Three Bits of Good News Amidst All the Bad News

Greetings of Peace (Al salamu 'alaykum) dear Friends,

**First please note that tonight's halaqa will begin at 8 pm Eastern, just for tonight!**

I pray you are well! We all need some good news to offset so much bad news in the world, so I hope that I can offer some welcome relief in this email God willing! I have three important items to share!

First, the countdown has begun for the release of WITNESS by our dear friend, Wietske Merison! The full album launch is a mere eleven days away! Mark your calendars for March 1st, 2023! And I was so happy when Wietske suggested that we share another song, so it is with great pleasure, joy, and gratitude that I can share with you this second AMAZING song, titled "City of Angels." It is one of my absolute favorites from the album. It is a song that showcases another dimension of Wietske - her commitment to social justice. I love that her music can go from the spiritual beauty of "Shahada," the first release, to the real and raw message of "City of Angels," delivered in a different, equally beautiful genre. Enjoy!

Second, we have been looking forward to our next engagement as we are nearing the completion of the halaqas for PROJECT ILLUMINE: LIGHT OF THE QUR'AN, the first complete and original English Language Qur'anic commentary (tafsir) in over 40 years. To be clear, the Qur'anic commentary online classes will conclude, but then it will shift gears to become a full-time publishing project - it will be a full-force effort to transform the last two and a half years of halaqas into a legacy multi-volume book! Exciting!

What will we turn our attention to in our halaqa sessions? I hope and pray, as I have been alluding to for some time, that we will be able to achieve our aim of journeying deep into the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) with Dr. Abou El Fadl, experiencing his lifetime journey with the hadith literature (reports about the life of the Prophet), just as we did with the tafsir. In order to make that dream come true, as all non-profit organizations must, we need to raise the funds to be able to do this project right. The good news is that this project has now officially taken shape and become a potential reality - and the contours and details of it are truly phenomenal! The challenge before us now is to raise the funds to bring the baby to term! So to help in the "birthing" process, I am so excited to launch our LaunchGood page for PROJECT ILLUMINE II: LIGHT OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD! We have titled the engagement, "Decolonizing the Sirah in the Age of Islamophobia: A Master Class," to convey the absolute importance of this project - as Dr. Abou El Fadl has demonstrated time and again in the Qur'anic commentaries, Muslims do not own their own history nor their own narratives. What we know of our tradition is largely seen through a colonial filter. To get at the truth and beauty of our tradition, we must re-examine, relearn and re-engage the hadith literature anew. Dr. Abou El Fadl dedicated his life to engaging this tradition as only a scholar could, working to satisfy his own questions. Now we have the opportunity to receive this precious understanding of the life of the Prophet. How can we allow this opportunity to pass? 

Dr. Abou El Fadl was focused on the intimate history of a great man - who he was as a person, why he was endearing to those around him, and how he lived, loved, prayed, and worshipped. This is not a review of the institutional history of the Prophet's life, or a chronology of the battles he fought or the treaties he signed. Similar to a previous 8-session halaqa he did entitled, "Humanistic Approaches to the Life of the Prophet," back in the late 1990s/2000s, it is an unprecedented, humanistic “first-hand meeting” with the Prophet based on Dr. Abou El Fadl’s extensive review of original Arabic texts. However, this master class engagement will include the 20+ years of additional research he has done since then!

Consider this tantalizing quote by Dr. Abou El Fadl:

“In researching the entire corpus of hadith traditions, it becomes apparent that so many of the reports about the Prophet Muhammad were built upon or shrouded by medieval mythologies. Yet, in the midst of this immense accumulation, there are reports that have all the earmarks of telling us a testimony - someone actually testifies to something real. And when you take all these things that testify to what is real, what emerges is a picture of who this man was and why what he did was so great. People think you can just open a book of hadith and just read it. You can’t do that. You are dealing with texts that were written hundreds of years ago by people whose outlook and understanding of their reality was very different. You have to take all of that into account when getting to the heart of who the Prophet was as a human being and why those around him loved him so dearly, which is what I was seeking to understand…”

Do you want to see this knowledge come to light? Help us! We also have the blessing of a most generous donor who will match all donations dollar for dollar up to $50K! God bless and elevate their family! Here it is:

We need to raise $185,000 by June 30, 2023 to secure one semester of weekly virtual halaqas that will run from January to June 2024. If we can raise another $185,000 by December 31, 2023, then we can secure a second semester of weekly virtual halaqas that will run from July to December 2024. This will be a subscription-only halaqa, with subscriptions for each semester costing $600 for the semester ($100 per month)/$500 if you subscribe BEFORE June 30, 2023. More details will be available on our www.usuli.org website next week, God willing (insha'Allah)! 

