More In-Box Emails: Dr. Todd Lawson’s Web Talks on the Bahá’í Faith and Islam
May 27, 2017
Many who listened to Dr. Todd Lawson’s trilogy of talks on the Bahá’í Faith and Islam found them mind-expanding and life-changing. You can still listen to them on the Wilmette Institute’s YouTube channel and also read and download supplementary materials about the first and third talks. “The Qur’an and Islam: Explorations from a Bahá’í Perspective” “The Qur’an in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb” “The Qur’anic Epic and the Creation of Humanity”Here is a selection of comments about the three talks:Qur’an Talks Help with Weekly Study Class on the Qur’anEnjoyed it [Dr. Lawson’s first Web Talk on the Qur’an] very much. It was a very informative learning experience. As we’re studying the Qur’an weekly, I can’t wait till the next talk comes up. Anne TurnerList of Similarities/Differences between Islam and the Bahá’í Faith?Thank you for the wonderful class on Islam. Could Dr. Lawson please put together a summary of the similarities and differences between Islam and the Bahá’í Faith, preferably with references, so that Bahá’ís could study it and be able to speak effectively with those who claim that the Bahá’í Faith is a sect of Islam. Shervin ChurchillDr. Lawson, in his talks, encourages individuals to make such lists themselves.Are There References for the Web Talks?I greatly enjoyed the recent Todd Lawson Web Talk. Are there links to the references used or a reference outline to the presentation? George CooperYes, there are a number of supplementary materials for Dr. Lawson’s first and third talks that you can download.Where Else Could I Get Such Scholarly Information?Every time I get one of your kind messages thanking me for watching the most recent Wilmette Institute Web Talks I get an odd feeling. Seems to me that it is I who should be thanking you for offering us, at frequent intervals, such interesting or entertaining or timely presentations. This is especially true of the Web Talks featuring Todd Lawson. What a treat! Where in the world, except at the Wilmette Institute, would I have the opportunity of listening to a true scholar of Islam capable of speaking about the Qur’an from a Bahá’í point of view? Edda ErrollThe Appiah BBC Podcasts That Dr. Lawson RecommendedJust letting you know how much I am enjoying the Todd Lawson’s talks on Islam. I also listened to the BBC podcasts of Kwame Anthony Appiah—so very inspiring. He has also got me reading about Joseph in the Sura of Joseph. I am sharing all this with my community in Kelowna, British Columbia. Kay Ruthnum, Kelowna, British ColumbiaThe BBC podcasts were the 2017 Reith lectures given by cultural theorist Kwame Anthony Appiah on “Mistaken Identities.” The four lectures cover four topics: Creed, Country, Color, and Culture. Some of Appiah’s insights are these: “European identity is in contrast to Islamic identity.” In other words, “Europe is what is not Islamic.” Moreover, Europeans and their culture “carry a distinctive Islamic component.” “This is something Bahá’ís know,” Todd said, “but the academy (the humanities and the sciences) has been slow to see.” You will also enjoy Dr. Lawson’s earlier Web Talk “Bahá’u’lláh, the Return of Joseph.”The Relevance of Islam and the Qur’an: Perfect for Persian SeekerI found the recent webinar with Todd Lawson very fascinating and timely. I love Todd’s combination of scholarship and humility, but even more it is the burning conviction in the truth of the Qur’an and the essential place this Holy Book holds in our Blessed Faith that is compelling. We have been teaching Persian students at Oregon State University, and a married couple has finished [Ruhi] Book 1 and will be starting Book 2 tonight. They have questions about the relevance of Islam and the Qur’an, which seem intertwined in their investigation of the Faith. I will suggest that we watch together with them the first two webinars of this series to restore their conviction in the inerrancy and centrality of the Qur’an. Jim Weik, Corvallis, OregonBahá’ís’ Responsibility to Defend Legitimacy of IslamThis was a truly wonderful talk [Dr. Lawson’s first talk on “The Qur’an and Islam: Explorations from a Bahá’í Perspective”], so thoughtful and rich! Thank you. Especially eye-opening was the fact that it is our obligation to understand and testify to the truth of the Qur’an. I feel inspired to do just that and will be excited to share content from this and future lectures (and the Writings) with other Bahá’ís at future Feast(s). I appreciate the references to quotations from various Figures of our Faith and have already begun to “dig in” for more information / understanding. Todd, your fervor over the “state of emergency” that we (and