More Convert Birthday Presents to Share! WITNESS by Wietske is Launched!

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

I pray you are well! This past Wednesday, March 1st, was one of the BEST. DAYS. EVER! It was my 29th convert birthday and wow, did I get some amazing presents! So in the interest of sharing my presents and spreading the gifts of light that came to me, here is what arrived for me on March 1st (where did the time go?? I don't feel like I am even 29 in real life much less as a convert!)!

GIFT #1: WITNESS, Wietske Merison's first music album, sponsored by Usuli, was released in FULL! All 10 glorious songs plus two Calls to Prayer! Listen and love it!
GIFT # 2: USULI CONVERSATION: WIETSKE AND GRACE - ON WITNESS by Wietske Merison! Wietske and me talking about her music, the story behind the music, the process, and most importantly, the Divine influence and inspiration that goes into her songs! I have been talking about this very special two-hour conversation that we recorded the day after we finished the professional recording of her album, and now I am so over-the-moon to share it. Wietske is brilliant, wise, deeply-reflective, humble, and so wise. No kidding, the conversation itself was an incredible education and religious experience in all the best ways! Check it out!
GIFT #3: THE BEST INTERVIEW EVER! Momodou Taal interviews Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl!
Last weekend, Dr. Abou El Fadl was interviewed by our dear friend, Momodou Taal, for his podcast called, The Malcolm Effect, on the topic of Islam, Muslims and Modernity. We didn't know when it would be released, but God facilitated that it would drop on my convert birthday! AND WHAT A DIVINE PRESENT! This is truly one of the best interviews I have heard the Shaykh give, and believe me, I have heard A LOT of interviews over the last few decades - probably 95% of all of the interviews he has ever given! The reason why this one was so special was that for our time and where we are, Shaykh's words are like the breath of fresh air - the insight, the expertise, the medicine, the wisdom, and the comfort that we all need right now. Momodou is a brilliant interlocutor, and the two together are epic, as one friend described! Shaykh covers all of the topics of our day in a profoundly insightful way - everything from racism to colonialism, feminism to LGBTQ, to why Muslims today like to align with the right-wing. He talks about what we have been doing at Usuli and how his Qur'anic commentary (Project Illumine tafsir) is unique in its own right. He covers A LOT of ground. It is a VERY satisfying conversation, and truly a gift that needs to be shared. 

You can find it here:
Apple Podcasts:
Google Podcasts:
Player FM:

By chance, I came across my introduction to our halaqa on Surah 84: Al Inshiqaq two years ago, where I told some stories about my conversion on the occasion of my 27th convert birthday. I can't believe that two years has passed since that introduction! But hopefully, if you haven't seen it before, you might find it interesting or entertaining. Funny memories! :) 

Lastly, if you want to help me celebrate my birthday, please consider donating to make our next project come to life! :)

PROJECT ILLUMINE II: THE LIGHT OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD: "Decolonizing the Sirah in the Age of Islamophobia: A Master Class"

We have been planning for 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 direct-to-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 the Prophet 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)! 

PROJECT ILLUMINE TONIGHT: Surah 90: Al Balad and Surah 95: Al Tin!
These short surahs are incredible and I cannot wait!! Hope to connect with you online soon insha'Allah (God willing)! May God comfort, inspire, console, uplift, and empower you always!
In Peace and Hope,

Executive Director
The Usuli Institute

P.S. If you are receiving this weekly email for the first time, WELCOME! If you took part in our Share With A Friend campaign, we have added you to our email list for your convenience, but if you receive too much email in your inbox, we will understand if you want to unsubscribe. If you want to keep up with what we are doing at Usuli, you will receive this email every weekend! Hope you enjoyed The Prophet's Pulpit Volume I! Volume II is coming soon insha'Allah! :)

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