The Proper Relationship between Belief, Scientific Knowledge, and Mystical Experience: Reconsidering the Position of Imam Al-Ghazali Stated in his “Ihya’a Ulum Al-Deen”

A popular myth endorsed over the last century is that Imam al-Ghazali destroyed intellectual thought in Islam and is the cause for the end of the Golden period and such figures as al-Biruni, al-Farabi, and Ibn Sina.

In this talk, Al-Ghazali’s upholding of the findings of intellect and science will be related to another phenomena. This is to claim that certainty is only obtained through Sufi or mystical experience which is beyond the stage of the intellect. The popularity of this phenomena is argued to be implicitly motivated by the influence of modernity exemplified in the tensions between the last Sheikh al-Islam, Mustafa Sabri Effendi, and Muhammad Abdu. What is at stake in this tension is whether rational proofs remain certain or whether modernity has ‘shown’ the need for empirical proofs needed to modernise Muslim beliefs.

Mustafa Styer is a Research Assistant, part of the Tabah Foundation’s Order of Knowledge project. He has a master degree from University of London, Institute of Education in Curriculum and Pedagogy. He is currently finishing up his DPhil in Theology in Oxford University. He has studied the traditional Islamic sciences for over fifteen years (ongoing) and is certified to teach traditional logic

Parallels between Far-Right Extremism and Muslim Religious Ideological Extremism

Countering religious ideological extremism in Muslim countries has been a relevant and important issue in the Muslim world and the West for a number of years. However, there are other forms of extremism which are often overlooked and pose an equally serious threat to our societies. Far-right extremist movements have become increasingly popular in North American and European societies. Oddly enough, these far-right groups echo a number of similar claims that Muslim extremist groups propagate.

In this lecture, Dr. Naved Bakali will examine the growth of far-right extremism in the West and will draw parallels to Muslim religious ideological extremism. Through examining these parallels Dr. Bakali will develop insights as to the ideological underpinnings of extremist thought from these differing strands and will discuss implications for countering violent extremism policies for both of these forms of extremism.
The lecture will be moderated by Dr. Nadeem Memon, Director of Education at Abu Dhabi University Knowledge Group.

Dr. Naved Bakali is a Research Analyst at the Tabah Futures Initiaitve. He works on various topics in the areas of identity, countering violent extremism, and contemporary Islamic education. Dr. Bakali is author of Islamophobia: Understanding Anti-Muslim Racism through the Lived Experiences of Muslim Youth. He completed his PhD from McGill University in Educational Studies.

Must Modern Science Have Philosophical Foundations?

A lecture organized by Tabah Foundation was given by Mr. Hassan Spiker, researcher in Islamic philosophy logic and mysticism, in Cairo on April 2017.

Many natural scientists today believe that their disciplines are objective, universal, neutral and value-free, and that their truth claims are completely independent of any form of philosophy. Moreover, although the claims of positivism were decisively discredited long ago, many contemporary scientists and science enthusiasts still believe that physics, chemistry and biology are the only sources of real knowledge, leading them to claim that the true answers to metaphysical questions, like that of the existence of God, cannot possibly be known – or even that such questions are meaningless.

However, the popularity of this type of scientism is particularly surprising when one considers the consensus amongst even mainstream modern philosophers that physical science, far from being capable of dealing with all questions, accounting for all aspects of reality, or providing the basis for all forms of objective truth, actually has to assume a great many of its first principles, and cannot itself ‘prove’ a great many of the facts that it must accept in order to be able to operate. Indeed, in order to do so, it must employ another discipline, historically considered the most scientific of the sciences: metaphysics.

The talk, moderated by researcher  Ahmad AlAzhari at Tabah Foundation,  considered something of the history of the relationship between metaphysics and the natural sciences both in the West and in the Islamic world, and arrived at answers that would be of crucial importance to contemporary debates about the scientific status of the traditional Islamic disciplines.

