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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.