I pray you are well! Let's start with a riddle:
"My sibling is one year older than me. We both look like we come from the same family, although our coloring is not quite the same. When we were born, respectively, I had over 91,000 and my sibling had over 70,000. My sibling likes to welcome people at the door. I like to take them deeper into the House. My sibling has traveled to 54 countries. I hope to start traveling soon. WHAT ARE WE?"
HINT: Our favorite joke is, "What is black and white and red all over?"
If you are unfamiliar with the joke, "What is black and white and [read] all over?" The answer is a book! The joke works better when it is said aloud since "red" is actually supposed to be the word "read" (pronounced red) - I know, not a great joke, but it is a great hint! :)
What is the answer to WHAT ARE WE? The answer is: The Prophet's Pulpit: Volume I and Volume II!
So why the riddle? Because I am so happy to announce that The Prophet's Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam, Volume II, by Khaled Abou El Fadl, Edited by Josef Linnhoff (Usuli Press, 2023), has officially gone into production! We handed over the 91,000+ word manuscript to the designers this week, and we are off to the races! We hope to be able to have the finished book in our hands sometime around Ramadan insha'Allah (God willing)!
The Prophet's Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam
Volume I and Volume II (mock-up)
So, I think it is pretty cool and a very big deal that Usuli Press will have published two new books in its first year of existence! My profound gratitude and serious kudos go to our Editor in Chief, Josef Linnhoff, who is a singular force. Without him, this could not have been possible. Joe tirelessly ingests and internalizes the work and then creates a symphony on the page. Of course, it all begins with the most incredible "raw material," the powerhouse khutbahs delivered week in and week out at Usuli by Dr. Abou El Fadl. And serious shout-outs need to go to the Usuli team behind the scenes that help with editing, proofreading, research, re-reading and more. And of course, I am beyond grateful to all of the donors who have believed in our work enough to support it. I am so proud of what we all have been able to accomplish together. May God accept, and may we continue to produce much more original and transformative work insha'Allah!
So, let me say a few words about Volume II, which has its own personality distinct from its sibling, Volume I. Volume II consists of 25 knock-out chapters, whereas Volume I has 22. As Joe explains in his introduction, "...Volume II has been organized as a deeper, perhaps more advanced, progression on Volume I." In other words, it builds on the learning from Volume I, as it should, and continues to take us deeper in. Thus, my riddle reference to Volume I welcoming readers at the door, while Volume II takes readers further into God's House of learning. Volume I is the entry point where we all get on the same page - we are all inducted into a methodology, an approach, an enlightenment. Volume II is where we journey further into the beauty and power of this edification. Let me give you an example. Here is an excerpt that blows my mind, from the chapter entitled, "How Do Our Youth Make Sense of This World?"
"There are certain undeniable truths in our lives. We are all aware of the fragility of life. The reality of death and regeneration occurs in every single second of our lives. We could not exist if millions upon millions of cells in our body did not die and regenerate. Without that process, nothing would be. We are surrounded by living things that fly in the sky or crawl in the ground and that will soon expire. That is the logic of existence. Our children grow up to learn that the pets they love will die, the people they love will die, and, while we are not quite sure what it means for our consciousness to expire, we know that we, too, will die. We are but a virus, heart attack, or accident away from expiration. Anything and everything could be the end of us.
This very logic testifies that our Lord, the Maker and Owner of existence, has created the logic of death and regeneration. But it is so easy for us to be oblivious to this. So many of us grow up believing that we are intelligent, sophisticated, and realistic human beings. We even place religion in the category of the “unrealistic.” Yet, nothing is more unrealistic than to be oblivious to the logic of existence that surrounds us. This is the logic that everything dies, we will die, death can come at any moment, and regeneration persists despite death. What are the chances that this singular and universal logic of death and regeneration persists throughout the universe? Why does the entire universe follow laws of physics that seem ironclad and unbreakable? It is absurd to claim that it is all simply by chance. That is the greatest act of unrealism. It borders on the insane to believe that it just is, because it is. We must concede that the logic of existence is so tight, so profound, that if we have any level of intelligence, we are forced to pay attention.
Everything in our lives, however, is designed to distract us from death. Everything that results from industry, capital, and the logic of sales and profits; everything we watch, read, and buy; even the food we eat and the clothes we wear; in short, everything modernity has produced – it is all designed to distract us from the inevitability of death. We know that we will die and that we cannot escape it. We know that death can come at any time. But what happens after death? Do you simply live, die, and then disappear? If so, then your birth is meaningless, and your death is meaningless. Your entire existence is meaningless. If that is what you believe, then you cannot explain how this universe is the result of such remarkable universal laws. You cannot explain the symphony of existence. Ultimately, you have no answers as to why you matter. Coincidence created you and coincidence takes you away. You will be forgotten like the billions of other human beings that once lived and then disappeared. Even if you are remembered in the books of history, if death is truly the end, then memory does not matter. Ironically, the logic of atheism is that the memory of Hitler is equal to the memory of Mother Teresa. It is all the same. For once we die, Hitler is no more, and Mother Teresa is no more, just as you are no more. According to this logic, none of it really matters. If there is no meaning beyond death, then why does it matter if I am remembered as a serial killer or as a great moral teacher? For I am dead and the idea that my legacy “lives on” is crazy. That some people may remember me makes no difference.
The only way for anything to mean anything is if, after death, the story goes on. If, in fact, after death, there is resurrection and accountability. Only then is there meaning..."
The power of words. Dr. Abou El Fadl does not mince words. He delivers each khutbah so eloquently and then Joe captures and transforms the spoken word to the written word so beautifully on the page. One of my absolute favorite aspects to Volume II is the section dedicated to Muslim Youth. We have five chapters dedicated to this topic and they go right to the heart of the crises of faith that so many of our youth (and adults) are experiencing - and where to go from here. It is breathtakingly frank and honest, which is both edifying and healing in itself.
In addition to the theme of Raising Muslim Youth, Volume II also presents chapters on the themes of Light; Reason, Dignity, and Justice; Lessons from History; and Racism and Islamophobia. As you know, Dr. Abou El Fadl addresses what is happening in the world in our times, so the topics touched in his khutbahs, and thus, in this volume, are both broad and deep. It is truly a commentary on the state of Islam in the world today through the lens of the Qur'an. If you loved Volume I, you will be over the moon with Volume II!
Between now and the release of Volume II, I will continue to share excerpts from the book to whet your appetite. In the meantime, we are so grateful to continue to introduce ourselves and our work through the generosity of our benefactor who has allowed us to gift free copies of The Prophet's Pulpit, Volume I, to anyone, anywhere in the world. To date, we have sent gift copies of The Prophet's Pulpit to 54 countries around the world! Volume I is truly our "Welcome at the door," so if you know others whom you would like to invite to our Prophet's Pulpit House party, please let us know! :) We are happy to send an invite (a gift copy of The Prophet's Pulpit, Volume I) if you send a name, full mailing address, and email address to Marwa@Usuli.org. And please send Marwa a prayer along with your email - she has lots of orders to fill, God bless her! :)
I am so excited for tonight's Project Illumine halaqa installment of Surah 5: Al Ma'idah, Day 5! Hope to connect with you online soon insha'Allah (God willing)! May God surround you and your loved ones in light, love, and beauty always!