"Thinking Islam Anew Away from the Lands of Despotism and Hypocrisy"
In this transformative moment in human history, Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl recounts the ways in the last three decades since the publication of his book, The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses, that the methodology of justice, beauty and reason he advocated came under attack as a source of "fitnah" (creating discord and dissent). As Muslims, we learned from well known shuyukh that many things like music, art, pictures, relations with non-Muslims and other things identified as "from the West" were haram (forbidden). Suddenly, overnight, the same shaykhs who claimed such "incontrovertible truths" have reversed their positions without any evidentiary basis, nor any reference to Islamic law or jurisprudence. He reminds us that God gave us a religion of fitrah (intuition, innateness and natural instinct), and that messages of Islam from the lands of despotism and hypocrisy in the Middle East have become intolerable. It is time for Muslims in the West to liberate themselves from the Islam coming from the colonized, dominated and subjugated Middle East, and rethink anew what the Islam of justice and beauty should entail as pioneers in our current times. He encourages Muslims to become pious and trust in the intuitive attraction to goodness, justice and beauty that God gave all human beings. Delivered 15 February 2019.
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl begins by discussing the Quranic intent of the Friday congregational prayer (jumu'a) prayer and the weekly address to the community (khutbah) at the time of the Prophet, and its role in serving as the divine uplift, community accounting, and spiritual re-invigoration of the Muslim community. He then recounts how this purpose became usurped over time. He continues by covering the required qualifications of the person who should lead the jumu'a -- the most learned in the community -- and what the jurists (faqih) of various schools of thought asserted when these qualifications are not met. Dr. Abou El Fadl then addresses the current state of affairs in mosques, what has become of Friday prayers, and why he has chosen to offer this virtual alternative. He discusses what various schools of thought (Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafi'i and Maliki) have said about "virtual" jumu'a prayer, the history of "virtual jumu'a" from the 1960's, and what constitutes a proper congregation (jamaa). In the second half, he reminds the congregation what it means to ignite the light of God inside of you, such that divine light, as opposed to darkness, emits from you. Surprising, illuminating and uplifting! Delivered 25 January, 2019.
Part 1 of 2: Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl presents his methodology and original commentary on the Qur'an, covering Surah 100: Al 'Adiyat. In presenting the various layers of meaning in the this chapter, as in others before, he discusses three levels of meanings, beginning first with the straight translation presenting in English translations of the Qur'an. Usually, these are the most basic interpretation/translation. Then he presents a more nuanced second level, supported by tafsir (Quranic commentary) of various other well-known historic Islamic jurists, to demonstrate the range of potential meanings, all supported by the language and evidence. Finally, he presents the third, deepest and often most figurative potential meanings of the verses, also supported by the language and interpretations of jurists. All in all, one sees the potential depth of meanings from literal to figurative of a seemingly "simple" chapter. Each chapter can be transformative in a person's life.
In the introduction, Director Grace Song discusses the powerful net take-away from Dr. Abou El Fadl's most recent Friday virtual khutbah, in which he argues that Muslims in the West can and must start anew in defining their faith, casting away the hypocritical and despotic messages of Islam coming from Middle Eastern lands, and instead, relying on the God-given religion of fitrah (natural instinct, intuitiveness and innateness) where the justice, beauty and reasonableness inherent to each human being is their guide. She encourages everyone to watch and share this transformative khutbah, which gives Muslims back their faith, releasing them from all of the ugly, oppressive and backwards messages that make people turn away from Islam. Muslims in the West have now been given permission and license to redefine what it means to be a thinking, ethical and moral Muslim in our day and age. Lastly, she pays honor and tribute to Guido Santi, a dear friend and documentary filmmaker, by telling the story of Guido and his importance in the history of the Usuli Institute. Delivered 16 February 2019.
Part 2: In the Q&A, Dr. Abou El Fadl answers questions about how to understand and navigate the three different levels of interpretation of the chapter from more literal to more figurative; how to access this knowledge given one's understanding of Arabic; cremation and organ donation; prayer on non-Muslims and more.
"...To win this very real war that has done inestimable damage to so many Muslims and to the truth of the Islamic faith, it is absolutely imperative that moderates declare a counter-jihad against the puritan heresy. This is not a call for the shedding of blood; it is a call for matching the zeal of puritans through unrelenting intellectual activism. This is a counter-jihad to reclaim the truth about the Islamic faith and win the hearts and minds of Muslims and non-Muslims all around the world..."
Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists