Archives for the ‘ Lectures ’ Category

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.

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.

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.


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.