Notes continued from an address by Sheikh Ismail Nur, Imam of the Masjid al Iman Mosque in Victoria to a gathering at St. Philip, Oak Bay Saturday 20 May 2017.

Since coming to Victoria, my experience here has been wonderful. The people in Victoria are very special. I have traveled to many places and lived in different places around the world; but here I experience that people are different. They are more open-minded and kinder than anywhere I have experienced. When I ask people about this they say, “Well Imam, it is the West Coast.”

If you want to learn about Christianity you can read and read in books, but unless you sit down and have a conversation with a person who practices that faith you will not have a real understanding.

I condemn any use of religion to oppress people. But I am not responsible for what happens in Iran or Saudi Arabia. I am responsible to do what I can to promote peace in my own community.

In Islam we say there are two types of people who will never learn:

1. People who are too shy. They are worried they will be laughed at if they ask a question, so they never ask a question.

2. The person who is arrogant. Some people think they already know everything there is to know and so never ask a question and never learn.

I am not the final authority but I try to answer to the best of my knowledge.

Q: What can be done to bring together Sunni and Shia Muslims?

A: Islam has sects, groups, and factions, just like every other religion. Sunnis are the main group of Islam making up 70-80% of the Muslim population. The Shias are 15-20%. The division goes far back in history. There are distinctions in belief but these differences are not the main issue. A lot of the emphasis on separateness goes back to the problem of people using religion for other purposes than it is intended.

Imagine you know of a plot of land that has oil buried under the ground. You want the land because you want the oil and you are willing to fight for the oil. But you do not want to appear greedy. So, you create a secondary issue to make the fight look legitimate. Religion is used this way.

For most of history Sunnis and Shias have lived together peacefully. We need to emphasize that the end message of all religions is peace. All religions should promote peace.

Q: When should a child start fasting for Ramadan.

A: Fasting is supposed to help a person. The aim is never to pose a harm to anyone. Children are not allowed to fast while the child is still growing, not until the age of maturity, perhaps at 15. But even then the fasting needs to be supervised. A Sick person, a pregnant woman, or a nursing woman, or a senior member of the community who needs more nutrition, are exempt from fasting. There are regulations that cover this practice to ensure the well-being of the Muslim.

Q: What does fatwa mean?

A: It is important to understand that there are terms Muslims use which may be understood differently by some people than by others.

Some people have a view of Jihad as Muslims killing the infidel. This is not how we understand the term at all.

Fatwa for Muslims means simply a legal verdict on a religious matter. If a Muslim is fasting in Ramadan but by some mistake drinks some water, they will come and ask me if they need to make up by some special observance. I will give a decision; this decision is a Fatwa.

But Fatwa is viewed by some as a Muslim cleric issuing a death sentence. This is not our understanding.

There are people who operate under a very limited understanding of Sharia law. They believe Sharia law means cutting off peoples’ hands. To a Muslim Sharia law simply means implementing the teachings of Islam in daily life. Sharia law means fasting during Ramadan and praying five times a day.