Being Muslim in Academia
Channel: Yasir Qadhi
File Size: 65.51MB
Shaykh Dr. Yasir Qadhi & Ashher Masood
Tip number seven
I am very, very happy to have on today. Dr. Yasser Ali, salaam, Doctor, how are you set on? Ya can How are you doing? I'm doing all right. Very happy to have you on on this very, very important topic for me. I think normally I haven't really given a background about myself. But I think it's important in this situation to give a bit of a background about myself. So yes, please understand that yet. So this is the first time we're actually interacting. I've just heard a little bit about you. So I need to hear from you. Exactly. Also apologize for a very blunt question, but I've never, it's my own fault. I've never heard of your podcast. So I need to know more about your podcast as
well. And a little bit about you. So if you don't mind, inshallah, let me begin the interview by interviewing you, and then it's all yours. Absolutely.
So, my name is Asha Massoud. I am a first year PhD student at Yale University in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. My focus is in late antiquity, early Islam, Quranic studies and civic philology. Before that I was at the University of Chicago, where I did a master's in Middle Eastern Studies, I've worked with Fred Donner. And before that, I did a master's in biological sciences at NYU. And then before that I was an undergrad at University of Illinois in Chicago. I started this podcast last year, because I noticed that there has not been
a strong attempt made by a number of people who could do this, but they, for whatever reason, have not to kind of bridge these two different worlds when it comes to Islamic Studies and learning. So the general goal of the podcast is the name is bottled Patrick, or podcast. And what I do is that I interview individuals on any given topic, but I tried to get different in a different guest to talk about that given topic. So for example, I'll have a topic of hobbies. And I'll have an A scholar multilocus, there's a man who's really an expert in hobbies, and someone who's studied traditionally. And he also studied I guess, also and
I'm really proud of it, Mashallah. He's a budding scholar, he has a bright future inshallah, ahead of him. And I want more people to know his name, when testors Amman must be more people should know his name hamdulillah. Khan. Absolutely. And then I would like to compare whatever he says, with regard to Hadith with another scholar who might be coming from a different background, this resolution is kind of get, you know, a different perspective, multiple views. And hopefully we can kind of appreciate
the diversity of opinions that are available. That's pretty much the goal of the podcast. And other than that, right now, I'm, you know, I have a son, I have a wife, we live in New Haven. And that's pretty much what's important about me, and handler, so you're doing you're starting a PhD at Yale, but you're in the nelc. department. And for our viewers, most of them don't know the difference between nelc and Islamic Studies. And frankly, sometimes we ourselves have difficulty explaining the differences between delta and Islamic Studies. Let's just say there's some overlap. And then there's also some areas of emphases that are different, obviously, Islamic Studies does emphasize the
anthropological, religious, you know, cultural aspects of the religion and the faith Near Eastern Studies, it is said it emphasizes more on the language and fill out philology more, but I mean, to be honest, nobody cares. A lot of people also have this stereotype that nelc is something of the remnants of the old school and religious studies of the new school in academia. I know that's a harsh stereotype, but that's something that is also floating around in the air. Also, many universities don't have two departments nelc and Islamic Studies, CL is one of the few that actually has both. And there is a lot of overlap when I was at Yale, clearly, I don't want to go into too
much detail for those who No, no, there was a market difference between nelkin Islamic Studies in terms of professors and in terms of students yet, we will be taking each other's classes, I took classes at milk, and milk would always be in our classes as well. But I think it was patently clear to anybody at that time. This was obviously 15 years ago. I don't know about now, is that that market difference? Or even? Dare I say some whiff of tension, even between the two? I don't know asking honest questions that's still around or is it now gone? it's it's it's much less. I've heard some rumors about this before, but we're not right now. We're like brothers and sisters, pretty
much. A lot of the students in the note department take classes with professors in the religious studies, and, you know, religious studies, students take classes with milk department professors. We work together a lot. So I think that that tension is a bit less now. I can't speak for the way it was before I came, but it's definitely how it is now. Okay. Obviously, the biggest
names and milk are no longer ideal and that makes a big difference. Also, you have new new people, Islamic states, so things have changed at that. But anyway, nice to have you and by the way, your name is really exotic. What is the name of your podcast? Again? You said bottled Petric or podcast so a lot of people have no clue at petrol core is petrol core. Isn't that the smell from the do right? Eye something like that because when when when when rain falls exactly earth that smells very good smell I mean, I like it a lot. So bottled pet try very I like I really liked that title. It does the earthy smell after rain. That's what pet record is So, okay, Mashallah. Good. The floor is
yours. Okay, Jeff, I just wanted to get some, I guess, introductory questions out of the way. You grew up in Houston. You're born in Houston, you grew up in Houston, you spent some time abroad. You are the son of immigrant parents. I think you doctors, a physician, your mom's also in the sciences. So I wonder what was it like kind of growing up in this?
I'd say maybe the first generation of American Muslims without, you know what we have right now. What was that like? And then how did you shift from being an engineer, a chemical engineer who worked for dow into, you know, who you are right now. Someone pursued Islamic Studies at Islamic University of Medina. Yeah. So my father was one of the first immigrants that came from Pakistan to America back in 6263. Way before most people started coming. He did his master's and then PhD in biology. He is a professor he taught at medical school, but he never became an MD. He's teaching at the Medical Department. My mother also has a master's in microbiology, and she worked as a
microbiologist. So I grew up between Houston and also Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, because my father was a professor at King of the disease University and the medical school.
That's not COVID By the way, that's my coffee. We have to excuse ourselves when we call these days fix me. And shall is that COVID Um, so I grew up between the two worlds, but even in Jeddah, I was in a very elite expatriate bubble of Westerners. I'd never spoke Arabic I, those people who No, no, back in the 80s, if you got a job as an American or British, you lived in your own place, you went to your own private schools. And it was a very different experience growing up in that, and I'm very happy that Allah blessed me with that. But I was more Western than Eastern, even in Jeddah. And it was an interesting experience of obviously, we'd come back here pretty much every year spent three
months, you know, two and a half months in the summer. And, you know, we would stay here go back, and we were connected with, you know, America throughout growing up my youth. So that was a very interesting experience for me. I, my father and mother handed they they still are, they're still alive. They're very religious from the very beginning. But they became religious coming to America, like America, as you know, it has this impact on people like we need to become more religious. And so they they turned to, you know, religiosity and my father was one of the first two who founded the mosque. The Islamic state of Greater Houston is gh, which is the first mosque in Houston, and is now
the largest conglomerate of mosques all across America. Over 25 mosques are under ICU. So I'm very proud that you know, he's, he has done quite a lot, you know, when he came here, so growing up, I remember, vividly vividly going for Jumeirah, and not understanding a single word. I remember going to Sunday school and making fun of the teachers even as a five year old because he couldn't speak English, right, the standard things. So you know, this is 1979 1980. You know, that's the memories I have of our mosques and you know, and just a feeling of Islam being okay, you dress up nice, you go for eight, but there's no obviously understanding of what's going on. And I do remember very
clearly, like not understanding my faith tradition, going to Saudi Arabia, actually, believe it or not, a lot of people don't understand this, that religiosity is not something that happens in Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, you live in elitist camps and bubbles, and people are not overtly religious in those bubbles fact, frankly, looks down, it's looked down upon. And my father went to Saudi Arabia in order to be more religious environment for his family, you know, in order to give us a more religious environment. And no doubt you you can't help but be a part of that culture, ie, I grew up and there was no access to drugs, you know, there was no access to alcohol. And that's a big
deal, obviously, as a teenager, that you don't have that access. You know, it's not even possible even if we wanted to back in the 80s. We couldn't do that. But we did have other vices that other kids of the 80s had. That's it's, you know, you can't be totally protected. hamdulillah I came back to America, you know, finished up my engineering degree. And of course, in university, you're totally independent. Nobody can tell you what to do. And it was during my engineering degree.
That I decided that I really don't want to, to to pursue a life long career in engineering. And I decided at that phase I think I was around 17 that I really said, You know what, I want to be religious. It's not something that is being pushed on me. I like being religious it gave meaning to my life. It really gave me meaning. But then I had this huge emptiness of I don't understand anything, I don't know, I don't know my fate. And remember, this is 1992 93 era, very little as an English very, there were no, what we call bonafide rolanda, who speak English as a first language that just didn't exist, the people I knew were sirajul Haji Jamal, by the way, may Allah bless them,
they have done an immense amount of work, we owe them so much. But obviously, they're not bonafide trained or Lama. They are preachers and teachers. And I met a few people in the Santa Fe movement, who truly mesmerized me because they seem to be aware of the texts firsthand. They could quote Quran and Hadith from the top of their minds that I have never seen before. And they knew how to link anything to an actual evidence. And that's very impressive, as one of the main things that the Select movement, I'm sure we're going to get to this is the fact that it does link ritual to tradition. It links ritual to classical textbooks, it links live daily experiences to scholars 1000
years ago, and it's very, very mesmerizing. And so along with this spiritual epiphany, I meet these people in the salary movement, and I'm like, this is just, I can't live my life without learning more about my faith. And I, you know, decided to then give up my career in engineering 100 1100, I graduated 100 in law, I worked at Dell chemical, so that I had a little bit of experience. And I knew what I'm giving up. And I thank Allah for that will lead to such a blessing from a luck that actually have a degree in engineering, because I wanted to leave in the middle of the degree. But my father was like, no way. You are our responsibility. This is what you call elderly wisdom that you
don't notice at the time, he's like, You're our responsibility. And if you want to choose something else in life, my job is to make sure that you're situated enough to make that choice, not at this stage, you have to establish yourself, get your degree, then if you decide to go somewhere else, I can't really do anything. But until you get your degree, I'm responsible to make sure that you get to that stage right then, at the time, I was very angry. But at hamdulillah in hindsight, Hamdulillah, it was such a blessing from Allah, I actually worked at Dow Chemical. I've got experience on the ground, I wrote a 3000 line code for infortrend, about polymer synthesis and the
lava. So I still remember bits of it here and there the concepts when needed to do and I realized I don't want to do this for the rest of my life. And I applied to University of Medina, which at the time was unknown. A lot of people again, don't understand 1993 94. Nobody had heard of the Islamic University of Medina, frankly, it's the first batch of graduates that are now making it well known.
