Monday the 12th of March, a group of students and alumni from various expertises gathered at Podium Mozaïek to have a conversation with the European Council of Moroccan Ulema. The challenges that we – as the next generation of Muslims – are currently facing, combined with our hopes, our positions but also our responsibilities were points of focus of this evening.
The recitation of some verses from Surah an-Nur marked the beginning of an intriguing and fruitful evening. Founder and former president of the Islamic Student Association Amsterdam (ISA), drs. Hamza Akkar, took us on a journey and shared the accomplishments of our student association over the last decade since it was established. He then elaborated on the purpose of this unique evening. Dr. Marzouk Aulad Abdellah, member of the council, was invited to the stage to share his knowledge with us. He touched upon the history and development of the ‘Emirate of the Believers’ and the religious establishment of the Kingdom of Morocco, from which the roots of the European Council of Moroccan Ulema are derived. The way they developed their work ethics over the years was an eye-opener for the students. Especially reflecting upon the direct effects of cooperating with people with a like minded mindset and goal was valuable. Such collaborations play a great role in the empowerment of the Muslim community.
Dr. Khalid Hajji, secretary general of the council, described the pitfalls that Muslim youngsters might face when trying to practice their religion. Nowadays we go through a ‘clash of ignorance’ instead of the often mentioned ‘clash of civilizations’. Dr. Hajji expressed his concern and sadness about the fact that many young people in the West experience religion as a burden instead as a source of happiness and spiritual stability. Religion is often confused with religiosity and we tend to stick to the set rules of religion and forget about the spirituality it entails. Civilization dies when there is no openness to debate the spirit of religion, something we should hold ourselves accountable for.
Something that became painfully clear from the questions that were addressed to the two members of the council had to do with the way how questions were formed and conversations were maintained. In fact, not all questions are valid questions. Questions that are actually not formulated from the right framework undermine our moral responsibility, as Dr. Hajji described. Seeking answers is usually the first thing we do, not realizing that the questions we formulate – and the responsibility that comes with it – have a much bigger impact. Thus, we have to focus more on the way we frame questions instead of focusing on merely giving answers. Moreover, we generally assume that answers to our current problems can be found in ancient books. The Qur’an unfolds itself in history, but we quite often forget that answers are not to be found, but are to be formed.
Our task is to come to terms with the spirit of our time and the spirit of our religion and thus find a balance between the two. With being Muslim we have the responsibility to implement our religion in our context. Therefore, it is important to have an open mind, seek common values and actions and embrace diversity as this has always helped the Muslim civilization to advance. The central question in our lives should not be ‘who am I?’ but ‘what am I doing?’ since this eventually becomes the biggest part of our identity.