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This Past Week at The Usuli Institute (3 - 9 June 2022)
SURAH 59: AL HASHR (DAY 2)
ORIGINAL COMMENTARY
Project Illumine
Lessons on Hadith Traditions from Surah Al Hashr
USULI EXCERPT
Jordan Peterson and Hamza Yusuf Podcast on Islam and Qur'an: A Response, USULI EXCERPT
What It Means to be a Student of the Qur'an
USULI EXCERPT
ON THE ENGINEERING OF FAITH AND BEING WORTHY OF GOD'S AID
Usuli Institute Khutbah, 3 June 2022
(Summary Description Below)
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Grace's Message

Dear Friends,

Greetings of Peace! I pray you are well and enjoying the entrance of the new season, insha'Allah, wherever you are in the world. It is a beautiful and at times humid summer here in Ohio. This week, we experienced our first tornado warning, sirens and all. When we lived in California and there were tsunami warnings issued as a result of a distant earthquake, people would drive to the beach because they wanted to see the tsunami with their own eyes. We thought they were nuts. Being new to tornado warnings, when we heard the tornado sirens, suddenly we felt the urge to run outdoors to see the tornado with our own eyes. I am sure people in Ohio would think we were nuts. I guess the lesson is that you never know how you will react until you are in another person's shoes, so perhaps best not to judge..! :) [The tornado touched down an hour away from us and thank God there were no injuries that we are aware of, but a warehouse took the brunt of the damage. Thank God we did not see it with our own eyes!] 

First, an exciting announcement - Dr. Abou El Fadl will be in conversation with Farah El-Sharif, Associate Director at Stanford University's Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, on his new book, The Prophet's Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam on Thursday, 16 June 2022 at 12 pm PT / 3 pm ET! This will be a Zoom Webinar, so if you would like to attend, please register here: https://stanford.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_zwdAaF8vRwWBuAxfTXi5sA God willing (insha'Allah), it will be a great book talk! Here is the flyer: 
 


Register to join the Zoom Webinar here


ON CRITIQUING THE HAMZA YUSUF and JORDAN PETERSON PODCAST
At the beginning of the last two Project Illumine halaqa sessions, I critiqued the online conversation between Hamza Yusuf and Jordan Peterson, on Peterson's podcast, which at the time of this writing, has received over 1.6 million views on YouTube. Apparently, it was a long-awaited match-up, as Peterson, a well-known Canadian personality had previously interviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Mustafa Aykol, and Mohammad Hijab in his quest to better understand Islam. As I mentioned in both sessions, having watched the podcast, I was struck by what I felt was the lost opportunity to articulate the beauty, humanity and connectedness of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, as Jordan Peterson's questions seemed to try to get at. In his discussions of Islam and the Qur'an, Hamza Yusuf rarely referenced the Qur'an itself, instead relying on hadiths and references to works by secular academics and authors. To me, it was a poor performance.


My first general critique in the Intro to Surah Al Hashr (Day 1)

For someone who has spent the last two years and over 500 hours intensively studying the Qur'an through Project Illumine halaqas, I felt that Hamza Yusuf's answers were lacking and failed to give clear, direct and intuitive responses that a non-specialist audience could connect with, and which are basic and foundational after this two year Project Illumine education. It was strange to me that one would NOT reference the Qur'an extensively in talking about the Qur'an and Islam. But I felt that rather than just offering my broad brush impressions of the talk, that I should follow up my general reaction with a specific demonstration - basically, if I didn't like his responses, instead of just critiquing, I should actually offer something as an alternative. So I did. I put forward how I would have answered four of Jordan Peterson's questions at the beginning of the last halaqa on Surah Al Hashr. (Day 2):  


Jordan Peterson and Hamza Yusuf Podcast on Islam and Qur'an: A Response

In the week since my response video has come out on YouTube, it has garnered a lot more views than our usual, as well as many more comments, clearly from people who are not familiar with the Usuli Institute or Project Illumine or me. It has been very interesting. I thought I would briefly comment on the experience of speaking up for whatever it is worth. 

