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Nouman Ali Khan strikes a chord with the values of sabr

Nouman Ali Khan’s vigour and passion for the Holy Quran comes alive when he speaks, and this energy was infectious as he captured a packed audience at Masjidul Quds on Thursday.  The popular masjid was filled to the brim as women of all ages gathered to hear the US based scholar speak on all matters of the heart.

Khan’s social media following has given him rock-star popularity, which he has admitted to not being comfortable with. This was clear as scores of women clamoured to take selfies with him, as he concluded his talk.  He has said there is much responsibility that comes with this kind of fame, which he simply uses as a vehicle to inspire and spread the universal truths of the Quran.

With no airs and graces, Khan made his way into the masjid dressed surprisingly in a white shirt and blue jeans. Besides the Cape Town organisers of his tour, he had no entourage.

In his opening remarks, Khan said he was overwhelmed by the turnout of women attending the masjid, expressing his gratitude at his warm reception.

“I was told there would be 500 women…that was a filthy lie,” he quipped, as the audience laughed.

“And when I saw the amount of cars here, I told the other guys with me that I really need to figure out what I’m going to be talking about. There is some serious expectation.”

Nouman Ali Khan begins his talk
Nouman Ali Khan begins his talk

“Just knowing that our mothers, sisters and daughters are filling the masjid brings me so much joy. There are so many places where our women are denied their basic access to the house of Allah. That’s a tragedy. Seeing this here is inspiration and it’s something I will take that back home.”

“Some people might argue with me, but there are some Muslims in Western countries that don’t have this kind of thinking yet. We need to learn from you.”

“I personally believe that if we don’t invest in children and women’s education, there is no future for this Ummah. Those are the two entities that ensure the future for the ummah.”

“When we are investing in our children’s education, we are investing in our next generation of the scholars. These young people will be running our masajid in the future.”

A prolific orator, Khan’s his ability to give his listeners a better understanding of the Quran.  As he says, the Quran gives us timeless lessons in dealing with all the difficulties in life.

Khan spoke about his transformative journey with the Quran, saying he decided to re-start his study of the Holy Book “as though he never studied it before”. That journey led him in many directions, and made him challenge some concepts that he had been taught before.

The power of Sabr
One the most profound values he found in the Quran was the emphasis of ‘sabr’ or patience.  Using the lessons from the story of Nabi Moosa AS and Fir’aun and the rescuing of the Children of Israel from the clutches of the evil pharaoh, Khan expounded on the wisdom of patience.

The story of Fir’aun is important in Islam as the pharaoh is the symbol of oppression and tyranny. In a contemporary context, Muslims are suffering under a reign of dictators – which have left millions murdered, oppressed, subjugated, and impoverished.

“These were people with very deep scars and lived a long time under very serious oppression. Nothing can be more hurtful than the loss of a child, but add to that the murder of a child. Add to that the murder of a child in front of your eyes. Add to that, the fact that you can’t even respond. Then there is the massive scale of tyranny of Firaun,” he said, relating the story of the Israelites.

The various collections of tales in the Quran speaks to the trials and tribulations of the ambiya (The prophets), and carry important lessons for all Muslims in the current context.

“If we cannot find within ourselves reasons to be grateful, patience is impossible,” Khan said simply.

Khan further reflected on the death of a loved one and the emotional impact on the bereaved.  Here he pointed to the story of Nabi Yaqub AS, who lost his son Yusuf and wept so profusely years that he lost his sight.

“When someone reacts, we give advice saying they should have Sabr. Instead of giving them a lecture on sabr, we should highlight gratitude,” Khan advised.

“We are allowed to express our emotions…it’s okay to be saddened. That doesn’t mean you don’t have sabr, it just means you a human being.”

“When fear takes hold of you, it’s too easy to be ungrateful to Allah and to deny the teachings of Allah. Sabr means that you are upset, but you control your tongue. You control your actions.”

He challenged the negative perception that emotions such as anger or depression are the symptoms of a spiritual void.

“Don’t accuse people of having a lack of imaan or sabr,” he said.

Aisha RA
Expanding on the topic of anger, Khan narrated the story of the accusation of adultery levied against Aisha RA, which can be found in Sura An-Nur of the Qur’an. It’s narrated that Aisha RA suffered the worst form of humiliation, and as the vicious rumours continued to spread, she cried for three consecutive days.

The Prophet SAW remained in great anxiety with regard to Aisha RA for one whole month. At last one day he visited her and her parents. Prophet Muhammad SAW asked Aisha RA directly about the rumours, in the presence of her parents.

“If you’re innocent, Allah will prove your innocence. If you’re guilty, admit it and Allah will forgive,” said the Prophet gently.

But his words were of no comfort to her.  Aisha RA’s shock at the Prophet’s remarks made her turn to her parents for a reaction, but they sat in silence.  In a fit of anger, Aisha RA chastised her parents and the Prophet Muhammad SAW.

Aisha RA turned her back on her parents and her husband and then went to lay down. At that moment, the Divine Revelation appeared on the Holy Prophet SAW, vindicating her and proving her innocence. The Prophet was overjoyed.

“When the ayat came, the 10 ayat came to defend her,” Khan related.

Nouman Ali Khan chats to Aisha Laatoe
Nouman Ali Khan chats to Ayesha Laatoe

“It’s okay that when a women’s chastity is questioned and she can’t take it and has an outburst, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have sabr. It means she is as normal as Aisha RA. Our religion doesn’t expect us to be angels…we are entitled to our emotions.”

But Khan also emphasised the importance of silence in moments of intense emotion. Here he pointed to Aisha’s family and their dignified silence in spite of being convinced of their daughter’s moral character and the falsity of the accusation.

Khan reflected deeply on the often less spoken of reality of psychological and mental illness within the Muslim community.

Acknowledging the responsibility of modern women who juggle the demands of being a wife, mother, a career woman and their faith, Khan emphasised sabr.

“Don’t be hard on yourself. Stop condemning yourself. Don’t live a life of guilt. Don’t let guilt overshadow everything you do.  Become a person of gratitude. This is why we are still alive. The fact that you have another breath, means he left the door open for you. May Allah help us internalise the inspiring message of his book and not be judgemental towards one another.”

Nouman Ali Khan in conversation with Ayesha Laatoe
Nouman Ali Khan in conversation with Ayesha Laatoe

The dynamic speaker will deliver the Jumuah khutbah at Masjidul Quds on Friday, before his sold out talk at the Cape Town International Convention Centre at 8pm.

His bumper tour of South Africa has left no time for sight-seeing, but he has immense praise for Cape Town’s people and natural beauty.

“I am absolutely blown away by this city. If Allah wills, I am absolutely coming back, Insha Allah.” VOC

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