These days, otherwise, it was unknown in the early 90s. There was not a single American Graduate that was active in America. You know, in the early 90s, nobody had heard of this university. There were some American graduates that were still living in the Middle East, and, you know, doing whatever they were doing, but there were unknown in this part of the world. And I knew about it because of my closed set of circles, obviously, because that was aggrandized. And so I decided to apply and then handed it out one thing led to another and here I am, and I think I answered your question way more than what you asked. Does that answer your question? Absolutely. But you started
the Ph. D. program at Yale, in what year
I applied 2004
when I was still in Medina, last year of my Medina, master's degree, Medina masters was five years those days, by the way, it was a different I got the old system and I thank a lot for that. Five years of the MA and then a PhD, which technically is five to seven years as well and Medina.
And I decided, after 911 911 was a very eye opener for me. People say change their lives, it definitely changed my life, even though I was in Medina when it happened.
Because before 911, I had always dreamed of doing my PhD from Medina. And at the time, there had not been a single Westerner, friggin American single Westerner that had ever finished any PhD program from any of the departments and I was slotted to be the first not just American but Western. Nobody had ever got to that stage because it was so difficult to even get in. Hardly I think before me if I'm not mistaken, one person or two maybe has a master's in its 40 year history. And I was going to be the first with the PhD in any as I said department, but I just decided you know what?
I don't want to stay in this beautiful place anymore. You despite that fact. I love Medina I love the prophets of the masjid. But I realized that I have I have a goal. That is
Not going to be fulfilled if I stay in the city of the prophet SAW setup. And I also began to realize, I know, I know, this is why you're interviewing me. So I have to say this now, I also began to realize, in the master's level, that knowledge is beyond one strand of Islam. And I began to feel an inquisitiveness and curiosity that I knew would not be satisfied if I stayed in this track. And I could see all of my professors who were senior to me and knowledge, and I could see that their level of knowledge is accessible. I know how to get there. If I stay in this track, and I read their books, and I continue to do what I'm doing. I can see that, but I could see other people on other
tracks not on my track of basically one strand of Islam. And I didn't understand how to get there. Even at this stage, I had some books that were written by, quote unquote, at the time I called the orientalist. Right. Still, I had the antiquated term. I remember I had the philosophy of the column by Harry Wolfson, you you're aware of the book, obviously, right? You know, written in the Was it the early 60s, I mean, sorry, late 60s, early 70s. And, of course, my speciality is theology and cut out. And I remember just thinking, this is a mind that I don't understand how he got there. How could this guy write a book like this in English, that I'm actually benefiting from and it's
supposed to be my field? You know, Colombia is something I'm studying to critique, obviously, because I said, his critique, and I'm, and I thought I knew my column inside out, how could I not know color, and I'm reading this book, and I'm saying, I don't understand this mind how it gets there, you understand that we're trying to say, my teachers, they're better than me, they're more knowledgeable than me. But I can see how they got there, I can see the track. And I can see if I continued on this track, I'll be at that level, you know, insha, Allah, Allah. But these other minds that I'm reading, I don't even understand how they got there. And I began to realize, you know,
what, I need to go beyond this, this beautiful, you know, bubble that I'm in, it's a beautiful bubble. But if I want to be impactful in the world, I need to study in other bubbles as well. And I spoke to a very few of my professors who I really thought at the time were forward thinking, and they all encouraged me universally to go and study otherwise made mainstream professors did not encouraged me, my my, and I don't want to mention any names that are negative, because I respect all of them. But the people that are famous in the field of Islamic Studies, were very skeptical, how could you go study with non Muslims? How could you leave this, you know, and, and, and, and give it
all up, you know, and then and then go and study with them. But there were two or three that understood in a different, you know, wavelength, including for someone at Hawaii, who's now in jail, and Chef allomi, who is a Hindu convert, and he became the Dean of the College of petita. My students know about him because I have an interview with him. And they were like, No, no, you need to leave, you need to go, you need to broaden your horizons, they these were the words that any of this, some of them were using with me, you need to go and learn from others. And I decided to apply to a number of universities, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Oxford, I applied and I got accepted to two
of them, Oxford and Yale. And it was a very difficult decision for five, six months, between the two I visited Oxford, I visited Yale, trying to make up my mind, and that humbler and it without a doubt in my upmost respect to the other Institute. But for me, I need to do because God gave me coursework, and Oxford would have been straight PhD. And that's not what I needed. I needed the coursework in audio, and hamdulillah. I got accepted 2004, the acceptance letter came, I think we're at the beginning of 2005. And I then decided I was between I was accepted to both two, three months back and forth between Yale and Oxford. They're both trying to handle both of the advisors trying to
get me in Hampton. And it was very difficult because they both want you and they're both good people. And it'll produce the harder talk to a lot of people. And I realized that year was better for me and 100 loads, it was the right decision. So I started yo 2005 2005 August.
And then I believe you finished in 2013.
As most PhD students know, like you spent five years in residence, so 2005 to 2010. I was a full time at Yale, and then 2010 to 2013. I was part time doing my PhD, abt so I was already teaching at Rhodes College, and I was finishing my dissertation. And so I finished in 2013 years. So eight years of yield and 10 years at Medina. Yep. And then in terms of the coursework at Yale, I mean, what type of courses did you take? So, most of the courses that I took at Yale, were something that would I would never have thought of having done beforehand. They're very interesting, very cutting edge courses. Obviously, you as you're aware, as well, some of the courses you take. They're just the
standard stuff that you just have to take at any program languages. For example, I had to take French for reading
German for reading had to take two years of Farsi. And that was something that definitely was interesting. I didn't have I'm not much of a person who's interested in romance languages, but I eat through French and German. I loved Farsi actually was beautiful language, you know, maybe she Dean's up on policy Friday shootings about us, right? You have to Farsi to write to nelc or not, no. Oh, okay. You could, but I chose not to. Oh, okay. So but you still have to go other languages, right? Yeah. Yeah, I mean, in any PhD program in any Western University, you have to take other languages. And that just shows you that they understand that knowledge is not restricted to any one language.
And I remember asking Professor Griffo, like, why do we have to take like, my first year? Why do I have to take German and French it says Islamic Studies. And, you know, he said, to me, you the amount of scholarship that exists in these languages, you will never be a scholar. That's what he told me, unless you're able to access these articles and papers. And now I understand obviously, that there's so much out there and coming from a specialist speciality of theology of al Qaeda, and coming across,
you know, to Turkey, and Gesellschaft, you know, the famous six volumes,
which I will call it Encyclopedia of theology. And even though I was just learning German, but to go through this, and to see a book like this had been written in German, my mind was abuzz because I could just imagine if I had that book in my Masters, what how much benefit would have been to me? And of course, it's just recently been translated religion and society. And second and third century they hit Europe, which is, of course by Brazil, but it was started took languages. What else did I say? I mean, I took a lot of courses, I took Arabic manuscripts, I took a class on Arabic manuscripts, there's no such thing and voc Medina, learning about manuscripts, you're, you're being
introduced to the concept of, you know, how you approach your manuscript and how you examine it and how you figure out the, if you have multiple manuscripts of the same book, how you link the two of them? Is there a common sorcery, all of these things are very interesting techniques never done, where I was studying. Also, we took advanced courses in Islamic history. And that's, I think, one of the biggest vacuums of any Seminary in the world as how to deal but not the word gem Islamia, all of them. They are very superficial when it comes to history. But Western academia is insistent on history, you need to study history, I took multiple classes on history, I took an entire class on
this history of Islam in India, which was again eye opening to me by one of the world's specialists in Indian Islam. She was from an atheist Hindu background, but really eye opening, obviously, the Middle East among blue coming to all these various history classes, you're probably aware, one of the world's Specialists of Mamelukes isn't, isn't Neil. And just to get exposed to that expertise, and to know the sources. I took a class about the proofs of the existence of God, because that's Frank riffles, one of his things that an entire class about, you know, and again, it's just three people in the class. It's not like 50 people, one of my most that one of the first classes I took,
which was my introduction to Western epistemology. Again, it was so it's so vividly seared in my memory that I've said this memory multiple times, and people have heard this from me and multiple interviews, but it really, it really impacted me that this, this was the first class that I took at the at the graduate level.
