Archives for the ‘ Lectures ’ Category

The Path to Inner Perfection

By • Jul 7th, 2013 • Category: Lectures, Mysticism

There is an age-old debate about the source of human happiness and self-fulfillment. Rumi, one of the world’s most renowned mystics, argues that the path to joy and happiness runs through ‘inner perfection’- by looking ‘inward’ to fully realize our humanity. In contrast, the modern lifestyle which is rooted in materialism, defines happiness in terms of finance, luxury and consumption- constantly turning our attention ‘outward’. Yet despite vast increases in material well-being in modern times, most studies show that people do not feel happy. Something is clearly amiss.

Rumi would not be surprised by these modern trends. He would say that the problem lies in our looking ‘outward’, embellishing the external aspects of our life in the vain hope of feeling better inside. This is a wrong prescription.

This lecture will explore Rumi’s teachings on ‘inner perfection’ as a vehicle for attaining joy and happiness.

Salvation: One or Many Paths to God?

By • Apr 12th, 2013 • Category: Interfaith, Lectures

At some point, every person of faith will ask herself: Is my religion the best and truest? Does my religion provide the only valid path to God? How should I view other religions? Are they completely false, partly true or perhaps different but equally valid for their followers? While it is true that most people around the world tend to view their own religion as better and superior, there are practically 3 distinct views on the preceding questions: exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism. These viewpoints have adherents in all world religions. Hence, there are Jews, Muslims and Christians who believe that salvation is exclusively available only in their own community, just as there are Jews, Muslims and Christians who reject this notion all-together. Instead, they argue that the observable fruits of faith and spirituality are spread more or less evenly among different cultures and religions. This lecture explores religious exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism, and offers examples from the Muslim community.

Mystical Prayer

By • Mar 23rd, 2013 • Category: Lectures, Mysticism

Prayer is an integral part of all world religions. To the average person, prayer is an appeal to God for a favor- to fix a problem, heal an illness, pass an exam and so forth. In fact, it is precisely this perception that has led most philosophers and scientists to question the validity of prayer on rational grounds (that is, prayer is an appeal to a higher power to intervene and distort the natural order of things). But, there is far more to prayer than this simplistic notion. Prayer is deeply rooted in our soul and psyche; it is a dialogue (not a monologue) with the Divine- an uplifting spiritual experience.

In this lecture, we will examine the mystical conception of prayer; we will focus primarily on Rumi’s teachings about the nature and the various dimensions of prayer.


By • Jan 15th, 2013 • Category: Lectures, Mysticism

Mysticism is an authentic form of spirituality. Although some people incorrectly view mysticism as a rival to religion, it has always been an integral part of world religions. Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, they all have mystical dimensions. The origins of the Jewish mystical tradition, or Kabbalah, can be traced back to the time of Moses. Christianity has always had a strong mystical tradition dating back to Jesus Christ, even though there is not a universally recognized label for its mystical legacy. Islam’s mystical branch, commonly known as Sufism, emerged shortly after the Prophet Mohammad and evolved over the centuries. This lecture introduces mysticism and its major pillars. Even though the lecture draws mainly upon the teachings of Muslim mystics, its content equally applies to the other mystical traditions.

Christ in Islam

By • Dec 21st, 2012 • Category: Islam, Lectures

Outside Christianity, Islam is the only world religion that views Jesus as a sacred personality. The Quran portrays him as literally an “extra-ordinary” person; his birth, mission and death were quite exceptional. The Quran bestows many honorable titles on Jesus such as the “Messiah”, “Word of God” and the “Spirit of God”. Although the story of Jesus in the Quran and the Gospels converge on many points, there is one major point of divergence: the divinity of Jesus (encapsulated in the Christian doctrine of Trinity). Islam refuses to accept Jesus as the literal “Son of God”, on the ground that it is incompatible with monotheism. In this lecture, we explore the story of Jesus in Islam’s sacred scripture.

Islam at the Crossroads: Orthodoxy and Reform

By • Nov 17th, 2012 • Category: Islam, Lectures

The Western media typically portrays the 1.2 billion Muslims as a monolith- a uniform mass with traditional outlook, conservative life-style and extremist political tendencies. Contrary to this inaccurate depiction, Muslims are quite diverse in every respect: theological beliefs, educational level, life-style, outlook and political orientation.

This diversity is quite apparent in Muslims’ response to modernity. In the past few decades, there has been an intense debate within the Muslim scholarly circles on whether Muslims should embrace or reject modernity? Can Islam accommodate the modern norms, life-styles and socio-political institutions?

Two opposing camps have emerged: Traditional-minded conservatives and liberal-minded reformers. These two groups of Muslim scholars have opposing views on the nature and merits of modernity. Conservatives still dominate the Muslim world, but reformers are growing in numbers and social influence (particularly in Iran, Egypt and Turkey).

This lecture examines the theological debate between conservatives and reformers in the contemporary Islamic world- a debate that will have far-reaching consequences for the future of Islam and international relations.

The Essence of Faith

By • Jul 29th, 2012 • Category: Islam, Lectures

Faith is the bedrock of religious life. Dedication to God is typically measure by the strength on one’s faith. However, ‘faith’ means different things to different people. Sometimes it is viewed as subscribing to a set of theological beliefs (e.g., God exists), or unwavering self-assurance about the truth of certain theological propositions. And, faith is sometimes viewed in terms of ‘good’ deeds, where the behavior of a person of faith is guided by compassion and selflessness.

In this lecture we will explore the meaning and essence of faith from the perspective of Islam’s sacred scripture (the Quran).

Islam and Justice

By • May 30th, 2012 • Category: Islam, Lectures

Justice is a critical concept in Islamic thought. One of God’s beautiful names in the Quran is “Just”, indicating that justice is the bedrock of creation. It is the glue that holds any system together.

The Quran is very keen on nurturing a sense of justice by its frequent commandments for upholding justice in our daily lives. It also states that social justice was the cornerstone of the missions of all God’s messengers. Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad- they all stood for social justice. As such, any community built on their names should incorporate justice in its fabric.

This lecture will examine what Islam teaches about justice.

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Islamic Threat

By • May 29th, 2012 • Category: Lectures, Politics

Lecture Title: Islamic Threat Abstract: Fact or Fiction!? Time: March 2010 78 Minutes 18.8 Meg

Love and Spritual Growth

By • May 12th, 2012 • Category: Lectures, Mysticism

The central concept in Rumi’s works is “love”. His conception of love is not about romantic involvement, but rather a deep and elegant philosophy of human salvation. He begins his masterpiece (Mathnavi) with the story of a reed (flute) complaining about separation from the reedbed. The reed symbolizes the human soul longing to re-unite with its source- that Unseen Ocean of Divine where it originated from. The life of separation is dominated by anxiety and boredom, two feelings we experience profoundly in our daily lives. What is the path to re-unite with our source, and overcome anxiety and boredom? It is the path of love. Rumi calls love the healer; it heals our heart, soul and spirit.