Islam) are in was powerfully contagious. Rita EricksonA Facebook Discussion Group on Islam 2 talk Dear Scholar, Dr. Lawson! I have put onto a page on my Facebook account a group called “Understanding Islam.” By your appeal to Bahá’ís to deepen on Islam, just as we have been guided to do this—to pursue a deeper appreciation and reverence for Islam, its history and contributions, and challenges—I wonder if you would look at the flow in this group and perhaps comment as you would to students, to guide, direct, or add what you would like to see in such a format. . . . Thank you for your work. . . . ; I cannot express enough appreciation for your focus on the Qur’an and Islam. Your tone and presentation carries your passion to attract us to make Islam more a steady part of our own discourse as Bahá’ís. Charlotte Solarz,Hazel Green, WisconsinDr. Lawson’s replied through a Wilmette Institute staff member: “This is wonderful! I do not use Facebook, unfortunately. Perhaps you could pass this on to Charlotte Solarz. And, that what she is doing is very important. If there are any specific questions or a need for literature, perhaps I can help. Feel free to give her my email address, if you like. But, the most important thing is for the friends to study Islam, have classes in Summer Schools, lobby local school boards to have more Islamic content from kindergarten to university. Best, Todd”A Persian Bahá’í Learns Reverence for the Qur’an and Seeks Help in Teaching Learners First, thank you so much. As always, you are doing an excellent job! Please thank Dr. Lawson for an excellent lecture. Regardless of being brought up in a Persian Bahá’í home and participating in a number of courses regarding Islam and the Qur’an, the EXTENT of the reverence and respect toward the Qur’an was more than what I used to have. This last Sunday had an effect that, upon receiving another negative comment from a very dear friend who is Christen married to another friend who is Jewish, regarding the Qur’an, I suggested let’s study the Qur’an according to the Bahá’í interpretation, and she accepted! Now I wonder what to do? Do we have any such courses at the Wilmette Institute? Our local Bahá’í community would not have such a source!Soheila Mahboubi
In September 2017 the Wilmette Institute will be offering a course called Exploring the Qur’an. In February 2017 it offered Islam for Dialogue and Deepening. It also offers Introduction to Shi‘ism Islam, Introduction to Shaykhism, and Introduction to Sufism (about Islamic mysticism). Watch the Wilmette Institue eNewsletter for information.
Relationships between Old and New Testaments, the Qur’an and the Bahá’í Writings?On the topic of the relationships between the Qur’an and the Bahá’í writings. Isn’t it the same as the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament? Andrea CarstensDr. Lawson replied: “As a general observation this is true, but such a comparison invites and demands much thoughtful analysis and criticism to try to come to terms with what this might mean more precisely so as not to appear to ‘dispense with’ earlier scripture through what might appear as a formula. Jews, for example, have a different notion of the relationship between the Old Testament and the New than Christians do. And within each faith community there is a great variety of understandings. I think Bahá’ís are called upon to be sensitive to the values and beliefs of others.” He then added the following passage from Shoghi Effendi’s letter published in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh ( 57–58):The Revelation, of which Bahá’u’lláh is the source and center, abrogates none of the religions that have preceded it, nor does it attempt, in the slightest degree, to distort their features or to belittle their value. It disclaims any intention of dwarfing any of the Prophets of the past, or of whittling down the eternal verity of their teachings. It can, in no wise, conflict with the spirit that animates their claims, nor does it seek to undermine the basis of any man’s allegiance to their cause. Its declared, its primary purpose is to enable every adherent of these Faiths to obtain a fuller understanding of the religion with which he stands identified, and to acquire a clearer apprehension of its purpose. It is neither eclectic in the presentation of its truths, nor arrogant in the affirmation of its claims. Its teachings revolve around the fundamental principle that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is progressive, not final. Unequivocally and without the least reservation it proclaims all established religions to be divine in origin, identical in their aims, complementary in their functions, continuous in their purpose, indispensable in their value to mankind.