And that was an entire class on fecundity, not Razi. So an entire semester about one person. Again, these classes don't exist in in the eastern worlds. Medina doesn't have something like this, you know, as they don't have these types of things. And I remember thinking we're doing a whole semester on Razi, how much is there to do one Rossi and a walk in it was just me, one other student and Frank, riffle three of us, right, the whole semester, was in a room in the library, and we just meet every week. And I'll never forget when we walked in, you know, Frank Griffith says to me, and I'm sure he doesn't mind me saying this. We're also good friends. Frank Griffith says to me, and again,
this is, what 15 years ago, so things have changed, meaning his own knowledge has changed. He says, I want to confess to you, I have no idea about anything of follow Dino Rossi. I don't know anything. And I'm like, what I just walked into a class and here's my professor, and you're telling me you don't know anything about Rosie and he turns to me and he goes, you Yes, sir. know more about Rosie than I do? And I'm like, Of course I do. I mean, he's wrote that, you know, I in my head, I'm thinking, I don't know Frank that well, at the time is still new. But then he said something that just totally shook my world. And the rest of the semester was just one eye opener after another. But
in this class, we're gonna study how to study RRC
and that just blew my mind. We're like, what? And then one thing after another every week, we all three had an assignment and the teacher professor and the two of us were equally contributing to that assignment. So the first week you know, I still have the binders all of my binders in my classes my life I still have them the first week. The question was not writing
Biography of something that as you know, the question was categorize the primary sources of demography, and mentioned their biases and paradigms. Think about that question here, right? Like at an undergraduate level, write a biography of something that was, you know, this is now PhD program, categorize the primary sources, where do you get his life? I want to know the primary, not the secondary. I want to know the first group of people who talked about a Razzie and tell me their biases. Tell me where they're coming from, tell me I should know, you know, their motivations and whatnot. And again, this was eye opening to me because, again, coming from Medina, my instinct
immediately Well, I'm going to go to Sierra Nevada as a hobby, you know, but then that heavy with my utmost love and respect is coming from a paradigm and arises from a different paradigm. And at that heavy is not the best person to get a Rosie's unbiased. And this isn't again, this is a bit advanced to this is not a slur on the moment. They're happy. It's just a factual statement. You don't go to a critic for critics biography as simple as that you don't go to somebody who has a problem with you to find out about you, you go to multiple people good and bad. And so you go to the and also their hobby is coming two generations or three generations after a Razzie, actually more than that, you
know, he's coming 200 years after Razi, that's not fair to go to somebody to 300 years later. And so that's not a primary source in the first place. Right? See it, I'm a novella is not a primary source. And it's not an unbiased source. So for you to start thinking in those ways, to me, these were eye opening, and then you go one after the other, talk about the stages of his life so that we can then another project was categorized every single book of his work timeframe, he wrote it. Why? Because you need to see the evolution of thought, No intellectual in the history of mankind remains firm on every single point of his day evolve over time. And if you want to study somebody's life,
well, then you need to see how old were they? And what stage did they write a particular book, and so that when you compare and contrast the books, you know, which one is first and which one is second, again, these are things that even in Medina, some of you kind of know this, but you never actually get to this level of categorizing every single book. And students are taught to do this as a part of every project that they're doing that type of critical analysis that is ingrained into you. It makes you far more perceptive of classical literature, you start reading from a different worldview, you start contextualizing,
again, I mean, so much can be said about that class that I took, but that's just one of the classes. And then imagine an entire five years on and on and on like this, you you start thinking in different ways. And it's not as if Frank Griffith or professor barbering, or others, they taught me facts about the Quran and Sunnah that I did it No, that's not the case. Rather, they're forcing questions that my mind has never thought of. And my own knowledge is then bringing answers that they don't necessarily know because it's not their area either. But it's a matter of paradigm, it's epistemology. It's how you think is how you contextualize that is what the western Institute
Institute's will teach you, along with a lot of facts by the way. So again, much can be said but history. You read any book of Islamic history written by an average cheer for Adam, and it is hagiography, it is romanticized history. It is picking issues here and there. And then sugarcoating and then painting such a rosy picture of the past, by the way, that's not classical Islamic history. If you read if you if you read a 30, you know, 30 foot book, if you read any classical book, you see the good, the bad, the ugly, you see the wall, you see the civil wars, you see the tyranny, you see the injustice, you read pretty much almost any author for modern times, and it's all sugar coated to
make this rosy you know, beautiful past image, which is simply not true. I challenge anybody to read a cutting edge book in history written by
any, you know, Western intellectual, or, you know, reputable Frank Donner is the classic example. Right, he's the dawn of Islamic history, you got a chance to study with him, you know, read some of those books, and it just blows your mind away. Like it's such a different paradigm. So that's some of what we're, you know, we were exposed to end, every student who's been there knows this, but I don't know. Does that answer your question or? Yeah, absolutely. I think we're gonna elaborate more than more on this later on. But, but before we get there, I wanted to ask
how would you describe the difference between Yale and, you know, Islamic University of Medina or, or a mother somewhere in Pakistan? I mean, what would you say are the key differences between these different institutions? So I think a lot of people they try to compare and contrast and to me, there are two different worlds completely. There is no comparing and contrasting at all the two fields. The epistemologies are so radically different. The questions that are asked are so radically different than goals that they both have. They cannot and do not overlap. They are two questions.
distinct and separate paradigms. And people need to know what they're getting into in a month, that is a system you are being trained by a group of religiously devout
people who are very interested in imparting their understanding of the religion upon the initiatives upon a new batch of people so that their understanding of the religion is replicated and taught across the globe, there is a spiritual element, there is a preaching element, there is a survival element, they need to make sure that that strand survives, there is a salvation element, you want your students to be better so that they will be saved on the Day of Judgment. So the questions that are going to be asked, and the methodology by which those questions will be answered, are very different. In the Western paradigm, there is no salvation element, there is no religious element. It
is genuine curiosity about aspects that might overlap with the seminary. But the questions that are asked are very different, and the answers and the methodology. So in the seminary, we want to learn what Alan is messenger sets a little or send them as in order to get to gender. And of course, it will be through the lens of a group of people with one paradigm of Islam. But at that stage, you don't understand it, you think that is the only way of Islam. But the point is that we're approaching the texts in a in a manner by which we're wanting to extract salvation or knowledge, knowledge that is going to help me spiritually, and knowledge that preserves the community and
knowledge that will then impact the broader community, ie propagating and preaching every seminary once its graduates to preach to others. In fact, the word that wa and the word dari originated from this, Mary Darwin, and as a university in 300 300, digital, you didn't call preachers that until it was created, and it started sending its preachers out to give that what to the call of the Samaritans and then it was adopted by the Sudanese, but Sudanese are not interested in ever, ever figuring out that things might have come from outside the tradition that what as a term, and as a, as a tool was not used until he's married. So nothing is wrong by them. Just saying historically.
That's the fact. But my point is that that's not the case in the western seminary, the western seminary, these questions of salvation and whatnot, are not they're not. They're more interested, how did every group understand its own salvation? Okay. They're more interested in the anthropological and the historical and the contextual. They're not interested in the deeper questions because that's not their, their, their, their paradigm they're not interested in, well, is the Quran from God or not? That's not what they're interested in. They don't even talk about this issue my entire years of Yale and everybody knows it's a wall that goes, anemia. The question of
whether the process of is true or not, it's not even it's not even broached, it's not even relevant to them, you know, they're not really interested in it. They're more interested in how later people interpreted the Prophet Sosa how the Sahaba, the tapir, and other groups, you know, people outside the faith, that's what they're more interested in. There's an element of history and element of anthropology. There's no element of salvation or, you know, knowledge over there. So, this really is important to underscore because people need to understand that if you're wanting a certain type of knowledge, you're going to get it at a particular institution or a particular paradigm, you need to
ask yourself, What do you want from when you're walking into that institution, you're not going to get the same type of knowledge, or the same type of questions, or the same type of methodology completely separate and distinct. And that's why if you're wanting basic Islamic knowledge, to pray better to be a better Muslim, that's not what Western academic Academy's even meant to do. You're you're you're making a mistake, when you choose to walk into that paradigm of thinking that you're going to come out a better Muslim. That's not what it's meant to do. It's meant to make you a thinker and train your thought processes. That's not the same as going to a madrasa system. And it's
going to hand you This is how you pray. This is how you fast This is our theology. This is how you approach the Quran, and they're going to give you well developed paradigms, you're not expected to challenge within a narrow framework may be but you are not expected to challenge that paradigm whatsoever. You walk into the room Deobandi, you walk into jam Islamia, as a salary you walk into as her moderate Sofia Shadi, you are not expected to challenge status quo. If you do, and you go beyond the red line, understandably, I totally understand they will expel you, or even afterwards, if you become too radical. They're simply going to declare your persona non grata. Like, we don't know this
guy, even if you study with us, whatever. Understandably, they're preserving their own internal integrity. If you don't tow the party line, you're not preserving their integrity in the Western world. They couldn't care less how and what you say and do because they're not interested in a cohesive integrity. They're interested
Did in making you an independent thinker, and therefore they have no problems if you are still, you know, very conservative in your worldview, or you're very liberal or whatever these these adjectives mean nothing to them, because they're not invested in you as a person and your salvation will,
if you like, eligibility in the Hereafter, so the two paradigms are totally different. And everybody who walks in should know what they're wanting to get in before they walk into either of these paradigms. But I think that that nicely sums up I guess, a lot of what we're going to talk about throughout the episode. And I think the doctor for for describing that as now I was I went to a private Muslim High School. And we had Islamic studies classes, and a lot of times in Islamic Studies, classes were taught by scholars, you know, well on its own, so mostly so and so.
