In 2017, Dr. Abou El Fadl founded The Institute for Advanced Usuli Studies, or "The Usuli Institute," a new Islamic Think Tank to counter ignorance and extremism. Dr. Abou El Fadl began holding monthly circles of learning (halaqa's) to address the state of intellectual affairs in the Muslim world. For more on the Usuli Institute, visit www.usuli.org.
Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl inaugurated the grand opening of the Institute for Advanced Usuli Studies this Saturday, Dec 9, 2017. 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.
Part 1 Time Index:
0 – 13:20 Introduction by Grace Song (Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl's wife) onto Dr. Abou El Fadl and the Usuli Institute.
13:22 – 17:00 About the Usuli Institute. The formation of knowledge and the “egotistical ‘I’” i.e. the idea of being a leader and the hesitancy to set up another group with a structure.
17:30 – 21:00 Defeatism we as Muslims feel, i.e Muslims always having to explain themselves.
21:00 – 22:10 'Ta'aruf', i.e. “coming to know the other.” Self-reference comes from our own insecurities.
22:15 – 23:15 Why Dr. Abou El Fadl finally agreed to lead the Usuli Institute. His dream for others to lead it eventually. A coming together of great Muslim minds.
23:45 – 27:00 Why the Usuli Institute, and why the name 'Usuli'? "The divine inspires the human self to rule itself, not for the divine to rule every small action of the human."
27:00 – 30:00 What does God want of us?
31.06 - 35:00 How Islam is practised. Hijab discussion by al-Azhar.
Part 2 Time Index:
0 – 1:25 The difference between Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them.
1:30 – 4:00 Creative impulses, ritualism, being at the forefront of humanistic thought, i.e. the call for justice. "God cannot be equal to stupidity and ignorance…and if you find a formula in which the religious manifests itself in a lack of intelligence and creativity, you immediately notice that there is something instrinsically wrong with their practise of religion"
4:00 – 5:20 Today’s Islam will not produce Rumi, Ibn Tufayl, Hafiz or Ibn Rushd, etc.
5.30 – 7:50 The phenomenon of Islamophobia, which is racism at its heart. Discussion on Jerusalem.
7.50 – 10:00 Islam and patriarchy.
11:30 – 16:25 The dream of the Usuli Institute: to discuss issues that Muslims do not discuss dynamically. Finding the intellectual minds to discuss these issues. Issues such as patriarchy, hijab and the role of migrants, etc.
16:30 – 20:45 Racism and whiteness within our communities, externally through Islamophobia.
21:00 - 24:00 The ethical and truthful imperative of Islam
26:00 – 28:00 The nature of life and Iman: we must testify in the context of where we exist in time and place.
28:00 – 35:00 The concept of jihad in Islam. The consistent protest of our messengers and Prophets against unjust situations. Jihad doesn't mean you are waging war, it means constant struggle and discomfort. Your life on this earth is supposed to be hardship. The more you speak out against injustice, the tougher your life will be.
Part 3 Time Index:
0 – 1:52 Becoming non-entities, as we are now unfortunately. We must challenge injustice everywhere.
1:52 – 5:25 The Usuli institute aims and gaining independent funds. The contribution you can make should you be inspired.
5:33 – 6:30 Having creative thought and artistic thought - a much needed resource needed in Islamic thought.
6:30 – 8:00 Rohingya Muslims’ Genocide
8:00 – 10:00 "Islam is nothing if it's not a revolution against oppression" – Our muslims organisations need to be at the forefront against sexism, racism and oppression.
10:00 – 13:24 "Why do we invest our resources in redundant institutions that repeat what we already know, ad nauseum?" We must use our intellect and remarkable ability to think creatively. Say something original!
14:00 – 16:00 A brief description of Dr. Abou El Fadl’s in-house Library.
17:00 – 19:28 Our intellectual history making things haram, why? We are at the forefront at musical scales; without music flourishing in Andalusia, western classical music would not have existed.
19:30 – 22:40 We need to nurture our talent within the Muslim community. We alienate our brilliant minds. A brilliant mind will not produce orthodoxy.
23:00 – 24:50 Jesus performed miracles. The miracle of Islam is the intellect.
25:00 – Q&A
25:00 – 35:00 In Andalusia, our intellect and art were flourishing, when did it die down and why? Why did our intellect die down?
PART 3 AND Q&A Part I
Q&A Part II
Q&A Part III
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.
Part 1 Time Index
0 – 4.10m Introduction by Grace Song and ways you can help the Usuli Institute!
4.10 – 19:00 Continuing from Grace Song, on speaking as a woman in an Islamic organization and from personal experience, the challenges of become Muslim in this day and age.
19:30 - 22:00 Dr. Khaled Abou Fadl and his further elaboration on the aims of the Usuli Institute. “The aim of the Usuli Institute is to reinvigorate Islamic discourse”
22:00 - 23:30 The state of our intellectual institutions as Muslims. Our institutions and our faith do not teach us to regurgitate information ad nauseum.
