9The Kawthar Learning Circle held its Social Wilayah winter retreat from March 1st – 4th at the Cedar Ridge Camp in Ontario, Canada. The theme for the weekend was, ‘For the Love of God’ with a focus on spirituality, marriage and family life, and community. The schedule included discussions and lectures with Shaykh Dr Shomali and Sister Israa Safieddine; outdoor winter activities and a children’s programme.
The atmosphere of the retreat was a genuine reflection of social wilayah because everyone showed great respect, trust, love and sincerity towards each other and were eager to learn from Shaykh Shomali. The beauty of the natural surroundings
enhanced the quality of the retreat as the chalet enabled participants to witness the sunrise and the sunset each day. A sense of unity seemed to have been achieved through the harmony between believers themselves and the signs of God’s beautiful creation.
On the first night, Shaykh Shomali spoke about spirituality and its connection to the KLC and the community. If you really want knowledge, there are three things you must do: seek the reality of servitude, practise what you know, and ask God for understanding.
Each morning started with 15 minutes dedicated to meditation and dhikr before morning prayer, followed by recitation of Qur’an and du‘a. Afterwards, Dr Shomali gave a tafseer on Surah Al-Alaq. He explained how God made this world sacred for learning and ibadah and to be at the service of haqq, so it is in harmony with those serving haqq. When the Angel Gabriel first embraced the Prophet (s), pressed him and said “iqra”, the Prophet(s) was unable to read until Gabriel repeated it four times. It was only when the Prophet found some letters of noor written in his heart that he was able to read. Dr Shomali highlighted the significance of the word iqraa and explained that what the Prophet had received was written, but not in the worldly sense. The names of God are not merely words; rather, His light and power can be accessed through these names and they become a means to feel His presence and have a better encounter with Him.
He illustrated that through ‘bismillah alrahman alraheem’, we are meant to plan and to enact things that are a manifestation of our understanding of God. The word iqraa emphasises the importance of reading and that God not only teaches us the content but how to deliver it; therefore, we need to open ourselves to His teaching and show Him that we want to learn.
After breakfast, Shaykh Shomali gave a lecture entitled, ‘Tawheedi Devotion – The Marriage of Prophet Muhammad(s) and Lady Khadijah(a) in Today’s Context.’
The main thing for making a marriage work and keeping it strong is not age, financial similarity and not what other people in the community may think. What makes two people a good match is their common understanding of what they expect from life. Before marriage, you should first figure out what is your plan for life, then find someone who thinks in the same way. You cannot find someone who is perfect because there is no perfection in this world. You are going to learn many things in this process, but at least you are happy to learn.
Lady Khadijah(a) was not a barrier for the Prophet(s) in relation to him carrying out his duties and responsibilities. If a husband sees his wife has talents, he should let her grow. Marriage should be something that you do to facilitate the other party’s pursuit of their goals. You have to see how you can let the other person grow and sometimes you have to accept that the other person may disappear from your life. Someone wrote this beautiful sentence, “Sometimes for the sake of the beloved, you have to sacrifice love.” I changed it a little bit, by saying, “Sometimes for the sake of the beloved and the love, you have to give up your portion of love.” Meaning, sometimes, you have to sacrifice, but you don’t stop the other person.
The other thing we find in this marriage is loyalty. In the most difficult conditions, Lady Khadijah(a) remained with the Prophet(s). If someone doesn’t have that integrity they cannot cope with the difficulties of life. Even after the death of Lady Khadijah, the Prophet showed so much respect and loyalty to her. One of the greatest signs of a mu’min is loyalty, which is very important in family life and marriage.
After the morning break, the brothers and sisters had their respective sessions with Shaykh Shomali and Sister Israa. The brothers’ session turned out to be a very fruitful discussion on the Islamic understanding of leadership with an emphasis on family relationships and their broader implications in society.
Shaykh Shomali mentioned that there is a difference between developing confidence in people and training everyone to become a leader. Leadership is actually the natural consequence of showing responsibility in carrying out one’s duty such that the best leader is the one who has the greatest understanding of responsibility and the capacity to sacrifice for the sake of others. Similarly, Islamic leadership when it comes to social and family interaction should be attained through an organic process of carrying out responsibilities in a respectful manner rather than through sheer authority, “Leadership is gained through carrying out duties, it is not a static and de facto right.”
Sister Israa led two sisters’ sessions about the characteristics of the female helpers [Ansars] of Imam Mahdi(atf). The sisters participated in a brainstorming activity where they had to write down and discuss the most important qualities of an Ansar. Some of the attributes were knowledge, patience, humility, mercy, and charisma.
Sister Israa then highlighted that in order to understand Imam Mahdi, it is necessary to look at the Prophet’s(s) life. She then discussed a supplication from Sahifatul Mahdi wherein the Imam is asking God to favour women who have haya’ (modesty) and ‘urfa (chastity). Haya’ comes from the word hayat (life) and implies that one feels a sense of internal embarrassment or shame while chastity is an internal quality (and modesty is how it plays out socially).