The Public Understanding of Islamic Scholarship in Society

Digital mass and social media are popular venues for Islamic discourse and shaping the public understanding of Islam, Muslims, and Islamic scholarship. Many of the discourse items that spread in these media purport to convey Islamic legal scholarship.But the items that spread the most tend to be material that Islamic scholars and the Muslim masses do not recognize as legitimate. Meanwhile, items which are recognized by specialists and the Muslim masses as legitimate Islamic scholarship do not spread at all. This disproportionate spread leads to a public misunderstanding of Islam, Muslims, and Islamic scholarship.

Author, Musa Furber, will present an analytic brief on this problem, along with a hypothesis to explain why this happens, and activities to address the problem. Afterwards there will be an open discussion about the topic.

About the Author
MUSA FURBER is a Senior Research Fellow at the Tabah Foundation. He studied the various Islamic Disciplines in Damascus, where he received a license to teach the Shāfi‘ī school of law. He then studied at Dar al-Ifta in Cairo, where he received a license to deliver legal edicts (fatwas) from Sheikh Ali Gomaa. He also has a BA in Applied Linguistics from Portland State University (Oregon, USA), and a Masters in Public Administration from Dubai School of Government. Some of his recent publications while at Tabah Foundation include: Ethical Dimensions of Nanotechnology, Ethics & Virtual Worlds, Reducing the Role of Decision-Making Biases in Muslim Responsa, Elements of a Fatwa & Their Contribution to Confidence in Its Validity, Ranking Confidence in the Validity of Contemporary Fatwas & Their Dissemination Channels, and Obligations to Future Generations.
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Rights and Duties Pertaining to Kept Animals

Animals are at the heart of many of today’s heated ethical and legal debates. This paper presents a survey of Qur’anic verses and prophetic narrations related to kept animals, and a study of one school’s application of this evidence to the topic of kept animals. This ethical and legal study throws into relief some of the mechanism of madhhab based jurisprudence and fiqh reasoning. This study serves as a basis for understanding and applying Islamic moral theology to the numerous contemporary issues related to kept animals.
Author, Musa Furber, will be presenting the ideas of this paper recently published by Tabah Foundation, with an open discussion about the topic at the end of the presentation.

About the Author

MUSA FURBER is a Senior Research Fellow at the Tabah Foundation. He studied the various Islamic Disciplines in Damascus, where he received a license to teach the Shāfi‘ī school of law. He then studied at Dar al-Ifta in Cairo, where he received a license to deliver legal edicts (fatwas) from Sheikh Ali Gomaa. He also has a BA in Applied Linguistics from Portland State University (Oregon, USA), and a Masters in Public Administration from Dubai School of Government.

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Caring for animals should be done by everyone“, The National

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Birthday of Prophet: The Ardour of the Emirates

In the atmosphere of love and tolerance that the United Arab Emirates experiences on the occasion of the Prophet’s blessed birthday s, the Tabah Foundation held a presentation entitled “The Prophet’s Birthday s: The Ardour of the Emirates” in the Capital Abu Dhabi, given by researcher and poet Thāni al-Muhairī. He presented works of art expressing aspects of the Prophet’s birthday s by artist Saif ‘Ali as-Sādah.

In attendance at al-Muhairī’s presentation was Chairman al-Ḥabīb ‘Alī al-Jifrī, along with several other notables, and a number of youth ardent for this momentous occasion celebrated throughout the Islamic World. He started by looking at scholarly works dealing with the blessed biography of the Prophet s, and finished his roundup by looking at works authored specifically about the Prophet’s birthday (Mawlid) s beginning from the Fourth Century AH. He showed that the Mālikī scholars have over a hundred compositions that are recited on this blessed occasion, some of which are mentioned by the Imām and Ḥadīth scholar ‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Kattānī (d. 1962 CE) in his book, at-Ta’ālīf al-Mawlidiyyah, in which he relates the works that have been authored in this field by the great legal and Ḥadīth scholars of the Muslim Community through the centuries. Such include al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn al-Jawzī al-Ḥanbalī, al-Ḥāfiẓ al-‘Irāqī in his book al-Mawrid al-Hanī, al-Ḥāfiẓ al-Sakhāwī, and others.

