Archives for the ‘ Lectures ’ Category

Forgiveness

By • Jan 23rd, 2023 • Category: Quran Study

Session 29. Forgiveness is an important virtue in all spiritual traditions: it is considered an expression of love, and a yardstick for closeness to God. Psychologists also find forgiveness a valuable tool for mental health and psychological wellness. While forgiveness is not generally easy to practice (particularly in traumatic situations), some people tend to have an easier time with it than others. Mindset plays a big part in a person’s ability to forgive. In this presentation, we will explore what the Quran and the renowned Iranian poet Hafez (حافظ) teach about forgiveness. These teachings aim to foster a forgiving mind, which in turn empowers the person to forgive.



Are the Social Laws of the Quran Applicable in Modern Nation-States?

By • Dec 23rd, 2022 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 28. The conventional wisdom in orthodox Islamic scholarship is that the social laws of the Quran apply to all social settings. This simplistic view fails to consider that the laws of the Quran were intended for a Muslim Ummah (أمة): a community of like-minded “believers” whom choose to live by those laws. Modern nation-states are not organized around shared religious beliefs. Therefore, it does not make sense to force religious law on a diverse nation (whose citizens may not have any Islamic conviction). In this presentation, we will discuss why applying religious law in modern nation-states are so problematic.



Are the Social Laws of the Quran Eternal?

By • Nov 18th, 2022 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 27. Out of the 6600+ verses in the Quran, 350 deal with “law”. The Quranic laws may be divided into two broad categories: 1) rituals / acts of worship (ibādāt / عبادات), and 2) social relations (muʿāmalāt / معاملات). The ritual / acts of worship laws regulate a faithful’s relation with God; they are are eternal, because their subject matter is fixed. Social relation laws regulate a faithful’s relation with other humans; they may change overtime, because their subject matter (society) evolves. In this presentation, we will explore the reformist perspective on Quranic laws.



What is the Meaning and Purpose of Human Life?

By • Nov 1st, 2022 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 26. Despite its unparalleled achievements, modernity also has a dark side. Its rampant materialism not only has created environmental catastrophes, but also a crisis of “meaning”.  Absurdism and Nihilism, two schools of thought in the 20th-century, plainly speak of how senseless and pointless life is. This modern attitude flies in the face of the spiritual outlook of life in all world religions- an outlook that is summarized in a Quranic verse: “We are from God, and we shall return to God.” Thus, “meaning” is embedded in every particle of this vast universe; because, the universe has a Creator God, who is “the meaning of all meanings”! In this presentation, we will discuss what the Quran teaches on the meaning and higher purpose of human life.



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, Uncategorized

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, Uncategorized

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.