Greetings of Peace (al salamu 'alaykum) dear Friends,
As we near the end of 2023, let us pray that there are better days ahead for us all in 2024 insha'Allah (God willing). If you watched Shaykh's powerful and emotional khutbah this past Friday, then you know that we are fed up with the status quo. I look forward to working hard in 2024 to push the envelope through new and ground-breaking projects that will inspire, empower, and unleash our collective potential insha'Allah. One thing is clear, the status quo does not work. Look at what is happening Muslims all around the world. We have the most profoundly beautiful message in Islam through God's Book, and yet, we are at the bottom of the proverbial barrel on every front. We truly believe the way forward is through love, music, story, song, humanism, beauty and light. We have lots of exciting projects in the pipeline and I hope you will be with us and support us!
USULI'S TOP TEN ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF 2023!!
Last year at this time, I shared my personal Top Ten List of the best things that happened at Usuli in 2022! As we close out 2023, I wanted to do the same once again. Even though it felt like the year passed in a blink of an eye, we actually accomplished quite A LOT! Here is my top ten list:
10. Launching our Usuli Supercast Podcast Platform that allows you to listen to our content on your favorite podcast platform (Apple Music, Spotify, etc.). Now you can take us with you wherever you go and listen to our fabulous content! :)
9. Share with a Friend Campaign for The Prophet's Pulpit, Volume I: Thanks to a blessed donor who fell in love with this book and wanted to get it into everyone's hands, we were gifted with the ability to send a gift copy to anyone who wants one, anywhere in the world. To date, we have sent books to over 60 countries around the world! The campaign continues to go strong, especially as people continue to share it on social media. Help us get the word out and increase the blessings of our dear donor! If you would like a gift copy for yourself or a friend, email email@example.com with your full mailing address. We have been sending the books to book clubs, conferences, Muslims prisoners, and non-profit organizations. It has been changing lives everywhere alhamdulillah (thank God)!
8. Amazing Conversations - all year long, we have offered incredible conversations on a broad range of topics from conversion to parenting to academia and much more. What I love most is that these conversations are smart, critical, engaging, and wholly relatable. We love to go above and beyond what would be expected...!
7. Real Talk with Mido and Baba / Real Talk with Cherif and Baba: This is my favorite series! We have been doing these since 2019, when our youngest son, Mido, was 14. This year, we had the blessing of having our older son, Cherif, join in! And wow, these conversations are really deep, thoughtful, and surprising but above all, important for all generations!
6. Launched Usuli Music and released our first album: Witness by Wietske Merison: This was an incredible project that grew from a seed of a dream. The music is divine, the musician is beyond gifted, and the result is simply out of this world! Dare I say, look forward to Album 2 insha'Allah (God willing)...? :)
5. Our Palestine Programming since October 7, 2023: On the evening of October 7th when the world changed, we held our first Real Talk on Palestine event, and have been offering powerful and insightful programming on Palestine ever since. With the ongoing genocide, we could not go on with "business as usual" but instead, try to find ways to add value to our collective understanding and our calling as Muslims. We have tried to speak loudly and bravely in these desperate times.
2. THREE-WAY TIE!!! Is this cheating? I seriously don't know how to rank order these three incredible accomplishments, so I gave them all second-place! You be the judge.
a. 52 Powerhouse Khutbahs week after week, with the introduction of the gifted Cherif and Shayan! It is no small feat to deliver incisive, moving, and powerful khutbahs week after week. Dr. Abou El Fadl schools us like no other on how to live and engage with the world as ethical Muslims. We covered A LOT of ground! Just look at these titles. This year, we were so proud to welcome Cherif and Shayan to the Prophet's Pulpit and they were nothing short of impressive and inspirational. Truly, alhamdulillah. This gives me so much hope for the future.
b. The Book of Illuminations Halaqas: Beginning in May 2023, Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl began presenting his original commentary on the book, "Kitab Al Hikam (The Book of Illuminations)" by Shaykh Ibn Ata'illah al-Iskandari. We were able to complete nineteen halaqas before the events of October 7, 2023 brought them to a halt. At some point in the future, Dr. Abou El Fadl would like to complete this series before proceeding to Project Illumine II: Decolonizing the Sirah in the Age of Islamophobia. Insha'Allah (God willing) we will be able to return to this important learning in the not too distant future. What we already covered so far was life-transforming.
c. We published Volume II of The Prophet’s Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam: Within one year of publishing Volume I, we were back with Volume II, which is absolutely brilliant in its own right. This volume consists of 25 powerful short essays, building upon the learning from Volume I, yet taking us broader and deeper into new territories of learning. The Prophet's Pulpit is a very special series, and insha'Allah (God willing), we look forward to releasing the third book of the trilogy, Volume III, in 2024.
