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This Past Week at The Usuli Institute (10 - 16 June 2022)
SURAH 24: AL NUR (DAY 1)
ORIGINAL COMMENTARY
Project Illumine
The Aftermath of Critiquing Hamza Yusuf's Responses on Jordan Peterson's Podcast 
STANFORD WEBINAR: KAEF on The Prophet's Pulpit, Shari'ah and Justice with Dr. Farah El-Sharif
Confronting the Self to Rise Above the Ego: Surah Al Munafiqun
USULI EXCERPT
APPLYING THE PARABLE OF LIGHT UPON LIGHT
Usuli Institute Khutbah, 10 June 2022
(Summary Description Below)
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Grace's Message

Al salamu 'alaykum dear Friends,

I pray you are well! First, some great news - starting next Tuesday, 21 June, we will be going back to two halaqa sessions per week for the summertime! Yay! It's like finding out that there are more episodes coming out sooner than you thought for your favorite Netflix show! :) Hopefully, this means we can more quickly advance on Surah Al Nur and the remaining 34 surahs (without rushing!) as we get closer and closer to the end of our Project Illumine journey. That is an amazing, somewhat bittersweet idea - the fact that we are much closer to the end than the beginning of this journey is truly a mind-bender. I am shocked that we are already on our 80th surah and almost two years in on this journey. It doesn't feel like it. Alhamdulillah!

Yesterday, we were blessed with an incredible conversation between Dr. Abou El Fadl and Dr. Farah El-Sharif, the Associate Director of the Abbasi Program on Islamic Studies at Stanford University on the topic of The Prophet's Pulpit as well as Dr. Abou El Fadl's scholarship, convictions and outlook. Dr. El-Sharif was a brilliant interlocutor and asked powerful questions that elicited important insights on a wide range of topics. The recording is now available on our YouTube channel and here:


Khaled Abou El Fadl on The Prophet's Pulpit, Shari'ah and Justice
Stanford Webinar with Dr. Farah El-Sharif
16 June 2022


Here were some of the great questions:

1) After all of your years of research and all of your years of being a classically trained Islamic jurist and Islamic law specialist, what is it that most people get wrong about Shari'ah?

2) You've earned yourself a lot of detractors over the years; you've been called a liberal by some, a progressive by some; a Mu'tazili; most recently, I see you have been dubbed a Qur'anist - which to me, you know you are doing something right when you are annoying people from all these camps. What do you make of all of these labels and polemics on you or on your work?

3) The Prophet's Pulpit is "...dedicated to Muslims around the world suffering under oppression and injustice." Justice is a central edict to your work and your worldview and arguably you say this is a central Islamic, Qur'anic and prophetic edict that should be at the core of an Islamic worldview all together...with the bleak situation of Muslims around the world and the lack of action among Muslims leadership, where is justice going to come from in your view, and what is your theory of change?

4) What does the Qur'an teach us about justice and how can the Qur'an give us the hope that we need? 

You can imagine the richness of the answers that came from those questions - there was so much gold! Look forward to some good excerpts in the future! Dr. Abou El Fadl had the opportunity to talk about the convictions that drive his scholarship; why he holds a wide range of views from a wide range of seemingly incongruent approaches and schools of thought; and even what an Islam without God looks like (hint: a book called "What is Islam"). All in all, a very rich discussion that is absolutely worth watching if you missed the webinar!

On My Reaction to the Reaction to My Reaction to the Hamza Yusuf and Jordan Peterson Podcast
We have learned through the Project Illumine tafsir halaqas that there are no coincidences. Very interestingly, what many of us have noticed throughout the Project Illumine journey is that the surah that we are covering at any given time has more often than not exactly addressed what was happening at that moment in time with someone or something here, in parallel to the halaqas. So for example, the specific lessons we were learning or ethics we were being taught to abide by in the halaqas often correlated to an ethical challenge that one or more of us were confronting. It has happened so often that we have truly seen in practice that there are no coincidences, although it still does not fail to send a shiver down the spine or be cause for a sudden, "Oh my God!" either individually or as a group. Normally, this dynamic happens to one of us students, not the Shaykh. Interestingly, after my intro to Surah Al Nur last weekend in which I reacted to the reaction to my reaction to Hamza Yusuf's responses on Jordan Peterson's podcast (!), the Shaykh admitted that he was quite surprised, to say the least, that Surah Al Nur was in part addressing the controversy around Aisha, the Prophet's wife, and how people around the Prophet including his companions wanted the Prophet to effectively bring his wife in line, either by divorcing her, interrogating her, silencing her or chastising her in some way for accepting a ride back to Medina from the battlegrounds when her caravan accidentally left her behind. People wanted to believe that she had acted inappropriately - or worse. They were stirred up by the controversy and people wondered how it could be that a woman could be so bold as to act out of the prevailing norm, although she was a woman of moral character and married to the Prophet. By attacking her character, they were also assailing the character of the Prophet. She insisted she did nothing wrong although many wanted to believe otherwise, and continued their gossip, harsh words and harassment. The Prophet (pbuh) did not accuse, blame or take any action against her despite the pressure from many in the community to do so. This continued until ultimately, God vindicated her. Among the many lessons that we began to learn from Surah Al Nur on our Day 1 halaqa is the presumption of good moral character for any Muslim - and the immorality of slander, gossip and backbiting.


The Aftermath of Critiquing Hamza Yusuf

From my experience of the last few weeks - acting against the prevailing norm, speaking up without a hijab, and critiquing Hamza Yusuf on an open forum - it seems these initial lessons from Surah Al Nur were quite apropos. We have received many ugly comments on YouTube and on social media, which continue to come. But I have also received some of the most beautiful messages I have ever received in my life - messages that I will cherish forever. The whole experience was full of important lessons that I would not trade, not the least of which is the power of light over darkness, continuously reinforced in countless ways along this Project Illumine journey! Thank you to everyone who was a source of light, kindness and inspiration. Allah knows who you are and may Allah reward you with much better for your kind words, sentiments and prayers! Okay, done with this topic! Onward and upward! :)

Looking forward to seeing you online for our khutbah today and tomorrow night at 6 pm ET for the continuation of Surah Al Nur! Please keep all of us in your prayers!! May God keep you and your loved ones safe and protected and on the most beautiful path always! Hope to see you online soon insha'Allah!

In Peace and Hope,

Grace Song
Executive Director
The Usuli Institute
grace@usuli.org

*****************************

HAVE YOU PURCHASED YOUR COPY OF THE PROPHET'S PULPIT YET?

This is the most important book you can read to capture the beautiful essence and power of what it means to be an ethical Muslim in 2022! Get one for yourself and your friends and make a difference in the world. 

NOW AVAILABLE IN EBOOK! The paperback and hardbacks are gorgeous! It is available at our Usuli Bookshop, supporting independent bookstores here (https://bookshop.org/shop/usuli)! 

REVIEWS OF THE BOOK
There are some great reviews so far on Amazon - if you have read it and can leave a 5-star review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any place that allows you to leave a review, we would be most grateful, especially before the Islamophobes jump on the bandwagon and decide to start writing negative reviews to undermine sales (yes, it happens). 

Also, if you or someone you know would be interested in reviewing or writing about the book for a journal, newspaper, blog or other media outlet, let me know and we can send you a review copy. Same for professors who would like an examination copy for possible adoption in a course. Any questions, write to me. :) Time for an intellectual revolution!

USULI MERCH!
On that note, if anyone would like a T-shirt, we are happy to sell them at cost! 

Here are the details: If you live in the U.S., they are $20 and will be shipped to you directly from Canva.com. If you live outside of the U.S., we will receive your order and ship to you for an additional shipping and handling fee of $10, so $30 total. Send your payment via PayPal (@UsuliInstitute) and indicate in the notes the size (S-M-L-XL-XXL) and shipping address (with phone number) if different from your billing address. Let me know if you have any questions! If you would like an Usuli T-shirt (available in black or white), you can follow the same process.


MATCHING GIFT PROGRAM EXTENDED  - Double your impact!
Another very kind soul upped the ante another $12,500 and we have extended our matching gift program up to a total of $52,500 until we reach our goal! Alhamdulillah! THANK YOU to the most generous and blessed donors who have allowed us to double the impact of donations beyond Ramadan! 


MATCHING GIFT PROGRAM - DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT DURING RAMADAN!


Every donation to The Usuli Institute will be matched dollar for dollar up to $52.5K! You can double your impact with your support! Alhamdullilah, we are so grateful that this opportunity will increase blessings for all involved insha'Allah! Please spread the word and take full advantage of these blessed gifts!

