Event Review: A Series of Talks by Brother Idris Tawfiq
On his third visit to Singapore, Brother Idris Tawfiq introduced his latest book “Gift of the Nile – Land of Faith” which speaks about the beauty of his current hometown, Egypt, from a perspective with a twist.
Having written nine books and currently a lecturer in the renowned Al-Azhar University, he was the guest speaker for 4 recent public talks organized by the Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore (Darul Arqam). Addressing real issues within the Muslim community and beyond, his light-hearted yet profoundly provocative sessions sure gave his audience a greater insight to consider in understanding our pursuits of life.
Road to The Heart
Welcoming the audience in this talk, Brother Idris Tawfiq opens by reading an excerpt from his new book, describing the beautiful Siwa Oasis in the hearts of Egypt and correlating it with having to find a similar ‘oasis’ from within our souls. Directing that ‘oasis’ within ourselves to what we hold in our hearts, very often as human beings we get absorbed in the pace of life and develop a certain form of ignorance towards ourselves and those around us.
“As people of faith we should be seeing things with faith. The world is sweet and good only if we have the eyes to see all of that.”
Often we tend to overlook the beauty of simple things that subtly describes the condition of our hearts.
In our attempts to reconnect to our ‘oasis’ or hearts, brother Idris hits a note by reminding us of the ‘idols’ we worship in them. He refers to these idols as to what we’ve put as purposes in our lives, while thinking we are only worshipping Allah through them. Perhaps some of us have the responsibilities of providing for our families, but “what are we working so hard for if we haven’t got time for our children?”
Providing for our families is only right to do, but without understanding other aspects of life which are also as important, we will lose faith in what we do.
“We spend a lot of time on things that are not Allah – so our hearts are not happy.”
“Often we think we know the answers to things, but we don’t.”
Allah should be the focal point of our lives. Making an intention for every little thing that we do based on what He Commands us to do will allow us to have a greater insight into our purposes in this life.
[pullquote_left]“The message of Islam is very simple, but as grown-ups we make it very complex. The essence of Islam is that there is a God and that God Speaks to His Creations.”[/pullquote_left]
As conclusion his first public talk, he went on to speak about rediscovering the beauty of simplicity in Islam and how simple it is to spread its message in a statement:
“At some point we realize we can’t change the world, but what we can do is touch the lives of those around us.”
In ‘Road to the Heart’, we discovered how faith encompasses our perspectives in life and unleashed the idols we worship obliviously in our daily affairs as well as understood how Islam is a simple message that should be as it is. Establishing these in our lives would help us travel a clearer and smooth “Road to the Heart”, seeking it as the ‘oasis’ in our somewhat desert-like lives.
The Certitude of Faith
In his 2nd public talk for his visit here, Brother Idris addresses the religious representatives of the various religions as ‘People of Faith’. Having had experience in Christian priesthood before he embraced Islam, he repeatedly emphasizes the point that people who are strong in their respective religions are people of strong faith.
In his sharing of vast experiences in inter-faith activities, are gentle reminders of how often we let our judgemental selves stop us from gaining as much goodness as we can.
“Goodness doesn’t come from the shaytaan. Goodness comes from God. So wherever we find goodness, we should embrace it.”
He describes to us how sometimes we’ve “over-furnished our faith” in our quest to gain goodness and sweetness from this life. As a result, we’ve lost the meaning of humility to be able to gain more knowledge and wisdom from what Allah Has provided us with in this world.
Directing his speech to inspire us to engage in unity by respecting the faith of others and by extending our friendship to everyone regardless of their faith, Brother Idris reminds us yet again that “everything and all roads lead to Allah.”[quote]“Whatever path we’re taking, we’re journeying. We need to be humble too when being with people of other faith because they’re on their own journeys as well.”[/quote]
Achieving the certitude of faith is to understand that it is the same message in which different people have understood differently is as simple as taking time to admire the beauty of life around us.
Prayer Becomes You
This youth-centric session targets the challenges of the younger generation in their lives as a member of the community here.
Brother Idris opens the session by speaking about how being Muslim should instil confidence in one and inspire them to be the best they can be. Considering Singapore’s globalized context, there is no doubt that at some point the sweep of modernity within our society could prove to be hazardous towards our understanding of faith, and fulfilling our religious duties.
A panel of five young representatives of various backgrounds – teaching, pursuing their Masters’ or even working at the New York Stock Exchange were part of the session, addressing issues of the various youth demographic they each represent.
[pullquote_right]“As Muslims we should be the very best we can be. And that doesn’t mean we should forget our young people. As the older people we should be there for them, and encourage them.”[/pullquote_right]
Often relating the questions from the young panel to his experiences during the visits to many countries, he explains and affirms the need for a community effort in doing good. Some of the issues that we face include the society’s perceptions and expectations, however an absolute reminder that was brought up was to consciously be grateful that Allah S.W.T made us Muslim and embrace it with humility.
We were not created to be a judge over one another and maintaining humility as well as remembering Prophet Muhammad (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallaam) as the perfect example would aid us in not being judgemental.
Addressed with issues with regards to being motivated and education as well as avoiding sins, we were once again rediscovering the purpose of our lives on this earth.
“People learn more from kindness than they do from words.”
To be kind, gentle and loving was what brother Idris Tawfiq encouraged to maintain Islam in our lives without being miserable and dull.
In his last public talk of this series, brother Idris emphasizes the need to look after our new brothers and sisters while taking upon this life as a journey for ourselves.
“It is your duty to look after the new Muslims.”
Life is a continuous learning experience, and it was Allah’s Plan that we are Muslims. It’s important to keep alive that faith without having to fall into the trap of imposed ideas that people along this journey sometimes give us.
Being Muslim doesn’t mean having to speak Arabic or giving up your nationality. You don’t have to change your name or don ‘Moroccan’ clothing to be Muslim.
Speaking of such stereotypes, brother Idris Tawfiq recalled a quote from his friend, Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick:[pullquote_left]“We’ve become a nation of trivia as Muslims. We concentrate too much on trivial matters.”[/pullquote_left]
To counter such an issue with gentleness, we need to be able to speak to one another in a way we can all appreciate.
Along the journey, at times, we forget the aspect of humility.
To always bear in mind the humility we should have, we shouldn’t forget simple, ordinary people and we should also always remember the less fortunate around us.
Along this journey of wisdom and faith, we encounter many ‘might-have-been’s but all the events in our lives have somewhat contributed to made us into the people we’ve become.
With that, we should place our trust in Allah.
Brother Idris Tawfiq concluded his last public talk with a gentle yet beautiful reminder: “When we stop being ‘new Muslims’, that’s when we’ve lost it.”
Brother Idris’s visit to do da’wah here provided a fresh perspective towards unleashing the beauty of Islam. He spoke about Islam which he first found in the form of a young boy polishing shoes along the streets of Cairo and relating it to what he knew about ‘faith’ during his priesthood days. As a takeaway to leave us in our own contemplations from his lecture series here, are our states of humility, our understandings of faith and how Islam is beautiful, gentle and sweet in its perfection.
May what we’ve learnt from his talks here bring blessings to us and allow us to blessings to one another. Ameen.[divider]
A flawed servant with a voice to and for trust. Your sister in faith, your friend in deen and your Ummah in congregation.