Adaab in Majlis-e Aashiqaan, London Queer Muslims
In the name of the Divine All Encompassing Mercy and Compassion
When we meet with other aashiqaan (members of LQM) we step into the Maydan (sacred space). We are leaving the environment of the mundane (the Zahir) and entering a deeper more profound space (the Batin). The systems that oppress us as LGBTI+ people in the dunya (external world) do not apply in the sacred space, instead we are the lovers (aashiqaan) of Allah and their reflection in each other. Thus we inhabit this space with presence and intention. Loving, courteous, and aware of our own egos. Everything of our behaviour when in our maydan is inherently intentional; in contrast to the dunya. Thus our relationships with each other should be more harmonious when we fit in, when we have a place in that sacred space, where we are visible and heard, a space in which relationships are proportioned by reciprocal love, humility and respect. Our guests encounter a quality of respect and love that is not seen in other spaces, we give them more respect than they would expect. We do not use profane language, we do not invade the privacy of each other, we are not abusive or aggressive, we behave with love and respect. We do not assume the gender identity or [a]sexuality of one another. Our love lives are usually examined in great detail in the dunya, either viewed with suspicion and hate or instead seen as public, as if we do not have intellects, just bodies. In the maydan we do not behave this way, because this is a space of Islaam, Imaan and Ihsaan – we pursue the path of Peace (Islaam), we have faith in the Divine will (Imaan) and we seek the beautiful (Ihsaan).
Overall, the Maydan is a place of adaab (manners) which reflect the purpose of our circle, which is to empower LGBTI+ people as spiritual beings and nurture our relationships with The Divine, making us loved, respected, included and visible. Therefore we treat all attendees as our teachers. Adaab is a crucial aspect of Ihsaan, that aspect of The Prophets’ and Imaams’ path which seeks the beautiful and good, thus manners one has in relation to the teacher – the shaykh[a] – towards whom special respect and attention is given. In our group all are our Shaykh[a], and none are lower than that. Thus we show each other due courtesy, similar to the respect we give to our elders, which includes restraint of speech, not interrupting, not shouting at each other, kissing their hand when first greeting and departing, not turning our backs to each other, not pointing our feet to each other, not remaining seated while guests may need something, helping each other whenever possible in all our activities, and other numerous beautiful ways. We are aware that we are encouraging each other in the transmission of a sacred tradition which teaches us the inner way of Islam, not the way caught up in the rules and regulations of “do this don’t do that,” but of refining the character, introspection, love for each other and encouraging one’s relationship with The Divine. Here, service to each other equals service to Allah. Above all we are Majlis-e Aashiqaan which means The Meeting of Lovers, this was a name for our group chosen by our Baba and agreed upon by each other, it is an aspiration, we seek to reflect it in all our actions.
Members of our circle should be aware of the adaab of relationship in conversation, negative speech has a profound impact the group as a whole, and we should strive to listen and to restrain our speech if it is not loving or on the topic of the readings and group discussion. The group exists, among other things, for the development and refinement of Muhabbat (“a loving and intimate conversation and relationship”) through which spiritual blessings manifest. We can allow that barakat (blessing) to flow by restraining all forms of gossip and back-biting, refraining from saying anything at all about a person who is not present unless it is to praise them, and by respecting any request from another aashiq to refrain from a certain type of speech. We should actively seek to praise one another every time we meet, this is a positive aspect of Muhasaba (“taking account of one’s actions”) that we can develop as a group. Anything which troubles us we can seek to resolve in private with one of the leaders as soon as possible so that they can positively support us and try to achieve change wherever necessary. Leaders should not, and cannot sit in Zikr circles if they are in conflict with anyone present, they must seek reconciliation from the committee members and if they are unable to resolve the committee can turn to Rehber (guide) Lutfi Shams Logan and to our Baba Haydar Ozan.
The leaders must not expect extra attention and respect simply by nature of their positions, they should develop humility and conscious loving behaviour and be extra vigilant of the effects of their speech and actions in the circle. They should seek to do muhasabah (accounting) with each other on a regular basis, asking for constructive and loving feed back on their speech and behaviour towards others. They should also reach out to attendees, offering them roles in the circle (such as readings, salwaat etc) and be kind in speech and praise them for their qualities, being careful not to overdo it. Importantly, our leaders are not in a position of representing Islam, they do not have to be have special knowledge of Arabic or of Islamic law, fiqh, aqeedah or Quran, but should have exemplary behaviour towards other members of the group and in dealings with anyone else in the context of the group. Above all, adaab is a quality and capacity that every leader needs to develop for themselves. It was the adaab of the Prophet, His Holy Family and Righteous Companions that first won over the hearts of non-Muslims, this is the taqleed (imitation) we strive for.
The practice of Islaam is the actualisation of Tawhid (oneness), which necessitates coherence and unity in the group. The more we are willing to consciously love one another and to serve the group, the more beautiful and refined the togetherness becomes. The Muslim environment is a place for the education of the nafs (self or ego), a place where we observe the ego’s functioning and strive to overcome its tyranny. The aashiqaan are those who serve, and do not expect to be thanked; service is a privilege.