WEEKLY VIRTUAL FRIDAY PRAYERS WITH
DR. KHALED ABOU EL FADL!
This Friday, 6 December 2019
at 1:15 p.m. Los Angeles, CA Time
NEXT USULI HALAQA:
Saturday, 14 December 2019
at 4:30 pm Los Angeles, CA Time
All khutbahs will be recorded and posted online afterwards.
RAMY YOUSSEF AND THE SHAYKH
A Beautiful Engagement Between Artist and Scholar
14 September 2019
As part of The Usuli Institute Conversation Series, we were honored to host Ramy Youssef in conversation with Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl and Grace Song about the challenges and opportunities for artistic expression in advancing faith, understanding, and the human side of being Muslim. Ramy Youssef is best known for making TV's first Muslim American sitcom, Hulu's millennial comedy series entitled, "Ramy." He also recently released his HBO Original stand-up comedy special entitled, "Feelings." Both shows jump headlong into uncharted on-screen territory when it comes to the challenges confronting Muslim millennials attempting to navigate the grey areas of faith and religion, society and culture, expectation and acceptance, and ultimately, humanity in all of its forms. An honest, raw and fascinating discussion. Hosted at the Usuli Institute, 14 September 2019.
LISTEN TO THE AUDIO ON SOUNDCLOUD!
"ON KNOWING THE STRENGTH OF YOUR INNER LIGHT"
29 November 2019
Dr. Abou El Fadl shares a prayer (dua) that the Prophet (pbuh) would often repeat: “God, The Lord of the Heavens and the earth, the Lord of all there is and that will be, I seek refuge in You in everything, from everything that You ultimately are empowered against. You are the First and the Last. There is nothing after You, as there was nothing before You. You are apparent. You are the Lord of all that appears, and You are the Lord of all that does not appear; all that is concealed from us.”
This is a form of dhikr (remembrance of God) that cleanses the soul and affirms the being. To understand the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his message and his legacy, as well as that of all of the prophets of God throughout the ages, one must specifically study their supplications, their dhikr. Dhikr is what truly distinguishes a person that walks the path with God.
Our consciousness is so limited, like a simple flicker in the span of time. But it is also a gift, it gives us an opportunity to absorb so much. There are people who look around them and reach the point of being unfulfilled by the material and the physical, who are convinced there must be more. To be dissatisfied, restless with our moment of consciousness is a call of God within us. If at every moment one felt restless, dissatisfied, insecure or fearful, we rekindled the remembrance of the Divine, a great power would be within us.
God repeatedly reminds human beings in the Quran that “We sent you a book, We sent you the word so that you can bring people from darkness to light.” In the same vein, we are often reminded that God has sent us a reliable, constant, stable guide that addresses your heart and intellect, and that does not require that your intellect and your heart be at odds. That guide is the light of certitude. Many times, the Quran reminds that God is the path of light, that God is the Light upon Light, and that the nature of darkness itself is that when light is present, darkness retracts. No matter what darkness does, if the light is present, darkness can only withdraw. Darkness does not overcome light, but light overcomes darkness. The key is whether you keep that light inside of you.
Many believers’ inner light has dwindled to the point of becoming extinguished, and they could live an entire lifetime not realizing their light has gone out. The only way to truly search for that light is to look in an honest mirror, no one else can tell if that light is still within. Only God knows. Often people believe their lives are covered by folds of sin or darkness, but this is not true. Darkness will not cover light; the light is in there and will cut its path through darkness to appear. One may need a stronger light, but light can overcome any darkness, as darkness by its nature is weaker than light. Just step into a dark room and turn on a flashlight. The remembrance of God is what strengthens the light.
God gave us life and intended for our existence to be a gift. The intent of the Giver remains the same whether the recipient of the gift accepts or rejects it, celebrates or hates it. But it was intended as a gift with the promise that if one takes life as a gift, God will grow within them and they will grow within Him, on the way to becoming a Rabbani, a Godly human being, someone who can peel away the various layers that alienate you from your True Maker and the intentionality of the maker who willed your existence.