DISCOVER ISLAM ANEW!
People often ask me where to start if they want to take this journey with us from the beginning. My own recommended reading list begins with The Prophet's Pulpit (!). Next, the classics: The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books; and The Great Theft: Wresting Islam from the Extremists. Then fourth would be And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses. Fifth would be Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari'ah in the Modern Age. AND of course, everything by Dr. Abou El Fadl either through the Usuli website or the online archive for Dr. Abou El Fadl's work at www.searchforbeauty.org

Want to stock up on three of those books while they are on sale? Here they are! In conjunction with our virtual events, our publisher is running special discounts on three of Dr. Abou El Fadl's amazing books! Take 30% off the paperback versions ONLY:

1) Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari'ah in the Modern Age Reg. $32.00 / Sale: $22.40

2) The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books Reg. $54.00 / Sale: $37.80

3) And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses Reg. $43.99 / Sale: $30.79

ORDER NOW on Rowman.com and use code RLFANDF30 at the checkout!

MORE RESOURCES FOR LEARNING:

USULINEWS.WORDPRESS.COM

A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU TO ROSS for maintaining this tremendously valuable site! Find the links to articles and references mentioned in Usuli khutbahs and more!

https://usulinews.wordpress.com/


Great independent news sources for an alternative to corporate funded media:
CJ Werleman's Patreon Page
www.democracynow.org
www.theintercept.com
www.mintpressnews.org
www.commondreams.org
www.propublica.org
www.newlinesmag.com
https://thecradle.co/ (includes Pepe Escobar, Sharmine Narwani)
https://taibbi.substack.com/ Matt Taibbi, a very seasoned journalist (Rolling Stone Magazine), publishes on a variety of topics.
https://consortiumnews.com/ an independent media outlet promoted by Chris Hedges.
www.counterpunch.org
https://bylinetimes.com/

www.electronicintifada.net
www.breakingpoints.com with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti
https://ifamericansknew.org/ Israel-Palestine news with Alison Weir

If you have other independent news outlets that you recommend, let me know and we can add them to our reference list!

LISTEN TO PROJECT ILLUMINE ON AUDIO AT OUR SOUNDCLOUD CHANNEL!

The Usuli Institute SoundCloud Channel


Playlist: Project Illumine: The Light of the Quran

And please support our hard work to publish this entire Project Illumine tafsir in a multi-volume work! May God bless and elevate you for investing in knowledge and understanding God's Blessed Qur'an!


Link to donate at www.usuli.org/donate

See you online soon insha'Allah! :)

Khutbah Summary Description
APPLYING THE PARABLE OF LIGHT UPON LIGHT
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, Founder of The Usuli Institute and
Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
10 June 2022
 

Of the many narratives and discourses of the Qur'an that one repeatedly revisits – pondering, reflecting, analyzing in light of what we experience as human beings in life, is of course, the parable of light in Surah An-Nur, the chapter titled, “Light” in the Qur'an. If you will recall, we are told in Surah An-Nur that Allah is the light of the heavens and Earth. 

“God is the light of the heavens and Earth. The parable of God's light is that of a niche containing a lamp.” The niche is an indentation in the wall - a feature of all homes, particularly Mediterranean homes, before the invention of electricity. The existence of a niche was where one would safely place a lamp. Of course, this was the only way one could have constant, stable positions for light in pre-modern homes. 

“And the parable of God is that of a niche containing a lamp…” By “lamp,” here, we mean the actual part which catches fire in order to generate light. The lamp is in a glass and the glass shines like a radiant star. And this lamp is lit by oil, as if from an olive tree. The oil of this olive tree comes neither from the East nor the West, but the oil of the olive tree is so pure that it, in itself, shines as if it - the oil - is light, even without fire. God describes this as light upon light, the light of the lamp within a radiant glass - so radiant that it shines, fed by oil that is so pure, and the oil itself is so radiant, that it shines even without having been lit.

Of course, this parable has inspired numerous discourses and narratives, especially in Islamic mysticism. So much that has been written on it, either from a mystical Sufi perspective or even from philosophical perspectives, analyzes the nature of this parable: the niche, the lamp, the radiant glass, and the radiant oil that neither is from the East nor West; and it is very hard to summarize, or even come close to summarizing, what has been written on it.

