“Despite its origins in 7th century Arabia, it [Islam] works everywhere, and this is itself a sign of its miraculous and divine origin […] Islam, once we have become familiar with it, and settled into it comfortably, is the most suitable faith for the British. Its values are our values. Its moderate, undemonstrative style of piety, still waters running deep; its insistence on modesty and a certain reserve, and its insistence on common sense and on pragmatism, combine to furnish the most natural and easy religious option for our people […] Islam is the true consanguinity of believers in the One True God, the common bond of those who seek to remain focused on the divine Source of our being in this diffuse, ignorant and tragic age. But it is generous and inclusive. It allows us to celebrate our particularity, the genius of our heritage; within, rather than in tension with, the greater and more lasting fellowship of faith.”
Dr. T. J. Winter, known now as Abdal-Hakim Murad, is a British convert to Islam. He received his masters degree from the Cambridge University at England and later studied at Al-Azhar. He was a research fellow at the Oxford University. Currently, he is a lecturer of Theology at Cambridge University. Among his works is the translation of al Bayhaqi’s “Seventy-Seven Branches of Faith” into English. He has also authored many articles about Islam and Muslims.
His 8-tape lecture series called Understanding Islam received much acclamation from both Muslims and non-Muslims. The lectures were given to a primarily non-Muslims audience and is considered unparalleled for its objectivity and research. It covers the following topics: The Five Pillars of Islam; Sunnah, Shariah, Sectarianism and Ijtihad; Scriptural Links Between Judaism, Christianity and Islam; Muslim-Christian Views of One Another; Muslim Theology and Islamic Mysticism; and The Muslim Influence on Europe and the West.
Balancing the Zahir and the Batin
Islam is a balance between the zahir and the batin, i.e., the form and the spirit, the external and the internal, the expressed and the hidden, the husk and the kernel, the body and the soul. It is such a balance that are meant to be manifested in a believer. When that happens, he or she is a beauty.
This essential quality of a believer is excellently elaborated by Winter in two of his best articles: Seeing With Both Eyes and The Sunna As Primordiality. He concludes one of these articles with the following soothing words that give us hope and re-assurance in a world that is seemingly full of evil and oppression:
“Those of us who have lived far from nature, and far from beauty, and far from the saints, often have anger, and darkness, and confusion in our hearts. But this is not the Sunna [the examples of Prophet Muhammad]. The sunna is about detachment, about the confidence that however seemingly black the situation of the world, however great the oppression, no leaf falls without the will of Allah. Ultimately, all is well. The cosmos, and history, are in good hands.”
“That was the confidence of Rasulullah (s.w.s.) [the Prophet]. It has to be our confidence as well. There is too much depression among us, which leads either to demoralisation and immorality, or to panic, and meaningless, ugly forms of extremism, which have nothing to do with the serenity and beauty to which the Ka’ba summons us. But Islam commands wisdom, and balance. It is the middle way. And for us, whatever our situation, it is always available, and can always be put into practice. We are the fortunate umma in today’s world. Fortunate, because unlike Westerners, we are still centred on beauty. In other words, we still know what we are, and what we are called to be.” – Dr. T. J. Winter
“Our doctrine could not be more straightforward. The most pure, exalted, uncompromising monotheism: the clearest idea of God there has ever been. A system of worship that requires no paraphernalia: no crosses, confessionals, priests or pews. Just the human creature, and its Lord. The Hajj and Umra also take us back to an ancient time, as we wear the simplest of garments, and perform primordial rites that reconnect us with the symbolic centre, around the purest building there has ever been. The fast of Ramadan is also timeless: bringing us into contact and continuity with one of the oldest of all religious devotions […] By stepping inside the protecting circle of Islam, the human creature is thus reconnected to the ancient simplicity and dignity of the human condition. Islam allows us to reclaim our status as khalifas: Allah’s deputies on earth.”– Dr. T. J. Winter