Ingrid Mattson Appointed as Chair of Islamic Studies

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

IngridMattsonLONDON, ON–Huron University College, at the University of Western Ontario, announced the appointment of Dr. Ingrid Mattson as the inaugural London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at its Faculty of Theology. The Chair in Islamic Studies builds on an almost 150-year tradition at Huron University College of open discourse and engagement between people of different faiths. Dr. Mattson will begin her appointment on July 1, 2012.

“Dr. Mattson brings an incredible wealth of knowledge and expertise to this area of study and Huron is privileged to have a scholar of her calibre,” said Dr. Stephen McClatchie, Principal of Huron University College. “We are honoured that, with her pick of many positions around the world, Dr. Mattson has decided to return to Canada and accept our appointment to the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies.”

Dr. Mattson was born and raised in Kitchener-Waterloo and earned her PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Chicago. She is the first convert to Islam and the first woman to lead the Islamic Society of North America. Before accepting the Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College, Dr. Mattson was Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford Connecticut. She has also been an Advisor to both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

“It is an honour to be back in Canada and to accept this position at such a prestigious institution as Huron University College,” said Dr. Mattson. “Huron has a remarkable history of critical inquiry and I look forward to building on this tradition by offering Huron students the opportunity to learn about a faith that more than 20 per cent of the world’s population practices, in an open and liberal environment.”

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Imam Salie: Preparing Islamic Chair at UD Mercy

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

Imam SalieFarmington–August 10–Imam Achmat Salie, who championed an effort to establish an Islamic studies school at Oakland University, is now in the planning process of establishing a similar program at the University of Detroit–Mercy, a Catholic private university in Detroit.

Imam Salie is trying to establish a Chair at UD Mercy for Islamic Studies, and he explains the purpose of creating a chair is “to create a permanent place–if not, every year you have to beg for money, and spend so much time.  Once there is a chair, the money is there for life.  In 10 or 20 years, if I am gone, someone else fills that place.”

He says the chair of Islamic studies would help the Muslim community by fueling mutual understanding across religious lines and even within the Muslim community by providing bridges across the gaps of Shi’a-Sunni and other doctrinal disagreements.  “This will be a cosmopolitan approach to Islam, not an orientalist approach–an insider view, different from the skeptical and suspicious outsider view.  But this will still be objective, there will be analysis, it won’t be superficial.  Muslims speaking for themselves.  Founded by Muslims, with an Islamic ethos, with an accurate portrayal of Islam.”

The Oakland University program eventually failed under fiscal pressures.  And the learning process that Mr. Salie went through from Oakland University definitely shows in his approach to UD Mercy.  First, he chose UD Mercy in part because it is private rather than public.  

“With the recession, a lot of uncertainty in universities, public universities… [T]his is a private university, and there is more stability,” explains Salie.

He has also addressed the fundamental gap in funding that sidelined the Oakland University program.  Imam Salie has now secured “matching funding” from the IIIT, a well-funded Muslim not-for-profit based in Washington DC.

There are many Muslim graduates, Salie says, of UD Mercy’s various schools, practising dentists and lawyers, and he asks that they choose now to give back. 

“Education, like journalism, provides a safe environment, a great way to promote understanding.  Previous communities went through education to create understanding.  Catholic and Jewish communities promoted understanding of themselves by being present at educational institutions.”

The utility of the program, Salie argues, would be that it would provide exposure of Catholics to Islam, to alleviate the sometimes tense relations between the communities.  The program would also provide means for Muslims to speak across sectarian boundaries to one another.

Salie looks forward to this program because he has found “broad appeal” and acceptance at a very high level from the school and from the infrastructure of the Catholic church in Detroit, namely Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron. 

Even more importantly within the Catholic church, the pope has also expressed support for maintaining good relations with Muslims.

“The pope has wonderful relations with Turkey.  There are delegations from the Vatican to Turkey.  But at the lowest level, this type of enlightenment doesn’t necessarily filter down.” 

Imam Salie points to distrust and animosity directed against Muslims from rank-and-file Catholics, including prominent Catholics like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

“One out of four Christians is Catholic,” Salie explains.  “We should not take the Catholic position for granted–they are not all at the same level as the good people at the top.”  Therefore he says it is important to reach out to the Catholic community.

Also, Salie’s experience with Islamic Studies at Oakland University taught him that sometimes the most attentive students are not those you might expect. 

