Muhammad ﷺ: Mercy to Mankind
By Tahir Ali, Hartford, CT – 4/07/2014
Despite biting cold that penetrated to the bone, nearly five thousand Muslims gathered from New York to Chicago at the Hartford Convention center to attend the first ICNA-MAS North East Convention.
In his welcome speech, Waqar Haider, president of the ICNA Northeast region, said it took six months of planning to organize and successfully implement an event at this scale.
“This is 99 percent volunteer based,” said Haider. “Everyone you see wearing a volunteer tag on their coat, that is really a badge of honor.”
Naeem Baig, president of ICNA, highlighted the theme of the convention: Muhammad ﷺ: Mercy to Mankind. He spoke of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as the role model to emulate and stressed the need to become involved with social issues such as hunger and poverty.
“We Muslim Americans are generally resourceful and we need to give back to the society,” said Baig. “Prophet Muhammad, through his service to mankind, uplifted hearts and minds and guided souls.”
Baig spoke of the 40 ICNA chapters around the United States which engage with their communities and work on various fronts, such as providing women shelters and running “Back to School” projects.
In the first main session, Imam Suhaib Webb started with a verse from Surah Al-Anbiya: “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” [Quran 21: 107]
Reflecting on his days as a student, the Imam said that his teacher of hadith started by saying “This is the first hadith any beginner should learn from his or her shaykh,” and narrated, “‘The merciful ones – the Merciful is merciful to them.” The first hadith a student seeking sincere knowledge is taught is itself an exhortation to be merciful.
“The scholarly tradition embodied this mercy,” said Imam Webb. “And interestingly enough, the chain of this narration started from Iraq, to Damascus, to Egypt, to the Hejaz, to India, back to Egypt, back to the Hejaz and now to America – Allahu akbar.”
Imam Webb characterized the task of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as the bringer of glad tidings and the warner. “He is the Warner. Perhaps the greatest type of mercy that can be exercised is to save someone from sin, to bring someone out of the doldrums of vice. To take someone from shirk to tawheed,” he said. “When Rustam of Persia asked the Bedouin why had he come, he replied, ‘We came to bring people from the worship of creation to worship of the creator.’”
The Imam gave an example of rahma as a responsibility. The Prophet dealt with a person who did rukuh in a doorway by telling him, “May Allah reward you for your enthusiasm, but don’t do it again.” Contextualizing it, he said, the Prophet ﷺ didn’t go write a blog about the man who wrongly made rukuh in a doorway.
He concluded his session by reflecting on the position of rahma between irresponsible liberalism and irrational conservatism. He said he found it problematic when people made fun of conservative Muslims – the person with a big beard, or someone wearing ankle high pants – when they are following valid opinions.
“Moving forward as communities, as masajids, as institutions,” he said, “we need to recognize that rahma means to embrace the larger community as it is, neither should make fun of the other.”
In another session, Qasim Mazhar, an Islamic youth activist for more than 10 years, shared his thoughts on “Why Muslims love the Prophet”.
“Love requires action,” said Mazhar. “The legacy that the Prophet ﷺ left us is a legacy of helping other people. Live the life of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. His life was filled with action not rhetoric.”
Mazhar mentioned the five golden statements Hadhrat Khadija radi Allahu anha, may God be pleased with her, used to convince the Prophet ﷺ after he had received the first revelation that he truly was the chosen messenger. 1 – You are the one who maintains family ties 2 – You are the one who take care of the poor and needy 3 – Whenever you speak you always speak the truth 4 – When you find them in stress or calamity you elevate them and 5 – You honor the guest when you have a guest over.
“And that is why we love our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ” concluded Mazhar.
In his session, Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan, chairman of the Shari’ah Council of ICNA, articulated how the Prophet ﷺ was a messenger of peace. “His seerah, history of life, illustrates how he brought peace and yet the media distorts his image,” he said.
Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda, founder and director of Qalam Institute, continued on a similar vein. He said, regardless of what others said about the Prophet ﷺ , he was defended by Allah. He was told to ignore people like Abu Lahab.
Shaykh Jangda gave an account of a time when the Prophet was asked to deliver the message to the people and little Quran had been revealed. “He ﷺ was told, “Before you deal with people you should open their minds and hearts,” said Shaykh Jangda.
Throughout the convention there were numerous workshop and parallel sessions during which scholars and others covered various aspects of the Prophet ﷺ. Shaykh Uthman, Imam of the Worcester Islamic Center, spoke on the Prophet ﷺ in the light of his attributes as the truthful and the trustworthy. Imam Taymullah reflected upon the physical characteristics of the Prophet ﷺ, and Ustad Baajor walked through the manners and dealings of the Prophet ﷺ.
On another panel, Dr. Saud Anwar, the first Muslim mayor in Connecticut of South Windsor, talked about the leadership qualities of the Prophet ﷺ . Suzy Ismail, author of 9 to 5, spoke of the charter of Medina and the exemplary justice of the Prophet ﷺ it highlighted. Malika Rushdan explained the manner in which the Prophet ﷺ conducted da’wah through social services.
In a separate sisters session, Farhana Mateen, Sobia Saleem, Huma Shams and Sumaira Afzal led a lively panel discussion about “Walking on the Illuminated Path”.
Near the end of the conference, Imam Omar Suleiman spoke of the need to bridge the gap between generations. “Elders deserve a level of respect – do not compromise that respect,” he said. Elders also have to validate the youth. Reason with them – speak their language – validate them.
Overall, Haider was glad about the success of the conference. “All this is possible if you have a great team and good team work,” he said. “We all do this for the sake of Allah”
Photo Credit: Ahmed Mazumder