Al salamu alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatohu! I pray that your Ramadan has been full of light, meaning, and connection to God. My favorite part about Ramadan is the feeling in the air - palpably different - and the promise of Ramadan blessings and the unexpected Ramadan miracle, which can come in many forms, shapes, and sizes. May you experience a Ramadan miracle! It is hard to believe (and a bit sad) that Ramadan is already almost halfway over!
A Prayer for Cameron Lee
Sadly, we just recently learned that our dear friend and long-time Usuli community member, Cameron Lee, left this world to return to his Lord on April 1, 2022, the first evening of Ramadan. I had the great blessing and pleasure of sharing a very touching and unique conversation with Cameron, shortly after he learned that his liver was failing in his six-year battle with cancer and likely had about one month to live. I had the very special opportunity to ask Cameron about his life, legacy and experiences as a Muslim convert last month. If you didn't have a chance to watch, here it is again.
Please keep Cameron and his family in your prayers. We ask that God receive him with love, forgiveness and mercy, and that God will grant patience and strength to his loved ones who are suffering
from the loss of his presence. From God we come and to God we all shall return.
We will be starting a new surah tomorrow insha'Allah!
Alhamdulillah that after twelve halaqa sessions, we were blessed to complete Surah 4: Al Nisa' last Saturday, concluding with a fabulous Q&A! We will be starting our 75th surah in Project Illumine tomorrow night insha'Allah!
Let's pause for a moment and reflect on that incredible number. With the completion of Surah Al Nisa', we completed 74 surahs of the Qur'an in incredible depth, comprehensive consistency, and with life-transforming clarity. We have before us 40 surahs left to cover in the Project Illumine series. We are WAY past the halfway point. Further, if one takes into account the previous surahs that have been presented by Dr. Abou El Fadl in the traditional line-by-line style, I believe we have taken deep dives into 96 total surahs, or in other words, there are 18 surahs that are yet to be discussed.
The fact that we are witnessing this one unusual scholar's deep mastery of every single chapter of the Qur'an - and what one must learn and understand to achieve that mastery - is nothing short of mind-blowing and historic. I simply cannot wrap my brain around it. We are seeing something unprecedented, and sometimes in the speed of life, it is hard to recognize the significance of an event unless we stop and have a moment to take it in.
In the halaqas, Dr. Abou El Fadl has often referenced the idea of "Muslim Mozarts," Muslims who are given incredible talents by God in some area of command like art, music or the humanities, but who never meet their full potential because they were pressured by culture and society to pursue medicine, engineering or business. How many Muslim Mozarts, Beethovens or Bachs have been lost to the Muslim Ummah? The same could be said for gifted Islamic scholars. But in our case, it feels like we are witnessing a Muslim Mozart of the Qur'an - what we are learning is nothing short of symphonic and elevated, something presented to us with the command of a maestro immersed in the music of the Qur'an - and not just parts here and there but the ENTIRE Qur'an! Dr. Abou El Fadl's treatment of and approach to the message of the Qur'an is consistent, comprehensive and cuts right to the core of what we feel in our hearts is the truth. I am consistently blown away.
The fact that we are trying to capture this entire tafsir and publish it - and the fact that nothing original like this has been done at least since Muhammad Asad 40 years ago only points out how rare this is in any person's lifetime, especially in our lifetime. I have lived with this unusual scholar for decades and had no idea what was happening in his journey with the Qur'an. I did not know that I could ever understand the Qur'an in this way, especially as a non-Arabic speaker. All I can say is that I feel blessed to be experiencing this moment, which I believe has the potential to leave an important mark in history. Think about what we are doing in the context in which we live. Truly amazing and often hard to fully comprehend. If you are reading this and you feel the same, I am so grateful that you are with us on this often lonely journey. May God help us each learn what we need to learn, and do our part in carrying forward and elevating the learning from God's Magnificent Book to others.
Virtual live-streamed Taraweeh Prayers!
With the start of Ramadan, we have once again been live-streaming nightly Taraweeh prayers! If you would like to join us in prayer virtually, be sure to subscribe to The Usuli Institute YouTube channel and you will get notifications when we go live. We usually go live sometime between 10:30 pm to 11:30 pm ET, depending on the day.
Catch up on Usuli Institute Content!
It is really stunning how much content we have created since we began Project Illumine in earnest last January 2021. If you just do a search on the Usuli Institute, you will get a wealth of content, whereas a year ago the main link that would come up would describe Usuli as a religious movement by Persian Shiite Muslims in 17th century Iran! What a difference a year makes as we try to tilt the Artificial Intelligence about Muslims and Islam towards the positive on the Internet!
If you have the blessing of more time or headspace during Ramadan to dedicate to learning, be sure to watch some of our recent events that were especially transformative and eye-opening:
Master Class on Muslims, Race and Law: Experience Professor Abou El Fadl's UCLA Law School class on Muslims, Race and Law! In this session, he discusses the history of Black Muslim movements in the U.S.; post-colonial history in the Middle East; and the politics of Saudi Arabia, among many other things. Importantly, it is an edifying, holistic view of the history, dynamics, challenges and place of Muslims today as a racialized group.
Dispelling Myths from an Islamic Perspective: Q&A on Sexual and Spiritual Abuse:
Transparent, honest and empowering. This is a discussion to be shared far and wide - we cover an important list of questions that many people have about what to do in cases of abuse, especially at the hands of religious authority.
We are working on Part 2 soon insha'Allah (!) 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.
Keynote Lecture to the 2022 National Muslim Law Association Conference: Dr. Abou El Fadl shares his experiences as a Muslim pioneer - the only Muslim in his law school class - and throughout his 30-year career as a law professor at UCLA Law School. Given the climate for Muslims in America now, it is an opportune time for Muslim lawyers and aspiring lawyers to think beyond the prestige, paycheck and power that lawyers can achieve. Dr. Abou El Fadl counsels the importance of considering what God would find most pleasing in yielding that path to power in the service of social justice and the disempowerment of Muslims everywhere.
DR. ABOU EL FADL TARGETED BY ISLAMOPHOBES AGAIN
**We are rattling the cages of the Islamophobes!! Whenever they find something spectacular that Dr. Abou El Fadl does that can change the hearts and minds of reasonable people, they can't stand it and write him up! Once again, Dr. Abou El Fadl was featured by several Islamophobic websites including Campus Watch and Middle East Forum (Daniel Pipes) on his keynote speech! Check it out!
Ramadan Matching Gift Program - Double your impact!
We have created a new LaunchGood campaign to draw more attention to our Matching Gift Program for the month of Ramadan! (You can donate through LaunchGood, The Usuli Institute website or through our PayPal page - ALL DONATIONS WILL BE MATCHED!)
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! I pray that we can take full advantage of this blessed gift over the course of the month!
Want to discover the beauty of 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 Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books and The Great Theft: Wresting Islam from the Extremists. Then third would be And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses. Fourth 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!
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 and Project Illumine halaqa tomorrow night at 6 pm ET - FEATURING A NEW SURAH!! TO BE DETERMINED!!
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,
The Usuli Institute