Lastly, I want to remind you about tomorrow's conversation between Dr. Abou El Fadl and Azeezah Kanji of the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto, Canada at 4 PM Eastern Time! It will be AMAZING!! Here is the information:

The Usuli Institute will be co-hosting with the Noor Cultural Centre, our friends in Toronto, Canada, with whom we have held several incredible conversations in the past including: Islamophobia with Guantanamo Survivor Mohamedou Slahi; a conversation about "What Islam Looks Like in Public" between Dr. Abou El Fadl and the amazing Azeezah Kanji of the Noor Centre; and my personal favorite, "Reading the Qur'an in Our Times," which took place at the very beginning of our Project lllumine journey and provided the backdrop for the importance of this project we have been engaged in for the past two years!

I am so pleased to announce that the next conversation between Azeezah Kanji and Dr. Abou El Fadl will be on the topic of love! Here is the info:

MUSLIM LOVE: A Conversation with Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl
Sunday, 19 February 2023 at 4 PM EST

In a world fixated on so-called “Muslim Rage,” the vast Islamic tradition on love as the fundamental principle of creation has largely been obscured, erased, and ignored.

Recovering this tradition transforms dominant ideas not only about Islam, but also about love: a love that doesn’t restrict and privatize our relations of care, but extends them – within and across communities, between humans and other-than-humans, to future generations – grounded in the ultimate love of God.

Please join us for this conversation with eminent scholar Dr Khaled Abou El Fadl on the profound implications of Muslim Love.

Date: Sunday February 19, 2023

Time: 4 pm EST
Admission: Free
To access: click here to view the event via YouTube Live

Please note – you do not need a YouTube account to view the live recording, but you will need one to comment/post questions.

Dr Khaled Abou El Fadl is one of the world’s leading authorities on Shari’ah, Islamic law and Islam, and a prominent scholar in the field of human rights. He is the Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law and the founder of the Institute of Advanced Usuli Studies (“The Usuli Institute”), a non-profit educational institute dedicated to ethics, beauty and critical thinking in the Islamic intellectual tradition.

Co-Sponsored By:

It should be wonderful, so please mark your calendars and join us! If you are unable to attend, we will of course provide the recording afterwards.

If you want more insights from Dr. Abou El Fadl on Love in the Islamic Tradition, also check out the following links:

In 2019, he gave a talk about Love in the Islamic tradition to an interfaith group in Los Angeles here: https://youtu.be/m7q0Bcvj8xk 

Here is the description to this beautiful talk:

Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl is the featured speaker for the Interfaith Study Group, and discusses the central role of love in the Islamic tradition as understood, imagined, explored, written about and expressed in books of tradition by scholars over the course of Islamic history. He covers the major themes in which theologians understood and discussed love: 1) God's eternally loving nature; 2) Humans as the specific object of God's love; 3) Humans' innate loving nature; and 4) God as the true object of human love. Dr. Abou El Fadl distinguishes between the approaches to understanding the faith from the perspective of a lawyer or jurist versus that of the theologian. He also distinguishes the vast differences in the notions of love; and even understanding Islam as the religion of love and a loving Creator in the premodern versus modern period, which brought with it the austere Wahhabi, and especially Najdi despotic approaches leading to the colonially-driven attempts at the "Arabization" of the Islamic tradition. Dr. Abou El Fadl presents a vast, nuanced and surprising landscape as to Muslim theologian understandings and discussions of love and unification with the divine; and conversely, what it means when rituals of worship are exercised without love and the resulting hypocrisy of faith. Includes Q&A. Delivered at the Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles, 14 April 2019.

Interestingly, at that time, he was going through a "Love in Islam" phase and also delivered four khutbahs on the topic of love, two of which are captured in chapters 7 & 8 in The Prophets's Pulpit, Volume I:

On Love and a Loving God: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lyDJUnBcx4
The Prophet's Prayer of Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAQrf7dt96g
The Dalil (Evidence) of Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yF0BtFzQMc
The Power of Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKPz1PoiBjk

AND OF COURSE, there is an ENTIRE SECTION ON LOVE in The Prophet's Pulpit, Volume I!


PROJECT ILLUMINE TONIGHT: Surah 105: Al Fil and Surah 106: Quraysh!
These short surahs are so life-transforming and I cannot wait!! Hope to connect with you online soon insha'Allah (God willing)! May God comfort, console, uplift, and empower you, and fill your heart with LOVE!!

In Peace and Hope,

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

Your donation to The Institute for Advanced Usuli Studies will help fund important work to combat extremism and ignorance. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity dedicated to research and education to promote humanistically beautiful and morally elevating interpretations of Islam. We seek to support our brightest minds to advance knowledge and to build a community of individuals founded on dignity, respect and love for all of God's creation. See The Usuli Institute Credo for our statement of values. Please give generously to support a beautiful, reasonable and vibrantly human Islam for future generations to come. All donations are tax-deductible and zakat eligible.


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