Scholars have found it fitting to celebrate the Mawlid since it was first instituted by King Muẓẓafar of Irbil, the son-in-law of the victorious Sultan Ṣalāḥu’d-Dīn al-Ayyūbī, and one of his chosen few. Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Kathīr said in praise of him that he was, “One of the great, magnanimous rulers, and the majestic kings. He had a positive legacy … He used to observe the blessed birthday in Rabī‘ al-Awwal, and celebrate it in a most tremendous fashion. Nevertheless, he was a chivalrous, courageous and ferocious champion, as well as an intelligent and just scholar, may God have mercy on him and be gracious to him in his final abode.” The Mawlid he held was attended by a group of legal and Ḥadīth scholars (Muḥaddithīn and Ḥuffāẓ) and they approved of it, among them Sheikh Dār al-Ḥadīth al-Ashrafiyyah, the Muḥaddith, Abū Shāmah al-Maqdasī (d. 655 AH), may God have mercy upon him.

The people of the Emirates have also contributed to this authorship. The Sheikh ‘Abdullāh Bin Muḥammad Bin Ṣāliḥ al-Khazrajī put the evidences for the Mawlid of Imām al-Barzanjī into poetry, naming it, al-Shāhid al-Munjī li’l-Mawlid al-Barzanjī.  Sheikh ‘Abdullāh studied with his paternal uncle, Sheikh Ḥasan al-Khazrajī in Dubai, and he authored a number of works in various branches of Sacred Knowledge. Other scholars, such as the Sheikh and Minister Muḥammad al-Khazrajī authored a treatise concerning the legal ruling upon celebrating the Mawlid. Also included are the Sheikh and Muḥaddith Aḥmad Bin Sheikh Muḥammad Nūr Bin Saif al-Muhairī and Sheikh ‘Īsā Bin ‘Abdullāh Bin Māni‘ al-Ḥumairī, and others.

Al-Muhairī also reviewed the notables who used to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday s in the Emirates, starting from the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and going through the various emirates, finishing with the Emirate of Fujairah. The dignitaries and sheikhs of Abū Dhabi and Dubai were wont to celebrate the Prophet’s birthday s every year. Among the most important gatherings in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, after the Gathering of Āl Nahyān held by Sheikh Shakhbūṭ and Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan (may God have mercy on them both) in Qaṣr al-Ḥoṣn, were the Gathering of Āl Ḥāmid, the Gathering of al-‘Utaibāt, the Gathering of H.E. Ahmad Bin Khalifa al-Suwaidi, the late Omeir Bin Youssef, and Justice ‘Alī Bin ‘Abdu’r-Raḥmān Āl Ḥāshim.

He noted that in the eighties, many of the stewards of the Mawlid in Abu Dhabi passed away. They used to celebrate it in a distinct and unique fashion – the likes of the late Sheikh Muḥammad Bin ‘Abdullāh al-Qamzī, Sayyid ‘Abdu’r-Raḥīm al-Hāshimī, the Judge of Abū Dhabi, and the distinguished poet ‘Abdullāh Bin Sulayem al-Falāsī. Also amongst them was Sheikh Jābir Bin Rashed al-Hameli, Thani Bin Murshid al-Romaithi, Rāshid Bin Khalaf al-‘Utaibah, Darwīsh Bin Karam, and others. Some groups kept this classical style alive, and the Hāshimī descendants of the Prophet s continue to pass it down, preserving this legacy.

He also mentioned the families that celebrate the Mawlid in the Emirate of Dubai, such as Āl Mejren and al-Futtaim, as well as some of its stewards, such as Sheikh ‘Abdu’r-Raḥīm al-Murīd and Sheikh Aḥmad Bin Ḥāfiẓ.

The Women’s Mawlid

In addition to the Mawlid celebrated by the men, some of the women also celebrate it in the Emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, specifically the gatherings of some of the Ladies (Sheikhas) and particular families. Amongst the matriarchs famous for celebrating the Mawlid in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is Zulaikhah Bint Sheikh Abū Dhīnah.

Mawlid after the Unification of the Emirates

The Prophet’s blessed birthday s is considered an official holiday in the United Arab Emirates, and the government has undertaken the patronage of this great event, holding celebrations in its honour. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments holds a celebration of the Mawlid every year, attended by Sheikhs and dignitaries, just as the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charity Work does in Dubai.

