The success of iERA Jesus Exhibitions that are being held in different parts of England and around the world caught the attention of the Islamic Society at the University of Portsmouth. The ISOC invited the iERA team to come down to Portsmouth after having followed us on social media. Nadeem Ashraf, iERA Outreach specialist was sent to Portsmouth alongside a small team of volunteers to help facilitate this exhibition.
By the time the team reached there, everything was set up at two locations. One spot was designated for flyers and printed material – this was in the library. The main exhibition was at the Students Union building, 2-3 minutes away from the library. Throughout the day, a lot of non-Muslims came to the exhibition they observed, read and engaged in discussing the story of Jesus.They could read the banners on which described the story of Jesus from his birth till his ascent. Once they’ve gone through the journey, the attendees could visit the table full of materials for them to take away. The iso also offered tea and biscuits. Refreshments acted as a leeway to open up a dawah related conversation. The setup, therefore, was quite purpose built. The iERA team was engaged in several discussions with attendees.
Nadeem Ashraf has three distinct conversations of note.
The first conversation was with a student studying architecture, named Mathew. Mathew seemed intrigued by the story of Jesus as displayed on the banners and said he had never seen any such thing coming from Muslims.
The second conversation was with Reverend Simon, the university chaplain. He said he was very impressed by the entire exhibition but he had a few objections and questions that were welcomed and answered by Nadeem Ashraf :
The first point of discussion was over was the phenomenon of Crucifixion which according to the reverend was a true historical fact.Reverend Simon reinforced his statement by using references from different resources and literature from different historians. Nadeem Ashraf explained this to him using Quranic evidences bringing to light the idea that the Quran was a book of authority and was divine that stands above and literary sources. History is always subjective. Quran contains historical evidence par excellence. Nadeem Ashraf also insisted on the idea of Jesus not being crucified as mentioned in the Quran in Chapter 4 Ayah 157: And (for) their saying, “indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but (another) was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.
The second point of debate was the idea of Trinity in Christianity that divides God into three beings. Reverend Simon gave the example of water, how it could exist as liquid, ice and steam. He also added how an egg could stay in different forms while still being an egg, so could God exist in three beings to which Nadeem countered by explaining simplicity of the concept of God and his unity compared to the complexity of the Trinity and how some Christian scholars themselves knew that approaching God and understanding Him would be difficult, For example, Professor Charles Woodbridge and Harold Lindsell have stated saying that “the mind of man cannot fully understand the mystery of Trinity. He who has tried to understand the mystery fully will lose his mind.” Nadeem Ashraf had an interesting chat with the reverend with the discussion concluding on a friendly understanding. Reverend Simon agreed to stay in touch and provide references to support his argument.
In conclusion, it was an excellent event. One of its kind as this was the first time that iERA actually held an exhibition on a University Campus. This event has helped build relations with the ISOC members as well generally with the audience. iERA is grateful to the team at Portsmouth for hosting and executing the event beyond expectations and pray that this will provide the boost needed to establish stronger foundations of dawah training in the UK, in shaa Allah.
To have iERA visit your University or organisation, please visit iera.org/request.