Star line-up for al-Ghazali Festival – Jhb, CT & Dbn

The al-Ghazali Festival scheduled to take place in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban during October has a star line up of speakers who will be delivering lectures on al-Ghazali. This series is being organised by Baitul-Hikmah in association with Afrika Impressions, ITV, AwqafSA, FonsVitae, Islamic Forum and a number of other organisations.

Opening the series will be Shaykh Sharif Hasan al-Banna on Why Ghazali matters today. This will be followed by Shaykh Hamza Maqbul on the Ghazalian Council for the Seeker of Success and after which Sister Gray Henry of the USA will talk on how Ghazali came into her life at age 25 and changed her life at 75. The series will be concluded by Shaykh Seraj Hendricks on Imam al-Ghazali’s Epistemology – An Islamic Perspective.

See for lecture schedule and registration. The lecture in Durban is scheduled to take place at the Orient School on Sunday 21 October after Zuhr.

Mohamed Amra will conclude the series with a talk on: Re-building Our Ummah: An Extension of the scope of the Maqasid As Shariah based on the original framework laid out by Imam Al Ghazali.

In the talk he will outline and make the following observations:

With a cursory glance on the state of the Muslim Ummah, one concludes that the image of Islam and Muslims is in a serious state of tension. The Ummah today is facing challenges from within and from the wider world. The critical problems are the fundamental tensions within the house of Islam which must be confronted. The Ummah must come to grips with its own challenges.

The multiple interpretations and ‘expressions’ of Islam have given rise to this tension, as each group lays claim to be the true interpreters of Islam competing for influence and followers, regionally, nationally or globally. A singular interpretation-expression is utopian. How, ever, we may differ there needs to be some basic foundation on which we agree, apart from our verbal testimony of Quran and Sunnah.

Muslims have established institutions to serve their needs, but have, of late, largely failed to build strong communities, whether in Muslim countries or as minorities. This tension must be addressed as some of the primary institutions have become dysfunctional, in particular, the masjid. This, due to the religio-cultural expression of Islam, which is expressed by the religious performance of rituals with little regard to social responsibilities and hence, the conspicuous absence of active Muslims in civil society beyond the Muslim NGO establishments.

The problem is the absence of a visionary framework by which Muslim communities must operate in society to build strong Muslim communities, interacting and integrating with other non-Muslim communities.

The framework we refer to is the Maqasid As Shariah as originally founded by Imam Al Ghazali, which, has been forgotten, lost or buried in theological schools and not taken to the communities. It is imperative we re-visit the Maqasid, (higher objectives) of the Shariah and extend its scope, which will raise the bar, move the boundaries and propel us to become a community that will be socially relevant, educationally excellent, culturally dynamic, spiritually profound, and economically self-sufficient.

Some ideas will be presented on how we can rebuild our communities if we have a more informed understanding of the Maqasid and embrace it with greater enthusiasm. We need to widen the scope of the Maqasid of which, there are 5, and make every objective relevant to every Muslim everyday of their lives, practical examples will be given. This is the surest way of realising the higher intents of the Shariah.

“He was completely inner focussed on the Divine and had left the world behind him. When I entered into his presence I said: ‘You are the lost thing I have been looking for all of my life. You are the imam who will guide me’. Our meeting was an epiphany of inward knowledge. I witnessed something from him that was ineffable. He was a man that if you saw him, you saw a manifest spiritual state. If you knew him, you knew a vast ocean…” – Recollections of a great Maliki scholar who visited al-Ghazali just before he died. He related his experience with Imam Ghazali during a retreat near Baghdad.

[Quoted from the Introduction by Sh. Hamza Yusuf to ‘The Book of Knowledge’ by al-Ghazali]

“I found everyone hankering after the material gains. People had become forgetful of the eternal salvation, while the ‘ulama who are guides to the right path were not to be found any longer. There remained only those who had lost their soul to the worldly temptations. These people had led everyone to suppose that knowledge consists simply in the debates and arguments by which they spread their fame; or else ornate sermons by which they held the people spell-bound; or else legal opinion, by which they sat in judgment to settle disputes of others. The knowledge that was required to illuminate the path leading to the world-to-come had thus completely disappeared. I could not endure this state of affairs and ultimately decided to sound the alarm”


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