Archives for the ‘ Lectures ’ Category

What Went Wrong In Islam?

By • Jul 8th, 2020 • Category: Islam, Lectures, Uncategorized

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the magnitude of the decline and underdevelopment of the Muslim world became more apparent. The breakup of the Ottoman Empire ushered in a painful period of soul searching for Muslim intellectuals: What is the underlying cause of the economic, political, cultural and scientific decline of the Muslim nations? Does the religion of Islam play a role in their backwardness? These questions slowly made their way into the public discourse, and young Muslims began to ask: if our religion is so great, why are we in such a bad shape? In this presentation, we will examine what went wrong in Islam in history.



Imam Ali: The Champion of Good Governance

By • Jun 8th, 2020 • Category: Islam, Lectures, Politics

Throughout the Islamic history, Imam Ali has been recognized as the champion of social justice. His beliefs and behavior were anchored on the idea of justice. In the early days of Islam, his followers were called “adherents of justice” (عدلیه). When he was chosen by the people as the political leader of the vast Islamic Empire, Imam Ali picked one of his trusted aides, Malik Ashtar (مالک اشتر), as the governor of Egypt. Before Malik departed for his new post, Imam Ali penned down a document and detailed how Malik should govern in Egypt. This document is an astonishing manifesto for social justice, popular rule and respect for human rights. In this presentation, we will explorer some of Imam Ali’s teachings on good governance.



The Night of Power

By • May 17th, 2020 • Category: Islam, Mysticism

The Night of Power (ليلة القدر) is the climax of the holy month of Ramadan. Before he was chosen as a Messenger of God, the Prophet Mohammad practiced solitude in the Cave of Hira in the outskirts of Mecca. He performed meditation, contemplation and austerities for long periods of time. All that preparation bore fruit; one night, an extra-ordinary power appeared to him. He saw the world in a fundamentally different way. He vividly saw that the entire universe submits to the Lord and praises His Glory. The Night of Power transformed Mohammad and ushered in his mission. Is the experience of the Night of Power unique to the Prophet Mohammad? Can we also experience a Night of Power of our own? In this lecture, we will examine this question and what the Night of Power has meant to Muslim mystics such as Rumi.



Faith and Hope In Dark Times of Life

By • Apr 21st, 2020 • Category: Islam, Lectures

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc all over the world, on a scale rarely seen in generations. When we face severe hardships in life (such as death of a loved one, financial bankruptcy or a debilitating illness), it will take a toll on our faith in God. It is in such dire circumstances that doubt about God may creep into the faith of a person. In this lecture, we will examine how negative life experiences can weaken our faith in God.



5 Signs of Surrender to God

By • Jun 18th, 2018 • Category: Lectures, Mysticism

‘Surrender’ is the bedrock of Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). They all invite their followers to surrender to God. Surrender is far more than obedience, acceptance of theological beliefs and observance of formal religious practices. Surrender is about “control”: who controls our life and behavior? When we surrender to God, we take control away from the “ego” (lower self) that confines us- makes us feel “special” and superior to everyone else, and creates tension in our heart and with the outside world. Surrender will impact the person’s whole existence: heart, mind and soul. In this presentation, I will discuss 5 major signs one has surrendered to God.



The Spiritual Fruits of Ramadan

By • Aug 11th, 2016 • Category: Islam

Ramadan is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar, because it opens up vast opportunities for spiritual rejuvenation and personal growth. True fasting is not about starving the stomach, but the Carnal Soul; it is not about losing weight, but vices. This lecture will explore the spiritual dimension of Ramadan. We will discuss 3 important fruits of Ramadan: 1) Self-control; 2) Heart and soul purification; and 3) Spiritual transformation.



The Meaning and Practice of Piety

By • Dec 16th, 2015 • Category: Islam, Lectures

Piety is a critical concept in religious spirituality and mysticism. It is also cherished in all world religions. In fact, piety is the bedrock of the Islamic value system. The Quran informs us that God does not judge a person’s worth by gender, race, blood lineage, IQ, financial wealth or even religious affiliation; rather, piety is God’s yardstick to judge human beings. This lecture explores piety as it relates to spiritual growth and development.



Faith and Science

By • Jul 23rd, 2015 • Category: Interfaith, Lectures

Science and religion are two powerful forces that have shaped our civilization. In pre-modern era, the province of religion used to be much bigger than today; it reached into the law, government, arts and sciences. Overtime, the ‘legitimate’ and ‘acceptable’ domain of religion shrunk considerably as modernity set in, and ‘specialization’ became a dominant theme in social organization. Yet to this day, religion and science interact in our daily life- and sometimes they collide. So the question is: what is the nature of the relationship between religion and science? Are they destined to negate each other? How can these two powerful forces live side by side in peace?



Spiritual But Not Religious

By • Mar 27th, 2015 • Category: Mysticism

Before the 20th century, the terms ‘spiritual’ and ‘religious’ were perceived to be synonymous. If someone aspired to lead a spiritual life, she would join a religious tradition. In the modern West, however, there is a shift in people’s attitudes towards religion, one of which is the separation of spirituality from religion. A growing number of people consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. They want a connection with God and are interested in daily moral behavior that fosters such a connection. Yet, they do not affiliate with any organized religion such as Islam and Christianity. The ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ (SBNR) movement in modern West has peculiar resemblances to another spiritual movement in early Islam that ultimately led to the creation of Sufism (a spiritual tradition which Rumi belongs to). This lecture examines the similarities and differences between the modern-day SBNR and Islamic Sufism.



Pitfalls of Religious Life

By • May 28th, 2014 • Category: Interfaith, Lectures

Religion has been a major force shaping human history. It survived the Age of Reason, Enlightenment and Modernity. And by all accounts, it is still quite pervasive in the personal, social and political life of the contemporary world. Even though authentic religion is a force for compassion and justice, religious life is not without peril or pitfalls. It can make people intolerant, violent and full of prejudice. In this lecture, we will explore a few pitfalls of religious life.