And oftentimes, there would be discussions of where you learn Islam, where you take your deen. And I remember, many times, a lot of scholars say that you cannot, you cannot learn Islamic University, you cannot go to a University of Chicago, and learn Islam over there. And whatever you do learn might have some type of corrupting
impact on you.
As I grew up, I realized that most of these same people, they themselves wanted so desperately to do a PhD at the University of Chicago or somewhere else. And so I'm sure that you've heard this before that, you know, Islam cannot be learned at university, No, stay stay home, I guess.
And you touched upon this, but I should probably ask again. I mean, do you agree with the statement? And what was your reaction to people who might have told you that's kind of your thought you told me that there were some of your teachers who did support you in this endeavor? And I'm sure there are some teachers who might not have support, here's some friends who might not have supported you. So first of all, do you agree with this claim? And I guess, you could be there's already, I guess, a spoiler before, but and how would you react to people who might have this claim? If you walk into a Western Institute to study a spiritual level of Islam that is meant to make you a more pious Muslim?
You're walking into the wrong arena. It's not right or wrong. It's simply that's not what it's catered to do. And I remember even at Rhodes College, like, when I was a professor there, I'd have innocent Muslims come in, and they're like, yeah, I've never really studied anything about Islam. I wanted to study more about the prophecies in the Quran and whatnot. I'm like, you know, I really appreciate that. But for that, you need to come to my head outside the machine, because I had a regular head up, I met somebody, look, I appreciate you coming here. But you don't understand this is a class at a university. And I'm going to be teaching in a different style and manner. I mean, I
ironically, there were times when I was teaching the Seattle in the masjid. And I was teaching the CLR in Rhodes College. And it's not as if I'm preaching wrong, right? Everything I say is correct. I mean, I would never say something wrong. But it is that what you're deriving from the co2 in the university, and how you're presenting it is very different than what I'm saying in the masjid. It's a different context. So it's a bit broad to say, you can't study Islam at a university. Rather, I would paraphrase that or I would read, rephrase that and say, if you want to study Islam, to be a more pious Muslim, and your goal is just to read the Quran as a tepee, and to derive some benefit
from this era, then Western academic institutions are not made to do that you're walking into the wrong place. However, if you wanted to study critical thinking, if you wanted to study epistemological tools to make you a better thinker, not necessarily not necessarily more spiritual, but it's not as if it goes against spirituality, I don't think I'm any less spiritual than I was, and asked a lot for habits and firmness, but it's a different type of awareness. If you're wanting to be challenged outside of your, your, your nice comfort zone and box, then yes, you're going to find Western academia very stimulating. And you will be exposed to things that in order to answer
them, you're going to have to study your tradition. And in the process, you will come out a stronger believer, but there is a risk. And that risk is you might not come out stronger believer, you're walking into a very difficult zone, where some very difficult facts that you are typically not said or you're not challenged with. And I don't want to mention too much here because most of my viewership would never have heard of these things. But there are elements in our history. There are elements in RFC literature. There are elements in the sea at all that are there for anybody.
To read, but we kind of just gloss over them. And in the western institutions, they're not going to gloss over them, they will cause you to reckon with your own tradition in a manner that Sunday school will never do. Any book of Syrah without exception has elements of just toning down. That's why when I taught my Sierra, I made it a point. I'm not going to expunge anything. And that's why I went into some very difficult topics and even the ones I went into, some of them went a little bit and I pulled out and I didn't really go that deep, but I, I made it a point I'm not going to sugarcoat because I kept on saying this line in my studio. If you listen to it, I'd rather hear it
from me than anybody else. I'd rather you hear it from me than anybody else right. And again, you listen to my cod incident of the quote unquote Satanic Verses, right? I mentioned the theories out there. People don't are not even worthies the incident of you know, Xena vintage actually a lot one hand the whole issue is there and again, listen to this you have to listen to the ever you're not going to find this in any book of sci fi at all modern book you find into the classics, you know, so Western universities are going to Islamic studies are going to bring these very difficult aspects that are found in our tradition, but are overlooked glossed over sugarcoated they're not really made
up and center. And for me, one of the most difficult things and people know this from my lectures was the issue of Quran Quranic manuscripts, I heard of clear art. This is a confusing topic for any person within the Islamic tradition. and dare I say, every advanced student from within the Islamic tradition knows that the concept of Hierophant karate remains unresolved. They can parrot answers that they've memorized, like I parroted answers in my book 20 years ago, they can parrot answers of a subtlety and an exotic cushy and a poverty and Gen. Ed. They know what they said. But every advanced student without exception, and I know this because I was there. And I know students, I've
spoken to it. And I challenge anybody to actually, you know, disagree with me on this, who knows their stuff, that it's still a gray area, that people are still wondering, what is the seven out of 10 his relationship with the cutout? And how does one resolve this? Now people have simplistic theories. And you know what, they're inherited Guillain Barre the gene generation after generation, and we inherit them, and we keep them along, okay, you add to Western Academy, they couldn't care less about your inheritance, they couldn't care less about what you've been taught. And they have zero respect for the tradition, it's not disrespect, it's just that they don't have respect, there's
a big difference between the two. They don't care if you are in all of your tradition, good for you. They're here are all the facts. And let's see if we can figure out a theory for them. And for me, and I remember clearly this that I knew my Quran inside out, I mean, I've written a book about it, if anybody doubts and I'm not trying to brag or boast, if anybody doubts, my knowledge, they can read my book that I wrote when I was 20 years old. That was the book I wrote when I was 20 years old, and they can see for themselves, I knew my stuff in the classical tradition at the age of 20. Now I'm entering yield, you know, and in my early 30s, Now, another decade now in my mid 40s. Now,
and I'm still doing research on these issues, by the way, and I think I know my science is the Quran, because I've memorized and regurgitate it, but deep down inside, there are these these issues. You walk in, and they start prodding, they start, they start saying, oh, that doesn't make sense. You and you know it, and they start shining lights, and they bring you things from your own tradition that I've read, and I knew, but of course, you keep them aside, you don't really think about them. And you are forced to deal with your own heritage in a way that you've never been forced to. Why? Because, and I hate using this example. But there's an element of truth. You all know, or I
don't know, is that a different era or not this famous story of the king of the Emperor with no clothes, right where the Emperor is walking around without any clothes. And everybody's too embarrassed to point out the obvious. But since everybody's too embarrassed to point out the obvious, everybody assumed that I guess the Emperor must be wearing clothes, because nobody's saying the obvious, right? It's that until the five year old kid says, Hey, the emperor has no clothes, then everybody realizes, hey, actually, he doesn't have any clothes on. A lot of times are certain facts, quote unquote, or I should say certain interpretations that have a similar analogy in our own
tradition, where we are taught this at the madrasa and I look around and my entire classes and yes, writing those my share of all of the teachers are saying it, and I'm like, Okay, I guess I just don't understand that. Right. Everybody's saying it. It's got to be the case. Then you walk into these Western institutions, and they just blaz a completely casual, say, yeah, the emperor has no clothes. And you're like, How did he know that? I was thinking that but I was too scared to say you, you see that all that you're trying to say, I don't want to be too explicit, because I don't want to confuse the readers out there or the listeners out there. But I'm trying to explain that there are
certain problematic issues in all of the sciences that every tradition has simply agreed to
Just passed down and you memorize and you regurgitate. The problems are not solved simply by regurgitating Western tradition doesn't care about your tradition. And it'll just call the problem a problem. It'll just say, Well, obviously, this is an issue, and then it will produce its own theories. Its theories are so bizarre. And so off the mark at times that you're like, No, I can't, I can't do this. If I were to go down that route, there's no longer any Islam left. And those were the theories that they were doing with the aura. And obviously, from my paradigm, that's not going to happen. You're forced them to reckon with the facts that are found in your own tradition, there
aren't, these aren't facts that they're inventing. These aren't issues that they're brainwashing you, unlike what simpletons try to say, of me and others, there's no brainwashing going on. You know, if you look at the the tradition, these are facts found within the tradition, but the tradition has evolved to make this illusion of a beautiful building. And you are taught this building, but then Western academia shows you the imperfections, that building shows you the human element of that building that you were that you were taught was divine. So all of this is mere speech, because I don't want to get to actual examples, because that is very problematic. I'm
conscious of the fact that I don't want to make people doubt the tradition. I want them to understand the tradition is a human element, and it's good, and it should remain there. But Western academia will cause you to think in a different level. And that level has pros and cons for the average Muslim, I guess, I'll leave it at that for now for that question. I mean, I somewhat agree with you, I definitely think that there are certain
blemishes that are uncovered in western academia. But I wonder on kind of on the opposite end, was there anything that you were kind of, you know, soso about and then you go, and then you'd learn from like, a deal, and then you begin to appreciate it even more? Like any field or any specialty or anything like this?
is all from the Islamic sciences paradigm? Yeah. I mean, I don't think that the western academia, I already appreciated Islamic sciences, I mean, again, realize I spent 10 years in Medina.
