Greetings of peace,
For almost twenty years, teaching the Monday night women’s class has been a consistent part of my life. It wasn’t always on Monday evenings - it began at Doncaster mosque on Tuesday mornings, then moved to the Uniting Church on Westfield Drive, and then back to the mosque for a new time slot on Monday nights. The classes found its permanent home at BeneHouse when it opened in 2014. The venue and times may have evolved over the years, however the intention of the women’s class has always remained clear: to educate, nurture and support the spiritual and faith development of women.
This semester we covered the iconic spiritual self-development book Agenda to Change our Condition by Hamza Yusuf and Zaid Shakir. The theme is centred on the Quranic verse, "Allah does not change a people until they change what is in themselves." (13:11) Within this verse is a calling for introspection, self awareness and a call to action: the attainment of taqwa, God-consciousness.
The book details the various toxic inroads to the heart, the role of the limbs, and daily habits and exercises to safeguard a sound heart and create a taqwa orientated lifestyle. It challenged us to see God-consciousness in the practical way that it was intended, rather than spiritual theory reserved for saints and mystics. Agenda to Change our Condition can be summarised in the following four sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him); some scholars have said that all of Islam revolves around these wisdoms, that they are the cornerstones of attaining a life of God-consciousness:
- "The permissible is clear and the prohibited is clear, and between them are grey areas; not many people know their rulings. So, whoever protects themselves from them has kept his religion sound and free of blemishes. However, whoever falls into them has fallen into the prohibited. His likeness is that of a shepherd who takes his flock to graze near a king’s sanctuary, and due to his proximity to it, he inevitably falls into it. Surely, every king has a sanctuary, and surely the sanctuary of Allah on His earth lies in avoiding those things He has prohibited. Surely, there is a lump of flesh in the body - if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt. Is it not the heart?"
- "Abandon the world, and Allah will love you; and abandon what people have, and the people will love you."
- "From the excellence of a person’s Islam is that he/she leaves what does not concern them."
- "Surely, actions are judged by intentions, and everyone has what he/she intended."
Like any lifestyle choice, choosing to live a life of taqwa requires strong conviction, an implantation method and a solid support structure. The Monday night women's class created the space, knowledge and support where striving for excellence in character and self-refinement could be gradually incorporated into our daily lives until it becomes part of who we are.
As we conclude our education programs for yet another year at Benevolence, I pray that we have been a place of knowledge and support on your spiritual and faith journey.
With love and peace,