Archives for the ‘ Lectures ’ Category

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.

Why Do Muslims Fast in Ramadan?

By • Mar 29th, 2023 • Category: Islam, Lectures

Practicing Muslims fast for 30 days in the holy month of Ramadan. Yet, their motivations and expectations vary. Ordinary Muslims fast primarily to discharge a religious obligation; the more spiritually-minded Muslims fast in hopes of spiritual transformation / rejuvenation. Imam Muhammad al-Ghazali, the preeminent Islamic scholar, identifies three categories / degrees of fast: ordinary, extra-ordinary and perfect fast. Ordinary fast involves curbing the appetite of the stomach and the appetite of sex. Extra-ordinary fast involves the tongue, eyes, ears, hands and feet. The perfect fast involves the heart. In this presentation, we will explore the spiritual dimension of the Ramadan fast using al-Ghazali’s classifications.

Is There Only One True Religion?

By • Mar 15th, 2023 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 31. Religious diversity is a fact of history. Religions are quite different in their belief systems and ritual practices, which makes it hard to imagine that they are all equally “true” / “valid”. Philosophers of religion tell us that there are three distinct views on “truth” of religion: exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism.  For whatever reason, exclusivism has always been the dominant position among religious people around the world. Each religious community believes that it has a monopoly over truth / faith / salvation: only my religion is true, only my religion offers a true path to God, only my religion is blessed by God, people who follow other religions are misguided! This sense of religious superiority creates a fertile ground for hatred and bigotry; it can easily be exploited to shed blood in the name of God and His “true” religion. In this presentation, we will discuss what exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism mean.

Cultivating a Forgiving Heart and Mind

By • Feb 22nd, 2023 • Category: Quran Study

Session 30. Forgiveness is a highly celebrated virtue in all communities. Yet, it is no easy feat for the average person to forgive, because of a lack of a forgiving mind. There are many misconceptions about the nature and the primary beneficiary of forgiveness. We often think of forgiveness as a gift that we give to a wrongdoer- someone whom has wronged / hurt us. But, the primary beneficiary of forgiveness is actually the person who forgives! Forgiveness paves the way for healing, and lessens the grip of the wrongdoer’s act on the victim’s mind and feelings. In this presentation, we will explore the deeper meaning and messages of 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 Society?

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.