So many have suggested that the niche is a metaphor for the human heart, that the human heart is where the divine light resides. Many of these scholars theorized that if the human heart - which can contain the lamp [and the lamp is like God's revelation, God's guidance] - and God's revelation is placed within the correct niche, ie. the correct human heart, then it radiates like a luminous star. The combination of revelation in the right heart radiates. And the radiant glass, many have theorized, is like the instrumentality of reason; that when revelation comes to the right heart, and this revelation and heart shines through human reason, it is capable of making human reason like a radiant star, shining goodness and guidance onto existence.

Olive trees, if they grow in the right place in the Mediterranean - which is quite literally neither due west nor due east, but precisely in the right place - they produce the best possible olive oil known to humankind. When God describes this oil as if it radiates without fire, that entire olive tree symbolizes the root of Abrahamic revelation. The niche: the human heart; the lamp, which many scholars have said is like the Qur'an; and the radiant glass: human reason; fed by this olive tree that symbolizes the continuing natural truth, the continuing rooted truth throughout human history; the truth of God's message that is never wavering, is never different; it is the same message that human truth is rooted in, and that in turn God's light is rooted in -- that is the tree of the Abrahamic truth: the truth of God's revelation from the Prophet Abraham onwards, to the Prophet Muhammad, of course, and the Qur'an.

As I said, we can spend hours talking about the various debates and constructions. If you are even interested in coming close to being exposed to the nuance and complexity and richness of Islamic discussions on the metaphor of the light, in Surah An-Nur, we can look at the tafsir (commentaries of) Shirazi, and the density of his discussion just on this metaphor, which he dedicates a considerable amount of time to. In fact, this metaphor becomes quite critical for the entire Illuminist philosophical school in Islamic theology.

We can all agree that if we want to simplify the metaphor and get to the truth of things, it is that the niche is a physical place that is capable of holding light. In other words, it is a convenient, appropriate, rightful place where light can be placed and shine from. In the same way that if the niche exists, if this indentation in the wall exists but there is no light to place there, it then loses its meaning. In fact, it could become a repository of all types of things. As a niche, it is created to accommodate, to be a rightful place for shining light. But if light is not placed in there, that niche can collect dust and become a place where cobwebs grow. It can be a place where you stack up a bunch of papers or stick some figurine in.

But its essential function – to be a place where light is placed, so that it can light whatever physical structure it exists in – is missed if a lamp is not placed in that niche. So whether the niche is the human heart, the human body or, as some have suggested, the physical world, we know that it in all cases, we know it is there by design. It was created so that it can play an appropriate proper function – and that is to shine light. But it can just as easily be denied that role if no lamp is placed in this niche.

The niche can be our physical world. The niche can be our physical bodies. The niche can be the human heart. Whatever it is, it is a place that can accommodate the divine light. Part of the metaphor of light upon light is that while we see and understand God through God's handiwork and God’s attributes, we do not and cannot know the truth of what is God. In the same way, light performs a function - it interacts with our eyes and we are familiar with it; light is familiar to us. We are aware of light because we experience light. But what is the true nature of light? What is the truth of light? It is beyond comprehension. We can experience and note, as a phenomenon, what happens when there is no light. But what is the truth of light?  It is like other things in our existence that we experience but that we cannot define, like fire, like gravity. We can only describe, but we cannot define.

The light is not dependent on the niche. In fact, the light has the ability to exist entirely independently of the niche. It is just that when the light is placed in its proper place, i.e. when the light comes to the niche, the niche performs its rightful, righteous function. When the light comes to the niche, the room lights up. We all experience the impact of that light. The light is also separate and apart from the radiant glass. The glass could be transparent and clear, but it also could be foggy and obstructionist, full of blemishes and scratches.

We experience the light through the glass, but the light and the glass are separate, in the same way that we experience the truth of God through the radiance and illuminations of reason. But we know that if this light impacts the intellect in the appropriate and correct way, the intellect can shine goodness and wellbeing onto existence. But if the intellect does not know how to benefit from the light, if the intellect resists the light, if the glass is foggy, if the glass is obscure, then in fact, the very purpose of the niche fails.

