Amongst many things, Brother Khalil Jaffer is commonly referred to as an inspiring speaker. Born in Mombasa, Kenya, he also holds a degree in computer science, and has worked in various related fields such as a software developer. As a youth, he first found his voice “in youth groups in the community…and youth presentations, very much like we have in Ramadhan before the lecture”, he said. “So we’d be encouraged to give lectures like that”. His powerful and adept public speaking further developed during the period after his secular studies, where he lectured at his local college. After seven years in Nairobi he relocated to Dubai for a further five years, before finally moving to Toronto. Having been part of a number of our community hotspots gives him a unique insight into the development of our society
Lecturing for him is just a means, not an end. “Many of us are not aware of the rich Islamic heritage we have”, he explained. “Because I have an active interest in Islamic studies and I have access to a lot of this material through the Arabic language, I see my role as trying to expose to the community this knowledge and heritage, that they may not be aware of”. Br. Khalil Jaffer is actively pursuing just that. He is currently “involved in a long-term Qur’an Tafseer project”, he admitted. “Insha’Allah, when this project comes to fruition, it will not only increase the Muslim’s understanding of the Qur’an, but I think it will also change the perspective of non Muslims on the
Qur’an. It is something I am very passionate about”. And it doesn’t stop there. “What I would like to do is maybe sometime next year, is to start a Qur’an Tafseer class, where I can start sharing some of the work that I am doing”.
His inspirational lectures have particularly attracted the youth. However, “I never saw myself as a role model”, he confessed. Instead, “our leaders need to be inspired role models for the youth, the role model for the youth in the community should not be me, it should be the leader”.
“Our current leaders have four very good qualities, they are sincere and well meaning. They have love for their own communities, by ethnicity. They are very good administrators, and they are also very active humanitarians”, he summarized.
However, for the leaders of the community to be role models for the next generation, there are a few concerns that first need to be addressed. Specifically, “there are four things that we need to be concerned about in the community, and these are tied directly to our leadership”, he continued. “As difficult as it may seem, these concerns can be met with “four qualities that need to be nurtured in our
“The first concern is how do we preserve our Islamic culture, in the environment we live in?” he questioned. Solving this conundrum is more than just a regular challenge, because we live in a “non-Muslim, materialistic society and we constantly see an erosion of Islamic values”, he added.
In order to solve this problem, “We need leaders who are knowledgeable in both the secular and religious fields. I would say at a minimum, they should be knowledgeable enough to lead us in Salaat and Friday prayers,” he suggested.
Another major concern that continues to riddle our community “is how can we be united without being divided upon ethnicity or faith?” he said thoughtfully.Community gaps based on ethnic boundaries will continue to plague us unless our leaders “are aware of the different centers. They should have a vision outside their own ethnicities, in order to unite us, in the greater Shia community, and even the greater Muslim community.” He said.
Thirdly, another major “concern is how do we remove apathy amongst the youth, and increase activism?” For example, “the youth say they want lectures in English, we have lectures in English they don’t come. They say we need interesting speakers, we bring interesting speakers they still don’t come”. One possible way to solve this would be to have leaders who are inspired role models for the youth – not me”, he
Living in the West implies good access to secular education. Where we mustn’t cut ourselves short is “Islamic education. How do we encourage it in our community?” From past experiences, we are more aware that “our leaders need to be knowledgeable in current Muslim affairs, and they should be courageous enough to defend Islam outside the community”, he suggested.
“This interview was first published in the Times of Wali Magazine in Toronto, Canada. Republished with permission. “