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Tikkun Award - Sheikh Hamza Yusuf - March 2011

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Event Name: Tikkun Award - Sheikh Hamza Yusuf - March 2011
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 6/9/2019
Transcript Version: 1


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teacher and leader to give the award to

and that is Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and

Sheikh Hamza faces an issue in the

Muslim community that we in the Jewish

community face and that and that the

Christian community faces it's the issue

of the of a kind of pull between a

vision of the world based on fear and a

vision of the world based on love and

whether you articulate that in terms of

a certain version of Orthodoxy not all

orthodoxy in the Jewish world but

certain version of Orthodoxy or verses

of certain version of renewal or whether

you articulate that in terms of the slip

between fundamentalists and and say

liberal Christians or whether you act

ikkyu late that in terms of the pull of

a certain kind of Islamic fundamentalism

versus a kind of openness to the modern

world this struggle is going on in all

the different religious communities and

in fact really in the hearts of people

all over the planet hamza has played the

role of creating in this country and

actually now I had the honour of

traveling to Canada to see him speak to

a grouping of Muslims 10,000 Muslims who

he had who had come together to hear him

and respond to his work I was the only

Jew in the in this context no that's not

true my wife was there but Hamza has

played the role of creating a voice for

an Islam that is both authentic to the

text authentic to the tradition and

there and nevertheless open to the

wisdom of that has emerged through the

West and has emerged through some of the

traditions of enlightenment

without capitulating to what is

distorted in West in Western culture and

without slavish ly trying to assimilate

to a Western culture in the way that we

know that in the Jewish world and in the

Christian world those those tendencies

are those attractions led sometimes to a

slavish assimilation in order to fit in

so I'd like to ask Sheikh Hamza to come

up and read to you the award that were

um that we've written for you delighted

that you could make it

okay

if you couldn't magazine and the network

of spiritual progressives is proud to

give this award to Sheikh Hamza Yusuf in

recognition of your contribution to

tikkun olam this tikkun award is

presented in recognition of your role as

a teacher and interpreter of Quran in a

way that is deeply rooted in tradition

and yet reflects also a grappling with

what is best in Western thought and

culture you have guided the creation of

Zaytuna College and our chair of its

Board of Trustees and through that

school you seek an understanding of

Islamic law

that is sophisticated and responsive to

the highest ethical values of the human

race you have been at the forefront of

creating an Islam that rejects

triumphalist interpretations and

combines a traditionalist and mystical

approach with an attentiveness to the

religious and pastoral needs of the

rapidly expanding Muslim community in

the West in this way you have supported

the integration of Muslims into America

without abandoning the deep truths and

insights at Islam bestowed this 14th day

of March 2011 ninth day of Adar two five

seven seven one

this wind

thank you very much I'd like to start

off with a little bit of part on people

will indulge me here do be nahi

mentorship on your knee

it's me now you are mine you Rahim Oh

Rahman an important hot up onions and I

never hold a and a sham someone Hamato

be a husband

one Nigel moon was scheduled a student

was some

or a firewall the reason

let the whole film easin well PMON was

nabila's wanna talk on me

and one or more bar honey Lana

see her hot on one ruder to luck

mommy will help food on last few all

right hands

and that bi jnana

you're on become a to Caliban

come on Eileen this means those verses

are from a chapter called the merciful

which was a name that the Arabs didn't

have for God it was actually introduced

by the Quran and it says the merciful

who taught this recital created the

human being and gave you language and

the Sun and the moon were placed in a

perfect reckoning and the stars and the

trees that adorn the world are in

frustration to the divine and then it

says and and God set up this perfect

balance and told you don't transgress

the balance and establish the balance

with justice and the entire earth was

placed for all living creatures and then

it says which of the favours of your

lord are you in denial of what are you

denying of the favours of your lord one

of the one of the most important in the

Islamic tradition and I feel I can speak

somewhat for the Christian tradition

because I came out of an Orthodox

Christian tradition and also was went to

Jesuit school so my mother was raised in

the Orthodox tradition my father was in

the Catholic my father my last name is

Hansen which is comes from the Irish

Catholics who came to this country were

actually third-class citizens when they

got here in the 1830s and 40s and a lot

of Irish would change their names to

sound more anglo-saxon and so Oh handset

became Hansen and my Irish Catholic

