Lenders, Leopards, and Lions: The Violence of Avarice - Muslim Musings from Dante's Six, Seventh

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Event Name: Lenders, Leopards, and Lions: The Violence of Avarice - Muslim Musings from Dante's Six, Seventh
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 4/27/2019
Transcript Version: 1

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good morning it's a great pleasure to

introduce Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Sheikh

Hamza happens to be when the most

prominent Muslim scholars in the Bay

Area he's a teacher writer and scholar

and he's also the co-founder of Zaytuna

College the first Muslim liberal arts

college in the country established where

else here in Berkeley California he is

an advisor to Stanford University's

program in Islamic studies and the

Center for Islamic studies here at the

GTU he also serves as a member of the

Board of Advisors of George Russell's

One Nation a national philanthropic

initiative that promotes pluralism and

inclusion in America he also serves as

vice president for the global Center for

guidance and renewal recently Hamza

Yusuf was ranked as the Western world's

most influential Islamic scholar by the

500 most influential Muslims edited by

John Esposito and Ibrahim Killeen Shaikh

Homs has authored any number of

encyclopedia articles and research

papers and several books including

purification of the heart the content of

character the Creed of imam al Tahari

agenda to change our condition walking

on water and the prayer of the oppressed

and is forthcoming

the helpful guide and I just want to say

a little bit about sheikh hamza x' work

basically we can serve characterized in

three parts on the one hand the sheikh

hamza has been very influential in

reviving the authentic tradition of

Islamic scholarship which had suffered

all sorts of missed formations due to

colonialism as a tuna College is an

example of this of going back to the

roots of Islamic traditional education

and for that reason he has a great deal

of reputation credibility among you know

even non scholarly Muslims at the same

time he emphasizes that true

understanding of tradition goes beyond

the letter of the text to the spirit

that inspires the letter so he has

always emphasized in his research than

an understanding of the texts of Islamic

scholarship we

requires knowledge of the purification

of the heart of the ascetic and mystical

tradition of self-development which

enables one to understand the actual

text of the letter and then the third

part of its work is applying this to the

contemporary situation so Sheikh Hamza

has been an outspoken and passionate

critic of all kinds of social justice

and extremism whether it's the extremism

of global elites and militarism or the

counter extremism of pseudo Islamic

extremists Sheikh Hamza has been

credited for say persuading edge Hussain

to abandon extremism so Sheikh Hamza

working basically be described as a kind

of bridge building and connecting of

worlds connecting the worlds of

tradition and modernity and the worlds

of west and east which blends in

perfectly well with Graduate theological

unions in Pacific School of religions

mission and purpose so it's a my great

pleasure and honor to introduce Sheikh Hamza Yusuf

Main Speech (Shaykh Hamza Yusuf)


Thank you.  okay we good all right thank you sorry about that it was a I guess that's my introduction

