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Mar 14, 2022

Ramadan Readings

Ceramic Tile Tessellations In Marrakech

Ceramic tile tessellations in Marrakech

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Ramadan Readings

The Wisest Amongst Us

At Renovatio, we believe that religious traditions hold wisdom for even the most novel challenges we might face. And it seems fitting in Ramadan to renew our search for guidance in our sacred texts, in the paths of the prophets, and from the wisest amongst us. We’ve aspired to not only create a place for believers to reflect on our society’s social ills but also to consider our own individual shortcomings. With that in mind, we offer this timely selection from our archives.

Khalili Collection Islamic Art Qur 1076 1B 2A

Qur’anic calligraphy and illumination by Mahmud Celâleddin Efendi, 1778

A Multi-Miraculous Verse of the Qur’an

By Ghazi bin Muhammad

“The subject of the miracles of the Qur’an is too vast to do more than touch on here. It suffices to say that God Himself issues direct challenges about it that have never been met. God affirms that no one can produce another book like it (17:88, 28:49) or even ten chapters like it (11:13–14) or ultimately even a single chapter like it (2:23–24, 10:37–38).”

An Orange-Headed Ground Thrush and a Death's-Head Moth on a Purple Ebony Orchid Branch, Shaikh Zain al-Din, 1778

An Orange-Headed Ground Thrush and a Death’s-Head Moth on a Purple Ebony Orchid Branch, Shaikh Zain al-Din, 1778

The Logic of the Birds

By Oludamini Ogunnaike

“Many Islamic poets, particularly Sufi poets, advanced the idea of this ‘language’ or ‘logic’ of the birds as a kind of all-comprehensive mode of expression capable of communicating and synthesizing forms of knowledge that other media cannot. The famous poet-scholar Amīr Khusrau of Delhi wrote, “Science is like water in a cask: draw ten sound conclusions, and its volume decreases. Poetry, however, is an ever-flowing spring—and should you delve into it even a hundred times, it cannot diminish.’”

Evening Star

The Evening Star, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, 1865

The Idols We Carry in Our Hearts

By Rushain Abbasi 

“[T]he problem of idolatry as presented in the Qur’an is not concerned primarily with images or disloyalty per se but rather with the contamination (and compromise) of divine singularity through its association with created beings.” 

Page of The Qur'an from Granada, c. 1300 CE

The Human in the Qur’an

By Zaid Shakir

“Today, we can find answers for the fundamental question of what it means to be human that claim to cast doubt on the essential reality of our humanity itself. The Qur’an, however, affirms our humanness and describes four aspects of the human—our physical creation, our spirit, our natural disposition (fiţrah), and our light—all of which have an unmediated origin from God and combine to make the human a distinctive and special creation.”


Detail of a painting of Rūmī by Hossein Bahzah c. 1950

We're In Good Hands: The Remembrance of Death as Spiritual Medicine

Michael Sugich with Hamza Yusuf 

As younger men, Michael Sugich and Hamza Yusuf—friends for forty years—both had vivid experiences that reminded them of their own mortality. Here, they reflect upon the openings that prompt individuals to transform their lives, what they witnessed of the Islamic world of the 1980s, and the central place that recurring reminders about death occupy in the Islamic tradition—every single page of the Qur’an, remarks Hamza Yusuf, “has the scent of death on it.”

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A Fairy Moon and a Lonely Shore, 1890

On Divine Love

By Faraz Khan

“Jalāl al-Dīn Rumi proclaimed to the world through brilliant poetry that the only cure for pain is love—not transient love that succumbs to the passing of any worldly entity, but divine love that endures into eternity. Every soul yearns for this love in its deepest recesses, and only this love can cure the existential angst of the soul, given that the agony exists due to separation from God, the real beloved. Ideological substitutes for faith merely exacerbate the soul’s pain and eventually harm society, for such alternatives are born of whim and illusion. Rumi’s penetrating insight endows the human being with the means to transcend illusion, and his prescription emanates directly from the heart of Islam.”

Why Beauty Is Not Optional

Oludamini Ogunnaike with Ubaydullah Evans 

Ubaydullah Evans engages with Oludamini Ogunnaike on the quiddity of beauty, beauty as it relates to a fuller understanding of God, and the correlation between beauty and spiritual maturity.

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Depiction of the Battle of Nineva, Piero della Francesca, c. 1452

A New History of the Prophet of Islam ﷺ

Juan Cole with Hamza Yusuf

In this engaging conversation between world-renowned author and historian Juan Cole and editor-in-chief Hamza Yusuf, Yusuf describes his eye-opening experience reading Dr. Cole’s recent work, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires, as an unveiling that contextualized the prophetic biography amid an unfolding battle between two regional superpowers, the Eastern Roman and Sassanid empires.