Sometimes practicing Muslims attend, merely hoping for “an easy A, but the quality of their work is very bad.”  Salie cites one atheist student who devoured the material in the Islamic Studies course and then wanted to teach other atheists about Islam.  “Muslims are fooling themselves if they are expecting an easy A.”

Salie’s Islamic Studies classes are a way to reach Muslims who no longer practice.  “I have had students from everywhere, Bosnians, Albanians, Pakistanis… totally disconnected from the religion.”  The Islamic Studies courses are sometimes for these young people a safe way of reacquainting themselves with Islam.

Muslims wanting to participate are welcomed by Salie.  “One way is through donations…. Some people offer money, some offer expertise.”  Salie invites the various communities of Muslims to participate by offering their knowledge of their own practice of Islam, or of their own national community.  Salie emphasizes that specific communities of Muslims will be spoken for by that community, rather than having an intolerant view of any branch of Muslims imposed by an outsider to that community.

Salie is trying to establish an endowment at the university.  “For the first year, we need at least $200,000 to get started. That will be used up the first year.  If we get an endowment, it takes one year to mature, and then with that endowment money in, we don’t need much in donations.”

Imam Salie aims to collect $2,000,000 in donations, which will be matched by IIIT, amounting to $4,000,000 which will be an adequate endowment to build a self-sustaining Islamic Studies program at UD Mercy.

To contribute, please contact salieac@udmercy.edu.  Or call 248-659-2109.

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The Blessed Nights of Ramadan

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

P7230054
Young people sell CDs of Shaykh Abdul Khalid Sattar’s speeches at the Tawheed Center after his event.

A refreshing new voice in Michigan is that of Shaykh Khalid Abdul Sattar, who spoke Saturday at the Tawheed Center at an event that was attended by dozens of people preparing themselves for the joys and rigors of Ramadan.

Shaykh Khalid Abdul Sattar was born in Chicago in 1974. He completed his bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from the Stern School of Business at New York University (NYU) in 1997.

After graduation, he began studying with local scholars in Chicago. In 2003, he traveled to Pakistan to further advance his knowledge of the traditional Islamic sciences. There he dedicated five years to a full-time course of studies under some of the most accomplished scholars of the sub-continent. In 2008, he formally graduated with a degree in Islamic Studies. He also received his teaching licenses in various Islamic subjects, including Classical Arabic, Hanafi Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh and Hadith.

In conjunction with his pursuit of traditional knowledge, he has also received spiritual guidance and training from Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad. After spending more than a decade in the company of his shaykh, he was given permission to take students in the path of Tasawwuf.

Currently, he runs Ilm Essentials.com, an online traditional learning program, and also teaches Arabic and Hanafi Fiqh with Sacred Learning, a Chicago-based learning institute. He currently resides in Maryland with his family.

The entire day was devoted to learning about Ramadan, with lectures entitled, “The Key to Ramadan–the Qur`an,” two workshops on the Fiqh of Ramadan, and a two part workshop on hadith relating to virtues of the Qur`an.

In speaking about the fiqh of Ramadan, the shaykh discussed the rules relating to fasting, explaining that the levels of requirement in fiqh are Fard, Wajib, then Sunnah Muaqqadah, and Nawafil.

Fard fasting relates to for example fasting during Ramadan, making up Ramadan fasts.

Wajib is still required, and he gave examples of wajib fasts as for example when one makes an oath that “if such and such happens then I will fast,” or if one makes the intention to fast every Thursday but then misses a Thursday fast, the makeup for that fast becomes obligatory on the servant.

Sunnah Muaqqadah fasts are for example the 9th and 10th of Muharram.

Mustahhab fasts are not required but Prophet (s) used to practice them.  Such fasts as Monday / Thursday, or fasting the three white days, or fasting six days from Shawwal, are such fasts.

Surprisingly, but also interestingly, the shaykh discussed the fiqh of fasting Fridays and supported the argument that in our time it is not a sin to fast Friday without accompanying it with another day.  Also he argued that it may not be necessary to combine a fast on Ashura with a fast on the 9th or 11th, pointing out that in our time Jews no longer fast only the 10th of Muharram therefore if we fast only the 10th we are not imitating them.

An interesting point he made was that fasting is the only kind of ‘ibadat that we perform that involves not doing anything–the other acts of worship that we perform involve doing specified acts.  He built from this starting point towards the argument that Muslims in the West who find themselves “too busy” to perform other acts of worship are still able to fast because fasting does not involve taking time away from one’s other obligations, such as work and school.

 

 

If I have made any mistake in describing Islamic law please forgive me, and you can let me know also by writing detroit@muslimobserver.com.

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