Event Review: iApps for Life: An Intimate Conversation with Ustadh Usama Canon
Where: United World College Auditorium
When: 3rd May 2013
Who: Ustadh Usama Canon
Humourous, engaging and relevant. Those were the impressions I was left with after the highly emotive lecture by Ustaz Usama Canon. The American born speaker artfully delivered his message to the crowd with the usage of tasteful humor and kept us interested throughout, with analogies and examples that we all, despite the differences in age and background, could relate to.
Ustaz Usama, a man no longer a stranger to the Singapore Muslim crowd, again, strove to help the crowd reconnect with our Lord, Allah azza wajalla, in the lecture themed, ‘iApps for Life’. Despite there being so many applications geared towards easing our daily lives, there is yet to be one developed specifically for our spiritual lives, an app to keep us connected to Him. Thus in this particular lecture, he endeavoured to give us an insight to what he deemed, an ‘app’ for our souls.
This ‘app’ consists of three key elements:
- the Maintenance of Historical Continuity,
- Rigorous study of our Historical Traditions , and
- Development of a personal aptitude
In the first point, he emphasized on the necessity to be both past- and future-oriented. Living in a city that is continuously focused on growth and moving forward, this statement reverberated through the crowd. Many of our youths today feel disconnected from the older generation as well as to the past, our culture and our history.
However, Ustaz Usama reminded us that in Islam, Allah subhanahuwata’ala constantly reminds us to look to our past and remember our origins. One is the reminder that we humans came from sperm, before that from earth and one day we will all return back to earth. We came from humble beginnings and will someday return to it. This sense of humbleness aids in keeping us grounded and reminds us of our dependence on Allah (S.W.T.).
Next, is how in the Quran, there are constant reminders to learn from tribes of past, to learn from their glories as well as their downfalls. A parallel to how our elders have much to share with us, through both their positive and negative experiences. So yes, we should look to our future as we develop spiritually, mentally and physically, but as we do so, Ustaz Usama reminds us to turn back and learn from the past in the carving of the future.
The reminder to reconnect with our past and with our elders can also be linked to his next key point, which is the rigorous study of our Historical Traditions, i.e. Islam. Islam was sent to us over 1400 years ago, in pre-modern times, however, its relevance remain unblemished. This message led to the resonance of verse 3 from Surah Al-Ma’idah in my mind, where Allah (S.W.T.) said: ‘This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.’ (Tafsir Ibn Kathsir).
Islam is already perfect, is already complete, He has already outlined to us, in his teachings how to connect to Him, how to walk on the Right path. All we have to do is to search from it. And how can we do that? Ustaz Usama, brought to our attention the teachings of Imam Shafi’e (R.A.) who taught us that in seeking knowledge of Islam, an obligation of both Muslims and Muslimahs alike, there are six requirements:
- Intelligence: among which, is the realization of our lack of knowledge
- Sense of Dedication: Covetousness towards knowledge.
- Hard Work: Endurance and grit in working towards gaining knowledge
- Basic Financial Sustainability: a stable income to support your educational endeavour (work hard in looking for rizq before tawakkal)
- Keep company of a Teacher: Look for a qualified teacher (“we need a specialist for our body, how can we not find a specialist for our spiritual needs?”) in order to receive proper guidance and not be lost along the way.
- A lot of Time: Knowledge, especially one pertaining to how to lead our lives, cannot be gained in a limited period, it is a lifelong endeavour.
Ustaz Usama reminds us, that in order to feed the needs of our souls, rigorousness is a requirement. As we face an internal battle and are faced with constant temptations from shaitan, we need to guard ourselves with knowledge and reminders of what it means and how to remain on the Right path.
A final tool of the ‘app’ is the awareness of our current spiritual state. To know how to feed our souls and keep it firmly connected to our Lord, we need to find out what its needs are. We need to connect with our spirituality and understand it before moving forward. This he reminds us, can be done through silent contemplation and by developing self-honesty, self-clarity and a sense of personal responsibility.
We need to be honest in the sins that we’ve committed and be clear about the state of our heart, we cannot delude ourselves. We need to establish the faults, before being able to fix it after all and we need to feel a sense of responsibility over our souls so as to push ourselves in changing for the better.
There were three main takeaways from this beautiful lecture, the urge to embrace modernity without forgetting Islamic traditions and brushing away the past in general, to continuously work towards the attainment of Islamic knowledge with an emphasis on the application of that knowledge, not simply gaining awareness and finally to develop the capability to assess our spiritual state and to hear our ‘Qalb’ or Heart.
Overall, the lecture was very well delivered, using language that the crowd can easily relate to and with a touch of humour to ease the heaviness of the message being sent. Among the audience, Ms. Latyfah M. Ishak commented that the speaker successfully met the objective of the lecture, and delivered a message that was directly applicable to the crowd. He, according to her was very good at relating his knowledge and experience to the masses.
Ms. Shaheeda Abdul Aziz, reiterated this message in stating that the lecture was very well-conveyed, and her laughter and spontaneous response throughout the lecture that I heard, certainly reaffirm her enjoyment. Ms. Shaheeda also hopes for more lectures by Ustaz Usama and personally hope that he can deliver a lecture specifically for converts, since he himself is a convert, especially with the number of new Muslims in Singapore steadily growing.
Personally, I certainly enjoyed and was moved by the lecture and hope for more ‘intimate’ lectures, maybe even focus groups, formed in future with Ustaz Usama Canon.
Nailul Farah Mohd Masbur
Nailul is currently a final year student in Singapore Management University, studying Political Science and Psychology.