It will come as no surprise of course that when someone like myself speaks in a Muslim space on an open forum, there will be people who love and hate what I do for a whole range of reasons. The fact that I don't wear a scarf is already a non-starter for many. I am extremely grateful for the many positive responses that I received after the fact. Yet, what I am most intrigued by is the criticism, especially by Muslims who were particularly unhappy that I dared to critique someone of Hamza Yusuf's stature. For anyone who is on social media, it is a well known fact that people are ready to fight over just about anything. People get snappy, argumentative and downright rude over the smallest issue. Things devolve very quickly, which is why social media is often so toxic. One would hope that is not the case among Muslims given the Qur'anic directive to always speak kindly, but this is simply not the case. 

I think most people get and appreciate that we are about critical thinking and challenging the status quo. We are about testifying to truth and being active in standing up for justice. We advocate doing something when we can make a difference instead of just complaining about why someone else isn't doing something. The better question will always be: what can I do to make this situation better? We have been learning consistently about sacrifice, doing good, speaking truth to power, and standing up for justice. I am blessed and grateful that I have the opportunity to communicate my thoughts in public, and that God has given me the wherewithal and passion to do so when I feel it is important to speak out. Speaking out comes with a cost. One must be willing to put up with the blow back that inevitably comes. Interestingly, many people were far more upset by the fact that I dared to say something critical of Hamza Yusuf than pleased that I was attempting to offer a better bridge to Islam and the Qur'an. Whether one likes my bridge better or not is left to the individual, but is it right to attack, demean or debase an educated Muslim's attempt to educate about Islam and the Qur'an?

Also, my answers to Jordan Peterson's questions were an attempt to demonstrate the learning from an intensive engagement with 79 surahs of the Qur'an. My constant hope is to convey the value of this learning and the excitement of this new avenue to connecting with the relevance of the Qur'an in our time. I get the feeling that because Muslims in our age don't believe that the Qur'an has anything to tell them about how to live in our times that they are nonplussed. Some people could not understand how I could challenge why Hamza Yusuf would not reference the Qur'an more frequently or more deeply when speaking about the Qur'an and Islam. This to me is a no-brainer and self-evident. Sadly, detractors were more interested in criticizing our channel, Dr. Abou El Fadl, and me personally - all because I dared present alternate answers to Hamza Yusuf's. Nothing I said could be construed as negative towards God, the Prophet Muhammad, Islam, Muslims or humanity. So for someone trying to educate others about the beauty of the Islamic message, what should be the appropriate response of fellow Muslims? Why the blow back at all? 

If we really reflect on the deeper meaning of this, it reveals we have such a long way to go. What are our priorities? If we look at the sheer numbers, our viewership is relatively tiny. Why should anyone care enough about what I am saying to even bother to comment at all, much less go to the effort to write really negative stuff? What is the point other than to try to break my spirit or try to "put me in my place" because I am not a scholar or because I am a woman without a hijab or some other reason? 

Yes, people can be really mean. But then again, this is the power of learning the Qur'an and working to testify on behalf of God to the best of my ability. We already know that people will often not react well to the message of the Qur'an. We know that when we surrender to God, we surrender only to God and not to human beings. We know that we all have a duty to testify before God, even if it against ourselves and those closest to us. We know that seeking knowledge is one of the most important responsibilities as a Muslim, and standing up for truth and beauty is part of standing up for the divine. All of this builds strength upon strength for people who want to serve the cause of educating others about Islam, like me. And for those who are fearful of speaking out or testifying, whether it is in public or before another person in private, I truly believe that God is with those who are on the side of light, as we continue to learn in Project Illumine. May God empower us all to testify



We have been given a gift in these Project Illumine halaqas, and the more you engage with the gift, the more the gift returns to you. Now, as we embark this weekend on our 79th surah, insha'Allah, the burden and responsibility of this learning is at once elevating and weighty. It is enlightening and burdensome. Our accountability before God has increased, and our responsibility to share it with others has grown. I truly believe we have been given the gift of light in the midst of the extreme darkness of our times. For those who are truly seeking, it is a lifeline. What we do with this gift is the test. May we all pass, insha'Allah! 