Although the niche was built to accommodate the lamp, the quality or the lack of quality of the glass can either make the entire thing work fantastically well or be an abysmal failure. The oil, which I tend to think is in fact a metaphor for the nature of God's speech to human beings – we understand that the Qur'an describes this oil as the purest of kinds – is so pure, that it is as if it radiates without even fire. But if you take the oil, regardless of how pure or radiant it is, and you place it in the niche and there is no fire, then the entire enterprise fails. Yes, you will have shiny, bright, luminous oil in the niche, but you will not have light. The room will not be lit up. 

In order for the room to light up, you need the niche, the lamp, the correct luminous glass, and this most fantastical oil; this oil that can make the light of God shine as if light upon light. In my view, the niche is like creation itself. Whether the human body or the human heart, it is ready, made to receive God's light. If you put revelation, i.e. the luminous oil, in the niche but without the instrumentalities of the transparent glass - reason;  and the truth of divine illumination - the fire itself, you will not get a lit room. It will not work.

If you have the light of God but you do not have the radiant glass, or you have a flawed glass, or you have a fogged up glass, again, the truth of God is there, but the room is not lit up. You pause for a second. We can all look at the niche and say, "Wow, this place; this house has a niche. The niche was structurally created for light.” But in our modern condition, we human beings look at the niche and we say, "What is this for?"

We know that the nature of things point to God. The very existence of things is like the niche – it was created to accommodate the light of God. You look at birds in the sky, the meticulous rise of the sun, the intricate movement between night and day, the sunrise and sundown, the movement of the seas, the movement of the rivers, the movement of trees, the movement of creation, and it is all like the niche, saying, we have been created to reflect the light of God. This is what we were structurally created for. But the human condition in modernity is that we look at the niche and say, "How interesting that the house we find ourselves born in [ie. we were literally dropped in this house; we had no hand in creating ourselves in this house] has niches." We look at the niche and say, "How interesting that this house has niches! It must be just a coincidence, the very existence of the niche!” 

It is the house calling upon the light of God, saying, “I was created with this niche as proof of accommodation, as proof that this is where God's light belongs.” But we look at the niche and we say, "No, we do not know what to place there. We are not sure that a lamp - the divine lamp - should go there. We will use the niche for other things. Maybe we will use it for extra storage. Maybe we will put a stack of papers there. We will do whatever with the niche." 

But by not using the niche for what it was, in fact, created for, we choose to live in darkness. And in darkness, we feel the loss and the lack of purpose. We look around and say, “Wow, why don’t I understand anything? Why is it that I can’t see anything? Why is it that I don’t understand what I am here for? I don’t understand what tomorrow is about. I don’t understand what growing old is about. I don’t understand what death is about. I don’t understand why people I love die. I don’t understand why people that I don’t know are born and what they become attached to. I do not understand anything about anything.” But in order to understand, you have to clean up the niche, put the lamp there with the right oil and allow God's light to shine.

But no, that is the modern fallacy. Yes, in the darkness, I see injustice. I see unfairness. I see abuse. I see loss. I see abuse of substances. I see suicide. I see mental illness. I see spiritual illness. I see psychological illness. I see everything that is wrong, but I don’t want the light in the niche. The second step are those people who indeed use the niche for its proper purpose, and light the light in the niche. They have the right oil and the right lamp.

But once the light of God is allowed to exist, the glass surrounding the niche is not like God describes it, “a radiant planet.” No, the glass surrounding the niche is dull, it could even be blackened out with sin, or dull and foggy with ignorance. The glass that surrounds the niche does not live up to the luminosity of the oil and the flame. The glass, the intellect. Yes, you have put the light in the proper place, in the niche. But the intellect that is ready to receive that flame and to reflect the light, in fact, distorts it. Why? It distorts it because light is demanding.

The thing about light is that, yes, it can allow us to see our ways through things. It can help us to avoid bumping into things. It can help us tell the difference between the chair and the table. It can help us tell the difference between a sofa and a bed. But the light also allows us to see whether we exist in beauty or in ugliness. The thing about light is that it has this truthful quality; it confronts us with the truth of what is. And if you put the light in the niche, and you have the right glass, and the light shines, and you discover that what you exist in is ugliness, then the temptation is enormous – even if you do not have the guts to turn off the light altogether, the temptation is extremely powerful to fog up the glass that surrounds the light. 

