The three-day Iqra! Workshop, first in a series of ‘God-talk’ roundtables planned by the IFMT, took place last week in office space kindly placed at our disposal by the legal firm Shakespeare Martineau.
Part of the mission of the IFMT is to promote and facilitate ‘God-talk’, or the return of God to the centre of human concern, both at the academic level and the level of ordinary, everyday life. The Islamic revelation has at its heart the imperative for all human beings to know, love and worship their Creator. ‘God-talk’, which means quite simply talking to God directly, talking to oneself about God, talking to others about Him, and bringing Him to mind wherever we are and whatever we are doing, seems to be something of a lost tradition in Muslim spirituality.
The IFMT is endeavouring to contribute to the revival of this tradition. To this end, a series of workshops under the rubric “Iqra!” (Read) has been planned. Last week saw a dozen invitees of all ages, from all walks of life and social strata come together for three days of lectures, debate and discussion, and guided groupwork. The attendees, a mix of students, teachers, professionals and interested lay Muslims, had as their uniting characteristic a deep desire to understand more about their creator. With the general theme of the Workshop being the Divine command “Iqra!”, the three-day meeting had as its overarching theme the notion of creation as a vast book which must be read and interpreted correctly, i.e. bismillah or ‘in the names of God’, in order to make sense and yield meaning.
Each of the three days of the Workshop was dedicated to a particular facet of “Iqra!”, with the format for each day being the same: two forty-minute lectures, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, followed by several sessions of debate, discussion and groupwork. Day One was given over to a discussion of how to read the Divine signs in the universe, and why the paradigm of Divine oneness (wahidiyya) and uniqueness (ahadiyya) is important for a fruitful understanding of God’s self-disclosure to humankind. Day Two was dedicated to a study of the ‘prophet as exemplar’, with case studies on Yunus (a.s.), Ayyub (a.s.) and Musa (a.s.), all of whose narratives in the Quran are rich with God-talk precepts that can be applied to our lives in the here-and-now. Day Three had a slightly different format. It began with a short talk by an environmentalist, who brought us all up to speed about current problems. This was followed by lectures on Islam and our responsibilities with regard to our environment. How one is to be in the world while not being of the world, and how one is to contribute to the ordering of one’s environment in a way which helps us fulfil our role as Divine representatives (khalifa) on earth, was the central strand of the third day’s lectures and activities.
Feedback from the attendees has been universally positive, which feeds into our enthusiasm as a Foundation to work even harder on the next “Iqra!” workshop, which we are already planning for October 2023, insha’Allah.