The event organized by Islamic Society of Britain took place from Thursday July 17 to Sunday July 20 at Lincolnshire Showground, near the city of Lincoln, UK. It was very heartening to see such a large gathering of Muslim families living in the UK spending three days together in a clean, picturesque environment, showing through their personal conduct what Islam was all about: that it was peace loving; that it encouraged healthy entertainment; and that it mixed education, prayer, entertainment, and family life in a way that every good human would want to be a part of it.
Indeed “Living Islam” was a unique experience for me. I could never have imagined that Islam could be presented in such an effective way through demonstrating how good Muslims lived. The fact that it was an all family affair and there were almost as many women and children as there were men was a far cry from the men-only and women-only religious gatherings I had as yet encountered in the Muslim countries. Going by the Islamic example of Hajj, the organizers of ISB were able to show to the world at large that such strict single-gender gatherings were not the ideal representation of Islam and that Islam was a very much livable religion which didn’t ask its followers to shun the natural, doable way of life. All it demanded from its followers was purity of heart and purity of deeds.
While there were elaborate arrangements for entertainment and sports for men, women, and children, there were even better arrangements for educating the participants on various aspects of Islam through lectures on important aspects of it. Many prominent scholars were invited as speakers. The proceedings were however dominated by Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University whose refreshing approach about Islam and the effective way of presenting it stole the show.
I was able to meet many prominent members of the ISB including Brothers Zahoor, Ahtasham, Naveed, Masrur, Munir, Iftikhar, Iskendar, and Farooq and Sisters Batool, and Sarah. They were all a model of sincerity, exuberance, humility, and refinement. I found in them eagerness to promote the message of Islam in an effective, intelligent way.
One could see that ISB team was looking for the right answers to the challenges the modern world had thrown across at Muslims in the recent times. They have adopted the welcome policy of embracing everything good about Islam no matter wherever it came from. Thus theirs was a story of learning, practicing, and adapting. They were open to new ideas provided they satisfied two conditions: they made sense and they were genuinely Islamic. ISB thus doesn’t represent any one school of thought on Islam. It is open to all Muslims and all ideas.
ISB is the true representation of what Islam stood for. And “Living Islam” was an excellent demonstration of their ideals.