In the name of God the Most Merciful The Most Compassionate I appreciated that I

always take those things with a serious

grain of salt like being the most

influential Muslim scholar in the West

because I'm having a hard time

influencing my 16 year old right now so

we know about influence the the the also

the description of a bridge builder

I'd prefer rather to be described as

somebody who's just trying to show

bridges that are already there we don't

need to build bridges building bridges

is a lot of effort and work I think we

should use the ones that are already

there but oftentimes the fog of war and

other things cloud our vision when

there's a lot of fog in San Francisco

you can't even see the Golden Gate

Bridge this this is one of those things

I think that that relates to all of us

the that I was really happy and the

reason that I chose to do this was

because of the topic I I've been

actually not doing a lot of things like

the trying to get the things I already

have to do done so but the topic this

topic is one of the most fascinating

topics to me and it's fascinating for a

number of reasons that one of the most

important is the complete disconnection

that so many people have with wealth and

I want to give you an example how many

people know John Robbins not that many

I'm surprised I love John Robbins he's

wonderful guy his father was one of the

founders of Baskin and Robbins he he


he he wrote he wrote diet for a new

America that was his first revolutionary

book saying don't eat ice cream he he

also he he's an extraordinary human

being he as a young man idealistic went

to Vancouver built a log cabin with his

wife lived on an island in Vancouver and

without electricity raised his children

there his son this is kind of the 60s

people here can relate to this his son

named ocean is also doing things so he

was part of that idealistic generation

that listened to too many Bob Dylan

songs and and took this stuff seriously

and and dropped out what's interesting

is when he came back after several years

he began to advocate for a lot of things

related to social justice diet is one of

them because we don't realize the

connection between what we eat and

ethics which is very important not just

the Ethical Treatment of Animals which

is one aspect of it because the animals

today are no longer farm animals they

are literally commercial products they

have nothing to do with a traditional

idea Old MacDonald had a farm e-i-e-i-o

McDonald's now owns the farm and it's

not that you know the pig and the cow

having a good time anymore so but one of

the things that intrigued me I got his

book the new good life living better in

an age of less and he talks about this

crisis that we're in and how it's

actually an opportunity but what really

struck me was he admits and I think

courageously that he lost all of his

money in this crises because all of his

money was invested with Bernie Madoff

and so I think it's just so amazing that

somebody who I believe is a truly

ethical person but the fact that he was

living off stolen money because a Ponzi

scheme you're not living off your money

that was already spent you're living off

the money of other people that have now

invested into the Ponzi scheme and so

this to me illustrate SPRO found

this incredible disconnect that we have

in the United States between our wealth

how we invest it and what the wealth is

actually doing out there in the world

and this doesn't just mean investment

somebody who wrote best-selling books

has money to invest most people don't

but it also means the ethical choices

that you make every day when you buy

right we and and now the corporations

are wising up to this so now they're

putting like Fairtrade stamps and and a

lot of this stuff is unregulated so we

really don't know what's going on but

they recognize that there are people

that are deeply troubled by the type of

world that we're living in right now and

the imbalances that we have so I want to

look at a pre-modern person who dealt

with these things and one of the things

about Dante Dante is very troubling for

Muslims and I'll get to that later but

Dante is also somebody who and I think

the theses of his indebtedness to the

Islamic tradition is is airtight for

somebody that knows the tradition very

well and knows Dante reasonably well the

I think I've seen palacios who's the

Spanish Catholic priest who first put

forward this thesis that Dante had been

influenced by what's known as the

nocturnal or the Night Journey of the

Prophet Mohammed where he goes through

hell he's guided by Gabriel he and then

ascends to the heights and then into

paradise ultimately to experience the

beatific vision and to come back the the

similarities are so extraordinary and

many of the things that you find in

Dante are not from Christian tradition

and Christians know this that it's

usually seen as from the imagination of

Dante now to say that Dante stole like

they say mediocrity is to borrow

geniuses to steal there's nothing really

wrong with stealing Shakespeare was

constantly stealing things from most of

his plays our plots taken from other

playwrights but the genius is making it

your own this is a title lenders

leopards and lions he divides

into the sins of the Leopards the sins

of the Lions and the sins of the wolves

and then the violence of avarice because

we we don't really think of avarice as

being a violent crime or a violent sin

but in in this medieval tradition it was

so these are my musings from these these

trenches in Dante's hell the pre-modern

world view among Abrahamic people and

amongst all people the pre-modern world

was a metaphysical world people before

modernity lived in a world in which they

recognized that this was not the world

this was Maya it was one in the Arabic

tradition it was completely FNS it it

was trans it was something that was

transient by its nature would dissipate

before we knew it but it also was

symbolic and this is why Plato for

instance did not want image makers and

this is one of the things that Neil

postman argues in amusing ourselves to

death that in the second in the

Decalogue the second commandment not to

make any graven images unto God and not

to make any images whatsoever I mean if

you read the the original commandment

it's very specific about not making

images at all and Postman argues that if

a God who is a complete abstraction the

idea of God wanted human beings to

understand him or her or it however you

want to phrase it the the God would have

to be a god that was understood through

symbols through abstraction in the mind

not tangible and so the idea of idolatry

was such an anathema to the Abrahamic

traditions the iconoclast

influenced by the Muslims during the

Byzantine period actually destroy a lot

of the icons it's interesting that the

only icons that we have from that period

and in in the late 7th and early 8th

century are the ones that were

from the monasteries that were protected

by the Muslims so the Greeks went around

destroying all these icons so the the

pre-modern world was a world of

metaphysics and Plato felt that the

danger of images was that it would take

people they would be now twice removed

from reality so if you have a television

and you're watching reality TV you're

actually twice removed from reality

because the actual thing that's

happening that you're watching whether

it's recorded or live are images of

images and so he saw the danger of

having those images now one of the

aspects of the pre-modern world view was

morality was at the center of the human

condition the Ten Commandments are

universal Commandments you will find

these in many many traditions some form

of the Ten Commandments it's it's

actually quite extraordinary how

widespread they are if you look at the

core ethics of the Quran it's clearly

from the Ten Commandments the obstacles

to fulfilling the Ten Commandments are

the seven deadly sins according to st.

