The Usuli Institute is proud to present its educational events via livestream when possible, and recorded for viewing online on our YouTube channel or as listed below. Our regular Halaqa (Circle of Learning) sessions cover both pressing issues confronting humanity today, as well as deeper investigations into the Islamic Intellectual tradition such as Original Qur'anic Commentaries (Tafsir) and the Meaning, Purpose and Effect of Prayer. In our Usuli Institute Conversation Series, we bring guests to discuss specific issues or hot topics. In the Usuli Institute Intros, Executive Director Grace Song shares personal stories, reflections and ideas on the importance and impact of the Usuli method on everyday life as a modern Muslim in America seeking the divine path. Our Friday Virtual Jumu'a and Khutbahs offer weekly spiritual and intellectual inspiration and uplift for living as thinking, ethical and engaged Muslims confronting modern-day challenges. Be sure to follow us on Facebook for the most up-to-date notifications of events and new uploads.
Part 1: Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl continues his original Quranic commentary of Surah 95: Al Tin (The Fig). He delves into the depth of meaning of this short chapter, discussing the range of scholarly opinions about the significance of figs and olives; creation and the human condition; and the foundational themes of choice, free will and dignity emphasized throughout the Quran.
In the introduction, Director Grace Song shares personal stories about experiences as a convert; what she learned from the Muslim community as a young convert on how to be a good Muslim; and her reflections on the impact of such messages. She addresses the power of perception and language with regard to Islam and Muslims in the West, and calls for a rethinking of each.
Part 2 is Q&A. Delivered 15 June 2019.
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl presents his original Quranic commentaries on Surah 97: Al Qadr, one of the shortest yet most important chapters of the Quran, which holds depths of meaning not usually discussed in the modern Muslim context. Dr. Abou El Fadl delves deep into the nuances of meanings and understandings expounded by Islamic scholars and jurists over the centuries to present the power of this formative surah in the moral development of early Muslims. He addresses ways to understand the great blessings that come with Laylat al Qadr, the Night of Power/Destiny/Decree--meanings translated into English that do not fully capture the greatness of the blessings of the special night and what it holds for the believers.
In the introduction, Director Grace Song talks about the efforts to raise funds for the Usuli Envisionary Mosque; the jihad of ideas and what goes into the Usuli khutbahs and halaqas; and standing up against the Muslim Holocaust in China. She shares a personal story of why she fell in love with Islam.
Part 2 is Q&A. Dr. Abou El Fadl answers questions around Surah 97: Al-Qadr; the Night of Power; Prayer; Angels and much more!
Dr. Abou El Fadl presents his original Quranic commentary (tafsir) on Surah 98: Al Bayyinah and the levels of meanings and understandings beyond the typical English translations.
In the introduction, Director Grace Song discusses her early days as a Muslim convert and discovering the tradition of knowledge and how it had the effect as an antidote to "checklist mentality" she encountered at the mosque. She addresses the confusions around a convert's experiences and expectations vis a vis Islamic law, Shariah and American law as a new Muslim, and her understanding of scholarship as an art form.
Part 2 includes Q&A.
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl continues his original Quranic commentaries (tafsir) covering Surah 99: Al Zalzalah, a surah which confirms that people will see the consequences of their actions, both large and small, and the implications of this. Includes important discussions on hadith methodology and abuses of taking hadith without proper technical training, as is common among modern day Muslims. He also discusses Islamophobia and its use of recurring themes and tropes to instill doubt among Muslims and fear among non-Muslims.
In the introduction, Director Grace Song discusses the New Zealand massacres as the evil fruit of a long and well orchestrated, well funded campaign of Islamophobia. She talks about how to immunize oneself from the powerful effects of Islamophobia through education and spiritual and mental liberation. She addresses questions she receives about crises in faith and what Muslims need to do to make a difference. She shares stories and examples of how as a convert, she navigated questions of faith using the tools discussed at the Usuli Institute.
In the Q&A, Dr. Abou El Fadl addresses questions related to the implications of being made aware of all of the consequences of one's actions, good and bad, big and little, and the difference between being aware versus accountable for those actions. He discusses the idea of predestination; what it means to think only of this world without the ability to think beyond the material world; the impact of Sufism in Islamic history, particularly given the fact that 90% of Muslims were Sufi's prior to the age of colonialization and that most conversions around the world took place because of Sufi music, dancing and art; the question of whether or not the Prophet owned slaves, and more. Delivered 16 March 2019.
In the introduction, Director Grace Song discusses the powerful net take-away from Dr. Abou El Fadl's most recent Friday virtual khutbah, in which he argues that Muslims in the West can and must start anew in defining their faith, casting away the hypocritical and despotic messages of Islam coming from Middle Eastern lands, and instead, relying on the God-given religion of fitrah (natural instinct, intuitiveness and innateness) where the justice, beauty and reasonableness inherent to each human being is their guide. She encourages everyone to watch and share this transformative khutbah, which gives Muslims back their faith, releasing them from all of the ugly, oppressive and backwards messages that make people turn away from Islam. Muslims in the West have now been given permission and license to redefine what it means to be a thinking, ethical and moral Muslim in our day and age. Lastly, she pays honor and tribute to Guido Santi, a dear friend and documentary filmmaker, by telling the story of Guido and his importance in the history of the Usuli Institute.
