The well known Muslim speaker Yusuf Estes gave a talk at Masjid Umar (Radford, Nottingham) today. Watching Yusuf Estes, with his Texas drawl and white beard, always feels a little like you are listening to Kris Kristofferson (indeed the more conspiracy minded amongst you may note that no-one has ever seen them both at the same time) and it is hard not to be charmed by his engaging Southern manner. One of the topics be talked about was some of the difficulties that he had when he converted to Islam. He pointed out that his greatest difficulties had not been with the non-Muslims, or with friends and family - rather it had been with the Muslim community. Continuing, Yusuf Estes painted a caricature of the “Bismillah Police”- those Muslims who take it upon themselves to analyse each and every action of a new Muslim (and seemingly only new Muslims) and point out any “errors” that they make. He imagined how they would treat a new Muslim that they did not recognise as he entered the masjid. . . He is entering the masjid with the wrong foot! - Astughfirullah! (I ask God for forgiveness) He is praying with his hands in the wrong position - Astughfirullah! His trousers are too long - Astughfirullah! His trousers are too short - Astughfirullah! Yusuf Estes felt that many of these “Bismillah Police” (Bismillah means “In the name of God) are acting on the following Hadith:
“"Religion is nasihah." We said: "To whom?" The Prophet (PBUH) said: "To Allah and His Book, and His messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk." (Muslim)and that they believe that it is their duty to give “nasihah” thinking that this word meant “advice”. However, having discussed this with others, he felt that this should more accurately be translated as “sincerity” - and that this translation fits the Hadith better than “advice” One other anecdote that Yusuf Estes narrated concerned a 1943 copy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which he had been glancing through that very morning in a beautiful book filled room at the University of Leicester. He noted that the Encylopaedia had 113 pages and 12 colour plates related to Islam, covering (accurately so far as he could see) all the major historical milestones, articles of faith and sects. He compared this to a 1989 dictionary that he had seen, published by the same company, which, under the entry “Islam”, said “see Muhammedism” (which was a very short entry). Yusuf Estes felt that the Muslim community had allowed this diminution in information to occur. One factoid that Yusuf Estes mentioned during the talk was that the word "Sheriff" was derived from the Arabic "Sharif" (although it has to be said that Wikipedia suggests that Sheriff is derived from "Shire Reeve") Yusuf Estes was keen to promote the Muslim “Guide-US” TV channel which is free-to-air in the US and available on the Internet in the rest of the world. He hopes to have this available in a free-to-air format for TV viewers in the UK at some point in the future, inshallah (God Willing) BFTF Comment :Masjid Umar wasn’t really big enough for this event, and BFTF wondered whether there was some mileage in the mosques in Nottingham pooling their resources when crowd-pulling speakers such as Yusuf Estes are in town.