The Usuli Institute Second Halaqa, 6 January 2018

In the second official meeting of the Usuli Institute, Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl continues the frank and incisive discussion of the current state of affairs in the Muslim intellectual context, and what is necessary for Muslims to reform and reinvigorate the Islamic intellectual tradition in our times. He discusses the meaning of "Usuli" and what it means to follow Usuli principles in the Institute's work. 


Part 1 Time Index

0 –  4.10m Introduction by Grace Song and ways you can help the Usuli Institute!

4.10 – 19:00 Continuing from Grace Song, on speaking as a woman in an Islamic organization and from personal experience, the challenges of become Muslim in this day and age.

19:30 - 22:00 Dr. Khaled Abou Fadl and his further elaboration on the aims of the Usuli Institute. “The aim of the Usuli Institute is to reinvigorate Islamic discourse”

22:00 - 23:30 The state of our intellectual institutions as Muslims. Our institutions and our faith do not teach us to regurgitate information ad nauseum.

23:30 - 24:50 The role of knowledge and not deifying your worship of God as an affirmation of your ego.

24:50 - 26:00 Muslim “Apologetics” and how we define and accommodate ourselves as Muslims to categorise what we are. It's disastrous.

26:43 - 29:00 All reality that we live in is socially constructed. If all the epistemological intellectuals are either decisively secular or are non-Muslim intellectuals. Muslims haven't added anything new yet. We should be at the forefront. “Name a serious Muslim philosopher that has engaged in the 20th century”

30:10 - 31:50 The fallacy of activism unless it is guided by purpose. Especially social activism, it is merely reactionary.

31:52 - 33:15 Back to the Usuli Institute and its aim to eventually support grassroots Islamic academic research and new thought. “We are the worst consumers of books in the world.”

33:15-35:00 We asked last time, but we'll ask again “what are the most pressing issues facing Muslims today” Please answer in comments below.

35:30 - 40:00 We need more new research. For example, there's a fascinating new piece about a Muslim woman jurist named Amat al-Wahid. She was supposed to be more knowledgeable in Islamic fiqh than Imam Shafi’i. Imam Shafi’i was effectively responsible for usul al fiqh. What did it mean for a woman to be more knowledgeable than Imam Shafi’i? We need research. To consistently support research, the dream is for the Usuli Institute to offer fellowships and present great research.

41:00 - 44:23 – Allah is our purpose, our aim and absolute obedience. If prayer is offered like a sacrifice, i.e. to want something out of obligation, you need to reexamine your relationship with Allah.

44:25 - 47:18 The meaning and description of the word Allah.

47:18 - 50:36 The important role of women in Islam, at its inception and during its height. Women were instrumental in the spread of Islam.

51:00 Islamophobia and Black Mirror the TV show! “Focus on history and pain, if you don't have pain in your life you don't have a teacher...History and pain will make you feel God in the very fibre of your being.” Islamophobia was funded at a time when we were getting ready to invest in going to war with Muslim countries. We've slaughtered 2 million in Afghanistan and Iraq…this would have been impossible to do if there were any outrage. Nobody cares, we've become completely depersonalised due to our dehumanisation with the Muslim 'other'. Islamophobia is a machine. Nobody batted an eyelid when we talked about nuking Iran. (cont’d below)

57:20 (cont’d) The Islamic message isn't about vengeance, it's about mercy and justice.

59:30 – (cont’d)The Islamophobic industry, polemics and people like Robert Spencer and his dishonest discourse.

1:00 - 1:03 The seed of this institution is finding that beauty of this longing for Allah.

1:03 - 1:06 The interaction between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The only thing standing in the way is the ritualism of the Muslims.

1:06 - 1:08 The ethical aim of Islam and justice go hand in hand. Our philosophical history is rooted within ethics with God and not without God. We have forgotten the field of Kalaam.

1:10 - end being pragmatic about our tradition. Because it's a human tradition.

Part II, Q&A Part 1:


0 - 3:00 Story about Abbasid Caliph who appoints a female judge in our early history, centuries ago.

3:00 - 6:19 How to challenge Islamophobia.


6:19 – Does the Quran not instruct us to react for social change? With so many Islamic Studies programs in academic institutions, what is going on there?  - We have no decolonised Islamic Studies.


21:00 – A further exploration of Islamic academia, the state of Islamic academia in the West today.

The constant sidelining of Muslims due to inherent Islamophobia within the western academic studies. We Muslims don't put our money where we have problems.


25:17 – Mulla Sadra. A must-read philosopher.


28:10 – Questions from the UK and abroad

Are your Usuli Principles arbitrary or enough?

Are the 5 pillars enough?

Is following a madhab required free from boundaries or following a conventional thought?

Can I listen to death metal music?

49:20 – What would be your 20 yr roadmap to building better institutions for American Muslims?


56:50 – Is money the only obstacle? Money and proper academic standards


59:30 – Why do you think we should follow your aspirations? What is Islamic about taking an aspirational step?


Part III: Q&A Part 2


0 – 7:40 Love of the Prophet is vital to our Islam.


10:00 – The idea of faith and obligation. To testify will send ripples through time. Right now, doing the right thing is what matters.


12:20 – Is it right for me to be concerned about what we might see as moral decreptitude, should I as a Muslim be concerned about what goes on around me?


20:00 – Should we be evangelical about spreading our faith?


26:00 – The idea of putting forth an ethical paradigm within Islam, how do we do dawah unlike the sterile, yet disturbingly focused way of the Wahhabis?


36:00 -  You describe Islam as beauty – what type of separations do you find to give that term its place in society?

43:17 – On the Mu'atazili.


48:00 – On the scourge of the Wahhabis


49:00 – How do we come together as a whole to join this common cause for the Usuli Institute?


54:20 – How often do you do Dhikr?


55:20 –  1:00 The limits of spirituality and the depths of knowledge.

The Movement to Reinvigorate Beautiful and Ethical Islam has begun.  Join us.

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