Hold It All

Tag: Islam

Share the Wealth with Jack Renard: Reflections on a Life in Islamic Studies

This sharing will revolve around questions I get frequently: Whatever led you to choose this as an academic specialization? Why does Islamic religious studies matter? What do Islamic religious studies specialists actually study, and what are some tools of the trade? Given all the time and effort you’ve put into this, how can you not want to be a Muslim? (a question on more than a few Muslims’ minds). Has your study of Islam impacted your own religious or other very personal beliefs? You were a Jesuit when you started full-time study of Islam – how did/does that background influence your approach? Any useful hints from the Catholic tradition about this whole business?

About Jack: Born and raised in Saint Louis 1944, joined the Jesuits in 1962, received MA Biblical at SLU Divinity in 1971, PhD in Islamic Studies from Harvard Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations 1978, at SLU since then. Left the Jesuits in 1989, and married Mary Pat Henehan in 1990.

Join us
Sunday 23 February
Potluck begins at 6:00 p.m.
Jack begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Lea and Terry
4121 West Pine Boulevard
St. Louis, MO
Read the rest of this entry »

A Declaration by Fatima

My friend Fatima Rhodes shared this with me, and I am happy to share it here.


America, I have been talking to you a lot lately. This one is for you.

I will register

I will register as a mother of two
And a mother-in-law of one

I will register as a woman
As as sister to many
As a beloved daughter

I will register as a French teacher
Who believes that first you treat students
Like people then you can teach them
Read the rest of this entry »

Gratitude of the Day

Thanks to Shehmin Awan for all you do for the Maryville community and beyond.

Holding It All

At a break during our all-day strategy meeting
Yasmin told me

She never felt more hopeless
Than when she walked the roads of Rafah

(Ruins to the left
Rubble to the right)

And all the while reciting silently to herself
The 99 names of Allah

–from Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

Islamic Mysticism and Liberation: Rabi’a, Rumi, and Malcolm X

I am a big proponent of “Share the wealth.” Accordingly, I have asked our friend Kristen Andersen to share her important work on Islamic mysticism and liberation, the subject of her Master’s thesis in theological studies from Iliff School of Theology (she recently passed her defense with distinction). Please join us for these sessions in June!


Since the Enlightenment, the West has consistently treated mystical experiences as private, individual, often psychological experiences that have little to do with social or political power or with the workings of G-d. It has similarly portrayed Islam as a repressive religion that has little to do with personal or societal liberation. Across centuries and continents, Muslims who have had mystical experiences have proven these assumptions wrong. In the Islamic tradition, mystical experience is understood as the experience of the presence of G-d. The liberative potentials inherent within Islam have also bloomed and borne luscious and life-sustaining fruit.

Please join us for this 3-week series of sessions about the potentials Islamic mystical experiences hold for liberation — spiritual, individual, and social/political. We’ll explore this through the lives of 3 famous Muslims.

Week 1 will focus on the Islamic understanding of mystical experience and on the exemplar of spiritual liberation and mystical experience in Islam — the theologian, mystic, and poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi. Rumi was recently the best-selling poet in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »


On Shirin Ebadi, Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope (With Azadeh Moaven)

But a personal story is more powerful than any dry summary of why a given law should be changed. To attract people’s attention, to solicit their sympathies and convince them that these laws were not simply unfair but actively pathological, I had to tell stories. Iranian culture, for all its preoccupation with shame and honor, with all its resulting patriarchal codes, retains an acute sensitivity to injustice. The revolution against the shah, after all, had premised itself on the ethos of fighting zolm, or oppression; it was a revolution conducted in the name of the mustazjin, the dispossessed. People had to see how the dispossessed had now become the dispossessors.


Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is an inspiration of staying in the struggle for the long haul. Unlike 4-5 million other Iranians, she stayed put in the Islamic republic and worked from within to offer humane resistance to the religious fundamentalism that would cost her own career as a judge.  She is both a strong feminist, using her lawyer skills to advocate for women in a system that sees them as merely half the value of men, and she is also a faithful Muslim, although one different than those Khomeini wanted to hold up as a role model for women.  She is also a dissident, who was willing to take strong stands, oppose the Republic’s interpretations (not defame it), did jail time, was on a death list, raised her daughters, did the proverbial twice as much work as the man, and stayed put.  The authorities weren’t going to drive her away. Read the rest of this entry »