Looking forward to seeing you online for our khutbah today and tomorrow night at 6 pm ET FOR A NEW SURAH! 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 on Barnes and Noble online here!

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
ON THE ENGINEERING OF FAITH AND BEING WORTHY OF GOD'S AID
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, Founder of The Usuli Institute and
Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
3 June 2022
 

At what point can this Ummah sufficiently get its act together to warrant God's aid and support so that we can turn a page in history? So that the conscientious Muslim, the Muslim with a living, active, energetic conscience does not feel the alienation and the isolation that such a Muslim would necessarily feel these days. At what point do we wake from our slumber so that we are not at the pit of humanity? Muslims, whether we like it or not, collectively represent the demonstrative proof of what Islam is in our world. 

You can write about doctrine, you can describe doctrine, and this doctrine can even sound reasonable, attractive, profound, wise; but the majority of human beings do not form their impressions and understandings from the study of doctrine. The majority of human beings are not sufficiently vested in intellectual issues, so it is not the doctrinal narrative that shapes the consciousness of most human beings living on this earth.

Most human beings structure their systems of knowledge, what they believe they know, from demonstrative examples. Most human beings are quite impressionistic. They form their convictions and beliefs from impressions they get, and these impressions invariably look at sociological dynamics. So whether we like it or not, we Muslims collectively are the demonstrative example of what the doctrines of Islam are. We are the breathing, living examples of what the doctrines of Islam are. 

We can have a learned scholar live their entire life investigating doctrinal issues and arguing that such and such is the correct or the wrong doctrine, but that remains a testimony between the scholar and the scholar's God. Unless this doctrine has a direct impact on the collective representation of Islam, that testimony never becomes a representation of Islam because again, for the most part, human beings are impressionistic and they form their belief systems from impressions of what they see around them in the world. Sadly, Muslims are quite oblivious to this. 

This is precisely why so much is invested into fighting for the attention of Muslims. Those who live an ideological existence - those who live for a cause - will invest a great deal of resources to fight for the attention of Muslims because those with a cause somehow have convinced Muslims that living for a cause is reactionary, backwards, rhetorical, and demagoguery. Although they have convinced Muslims of that, in reality, they themselves live for a cause. A huge part of this cause is to fight for the attention of Muslims; to shape and craft the attention of Muslims because they know that regardless of how many doctrinal scholars there are, regardless of what these doctrinal scholars say or do not say about Islam, how Islam fares in this world is in direct relationship to how Muslims themselves represent themselves in this world. There are so many indicators, so many issues that surround our existence, that are indeed an act from God. It is as if simply by allowing existence to be what it is, God educates us and draws our attention. 

Recently, I have been looking at this book called “The Mauritanian,” which was initially published under the title “Guantanamo Diaries.” It was turned into a feature film starring Jodie Foster, and so the book was reissued with the new title to match the film. The book documents, in painful detail, the arrest of an innocent man from Mauritania, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who is severely tortured in Guantanamo by Americans, and after spending many years in prison, is released without charges. Of course, those who abused and tortured him continue to exist with impunity, without consequences. Interestingly, in the reissue of the book, many segments of the book that were originally censored [the book was originally published with significant sections blackened out by the US government citing national security reasons], are now visible, and what I read in one of the parts that was previously blackened out is extremely alarming. The book itself is already extremely alarming, but in this part, the author talks about how Uyghur Muslims were arrested and held in Guantanamo. What was censored is the author testifying to the fact that the United States government allowed Chinese Intelligence to come to Guantanamo and interrogate the Uyghur Muslims in American custody, and to torture them on American territory.

