Archives for the ‘ Lectures ’ Category

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.



The Vision of Islam

By • Jan 14th, 2022 • Category: Quran Study

Session 15. Islam has a unique vision among world religions: it views the human being as an “indivisible whole”, and does not reduce the essential human characteristic to a certain feature such as spirit, soul, mind or reason. Islam’s uniqueness partly explains why most Western scholars of religion have difficulty with Islam; they argue that Islam’s sacred scripture is interested in issues that are not the “proper” domain of religion such as hygiene, food, criminal law, war and peace, and so forth.  But this critique misses the point: Islam argues that human being is multi-dimensional, and has a host of requirements for a happy life. Finance, politics and medicine are just as important as spiritual pursuits. We will explore the vision of Islam in this presentation.



Grace

By • Dec 22nd, 2021 • Category: Quran Study

Session 14. Islam’s detractors often claim that Allah is a God of wrath, vengeance and hate. He is the source of intolerance, bigotry and discrimination among His believers. But, the Quran paints a different picture: Allah’s supreme attribute is “Grace”. Grace is typically defined as free, unmerited and undeserved favor.  As Rumi correctly argues, creation is an expression of Devine Grace: if “merit” was the basis of God’s actions, nothing would come into “being” / “existence”. The universe and all its inhabitants owe their very existence to God’s Grace; because, they did not even exist to have any merit yet! God’s Grace is universal and open to all: believers and atheists, the righteous and sinners alike. In this talk, we will explore “Grace” in the Quran and Islamic thought.



Backbiting (غِیبَت)

By • Nov 19th, 2021 • Category: Quran Study

Session 13. We typically view backbiting as any conversation behind another person’s back. But, backbiting is more than ordinary gossip: it is malicious gossip. The backbiter intends to tear down the dignity or reputation of a person who is not present.  That is why the Quran likens it to “eating the flesh of a dead brother”! In this presentation, we will explore the various dimensions of backbiting in the Quran and Islamic literature.



Rumi and Imam Hussain

By • Oct 20th, 2021 • Category: Islam

Ashura, and the battle of Karbala in 680 A.D., was a pivotal moment in Islamic history. The slaughter of Imam Hussain and the Prophet Mohammad’s family left a deep scar on Muslim psyche. Rumi has a unique take on this event. He sees a different face of Ashura, which Muslims have failed to notice: the beauty of overflowing love for God, loyalty, perseverance, self-sacrifice, courage and bravery. This is the face we should memorialize- not death and destruction. In this presentation, we will discuss Rumi’s view of Ashura and Imam Hussain.



Faith (ایمان) – Part 2

By • Sep 27th, 2021 • Category: Quran Study

Session 12. Contrary to popular belief, the Quran does not center faith (ایمان) on theological beliefs and formal practices. The hallmark of faith is “fellowship” with God. The Quran informs that we humans carry God’s spirit within us; this common link enables us to form fellowship with God. As our fellowship deepens, we will come to take on “the color of God”; we will emulate the very characteristics that God displays toward us: grace, love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness… In this presentation, we will examine what fellowship with God actually entails.



Faith (ایمان) – Part 1

By • Sep 1st, 2021 • Category: Quran Study

Session 11. Faith is the cornerstone of Islam and the key to salvation. Although the Quran does not give a clear definition for faith (ایمان), it gives us a good sense for what it entails. It describes faith mostly in terms of an “existential” engagement- not a set of metaphysical beliefs or formal doctrines. Faith is a direct and personal “relationship” with God. In this presentation, we will explore some of the main attributes of the faith relationship with God according to the Holy Quran.



Justice

By • Aug 17th, 2021 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 10: Justice is a core value, and a critical teaching, of Islam. The Quran demands justice from believing Muslims- in their private lives and their social institutions. The Quran makes a bold claim: justice is intrinsic to the order of God’s creation. As Imam Ali said, “Justice is the bedrock of creation”. So, humans must be just if they want to be in harmony with the rhythm of the universe. The outcome of this harmony will be inner and social peace. That is why peace and justice are intertwined in the Quran’s view. In this presentation, we will examine the idea of justice in the Quran.