In the Q&A, Dr. Abou El Fadl answers questions about how to understand and navigate the three different levels of interpretation of the chapter from more literal to more figurative; how to access this knowledge given one's understanding of Arabic; cremation and organ donation; prayer on non-Muslims and more. Delivered 16 February 2019.
In Part 1 of the Usuli Institute Halaqa, before jumping into the Quranic Commentaries (tafsir) on Surah 101: al Qaria, Khaled Abou El Fadl adds more insight and afterthoughts following the previous halaqa on the Meaning, Purpose and Effect of Prayer from 22 December 2018. In the introduction, Director Grace Song shares more insights on what type of people convert to Islam, what they experience in the early stages of conversion, and how to survive the early experiences of being a Muslim convert.
In Part 2, Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl presents his original Quranic commentary (tafsir) on Surah 101: al Qaria, and then addresses Q&A covering both questions about prayer as well as questions raised from the current halaqa.
Part I: In this special session at The Usuli Institute, Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl explains the form and substance of the ritual prayer of Islam, what is known as the "backbone" of the faith, and discusses the meaning and significance of each of the component parts: the ablution, the standing, the bowing, the prostration, what is recited and much more. He delves into the deeper meaning, power and purpose of prayer, the way that prayer affects the energy of the space in which it occurs (as well as the lack thereof), and the meaning, divine design and effect of prostration. In the introduction, Director Grace Song answers two questions from a previous halaqa on strength, vulnerability and creating goodness. She discusses the power of dignity, and shares personal stories on healing from trauma and sexual abuse, building empathy from pain, and how to build the habit of spreading kindness.
Part II: Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl answers questions on the meaning and purpose of prayer: prostration as a means of rebellion against injustice and how it relates to Muslim leaders that support or do not oppose oppressive regimes; on praying in the Arabic language; on the necessity of praying extra prayers; on praying less than the 5 daily prayers; on quality over quantity of prayer; and more.
Khaled Abou El Fadl continues his original Qur'anic commentary (tafsir), elaborating on the meaning of Surah at-Takathur. In the introduction, Executive Director Grace Song, gives perspective on finding one's true authentic self, owning vulnerability, and creating human connectedness from a Muslim point of view. Includes Q&A.
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl presents his original Quranic commentary on Surah 104: Al-Humazah, which is directly relevant to the current state of affairs in the world. In the introduction, Director Grace Song discusses the travesty of the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation and its implications from the lens of a Muslim woman convert.
In Part 2, Dr. Abou El Fadl addresses Q&A.
Part 1: Dr. Abou El Fadl delves into a new surah (chapter) and continues his original Quranic commentary (tafsir) on Surah 110: Al Nasr. In the introduction, Director Grace Song shares personal reflections and testimony on the journey of praying and prayer as a Muslim over time.
Part 2, Dr. Abou El Fadl talks about a manuscript saved through donations and answers questions about Surah 110: Al Nasr and other topics.
In Part 1, Dr. Abou El Fadl concludes the Quranic commentary on Surah al Rahman from Verse 67 through the end. In the introduction, Director Grace Song relates two reflections on life in the U.S. as a Muslim, one about middle school and one about the power of the puppy.
In Part 2, Dr. Abou El Fadl begins with two final points about Surah al Rahman and answers the question of what advice would he give to young Muslim graduate students? He briefly addresses follow up from the discussion on Shahab Ahmed's book "What is Islam?" and answers questions regarding Surah al Rahman and life as an academic for young Muslims.
Part 1: In the introduction, Director Grace Song discusses Westworld and the idea of "cornerstones," which define a person; the perils of social media; what it means to be a feminist and a Muslim feminist. Then, Dr. Abou El Fadl continues to present his original Qur'anic commentary of Surah al Rahman through Verse 65.
In Part 2, Dr. Abou El Fadl answers questions about the tradition of khalwah (solitude or seclusion for the purpose of drawing closer to God) in Islam, and on traversing levels of paradise.
In Part 3, Dr. Abou El Fadl presents a scathing critique of the book "What is Islam?" by Shahab Ahmed and also discusses his work on the Satanic Verses.
In Part 1, Director Grace Song discusses her most powerful role model for a Muslim woman, her mother-in-law Afaf El-Nimr. She also talks about the oppression facing the Uyghur Muslims in China. Dr. Abou El Fadl further elaborates on the crises in China, Burma, the Middle East and around the world as a product of Islamophobia and the burden upon Muslims to invest in combatting Islamophobia.
In Part 2, Dr. Abou El Fadl continues his original Quranic commentary on Surah al-Rahman, covering verses 34 through 48 and includes Q&A.
