By: Muneeb Nasir
As the clock ticks towards the launch of North America Muslims annual convention, hundreds of Muslims gathered last year at the historic Fairmont Royal York Hotel in the heart of downtown Toronto for the start of Reviving the Islamic Spirit Knowledge Retreat.
“Reviving the Islamic Spirit Knowledge Retreat is an annual program held around the RIS Convention to give seekers of knowledge an opportunity to study traditional Islamic sciences, in contemporary context, with some of the leading scholars of our time,” organizers told OnIslam.net
In the opening session, Ustadh Abd al-Karim Yahya provided the attendees with orientation and advices for the seekers of knowledge
“Take something you can act upon, outwardly or inwardly, from every lesson,” he advised.
“If someone acts on what he knows, Allah gives knowledge of what he doesn’t know.”
Participants braved the freezing rain and ice storm warnings that were issued for the Greater Toronto Area to attend the opening day of the Retreat.
The weather conditions caused major traffic disruptions across the region on the last weekend before the Christmas holidays and one of the busiest times of the year.
Imam Zaid Shakir, a leading American Muslim scholar, began his course of study titled, ‘Lessons from the Farewell Speech of the Prophet’, by extracting fundamental lessons from the Prophet’s farewell speech.
“Everything physical in this world will perish but the spiritual endures,” he said. “Our reality is nurtured through mindfulness and obedience.”
“Commit to live a life of consciousness, obedience, and trustworthiness,” Imam Shakir added.
The scholars who will be instructors at this year’s retreat are Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoobi, Habib Ali Al-Jifri, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Imam Zaid Shakir, Professor Tariq Ramadan, Shaykh Mokhtar Maghraoui and Ustadh Abd al-Karim Yahya.
Opportunity for Knowledge
According to the organizers, the Knowledge Retreat gives ‘seekers of knowledge an opportunity to study traditional Islamic sciences, in contemporary context, with some of the leading scholars of our time.’
Towards the end of the first day, Habib Ali Al-Jifri introduced students to the study of Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Ihya volume, ‘Condemning Status and Ostentation.’
“Ostentation is the worst illness the heart of a believer can be afflicted with,” said Habib Ali Al-Jifri.
“Ostentation can be so subtle that it becomes difficult to distinguish.”
“In the past, people used to be ostentatious in actions they performed, now people show off with actions they do not perform,” he added.
The quality of Knowledge Retreat program – the world-renowned scholars and the courses of study – has continued to attract students from across the continent.
“Rarely do Muslims living in the West get such opportunities and hence RIS Knowledge Retreat strives to provide a conducive environment for students to pursue their quest for knowledge,” state the organizers.
Meanwhile, thousands of Muslims from across North America are expected to descend on Toronto on Friday for the beginning of the Annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention.
The Islamic Spirit convention was first launched in 2003 by Muslim youth to tackle the backlash on Islam and Muslims after the 9/11 and to build a bridge of understanding with non-Muslims.
Since its launch, the RIS has emerged as a major platform for some of the leading Muslim personalities from around the world to address one of the largest assemblies of Muslims in the western hemisphere.
Muslims are the fastest growing religious community in Canada, according to the country’s statistical agency, Statistics Canada.
Canada’s Muslim population increased by 82 percent over the past decade – from about 579,000 in 2001 to more than 1 million in 2011.
Muslims represent 3.2 percent of Canada’s total population.
A recent survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.