family actually began denying that roots

once they got rid of the brogue and rose

up into Philadelphia society one of the

the most important things in the Islamic

and Christian tradition is the sin of

pride is a real problem spiritual pride

one of the interesting things about

religion is you can take religious jokes

and I do this all the time I hear jokes

about Christians or Jews and I just

changed the name

and they become Muslims and they work

perfectly so you know I heard this with

a different religion but the the Imam is

is in the prayer niche and he has an

epiphany and falls and begins to say I'm

nothing I'm nothing before this Almighty

God and the more evidence in the color

of prayer and sees the Imam saying I'm

nothing I'm nothing and says God if he's

nothing what am i he falls down I'm

nothing I'm nothing and then the guy

that sweeps the mosque comes in and sees

the e great Imam and the prayer caller

and says my god if they're nothing what

am i he falls down at nothing on nothing

and the Imam says to them whether and

look who thinks he's nothing so

spiritual pride is a real problem in our

traditions one of the things that that I

think all of our religions have a

problem with today is that we I think

religions have always been pathogenic in

that they can produce so much trouble in

the souls of people and even though

they're supposedly to actually heal our

souls and a lot of people do very well

usually who are already well they do

well by religion it helps George Bernard

Shaw said that religion the problem with

religion is it only benefits religious

people so but the problem is that when

irreligious people begin to dress in the

cloak of religion all these problems

start and we've got a planet filled with

real nut cases in our religions that are

causing a lot of problems for those of

us who actually get a lot out of

religion and enjoy religion and

hopefully it keeps us in some kind of a

balance but we have a real problem and

to deny that problem I think is to deny

what I call the negative externalities

of religion if this is an economic term

you have externalities a corporation

sets up a factory they begin to pollute

the river and it goes downstream and

then you get

babies with problems down the road the

negative externalities of religion are

those toxic side effects of religion

that we don't really like to deal with

just like the corporation's don't like

to deal with the negative externalities

that they produce because they want to

say no our primary product is building

tires or lighting your houses with

nuclear energy oh sorry that we had a

meltdown and you're all really sick now

we didn't intend it like collateral

damage the difference between us and

them is we don't intend to harm anybody

even though we end up harming people and

so I think one of the things that we as

religious and committed religious people

do is we tend to deny the negative

externalities of our traditions that has

nothing to do with me that's not my

religion but those people within these

religious families that are using our

traditions they're using the books that

we use they're using the words that we

read and they are deriving very

different understandings but often

understandable because of the nature of

a lot of the pre-modern language that

exists in these texts and within the

Orthodox tradition you had a profound

weight of understanding that had to be

carried before you were allowed to

interpret these texts all you have to

read is st. Augusta non Christian

doctrine it's a very powerful argument

for a serious training in grammar before

you try to interpret the Bible right

because if you don't know what a

conditional sentence is you can get in a

lot of trouble reading the Bible if you

don't know that there are clauses that

restrict meanings if you don't know that

there are general terms that are

sometimes meant to be specific I'll give

you an example in Arabic rhetoric there

is a something that is it's it's like a

cynic doke you use the whole of

something - or a metonymy rather you use

the whole of something to indicate a

part so

for instance there's a verse in the

Quran that says audited you who do yet

ilahe medulla the jews say that the hand

of god is restricted in other words

god's a miser the jews don't say that

one jew said that at the time of the

prophet and yet when arabs now who have

not studied arabic rhetoric read that

verse they think all jews say that and

this is a problem that if you don't

understand language it's very dangerous

to read what you think god is saying

like the teacher who one of his students

was reading a book he said you're not

ready for that book he said I promise

I'll only take from it what I understand

he said that's not what I'm afraid of

I'm afraid of you taking what you think

you understand because this is what

happens so so often in our tradition so

we have a real serious problem with the

negative externalities of religion and

my argument is that religion now is in

so many places causing so much harm and

the secularists who really many of them

hate religion are using these examples

to say you know what we need to get rid

of this thing and so sam harris becomes

a hero despite the fact if you actually

read his book the end of faith he's

calling for a pre-emptive nuclear strike

on muslims that this might be necessary