I know from the human rights field that every time the United States has raised the issue of the Uyghur genocide, the Chinese, as do the Russians, throw back in the face of the United States, “You are not ones to complain. Look at what you did in Guantanamo and what you continue to do in Guantanamo. You want to lecture us about human rights? Look at what you did in Iraq. Look at what you did in Afghanistan. Look what you did with the American platoon in Iraq who raped a 14 year old and murdered her family. All of your soldiers got off with impunity, and you want to lecture us about human rights?” Indeed, if we arrested Uyghur Muslims, transferred them to Guantanamo and allowed Chinese Intelligence to come to Guantanamo to interrogate these Uyghur Muslims and torture them in American custody, and we turn around and pretend that we care about the genocide against the Uyghurs in China, that does not sound very convincing. But the part that concerns me the most is how all of this unfolds.

All of this takes place whether a Muslim chaplain in Guantanamo quits because of how witnesses Muslims are being mistreated and abused - and then he himself is arrested and thrown in Guantanamo - or whether we have Muslims tortured in Guantanamo, or whether we have Chinese officers torturing Muslims in American custody, or whether we have the United States doing whatever it is doing to the Muslim world.

The part that constantly I come back to is Muslim consciousness and Muslim attention. The story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi is not publicized because of Muslim activism. In fact, The Mauritanian was not released from custody because of Muslim activism. It is not even because a brave, brilliant Muslim lawyer represented him. The entire saga of what we Americans did to Muslims in Guantanamo is amazingly empty of a Muslim presence. Muslims continue to talk about the hijab and about the most trivial things in the world; whether God is pleased or displeased by seeing a woman's hair. Muslims continue to be very impressed by anyone that is able to weave stories from the Muslim distant past to give them a short-lived ego boost, but Muslims actually becoming a dynamic factor in the world we live in…?

Truthfully, the only people who do not value Muslim attention are Muslims themselves because those who are not Muslim invest an enormous amount of resources and an enormous amount of money to keep Muslims dumb and ineffective. Recently, there was a conversation that took place between Hamza Yusuf and Jordan Peterson. I started doing a little bit of homework because this conversation, although it says nothing about the Uyghurs, about the plight of Muslims in India, about Kashmir, says nothing about Palestine, had over a million views. Just with a bit of research, it was obvious that one of the reasons it has over a million views is that the conversation is pedantic and largely irrelevant.

We Muslims believe in the Torah. We Muslims believe in the Gospels [Injil]. In Islam, we do taharah, we cleanse ourselves. In Islam, we do prayer, but the way that this conversation reaches over a million views, remarkably is because of algorithms that are carefully written out, invented and activated by those who want to compete for Muslim attention, but for the wrong type of attention for the wrong type of things.

In the same way, if you talk about Palestine, you will find that your voice never reaches far on social media. But if you talk about the trivial and unimportant, it will - because there are those who are ideologically vested, those who actually invest an enormous amount of money in order to convince Muslims that ideology is not cool and that they should live non-ideological lives. Those same people are the people who invest millions of dollars to engineer Islam in the modern world.

All of us remember the picture of Donald Trump, the King of Saudi Arabia and the genocidal President of Egypt in Riyadh putting their hands around a globe. That center, created with Gulf money in Riyadh, which has the ostensible and formal task of monitoring Islamic extremism in the world, has in fact become a center for engineering Islam in the world. This is a center that plays a huge role in the fact that Facebook has its main headquarters in the Emirates, and the fact that the Islam that is manifested from America to France, to Malaysia, to Indonesia, to every part of the Muslim world is a carefully crafted Islam that is also a largely irrelevant Islam. Our government invites Chinese intelligence officers to interrogate Uyghur Muslims in American custody, to torture Uyghur Muslims in American custody.

When the Chinese turn around a few years later and unleash a genocide against Uyghurs, where is the Muslim narrative? Can you imagine if our government did this with any group other than Muslims; the racism, bigotry, and sheer ugliness of a reality like that is unmistakable, but yet you will not find a sense of outrage among Muslims. You will not even find much resonance in the media platforms where Muslims talk back and forth.

