riyada in arabic means "training" or "discipline". It was used by the arabs in relation to horse taming. Sufis refer to their discipline as "riyadat an-nafs": disciplining the soul / training the ego. Today, the word riyada has come to mean "sports". There is an Arabic proverb that says: "The purpose of sports (riyada) is not to win cups, but to discipline the soul". This blog is here to help me discipline my soul and train my body.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lost Opportunity

assalamu alaykum,

sometimes for friday prayer (whenever i can) i go to the Sultan Hassan Mosque, 25 minutes away by taxi on Fridays. Well, I couldn't today, I woke up late and everything (ive actually not been able to go almost every time, i tihnk i only went twice so far). But hopefully i'll start going there more. It's a beautiful mosque, one of the largest in Cairo, and the khateeb (the guy who gives the Friday khutba or sermon) is the official mufti (the guy who makes fatwas) of Egypt, Ali Gomaa. I really like this guy, he's highly educated, and very well informed in philosophy and in western thought.

Well today I couldn't and ended up going to the mosque next to my house, and I was surprised to see Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl there. I've attended two lectures he gave at the American University in Cairo, and I took out one of his books, The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses, but I didnt get a chance to finish it. It started out great and he has a great sense of humor as well, hopefully i'll go back to it some day. sheilaX has posted an interview with him from his recent trip to Singapore where he was promoting his new book, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. He is Professor of Law at UCLA where he teaches Islamic Law and other law subjects.

When I heard him speak about Islamic Law in his lectures, he said some amazing things, some beautiful things, and it made me want to get into it more. Then I remembered how my Muslim Political Science professor said that there are almost no western scholars who actually understand the inner workings of Islamic Jurisprudence. They understand the basics, and the principles, but they dont really understand how it really works. You have to go through the traditional fiqh teaching and to become a scholar to truly understand how it works. And I thought, wow, it would be amazing if I could become a scholar in Islamic Law and a faqih. I would be doing something amazing and my knowledge would be very rare in the west. I'm still thinking about getting a degree in Islamic Law, but I'm still not sure.

Well, I wanted to go speak to Professor Abou El Fadl after the end of the friday prayers but he was busy doing the sunna (extra) prayers. Now he has a brain tumor I believe, and needs a cane to walk and usually has a nurse that goes everywhere with him. So I wasnt surprised to see him sitting on a chair next to the old men in the back rows at the mosque. But I was truly surprised when he was doing his sunna prayers standing, not from the chair. Usually old men and those who are unable to do the prayer as it is supposed to be done, are allowed to do it from a chair. This is even more so for the extra sunna prayers because they are not obligatory, and so I expected him to be doing them from the chair. But, he was doing them while standing, even though it was very difficult for him. There was a young guy next to him ho would help him stand up after the prostration, with much difficulty. May God multiply his rewards for his striving and his effort.

I really wanted to go talk to him, but he seemed tired even earlier during the khutba, and I was worried about disturbing him. Maybe he needs to get back home and rest, or to take medication. I just didn't think it was right of me to go and bother him. But I feel like I missed out on a great opportunity. I mean here's this genius professor, living somewhere near my place, and I feel its a great loss that I cannot go and visit him and learn from him. If only I had asked where he lived and if I could visit when he was feeling ok. There's so much I could learn from him, and so much advice he could give me.

Oh well. May God restore his health and his strength, and keep him for the sake of our ummah, because we need minds like his. Sure, even I disagree with many things that he has said, but anyone who listened to that lecture he gave about Islamic Law at AUC must admit that he has an incredible mind that we really need, and ideas that we must always keep in our minds.


Blogger sheilaX said...


Thanks for the immensely touching account of your encounter.

July 20, 2006 at 4:38 AM


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