5 Gems from Prof Tariq Ramadan’s lecture

Assalam alaikoum wa Rahmatullaah wa Barakaatuh!

I can’t say how fortunate I was to be able to attend Prof. Tariq Ramadan’s lecture titled “Religious ethics in Post Modern Society” last night. The title itself sounds complex and I admit that at the beginning of the lecture, I was losing focus. It was only towards the end when he started to tie everything to today’s context, well.. he just blew me away 🙂 I kept uttering ‘Masha’Allah’ under my breath each time he says something profound. Here are some gems which I managed to jot down during the lecture and insha’Allah share some of my views. Like he said in the lecture.. “Don’t be passive believers or listeners.”

1) “Education is not just transmitting knowledge, but transforming behaviour”

We are so caught up with the paper chase that we don’t realize the importance of education can have on our lives. In schools, students are taught to regurgitate facts but yet fail to allow space for them to think critically. The goal that is always emphasized is to achieve the highest marks and compete to be in the best schools and yet we fail to fathom the ultimate objective of education: transforming people. How is it that we strive to produce students who can memorize and score top marks and yet unable to have the compassion for others?

2) “What are you using your knowledge for – to serve humanity or yourself?”

Prof Tariq mentioned something which I’ve always felt very strongly about. Each time someone asks me for advice about what career path they should take, my reply has always been that as long it benefits both you and humanity, then it’s a path worth taking. This does not mean that they should only limit themselves to volunteer or social work but there are in fact, many careers which can be used for the benefit of others too. An example is that if a student decides to work as a researcher, he or she could possibly focus on finding cures for diseases that have still no cures. Or he could be an economist and try to alleviate the problems affecting the third world country. Really.. the list is endless and all this boils down to what exactly is your objective for education.

3) ” The worst type of colonization is not the colonization of the mind, but in fact is the colonization of attitudes.”

This is something that we fail to recognize! Prof Tariq mentioned about producing people who are not ignorant but they are selfish in their ways. Are we concerned for the poor? What are we doing about the people who are oppressed around the world?

4) “The wrong use of rationality is arrogance. Be humble with rationality”

Have intellectual humility. ‘Nuff said!

5) Blaise Pascal: “We are generally the better persuaded by the reasons we discover ourselves than by those given to us by others.”

A sister asked about ‘crystallized intelligence’ of the older generation who are unwilling to accept new ideas. In other words, to dissect the term further, she was asking about how do we deal with people who are so deeply rooted in their beliefs that they reject anything that seem foreign to them. (I thought she asked a good question considering I constantly face such people). Prof Tariq then told her about the steps we can take to communicate with them. He quoted from Blaise Pascal (which I think it’s slightly different from the one I used above but it’s basically about the art of communicating).

Step 1: Catch his/her attention in a positive way

Step 2: Start with something that you agree upon

Step 3: Understand the psychology of the other person (i.e. put yourself in their shoes)

Step 4: Never tell someone that they are wrong

How useful masha’Allah! We tend to jump at each other’s throat without considering these steps first! Especially when practising our Deen, sometimes we disagree with each other (face it, even the Sahabahs do not agree with one another!) but the manner in which we advice each other, is completely atrocious. We are quick to say “you are doing Haram!” or “you are going to Hellfire for doing that” without first considering the psychology of the person (step 3). Prof Tariq also said that we may look at an issue from a different angle, thus we may think that our opinion is correct (and others wrong) but from their point of view, they understand it differently. It is important that we try to understand each other’s stand before passing judgements on each other.

Say for example a sister who does not wear hijaab. Rather than being quick to judge her about not wearing hijaab, we could at least try to ask the reason why is she delaying it. It could be that she is a new Muslim or that her family doesn’t allow her or that she faces some hardship wearing it. I remember a sister whom I used to live with wore hijaab when her parents were around but removed it when she attends classes. One person labelled her a ‘part-time hijaabi’ as a result, but when we became closer friends, she opened up to me about the difficulties she was facing.  Al-Hamdulillah she understands that it is a command from Him but she just needed the extra push to overcome her obstacles.

My sisters back in Australia had mentioned this repeatedly when we had our weekly halaqah. I see them practising these steps and I find that we understand and respect each other better albeit there are some things we disagree about. At the end of the day, it should not be about being the one who is ‘correct’ but trying to understand and accept different views of others without verbally harming anyone.

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Believe me, these are just 5 gems out of so many which I could have written down but didn’t have time to. I love the way he thinks and the way he forces us to contemplate on issues. Amazing! I’m going to buy one of his books “In the Footsteps of the Prophet (PBUH)” where he captures the life of Prophet sallallahu alayhi salam and then applying to the modern day. *Can’t wait!*

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