Ramadan Remembrance of Imam Ali Ibn-e-Abu Talib (as)

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SHAFAQNA-

The annual Imam Ali Seminar at the Rudolf Steiner Center in London focused this year on the wasiya of Hazrat Ali ibn Ali (as) and also Islamic psychotherapy. Professor Sajjad Rizvi, Associate Professor of Islamic Intellectual History at the University of Exeter, spoke about the ethics and spirituality of the Imam whilst  Ghulamabbas Lakha, who teaches Psychology of Religion at the University of Oxford, expanded on the empirical research on integrating Islam with psychotherapy for depression. Both topics could not have a greater practical relevance to the plight of much of Britain’s Muslim community, which is increasingly suffering from a moral crisis under pressure from a broader Secular Western societal inclination towards moral relativism.
The event was very well attended by largely a middle class South Asian Shia audience who engaged in a robust question and answer session which focused  on the taboo, within Muslim communities, of  even discussing mental health issues. The impact of contemporary neoliberal values on the negative psychology of Muslim youth and materially-inspired Muslim immigrants was also considered; particularly in the context of the unparalleled social media assault on peoples sense of self identity. A phenomena which attendees pointed out is increasingly manifesting in narcissistic personality disorders and as a rise in inflated egotistic individualism which even challenges the institutions of brotherhood, family and community. It was noted that this rising narcissistic and selfish culture is in direct opposition to Islamic  moral values as outlined in the Wasiya of Imam Ali (as) which nurture virtues such as generosity, compassion, sacrifice and love which enhance family relations and community ties.
 
Ghulamabbas  Lakha quoted the alarming statistic that “up to a quarter of Muslims in Britain could be affected by mental health issues” and added that Imam Ali (as)in his saying ” one who knows himself knows his Lord”  had recognized mans need to understand himself  through self awareness and simultaneously in this phrase he wisely indicated that this in itself was part of Islamic spiritual psychology’s solution to issues such as depression, narcissism, anxiety, and stress disorders in the community. 
 
Professor Sajjad had earlier  in the programme outlined ten of the twenty five pieces of advice to his son in his Wasiya, which included for example – piety of character, “to look at the history of the people and civilizations of the past, and how they had crumbled and turned to dust” in order to avoid ones own tendency towards arrogance. The importance of social and family relationships, virtue of knowledge and ignorance of sin, the doing of good deeds and abstention from vices, as well as the imperatives of being truthful and standing up for justice were also listed in this advice from the Holy Imam (as).
 
The Chair of the event, Farhana Mayer, a graduate in Islamic Studies from Oxford University currently engaged in an interdisciplinary doctoral research in the fields of Quranic studies Muslim theology and jurisprudence, concluded the seminar with a prayer in honour of the tremendous debt all Muslims owe to the wisdom of Imam Ali (as), without which undoubtedly Islam’s very essence would have been threatened with extinction. Ali (as) was the living personification of the Holy Quran itself – a role model  par excellence and insaa- e- kamil (perfect man), no less, without whom many could have argued that the Prophetic moral character had not been replicated totally by any man among Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) ‘s devotees thereby indirectly challenging the practical attainability of the optimal human character through Islam. The zarb e Hayder and the martyrdom of Ali (as) is yet another of Allah (swt)’s glorious  bounties in the last days of the Holy month of Ramadan which negates any doubt that Islam is a way of life that can not only be strived after but one that is attainable by mortals. 
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