I'm loaded up all over the mainstream fields from fields and had Ethan I had a passion in the arts and culture on the lunar forum. It's not as if Western academia taught me to appreciate, however, I guess, because I already appreciate the second one that there's no there was no lack of appreciation in the beginning.
I guess if anything, it caused me to appreciate the the polymath nature of so many of our aroma that we look up to a CLT and have been to me and others, the very fact that they could master so many different traditions, and so many different
knowledge as the sciences and writing about them. I think that's one thing that I think are appreciated more. But in terms of a science, I never had any negative but a science anyway. So I still appreciate all the classical sciences of Islam. It's just that I appreciate them from a different manner now, if that makes any sense. Yeah, absolutely. So I'd like to move on and ask you more about your time at Yale, and the fundamental differences between your time there and your time at Medina. So how would you say that the style of education was different between the two institutions and your relationship with your teachers? like I do, there's a lot of papers. I mean,
we have to write so many papers. Is this the same thing you'd be doing at Medina? Is there more of an emphasis on an exam or I got the old system, which is now no longer existent? It was. And I'm pretty sure there's not that much difference, except that is the water done, I've heard but
pure memorization, pure memorization? Very, very little critical thinking. In fact, you're not allowed to challenge beyond a very narrow spectrum. You're not allowed to challenge because that is the goal of a metadata is to cause you to memorize and to cause you to regurgitate. You know, our exams were comprehensive, we had to do 25 hours a semester 25 hours, we took not 1825 hours a semester 1718 subjects, you know, at a time, and every single exam was simply memorizing everything and regurgitating. You did not have to have much comprehension if you could memorize you would get an A, yo is the exact opposite zero memorizing 100% comprehension. That's why there's papers, these
papers are probing these papers, challenge your understanding, you're forced to think about issues critically, totally different paradigms of teaching styles as yourself mentioned, Yale, we had a paper a week for almost every single class. At Medina, we had one comprehensive exam at the end, the entire binder had to be memorized. Word for word. I remember some of the binders literally, it's as if you're replicating half the binder in your final exam from memory. That's what it is.
And again, each system this is not a this is not a diss at either it is simply a factual analysis that this is what it is that the Medina system, or any Islamic system is meant to produce many walking encyclopedias, you're expected to memorize vast amounts of the classical heritage and then regurgitate and those that are able to do that are admired immensely. And the greatest rula that I studied with truly were walking encyclopedias, you know, you you you are, you can't help be impressed when,
and the isnaad somebody mentioned, and your share from memory says, Oh, this so and so is actually so and so the son of Swords is born, this died here, his teachers where you live there. And you know, as you know, there's like 10,000 people you know, in the chains, and for this person to know this person, you know, for this shift to know this person off the top of his head and be able to regurgitate. Now, obviously, at some level, it takes you 10 seconds to look this person up on your own, but the fact that somebody memorized it is very impressive. The same goes for the Philippine opinions, for example, and again, I'm not trying to be dismissive at all, but it is impressive when
the ship can you ask him any question who have closed his eyes are gonna say, Oh, the Hanafi say this. And the reason they say this is because of this and that, and they will sort of book their solar filters based on that the Sharpe ratio that the Maliki said that and you know, even taymiyah says this, the humbly say that for him to quote you off the top of his head, there's no doubt that is very impressive. With my utmost humility and respect, though, it's not that difficult to look this up yourself and extract the same things, the more difficult aspect would then be to contextualize and thinking through and not that they cannot do that. But that's not what they're
taught to do, per se, what they're primarily taught to do is to memorize, and of course, the Western tradition, they don't care about memory at all, at all, you are not expected to, nor is this something per se impressive that you know anything from memory, they understand the books are all there, they understand, you can look them up, we never had a closed book exam at Yale, as far as I remember, I don't think we ever had one closed book exam, at all, to the best of my memory, maybe there was something basically nothing that I can even remember like, this is all papers and open book and do your own research. So the teaching styles are totally different. And obviously, the
questions are totally different, as well as that you understand. I like already explained the questions from an Islamic method. So our salvation, and they are meant for you to understand the paradigm they're coming from, you know, how many types of tauheed are there? What are the evidence that the types of the hit list the types of other, you're not allowed to challenge the types of other? You cannot say? Well, actually, this is what Tamia said. But Rosie said this, and a majority said that, and actually, all the other Jabbar said this, you cannot defend all the objects of the mortality in Medina, if you were to do that you would be expelled. Whereas maybe an equivalent of
year would be, you know, how did various Muslim theologians understand the concept of other and you know, you're supposed to contrast between the schools at an equal level, that's not going to be possible at any theological institution? Because there's always one correct opinion. And I think that I didn't say this explicitly. In every Eastern institution, there's one correct opinion, in some issues of faith, they might allow you two or three, but generally, there's one answer, and this is the right answer. And you better say the right answer, or else something is wrong with you. Whereas in the western institution, you are not expected to say any answer, you have not only the
freedom, but you are encouraged to be your own person. And of course, that has its pros and cons, because, again, they're not interested in the truth, or the help with the capital, how to make fun of it. They're not interested. They're interested in the thought processes, whereas Eastern institutions are interested in the truth, and what is the truth, and you memorize the truth, and then you defend and propagate the truth, some differences between Medina and Neo, I had the good fortune of studying at some of ours. And I remember that my relationship with my teachers was somewhat formal, depending on their age. And so there is no good mother, you do it for you teachers
is a high level of respect that you have, I would never think to call my teacher,
hey, Muhammad, I'd say you know, Chef, or Milan or something like this. So I'm assuming you had some of the some of the similar kind of relationship with your teachers in Medina. And I wonder how that changed. When you've got to deal in terms of a relationship that you had with these people that you've worked with them for a long time, you know, two years of coursework, two or three years of coursework, and then you're writing your dissertation, you're interacting with them. So I mean, you develop this love for them. So I mean, how is the relationship between your teachers different between the two places? Yeah, obviously this this is reflected in the relationship as well. So
obviously, the eastern tradition and again, I really appreciate and love that you're expected to honor you're expected to look at some of your teachers you expect to to you know, see
With a certain posture, you cannot even you know, sit comfortably, you know this, if you sit with edip and respect when you're in front of the teacher, you are physically, you know, do them claim if you're able to, you know if they if you're able to I mean, I wasn't able to do that to most of your teachers in media, but I mean, those that you're able to give them gifts or you can do them a hitman, you make time for them, if they're at your house, whatever, you physically show them their respect, and that's great. And that spiritual knowledge, obviously, you know, that's a it's a more of a friendly relationship. I remember, you know, Frank riffled the date that
we used to call them, you know, Professor, Professor grove of our circle, and the day that I passed the ABCD exam. And so technically, I'm a professor or PhD, the first thing it tells them is like, okay, yes, sir. From now on. Don't call me Professor Griffith call me Frank. I'm like, Whoa, two years, three years, I've been calling you professor feels weird. It goes, nope. You're now a colleague of mine. And like, it's just again, it's interesting to be told that you know, you're now a colleague of mine, you're a PhD. I mean, technically didn't quite have it. You get the point. I'm basically a media pass the comprehensives and it's just a matter of the paper organization. Now
you're a colleague of mine, you're gonna call me and even I never felt that formality. Even when I called him Professor Griffith for example, there was a genuine camaraderie and friendship we would go back and forth, you would visit each other and talk about Nisha Polian. You know, theologies, I mean, he also had an interest in what I had an interest in, even though Professor Baldwin was my advisor, but I had a more of a friend. And also, he's much older than barbering is in his 80s. Now, whereas Professor Gribble was just a few years older than me, and I had a much more friendly rapport, it was very friendly, there was no formality per se at all. And still, if I were to call
him up, it would just be Hey, Frankie, yes, are you doing, even though he is a professor of mine? Same goes for the others as well, there was a much more friendly report. And again, that's nothing, I'm not trying to be positive or negative, I don't think that's a good thing. And I don't think that's a bad thing. I'm simply describing it as it is, where there is a market difference. I don't want that to be imported to Medina, or there should be the Islamic etiquette of the home to your shoe. But again, the teachers at Western Institute's are not sure you, and they don't have the spiritual lineage and baggage that would require how to have the requisite for the, for the respect,
there's nothing wrong with that. People need to understand, you know, different worlds different paradigms, different different ways to deal with them. So yeah, there was no, there was no
act at all that was given to the the teachers at Western institutes.
