Archives for the ‘ Quran Study ’ Category

Why Did God Create Us?

By • Oct 14th, 2022 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 25. Religious people often ask: why did God create us? What was His purpose? There is an unspoken assumption built into this question; namely, God has a purpose in His acts. After all, we (humans) certainly have a purpose in whatever we do / create. So, it seems odd that a super-intelligent God, the Creator of the Universe, would not follow the same pattern. Muslim philosophers and mystics have questioned the validity of this assumption.  They argue that common people have a human-like perception of God’s creative act. Thinking and purpose applies to humans, but not to God. In this presentation, we will explore the Muslim philosophers’ / mystics’ critique of the common perception of why God created the universe.

Trust in God – Part 2

By • Sep 20th, 2022 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 24. Trust in God (Tawakkul /تَوَكُّل) has tangible / practical benefits, which are mostly psychological. As a heartfelt conviction, Tawakkul shapes the believer’s mindset; it provides a positive outlook  for seeing and experiencing the world. In this presentation, we will discuss five fruits of Tawakkul: 1) optimism in life; 2) focusing on effort rather than the outcome; 3) freedom from fear, anxiety and stress; 4) inner peace; 5) hope in the face of adversity.

Trust in God – Part 1

By • Aug 25th, 2022 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 23. Trust in God (Tawakkul /تَوَكُّل) is a hallmark of faith. In the eye of the Quran, Tawakkul is an essential ingredient of faith: if a person does not put her full trust in God in daily life, she would not have true faith. She may believe in the “idea” of God, but she would not have faith in God. Conceptually, Tawakkul is difficult to comprehend, and even more difficult to practice. The difficulty is partly due to the fact that there are no concrete activities associated with Tawakkul. Daily prayer, invocation, fasting… are concrete practices we call “religious acts”; however, there are no such activities associated with Tawakkul. And therein lies the problem. We will explore some of the Quran’s teachings on the nature and meaning of Tawakkul in this presentation.

Philosophy of Du‘ā (دُعا) / supplication

By • Aug 3rd, 2022 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 22. Du‘ā (supplication) is a crucial component of all Abrahamic religions. Contrary to the ritual daily prayer (Salat), Du‘ā does not have any particular structure or rules; it can be done in any language, day or night. The ultimate aim of authentic religion is to enable us form a fellowship with God: Du‘ā serves that purpose. In Du‘ā, we share our needs, heartaches, longings and aspirations with God. When we do Du‘ā on regular basis- throughout the day-, we create an inner space that is full of God’s presence. In this presentation, we will explore the philosophy of Du‘ā according to the Holy Quran and Islam’s mystical tradition.

The spiritual meaning of Eid al-Fitr

By • Jul 19th, 2022 • Category: Quran Study

Session 21. Muslims mark the end of the Ramadan fast with Eid al-Fitr (عيد الفطر). They celebrate their accomplishment, and God’s gift of strength and endurance which allowed them to complete a whole month of fasting. Although Eid is typically viewed as a “holiday” (shared by all Muslims), but its authentic religious / mystical meaning is quite different: Eid is a private matter; it is experienced internally following a transformation and renewal. Perhaps Imam Ali was the first to take such an esoteric position on Eid, when he said: “any day in which we do not disobey God is Eid.” In this presentation, we will discuss the spiritual meaning and characteristics of Eid al-Fitr.  

The Philosophy of Fasting in Ramadan

By • Jun 28th, 2022 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 20. According to the Quran, the spiritual harvest of Ramadan is “taqwā ” (تقوى): piety / righteousness / God-consciousness. Fasting is a great exercise for self-control, which in turn enables the person to say “no” to temptations and the call of the ego. Self-control is not only critical for moral behavior, it is also a requirement for enlightenment and spiritual discovery. Centuries ago, humans in Persia, India, Greece, China and elsewhere discovered that there is an inverse relation between body (materialistic cravings / pursuits) and the soul. As Rumi puts it, “bread” is nourishment for the body, and “light” is nourishment for the soul. When we eat less bread, more light will enter our soul. And that is the underlying philosophy of fasting in spiritual traditions. In this presentation, we will explore the Ramadan fast in the Quran and Rumi’s teachings.

Almsgiving (Zakat / زكاة)

By • Jun 3rd, 2022 • Category: Quran Study

Session 19. Zakat (زكاة) is commonly viewed as a pillar of Islam; it is typically rendered “almsgiving” in English (i.e., money, food, or other donations given to the poor or needy). Some scholars consider Zakat as a religious tax. However, in the Quran, Zakat is neither a religious tax nor exclusively a charitable contribution. Over the centuries, the concept of Zakat evolved among Muslim scholars, and took on a meaning that is not quite in line with the teachings of the Quran. In this presentation, we will explore Zakat- and its evolution- in Islamic thought.

Daily Ritual Prayer (Salāt / صَلَوٰة) – Part 2

By • May 6th, 2022 • Category: Quran Study

Session 18. Salāt is typically viewed as a pillar of Islam- for a good reason. Through direct experience (in a vision), the Prophet Mohammad saw that the entire universe was in “Salāt”, and he followed suit. He synchronized himself with the melody of the universe; he spontaneously bowed and prostrated. Then, he asked his followers to do the same and practice Salāt. In this presentation, we will explore the philosophy of Salāt from a mystical point of view using Rumi’s teachings.

Daily Ritual Prayer (Salāt / صَلَوٰة) – Part 1

By • Mar 11th, 2022 • Category: Quran Study

Session 17. Contemporary Islam is dominated by legalism (فقه) which has a tendency to ritualize spiritual practices and turn them into formalities; Salāt is a prime example. The Islamic law describes Salāt as a daily ritual prayer with specific procedures, movements and recitations. But, the Quran views Salāt as a universal phenomenon: all existence practices Salāt, not just humans or faithful Muslims. That is partially why the Quran does not contain any specific instructions for Salāt. In this talk, we will explore Salāt through the verses of the Holy Quran.

Enjoining Right and Forbidding Wrong

By • Feb 10th, 2022 • Category: Quran Study

Session 16. The Quran describes Enjoining Right and Forbidding Wrong (الامرُ بالمعروف و النّهیُ عَنِ المُنکر) as a requirement of faith. Unfortunately throughout the Islamic history, this commandment has sometimes been abused by government authorities and vigilantes for religious policing,  and now by terrorist groups like ISIS to force their ideology and way of life on others. Such abuses notwithstanding, the Quran asks Muslims to be responsible citizens in their communities, and promote what the conventional wisdom / collective reason of their time considers “good”, “right” and “moral”. The underlying philosophy of Enjoining Right and Forbidding Wrong is social responsibility and civic engagement. The contemporary democratic and open societies provide a good environment for Muslims to practice this commandment (far better than their authoritarian counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Afghanistan and elsewhere). In this presentation, we will explore Enjoining Right and Forbidding Wrong in the Quran, and provide real-world applications of this commandment for today.