What We Can All Learn From Islam The Quran Hamza Yusuf 255


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Everything Went Into A Kind Of Slow Motion, And

I I just it was as if the glass was just suspended in air from the crash and it was and then I just saw like my inception all the way up to that moment. and I just saw my whole life literally and it was it was just this as if I lived my life a second time but in a moment hello everyone today. I’m going to continue my discussions with Islamic thinkers or thinkers about Islam. I’ve had previous guests included Ayan, Herzeali, Mustafa Akhyal and Mammad Hijab I’m pleased to be speaking today with Hamza Yusuf, who serves as president of Zaytuna College, a Muslim liberal arts college in Berkeley, California. He’s a strong advocate of liberal education in the classical sense.

He Was Raised In A Religiously Eclectic Family

attended Orthodox Christian services and Catholic. parochial boarding schools at the age of 18. After study the major religions of the world, he converted to Islam. He served as translator for the chief Mufti of the UaE and Mauritania. Sheikh Abdullah bin Bio I’m very pleased today to be talking to Hamza Welcome thanks for agreeing to talk to me today yeah thank you so you you had a eclectic upbringing as your bio indicated you went to Orthodox Christian services were your were your family Orthodox Christian I.

I Have Two Sides Of The

family. One were Irish Catholics, and then my mother was half-Irish half-Greek. So my Greek grandfather, who was an archon in the Greek Orthodox Church. He actually had that influence on on us, so we were actually raised in his church, but my mother was she was actually would have considered herself a Buddhist most of my um upbringing. and her her mother, who was an Irish woman and her brother, my great uncle were from Georgia, and they actually were interested in Buddhism in the 1920s and moved out to San Francisco and my great-uncle George Fields opened Fields bookstore, which was the first metaphysical bookstore on the West coast and it specialized just in a lot of different ways.

He Actually Was The First Publisher

of Gerdjiff’s works. The fourth way works in in the U. s and it’s actually still it’s an online bookstore now fields bookstore, but so it’s getting more it’s getting more metaphysical all the time it’s it was once a building and now it’s virtual and Yeah. It’s a it’s a bad joke, but so you add you were exposed to a lot of different religious ideas by the sounds of things when you grew up um right and how how much did. learn about Orthodox Christianity well.

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I Had I Had My Grandfather Had

us take Greek lessons. I went to Greece. I went to a Greek Orthodox camp When I was 12 years old in Greece. I served the altar in the Orthodox church. So I I was reasonably involved and then I went to Catholic schools.

So The Orthodox Tradition.

The Catholic tradition aren’t that different even though they split in the 11th century over a diphthong as Gibbon points out so when you were a kid and you were going to services do you how can you remember well enough to characterize your beliefs at that time. I mean I started having trouble with the ideas in Christianity. I guess when I was probably around 12 so I’m wondering what your reaction was as a thinker that young I mean I I really love the Greek service I love. The Frank incense they had great these chants that were quite beautiful and it was very ritualistic and I I enjoyed it.

I Had No Problem Going To Church.

I think like many kids at that age, especially growing up in California during that period because my formative years were the late 60s and early 70s. So there was a lot of work. We’re a transitional generation. There were a lot of radical changes happening and California was kind of at the heart of a lot of those things, but my mother did expose us to a lot of different faith traditions.

She Actually Took Me.

We went to synagogues. We went to Buddhist song guys we went to um different Christian iterations . She also took me to a mosque when I was 12 years old in Redwood City, and she was of the belief that much of religion. Is is a it’s this interesting where you’re born and where you’re brought up and that’s going to determine and color the way you view the world and so She had this idea that religions that it’s very dangerous to assume just because you were born into something that that’s the end-all of truth and so she was eclectic in that way.

Yeah, So Your Mother Was Of

the opinion that I guess correct me if I’m wrong. There’s a couple of aspects to religious thinking that are interesting and relevant given what you said. I mean one is to think of it as a set of philosophies and beliefs that you might hold like you would hold a set of philosophical or even academic beliefs and another is to become a member of a community, a community of belief and I guess the the argument you might make for. Latter point is that there’s something there has to be something that unites all of us in order for us to be a community and so that proposition is hard to reconcile with the first one, which is that you should be free to choose your beliefs as you would a philosophy because if everybody chooses different beliefs, then we have a hell of a time living together and that can be a problem well. I think that’s one of the real problems in California.