And what about your relationship with your with, with your peers? I mean, this, you're an individual who's Muslim, very clearly Muslim, you've studied an Islamic University elsewhere, you're sitting in the classroom with a bunch of people who are studying these topics, which at times can be something that's that released to you on a very deep level? And, I mean, how was your interaction with them? I mean, do you like people might be uncomfortable with other individuals studying a traditional way. So I was wondering what your What was your relationship with your peers, no at home that I never had any issues with my friends and peers, some were Muslim men who are non Muslim. I think it's just a
matter of your own attitude and how you deal with it. And I was never,
I was never domineering about you have to follow my view, or else I mean, he people knew that I had my views. And I was very vocal about my views wherever I went, but I was always respectful. And then I never had any issues with any of my colleagues and peers were obviously I was closer to some than others. And I guess, inevitably, generally speaking, the one practicing Muslims that were there. And, by the way, I don't know if you're aware of this, but you do know that
in the early 2000s, you know, very few practicing Muslims were macademia. This is changing within your generation in particular, right? When I entered academia, hardly anybody was publicly observant. In Western academia, Islamic State, I mean, obviously, I mean, in Islamic Studies, obviously, right. It was a different realm. I mean, it's only been a generation when Edward Snowden in his Orientalism wrote, you know, Islamic Studies Muslims near that apply, right. It's only been one generation since Edward Sayid wrote that where there were no Muslims and Arabs, even in academia in Islamic Studies, and Edward Saeed called them out on that things began to change a generation
ago. But as most people are aware, even up until a decade ago, it was quite rare to see a visually observe an IE a bearded half of the Koran graduate of Medina, it's just it's still rare. By the way to this day, there hasn't been a Medina
person that's come to any Western as far as I'm aware of in Islamic Studies, after me, so it's still not that common but it isn't handed out much more acceptable for an observant Muslim I attended an AR conference was two years ago, or three years ago, two years ago, I think, and I was so happy to see him do that. So
Many people that are on the job, and not that I'm judging others and simply saying, that was not common 15 years ago at all. And so things have changed. And I'm always grateful to two year old and progressive offering for quote, unquote, risking me because someone like me coming from an observant and practicing and, you know, I was always like the beard is here and everybody knows and come from Medina, it's not something that is typical in western academia, as you're aware, even to this day, but things are changing and more observant Muslims are now coming, and that is now becoming acceptable. And I think that's a very positive thing overall. But in my case, there was never any,
anything negative and hamdulillah that I can recall, you know, some students you go along with and others, you didn't, but that's the case in any, any Institute, no, no big deal there. And then, I'm assuming you taught Well, you have to have taught you something, what did you teach? And did you bring anything from your time at, at the Islamic University of Medina, in teaching these classes at you? So a Yale being I don't know if it's changed, but when I was there, they were very, very particular about this that graduate students could never independently teach, because they wanted the prestige of only the professor's teaching the undergrads, right, almost all other Institute's in
the world require graduate students to teach undergrads. Yale did not want that. Yale and I don't know if it's changed or not, but when I was there, you could not teach an independent class, because they wanted and Yale is a very small university compared to, you know, Harvard and Princeton, and Yale is one of the smallest of the ivy League's, and they pride themselves on their small classrooms. And they pride themselves on the ratio of the professor to the students, and they pride themselves on, you know, cutting edge professors teaching 510 20 students, you know, and so we could not independently teach what we did was that we
became tes for two years, it was a part of our contract. And so I was a TA for multiple classes in history in Islamic Studies in modern Islam, and the class on atheism, you know, some, some Professor worldfamous frezzer. So I was just a TA. And a TA, sometimes takes over a class or two, and I did that, but doesn't teach the entire class. So a TA can stand in for a classroom to the end, you know, my professors encouraged me to do that. So I would actually teach an entire one class, not a semester, just a class or two in the whole semester. But other than that, I would be in charge of discussion sessions. And so that's a very important requirement of yield that almost every class has
a verbal discussion. And so as the TA you are in charge, not to Professor, so you get to interact with the students and then rehash or reteach them verbally, what the professor has taught them in class, and Alhamdulillah. I mean, I have all of the reviews even taught for two, two years. I was a TA for two years. And so in the course of that, I taught at least 150 LDS undergraduates as a TA, and the reviews were very, very positive. And they appreciated my honesty, they appreciate my openness. I never, I never hid who I was my identity, my background, everybody knew that I was a quote unquote, cleric as well, I was, even at that stage, I had somewhat of a national reputation.
And many of my students knew that. And they appreciated it. I never had any issues. I've never pretended to be anybody else. But I've always maintained a level of professionalism. So I had to be careful. And I still have to be careful. You don't become preachy at a Western institution, you need to know the lines of being preachy versus being academic. And that's a very clear line. And hamdulillah. I never in my entire 15 years, never was that an issue, people understood what I'm saying versus what I believe versus everything. So I never had an issue with that. But Muslims need to understand you cannot give that well, as a professor. I remember it did Rhodes Actually, this
different thing, somebody wanted to accept Islam in my class, came to my office. And I said to him, like, well, in order to continue this conversation, you're going to have to come to my Masjid. I literally said to him, that we can't do this on premise. Humbly, I'm happy, but you want to continue, he came to the master, we can tell him that he accepted Islam in the message, right? I can't do that on class. Because I didn't want to, I mean, technically, it's allowed, but I didn't want the far right person to jump in and say, Oh, this guy's doing this and I don't want that to happen. It's ridiculous to do that. You're gonna lose your career and job or something like this.
And you're like, you know, this is something possible outside the classroom, inside the classroom, you cannot become preachy, you get, you wouldn't want this to happen from another, you know, faith paradigm. You wouldn't want to Christian to come and give Dawa to your child in college or they would you right? So
You have to monitor that issue of how you say things. And if somebody is interested in the spiritual side, you say, well, that's great, I'm happy for you. Let's talk, you know, outside campus. And I would do that. And my time at Rhodes, by the way, and hamdulillah number of students embraced Islam.
But I never became preachy on campus, you see what I'm trying to say, I would always continue the conversation off campus with that. So I'm just going back to the structure of the difference between the two universities, in in more of a mother so setting, you cannot just jump into the study of, you know, Buhari or something like this, you have to go through several books. So I wonder why was this different? at Yale? I mean, did you did you notice that there was a disregard for prerequisites? Or do you say, dude, would you say that the prerequisites weren't as stringent or weren't like, you know, as strong as they should have been? And what about the Arabic? Arabic as we know, is is a very
important language in our field? How would you compare the level of Arabic knowledge between the students and the teachers of the two institutions? Of course, there's no prerequisites, that yields a totally different paradigm, completely different paradigm. The whole notion of
having certain knowledge before you get to other knowledge, is something that is very much a part of our tradition.
How else to say this, like, they don't give respect to what we give respect to the whole sciences of Hadith is not something they respect. So why would you need to know the science of how do you when you're approachable, hottie, right? Why would you need to know their prerequisites from from the perspective of the Western Institute's these prerequisites are a human tradition. And
they have the full right to approach Bahati with their own prerequisites as you do to do with your prerequisites, right. So it's not a matter of disrespecting from their perspective, it's a matter of you have invented a construct, you have invented a ladder, and you're going to use that ladder to get to your sources Good for you. They're gonna say, we are not obliged to follow that ladder, we are not obliged to go through that system. That's what you have invented, we want to approach it from a totally different perspective. So no, they don't have those prerequisites at all, because that's not the way they're looking at it. And again, we it's difficult to explain over an interview,
and those who took my class in the Islamic seminary are aware, because we went over these in more detail. And they've seen themselves firsthand, in into is difficult for the average person to understand this. And that's one of the reasons By the way, these interviews are awkward, because it is so easy for somebody, and I have plenty of them to just find that 10 seconds that they don't understand, and they just make a
video clip out of it. It's just that what happened is one of the nuisances that have to deal with in a long time. But your other question was about Arabic. And definitely, that's another issue as well that
most of the Western Academy
because of the fact that they're studying as a second language, their grasp of Arabic is not like it is, you know, ours. Definitely most of us. I know for sure, myself. I understood Arabic better than any of my professors any. And I understood Arabic texts better than any of them when we were reading them in class. But still, they had knowledge that I did not have, and they have access to knowledge I did not have I'll never forget, you know, Dimitri guta straight. So I took a class with him, one of the dawn's who has a lot of pauses, positives and negatives, let's not say any more.
I took a class with him, and
he brought up an issue. And he gave us a reference, you know, and he goes, Oh, it's this in this source. And he said it in Greek. And we said, Oh, we don't we don't read Greek. Sorry. So he said, okay, don't worry, he wrote us something else. He goes, this is in Latin, surely.
