others lack legislation hence the abuse.

The Nova Scotians are neighbourly, kind and willing to learn. My experience at the beautiful tip of North Eastern Canada called the Peggy's Cove was indeed indelible as fresh lobster is cooked and served with on the spot training and timely advise of the trade.

We are indeed lucky for this beautiful called Canada and I was even more lucky that my plane could have safely landed in at St John’s New Foundland the night Halifax was hit with an unexpected snow storm.

On leaving my heart melted as many came for my farewell and the warmth of brotherhood stayed with me, reminding me of my days in Georgetown among a less busy urban crowd, rather among family and friends that are so easy to live with and learn from. As Br Kursheed would say there that he hand slaughters all the animals at the farm that the Muslims consume and he doesn’t differentiate among the Muslims. As Br Mahmood, originally from Jordan and living there for almost two decades would say that Islam is easy and keep that in mind and you will love your Deen easily!

Islamic New Year 1433

I pray that this new year heralds great thing in your lives and the new moon of love, faith and prosperity will follow your every waking moment as you strive to make the best of yourselves and the communities. I pray Allah has accepted the Hajj of many who have be blessed to respond to that call recently.

I'm quite cognizant that some communities are in mourning during this time of the year as we all continue to remember the unparalleled self sacrifice of Imam Hussain, ra, on behalf of the wider Islamic civilization at that time of his young calling. I'm also aware that the history of Islam has been misrepresented and the texts redesigned at times to support one side or the other at the intolerable expense of lives, mutual harmony and overarching principles of justice, humanity and democracy.

I pray that goodness and common sense prevails as we plan and hope for a better year of 1433 AH: - again a reminder that migration from Mecca to Madina was chosen as the milestone to mark the origin our calendar, so apt for immigrants everywhere trying their best to establish their faith as a minority within the context of the many unfamiliar grounds and issues.

Jewish School opens in U f T and Muslims invited.

It’s a dream come true for Rabbi Roy Tannenbaum. After forty years in Canada and three years working with the School of Theology at the U f T the traditional Rabbinical school that would produce Rabbis with a modern understanding of issues that are Canadian has finally opened its doors.

At a rather lavish, academic and entertaining inauguration Imam AbdulHai Patel offered his congratulations and again Muslims in Canada are reminded how important it is to have traditional school of Islam that trains Imams within the Canadian context with all the modern tools and having the credentials of an accepted University degree. This was the idea behind the Muslim certificate Program offered at Emmanuel College. Habeeb Alli was present at the event and met so many people from all walks of life and religious backgrounds who found the eminent organisation of boards, faculty and curriculum something to emulate and celebrate.

Police celebrates the holidays and Eidul Azha

Where can you find Muslims celebrating Eid at a police headquarters and are treated to celebrations of Diwali, Gurparab and Christmas with folks eating halal food and lots of good curry?

Of course Toronto!

The Master of Ceremonies, Jake Dheer, ably entertained the audience of varied backgrounds and leadership with a variety of speakers representing the various consultative bodies to the Police, including Mr. Zul Kassimalli from the South Asian Committee and Usman Khan from the Muslim committee. A choir of Ismaili students rendered a Muslim song, a Hindu song and a carol to the amazement of the audience and the cheer of their peers. Many youths from the Tamil community were honoured for their continued volunteerism and the Chief Bill Blair was there in person to say thank you; for without the liaison committees safety in Toronto would remain a challenge.

Thank you for serving and protecting!

Scriptural Reasoning sessions

Not often you get to study texts from the Quran, the Bible and the Torah in home setting over tea and great friends from all three respective faiths.

Susan Harrison is a PHD student of religion and has been organising these very insightful sessions over the years. The last time we had these session the topic was on forgiveness and the issue of whether forgiveness necessitates an actual physical act or practical effort or just an act of grace and that of the heart. The sessions saw scriptures quotes, references from authors and scholars and lots of experiences and thoughts on present issues.

It’s something to witness!

Among the Muslims who attend and more are required is Imam Irshad, lawyer Omer and Shaikh Habeeb and Br Hamza.

Eid with inmates

Thank you for not judging me! That was the words of many of the inmates after partaking in the Eid celebrations for EidulAzah at two half way houses in Toronto.

Eating hot curry and roti prepared by volunteers at Brampton Islamic Centre and talking about the story of Abraham and the hajj made these diners such a wonderful experience.

The few Muslim inmates that participated and even helped organise along with the community chaplain rev Harry Nigh and the management shows that just as Abraham had hope on Allah that he would not make Him sacrifice his son nor take his life away even when left in dessert so too we have to have hope in the human dignity of life- that inmates too have life and a faith and they too deserve a second chance at life.

Qurbani meat served to Yong Street Mission

Many would like to see the poverty in Toronto go away. How many is doing something about it?

Every year we ask Muslims to consider doing their duty of Qurbani in Toronto so places like Yong Street Mission daily food bank may have some halal meat for their many Muslim users.

It was amazing to note that this year Mr Mutaqeen of Brampton was able to donate more of the beef and lamb thanks to more donors a volunteers. Other sin GTA added their lot including Mr Sadro Usman and his networks. The cause is amazing and while Pakistan flood and Somali attracted a wider support the issue at home will always come first. Charity begins at home and Qurbani done at home or elsewhere is valid.

Holocaust education week held at Solel.

On a cold Friday night when the game is on and the fireplace is warm you don’t think to driving to Mississauga and attend a synagogue. But such is the call of building bridges and not underestimating that discrimination against one is racism against all. Yesterday was the Jews and tomorrow maybe the Muslims.

So Solel synagogue invited neighbours to listen to a very moving lecture on the Holocaust. Among the attendees were the leadership of IMO, Br Ameer and Umar and many other Muslims.

Treated to a beautiful rendition from the Torah and lots of sweets after, the evening turned to issues about Islamophobia, women in the Quran and the need to have interfaith sessions organised by Muslims. Now that is something!

Emmanuel College hosts session on Muslim chaplaincy

Being a chaplain that serves the spiritual needs of all faiths is seen at time challenging one’s own faith.

That was the theme of a forum held at Emmanuel college by Natalie Wiqq, a professor for teaching pastors at Emmanuel College at U f T. The panellists were Rev Harry Nigh and Habeeb Alli.

The students asked some very pointed questions and the moderator, the professor herself was very deep in questioning the role of chaplaincy in prison setting, the after care, the education and the way one serves others without compromising ones faith.

Jesus served all was the answer from the Rev and the Imam reminded all that Muhammad was sent to all humankind and a chaplain is spiritual facilitator and he gets reward from God for making others find God!

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