I'm Leaving the UK for a While (and Why)
17 November, 2014
Assalāmu 'alaykum warahmatullāhi wa barakātuhu,
I feel that the time has come to share some news with you. At the end of October - in shā' Allāh - I'm going to be leaving the UK with my family, to move abroad for a while. Now before I go any further, let me say unequivocally that this is not intended to be a permanent move. This move is part of a long-term plan to make me a more effective daa'iyah and a stronger student of knowledge, with the permission of Allāh. Nor am I intending for this to be a move that involves teaching English, carrying out IT contracts, or one of the many other jobs that attract graduates of Islamic universities to leave their communities. In fact, I'm hoping to move to a full-time role supporting new Muslims and inviting non-Muslims to Islam.
The reason for the move? Actually, there are many, but it all started in a sitting with one of the scholars. After telling him my circumstances, and the situation of the da'wah in the UK, and some of the things that I hope to achieve in the long term, he simply said to me words to the effect of "You don't have enough knowledge" - and he was right. In the UK, and the West in general, people with very little knowledge are used to being given huge responsibility, sometimes far beyond what they are deserving of. That's not going to change tomorrow - it needs a long-term strategy, executed over many years, perhaps many generations. However, in my opinion, it begins with the recognition that there is a problem, and then by correcting yourself before you correct others. If I remain true to that belief, then I can't be content with the knowledge that I have, since this is being content with the status quo, itself part of the problem. It's worth mentioning that I'm not of the opinion that you can't progress in knowledge without getting on a plane, it's just sometimes easier to do it that way.
Moving on from the need to develop myself and my knowledge further, there are other reasons for the move. One of the most important is rooted in the events - successes and failures - of the last three and a half years. When I came back from Madeenah, I came with a very noble, if somewhat utopian idea that I would not earn a living from da'wah. This has lead to some success - most notably in ruqyah and the establishment of the Humble Foundation - but it has also lead to some immense difficulty, and sometimes failure to separate my professional, charitable, and personal activities. It's still something that I very much believe in, but of late it has become more of an aspiration than a reality, because I simply could not do all of the da'wah work that I'm doing and earn enough to live. I began to feel that I was becoming a jack of all trades, master of none. Developing the Humble Foundation is especially important in this regard, since many of the Humble Foundation projects were established to address the problems and lack of efficiency in the existing charitable work that I was involved in. For example, there are currently 100-200 people who receive help and answers by email every month, most of them for ruqyah queries. An average ruqyah email can take anywhere between 15 minutes to a couple of hours to answer. The outcome: a lot of wasted time, and a catch-22 situation of not having the time to implement a solution which would fix the original problem. I've implemented several temporary fixes, including stricter rules for emails and trying to re-use answers, but the solution that I would like to have is for us to implement a full knowledge base with public answers, in a similar way to IslamQA, but for ruqyah. Obviously, this would need some time to develop, as ruqyah has some unique challenges, including how to give people personal answers to very private questions, but still to allow others to benefit, without compromising privacy and confidentiality. I already have the web domain, the servers, and the technology and skills to do this - I just don't have the time.
It's quite obvious that something had to go, and probably quite a lot of things. To me, the Humble Foundation is the single most important thing that I do, because it has the potential to help the largest number of people, with the permission of Allāh. However, I'm a trustee, and I can't (and I refuse to) earn money from it. That decision is set in stone, in shā' Allāh. I'm all for commissioning other people (on both a paid and voluntary basis) to do things, but there's a critical mass that needs to be achieved before this can be done, and we are very much in our infancy. Therefore, I needed a job that would (a) help me to become more financially stable, (b) allow me to give the Humble Foundation the time that it needs, and (c) allow me time to study further. Upon reflection, I was willing to sacrifice my UK lectures and seminars in order to achieve this, because in the grand scheme of things, they are simply less important.
Another reason is my family, and particularly the kids. Both my wife and I want the children to experience the language and culture of the Middle East, because ultimately, I don't see myself or them having a permanent future in the UK, and Allāh knows best. We said that we would stay in the UK for 2-4 years after graduating from Madeenah, and then look to go back again to the Middle East for a period of time. This was one of the major reasons behind home-schooling the children and taking them out of school last year on a permanent basis.
One thing that actually surprised me was how little of my da'wah work would be negatively affected by moving (which is perhaps, in itself, a failure of sorts). Most places in the UK only see me once or twice a year, which isn't likely to change all that much, but it will probably be during a period of 1-2 months a year, rather than being spaced out throughout the year. The email support will continue, and - in shā' Allāh - will grow under the stewardship of the Humble Foundation, as part of an organised project, rather than my own personal effort. Videos can be made anywhere in the world, as can contributions to websites and social media, and I'm expecting those to increase rather than decrease, once the important work of fixing errors and moving to my own YouTube/Vimeo channel is complete. The biggest problem is of course Newcastle. Now, at this point, I'm fairly sure there are plenty of people in Newcastle who would say that I don't do a great deal there anyway, and I accept that there is some truth in that criticism. In reality, there will be some kinds of charitable work that suffer - and Allāh knows best - most notably the local ruqyah patients. However, I'm happy enough that I can take steps to mitigate the problem, and that ultimately, the local ruqyah will continue, in shā' Allāh. I've always been of the opinion that I'd rather set up a project to teach a hundred people ruqyah, than to perform ruqyah for a hundred people. On the other hand, without actively being engaged in ruqyah, I would never have been able to teach it. Even ruqyah, which is perhaps the most localised of all the activities that I do, would benefit from further study and research, otherwise I fear that I would start to have confidence in my own mistakes, something that can only be rectified by sitting with those more knowledgeable in the field than I am.
In addition to all of the above, I feel that many du'aat and students of knowledge suffer from a lack of change. I'm not talking about those who are incredibly patient, performing small but regular deeds over a long period of time, but those who are no longer reaching the high standards that they have set for themselves because they are trapped in a bad routine from which they can't find any way out. Of course, the answer isn't always to move, but bringing a fresh perspective to a situation is an added bonus to the well established practice of travelling for the purpose of seeking knowledge.
I've been offered lots of opportunities, both inside and outside the UK, for which I am very grateful. I've also turned down a lot of opportunities to move away from Newcastle, but recently the combination of a unique offer and the right timing lead me to think again. Significantly, the opportunity and flexibility to study, and the fact that the job role has aspects which tie in nicely with the Humble Foundation projects for 2014/15, was enough for me to pause and contemplate something other than my usual polite refusal. So, in late October, with the permission of Allāh, I'll be setting off on another journey, to seek knowledge, develop my charity, and to gain further valuable work experience in the field of da'wah and supporting new Muslims.
In the mean time, it's all about tying up loose ends and finishing off work, including a mammoth amount of contract hours that I need to complete before I go, selling lots of stuff, plus the usual set of lectures and trips abroad (I'm writing this from 6th October City, near Cairo, Egypt), and Hajj in shā' Allāh...so plenty to keep me busy. I won't be accepting lots of last minute invitations to give talks, perform ruqyah, etc., other than those that I've already committed to, because of the negative impact this would have on completing existing work. A key factor in making this move a success, after the help of Allāh, is going with as little outstanding work as possible.
All in all, my aim is to return to Newcastle with significantly more knowledge, greater financial stability, and a fresh outlook, with a permanent base for the Humble Foundation (ideally combined with a new masjid in an area of Newcastle that doesn't have one), and a set of completed projects for the charity for at least 2014/15...
"I only intend reform as much as I am able. And my success is only through Allah. Upon him I rely, and to Him I return." 11:88
Wassalāmu 'alaykum warahmatullāhi wa barakātuhu,