The historical information presented made a great impression upon the attendees, as did the feeling of pride and belonging to a nation whose very basis is the love and tolerance inherent in the identity of its people. Amongst the comments, Dr. Hessah Lootah, Professor of Media at UAE University said, “…it is an essential part of our culture and heritage such that we cannot conceive of a wedding without a celebration of the Mawlid”. The evening was concluded with a prayer for the Muslims of the world, and humanity in general, for the advent of love and peace, along with a donation of the reward for reciting Sūrah al-Fātiḥah to the soul of Sheikh Zayed Āl Nahyān, may God have mercy upon him.

The Moroccan Experience in Restoring Religious Discourse to an Authentic Approach

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In the context of its genuine interest in reshaping contemporary Islamic discourse and providing research and consulting services in Abu Dhabi, the Tabah Foundation hosted Prof. Dr. Ahmad Abbadi, the Secretary General of the Muhammadiyah Association of Scholars in Morocco, who gave a lecture in the Tabah Intellectual Tent, titled “The Moroccan Experience in Restoring Religious Discourse to its Authentic Approach”.

In his beneficial and interesting speech, Dr. Abbadi described this experience as a story of crossing from an intellectual geometry to restoring equilibrium to a state of flux, order and authenticity, with renewal in religious speech, inseparable from its purposes, objectives, approaches and programs. It is a six-dimensional geometry that begins with Guardianship (walayat al-amr), the tasks of which include being decisive in establishing peace; the Supreme Scientific Council, which branches out into numerous scientific boards and is concerned with giving guidance according the adopted and followed rules and Fatwa, headed by Guardian to ensure compliance to the set rules. These scientific councils oversee the sustainable development of Imams and prepare them along the lines of the Charter of Scientists’ plan. Additionally, such councils oversee the lessons given in mosques in order to monitor them and maintain control.

Scientific councils supervise all the Sharia institutes and they are entrusted with reviving the al-Qarawiyyin, in addition to considering the context and the areas it covers, hence conducting ongoing contextual studies which care for the religion’s legitimate and realistic dimensions.

The Muhammadiyah Association of Scholars in Morocco was assigned massive tasks across 21 research units, including units dedicated to combating extremism, others for addressing various deviant behaviors, capacity-building and preparing a homogeneous generation of intellectuals and scholars in accordance with formative guides. This is in addition to the “Board & Pen” unit, which cares for children and gathers both the children of royal families and the children of shelters under the same umbrella. This unit with its well-studied programs has been very useful; it has 35,000 articles written by children for children. Such endeavors seek to protect the young people and generations from invasion by aberrations, misguided and diseased ideas and extremism.

Dr. Abbadi stressed the need to dismantle the powerful slogans and false claims with which ISIS seeks to attract the youth, revealing ISIS’ misguided paths and evil deviations and showing how they are, in fact, mavericks (using the expression of the Prophet) when it comes to matters dealing with major necessities; i.e. preservation of religion, life, intellect, lineage and wealth, all of which ISIS violates, infringes and offends.

The lecturer stated that the Kingdom of Morocco exerts much effort to care for these necessities through enforcing the function of the state and its role to ensure the safety of its people, care for their security and secure and develop the conditions of their life and affairs.

The attendees interacted with valuable interjections and questions that focused on benefitting from the Moroccan experience – and the role of scholars and society at all levels in combating extremism to care for the nation’s youth and prevent them from slipping into the traps of aberration, delusion and fanaticism, through highlighting the authentic structure of their religion’s construction and necessities (as established since the era of prophecy on compassion and beauty, as well as the development of the youth’s capacities’ and investment in righteousness, giving, knowledge and growth).

