Archives for the ‘ Lectures ’ Category


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.

Rumi and Imam Hussain

By • Oct 20th, 2021 • Category: Islam

Ashura, and the battle of Karbala in 680 A.D., was a pivotal moment in Islamic history. The slaughter of Imam Hussain and the Prophet Mohammad’s family left a deep scar on Muslim psyche. Rumi has a unique take on this event. He sees a different face of Ashura, which Muslims have failed to notice: the beauty of overflowing love for God, loyalty, perseverance, self-sacrifice, courage and bravery. This is the face we should memorialize- not death and destruction. In this presentation, we will discuss Rumi’s view of Ashura and Imam Hussain.

Faith (ایمان) – Part 2

By • Sep 27th, 2021 • Category: Quran Study

Session 12. Contrary to popular belief, the Quran does not center faith (ایمان) on theological beliefs and formal practices. The hallmark of faith is “fellowship” with God. The Quran informs that we humans carry God’s spirit within us; this common link enables us to form fellowship with God. As our fellowship deepens, we will come to take on “the color of God”; we will emulate the very characteristics that God displays toward us: grace, love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness… In this presentation, we will examine what fellowship with God actually entails.

Faith (ایمان) – Part 1

By • Sep 1st, 2021 • Category: Quran Study

Session 11. Faith is the cornerstone of Islam and the key to salvation. Although the Quran does not give a clear definition for faith (ایمان), it gives us a good sense for what it entails. It describes faith mostly in terms of an “existential” engagement- not a set of metaphysical beliefs or formal doctrines. Faith is a direct and personal “relationship” with God. In this presentation, we will explore some of the main attributes of the faith relationship with God according to the Holy Quran.


By • Aug 17th, 2021 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 10: Justice is a core value, and a critical teaching, of Islam. The Quran demands justice from believing Muslims- in their private lives and their social institutions. The Quran makes a bold claim: justice is intrinsic to the order of God’s creation. As Imam Ali said, “Justice is the bedrock of creation”. So, humans must be just if they want to be in harmony with the rhythm of the universe. The outcome of this harmony will be inner and social peace. That is why peace and justice are intertwined in the Quran’s view. In this presentation, we will examine the idea of justice in the Quran.

Oneness (توحید) – Part 2

By • Jul 20th, 2021 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 9: According to the Quran, there lies an essential oneness beneath the multiplicity we observe in the outside world. For example, we see different sexes, races, ethnicities and social classes: male, female, white, black, Hispanics, Asians, rich and poor. But, if we go beyond the surface, we will discover an essential unity: all such multiplicity originated from a single source, a oneness. There are numerous religions in the world: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism… But, they all originated from a single source, and offer a path to connect with the source we came from. A chief struggle of a true Muslim is to overcome “شرک” (multiplicity and disunity), and achieve oneness inside and with the outside world. In this sermon, we will draw upon the Holy Quran and Rumi to examine some real world examples of “شرک” (multiplicity).

Oneness (توحید) – Part 1

By • Jul 1st, 2021 • Category: Quran Study

Session 8: Oneness (توحید) is the central pillar of Islam. Although it is typically viewed as a metaphysical belief in oneness of God, Oneness (توحید) is far more than that: it is a world view and a way of life! It is a lens through which a person should see and experience the outside world. Rumi’s spiritual master, Shams Tabrizi, has summarized the misunderstanding really well:
“گفت: خدا یکی‌ است. گفتم: اکنون ترا چه؟ چون تو نیستی‌، او یکی‌ است. تو کیستی؟ تو، شش هزار بیشی. تو یکتا شو، و گرنه از یکی‌ او، ترا چه حاصل؟” .
“He said: ‘God is One’. I replied: ‘So what? What does it have to do with you!’ Since you are none, He is one! Who are you? You are more than 6 thousand pieces! Strive to become ONE! Otherwise, what would gain by His Oneness!” In this presentation, we will examine the concept of Oneness (توحید) through the verses of the Holy Quran and the teachings of Muslim mystics.

Does the Quran misguide?

By • Jun 18th, 2021 • Category: Lectures, Quran Study

Session 7: In the past few decades, Islam has been in the spotlight mostly for some of its followers’ bad behavior (for example, repression and gross violation of human rights by Islamic governments, and terrorism by groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda). Casual observers and political pundits typically point the finger at Islam as the culprit. They claim Islam is an inherently violent and intolerant religion, which turns ordinary folks into beasts. The Quran’s teachings make people narrow-minded, hateful, violent and intolerant. Rumi would not dismiss such claims outright. However, he would argue that the Quran simply amplifies its reader’s longings and desires. Rumi likens the Quran to a rope; one can use this rope to climb out of the cave of darkness, or descend into it: both possibilities exist. In this presentation, we will examine Rumi’s teachings on this important topic.

Imam Ali’s Last Will

By • May 11th, 2021 • Category: Islam, Lectures, Uncategorized

Imam Ali was an exemplary Muslim- best known for his piety, wisdom and sense of justice. He was raised by the Prophet Mohammad from childhood, and was the first male person to embrace Islam. Five years into his reign as the political leader of the original Islamic empire, Ali was assassinated by a member of the renegade group “Kharijites” (خوارج). In his deathbed, Ali penned his last will summarizing his vision and values. In this presentation, we will examine Imam Ali’s directives in his last will.