23:30 - 24:50 The role of knowledge and not deifying your worship of God as an affirmation of your ego.
24:50 - 26:00 Muslim “Apologetics” and how we define and accommodate ourselves as Muslims to categorise what we are. It's disastrous.
26:43 - 29:00 All reality that we live in is socially constructed. If all the epistemological intellectuals are either decisively secular or are non-Muslim intellectuals. Muslims haven't added anything new yet. We should be at the forefront. “Name a serious Muslim philosopher that has engaged in the 20th century”
30:10 - 31:50 The fallacy of activism unless it is guided by purpose. Especially social activism, it is merely reactionary.
31:52 - 33:15 Back to the Usuli Institute and its aim to eventually support grassroots Islamic academic research and new thought. “We are the worst consumers of books in the world.”
33:15-35:00 We asked last time, but we'll ask again “what are the most pressing issues facing Muslims today” Please answer in comments below.
35:30 - 40:00 We need more new research. For example, there's a fascinating new piece about a Muslim woman jurist named Amat al-Wahid. She was supposed to be more knowledgeable in Islamic fiqh than Imam Shafi’i. Imam Shafi’i was effectively responsible for usul al fiqh. What did it mean for a woman to be more knowledgeable than Imam Shafi’i? We need research. To consistently support research, the dream is for the Usuli Institute to offer fellowships and present great research.
41:00 - 44:23 – Allah is our purpose, our aim and absolute obedience. If prayer is offered like a sacrifice, i.e. to want something out of obligation, you need to reexamine your relationship with Allah.
44:25 - 47:18 The meaning and description of the word Allah.
47:18 - 50:36 The important role of women in Islam, at its inception and during its height. Women were instrumental in the spread of Islam.
51:00 Islamophobia and Black Mirror the TV show! “Focus on history and pain, if you don't have pain in your life you don't have a teacher...History and pain will make you feel God in the very fibre of your being.” Islamophobia was funded at a time when we were getting ready to invest in going to war with Muslim countries. We've slaughtered 2 million in Afghanistan and Iraq…this would have been impossible to do if there were any outrage. Nobody cares, we've become completely depersonalised due to our dehumanisation with the Muslim 'other'. Islamophobia is a machine. Nobody batted an eyelid when we talked about nuking Iran. (cont’d below)
57:20 (cont’d) The Islamic message isn't about vengeance, it's about mercy and justice.
59:30 – (cont’d)The Islamophobic industry, polemics and people like Robert Spencer and his dishonest discourse.
1:00 - 1:03 The seed of this institution is finding that beauty of this longing for Allah.
1:03 - 1:06 The interaction between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The only thing standing in the way is the ritualism of the Muslims.
1:06 - 1:08 The ethical aim of Islam and justice go hand in hand. Our philosophical history is rooted within ethics with God and not without God. We have forgotten the field of Kalaam.
1:10 - end being pragmatic about our tradition. Because it's a human tradition.
Part II, Q&A Part 1:
0 - 3:00 Story about Abbasid Caliph who appoints a female judge in our early history, centuries ago.
3:00 - 6:19 How to challenge Islamophobia.
6:19 – Does the Quran not instruct us to react for social change? With so many Islamic Studies programs in academic institutions, what is going on there? - We have no decolonised Islamic Studies.
21:00 – A further exploration of Islamic academia, the state of Islamic academia in the West today.
The constant sidelining of Muslims due to inherent Islamophobia within the western academic studies. We Muslims don't put our money where we have problems.
25:17 – Mulla Sadra. A must-read philosopher.
28:10 – Questions from the UK and abroad
Are your Usuli Principles arbitrary or enough?
Are the 5 pillars enough?
Is following a madhab required free from boundaries or following a conventional thought?
Can I listen to death metal music?
Part II, Q&A Part 1
49:20 – What would be your 20 yr roadmap to building better institutions for American Muslims?
56:50 – Is money the only obstacle? Money and proper academic standards
59:30 – Why do you think we should follow your aspirations? What is Islamic about taking an aspirational step?
Part III: Q&A Part 2
0 – 7:40 Love of the Prophet is vital to our Islam.
10:00 – The idea of faith and obligation. To testify will send ripples through time. Right now, doing the right thing is what matters.
12:20 – Is it right for me to be concerned about what we might see as moral decreptitude, should I as a Muslim be concerned about what goes on around me?
20:00 – Should we be evangelical about spreading our faith?
26:00 – The idea of putting forth an ethical paradigm within Islam, how do we do dawah unlike the sterile, yet disturbingly focused way of the Wahhabis?
36:00 - You describe Islam as beauty – what type of separations do you find to give that term its place in society?
Part III, Q&A Part 2
43:17 – On the Mu'atazili.
48:00 – On the scourge of the Wahhabis
49:00 – How do we come together as a whole to join this common cause for the Usuli Institute?
54:20 – How often do you do Dhikr?
55:20 – 1:00 The limits of spirituality and the depths of knowledge.