Inter-Faith Harmony: Seminar on Muhammed (PBUH)
Conference Centre, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
On Saturday Dec. 03, 2016, Baabul Ilm Education Society organized a ‘Inter-faith seminar on Prophet Muhammad’ at the conference centre of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey campus. The seminar was very well attended. Some eighty plus people from all walks of life and different religious background attended the program. However, participation from the Muslim community was very nominal despite the repeated invitation and requests by the organisers. Similarly, no notable Sunni scholar was present at the event. The majority of the audience was either Christians or Ahmadis and only handful of Muslims were present. It is a pity that the Muslim community did not give any importance to such an important event. The event in which most of the non-Muslim speakers were supposed to give their views on the Holy Prophet.
According to the Baabul Ilm Society the objective of this event was to demonstrate that Muslims or Islam has nothing against any other religion. Muslims believe in interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence. The overall goal was to try and contribute towards dispelling the negative propaganda, especially in the Canadian media, against Islam and Muslims. This was third of the series of seminars organized by Baabul Ilm Education Society. The previous two being on Jesus, and Prophet Abraham (AS), respectively.
On behalf of Baabul Ilm Education Society Dr. Zareen Naqvi welcomed the audience to this unique, auspicious, and one of its kind occasion. She highlighted the goals and objectives of the Society and the purpose of organizing this conference. Dr. Zareen mentioned that the objective of the Society is to help and encourage youth to go for good quality higher education. In this regard the Society, over the past four years has given away more than C$35000 worth of scholarships and awards to the most deserving and outstanding students of senior high school. In addition the Society also organizes lectures, seminars and conferences on a variety of topics mainly related to education, literature, and on great events and personalities in the history. The idea is to enhance knowledge and awareness among the community.
Dr. Zareen said that the Society strive to promote a platform for interfaith dialogue and discussion. Our aim is to promote respect and understanding between people of different cultures so that we develop strong communities in this beautiful part of Canada, Dr. Zareen added.
She also emphasized on the need of a formal centre for dialogue between various communities living in the lower mainland. Dr. Zraeen said that if we felt that building well-integrated and congenial communities was important a few months ago, it has become an even more pressing and stark reality today. In recent weeks, we have all heard the bigotry, hatred and disrespect against people of colour and religious minorities during the US election campaign. With the Presidency of Donald Trump, the expectation is that these trends are likely to continue just south of our border. She posed two questions: (i) how should we understand our responsibilities in these times of growing divisions, intolerance, and extremism? (ii) what actions can we take to keep Canada and our communities non-toxic and harmonious?
Dr. Zareen said that we hope that inter-faith and multi-cultural events like today’s can address a few issues and help promote dialogue and better understanding among our communities. But we and many similar organizations can only come together once or twice a year. The environment around us requires a more concerted and continued effort from each and every one of us. It cannot be left for politicians and the government to deal with.
Therefore it is suggested that we create a permanent forum for expanding inter-faith and inter-community dialogue and for doing joint events together. She proposed to create a Centre for Inter-faith and Inter-community Dialogue and Harmony or a Centre for Communal Harmony. What better place to do so than at Kwantlen Polytechnic University? Any higher education institution plays a critical role in creating harmonious, peaceful and respectful communities. It also plays a big role in engendering entrepreneurship and developing leaders of tomorrow. KPU located in the heart of two very vibrant multicultural communities in Richmond and Surrey is best suited for playing these important roles. Ever more than before, we want institutions like KPU to develop leaders who believe in Canadian ideals and who help foster multi-faith and multi-cultural values. Baabul Ilm Society, in its humble way will be happy to assist KPU in any way possible, she added.
Dean School of Business, Wayne Tebb welcomed the audience on behalf of Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He mentioned that Kwantlen University give very high importance and priority to interfaith harmony and strive to promote it. School of Business at KPU has always been at the forefront to sponsor such events. He said that the root cause of recent violent events is not religious conflicts or disagreements but it is an economic issue. Whenever and wherever economic inequalities rise these types of rifts will surface. We may want to label them differently and create more controversies and fan hatred but the fact remains that economic inequalities are at work behind such violence and conflicts. His argument was very well received by the audience.