Among the attendees were scientists, advisors, ambassadors, diplomats, researchers and media figures, including His Eminence Mr Ali Hashemi, Advisor to the President of the United Arab Emirates for Religious and Judicial Affairs; Adam Shahedov, Advisor to the President of Chechnya for Religion Affairs; His Eminence Sheikh Osama Al-Azhari, Advisor to the President of Egypt for Religious Affairs; Dr. Idris al-Fihri, Imam of al-Qarawiyyin Mosque; Dr. Ahmed Mamdouh, Egyptian Dar Al-Ifta; a high-level delegation from the Sufi Complex in Sudan and a number of ambassadors and their deputies, including Mohamed Ait Ali, the Moroccan Ambassador to UAE; Hatem Al Saim, the Tunisian Ambassador; Dr. Aref Nayed, the Libyan Ambassador and Mr. Sayed Abdullah BaAlawy, the Comoros Ambassador, in addition to a number of employees from various research and study centers in the state. Among the interventions that took place in that gathering was initiated by a comment from Dr. Mona Al Bahar, former member of the National Council and Dr. Hessa Lootah, Media Professor at the UAE University.

Tabah‘s Futures Initiative Releases a Landmark Report on the Attitudes of Arab Muslim Millennials on Religion and Religious Leadership

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The Futures Initiative at Tabah Foundation will be releasing the results for a landmark survey on how Arab millennials are thinking about their faith in the midst of the immense changes and developments in the region and the world.

Tabah’s Futures Initiative commissioned Zogby Research Services, Washington, USA, to conduct face-to-face interviews with five thousand Muslims between the ages of 15-34 in eight Arab countries: Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, and Palestine. The key themes addressed by the survey include religious identity, religion in the public sphere, millennial understandings of faith and devotion, religion and contemporary relevance, scholarship and learning, and ideological and thought trends that impact religious life.

The results will be released in Abu Dhabi on January 12, 2016 and will be available for download at mmasurvey.tabahfoundation.org.

The Futures Initiative at Tabah Foundation conducts research and analysis on emerging trends in the modern world, with an eye toward better understanding how they impact Muslim communities in the present and future.

For more information, please contact staff at the Futures Initiative: futuresinitiative[at]tabahfoundation.org

Lessons from East Asia – Should the Arab World Turn East?

This week, Tabah Foundation welcomed Dr. Shaojin Chai, a senior researcher at the Ministry of Culture in the UAE and former lecturer in Zayed University and American University of Sharjah, to give two lectures on examining the native cultural models of East Asia and the challenges faced by East Asian nations in retaining their cultural identities and indigenous values throughout modernization.

During the 20th century China experienced both the Communist and Cultural Revolutions, which sought to replace any aspect of the “old culture”, including the framework of Confucianism, with modern ideologies. After these spiritual aspects of the old world were eradicated, the competing forces of communism, nationalism, capitalism, and individualism would take precedent. Many Chinese revolutionaries believed that this was the only way to achieve modernity and that the old concepts of spirituality would be long forgotten as a result.

However, Dr. Shaojin argued that there has been a revival in traditional Confucian values in East Asia despite the attempts to remove native religious and spiritual thought. In Japan, the third largest economy in the world, the economy flourished as it incorporated traditional values in the business world. Despite Western influences, South Korea became a mixed economy as it saw the need to maintain the welfare of its people. The desire to retain traditional values can be found in Korean dramas which espouse care for the family unit and relatives.

Even China, despite having much of its religious traditions suppressed, has started to see its own revival. In rural China, self-governance and local rule has been permitted in stark contrast to governing principles in the official state ideology. Recent studies have emerged on the effect of traditional values within villages, showing that villages which preserved religious values contained less corruption. In cities, developments have emerged to find that the population is turning more towards religion and spirituality. According to Dr. Shaojin, “though the western models of secularization attempted to replace the spiritual void with material wellbeing, the people of China still longed for spiritual wellbeing”.

Concluding the lecture, Dr. Shaojin proposed that examining East Asian models of development, in which cultural revival and preservation has been recogised, could be an alternative for the Arab world as it struggles to resist cultural erosion amidst the pressures of western models of development.

“Any culture that wants to progress must first understand its own culture.”
While models are not perfect in every context, the Arab world can use the example of the East to be mindful of self-development. Identity must be retained with progress, whether that is found in language or religion.

 

This lecture was presented as part of the Futures Initiative at Tabah Foundation.

