Tag Archives: Islam

Polemics to Pluralism

Last semester at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), I took a class called “Introduction to Islamic Theology” with Dr. Ahmed Khater. My final paper for the class was “Polemics to Pluralism.” Our main reading text was Commentary on the Creed of At-Tahawi by Ibn Abi al-Izz. We also read selections from Sharh Al-Aqeedat-il-Wasitiyah: Text on the Fundamental Beliefs of Islam and Rejection of False Concepts of its Opponents by Ibn Taimiyah, Kitaab at-Tawhid by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, The Fundamentals of Tawheed by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, publications in the “Proofs of Prophethood Series” by the Yaqueen Institute for Islamic Research, parts of The Final Day by Umar Sulaiman Al-Ashqar, as well as videos and other published works. For my book review, I sought a different point of view, choosing Never Wholly Other: A Muslima Theology of Religious Pluralism by Union Theological Seminary‘s Associate Professor of Islam and Interreligious Engagement, Jerusha Tanner Rhodes. Many of these works were referenced in my final paper, which begins…

Polemics to Pluralism

In this paper, as an extension of our weekly class discussions this semester on similarities and differences in theology between Islam and other faiths, I engage with selected historical and contemporary Muslim scholars with regard to how they communicate, by means of theological polemics at one end of the range, through pluralism and interfaith dialogue at the other. I focus on communication by Islamic scholars in their interactions with two other Abrahamic faiths, Christianity and Judaism. I find that some contemporary Muslim scholars value and promote concepts of religious pluralism in the Quran, which may be a sign that Islam is moving away from the polemical rhetoric of its most famous historical scholars.

Please read the remainder of the paper at “Polemics to Pluralism.”

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Inspiring Muslims in America

Notable Technical Women cards 2019
Notable Tech Women Card Deck 2019

This semester at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), I took the class “Islam and its Interreligious Context” taught by Dr. Mahjabeen Dhala. One of our final reflection papers was to answer this question, “Present a key historical or contemporary Muslim personality in America. Explain the reasons for your selection. How does this personality inspire you?”

The American Muslim personality I chose is Lila Ibrahim. She came to my attention after she was made President of Coursera in 2013, after she was Chief of Staff at Kleiner Perkins in 2010. Coursera is an American MOOC (massive open online course) provider, founded by Stanford University in 2012. She is currently the Chief Operating Officer for DeepMind. In 2019, Ibrahim was featured on several UK Business Insider’s lists of influential and impactful leaders. Purdue University is her alma mater and she is on their Board of Advisors. Ibrahim is the Co-founder and Chair of Team4Tech, a technical mentoring non-profit for developing countries. She has created computer labs in the orphanage in Lebanon where her father was raised. Ibrahim has a remarkable depth of experience in education, especially online, and as a mentor. I admit that I do not know about Lila Ibrahim’s personal faith but I am writing about her as an inspiring American of Lebanese descent.

In 2014, my daughter Jessica and I started working on a project with Dr. Susan Roger, Duke University Professor of Computer Science. Susan and I had known each other for many years and each of us had developed lists of remarkable technical women. Jessica had the idea to make playing cards and posters from our research to inspire girls and young women. We wanted to include a very broad range of women, socially, demographically, geographically, and by professional area. Susan and I each sorted through decades of our professional contacts to find the 54 honorees, and then we contacted each woman for a picture and to fill in biographical details, or used what we found on Wikipedia. Because she had won an Anita Borg Institute Women of Vision Award, Lila Ibrahim was one of the women we selected. Since 2014, Notable Women in Tech has distributed thousands of our card decks and posters around the world. Lila Ibrahim is the five of hearts. You can see the 4th Edition list of honorees on my blog.

Lila Ibrahim inspires me not just because she is a remarkably successful professional woman in the highly-patriarchal technical industry but because she has routinely sought out and succeeded in creating educational projects while acting as a mentor for young entrepreneurs. For many senior executives, it is enough to succeed, but Lila Ibrahim has intentionally and consistently carried others along in the wake of her accomplishments. She always pays it forward.

