Greetings of Peace! I pray you are well! Greetings from California! I have been traveling this week, so things have gone a little bit awry in my absence. If you tuned into the Book of Illuminations halaqa this past Saturday, you will have had the distinct pleasure (?) of hearing Rami's introduction in which he shares the "survival journal" that he has been keeping in the days that I have been away, during which he and Shaykh have had to "survive" without me. If you have never heard Rami's introductions before, let me just say that part of what comes with helping seekers find true liberation, empowerment, and one's divine gifts through this journey of knowledge and discovery is the generous acceptance of all kinds of humor -- and often, helping to navigate the fine line between brilliance and insanity. Rami's introduction was the perfect encapsulation of all of the above. :)
In my absence, I offer my sincerest apologies: 1) for this delayed weekly email and countless unanswered emails :(, 2) for not having the edited versions of the khutbah and Book of Illuminations yet available across our various platforms, and 3) for any unintended consequences from Rami's freeform exercise of humor. May we all earn blessings for our patience and kind support of Rami's journey of self-discovery, liberation, and empowerment! LOL!
But all jokes aside, let me take this opportunity to introduce you to another superstar at Usuli, Rami Koujah. He is currently a PhD candidate in Islamic law and legal theory at Princeton University and one of our research fellows from the Project Illumine tafsir project. He is part of the rockstar team that will be working on polishing the Project Illumine Quranic Commentaries and preparing it for publication, insha'Allah (God willing). Rami also earned a B.A. and M.A. from UCLA, an M.St. from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. Notably, he was just selected as a Newcombe Fellow. Check this out:
"Fifth-year Ph.D. student Rami Koujah has been named a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellow. Koujah specializes in the study of Islamic law and legal theory, and his dissertation, 'Islamic Legal Personhood: An Intellectual History,' discusses the intellectual history of legal personhood in Islamic jurisprudence — who (or what) counts as a person in the eyes of the law — and its entanglement with philosophy, politics, and theology.
"The Newcombe Fellowship, funded by the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, is the largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values in interesting, original, or significant ways..."
With all of that brilliance, one can forgive the occasional crossing over the boundary into insanity! (Don't worry, all of the puppies and neighbors are fine...) Rami has been a student of Shaykh's since Rami's UCLA days, and aside from being a beautiful soul, he is an absolute fan favorite at Usuli! He's a keeper! :)
REVIEWS OF THE PROPHET'S PULPIT, VOLUME I:
In one of my recent introductions, I shared three fabulous reviews that we just received from Readers' Favorite on The Prophet's Pulpit. These were reviews by reviewers that are unfamiliar with Usuli, Dr. Abou El Fadl, and the work we do. You will see that two of the reviewers are not Muslim. It is wonderful to read their reactions. In case you missed it, I wanted to re-share them here:
Review #1: Reviewed by Jamie M. for Readers’ Favorite:
The Prophet’s Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam, Volume I by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl is a collection of inspired sermons on Islam's current condition, emphasizing faith's core values being diluted due to internal/external pressures. Dr. El Fadl discusses issues like declining jumu‘a quality, state-controlled mosques, and religion's misuse for personal gains, and addresses ethical decay among Islamic scholars. The sermons encourage Muslims to critically evaluate religious teachings using reason and intuition. Dr. El Fadl tackles challenges faced by modern Muslims, including colonization, Islamophobia, and human rights abuses, urging a return to Islam's key principles of justice, dignity, and resistance to oppression. By emphasizing personal reflection and a robust relationship with God, Dr. El Fadl advocates for ethically engaged Islam as a solution to its current crises.