There are countries and people, from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, that can’t afford the light – or can’t afford the truth of the light – so they try to turn off the light altogether. But what is far more common, as we see in places like Iran or many other societies, is that you fog up the glass so you don’t see your own ugliness and you don’t see what the truth of the divine reveals to yourself about yourself.

The pure, unadulterated, luminous oil, the oil that is neither East nor West. Does it really take a genius to figure out that God is telling us that the oil of revelation - in my view the Qur'an - needs to combine with the flame of God to feed into a translucent intellect placed in the proper niche that can truly shine truth? But once that truth shines, you better be ready to receive it because the worst thing about when the truth shines and you don’t like what you see is that you obfuscate it and try to bury it. Does it really take a genius to realize that this oil is described as neither East nor West, to tell you not to dare give a physical identity to that truth of revelation? To tell you not to dare make the revelation about East or West, or make the revelation about the culture, a nationality, a race, a tribe?

The truth of the oil, the luminous oil of revelation, is like natural law itself. It is not anchored in any sociological reality, but transcends all. The metaphor of light upon light. What is most painful is that we human beings generally, but Muslims specifically, have allowed the lights in our niches to go out, and even when we have allowed the light in the niche to exist, we still have made sure to obfuscate, corrupt and otherwise sully and distort the glass through which the divine light shines. 

Even the oil. When it comes to the divine light, we have attempted to cheat the oil, to replace it with an oil of nationalism, of ethnic identity, of some form of tribalism. This is the condition that we are in. May we wake up. 

*****

Among the stories that caught my attention is an article that appeared in Muslim Matters. As far as I understand, the article was authored by a group of people that used to belong to the Sufi order of Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller, but left the order because of allegations of abuse, especially abuse of children in school. Other abuses that the article complains about occurred against married couples and the like. The article basically calls upon Muslims to end the culture of complacency. Generally, the article complains of a culture of despotism, authoritarianism, and a culture in which strict obedience is mandated by the Shaykh, and apparently his wife and his representatives.

When abuses occurred, there were investigations, but then cover ups followed. This led to a large number of people leaving the Sufi order. The article is written by the former members of the Sufi order that say the culture of complacency must end; that Muslims have a culture of covering up for tyrants, despots and abusers, and that this must end. Ha Mim Keller is a convert to Islam who belonged to the Shadhili Sufi order. The Shadhili, of course, is a very large Sufi order and has many, many chapters in different parts of the world. Once he joined the Shadhili Sufi order, he created a branch of the order in Jordan, where he created a community in which he is the head and the Shaykh of that community.

I am critical of all those who exoticize Islam, who think that in order to be Muslim, you have to turn back time and exist as if in the medieval world. That Islam is embodied in a set of symbolisms that are exotic in nature because they all come from a land far away, and that part of what Islam is about is the whole Western mythology of Oriental despotism; that in order to be a real Muslim, while you drive a car and use the internet, you try to recreate the norms of the medieval world in every other regard.

But you pause at something like the reported culture of abuse, whether with this Shaykh or other Shaykhs, especially in light of the metaphor of light upon light. So many people that have converted to Islam gave up their entire life, uprooted their families, moved to Jordan, joined the Shaykh, and joined this community. They were following a dream, and the dream can be summed up in “light upon light.” The dream is often that you imagine the Shaykh to be the embodiment of God's light. And the light of the Shaykh upon the divine light appears to be light upon light. And the attraction and the call of light upon light is like an intoxicant. It makes you think, “Finally, I can exist in a world that makes sense. I exist in a world where there is beauty because it is God's truth, and if there is God's truth, then there must be beauty.”

In God's truth and God's beauty, there is no fear and no anxiety. No worry and no consternation. There is no jealousy, no animosity, no hostility, no competition. But why do experiments like this fail? Remember that the light must shine through the luminous glass. The luminous glass is the glass of correct thinking, correct reason, correct rationality. The luminous glass can in fact play a critical role in lighting up the room when its purity matches the purity of the flame. But when you say that God's light is conditional on transmitting, accepting and blindly following a legal text from the middle ages; when a legal text written by a medieval scholar becomes the embodiment of Shari'a - the definer of the glass - and you are told there is no role for your reason when you are confronted with the transmitted reports attributed to the Prophet, and there is no role for reason when you are confronted with the will of the Shaykh, I wonder how radiant that glass can be. 