Millions of dollars are poured into engineering, shaping, and crafting Muslim attention. Look at this report from CNN titled, “Israelis lament racism problem as Jerusalem march turns ugly.” What this is talking about is that on May 29th, there was a march in Jerusalem. The march, attended by more than 70,000 people, was undeniably racist. The 70,000 marched in Jerusalem demanding that the Aqsa mosque be torn down, yelling “Death to Arabs”; “Arabs are sons of bitches”; “Shireen is dead”; “Palestine is dead.” The 70,000 demonstrators hurled racist slurs on loud speakers and on their signs. A few politicians in Israel said, “It is unfortunate that some of what these people said was racist.” CNN reports on this from the point of view that Israelis are morally conscientious.

It is as if those 70,000 troubled the Israeli consciousness, which cannot be racist. 70,000 Israelis marched yelling, “Death to Muslims”; “Death to Muhammad”; “Death to Shireen Abu Aqleh”; “Death to Palestine,” and horrible racial slurs that I cannot repeat – and the way it is reported is that Israel laments. Not that Israel is an apartheid state. Not that Israel is deeply racist. Not that there is a problem with Jewish theology. Not that there is a problem with the Torah. Not any of that which are all things that, if these were Muslims, would have been said about Muslims. But Israel laments, where did they see Israel lamenting? Where did they catch Israel crying over the racist problem? Nowhere. They have one or two politicians that are quoted as saying, "This is regrettable."

Where are the Muslims? Of course, Muslims were busy listening to the interview with Jordan Peterson. Israel affirms that Jerusalem undivided is an Israeli capital. Israel emphasizes for the millionth time that Muslims have no say over the fate of Jerusalem, but it does not stop there. Israel announces a plan to destroy more homes in the West Bank and to displace a thousand dispossessed Palestinians, to throw them out of their homes, to take their homes and lands. And some American lawmakers urge Biden administration to prevent the destruction of Palestinian homes in the West Bank.

Did the YouTube algorithms suggest the story to you? Did you notice it popping up on your YouTube feed or on any of the other social media venues? Because I am sure that all these venues recommended that Jordan Peterson, Hamza Yusuf conversation to you; but they will not recommend anyone talking about Israel’s plans to demolish more homes and throw out a thousand Palestinians in its continual colonial project, as it laments its racism.

After Israel killed Shireen Abu Aqleh in cold blood, they killed another Palestinian journalist, Ghufran Haroun Warasneh, a 31 year old woman who just graduated from journalism school, on her third day on the job after being hired as a journalist. On her third day, going through an Israeli security point, she is inexplicably shot by Israeli soldiers. Israeli soldiers prevented an ambulance from reaching her for half an hour after she was shot, until she bled out. Israeli soldiers claimed that she had a knife and was planning to stab one of them, but they did not allow anyone to come close to the body to verify that she had anything, and there were no forensic photographs. Just another number.

This is as Israel laments racism, and as American lawmakers urge the Biden administration to prevent the destruction of more Israeli homes. As we are happily enthralled by the Jordan Peterson, Hamza Yusuf conversation, this beautiful young woman is shot dead by the Israelis and where is the Muslim attention? It is nonexistent, but it does not stop there. Seventeen year old Odeh Hamad Odeh was playing soccer with his friends, when he was inexplicably shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the midst of the soccer game. This makes him the fourth Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in 48 hours. 

So God looks upon us, and looks upon the Aqsa Mosque, which God described as the holy land - the symbol of unity between Muhammad and Abraham - and God sees that Israelis kill children with impunity, kill journalists with impunity, destroy and steal homes in Palestinian lands with impunity. Where are Muslims? What are they talking about? What are they concerned about? One of the most amazing things, and one of the things that is going to go down in history as confounding is a story that I saw no Muslim attention directed at. Western Muslims remain amazingly oblivious to what Islam is, as they manifest it to be.

