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Lessons on Islamic Beliefs

Sheikh Shomali's speech for a group of teachers and madressa educators

In the 16th of April 2016 Sheikh Shomali held a special lesson with a group of teachers and madressa educators. The purpose of the meeting was to underline the importance of acquiring a good knowledge of aqaed (doctrines of faith).
The recent book by Sheikh Shomali titled ‘Lessons on Islamic Belief’ provided the basis of an interactive discussion in which the participants were encouraged to ask questions on the basis of what they had read from the book.
Before starting the three -hour session Sheikh Shomali gave a brief introduction explaining how the process of learning aqaed is a continuous one and it is central to our spiritual growth and self-development. He explained that increasing one’s knowledge of the doctrines of Islamic faith has a transformative effect on the believer. He also explained that the classification of the principles of faith into ‘roots’ and ‘branches’ or pillars developed over the centuries as a conventional way to introduce Islam while the Islamic belief system is made up of many more doctrines.
He also added that perhaps it was now time to also introduce a definition the ‘fruits’ generated by the knowledge of ‘roots’ and ‘branches’. He identified these as virtues emanating from the knowledge of the doctrines of faith, a core set of 5-10 virtues, the acquisition of which would determine our individual spiritual progress. Sheikh Shomali also spoke of the necessity of recognising and presenting to others the characteristics of Shi’a Islam. He believes that key characteristics of Shi’a Islam are: rationality, spirituality and search for justice, clearly evident from the teachings and practices of the Imams from the Prophet Muhammad’s Ahl ul Bayt(as) . A balance between these characteristics will yield the right result and the exclusion of extremism, radicalism or passivism said Shomali.
The first part of the session ended after a brief elucidation of the 5 usul-e-deen (roots of religion) of Shi’a Islam namely: The Unity of God, Divine Justice, Prophethood, Imamate and Resurrection.
The second session started with an exposition of the most fundamental principle of Islamic faith: Tawhid (the unity of God). Sheikh Shomali posed the question to why Tawhid has become the most important principle, why not the Existence of God, for example? He explained that in the Qur’an the existence of God is not considered to be something difficult for people to perceive and understand but the challenge is to have a proper understanding of God and the Qur’an focuses on elucidating this aspect of belief. Sheikh Shomali then spoke of the effect on the person who is a true believer of Tawhid (muwahhed). When the light of Allah comes to one’s heart all problems disappear. In his exposition Sheikh Shomali turned towards the clarification of theological understandings pertaining to the nature of God and His attributes with references to the differences between Shi’a Islam and other classical schools such as the Asharites.
In the Q & A session the participants discussed practical ways to transmit knowledge of aqaed when teaching young people in madressas or schools. Here Sheikh Shomali gave some practical advice on what aspects of aqaed to focus on depending on the age and the knowledge of the student. He believes that when addressing young children and teenagers the most important thing is to find a way to make them love God, to explain to them that God is the one who has given them everything. Love for God is a precondition to developing obedience towards Him but obedience is obligatory only at a certain age so there is no need to overburden a child with obligations before it is due. We need to make our children develop love for Allah before anything else he stressed. Other questions touched upon the issue of intercession in Islam and on the nature of Prophets’ infallibility. More sessions are planned for the near future.
Recordings of this session are available at  https://www.youtube.com/user/islamiccentre1998
Playlist: Interactive Session on Lessons on Islamic Beliefs – by Sheikh Dr Shomali 16/04/2016

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