Inspiring American Muslims about whom other students wrote were:
Mahershala Ali (Academy Award winning actor)
Muhammad Ali (Boxer, activist and philanthropist)
Reza Aslan (Author and scholar of Religious Studies)
Soumaya Khalifa (Executive Director, Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta)
Hind Makki (founder and curator of Side Entrance, an award-winning website)
Ilhan Omar (U.S. Representative for Minnesota)
Malcolm X (Muslim minister and human rights activist)

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Interfaith Work

Jewish and Muslim interfaith studies books, Dec 2020

This semester at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), I took a pair of half-semester classes, “Judaism and its Interreligious Context” (taught by Dr. Yehezkel Landau) and “Islam and its Interreligious Context” (taught by Dr. Mahjabeen Dhala). Both were excellent classes with inspiring professors. Together, these two classes met the GTU Master’s requirement for Interreligious Studies. I combined the term papers to create a final paper called “Getting Closer to God Through Interfaith Work.”

I have finished the major writing for my Master’s thesis, titled “Range of Chaplain Engagement with Prisoners,” and am waiting for my thesis committee’s feedback on the last few chapters. I have to defend my thesis in early February 2021, which means spending two or more hours answering questions by my review committee about the 100+ page document and my research. I officially graduate in May 2021 with my Master of Arts – Christian Theology, with a Certificate in Spirituality and Social Change. I will continue my studies in the GTU Interreligious Chaplaincy Certificate program but I am happy to be done with my Master’s classes.

Getting Closer to God Through Interfaith Work

Introduction

This paper presents reflections on interreligious dialogue from the lived experience of two notable leaders. Based on conversations with Maha Elgenaidi and Rabbi Melanie Aron, and considering related scholarly material, I examine my next steps with regard to interfaith engagement in my work and ministry. The title of this paper comes from Maha Elgenaidi but I find it rings true for me as well. Interfaith work makes me feel closer to God. I am using this paper not only to document the accomplishments and views of two remarkable women but also to emphasize the benefits of interfaith work to the community. 

Please read the remainder of the paper at “Getting Closer to God Through Interfaith Work.”

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Theodicy Meme

camper Jesus meme 5 June 2020
I love a good meme, so finding one on theodicy is a special treat. (“Theodicy means vindication of God. It is to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil.” – Theodicy in Wikipedia) The image base of Jesus sitting on a park bench, talking with a young man has been used for two memes I particularly like:

  • 24 March 2020: Man: “Facebook?” Jesus: “No, I literally want you to follow me.” Man: “So… Twitter?” Jesus: “I’m going to start over again and you can let me know where I lose you.”
  • 5 June 2020: Man: “So why do you allow things like hate, famine, war, suffering, disease, crime, homelessness, despair, etc. to exist in our world?” Jesus: “Interesting that you should ask because I was about to ask you the exact same question.”

The blank image can be found on imgflip if you want to make a meme yourself.

I have studied Christian Theology for two years at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and hope to finish my Master’s thesis by the end of this year. I also start work on my Certificate in Interreligious Chaplaincy in September, with a focus on Islamic Studies. My thesis topic is jail chaplaincy, so theodicy is of particular interest. Although theology has not been considered the “Queen of the Sciences” since the High Middle Ages, having the opportunity to gain understanding and inspiration from classes such as “God and Suffering” and “Christian Theology and Natural Science” has been an honor and privilege. Still, I appreciate a little levity on these weighty subjects.

camper Jesus meme 24 March 2020

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Accepted in GTU Interreligious Chaplaincy

Mashallah - God has willed it - on cedar from Lebanon 2013 Mashallah – God has willed it (from Lebanon)

I am glad to report that I was just accepted into the new Interreligious Chaplaincy certificate program of the Graduate Theological Union! I am finishing my Master of Arts – Theology program at GTU this year. I just turned in my last two papers for Spring semester and I am approved to begin thesis research this summer. I start my chaplaincy studies this Fall.

Interreligious Chaplaincy: Program Overview
Welcoming first cohort of students in Fall 2020
The first of its kind, the GTU’s interreligious chaplaincy program equips leaders to practice spiritual care among diverse populations. The program offers students the opportunity to earn a Certificate in Interreligious Chaplaincy, as well as an MA in Islamic, Jewish or Hindu Studies–religious traditions underrepresented among institutional chaplains. The certificate will also be open to students who have previously earned a qualifying master’s degree. The program is scheduled to welcome its first cohort of students in Fall 2020.

My  Interreligious Chaplaincy focus will be Islamic Studies. As a TechWomen mentor for emerging STEM leaders in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia (since 2010), Christian volunteer jail chaplain with the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy (since 2015), and Islamic Networks Group Interfaith Speaker (since 2017), I have found many opportunities to discuss and learn about Christianity and Islam. I am eager to gain a more academic understanding of Islamic Studies and chaplaincy.

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