Egypt transfers two islands to Saudi Arabia, Tiran and Sanafir. The way it is reported is that these are Saudi islands that were given to Egypt for safekeeping, because the Saudis were afraid that they were going to lose these islands if Israel usurped them and annexed them. So they gave them to the Egyptians to hold for them, to protect these islands. It is also reported that Saudi Arabia demands Tiran and Sanafir back, and Egypt, under the leadership of the genocidal President Sisi, agrees. Pay no mind that Tiran and Sanafir were actually from the time that Napoleon invaded Egypt and drew the first maps of Egypt known to humankind. Pay no mind that Tiran and Sanafir were Egyptian islands before Saudi Arabia ever existed.

Do not mind that this is an entirely invented story about these being Saudi islands, and that Egypt decided to “return” them to Saudi Arabia regardless. What catches one’s attention about this entire story is that in the Western media, the transfer of these two islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia requires Israeli approval. The way it is reported is that Israel gave its final permission for the islands to be transferred from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. In reality, it is not Israeli approval, it is an Israeli condition. Israel is the one that demanded that Egypt give these islands to Saudi Arabia. Why? Because the islands have a very strategic position. The position of these islands control the gulf of Aqaba. They control Israeli access to the Red Sea and by transferring the islands to Saudi sovereignty, that critical water passage becomes international waters, not Egyptian waters, and by becoming international waters, Israel then has unfettered access to the Red Sea.

So it is Israel that orders the Egyptians to transfer two of their islands to Saudi control. According to the report, Israel accepts security arrangements, allowing Egypt to transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia. “Israel says working with the US, Gulf states is a normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia after the transfer of the two islands.” In order for Israel to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, Israel said, "I want these islands transferred from Egypt to Saudi Arabia so that international peacekeeping forces can be withdrawn from the islands, and the islands become a joint Saudi-Israeli port and entertainment center."

This was part of the Kushner Peace Plan that cut out Palestinians altogether after the Trump administration moved the American embassy to Jerusalem. The Biden administration, instead of quashing the Kushner "peace plan," finds that it is powerless to do anything but continue in the footsteps of what Kushner has laid out: to cut out the Palestinians, continue colonizing Palestinian lands, and continue murdering Palestinian youth and Palestinian journalists.

In fact, as part of this, Israel passed new security arrangements that make it even more difficult for anyone to go to the West Bank, including American citizens; further suffocating and closing off the West Bank so that they can more effectively colonize it. Meanwhile, do you expect any blowback from Arabs? Do you expect any blowback from Muslims in the Middle East? Any blowback from Muslims anywhere around the globe? No.

Egypt would give Saudi Arabia Tiran and Sanafir so Saudi Arabia can pour billions of dollars into Israel. Israel can continue its apartheid regime with impunity, while the Egyptian people are too busy making a living to overthrow the tyrant who has betrayed their country. The Saudi people are too busy listening to rock music, dancing and having halal drinks to do anything about anything. American Muslims are too busy getting good jobs, paying home mortgages, and listening to Jordan Peterson and Hamza Yusuf to do anything about anything. For God's sake, tell me, what excuse have we given God to help us? Wouldn’t it be unjust for God to help a people like that? 

Among these reports, we see that Israel and India have reached a new level of closeness. Why? Because the current Hindu regime in India absolutely detests Muslims. They look to Israel as a role model in how to deal with Muslims. They admire how the Israelis subjugated, broke, and destroyed the Palestinians, and hope to learn from Israel how to more effectively carry out an apartheid regime against Muslims in India. Furthermore, they want from Israel surveillance equipment, spying equipment and military aid; and according to the Indian government, Israel and India share the same fate because they have the same enemies.

