"It's scary telling another person, 'This is who I am. This is what I want.' Scarier still is standing by the truth about ourselves – our integrity – as we must when we give the other person a choice to accept
not accept our decisions and differences."
-- Susan Forward, Emotional Blackmail
The intention behind this series is to clarify Muslim beliefs in response to the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. Faith is not a sport or game. There is no winning over intended. It is a matter of guidance and conviction. The aim of this series is not to win people over, but to clarify Muslim beliefs given the tension. In this blog, I will introduce the teacher, Qays Arthur who will help me in the next few blogs given his background and knowledge.
There is an interview by Qibla that I wanted to add to help in the introduction of the teacher. However, I am facing problems inserting the youtube video, but click here to see it. I will try to insert it later.
Tell me about yourself.
I am a 33 year old Guyanese Muslim convert from an essentially Catholic background who studies and teaches Islam in Jordan and is passionate about God, His final Prophet Muhammad, His other prophets (peace be upon them all), the Sahaba(companions of Prophet Muhammad), and Muslims in general and Arabs in particular.
What was your first encounter with Islam or Muslims?
I consider my first encounter with Muslims to be reading stories of the prophets from the Old Testament as a child. In particular there is a Jehovah's Witness book for children called, "My Book of Bible Stories" which gave me a strong attachment to the prophets and the morality of the Old Testament and also to the Middle East. Later when my mother, who along with my father (Allah bless them and grant them long life) who had become Muslim, began to take us (my younger brother and me) to a Mosque I was able to recognize the ways of Muslims as very "Biblical". That was in my pre-teen years later in high school I had made a conscious decision to be Muslim.
What has been your most inspiring moment in learning Islam?
Without doubt, the first time I prostrated, learning the prayer.
What have you learned from your experiences as an educator at Qibla?
I've learned that introspection and repentance are just as critical for successful teaching of the Religion as any other tool the teacher may have and that good company goes a long way when it comes to bringing about positive change in oneself and one's students. Words are only ever as powerful as the lived reality of the one who utters them.
How has Qibla prepared you to become a teacher?
The people at Qibla hold themselves to a high standard in both living the religion and teaching it and are serious about the application of prophetic teachings in and out of the class. An environment of such people is the best preparation on can hope for teaching the message of the prophets (Allah's peace be upon them all).
What courses did you teach?
I teach "The Essentials of Islam", "Introduction to Islamic Worship", "Understanding Islam", and "Introduction of Islamic Belief".
What parts of teaching appeal most to you?
Being associated with knowledge that is particularly beloved to Allah, Most High. The immersion in the subject matter (of revelation and its sciences) and the opportunity to offer something of benefit to people.
Have you taught Islam to non-Muslims?
Yes I have at Qibla.
What is your philosophy of teaching?
My philosophy of teaching, if it may indeed be said I have one, would be one that emphasizes the spectacular nature of what is being taught and that impresses upon students the universal appeal of religion as the ultimate source of knowledge and guidance. This kind of knowledge (the essence of it) comes from God, the creator of all humans, and it is addressed to all humans. It is not exclusively for a particular group.
What do you think will be the most challenging aspect learning Islam to you?
I don't really consider learning Islam itself to be something that it challenging. Of course there are Islamic sciences like Law, Arabic language, Exegesis, and so on which may prove challenging to different people. But the religion itself is not at all difficult to learn. It is putting it into practice that requires the most patience, perseverance and humility. That is the challenge.
Who was your most influential teacher and why?
Apart from my parents, whose values enabled me to recognize the truth and lead me to Islam, my most influential teacher is definitely Shaykh Nuh Keller. His towering faith, powerful teaching, and loyalty to Allah, His Messenger (peace be upon him) and the believers, as well as his strong emphasis on knowledge and scholarship, works and realities give me the tools needed to stay focused on the things that matter.
What is your greatest obstacles as an educator?
I have been fortunate to work with great educators, institutions, and students. More and more I find that in teaching the Religion on finds oneself "competing" with the mainstream secular education that serves, materialism and an emerging global mono-culture that is at best condescending and as worst opposed to traditional religious education.
What are your interests and goals?
I would like to be the best Muslim I can be as a citizen, teacher, father, husband and so on. My interests are mainly history, information technology, politics, and of course religion.
As an educator - how do you wish to contribute to the rise of Islamophobia in Europe, US and elsewhere? How would you like to engage the public square given the trend?
I would try as best I can to bring the discussion back to the basis of religion, God, prophets, and certain common values of monotheistic faiths. I find the reduction of religion to an ethnic or cultural artifact or life-style choice dangerous and misleading and am convinced that that reduction is at the heart of the so-called "Islamophobia" problem.
Any interesting thoughts you like to share...
Those may be found on my website: http://www.qays.org under the comment category.