Archives for the ‘ Islam ’ Category

Compassion in Islam

By • May 29th, 2024 • Category: Islam

Compassion is viewed by many as an ethical virtue. But, Islam takes it much further: compassion pertains to the essence of God, the Creator. Thus, the universe is a showroom of God’s compassion. The universe and all its inhabitants owe their very existence to God’s compassion. Adam (the human prototype) was created on the image of God, which implies that our humanity rests on “compassion”. If someone lacks compassion, he is still an ape- not a man. In this presentation, we will explore A) what compassion entails, B) what the Quran teaches about compassion, and C) some practical examples of compassion for daily life.

Spirituality of Compassion

By • Apr 23rd, 2024 • Category: Interfaith, Islam, Lectures

Compassion is a hallmark of authentic religion. The infusion of compassion into religious life was the culmination of a spiritual transformation in Axial Age (a 600-year period in history between 800 BC to 200 BC). Pre-Axial religion was mostly concerned with rituals and animal sacrifice; as such, religion did not have much ethical and spiritual content. Axial Age sages and prophets gradually shifted the focus of religion from rituals to a spirituality of compassion. Henceforth, authentic religion would be less concerned with beliefs, dogma and rituals; its primary aim would be to change the believers at a profound level: to empty them of their selfishness and fill them with a genuine concern for “others”. In this presentation, we will discuss how compassion became the defining feature of authentic religion.

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.

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.

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.

Imam Ali’s Last Will

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

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.

What Went Wrong In Islam?

By • Jul 8th, 2020 • Category: Islam, Lectures

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the magnitude of the decline and underdevelopment of the Muslim world became more apparent. The breakup of the Ottoman Empire ushered in a painful period of soul searching for Muslim intellectuals: What is the underlying cause of the economic, political, cultural and scientific decline of the Muslim nations? Does the religion of Islam play a role in their backwardness? These questions slowly made their way into the public discourse, and young Muslims began to ask: if our religion is so great, why are we in such a bad shape? In this presentation, we will examine what went wrong in Islam in history.

Imam Ali: The Champion of Good Governance

By • Jun 8th, 2020 • Category: Islam, Lectures, Politics

Throughout the Islamic history, Imam Ali has been recognized as the champion of social justice. His beliefs and behavior were anchored on the idea of justice. In the early days of Islam, his followers were called “adherents of justice” (عدلیه). When he was chosen by the people as the political leader of the vast Islamic Empire, Imam Ali picked one of his trusted aides, Malik Ashtar (مالک اشتر), as the governor of Egypt. Before Malik departed for his new post, Imam Ali penned down a document and detailed how Malik should govern in Egypt. This document is an astonishing manifesto for social justice, popular rule and respect for human rights. In this presentation, we will explorer some of Imam Ali’s teachings on good governance.

The Night of Power

By • May 17th, 2020 • Category: Islam, Mysticism

The Night of Power (ليلة القدر) is the climax of the holy month of Ramadan. Before he was chosen as a Messenger of God, the Prophet Mohammad practiced solitude in the Cave of Hira in the outskirts of Mecca. He performed meditation, contemplation and austerities for long periods of time. All that preparation bore fruit; one night, an extra-ordinary power appeared to him. He saw the world in a fundamentally different way. He vividly saw that the entire universe submits to the Lord and praises His Glory. The Night of Power transformed Mohammad and ushered in his mission. Is the experience of the Night of Power unique to the Prophet Mohammad? Can we also experience a Night of Power of our own? In this lecture, we will examine this question and what the Night of Power has meant to Muslim mystics such as Rumi.

Faith and Hope In Dark Times of Life

By • Apr 21st, 2020 • Category: Islam, Lectures

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc all over the world, on a scale rarely seen in generations. When we face severe hardships in life (such as death of a loved one, financial bankruptcy or a debilitating illness), it will take a toll on our faith in God. It is in such dire circumstances that doubt about God may creep into the faith of a person. In this lecture, we will examine how negative life experiences can weaken our faith in God.