Gregory the Great a one of the great

Catholic leaders now in Dante's world

sin was something you struggled against

it was not something you indulged in it

was something something you actually

struggled against if you go to Las Vegas

as you enter into Las Vegas there's a

big banner in the airport that says

surrender to your desires and then what

what happens here stays here so one of

the things that advertising people have

learned is that the seven deadly sins

make great selling points so have the

Mercedes and you're gonna look better

than everybody else on the

you're gonna have respect you'll also

get the envy of other people luxurious

so these these these seven deadly sins

were central to that worldview but one

of the interesting things about the

Mount of Purgatorio was at the base was

pride and and don t doesn't really deal

did the whole Divine Comedy in the in

the inferno pride is constantly there

but it's not mentioned in the same way

that the other sins are mentioned

because it's just understood that is the

root problem greed and pride were the

root problems according to st. Thomas of

the human condition but what's

interesting about this mountain as as

you climb up the mountain it gets

lighter and easier so it's the opposite

of a worldly mountain the spiritual

mountain gets actually easier now one of

the things about Jesus which is

interesting I mean there are many things

interesting about him but one of the

things that's very interesting is that

when he was one of the teachers of law

came and heard them debating noticing

that Jesus had given them a good answer

he asked him of all the commandments

which is the most important now you

could look at this the 613 commandments

of the Torah or you could look at it as

the Ten Commandments the most important

one jesus answered is is this here o

Israel the shinai the Lord our God the

Lord is one love the Lord your God with

all your heart and with all your soul

and with all your mind and with all your

strength the second is this love your

neighbor as yourself

there is no commandment greater than

these what Jesus does in in this

incredibly sick synched manner is to sum

up the Ten Commandments because the

first three Commandments are about

loving God about honoring God believing

in God about honoring the Sabbath and

then it's loving the neighbor it's don't

kill don't steal those are acts of

hatred towards the neighbor honor your

parents those are the closest neighbors

that you have growing up and don't covet

your neighbor's Goods don't bear false

witness this is all loving the neighbor

so he reduces the Ten Commandments to

two Commandments now what's interesting

about that is he makes it a positive

most of the ten commands

our negatives but he makes it a positive

that love is a positive force in the

world and this is really Dante's vision

in the inferno because Dante sees that

love is at the root of all of this you

have and he ends his his Paradiso with

love so it's it's the last line in in

the in the entire poem he has loved

excessive love perverted and love

wanting these are the human problems now

Dante he finds himself the middle of his

life he was born in 1265 this takes

place in in 1300 and Dante is he's a

fascinating character for a number of

reasons one of them is that he is a

devout Catholic and yet he's deeply

influenced by rationalism he's

definitely a secularist he really wants

to see separation of church and state

he's also very anti-clerical he in fact

he's never been beatified I mean he's

you know he stuck half the Pope's in

hell so and he really he had a problem

with the church but like all great

Patriots their greatest act is to point

out what needs to be corrected you see

the jingoistic type of approach never

works those are the flatterers that tell

you there's nothing wrong it's the

people that point out what needs to

change and that's what he was really

involved in doing but he enters the

inferno and you know abandon hope all ye

who enter here

III had a an idea of doing a theme park

based on the inferno

because because we love theme parks

right I was actually on mr. Toad's Wild

Ride with my children and I realized at

Disneyland that mr. Toad's Wild Ride is

kind of a minion fare no because because

he actually goes to hell in that I don't

know if there is it's a terrible thing

to do to a five-year-old you know it's

just a trevally frightening thing but he

mr. toad actually he he goes to hell but

then suddenly it's like no you get a

second chance and and so you you're back

out all right it's start over but the he