qatarperegrine: (rumi)
Last Thursday, my friend Doug and I attended a talk on "The Spirituality of Jihad" over at Georgetown. The speaker was Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi, from the Institute of Ismaili Studies. He's written several books on Shi'a and on mysticism in Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. He has a bachelor's in International Relations and a doctorate in Comparative Religion, so basically I want to be him when I grow up.

The talk was rather loosely organized, but I thought Dr. Shah-Kazemi said some interesting things. It's always fun to hear a Shi'a/Sufi perspective, since mostly around here we hear Sunni/Wahhabist perspectives.

(All quotes from the Qur'an below are reconstructed from my notes of his on-the-fly translations. If you want to read official translations of the verse, I recommend the USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts.)

Dr. Shah-Kazemi's Talk )
In conclusion (or in abstract, if you didn't read the above): armed struggle is permissible in Islam in very limited circumstances, and only to protect religious freedoms. More vital, though, is the "greater jihad" or the struggle to conquer our own caprices and egoism.
qatarperegrine: (niqab)
I was going to write about Yvonne Ridley's talk on Islamophobia, but I don't feel I have much to say. I agree with a colleague who said Ridley just didn't add much to the dialogue. Her speech consisted largely of outrageously unsubstantiated claims that most of the audience agreed with anyway, and that was about that. It didn't really fuel intellectual discussion.

There's not much to refute when everything she said was couched in vague sentiments like "we should develop a zero-tolerance approach to anyone who'd try to dilute our faith" without specifying who is diluting the faith or (more importantly) exactly what a zero-tolerance approach would mean.

Much of the talk was actually from her recent article Beware the Happy Clappies, so if you did not hear her speak, reading that will give you a gist of her rhetoric.

The only major section of her speech not appearing in the article was on the Mohammed cartoon controversy. Specifically, she lifted up the Muslim world's response to that incident as an ideal display of Muslim values and solidarity. She said that the Muslim response sent the message "We can be strong; you can only push us so far." As proof of this she said gleefully that "You'd have to have an editor with suicidal tendencies to publish a cartoon [like those] again." I found this rather stunning. I don't know any Westerners who feel they have a more positive understanding of Islam as a result of the Mohammed cartoon controversy.

Harking back to my blog entry about about pacifism in Islam, she also said, "Muslims are not pacifists. We're peace-loving people, but we're not pacifists."
qatarperegrine: (quran)
Here is the promised write-up of the Muslim Youth in Education City meeting I attended last week.

This is a new student organization; I gather this was their second meeting. By my count there were 10 men and 22 women in attendance, in addition to us kuffar (Jess, Kristin and me). The genders sat separately. At the beginning of the meeting, a student recited a section of the Qur'an (6:122-127) and another read some related hadiths.

Talk by a recent convert )

After a break for prayers, the students reconvened for pizza and conversation. The most interesting part to me was when Jess asked the students how they can reconcile an all-loving and all-powerful God with the existence of eternal torment in hell. Theological justifications for hell )
After this conversation they broke into small groups for Qur'an study, and Jess and I ducked out.

I found the evening pretty fascinating. Jess and Kristin, I'd love it if you'd add your thoughts.
qatarperegrine: (quran)
Texas A&M's Cultural Exchange Club flew in a guest speaker last night to address the question "Why Defend the Prophet?" The speaker was Abdul-Rahman Thakir Hamed, MD, a clinical psychologist from Dubai.

On the whole, I was disappointed in the talk. I went because I wanted to hear someone discuss that topic, but instead Dr. Thankir gave a very loosely organized talk on his particular interpretation of Quranic psychology (in which he has a doctorate). I took four pages of notes so that I could post an outline of his talk, but to be brutally honest it was too vaguely organized to outline. So here, in an unorganized fashion, are some of his more interesting comments.

Dr. Thakir's talk )
qatarperegrine: (quran)
A few weeks ago, at Student Affairs' first "Food for Thought" guest lecture, Dr. Bilal Philips gave a presentation to the CMU-Q community (students, faculty and staff) about misperceptions of Islam. Here is a reconstruction of his points, based on my compulsive notes:

Misconceptions about Islam )
If anyone else who was there remembers something more/different, please comment!

There was also a brief question-and-answer time afterwards, the most memorable part of which was an argument about whether the Arabian peninsula is failing to live up to Islam's standards of tolerance since visible non-Muslim places of worship are not allowed here (as they were in Moorish Spain, etc.). Dr. Bilal argued that this situation is simply an extension of the masjid haram -- since the whole Arabia peninsula is the sanctuary surrounding the Ka'aba, it's reasonable to be more strict about the practice of faith here. Not everyone in the audience agreed.

All in all I thought it was a very good and well-thought-out presentation. Ten points to whoever can pick out which of his outline points pushed my buttons, though. (David figured it out IRL.)
qatarperegrine: (ramadan)
Last night I went to the Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam for an evening lecture on Ramadan. I was very impressed; it was presented both professionally and warmly. It was held in the majlis of the Ladies' Division of QCPI, which is a government-funded organization that teaches Arabic language, Qatari culture and Islamic studies. A majlis, if you missed my previous post on the topic, is the Gulf equivalent of a sitting-room; it is traditionally a fabric tent attached to the front of a house, with cushions or low couches all around the edges (it's rude to sit with your back to someone here) and a carpeted floor. They are where people gathered to drink Arabic coffee and talk. (I'm speaking here of the men's majlis; the women's is inside the house.) Traditionally, your majlis would be open 24/7 and any man could come in and recieve your hospitality. Nowadays, as in the case of QCPI, the "tent" is really a fabric construction inside of a room, complete with air conditioning and electric lights.

WAAAY more than you want to know about Ramadan )

Since I'll also be working shortened hours during Ramadan, I'm hoping to read the Quran like my Muslim coworkers will. If anyone wants to join me, get your Quran ready; Friday night, inshallah, I'll be starting with Surah 1 (Al-Fatinah) and 2 (Al-Baqara) ayat 1-141.

And, in other news, I just updated my reading list again; this weekend I finished Dan Brown's Angels & Demons and Sinclair Lewis' Babbitt. (It was an eclectic weekend.)

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August 2011

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