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl's book, The Prophet’s Pulpit, is an enlightening collection of khutbahs, sermons delivered to Islamic congregants, providing rich spiritual and ethical insights. Going into the book I had many questions, like how is it that in a world with the highest literacy rate in history, most Muslims I met had only ever learned to read the Holy Qur'an but did not know what they were reading? How does one balance the acceptance of a dictator in a predominantly Muslim country with the faith itself, when Muslims are being persecuted by these leaders for telling the truth? Dr. El Fadl addresses the manipulation of religion for power, emphasizing that the authenticity of faith is revealed in action, especially in confronting injustice. It expresses that, as Muslims, one is called to cultivate critical thinking to discern fact from incorrect interpretations of Islam. In my humble opinion, the work extends beyond reading just for Muslims. It invites all with a genuine interest in Abrahamic theology to consider their own understanding of faith and spirituality and serves as a lens to perceive Islam and its practices in a new light, fostering a broadened perspective for imams, scholars, academics, and people of diverse faiths.
Review #2: Reviewed by Asher S. for Readers’ Favorite:
The Prophet’s Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam, Volume I by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl is a religious guide by way of a khutbahs series. The book promotes fostering collective responsibility and the importance of jammat. El Fadl laments ineffective leadership that creates disengagement among attendees. In times like the pandemic, the virtual jumu'a was good in theory but not in practice and El Fadl makes alternative recommendations. The book highlights the need for selecting religious teachers with care and an authentic, beautiful understanding of Islam. El Fadl goes further still with the importance of transparency within the Muslim community and a call to recognize our interconnectedness, moral responsibilities, and proactive attitudes toward helping those in need.
The Prophet's Pulpit by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl is one of the most courageous and profoundly honest khutbah series I have read. The book is intellectually written but still not difficult to understand if a reader has a lesser reading level. The prose is strong enough to stand on its own and it is deeply stirring. I came out of the COVID-19 pandemic after a year of virtual jammat and even though our masjid did not try to imitate in-person jumu'a, I liked the suggestion to amend it correctly to connect youth in non-Muslim countries to prioritize relationships with and raise informed, proud Muslim children. The Prophet's Pulpitis an excellent compilation that I will be going back to over and over again to refer to and help strengthen my own deen. Very highly recommended.
Review #3: Reviewed by Constance S. for Readers’ Favorite:
Islam in crisis is the central theme of the book The Prophet's Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, a compilation of sermons given by this noted Muslim scholar. This potent call to action links global concerns to essential precepts of the faith. Such vital synergy informs readers of how Islam must reconceptualize its purpose and mission, combatting widespread apathy. Based on his application of Quranic scripture, the author persuasively states that having innate reason and compassion, Muslims are uniquely qualified to address worldwide concerns. Religious obligations must include human rights activism, combating injustice, and opposition to pervasive Islamophobia, the widespread vilification of the faith. However, each believer must establish a one-to-one relationship with God, the source of empowerment.
The Prophet’s Pulpit thoroughly examines the benefits of virtual gatherings. Regardless of the forum, the immense power of delivered messages is founded on Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl’s extensive knowledge of Islamic and Western jurisprudence and having invested decades combating those who feed on human horror. Through presenting evidence of inhumane desecrations in tandem with the emphasis that dedication to activism dates back to the time of the prophet Muhammad, his sermons have inordinate value. The book is exceptional because of the author's background and powerfully motivating words to impel changing life paths; for believers to dedicate themselves to such causes. Those following a different religious path would benefit from reading The Prophet’s Pulpit. Its wealth of insight offers much to Muslims and those of other faiths.
I am proud and delighted by these reviews - each reviewer gave The Prophet's Pulpit the top honor of a 5-star review! And notably, the two non-Muslim reviewers commented that this book would be a good read for readers of other faiths! :) If you haven't had a chance to read The Prophet's Pulpit yet, I hope these reviews will entice you to do so! And, our Share With A Friend campaign for Volume I continues! Email Dalia@Usuli.org if you would like a gift copy or if you would like to gift someone a copy!
Wishing you a blessed week full of light, beauty, and peace! Look forward to seeing you online soon insha'Allah!
In Peace and Hope,