Archives for the ‘ Lectures ’ Category

Spiritual Resolutions for New Year

By • Feb 9th, 2024 • Category: Interfaith, Islam

The new year resolution is a meaningful tradition; it embodies a willingness to change some things in our lives that are less than desirable. This tradition has its roots in religion. Ancient Babylonians began their new year with a promise to their gods to do better in the coming year, to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. The new year resolution survived in the modern secular West- with a twist. Nowadays, people make promises to themselves (not gods) to make mundane changes to their lives (such as eating healthier, exercising more and saving more money). In this presentation, we will discuss: 1) the history of new year resolution; 2) how we can turn our resolutions inward, to improve our soul and character; 3) some examples of spiritual resolutions.

How to Cultivate Hope in a Chaotic World?

By • Jan 17th, 2024 • Category: Quran Study

Session 35. We live in a chaotic world filled with uncertainty and unpredictability. We have to take risks in everything we do, while there is no guarantee of success. Given the stark realities of everyday life, “hope” is one of the greatest assets we can have. However, “hope” is not a transient emotion, wishful thinking or even optimism. It’s a lot more than that. In this presentation, we draw upon the teachings of the Quran and Rumi to develop a deeper understanding of hope (its conditions and fruits).

War and Peace in the Quran

By • Dec 18th, 2023 • Category: Quran Study

Session 34. Islam’s critics often point to the “war passages” in the Quran to argue that Islam is a warlike religion- an obstacle to world peace. These critics typically confuse “peace” with “pacifism”. Pacifism requires a complete rejection of violence of any form. Peace, on the other hand, does not categorically negate the use of force in a situation when a community is attacked or victimized. This is the Quran’s position: it permits war exclusively in self-defense and in order to remove the obstacles to peace- not to conquer or dominate others. The endgame must always be peace. In this presentation, we will review the Quran’s war passages in chronological order, as they were revealed in response to unfolding events during the Prophet Mohammad’s mission.

The Idea of Peace in the Quran

By • Nov 16th, 2023 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 33. Since the early days of Islam, Muslims have had different appreciations for Islam’s core message. Some among the companions of the Prophet Mohammad embarked on aggressive wars and empire building. Others turned inward and founded an esoteric tradition known as Sufism. It is amazing how identical religious beliefs and practices inspired diametrically opposed courses of action in early Islam, which has persisted until today. Although the Quran provides some latitude for interpretation, yet a careful study would reveal that it is most concerned with “peace”.  The first revelation to the Prophet Mohammad in the Night of Power was a “peace inducing event” for him (i.e., revelation brought peace to him). The Quran associates paradise with peace; it names paradise “The Abode of Peace”. Hence, “peace” is the highest reward the righteous may attain. The Quran describes God as “peace” (“السَّلَامُ” / al-Salam); so, God’s presence in the world brings peace and tranquility (“سکینه” / Sakina) to the believer’s soul. The earliest vision of peace in the Quran are “personal” and “heavenly”. In this presentation, we will trace the evolution of the idea of peace in the Quran.

Globalization and its Discontents

By • Oct 17th, 2023 • Category: Lectures, Politics

Globalization has reached the farthest corners of the world; it affects and fundamentally shapes our everyday life. Globalization is nothing new (as it has a long history dating back to the Silk Road); what is new is perhaps the high rate of globalization we have witnessed in the past few decades- thanks to rapid advancements in transportation and communication technologies. The rapid pace of globalization has created numerous challenges for national governments; it has also induced a rising backlash against it all around the world. Yet by all indications, globalization is here to stay, and humanity has to come up with ways to deal with its consequences and discontents. In this presentation, we will discuss the different dimensions of globalization (economic, political and cultural), and the challenges it has created for humanity.

The Cure for Selfishness

By • Sep 18th, 2023 • Category: Mysticism

Rumi teaches that “love” is a “healer”: it heals the most devastating disease that can afflict our character- selfishness. Love purges all character flaws and moral defects. Rumi says:

“Anyone whose garment is rent by a mighty love, is purged of covetousness and all defect.
Hail, O’ Love, that bring us good gain- you are the healer of all our ills.
You are the remedy for our pride and vainglory; you are our Plato and our Galen!”

In this presentation, we will discuss Rumi’s teachings on the cure for selfishness, and offer some practical tips to fight selfishness.

The Many Faces of Selfishness

By • Aug 10th, 2023 • Category: Lectures, Mysticism

In the Islamic tradition, selfishness (or egoism) is considered the “mother of all vices”. Vices such as greed, envy and arrogance are essentially different faces of  selfishness. This means that one does not have to treat his many vices individually; if he treats his selfishness, all his moral imperfections will fade away! In this presentation, we will draw upon Rumi’s wisdom to learn about selfishness and its various forms / faces.

The Perils of False Self

By • Jun 29th, 2023 • Category: Lectures, Mysticism

Throughout the ages, spiritual traditions have maintained that “ego” is a major obstacle to soul development and God realization. But, there is much more to “ego” than what we typically understand as “selfishness”. At its core, “ego” is an “idea” (mental image) formed around the fundamental question: “who am I?”.  The ego-idea involves how the individual defines herself and what she identifies with. In turn, the ego-idea will heavily influence her  feelings, thoughts, choices and actions. In this presentation, we will examine “ego” as false perception of “self” by drawing upon Rumi’s transformative encounter with his mentor, Shams.

Rebirth and Renewal

By • May 30th, 2023 • Category: Mysticism

According to Islam’s oral tradition, the Prophet Mohammad said: die before you die. As Rumi puts it, this is not a death that takes you to a grave, but a death that transforms you and leads you to “light”. In modern language, this is the death of “ego”, which would create a new person in […]

What Does the Quran Teach About Religious Diversity?

By • May 1st, 2023 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 32. There are many people whom have a dim view of religious diversity. They tend to view diversity as the devil’s work. Frank Peretti is a best-selling Christian fiction writer. There is a common thread in his novels: everybody who is not a follower of Jesus Christ has a demon attached to their soul. That demon feeds them thoughts, and then those thoughts guide their behavior.  This sort of exclusivist sentiment is quite prevalent in religious communities around the world. Does the Quran support the view? Does it say that only followers of the Prophet Mohammad are rightly guided and saved by God? In this presentation, we will examine this question with the aid of Rumi’s insights.