I Mean Thats Thats A Very

much. This liberal idea that everything we’re free to choose and be whatever we want and what do you think of that idea so now you’re much older than you were when your mother was taking you from a place of worship to place of worship. I mean how would you address the problem of let’s say the conflict? between freedom of choice and religion as philosophers, philosophical belief and and religion as a as a cultural centerpiece that unites people well. I think that I raised my children, Muslim and and I hope that they remain in the Muslim faith. But I have to acknowledge the possibility that that might not be the case given where we live and and the environment so I I’m very committed to the Islamic tradition and I believe it to be true and I think I ha you know I feel like I’ve acquired clear and compelling evidence for myself of its truth.

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But I Understand The Importance Of

religion as a glue that holds things together and I think when you lose that glue in any culture, you’re going to have great problems that emerge out of that yeah. The question starts to become very rapidly if there’s no shared ground. That’s sacred let’s say to unite people then what in the world are they supposed to unite around and because if they don’t unite, then they exist in conflict and so that seems and in confusion and in anxiety, and that seems to be a very meddlesome or what not meddlesome Very a very difficult problem well. I I think part of the problem with you know modernity is grappling with the fact that a lot of these grand narratives have broken down largely in the 20th century. I mean the beginnings were happening already in the 17th 18th century, but by the 20th century there amongst the intelligentsia there’s a huge problem, particularly in in the west, but not only in the west.

I Think Even Within The Muslim Ethos.

You already had these um ideas that were going to massively impact the culture so it’s something we’re all. Grappling with ! It’s it’s an interesting time in that people do have certain abilities to look at things in ways that perhaps growing up in an environment that really dictated to people what they would believe norms. For instance, just cultural norms. I mean a lot of religion ends up being cultural and it’s it’s a practice.

Its A Cultural Practice And A Lot

of people don’t ever really have to deal with this. In fact. I think James Charles Taylor has a very interesting book revisiting James the variety’s religious experience and he talks about this idea that James looks at people who have religion in this sanguine sense. They simply accept their religion that they’re born into and then they and then they just live and practice that and very often they have very solid lives in that environment, but then he talks about and he. calls those healthy people? Then he talks about the sick people who actually have to grapple with these different phases.

He Looks At Melancholy Religious Melancholy.

This idea of being in a melancholic state about the alienation of the world about the trials of the world, the uncanniness of the world, the strangeness of it and then I think the second. He looks at the just the the problem of evil. The grappling with this problem of evil, and that third one is the sense of wrong doing right that that a lot of people feel sin yeah that’s a terrible one right now. I mean I think part of the reason why our culture is rivened apart by political trouble At the moment is because issues that should be discussed at the level of the sacred have started to be discussed at the level of the political and so.

Theres A Pervasive Accusation Against Lets Say Western

culture, in particular coming from the more radical side of the left, claiming that our culture or the Western culture is a tyrannical patriarchy and an oppressive colonial enterprise and of course, all cultures are contaminated with catastrophe and atrocity as well, and we actually need to know what to do about that you know the Christian doctrine of original sin is some help in that because it makes the fact of the legacy of human evil. Let’s say something personal but also transpersonal at the same time right. It’s part of the human condition and it looks to me like without that container. The guilt we have about the arbitrariness of life and the arbitrariness of our privileges can start to become overwhelming and then it can also become weaponized, which has certainly happened under at the present at the present. time and to a dangerous degree, so you can go after people for their privilege.

Lets Say And They Do Feel

guilty because advantages and disadvantages are sort of parsed out to some degree arbitrarily and then you know they collapse in the face of that onslaught and apologize and retreat and it just doesn’t look to me like that’s a good thing at all well it’s it’s not a good thing. If you don’t have a religious world view that gives meaning to those situations. For instance, I mean one of the most important aspects of the Quran. I think is that it really gives answers to these inequities in the world, but what some of term the mystery of iniquity and the the Quran.

One Of The Hallmarks Of A

believer is gratefulness, gratitude. In fact, the word in Arabic for disbeliever means ungrateful and in great um. And and so gratitude for blessings and then patience for trials and tribulations and and so there’s many verses in the Quran that talk about that we have raised some of you over others.


Hamza Yusuf is president of Zaytuna College, a Muslim liberal arts college in Berkeley, California . Yusuf was raised in a religiously eclectic family attended Orthodox Christian services and Catholic boarding schools at the age of 18 . After study the major religions of the world, he converted to Islam . He served as translator for the chief Mufti of the UaE and Mauritania . Sheikh Abdullah bin Bio: I just it was as if the glass was just suspended in air from the crash and it was and then I just saw like my inception all the way up to that moment.& Yusuf: “Everything went into a kind of slow motion, and I just . Just it was just this as if I lived my life a second time but in a moment. Everything went into slow motion” Yusuf says he’s a strong advocate of liberal education in the classical sense. I’m going to continue my discussions with Islamic thinkers or thinkers about Islam. I’ve had previous guests included…. Click here to read more and watch the full video