Part 1: In the introduction to the Usuli Institute Halaqa, Director Grace Song speaks about her experiences as a "recovering racist" in her journey after conversion. Dr. Abou El Fadl speaks about the Tariq Ramadan case.
In Part 2, Dr. Abou El Fadl continues his original Qur'anic commentaries (tafsir) on Surah al Rahman Verses 26 through 33. Q&A included.
Part 1 of 3: In the introduction, Director Grace Song shares stories about the place and power of knowledge in the Muslim experience, especially as an American convert confronting "Modern Day Muslim Urban Myths." She answers the question of how her life is better after becoming a Muslim; what a typical week looks life in the cause of knowledge; and the economic fallout from not investing in knowledge. She and Dr. Abou El Fadl talk about saving Islamic manuscripts. Dr. Abou El Fadl gives insight into the devastation against Islamic manuscripts and what it means for decolonizing Islam. He discusses the current state of the Muslim world and how Muslim countries are effectively paying jizya to the West for its protection.
Part 2 of 3: Dr. Abou El Fadl continues his original commentary on Surah al-Rahman, covering verses 15 through 25.
Part 3 of 3: Dr. Abou El Fadl answers the following questions along with fascinating personal stories and commentary:
1. Do Muslims have a theory of justice?
2. What is the value of Muslims going into academia?
3. Is islamic Studies as a field colonized? What will it take to decolonize?
4. What does the Usuli Institute seek to offer given the current environment?
5. How did being in academia not shatter your beliefs?
6. To what degree does the search for beauty in Islam require an experience of pain?
7. Why are there no female prophets?
8. How were you able to be a successful and openly a practicing Muslim throughout your career in academia? And more!
In 7 parts. Introduction by Director Grace Song on what she learned about the notion of bravery over the years as a Muslim convert. She answers a question about how she, as a woman, deals with the rampant popular notions of Islam as a patriarchal and misogynistic religion.
Dr. Abou El Fadl opens by discussing the state of Muslims around the world and the involvement of non-Muslims in Muslim conflicts. He discusses the overlap of interests of Imperialists and Wahhabis and the signs of how Muslims have strayed to the wrong side of history with regard to Jerusalem, Palestine and their importance to the future of Islam in the world. God's blessing are withdrawn from those who fail to stand up for just causes. Islam is not tribal; there is no guarantee of salvation because of tribal affiliation, rather only through ethical, moral and just action. In this halaqa, he will begin discussing the chapter of the Quran called Surah al-Rahman, presenting his original commentary (tafsir) on the text of the Quran.
Recorded on 23 June 2018.
Dr. Abou El Fadl discusses the notion of light, luminosity and divinity and their interconnectedness and deeper meanings. In the introduction, Director Grace Song discusses the importance of the work at the Usuli Institute for non-scholars who are seeking truth and how to live as moral and ethical Muslims. She poses questions for reflecting on finding one's own truth as a confident and empowered Muslim, particularly during the month of Ramadan. Includes Q&A. Recorded on 19 May 2018.
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl engages a private audience on the challenges confronting Muslims and Islam in America, the Islamophobia network, and the what it will take to turn the tide of hatred against Muslims today. He discusses the current intellectual state of Muslims, its educational institutions and what it takes to be an effective Islamic intellectual in modern times--those who have mastered both the Islamic tradition as well as the modern systems of knowledge in a particular context, from philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and much more. Includes Q&A from the audience. Recorded on 21 April 2018.
In the third meeting of the Usuli Institute, we begin with a discussion of converts. Dr. Abou El Fadl discusses the historical dynamics of conversion in America, and the relationship of colonialism and Islamophobia, as well as the underlying theology of the "straight path" and the meaning of imaan. In the Q&A segment, he covers a wide range of topics from jinn and demons; to the what it will take to make a difference in our current context; to the intercession of the Prophet; shaking hands, wearing beards and much more. Recorded on 5 February 2018.
In the second official meeting of the Usuli Institute, Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl continues the frank and incisive discussion of the current state of affairs in the Muslim intellectual context, and what is necessary for Muslims to reform and reinvigorate the Islamic intellectual tradition in our times. He discusses the meaning of "Usuli" and what it means to follow Usuli principles in the Institute's work. In 3 parts including Q&A, with Time Stamps. Recorded on 6 January 2018.
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl inaugurates the grand opening of the Institute for Advanced Usuli Studies. This session begins a new monthly halaqa series and the efforts to build this new Islamic think tank. In this introduction, Dr. Abou El Fadl presents an honest and critical assessment of the current state of Islam nationally and globally. We encounter a term new for most of us: Usuli. He offers his vision and dream for this effort, a forum for bringing together our most talented individuals to push intellectual and creative boundaries in addressing humanity's most pressing problems. And we take our first step towards reclaiming a beautiful, reasonable and moral Islam, the final chapter of a continuing divine message to all the Abrahamic prophets, from Prophets Abraham to Moses to Jesus and Muhammad. In 5 parts. Recorded on 9 December 2017.