No, we don't have Latin either. He's like, and then he gave us a third language. I forgot what and like, all the was looked at, we don't have this as well. He got so frustrated, because oh, my God, what has happened to y'all? How can we accept students who don't know any of these languages anymore? Right. And we were doing the class on Arabic and Islamic studies with Buddhists. Okay, so sure, he doesn't know Sahil Bahati like I do. But he has references to his Islamic writings in, you know, ancient, you know, German or not ancient German and pre modern German. He has issues that are that we were doing Arabic grammar, by the way, we're doing Arabic grammar, okay, in that class, and
there are treatises written 400 years ago in Latin, that he wanted us to look up about how the West is looking at our Greek grammar, you know, the first treatises of inocle were written in Latin, the first treatise in the Western world. were written in Latin, obviously, right? And we're doing the history of Arabic grammar in the Western world, right? And he's just spouting things to the top of his mind, and he's saying look at how they do the Arabic language. Look at this and these comparing and contrasting.
Again, I've studied the benefits of nomadic cover to cover. And I know Arabic knakal, from within the tradition infinitely better than ghouta. No question about it. But there are knowledges that are separate than my nice, beautiful bubble. And that is, for example, how Western philologist how Western language experts are looking at the Arabic knakal. And how they're categorizing. And that's useful is very interesting. It'll also help you teaching Arabic to Westerners, because they've looked at it from a different paradigm than Eastern is how, for example, and I did not have access to that knowledge. Now, is that knowledge useful to a madrasa? Student? Probably not. Not at all.
But is it useful to a professor of Arabic studies? Definitely, yes. Is it useful to somebody who's going to teach Arabic to a Western audience? Definitely, yes. Is it useful, somebody wants to enter Jannah? Not necessarily, you know, so it's just a different type of knowledge that they have that I don't have.
Again, I can give other examples as well. But
I think it's, it's clear to say that simple classical reading Arabic was not their forte. And sometimes it was struggle, sometimes it would make mistakes, sometimes it would have recourse to dictionaries. That's the reality. I think what it really underscores is that we need trained Muslims who understand the tradition, to enter these fields, and to take the good, and to home the bad. And to produce a higher level of scholarship. That's one of the things that I'm encouraging people to do that are qualified to do that. You touched upon this before, but you stood in class, and you're the scholars that you revered, that you have a lot of respect for the Prophet, there's no Koran. But
these things they don't, they're not, you know, things that you revere anymore in a class, the professor might have some respect, depending on the professor's I mean, they might say,
might make some jokes, you know, some comments here and there. But generally, when you hear your peers and your professors talking about this
is something that might, you know, rub you the wrong way with regard to you know, okay, some details of the Prophet, the Prophet's life that you didn't really, you know, you're probably encountered it before, but you probably didn't think much about it or dwell much upon it. Or someone may be describing to tradition, the Islamic tradition in a certain way. I mean, did you react to this, like, on an emotional level? I suppose when you kind of hear these things?
That's a good question.
I was prepared for that. I came prepared, I knew that I would hear things that would be problematic. And I really asked one of my teachers this as well. She is the person that I admired immensely. I already asked him this. And he told me that don't worry about this, you will you are not going to be held accountable for this on a spiritual because I was worried spiritually I was worried. Am I ethically sick?
For sitting in the place where things are said that are semi blasphemous, this is before going to my ethically sinful for just being quiet and observing and saying things that or hearing things sorry, that would be problematic. And somebody that I greatly admire and respect said, Look, your intention is to learn these arguments so that you can better defend in the future, you don't have to answer right then and there. Your goal is to understand what they're saying, so that you can then form a better defense. And I appreciated that response. And I live by that response. So yes, there were things that were said. But you know, a lot of people they don't quite understand as well that
generally speaking Western academia is not out to deconstruct Islam. They're not enemies in Xanadu called that they want to just destroy, they are genuinely curious people with open minds who are looking at the tradition from a very different framework than you are. Now. Whether that ends up destroying your tradition or not is up to you. It's not necessarily their goal. They're not generally speaking, I'm sure one or two are generally and you know, this year at yield to many people in Russia, actually, we know this. They're not people who are harboring resentments, and anger. And this is something that the average Muslim finds incomprehensible like, why are people
dedicated their lives to Islam, and they're not Muslim? And that's because they have never met these people have never interacted with them like me and you have like other people have. People don't understand that the Western world is full of people that are intellectually curious. And they just decide to take a career, not because they have a spiritual investment, but because their curiosity has been piqued and they take make a career out of it. They have no actual goal per se, about wanting to brainwash you or not brainwash you. That's not their goal. They're just curious and asking questions and researching and right
papers and they're taking you along for a ride and it's up to you how much you want to be impacted or not. So, um, was that answering your question or? Yeah, yeah. And before I go on to the next question I should probably ask, Are you critical of anything with regard to the Islamic University of Medina and also attitude towards it right now.
So I consider it to be one of my biggest blessings that Allah has blessed me with,
after Islam and after my parents, the fact that I went to Medina for 10 years, it is something I am proud of it is something that I'm humbled that Allah blessed me to do. I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever. It shaped me, it made me who I am, I've benefited immensely from it. And I have tried my utmost in the last
20 or 1520 years after this panel, how long has it been? So it has been
25 years, since I stepped foot in Medina, I have tried my utmost to never utter any disparaging comment about the people or the system, I have utmost love and respect for them, and it has shaped me. And as I said, I am grateful to Allah for Edina. That having been said,
Every Institute of Islamic learning, without exception, understandably and justifiably has a specific methodology, and a specific theology and a specific ideology. And it wishes for its students to absorb and imbibe, and then reproduce that specific understanding of Islam. And again, that is understandable. Obviously, someone like myself, who was a part of that paradigm and agreed with it, and then decided to move on. It has created, not intentionally, from my side, some tensions between the official narrative between some of the scholars of that paradigm between many of its graduates, and between myself, and you see this on Twitter, on Facebook, online reputation videos.
And throughout all of this, I have endeavored to be somebody who tries my best to maintain a respectful attitude, I understand their concerns, I understand, they view me as having left the paradigm of Medina. To a certain extent they are correct I have, whether I'm a deviant or not is another issue altogether. But I am no longer officially parroting the narrative that I used to believe in 15 years ago. But I have nothing but respect for all of my teachers, even the ones who criticize me, I have remained silent. And I asked a lot for my holiday and their hidoe. And for the students as well that are sincere in their criticisms, I understand. And perhaps I would have been
the same 20 years ago, perhaps I would have been the same.
before seeing what I have seen. All I can say is that those people who criticize, especially those who speak English as another language, that they clearly have not even read a single work, or have experienced the knowledge that comes from different paradigms. And they're suspicious of any knowledge outside of their paradigm. And because of that, it's difficult to engage with somebody, you know, there's this thing in Arabic, that and that are that the majority do. People will be enemies to that which they're ignorant about. And this we see in this issue between me and some of the graduates of Medina where, because they don't understand my changes, because they don't
understand what has influenced me because they're refusing to even read any book outside of their paradigm and tradition. Understandably, they see me and they wag fingers, they are, look, you'll see what happens when you leave our tradition. And it's not just me, you know, the obon these that gravitate away from their school, you know, a Chinese who grabbed gravity to and from their school, anyone who does that the people that are left in the school, they have no alternative other than to problematize anathematize heritage size, those who leave the school, because in order to validate your school, you have to invalidate other schools, and especially the most dangerous person is the
one who mastered your school and then decided to move on or move it or leave it or abandoned understandably. So. I'm being very cautious and I'm trying my utmost to balance my respect of my previous world. And to this day, I don't think I have ever uttered anything negative or harsh and if I do it was unintentional was not something I'm intending to do or people are reading and I'm trying to maintain
my utmost respect Medina represents a tradition. It is an even taymiyah slash even Abdul Wahab understanding of Islam. And that has a purpose and that serves the function and goal in the Muslim ummah. And other Institute's have their understandings and paradigms, all of them.
I'm trying my best to be respectful even as I'm saying, me personally, I have moved on from that paradigm. Even as that paradigm has shaped me, that's, that's all I can say it
without getting into too much more detail. Thank you for them. And I don't want to keep you here longer than you know, how you've been very generous with your time. So I just wanted to ask a few quick questions. And they one of the questions that I had, you know, I think we discussed it a lot. But I do kind of want to rephrase it, because I think it'll be somewhat valuable. So I had the opportunity to study, uh, you know, you know, darussalam, awesome, two very good institutes madrasahs, in Chicago. And I've also had the opportunity to study at University of Chicago, and I might yield right now. And so I already think about some of the benefits of the two places and, and,
you know, like, for example, there is, there's a lot of languages that are offered at Yale and Syriac, if you're interested in Syriac that you wouldn't really be offered in others, and nor should I mean, that's not really their goal, either. But I wonder, as someone who is in a position to kind of formulate your own model and your own, you know, various curriculum, what would you bring from the two worlds? Or what would you say? Or maybe I, there's a lot you could bring, I guess, what would be two or three of the most important things you could bring to the two worlds and kind of just marry them? And, and and have them present in an institution?
Well, that's a very good question, which is actually quite relevant, because that's exactly what I'm doing it as long as I'm near America, that is exactly what I am doing. That has been my goal for the last decade and a half. And that is to bring the best of both worlds because the both of them have so much to offer. And
the I've taught two classes.