The thing that so many Muslims in the modern age consistently fail to remember is that the light of God appealed to people who were reasonable, who were asked to perpetuate reasonableness, and that reasonableness meant active intellects – constantly engaged, analytical intellects. Islam was never about the exotic. Islam was never about the marginal. Islam was never about the exceptional. Islam was never a vacation from or an abstention from the affairs of humanity.

Islam was never a suspension of the intellectual processes of knowledge - collecting and analyzing and sifting through data. Islam was never about being an exception to life. Islam built a civilization because it allowed the light of God to join with the light of reason, and through the combination of both, to shine onto humanity. Islam was never about a cult. It was never a cult. Every time that Islam is spoken about in terms of exotic movements and exotic cultures, and in terms that are not accessible to human reason within the historical moment of the niche – where the niche exists at its proper historical time – I realize that the light of God is going to be obstructed and snuffed out by the glass that contains the light of God, ie. if the glass is not radiant. For the glass to be radiant, it must be at the cutting edge of intellectual probity. You cannot have a radiant glass that is dull, stupid, idiotic, ignorant, lazy, or unengaged. If that intellect can only reflect the truth of the 10th or 11th century, simply because Shaykh such-and-such wrote the text and so this becomes your radiant glass, then in fact it is darkened glass and it will kill the luminous oil and it will kill the luminous divine flame.

And the niche will not serve any purpose at all because the darkness will persist. How often does God speak to us in the most reasonable fashion? And how often do we insist on minimally listening to the reasonable and rendering it unreasonable because of our own shortcomings and inability or unwillingness to rise up to what the divine message demands of us?

God, forgive our sins. Guide us to the right path, the straight path. Enable us to be like radiant glass that reflects your truth, that shines light and luminosity upon humanity.

Dalia's Corner

Salaams!

Among the most anticipated shows and movies of this summer include Jurassic World: Dominion and the Disney+ series, Ms. Marvel, which both have Muslim actors among their main cast. In fact, not only are much of Ms. Marvel's cast members Muslim, but many of the main characters themselves are Muslim and these characters' Muslim identities are moderately present in the show.

With Muslim actors, artists and characters becoming increasingly more common in mainstream media projects, I wanted to re-share a clip from a conversation Dr. Abou El Fadl and Grace Song held with actor and comedian Ramy Youssef, in which they discuss the challenges and opportunities for artistic expression in advancing faith, understanding, and the human side of being Muslim. In this clip, the three discuss the role of artists in the Muslim community. Not only is the subject matter interesting, but as Muslim artists continue to gain notoriety in multiple facets of art, recognizing their role in our ummah is undoubtedly a topic worth looking into. 

Stay safe,
Dalia
dalia@usuli.org 
The Role of Artists in the Muslim Community
Being a Muslim Artist with Ramy Youssef | The Conversation Series


WHAT HAPPENS AT USULI?
 


PRODUCING KNOWLEDGE: 
Between live-streamed weekly khutbahs, original English language Quranic commentary (tafsir) halaqas twice per week during the Project Illumine: Light of the Quran series, and a wealth of other free educational resources on our multimedia platforms, The Usuli Institute produces critical knowledge for Muslims to navigate the challenges of our world while anchored in the timeless moral and ethical virtues of our rich, nuanced and beautiful faith tradition.
 
PUBLISHING KNOWLEDGE: 
We are working towards publishing the first complete English Commentary on the Quran in the last 40+ years insha'Allah (God willing)! This would be a major achievement and legacy for future generations to be able to reconnect with God's Book in a meaningful and modern way, but it will take a massive investment of time and money. Transcription, editing and publishing costs will be completely donor-funded. Currently, we spend over $1500 per week on transcription costs alone between two halaqas and our weekly khutbah. We offer all of our virtual content for free. 
 
PRESERVING KNOWLEDGE: 
The Usuli Institute is home to one of the largest private collection of Islamic intellectual sources - over 100,000 books and counting. Help to preserve the Usuli Institute Library and its books for future generations of scholars. Its holdings span the humanities, law, ethics, comparative religion and original Arabic sources covering a broad range of topics across the Islamic intellectual tradition. 

Supporting knowledge is the most blessed and important struggle (jihad) for our faith. Multiply your blessings by supporting knowledge at The Usuli Institute. All donations are zakat-eligible and tax-deductible! We have three important projects ongoing that need your support. Pay It Forward and have your blessings multiplied for yourself and your loved ones. May Allah accept!
 
