THE RHODA INSTITUTE OF ISLAMIC SPIRITUAL LEARNING
The Rhoda Institute is a project of Sanad Collective, an Ottawa-based non-profit organization founded by Shaykh Hamdi Ben Aissa in 2012. The Rhoda opened its doors in 2016, with the intention of making balanced, meaningful, and safe teachings about Islam accessible to all.
The Rhoda Institute offers learning opportunities that connect the us to the sacred heritage of humanity: the wisdom imparted by the Prophets and Sages since the beginning of time, and especially the teachings of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ the Universal Teacher who encompassed this wisdom in perfection.
At the Rhoda, you will experience holistic learning in which mind, spirit, and practice are balanced and developed concurrently. Here, you are invited to explore how to walk the spiritual path in a balanced manner, in your daily life. You are also invited to come just as you are, with your authentic self, and ask the questions you need answers for. The Rhoda is a safe space where all are welcome and encouraged.
Our offerings include weekly classes by resident teachers, regular visits by distinguished scholars, daily spiritual practice and prayer at the Rhoda Masjid, and special events such as retreats. There is something for every level of learner, and we welcome both those who drop in for occasional visits and those who are looking for an immersive full-time experience. We are happy to receive students from out-of-town who are looking for an opportunity to learn and grow in their spiritual journey; initial accommodation and integration support is available. We are blessed to be next door to a beautiful public community space, the volunteer-run Lotus Community Corner, which offers programming around well-being and community-building, as well as coffee and healthy treats.
The Rhoda is blessed by guidance and inspiration from Al-Habib ‘Umar bin Muhammad bin Salim bin Hafiz, a recognized leader of today’s Islamic spiritual renaissance. The Rhoda is inspired by the eminent Dar al Mustafa Institute founded by Habib Umar in Tarim, Yemen but speaks to the unique needs of our local community: western, North American, Canadian, Ottawan.
The three purposes (maqasid) of the Rhoda Institute are:
- Building sanad: sharing knowledge that has an authentic scholarly source which can be traced from teacher to teacher over the generations, in a line of direct transmission that originates with the Prophet ﷺ
- Tazkiyya: purifying the self and heart
- Da’wa: inviting people to God by serving their needs for His sake
RHODA: WHAT’S IN A NAME?
In Arabic, the word rhoda means “garden.” The Apostle of God ﷺ uses the word rhoda in the following teaching to his followers: “When you come across the gardens of Paradise, stop and graze therein.” His followers asked, “What are the gardens of Paradise, O Messenger of God?” He ﷺ replied: “The circles in which God is remembered.”
Linguistically, the Arabic words rhoda, dawra (circle) and warda (rose) all come from the same family. The word rhoda in Arabic comes from the Latin and Greek, in which it means rose. Thus, the best definition of rhoda would be ‘rose garden.’ Our circles of remembrance are gardens, full of spiritual roses. This is the beautiful imagery offered us by this name.
Rhoda also refers to the sacred space between the home of the Prophet ﷺ in Madinah, and the pulpit from which he would teach in his mosque. The Prophet ﷺ said that this space is not of the earth, but is actually a part of Heaven ( ما بين بيتي ومنبري روضة من رياض الجنة ). Rhoda is also the name given to the resting place of the physical aspect of the Messenger of God ﷺ: his blessed grave in Madinah, his spiritual Rose Garden and the place every student of his way longs to visit.
In most modern transliterations, the spelling ‘rawdah’ is used, but we chose ‘rhoda’ because it is more accessible and acts as a bridge connecting us to our full heritage as believers in One Creator. In the Bible, Rhoda is the name of a pious young serving-woman who lived in the house of Mary, the Mother of John Mark. When Peter the Apostle is released from prison, he comes to the house of Mary where believers have been praying for his freedom. Rhoda goes to answer the door. She is overwhelmed with gratitude to God when she hears Peter’s voice, and rushes to tell the others that their prayers have been answered. In her ecstasy at God’s Generosity, she forgets to even open the door to let Peter inside. When she announces God’s answering of their prayers to those in the house, they don’t believe her at first, and even call her crazy. It’s as if they don’t have the certitude that their prayers could be answered so quickly. When they see Peter, they realize Rhoda was right. Rhoda is an example of a woman of faith who loves the Giver even more than His gifts.
To teach the sciences of the Sacred Way (Sharia): the Heritage of the Prophet ﷺ, handed down to us over centuries through lines of scholarly transmission. Learning takes place through practical experience and instructional methods include both the traditional and the modern. Teachings take into consideration our current realities, in order to make possible a wise implementation of the Sacred Way in our practical day-to-day.
To provide opportunities for the learner to uplift and refine herself through sincere dedication, purification of the heart, development of moral integrity and the art of noble relationships, all within the supportive fellowship of community.
To develop in the learner the capacity and passion to offer service and spread goodness in the widest possible, most all-embracing manner.
The classical expression of the Prophetic legacy we seek to share is not monolithic or puritanical, nor does it claim exclusive ownership to the entire Truth. Rather, it embraces the diversity of human experiences and cultures, celebrates the good in each one, and offers the human being the opportunity to become more mindful of God, kinder to others, and nobler throughout all his actions.
Our way of teaching is an alternative to the reductionist approach that has dominated much of Islamic education in recent history, with its exclusive focus on outward signs of piety, and its tendencies towards either rational or emotional extremes. We join the efforts of all those striving today towards a renaissance of the spiritual soul of Islam.
The Rhoda Institute works in close collaboration with its sister organization, SeekersHub, based in Toronto. We are honoured to host and participate in SeekersHub programming.