Tolerance & Coexistence in the 21st Century from Abu Dhabi

The Tabah Foundation in cooperation with the Canadian Embassy in the UAE, and under the auspices of His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, organized a nighttime symposium replete with a diverse multitude of attendees on Tuesday March 10th, 2015 at the InterContinental Hotel Abu Dhabi’s Auditorium. The event’s keynote speaker was Dr. John Andrew Morrow—a Canadian scholar who lectures at Ivy Tech Community College, USA—joined by prominent guests including Sheikh Ahmad Al Kubaisi, Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Aziz Al Haddad, Canadian Ambassador in Abu Dhabi Arif Lalani, and Chairman of the Tabah Foundation Habib Ali Al Jifri, alongside a select elite of diplomats and social dignitaries.

The evening was kick-started by a tour of an exhibition showcasing a collection of photocopied documents and manuscripts discovered by Dr. Morrow in his critically acclaimed study on “The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World.” In his speech, Morrow referred to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)’s treaties with the Jews and Christians since the very beginnings of Islam, and mentioned that these covenants continued to be honored during the reign of the Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, and through the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, all the way to down the Ottoman Empire. He pointed out that records of these covenants were not only found in Islamic sources but also detected in other sources, such as Christian-Arab sources and translated into a number of languages including Latin, Ancient Greek, Assyrian, and Persian. Dr. Morrow further indicated that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s covenants with the Christians of Najran and Persia, as well as Assyrian and Orthodox Christians, Egyptian Copts, and Abyssinian Christians, invariably underpin the values of tolerance, equality and peaceful coexistence amongst all, in an unprecedented and advanced move for an era marked by intolerance of pluralism.

The Chairman of the Tabah Foundation—Habib Ali Al Jifri—then commented on Morrow’s speech, saying: “We are today at a momentous turning point in Muslim history, in light of the presence of those who ascribe the crimes and perversities committed to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh); such a correspondence is forbidden and unacceptable, since there is no such thing as a moderate or an extremist Islam, rather, there are moderate Muslims and extremist Muslims.” After that, Sheikh Ahmad Al Kubaisi and Ambassador Arif Lalani each delivered separate short speeches. Subsequently, tweeters interacted with the event on social media networking site Twitter using the hashtag #المعاهدات_النبوية for Arabic speakers and #CovenantsUAE for English speakers.

Furthermore, the Tabah Foundation held a number of specialized debate circles for the purpose of engaging specialists among the attendants in the discussion on par with roundtable debates on the one hand, with its guest Dr. John Morrow on the same topic. A roundtable was held for scholars and researchers, another for Arab diplomats, and a third for non-Arab speaking diplomats, besides a meeting with Arab academics and clerisy. The event also included two televised programs on Wednesday evening: one on Sky News Arabia hosting Dr. Morrow and Habib Ali Al Jifri, and an interview with Morrow on Al Arabiya Channel. Dr. Morrow and Habib Al Jifri then paid a visit to Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, where the former presented the UAE Minister with a copy of one of the prophetic covenants as a souvenir.

The Tabah Foundation has been keen on organizing these wide-ranging activities and events springing from its mission to “Re-enabling Islamic discourse to recover its ability to understand the real world context” and to propagate an international message highlighting that tolerance, coexistence, and respect of different faiths, human beings, and non-Muslim communities in the region is a genuine call launched since the days of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and to clarify that what we are witnessing today in terms of murder and slaughtering of Muslims and non-Muslims alike amounts to a disfigurement of the commands of the Prophet (pbuh) and a deviation there-from.

Related Links

Video promoting the symposium

– News Release: A “Roadmap” for “Tolerance & Coexistence” from Abu Dhabi – Al Ittihad Newspaper .
– News Release: Returning to the Roots of Islam—A Necessity for the Umma’s Proegression – Al Bayan Newspaper.
– News release: Lecture in Abu Dhabi stresses awareness – about true Islam – The National.
– News Release: Islam is not against other religions, says scholar – Khaleej Times.
– Sky News Arabia Interview Video.
– Sky News Arabia Interview Transcript.
– Al Arabiya Channel Interview Video.