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Support The Usuli Institute

LAUNCHGOOD: Matching Gift Program for Qur'anic Tafsir Publication:
DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT!

DONATE HERE.

WHAT: Publishing a New English-language Commentary (Tafsir) on the Qur’an 

WHO: Tafsir by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of The Usuli Institute

WHEN: NOW! Matching Gift Program – DOUBLE YOUR BLESSINGS!

HOW: Every donation up to $52,500 will be matched dollar for dollar by a generous donor!

WHERE: The Usuli Institute (www.usuli.org) This English commentary project first kicked off in the summer of 2020 when Dr. Abou El Fadl decided to teach his approach to the Qur’an through a series of classes (halaqas) called Project Illumine. Since then, the project has grown substantially with an international audience tuning in weekly to view the halaqas for free on YouTube. The classes are currently ongoing, with 75 surahs covered since the start of the project. With each halaqa, the surahs are being transcribed by a professional transcription company and edited with the goal of publishing the first complete multi-volume Qur'anic commentary in over 40 years.

WHY THIS PROJECT IS IMPORTANT: It is a smart, beautiful, and common-sense approach to the Qur’an for an English-speaking audience, steeped in the Islamic tradition of ethics and morality. Dr. Abou El Fadl's commentary combines his vast knowledge of the classical tradition as well as contemporary thought, and offers spiritual, theological, and ethical insights. Most importantly, his commentary underscores the relevance of the Qur’an for our day and age. Social justice, human rights, women's rights, climate change and Islamophobia are just some topics touched upon in this tafsir.

WHY YOUR CONTRIBUTION IS IMPORTANT: The goal of this commentary is to reignite passion for the Qur’an and show that, as a living revelation, its message speaks directly to the issues Muslims are faced with today. 

TOTAL MATCHING GIFT GOAL: $52,500

WHAT YOUR DONATION WILL SUPPORT:

Costs of Publication including:
Transcription
Editing
Printing
Book Interior and Cover Design 
Publishing House
Labor

ABOUT DR. KHALED ABOU EL FADL

Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl is the Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law, and one of the world’s leading authorities on Shari'ah, Islamic law, and Islam. He was also formerly the Chair of the Islamic Studies Interdepartmental Program at UCLA.  He has served on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch. Among his many honors and distinctions, Dr. Abou El Fadl received the University of Oslo Human Rights Award in 2007, and the 2020 Martin Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion by the American Academy of Religion (AAR). A prolific scholar and prominent public intellectual, Dr. Abou El Fadl is the author of Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari'ah in the Modern Age; The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists; Speaking in God’s Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women; Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law; And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses; Islam and the Challenge of Democracy; The Place of Tolerance in Islam; and The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books. 

ADOPT A SURAH:

NINETY-ONE surahs have already been adopted to date! Some AMAZING surahs that we have already covered in Project Illumine are still available to be sponsored! Adopt a Surah is your chance to sponsor the publication of a chapter of the Project Illumine Tafsir, and earn special blessings for anyone who benefits from the knowledge of the tafsir, and your "adopted" surah in particular! To check what surahs are still available, click here. Join this very special and blessed group of sponsors!

For More Learning

QUICK LINKS:

We have covered seventy out of one hundred fourteen surahs though Project Illumine! For Quick Links to all of the surahs and halaqas we have presented at Usuli, click here.

We have been giving Weekly Virtual Friday Khutbahs since January 2019! For Quick Links to all previous Friday khutbahs, click here:

JOIN OUR INTERACTIVE GROUP:

Interested in getting more connected at the Usuli Institute? Apply to be a part of our Project Illumine Interactive Group! As a member, you will join us virtually online so that Dr. Abou El Fadl can see you, and possibly answer your questions during the halaqa sessions. We have a limited number of spaces available, please email us at info@usuli.org and tell us about yourself (your background, interests, how you came across the Usuli Institute, and anything else you would like to share!) As a member of the interactive group, you can submit questions through the chat function during the Q&A, and these get priority after the Project Illumine Fellows who are attending in person. Also, after the halaqa if time permits, we try to spend a little time connecting with members of the interactive group to say hello and connect virtually at a personal level.

FOR MORE LEARNING:

Check out our websites which include scholarly archives and more!

www.usuli.org 
www.searchforbeauty.org

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