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One Light: Dialogues on Religion With Dr. Farhad Shafti

One Light: Dialogues on Religion With Dr. Farhad Shafti

By Veronica Polo
A podcast about understanding religion better. What role does it play in modernity? What value does it bring and conversely what problems does it create? Using the Islamic tradition as our framework, we search for universal truths that go beyond religious affiliation. Veronica Polo, an avid sense-maker, talks to Dr. Farhad Shafti, who holds a PhD in Islamic Studies with a focus on Interpretation of the Qur’an.
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Episode 18: The True Meaning of the Universality of the Qur’an
In this concluding episode, Veronica Polo interviews Dr. Farhad Shafti about his ground-breaking work titled “The True Meaning of the Universality of the Qur’an”, an article that dissects the pluralistic vs. exclusivist view in the Islamic tradition. Dr. Shafti deconstructs five assumptions common to Muslims: 1.) That God only guides people through Prophets 2.) That every region of the planet has received a Prophet at some point in history 3.) That the Prophets that bring divine law automatically abrogate previous ones 4.) That Prophets came to guide all of humanity 5.) That there is only one correct understanding of God, the Hereafter, and the Unseen. A wider and much more encompassing perspective is offered.
October 31, 2021
Episode 17: Revisiting Riba (usury) featuring Sitara Akram
In this episode we define what “riba” is (usually translated to English as usury).  We describe its history within Judaism and Christianity, and then look at the roots of the term in the Qur’an, as well as the classical interpretations in Islamic law. We discuss why Muslims are so concerned with this concept.  We explore the ways in which economic oppression happens today that fall outside the traditional scholarly areas of concern.
September 08, 2021
Episode 16: Women (featuring Sitara Akram)
Gender seems to play a big role in the way that Islam is perceived both inside and outside the faith. Muslims will generally say (rather fervently) that Islam protects and honors women. Critics of Islam will insist that it is clearly oppressive to women based on disturbing social realities. Why are these two perspectives so hard to reconcile? In this episode, our guest Sitara Akram, in conjunction with Dr. Farhad Shafti and Veronica Polo, dissect these divergent narratives. We touch on controversial topics such as sexual harassment and rape, gender segregation, and the problematic exclusion of women from the field of Qur’anic interpretation.
August 18, 2021
Episode 15: Impediments to Understanding the Qur’an
In this episode, Dr. Farhad Shafti details seven areas that he has identified which may serve as impediments to understanding the Qur’an. An eye-opening and clarifying session! Take a listen and contact us with comments and questions about the points raised.
July 25, 2021
Episode 14: The Born Muslim Experience
Every born Muslim has a different experience depending on their upbringing, culture, and personal drive for inquiry. Today once again we have a guest, Waseem Aslam, who describes his own personal journey, being born in Pakistan and emigrating to work as a doctor in the United Kingdom. He describes the factors that led him to wrestle with what being a Muslim meant to him, as well as his growth in finding compassion and affinity with those in other traditions.
July 08, 2021
Episode 13: The Convert Experience
What does it mean to switch faiths? What is it like for Muslim “converts” in particular? (For lack of a better term!) What are the typical highs and lows that new Muslims experience? What happens to those open-minded seekers that when joining a group are led to exclusivism and narrow-mindedness? In this episode Dr. Farhad Shafti and Veronica Polo are joined by James Coates, who helps us with these questions as he walks us through his own particular journey.
June 20, 2021
Episode 12: Sharia
The perennial question and cause of debate between Muslim scholars and practitioners alike: is the Sharia (what is understood as God’s law, Muslim or otherwise) a static or dynamic concept? In this episode we attempt to categorize regulations by type and then see which aspects of Sharia perhaps require some adaptability.  
June 06, 2021
Episode 11: Sunnah
What do we mean by “sunnah”? How is it different from “hadith”? How are the customs and traditions of Muslims passed down and considered reliable? Dr. Shafti shares his views, which build upon the work of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi and Amin Ahsan Islahi.