This is the Indian government that for now has isolated Kashmir. There is no internet in Kashmir now for the second year in a row. Muslims in Kashmir cannot access the internet. The Indian government very openly passes laws that say that all Muslim Indians that converted from Hinduism to Islam, that if they convert back to Hinduism, they are entitled to all the rights of citizenship, but if they remain Muslim, they are traitors to mother India and they belong in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia or Indonesia.

The current Indian government has plans to demolish 1,862 mosques, including the Taj Mahal. The current Indian government sponsors genocidal attacks against Muslims every day, and the current Indian government is now forming an alliance with Israel. So China unleashed a genocide against Muslims after the United States allowed China to interrogate Uyghur Muslims in American custody and torture them.

The Burmese government continues a genocide against the Rohingyas and finds that the entire world is so oblivious that they will not even take back a Nobel prize given to a woman who played a critical role in engineering the genocide against Muslims. The Indian government unleashes genocide against Muslims and finds partnership with the Israelis who also have an apartheid regime against Muslims. 

In the midst of this, who is partnering with India and Israel? Who is the third part of the Indian-Israeli triangle? Yes, the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates is the same country that backs up Hamza Yusuf, and Hamza Yusuf is the same person who had a conversation with Jordan Peterson vying for your attention and gets over a million views. 

There is a new book that I started looking at yesterday called No Escape, written by a man named Nury Turkel. Just from what I looked at yesterday, I found horrific descriptions of what Muslims in China go through. In this brilliant, wonderful, blessed conversation between Jordan Peterson and Hamza Yusuf, they do not talk about the Uyghurs, about the Rohingyas, about the apartheid regime in Palestine. They do not talk about the disposition and colonization of Palestinians. They do not talk about Shireen Abu Aqleh, they do not talk about the Palestinian youth that get murdered every single day. They do not talk about the genocide in India. They do not talk about Kashmiris. They do not talk about any of that, but Muslims are happy. “What a wonderful, brilliant conversation it was.” Tell me, if you are the devil himself, could you possibly have weaved a better scenario than to have Muslims butchered around the world like this?

The top country that executes human beings in the world is China. Why? Because a lot of the people that China executes are Muslims. But after China, it is Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. China, which kills Muslims, followed by Muslim countries are the top countries that kill human beings in the world. If you were Satan, how could you have orchestrated it better than to have Muslims suffering from the US in Guantanamo; to have a treacherous, disgusting deal as what is going on between Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates, with Tiran and Sanafir; and then to have everything we have talked about? We have not even talked about Islamophobia and racism against Muslims in the US.

Yet at the same time, to have those Muslims who live in the United States have their attention not directed towards any of this, but instead directed towards a false sense of victory because they heard someone talk about how wonderful doing wudu or ghusl is, and how Muslims do ghusl once a week and how amazing this is. Something is really wrong in the way we raise our children. Something is really wrong in the way we allow Muslim consciousness to work. Something is truly wrong in the way that we are Muslims today. How can this be? I do not know. How can it be?

Dalia's Corner

Salaams!

The importance of prayer in a Muslim's life cannot be understated- it is a pillar of Islam and our main way to communicate and connect with God. However, missing one or more prayers a day is a reality for a sizable fraction of Muslims. There are many who have a great deal of good deeds, who live a good life, but may not pray every required prayer. For this reason, I think a question asked in one of the first episodes of "Real Talk with Mido and Baba" is worth shining a light on. 

The first portion of this episode is dedicated to the questions of, "Can good deeds outweigh prayers? Which is more important to God? Can you just be a good person and not pray? What is the point of prayers?" Of course, these questions may be of particular significance to those who may not pray consistently; but this segment is undoubtedly valuable to any and every Muslim. Not only is the subject matter interesting, but gaining a better understanding of the value of prayer, good deeds, and why we pray can further help us become better Muslims. 

Stay safe,
Dalia
dalia@usuli.org 
Can good deeds outweigh prayers? Which is more important to God? Can you just be a good person and not pray? What is the point of prayers?
REAL TALK WITH MIDO AND BABA, EPISODE 2


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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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:
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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!

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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.

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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.

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