1. Why talk about these issues? The philosophy of the course is simply “carefully studying Muslim conflicts helps to overcome them.” Intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. When people respectfully and critically engage these issues, they are less likely to hold on to misinformed, absolutist or bigoted worldviews.
2. Do folks have to attend every session? Will they be lost if they randomly appear for one session? No. If students can only attend one session, they are encouraged to attend any lecture that interests them. No prior knowledge would be required.
3. Is the course open to the public? Yes. I would be very happy if students of diverse backgrounds and from various communities in the area attended.
4. Are readings mandatory? The texts are offered to serious students as optional, further reading for their benefit. I would like students to read the texts, but will not expect it. The course is set up so that attendees can collectively contemplate a question, discuss various answers, and understand the reasoning behind some scholarly views that they may not hear elsewhere.
5. Is the instructor simply offering his own religious views? No. As a Muslim I agree with some, but not all of the views discussed each week. The ‘early tradition’ equally encompasses proto-Sunni, Shi’i, and Ibadi legal schools with origins in the first century of Islamic history. I consider the early tradition to be sacred, but certainly open to rigorous, scholarly criticism.
6. Does the instructor present every view that exists on each issue? Unfortunately, we do not have the means to do that. I prefer to discuss concepts and views that appear in classical and modern Muslim texts that (1) maintain logical consistency, (2) address the criticisms of interlocutors, and (3) offer coherent alternatives to prevalent, but problematic views in the Muslim community. To make the best use of our time, minority views that are relevant today, but frequently ignored in mosque discussions will receive greater attention.