May 24, 2021
Episode 10: Ramadan Pt.3
In this final Ramadan episode, we delve into the meaning of Laylat al-Qadr, sometimes translated as the Night of Power or Night of Decree. We question if it’s a singular yearly occurrence or whether it can mean something much more profound than that. We talk about transitioning out of Ramadan. Lastly, Farhad gives a beautiful description of prayer and how it can be used as a tool for transformation.
May 08, 2021
Episode 09: Ramadan Pt.2
In this episode we continue to talk about Ramadan. First, Farhad and I catch up to see how the first weeks of our month of Ramadan are going. Afterwards we talk about the tradition of Tarawih prayers, where this practice originated and how the intended benefit sometimes goes astray. We discuss how to benefit from reading the Qur’an this month. We touch on the order of the surahs in the Qur’an as well as its different functions. We finish with a parable on the different states one can enter when reading the Qur’an depending on the intention and perception of the individual.
April 26, 2021
Episode 08: Ramadan Pt.1
It’s that time in the Muslim calendar! The month of Ramadan! Do you partake in it? Do you look forward to it? Do you dread it? Do you find purpose in it, or does it seem like an imposition? In this episode we suggest some ways to shift our lens and make the best of it.
April 11, 2021
Episode 07: Rationality
In this episode we dive deeper into rationality. What is reason founded on? To what extent can we use our reason in relation to the dictates of revelation? We talk about the existential crisis that Muslims sometimes suffer when antiquated legal rulings do not meet their current needs. We finish by answering a listener question about knowing whether Islam is the right path for them.
March 28, 2021
Episode 06: The Good Qualities and Tazkiah Pt.2
Part two of the “good qualities” series where we delve into the virtues that beautify a person. We talk about truthfulness, veiling flaws (our own and those of others), and sincerity of character. We talk about patience, thankfulness, praise of God and trust in God. We touch on forgiveness, empathy and modesty. Don’t miss our “Guess Who Said It!” quiz at the end of the episode.
March 14, 2021
Episode 05: The Good Qualities and Tazkiah Pt.1
In this episode we begin talking about the “good qualities” that mature a human being. We explore the concept of “tazkiah” (purification of the self). We describe how this purification process has three aspects and we debate if they are equally important.  We discuss how people conceive of God differently while some cannot rationally believe in God at all. We finish with verses from the Qur’an that encourage moral behavior. To be continued in part 2.
March 01, 2021
Episode 04: Who Speaks for Islam?
In this episode we try to answer the question—who speaks for Islam? We talk about the importance of the intellect as evidenced by the Qur’an itself. We question why the Muslim community is so obsessed with “halal” (permissible) and “haram” (impermissible). Lastly, we look at the duty of scholars and their audience towards each other.
February 14, 2021
Episode 03: Prayer and Other Fundamentals
In this episode we begin by exploring the concept of “The Five Pillars of Islam.” Where does this concept come from is it a useful or a limiting notion? We talk a little about Arab society before Muhammad’s message and what practices were already present. We question whether Arabs were really so ignorant before the Qur’anic revelation, as is the implication when some refer to “jahiliyyah” or “age of ignorance.”  We talk about the five daily prayers in the Islamic tradition, and the importance of prayer not only in Islam, but in the other monotheistic traditions. Lastly, we discuss some of the spiritual aspects of prayer.
February 03, 2021
Episode 02: God, Believers and Unbelievers
Today we continue exploring how we think of God and the conscious and unconscious images we tend to form. We talk about the male pronoun and we question whether it’s simply a linguist limitation or a patriarchal tendency. We discuss the “99 names of God.” We explore the term “unbeliever” and also the concept of heaven and hell. Lastly, Dr. Shafti posits that the Qur’an has a subject, a purpose, and a style, and he differentiates between these three.
January 29, 2021
Episode 01: What is Islam?
Today we take an unconventional approach to defining Islam. We look at how the Qur’an refers to previous Jewish Prophets as “Muslim”, meaning “ones who are submitted to God’s will” rather than “followers of the Prophet Muhammad” as is commonly understood today. The idea of submission is taken a step further when we look at verses that refer to all of nature as submitted, implying that the cosmos is following a Divine order. We explore whether human beings are distinct from other animals. We question whether religiosity is really any kind of indication of goodness. Lastly, we talk about a tendency to appropriate the idea of God for our own means.
January 28, 2021