Afterwards Shaykh Shomali gave a lecture entitled ‘Negativity’. He mentioned that many times our experiences and character influence our understanding of Islam. It’s very important that we understand what the requirement of faith is, because our minds seem to notice negative points quicker than positive ones. A mu’min is the one who has balance; he does not only see the negative things or things that cause one to worry. He has trained himself to see everything that can affect his situation and decision. A mu’min should lean more towards the positive side, commonalities and being hopeful, which is in conformity with the Lordship of God. A mu’min should think that this world is in favour of mu’mineen, good intentions and actions. If you manage to establish this in yourself, it will affect many things. Always have the mentality that problems are like bubbles, but truth is like water.
Two evenings were dedicated to the hadith of Unwan Al-Basri from Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq(a). He described a list of nine things to observe on the path towards God. The first three relate to controlling your appetite. The next three relate to controlling your emotions when dealing with others. And the last three relate to knowledge: ask the scholars about what you do not know; be wary of acting on your own opinion and avoid giving religious edicts.
In the weekend sessions, Dr Shomali gave a lecture on ‘Hikmah in Speech: Social Media, the Internet, and our Moral Ethos’. He explained the necessity of being alert, conscious and having a reason for everything that we do. While we should not be absent on social media, we need to consider all the risks of posting something online.
In the afternoon, the sisters had a session with Dr Shomali, when he briefly discussed the role of Bibi Aasiyah(a) as a role model for tawakkul. He explained how Bibi Aasiyah’s heart raised her and made her special; she showed the maximum power of humans, as she was able to resist external pressures. He also responded to many questions related to motherhood and marriage. To make a marriage successful, Dr. Shomali advised the sisters to lower their expectations, be practical, invest in communication, and know that men understand things differently than women. Ultimately, marriage is not about how much you can take but how much you can put in.
Dr Shomali explained that being a mother is a very special gift but it requires preparation. Women need to be mentally and spiritually prepared, to study more, and to be aware of their thoughts and emotions. It is essential to not leave your children completely free; it is important to build good relations with them, find good friends for them, and ask God for help. Parents should facilitate good habits in their children and develop in them a sense of kindness and responsibility.
One of the highlights of the retreat was the artistic presentation by a sister on the concept of social wilayah. The video was made through a Prezi-like dynamic animation highlighting the meaning of wilayah, its implications, and the various modalities through which it manifests itself in the lives of people.
The evening continued with a presentation by Brother Mubarak and Brother Jihad whereby they provided the history behind the KLC’s inception, its growth, challenges, and Shaykh Shomali’s natural choice to be its scholar and leader. Brother Mubarak highlighted that the success of the KLC lied in reciprocating our teacher’s diligence and commitment to teaching and being proactive students in learning.
The final lecture of the retreat was by Shaykh Shomali entitled ‘Maintaining the Integrity of Social Wilayah’. There must be a community who would be next to Imam Mahdi(atf), who can say that they have observed justice, family values, ihsan and benevolence, trust, honesty, and have kept their promises. That community has to be established before the Imam comes because it seems unreasonable to think that the Shi‘a community, who are not able to establish unity and justice among themselves would be helpers of Imam Mahdi(atf). Imam Mahdi(atf) will say, “I will come when you show your maturity in solving your local problems and then I will use you for the universal mission.” If you have a plan for the whole world, whom do you select? You select the people who are very successful.
“I liked ice-skating the most. We had Qur’an recitation and played with books, Play-Doh, hide and seek. and did a play.”
Hussayn (6 years old)
“The kids really had a blast. They’re already speaking about the summer retreat. For the winter one, they had meetings about it – they wanted to plan activities.” Furkan
“Disconnecting from everything allowed us to connect to what Dr. Shomali said and his presence was very strong. Being in nature was different from sitting in the masjid. It made me realize the importance of being in the presence of a Godly scholar.” Gulam
“I agree with everything that my husband said and in addition, I feel that society is so fast paced, this retreat allowed us to connect to everyone, especially being with the sisters.” Natasha
“Of all the camps and retreats that I have been to, this one was the most special because they were all seekers. I was surprised how everyone was waking up for salat, going to every lecture and writing down notes. They were really putting in the effort. What made the difference were the social wilayah principles, especially since the Shaykh puts so much emphasis on them. You could see people were really trying to connect. I was really impressed with this. Everyone contributed which added to the spirit of the camp. Everyone was coming together for the same reason.” Wid and Muhsen
“Not just in the presence of a scholar – Shaykh Shomali has a tremendous amount of akhlaq. He’s someone who practices what he preaches. If a child came to him, he would be patient. Felt like you were in the presence of a spiritual guide; you felt the gravitational pull towards him and what he was saying. You felt that he’s with you and on your level.” KLC Student
“Count me in for the next one. Enjoyed everyone waking up together for Fajr prayers. It reminded me of Madinah (Umrah) – brought back those types of memories. When I came back, I felt very different – it had a profound effect upon me.” Masud
“This was the first retreat that I ever attended and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had and I will certainly go again and again. The sense of social wilayah at its greatest.” Zainab
“Our two daughters thoroughly enjoyed it and on the way back home were asking when would be the next camp. It was really beautiful being together. Having congregational prayers and du’as together over the four days. Many thought provoking discussions. It was a real blessing being in the company of individuals on the same journey towards God and seekers of knowledge. Felt like a dream.” Maryam