Understanding Khidmah Symposium
10 May 2012, The Muslim College, Ealing, London
In May 2012, a diverse group of activists, scholars, frontline workers and policymakers gathered from around the UK to explore the connections between spirituality and social action and the future of Muslim civil society in the UK.
Our inaugural symposium entitled “Faith & Khidmah: Connecting Spirituality, Social Action and the Big Society” held at The Muslim College in London was the first national gathering aimed at celebrating the vital role that Muslim communities and individuals play in serving the needs of their neighbours, advocating for better service delivery and finding new ways of meeting local and national challenges. The symposium also kick started a national conversation about the future of Muslim civil society, exploring ways of harnessing, directing and developing the incredible energy and experience that exists within Muslim communities.
Scholar Habib Ali al-Jifri, Director of the Tabah Foundation, provided a spiritual exploration of khidmah – service. “God praises those who do good acts in order to benefit their fellow creatures,” Habib Ali said. “God says: ‘And they feed, out of the sake of God’s love, the orphan and the pauper and the prisoner of war.’ He tied that practice of giving food to the love of God. Its motivation was the love of God. They feed people out of his love. God protected the action from falling into the whims of the ego where the ego can actually capitalise on such a good act, a righteous act and use it for its own ends.”
Khalida Khan and Humera Khan, Co-founders of the An-Nisa Society, provided a challenging and comprehensive overview of the current state of Muslim civil society: “The growth of a new generation of social activists, who are a source of dynamism, creativity and potential, is… very encouraging. This new generation, which is not bound by past history, and whose members are rooted in this country and confident of their identity as British Muslims, is keen to take the community forward but it needs vision, capacity, support and resources.”
Elizabeth Hunter, Director of Theos – the faith and public policy think tank, warned that “any faith-based social action needs to be carefully thought through from the outset. You need to ground your activity in your theology, know your values, know your mission. If you start from there - and plant your feet - you should be able to engage with the State in a way that allows you to fulfil your aims. If you don’t, if you’re not clear on your vision and purpose, on the ‘God’ part of doing good, you get assimilated, bound up in someone else’s agenda.”
Matthew West from the Department for Communities and Local Government gave an overview of Big Society and how communities can engage with it.
Shaykha Halima Krausen concluded the day with some powerful reflections - and raised issues that the symposium report begins to address and which the campaign will pick up in future programmes.
There was challenging and robust discussion with all speakers and participants used the workshops to develop practical strategies to take the Muslim civil society agenda forward. These ideas have guided the campaign plan and are laid out in the symposium report, available for download here.