to save ourselves i mean this is the

type of insanity that we've fallen into

because we have also fundamentalist

secularists that are often as dangerous

in their ideas and ideologies as

so-called fundamentalist religious

people's you know we live in a very

dangerous world because the tools that

we now have have far outstripped our

ethical nature the ability to use those

tools for our benefit and we can now see

very clearly that we're capable of

destroying massive numbers of people

we've got nuclear proliferation we've

got all of this technology that we don't

even understand really it's it's higher

magic we don't understand so we have we

have real problems and and I think as

religious people and committed religious

people we need

really think seriously about what went

wrong what went wrong this is something

that I grapple with every day because

when I read about these reports in

Muslim countries about what's going on

and I recognize that a lot of these

people actually believe that they're

doing something in the name of God and

we all know how heinous things can be

done when they're done in the name of

God right

it takes evil people to do evil but good

people they need religion to do evil

right I mean that that's what happens so

my feeling right now is the only way

that we're going to get out of this

incredible mess that we're in

religiously speaking is we need the

Judaism of Rabbi Hillel it's not going

to work otherwise we can't have any

other version we need the Judaism that

says when the non Jew asks what is the

Torah I want to study the Torah and he's

told what you don't want done to

yourself don't do to your neighbor

that's the whole Torah

now go and study that's it if you don't

get that you don't get anything and that

is also true of our own tradition we

need the islam of imam al-ghazali we

need the islamic for Dino Rossi who said

all of Islam can be reduced to two

statements both of these men two of the

greatest theologians in the history of

our tradition said all of Islam can be

reduced to two statements serving and

loving the creator and serving and

loving his creation serving and loving

the creator and serving and loving his

creation we need the christianity of st.

Francis Assisi I'm amazed that the

Christians are here with all these hate

signs towards Muslims that I'm wondering

well people haven't read their books and

when they read them they often

misunderstand them but I'm just

wondering about love your enemies what

that meant I really wonder about that

and Kierkegaard said the problem with

Christianity is the only Christian in

all of Christendom was Jesus

so it is a problem we have real problems

these religions become they're like

nuclear energy they have massive power

they they're a relatively clean energy

if used with the right constraints and

in the proper system and they can

illuminate houses but they also have

toxic side effects and if we don't learn

to deal with the toxic waste how do we

denude that toxic waste there's actually

scientists working on that right now

with nuclear energy trying to figure out

how they can stop the toxicity of that

waste how do we neutralize or at least

mitigate the toxic waste of our

religions how do we do that that's a

question and I don't have the answer but

I know that those great men and women

also of the tradition robbed yet that we

introduced love into Islamic piety a

woman in the fourth century introduced

love into Islamic piety because

everybody was obsessed with fear and she

said I don't worship God out of fear of

the fire I worship God because I'm in

love with God and and she really

introduced that so we have a lot of work

Metheny tikkun olam olam is the the

hebrew i get a lot of hebrew words

because of the arabic o nam we say adam

adam in the arabic language which means

world is is called in in the arabic

grammatical system a noun of instrument

the form file is is is the noun of

instrument it's it's the noun that you

use to describe an instrument to do what

the root of the word means so in arabic

is the noun of instrument for knowledge

the world is the instrument of knowledge

and according to the quran what is to be

known is our lord

Febby ayah arabic america the man thank

you very much and doctor

Rabbi Lerner you know I consider a

courageous man he he he takes a lot of

heat and but I mean that's that's really

what religious people are supposed to be

doing it's it's it's it's the ones that

are generating the heat there are all

the problems but the ones that are

trying to cool down the flames are the

ones that take the heat and and so you

know I I appreciate that and I'll just

because a poem was recited earlier a

poem that I always want to write get

things like this is a poem that I'm

reminded of which is is Robert Frost

wrote a poem called the fear of God and

he said if you should rise from some but

from nowhere up to somewhere from being

nobody up to being somebody be sure to

keep repeating to yourself you owe it to

an arbitrary God whose mercy to you

rather than to others won't bear to

critical examination if for lack of

license to wear the uniform of who you

are you should be tempted to make up for

it in a subordinating look or tone

beware of coming too much to the surface

and using for apparel what was meant to

be the curtain of the inmost soul thank

you