Image: Holland Park Mosque. Credit: Islamic Society of Holland Park.

In this technological era, the first step one can expect to take in the path of knowledge in Islam is to consult ‘Sheikh’ Google or ‘Imam’ You Tube.

This is the case whether or not you are Muslim. And while the days of traversing the globe to sit at the feet of a scholar are gone for most, the instinct for knowledge and spiritual exercise is still something most of us acknowledge; but it is the degree of effort that an individual is willing to forgo in this quest that seems to have weakened in our modern era.

In a life surrounded by and focused on man-made scenery, it is no wonder that the contemplation of the Ultimate Creator has been overshadowed by consumerism, political correctness and individualism.

Yet nestled in the bush on a mountain is Griffith University’s Multi-Faith Centre: a place for social engagement, inter-faith dialogue, and intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

This place is how I dream the entire earth should be; a place where questions are welcomed and expected, a place where difference of opinion is considered a blessing, a place where one focuses on conduct and character rather than what one has achieved materially.

Most recently I have been attending the Multi-Faith Centre for lessons facilitated by Seekers Point Brisbane, entitled ‘Knowing Yourself to Know God’.

But my journey to understanding Islam started with an internet search of the word ‘Ramadan’.

I had overheard someone say they were fasting during Ramadan. I was always curious about other people, cultures and religions.

‘Ramadan’, ‘Muslims’, ‘Islam’, ‘Shahada’ – soon dictionary entries were not enough to quench my thirst to understand.

I read the Qur’an and other religious texts before I decided to go to a mosque.

At Holland Park Mosque I was greeted most welcomely by Imam Uzair and I pray I will never forget that day. That day, in 2001, I realised I was not merely researching another religion. I realised I was on a quest for the truth.

A couple of weeks past before I read in a book, something to the effect: ‘In order to consider yourself Muslim you have to believe in the oneness of God, and that Muhammad is the final messenger of God’. So I realised I was Muslim.

I felt joy in my heart like I never had before.

Then September 11 happened. I thought, ‘Any Muslim who knows the life of Prophet Muhammad would not act with intolerance to anyone other than oppressors of the innocent. People who act differently are not educated on truth’.

And still today, it pains me to hear that people are calling themselves Muslims and acting so far from Islam that I wonder, ‘what has gone wrong?’.

Well, locally, people are seeking knowledge and advice from people who are not experts in that field, which is unnecessary given facilities such as the Multi-Faith Centre, free online courses such as at Seekers Hub, and our scholars are tapping into social media to make themselves available to answer questions such as Imam Akram from Kuraby Mosque.

Islam is a religion for everyone and for all time and God is Vast. The diversity that exists in the world can exist within the pleasure of God. As Sheikh Hamza Yusuf said recently: “Religion is supposed to unite human beings … if it’s divisive it’s not religion from God … “.

Before I became Muslim, my perception of reality was limited to my experiences and intellect. But since becoming Muslim I am learning that there is more to life than what can be measured by our own tools of measurement.

It was impossible to see from a perspective that I didn’t know existed. A reality beyond this life. I am learning the same things about myself and God that people always have.

So, religion in the modern era is the same as it always was in the truest sense: people are still finding and acting on means and signs to get to know God. Superficially, however, we do it a little differently.

Information travels a lot quicker and in much larger loads than ever before. Yet, we as human beings have no more capacity to absorb and grow spiritually from what we know than 1400 years ago.

AzizaAnd as faith lies between the balance of hope and fear, I fear that we are using modern advancements in a self-destructive way, but I hope they are a means to enhance our human capabilities as individuals and as a society.

This is part of a megastory on religion in Australia today. Visit the megastory here.

 

This article has been commissioned by Griffith University’s Multi-Faith Centre. For more information on the centre and its upcoming International Symposium on Religion Journalism, please go to it website: http://www.griffith.edu.au/conference/international-symposium-on-religion-journalism

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

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