And drumroll for #1 - the greatest thing that happened at Usuli in 2023.....
1. Completing the Project Illumine: Light of the Qur’an journey: No surprise here. It's not every day you complete a monumental commentary on THE ENTIRE QUR'AN!! And what a journey it was. This is our legacy project, the most important contribution to our world, and the foundation from which all else is built. It was truly a stunning, eye-opening, and orbit changing engagement. Nothing is the same after this journey, and we were all blessed to be a part of it, alhamdulillah. I simply have no words for the impact of this learning, but it can change everything. If you haven't started this journey, all I can say is, what are you waiting for? :) To get a sense of how others experienced it, watch the Concluding the Journey last episode where I read some thank you letters in my introduction. From here, we are working hard to turn the entire three-year journey into a multi-volume published work insha'Allah.
So there you have it! The best of 2023, and this was not even all of what we did! I am beyond grateful to everyone who played a part in anything and everything we did this year. God knows all, and I pray that each and every one who had a kind thought, a prayer, a generous donation, or even sent a message of love will be blessed and honored for your support of our work. A most heartfelt THANK YOU to all!! May 2024 bring better days for all of us insha'Allah.
Most importantly, if you like what we do, please support us and our ability to continue doing what we are doing. You can make a donation here: https://www.usuli.org/donate/
My latest piece on Substack.com is entitled, "Team Light v. Team Darkness: A Redline Moment. On Faith and Lessons from A Modern Day Hero." This piece was inspired by Wayne Hsiung, an animal rights activist, whose example of sacrifice was so inspiring, it made me rethink my own attitudes and behavior about veganism and animal cruelty.
As always, I am honored to share the writing of Wietske Merison, whom I appreciate more and more each week. This is truly an inspired series that everyone needs to read. Wietske writes as a "Muslim Birder," sharing powerful stories and reflections at the intersection of the Qur'an, nature, and God's incredible creation of birds. These essays will make you think, reflect, and grow. Seriously. And at the end of this week's incredible piece, Wietske gives us the gift of music, her beautiful rendition of the gospel song, "His Eye is On The Sparrow." Check it out:
On her Substack: Gift from the Heavens: Musings of a Muslim Birder
With this upcoming holiday week, I hope you will have some time to enjoy this valuable content! While the news and images from Palestine are grim and devastating, we can fight back by educating ourselves as an act of resistance.
AN END OF YEAR MESSAGE
As we near the close of 2023 (!!), I would like to make a heartfelt plea for your financial support (if you are able), especially now that our tax dollars in the U.S. are currently funding genocide. I hope that you will consider taking this opportunity to divert your tax dollars into a tax-deductible donation towards supporting our work here, teaching and applying Qur'anic ethics and speaking truth to power. We are proud to offer what I believe is tremendously valuable knowledge. And, we have a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline that we would like to complete, most importantly, the publication of the entire Project Illumine Qur'anic commentaries, and in the nearer term, Volume III of The Prophet's Pulpit - and much, much more! In these especially dark times, we believe we offer something unique and compelling, fully rooted in our rich intellectual tradition, and powerful as an antidote to the injustices of our day. Many people are curious about Islam as a silver lining to the genocide in Palestine. We would love to make Usuli's ethical, humanistic, and beautiful approach to Islam more visible and accessible to a larger audience. Please help us do more and better with your support. Every tax-deductible donation to our work is one less dollar potentially used to support the genocide! Thank you so much for considering, and may God return your investment exponentially! You can donate here: https://www.usuli.org/donate/
May God bless you and your loved ones always, and empower us to take whatever action is within our means to make a difference. May God strengthen, comfort, and forgive us all. Ameen. Look forward to seeing you online soon insha'Allah.
In Peace and Hope,