So far, because it's only been one year, the first class we did was the advanced Quranic studies. And the second class was advanced theology, Rokita and hamdulillah. There's been over 150 students in both of these classes, and you can see for yourself and ask them as well, that it's been very different, very cutting edge very, very atypical from either Yale or Medina, because we're bringing the both of these into the classroom, both paradigms. So for example, when it comes to theology, again, very interesting way we did this is that we went over the entire history of the classic of this is part one theology apartments we did the classical schools. So we went over all of the
classical theological movements that developed and we contextualize them. And we went back to their original sources, we discussed why they came how they came. And we also did this again, this is something that every Institute would do for other schools, but it wouldn't do for its own school, because that's where the taboo comes. So the dark room guys will do it. For the other mothers though hobbies came from there, the day they came from there, they wouldn't do it to their own. The Medina guys would do it for all the other the Chinese came from under the supervision of the Shakira there, they would never do it to their own. That's where the red line would come. And we did it to all of
the schools equally. And we saw the development in every single school, how the STI is developed, how the Morteza developed, how the hawala is developed the various uses of the holidays, and then how the author is developed as well and is transmitted Methodism and even Timmy and what he contributed, and how there are different strands before and after him. And then even at Google hub and what he did, and how he modified and changed things that were given to me as time. And again, we were respectful and factual throughout all my goal was that if anybody from any movement was attending, they couldn't criticize us for being partisan. We're being truthful, and as academic and
as rigorous as humanly possible. And the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, because again, we're going back to the sources. We're also going to analyses written by people that are generally speaking quite neutral in this regard for the Quranic sciences as well we did the same thing where we're mentioning the one of the main books assigned was a suit is it con, which is the classic book of Roman Koran. But along with that I'm bringing in manuscripts Teddy is the son of Harlem sets, which a lot of Muslims are not dealing with. This is an issue of modern organic studies that is very, very, very problematic. And most of them are completely unaware of what is going on in the
Western world. Organic studies is a classic example of the disconnect between traditional Islam, Islamic Studies and between the modern Western world. Frankly, this is a field where more and more Muslims are asking the questions because this knowledge of the West is trickling down in mainstream articles. You know, the sun I discovery is something that the average Muslim is aware of, if they're aware of what's going on. They're not aware of what's inside of it and the repercussions. In our class. We were very clear. We brought in everything and we said oh
What can we do? How can we respond to these issues? What can we think about and rethink through from, from the classical side, along with some of these problematic issues that are coming out from the manuscripts and the differences between the manuscripts and with Monica versions and whatnot. So, cutting edge while remaining respectful of the Quran and Sunnah we're definitely coming from the traditionalist paradigm we respect the Quran and Sunnah, but at the same time, there are questions that cannot simplistically be answered. And for to answer those questions need to be willing to break away from the tradition, not breakaway from the Quran and Sunnah. And again, that's something
very unique where I personally had to make a decision that I'm not going to
allow the Billa only use these principles on the Quran itself because this is the book of Allah subhanho wa Taala you can't do that, because if you do that, nothing is left to the man. You know. So, I made a conscious decision that all of these priding and probing and questioning it cannot be done to the book of a law because it is then zero min al Aziz and Hakeem it is from Allah subhana wa tada and I know it is from a law because my fifth law because it is simply too beautiful to be a human construct. It's something from Allah. So if it's from Allah subhana wa Tada, then Allah azza wa jal is in charge of it, and good enough for me to hamdulillah. But there are other questions that
come. And so we went to those questions. And we answer those questions in a manner that Alhamdulillah I'm much more comfortable now than I ever was in my entire life, about the difficult questions of a normal Hold on. But in order to answer those questions, I had to break away from cities upon based myself on Azur, Kashi and boron and all of that, but then move a little bit forward, and sages will look at you guys built the foundation for us. But you didn't take into account other things. And we have to now formulate any response. And then a final question, I think, and this is a good place to conclude, what is the responsibility of a Muslim when it comes to when
it comes to seeking knowledge. And the reason I asked this is, for example, if there's if someone says, Oh, I read in this book, that this is what Islam says, first thing this person will say is who's authored the book, and you'll say, Oh, you know, this anonymous name or whatever, if there's a non Muslim name, whatever that means. And they'll say, Oh, this guy's not Muslim. He doesn't know what it means to be Muslim. He He doesn't know you know, all the things that we do. So how can you trust what he's saying?
And that the same individual when it comes to a topic like Christianity or something like this, and someone is telling you, okay, this is the flaw in the New Testament, or this is the flaw in X y&z they'll say, okay, so where'd you read it? And they'll say, Oh, I read from this person. But the question doesn't go back. And so but this person, he's, I mean, he's an atheist, or, you know, he's an agnostic, he may be a figure, an important figure in biblical studies, and, you know, the, in the study of the New Testament, but still that same expectations, not there. And so I wonder, even as Muslims, but what's the expectation we need to have with ourselves, as we analyze our own tradition,
we obviously wrote this interview, we've been kind of pointing out areas of improvement, I should say, between, you know, different traditions. So I say, for the average Muslim, or for any Muslim, what is our responsibility when it comes to knowledge about our own faith?
So I think here, the question that you're asking needs to be
clarified, who's asking it, and what's the purpose of asking it, the average Muslim, is not and should not be interested in issues of a nature that are not going to be a practical benefit to himself or herself, the average Muslim should be interested in the basics of Islam in a manner that will make his life more meaningful, in a manner that will make his life more productive in a manner that he'll be with or she'll be able to worship Allah subhanho wa Taala, at their basic level, me and you were discussing it for academics. And that's a key caveat, I need to add this whole interview, it's really meant because you're coming your podcast is a podcast meant for academics,
right, even though maybe because of me, a lot of people listen, that are not from academia. But to be very clear, this entire interview is really meant for advanced students that are flirting between classical Islamic Studies and Western, you know, academic training of Islam, and wondering the differences between them. Yes, what your podcast is about? So this question that you're asking, if you're asking it on behalf of the average, you know, Mohammed on the street or fault him and her you know, in the street or whatnot, for them, they should not really be interested in these difficult questions, because it's not going to increase their amount of stock to make them a better person.
But if you're asking about the madrasa student, who is very interested in Advanced Studies, and is not satisfied with his own madrasa system for that student, I will tell them that if they have enough Eman and faith
And if they have enough of a traditional background training with those two caveats, and they're brave enough to be willing to change their mind, then yes, they should not care about the religion of the author, they should not care about the paradigm of the author, go ahead and study as much as you can. But you have to have enough of a background both human wise and knowledge wise to be able to end venture into the lions den. If you're not going to have either of the two, then in that case, definitely, it is best that birds of a feather flock together. If you're satisfied with your mainstream Deobandi circle, stick with your mainstream debunk the roadmap, if you're satisfied to
sell a few circles, stick with the center of your roadmap, be precise with your, you know, a shiny circle, stick with those around no problem. Don't worry about the others then and don't criticize the others as well let them be and you'll be happy in your nice little bubble, but recognize that it is your bubble and recognize that other Muslims have their bubbles, and they're just as happy as they are as you are in yours. And there's no need to go beyond the famous the famous statement of you know,
even seeing that this knowledge is, you know, this knowledge that you're seeking is your religion. So be careful who you study your religion with. It applies to the average Muslim who wants to study their religion to come closer to Allah and His messenger. It does not apply really to the one who wants to study anything and everything to become to be a better defender of Islam, especially in the modern world. You cannot close your blinders and not study other traditions for people that are not Muslim. So that's something that needs to be very clear here. Religious Muslims who are interested in studying Islam for their own personal religiosity, it is definitely best that they stick with
their own religious tradition. And they should, and they must look at the backgrounds of the preachers and teachers that they are listening to. And in my opinion, as I've said many times in public, any strand of mainstream Islam is inshallah acceptable to the average Muslim. Any strand of mainstream that respects the Quran wants to follow, the prophet will send them soon, any strand, the average Muslim is not going to be punished by Allah for not knowing the details of the other strands. We should not make sectarianism a big issue, even non Sunday strands, which should approach with gentleness and not with sectarian fanaticism. Even though I'm not a fan of non Sunni strands of
Islam, right, I think there are making some mistakes, theological, but the way that you present it should not be sectarian birds of a feather should flock together within mainstream Satanism outside of mainstream Semitism. If you're able to influence in a gentle manner, influence otherwise, live and let live. However, academics, train madrasa students, people who want to go beyond one strand of Islam, they need to be bold enough to break away and to listen and benefit regardless of the background of the person that is writing. But again, with those two conditions, and the caveat the two conditions, they have enough demand in a law soldier not in their tradition, enough demand in a
law and respect of the messenger. And number two, they have enough knowledge of the tradition to know something about it. And then the caveat is that they're willing to change their minds they're willing to walk in and benefit from that which is worthy to be benefited from inshallah, thank you so much, Doctor, I am sure a huge amount of people will benefit especially as this the rate of Muslims going into academia increases. I'm sure a lot of people will benefit from your advice. Thank you again, so much for being a guest today. And with that said, I'm
in a feed dounia Solomon.