Today a wonderful flower opened its wings in my garden and despite being the only rose in the garden it looked higher and more eye catching than all other plants. It filled my sole with optimism because it opened it’s wings on the same day of my birth in May. I can hardly believe that my life has passed so quickly like a swallow path with all the ups and downs. I have lived in Europe more than my life In my country of birth Iraq to which I still yearn. The scent of this rose reminds me of the garden of a great scholar who left his mark on my life notebook despite our short acquaintance .
I used to hear about Professor Ninian Smart as one of the celebrated names in the field of comparative religion. A magnificent Scottish writer who enriched the library with his grand publications. To me I first knew him by reading his book "The Religious Experience of Mankind” which is an outstanding work that views a religion to be a six dimensional human experience. I met him first when I was a PhD student at the University of Manchester. He was the chair of the interviewing committee for a post that I applied for at the nearby University of Lancaster. The man looked at me deeply and I can still remember the depth of his eyes when he asked me: What do you think of Abu Hamid Al Ghazali? I replied which Ghazali are you referring to? .. the Jurist? ..the philosopher? Or.. the mystic? He said I know him as a great sofi writer. I replied discernibly: I know him as a great jurist who wrote the book of “al Mankhool” which is a book that many great scholars of jurisprudence wish that they can write a book similar to it. He went silent as if he was angry and began to ask me various interviewing questions such as my family background, politics, religion, and my doctoral thesis which I was finalizing .Then the interview abruptly ended. I was certain then that I will not get the job. I hurried to leave to catch the next train back to Manchester. I thought I have angered him by sharply criticizing his opinion. I was about to leave and I glanced at the job applicants queue, all of which where PhD holders who looked much smarter than me wearing beautiful suits and shiny shoes while I was wearing my age worn shoes and a beard. I felt that it is more important to leave soon when the secretary said to me: Please wait because “Prof” wants to see you.. I went back to his office and he looked at me. His smile was hidden when he said: Ghazali is a Jurist.. huh? .. I smiled and said sorry.. you have surprised me by questioning me about a scholar who is only known by the specialist of Islamic studies. He said, "You Iraqis are like us the Scots, but your country is the cradle of civilizations. I want you to tell me more about Al-Ghazali the jurist. We went on talking until I realized that my last train was gone. Then he said: we would like to offer you the post.
That was the first lectureship post I ever had. I was thinking of my train when he said: I know that you have missed the last train to Manchester so I will take you to a modest hotel. The modest hotel was my other surprise for the day. It was a small beautiful mansion filled with squirrels and dozens of beautiful roses that you can smell everywhere. He then said : You are our guest . Please call me Ninian. He introduced me to his Italian wife, who was a wonderful example for the European Lady, dressed with modesty and think of every word that she articulates .. I remember her saying to me: Did you know that my husband was born in May? In the morning, the topic of worship and thanksgiving was the one Ninian opened while we were having breakfast. He asked me to say grace.. I cited a narrative of the prophet Mohammad :
“O my servants, I have forbidden injustice for myself and I have forbidden it among you, so do not oppress one another. O my servants, all of you are astray except for those I have guided, so seek guidance from me and I shall guide you. O my servants, all of you are hungry except for those I have fed, so seek food from Me and I shall feed you. O my servants, all of you are naked except for those I have clothed, so seek clothing from me and I shall clothe you. O my servants, you sin by night and day and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness from me and I shall forgive you….”
The great man listened respectfully to me and then said: Islam is a great religion which I often talked about it in my writings and I think that the understanding of any religion has to come by entering into its historical events.
I think that the man was right, but I often wondered, where do these events begin and where do they end ? And who determines the boundaries of any religion? .. We European Muslims live like other people within the boundaries of the democratic state which we respect. Today the democracy of Europe is trembling in front of the problem of Britain's exiting Europe. Brexit can easily be seen as one of the biggest threats to democracy, an event in which Britain was split, the parliament was divided and subsequently the prime minister announced her resignation. Theresa May was a leader who deserves respect because she believes in achieving what the majority of the public wants. It is known that despite the fact that Mrs.May herself did not favour leaving Europe, she struggled in various ways to achieve an exit deal, but did not succeed in obtaining the approval from the parliament. This made many anti democracy analysts suggests that the problem lies in democracy itself, which gives the final word to the numerical majority. Muslims in the midst of all that are confused about getting out of Europe and many would like to stay but they are like travellers in a ship with mutiny that wants to change direction. The mutiny seems mostly influenced by the far right who are calling for all foreigners to leave Europe. Muslims as individuals have been able to achieve in Britain what they have not achieved in another country. Member of the Muslim Community in the UK include many leading names such as the exchequer minister, the mayor of London and various top figures. But their problem is that they do not proceed from the perspective of “being Muslims” and therefore they are like my garden`s flower.. stand as individual achievers .
Someone might say whether the religious state is the alternative her. I say no. Because religion is not understood by people and often they do not apply it as Religion might wants, but the do what they want themselves. Without attempting to enter into the historical Islam and its complex events, If I we look into the eventful history of religion in Britain and how the power of religion passed from the Pope to the English Church independently from the church, we can observe that human interest was a main element that governed the events that ended with the death of Thomas Beckett, the last representative of the Catholic Church in Britain in 1179. Beckett was the close friend of King Henry II who promoted him to take the post of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But he soon turned on against his master when illusions of power and piety overwhelmed him with the position of "God's representative on earth.