Hubris can often lead us to philosophizing the circumstances of our existence, but the only true knowledge that could come to you as to precisely your place within God's intentionality, can only come from God. The type of certitude and being at peace with one’s existence can only come from a close, intimate relationship with God. If you are not in the habit of listening to God, then don’t complain that you don’t have Godly answers.
The Prophet (pbuh) told his followers that the best way to draw closer to God is through dhikr, supplications, remembrance of God. Our five daily prayers are not a gymnastic exercise but rather is like knocking at God’s door saying, “I am once again here in Your presence”. We can have our Lord’s full attention any time, for as long as we want. God never turns us away.
The gift of the inner light is to partake in Divinity, and to see the Divinity within. Iman (faith) allows us to not just find our inner light, but to fully embrace that light until it chases away the corners of darkness within us. The more we reach out to God, the more God re-energizes and empowers that light within us. The more we reach out to either nothing or to false gods, ie. nations, tribes, organizations, etc., the more our light quivers and dims. The wise person would seek to be filled with as much light of God as possible; the unwise would say, “There is so much darkness around that I might as well let the light go out in me as well,” and then all is lost.
God promises that if we seek the path of light, God will hold our hands to take us out of the darkness and into the light. When God’s light shines within, you long for the Beloved. It brings a near philosophical understanding upon you so that you see everything for what it is and your heart is emptied from greed, jealousy, competition, pettiness, and hate. As mentioned in the Quran, those with this strong light tread upon the earth softly, because their heart is so full of the Divine, that the earth nearly does not feel their impact. You don’t stomp on the earth demanding that it submits to you, because you and the earth submit to God.
The ethics of those who become full with God’s light are the rejection of injustice and inequity (taghut), and being drawn to all that is beautiful, just, merciful, and compassionate. The Quran reminds us that there is no religion without a measure of light. Ignoring injustice and oppression makes having this light within impossible. God’s divine guidance makes you averse to everything that is ungodly: suffering, powerlessness, oppression, harm and tyranny.
When talking about Israel’s excavations under the Aqsa mosque, putting the mosque in danger, Jewish and Christian theologians fail the test of light. They talk about many ethical issues related to God and God's justice, but never mention the suffering of the Palestinians, as if they do not exist. One cannot have God's light in them if they do not notice the plight of those who suffer.
To claim to have God’s light in you but not be bothered by the great inequities that exist in the world today, including support for despotism, mass human rights violations, and the largely disproportionate suffering of dark-skinned people, is hypocritical. That hypocrisy is a sure sign that the Divine is not within. God reminds us time and time again that God does not love the unjust, and that injustice and oppression are antithetical to the soul of Islam and the nature of Divine light.
That is precisely why when you are drawn to the light, you are drawn to beauty, justice and equity in all of its forms. You do not only think of your own comfort or needs, but are ignited by a Divine light to think of the suffering of others, as if to say, “What is within me is that I exist to serve you.” That has been Islam from the very beginning until today. Pray with me that Muslims remember that.
QURANIC COMMENTARY (TAFSIR) ON SURAH 92: AL LAYL (Conclusion)/SURAH 91: AL SHAMS (Start)
9 November 2019
Part 1: In the introduction to the halaqa to conclude Surah 92 Al Layl (The Night) and begin Surah 91 Al Shams (The Sun), Director Grace Song reacts to a recent Facebook post about the state of communicating with Muslim teens, and shared some personal stories, insights and ideas about how she approached parenthood and the challenge of teaching her kids to love God, Islam and being Muslim. Part 2 is the beginning of the Quranic commentary (tafsir) on Surah 92 Al Layl. Part 3 is the beginning of the Quranic commentary (tafsir) on Surah 91 Al Shams. Part 4 is Q&A.
"...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