Ms. Laya Behbahani spoke about inspiring and towering personality of Bibi Khadija, wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Ms. Laya gave a brief introduction of the dark side of the then Arb society where people use to bury their daughters alive. But lady Khadija belong to a family which was quite liberal and different from most of the Arab tribes. Her father was a very loving person and she got all the opportunities to excel and prosper. As a result of that she became a very successful businesswoman.
Ms Laya described the circumstances in which lady Khadija met with Prophet Muhammad and how a marriage proposal was sent to him. She also explained the sacrifices that lady Khadija made to support her husband and for the wellbeing and upbringing of Islam against all the odds.
Pastor Tim gave an enlightening and a revealing presentation. He said that we need to recognize our differences and yet we have to find and work on common grounds to build a better society that provides conducive environment for the peaceful coexistence of all the communities.
Father Tim, on behalf of all the Christians, also apologized from the Muslim community on misunderstanding and defaming Islam. He said he would like to apologize on behalf of all the Christians that have ill spoken about Prophet Muhammad and tried to tarnish the image of great prophet.
Pastor Tim further said that we Christians can learn at least four things from Prophet Muhammad. First, his submission to God. Second, the beautiful way in which Muhammad has explained God’s sovernity and glory. Third, is Prophet Muhammad’s devotion to God as exemplified in his prayers, fasting, and all other exemplary teaching and guidance that he delivered to the Muslims to just focus on God. Finally, Prophet Muhammad’s extremely high moral and sincere values that if follow true sense can create a very good society. He admitted that the Christian community in North America has become self-centred, self-serving. In the end he thank the Baabul Ilm Education Society for always organizing an excellent event in which people from various religious backgrounds come together and try to understand each other’s point of view and in doing so lot of misunderstanding and misgivings are taken care off.
Dr. Akber Mithani in his keynote address discussed the spiritual significance of Prophet Muhammad. He said it would be very difficult to understand this important aspect of this man especially for someone who has come from a non-Muslim background. The simple reason of this lack of understanding is that Prophet Muhammad’s spirituality is veiled behind his human nature due to his duty to act like a man and a leader of the humanity. He also had to act as an organizer of a new social order and guide the humanity by setting examples and lead from the front. Because of that his spirituality is foreign to many eyes. The outsiders were only able to appreciate his political wisdom, power of oratory, and statesmanship but few have understood how he could be the religious and spiritual leader and guide of man at the same time.
Dr. Mithani further said that it is difficult to understand especially in the modern world in which the religion is separated from other domains of life. Most modern man can hardly imagen how a spiritual being could also be involved in most intensive political and social activity. He said that Prophet Muhammad was sent to perfect human being so that human being can manifest the attributes and names of God. His message transformed the intellect of the human being. Muhammad introduced a living Islam because people knew that if they eliminate the character of Muhammad than they can eliminate the La Ilaha Illalah. A Islam in which day to day life was integrated into spiritual centre. Every act that you perform has a divine purpose in it. Dr. Mithani said that opponents of Islam gave different bad names to Prophet but nobody called him a liar or immoral person. He said Prophet Muhammad was not just the messenger but a message himself. The living and talking message of God. He was th greatest manifestation of God.
After the presentations a very lively Q and A session ensued. Audience from different backgrounds acknowledged that this event was very useful and timely. They said that this type of events is very helpful in understanding each other’s points of views and beliefs. Audience were of the view that in such events at least we can agree to disagree in a more civilized manner and in a more peaceful and educative environment. They expressed their gratitude for Baabul Ilm Education Society’s welcome and hospitality on Saturday afternoon. They also admired the graciousness in which Mahmood Jaffer conducted and MC’ed this event, particularly the lively question and answer session.
At the end of the program Father Tim’s services were recognized and he was presented with an award of appreciation for his community services. Member parliament Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal also spoke on this occasion.