Recap on Q&A with Khaled Abou El Fadl on Spiritual and Sexual Abuse

Dear Friends,

Greetings of Peace! I pray you are safe and well and looking forward to the start of our blessed month of Ramadan in one week's time insha'Allah! We have some exciting surprises in store for the month insha'Allah! Stay tuned...

I am so happy to report that last weekend's Q&A event on Sexual and Spiritual Abuse: Dispelling Myths from an Islamic Perspective exceeded all expectations - it was breathtakingly honest, disarmingly transparent and truly empowering. It felt blessed from the power of truth and depth of knowledge we experienced. If you haven't already, I hope that you will have a chance to watch it at some point. It was so enlightening and important that we have already started thinking about a Part Two to this event, and simultaneously, another topic that we would like to cover in this "Dispelling Myths" series. Truth not only has a cleansing and liberating effect, but as we learned in this session, it is a duty for all of us as ethical Muslims to uphold justice - and to not be complicit in injustice through our silence. There were so many special segments in this two and a half hour session that flew by.

First, we were especially blessed to kick off our session with a brilliant performance by the accomplished spoken word poet, Sofia Baig that left us riveted and teary-eyed. Then, we launched into our program, which consisted of a curated Q&A, which covered some of the most confusing and pressing questions that we felt represented important issues and concerns from an Islamic perspective. Because of the sensitive nature of the topics, we recruited volunteers to pose questions to the Shaykh. 


Here was our list of starting questions:

  1. Define sexual abuse and spiritual abuse;
  2. What if it was "consensual" between a man and a woman? Is that still abuse? Can it truly be consensual when a power dynamic exists?  Islamically, even if someone expresses their attraction clearly, what are the responsibilities of the authority figure? 
  3. Are secret or temporary marriages allowed? 
  4. On the Islamic directive to "Conceal the sins of your brother" being used as a reason for community coverups: what is the responsibility of the community when we are taught to conceal the sins of others?
  5. Abusers often use manipulation tactics to stop victims and their supporters from speaking out by weaponizing their unfamiliarity with their Islamic legal rights. How do we empower victims against this form of spiritual gaslighting? 
  6. Should we not speak ill of the dead even if they perpetrated abuse? What about the rights of the victims? 
  7. A lot of Muslim spaces/individuals are afraid to openly address or admit to any wrongdoings because of the pressure to be a model minority and not to feed into Islamophobic narratives. Does talking about this sexual and spiritual abuse in our community perpetuate that narrative? 
  8. How do we address victims of the abuse and their shaken faith? How can they find their way back to Islam when their relationship to Islam was tied heavily to an abuser? 
  9. How do we reconcile the good and the bad from an abusive shaykh/scholar's work, i.e., should we disregard all the material/lectures/lessons they have contributed or can we still learn from them? 
  10. How do we protect women when it comes to relationships between scholars and their students, but still ensure that women are welcome in learning spaces? 
  11. If we become aware of or suspect abuse, what should we do? What is our moral and legal responsibility? How do we create space for the victims? How do we establish chains of accountability in our organizations?

These questions and their follow ups took us to eye-opening and surprising, often unexpected places, all extremely valuable. Perhaps the most powerful mic-drop moment came when the Shaykh shared a personal story in answering question 8, an empowering recasting of the notion of shame. All in all, it was a satisfying discussion that did not shy away from addressing difficult questions, and which tackled complex issues with empathy, nuance, clarity and common sense. You can find the recording of the Zoom event here.

We are already working on Part 2 to address more myths, misconceptions and misapplications of Islamic law in approaching the issue of spiritual and sexual abuse. If you have any questions you would like to suggest, please do write and let me know.

Some very kind souls have gifted us the ability to hold our very first Matching Gift Program during the month of Ramadan! So, all during our blessed month, every donation to The Usuli Institute will be matched dollar for dollar up to $40K! 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 mark your calendars! The anticipated start date for Ramadan is April 2nd, so I pray that we can take full advantage of this blessed gift over the course of the month!

Next, a Ramadan gift for yourself and others! Give the gift of knowledge! 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!
These books are absolute MUST READS for every thinking Muslim! This is the perfect time to load up your Ramadan reading list and get some amazing books at great prices! :) For those who want to know more about Usuli Institute methodology and the scholarship of Dr. Abou El Fadl, these books are gems.

Looking forward to seeing you online for our khutbah today - let's see if the Shaykh can outdo himself yet again! Every week the khutbah just gets better and better! And, I cannot wait for the continuation of Surah 4: Al Nisa' - Day 10!!! - tomorrow night at 6 pm ET. 

May God bless and elevate you always! Please keep all of us in your prayers as we continue on our mission to complete and publish the entire Project Illumine tafsir in book form! 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



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