Maulvi in meditation, Indischer Maler, ca. 1630

Maulvi in meditation, Indischer Maler, ca. 1630

The Listening of the Soul

By Zaid Shakir

“For the conscientious believer, the highest function of our ability to listen is to support the journey to God while still in this world. Success in that journey is predicated on a person’s ability to nurture his soul, or the nafs, which Muslim scholars understand as the essence of a person, as the part of the human constitution that serves as the locus of emotions, appetites, and passions—whether praiseworthy or blameworthy—and that gives the physical human body its personhood. Like the physical body, the nafs can change; it possesses the ability to move beyond its basest form, the lustful or bestial soul (al-nafs al-shahwāniyyah/al-bahīmiyyah) to the realm of human perfection (al-nafs al-kāmilah).”

Early Spring, Guo Xi, circa 1072

Early Spring, Guo Xi, circa 1072

The Sound of Silence

By William Chittick

“God speaks, constantly and forever, whether or not there are listeners to hear. To speak is to express awareness. God’s speech expresses His eternal knowledge and awareness of all things. God’s speech is real, true, and authoritative; the speech of anything else, in and of itself, is unreal, false, and unreliable. Only inasmuch as the Real bestows speech on others do they talk.”

Mosque dome in Algeria painted with the ninet-nine names of God; photo: Benaissa Mohamed Salah / Wikimedia Commons

Mosque dome in Algeria painted with the ninety-nine names of God; photo: Benaissa Mohamed Salah / Wikimedia Commons

The Oneness of Being

By Rosabel Ansari 

“What can we say exists in the world? What is there? When we look around and perceive the world with our senses, it seems self-evident that multiple things are in existence. A cursory glance around where you are sitting will tell you that. But it is equally true that none of these things have to be there. Islamic theology teaches us that our own being, and the being of all of creation, is contingent. On the other hand, God is the necessary being whose essence is to be.”

Umar Faruq Abd-Allah and Hamza Yusuf

Umar Faruq Abd-Allah and Hamza Yusuf in Berkeley, California, April 5, 2018

Humane Being

Umar Faruq Abd-Allah with Hamza Yusuf

“When we come into life, we believe that all children until the age of maturity or sometime after that are saints, because they have this fiţrah, and they’re also not morally responsible. They’re not moral agents yet. But as the passions develop in us, then these passions—“the idol of the pig,” “the idol of the dog,” anger, and appetite—will necessarily veil us from who we are.”

Man praying in Nakhoda Masjid, the principal mosque of Kolkata, India;  photo: Chitragrapher / Wikimedia Commons

Man praying in Nakhoda Masjid, the principal mosque of Kolkata, India; photo: Chitragrapher / Wikimedia Commons

Suffering as Surrender

By Hamza Yusuf

And We will indeed test you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth, souls, and fruits; and give glad tidings to the patient—those who, when affliction befalls them, say, “Truly we are God’s and unto Him we return.”  (Qur’an 2:155–156)

The Qur’an is replete with verses concerning the nature of the world, including its trials and tribulations, as if the Qur’an, through these verses, wants to prepare us to expect adversities and afflictions that will shake us from the heedless sleep of our daily uneventful routines. Our expectations determine our responses to the suffering we encounter during our life on earth, and our understanding of the reality of this world and our surrender to the reality of God determine our expectations of this world.”

We Are Not Yet Ruins (Lebanon), Askia Bilal, 2021

We Are Not Yet Ruins (Lebanon), Askia Bilal, 2021

Spirituality in the Postmodern World

By Esme Partridge

“While traditional metaphysics seeks to elevate the intellect toward the conceptual realm of higher forms and ultimately The One (via religious practice and, in turn, the apprehension of abstract truths), postmodernism severs itself from the reality that lies above the lowest metaphysical strata of existence.”

Ferizaj Church and Mosque

A mosque and church in Ferizaj, Kosovo.

Christians and the Prophecy of Muhammad ﷺ

Anna Moreland with Hamza Yusuf 

Anna Moreland’s book, Muhammad Reconsidered: A Christian Perspective on Islamic Prophecy, grew out of the perplexing problem of how she, a committed Christian, could remain faithful to her own religion while teaching the sacred texts of other religions in a way that respected them as living faith traditions. Her conversation with editor-in-chief Hamza Yusuf about her book has been edited for length and clarity.

Where Have All The Saints Gone?

Aisha Grey Henry and Zaid Shakir

A conversation about saints and sainthood, between Aisha Gray Henry of Fons Vitae Publishing and Zaid Shakir of Zaytuna College

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