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Interfaith | The 'CURE' for your Vocation

Category: Interfaith

I did not plan on being a church planter. And, I don’t mean that in a God-was-calling-me-there-but-I-refused-to-listen-to-God’s-voice kind of way. It was literally not even a blip on my radar. So, when the opportunity came up to be a planting pastor with Urban Village Church, an initiative with the UMC, I really had to think on it.

I began talking with Trey Hall and Christian Coon, the lead pastors of UVC about a year ago. At the same time, they were having conversations with Benjamin Reynolds, a PhD student at Chicago Theological Seminary who had pastored a large African American Baptist congregation in Colorado Springs. I was caught by how they really listened, were responsive, and sought to follow the Spirit’s lead in their own discernment about us as their partners in ministry. I realized that, in a risky endeavor like church planting, it was important for me to know I had passionate, dynamic, and intelligent partners who would not only recognize and value the gifts and experiences that I brought to the table, but also take me seriously as a partner. I didn’t plan on church planting, but once I accepted the call, I became excited. It was the best intersection of my gifts and passions: creative communications, graphic design, organization, seeing the gospel change lives, and having fun.

So, why plant churches in time of mainline decline? The simple answer is that there are people who want to engage questions of spirituality and faith, but they are not finding what they need. Rather than paint with a broad brushstroke, I will speak to the particular context where Benjamin and I are doing our work. In my conversations with folks (most, but not all, of whom were young adults) in the Woodlawn and Hyde Park neighborhoods, I have come across 4 types – People who have:

1)  given up trying to find something in the neighborhood and go somewhere else.

2)  given up trying to find a church and don’t go to church.

3)  settled on a place, but aren’t all that satisfied

4)  been burned or rejected by the church at some point.

Many people are looking for a sense of connection and community; where someone notices when they’ve been away or knows to ask about what’s happening in their lives. They are also looking for a place where their questions are not ignored but taken seriously and engaged; where doubt is not equated with unbelief. Additionally, families are looking for a place where their children can be equipped to think about faith and faithful living that is rooted in the gospel with intelligence and meaning. There is also a unique need that UVC on the south side can address: being a faith community that welcomes and affirms people of color (and their families) across the spectrum of sexual orientation. Finally, our vision for Urban Village as a whole (and particularly on the south side) is to be a multi-racial faith community that does not minimize difference but engage it for the sake of being a fuller expression of God’s kindom.

McCormick was important in equipping me with certain tools in this work:

  • Developing a posture of life-long learning
  • Opportunities for engaging in conversations with people who come from a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences
  • A network of creative colleagues who both support and challenge me
  • Knowledge of ministry in an urban context (particularly Chicago)
  • Public speaking and preaching
  • Supportive faculty and staff
  • Tools for shaping creative liturgy and worship

There are other key tools that McCormick did not (and in some cases, could not) equip me with, so I had to learn or obtain elsewhere:

  • Perseverance
  • Humor
  • Graphic design and marketing
  • Organization/Administration
  • External networks and connections
  • Creative ways to do evangelism/outreach
  • The nuts and bolts of church planting
  • The practice of trying to do church differently
  • Community organizing

Being a church planter is hard work! You have to put yourself out there again and again, initiating conversations with people, risking rejection and judgement on a daily basis. But, I do not regret my decision. There is something very powerful and humbling about the work of planting churches. You get a front row seat in bearing witness to the kind of work that God can do through a broken vessel (moi) to help make the neighborhood just a little bit better and the gospel just a little more present in the world.

This is a brief overview of some aspects of my work as a church planter. If you have questions or are interested in church planting and would like to join Benjamin and myself in this work, feel free to contact me at emcginley@mccormick.edu

Well, McReaders, this is the last blog you’ll get from me. Wes will be taking over soon, and I’ll be done with seminary after 3 glorious years.

Thinking about the past 3 years is a bit overwhelming. As I’m leaving seminary, I’m not one of those prefect Presbyterians who passed all her ordination exams in the first try; I’m not walking out of seminary with a job in hand, ready to become ordained; I’m not in the minority. I am, once again, in the majority. I’m walking out of seminary with debt, no job, very little idea of where I am going to live, and a car that requires prayer each time to drive it down the Dan Ryan (which, given the shape it’s in, I don’t go down the Dan Ryan with it if I can help it). It’s not that I don’t have skills, I have mad skills. It’s just, there really aren’t many jobs out there. Recently, several people have asked me, “So, if you had to do it over, would you do it all again the same?”

Yes. I’d do it all over again and I would not do it differently. Here are a few reasons why:

1. I met Megan, Alex, TC, Sylvia, Tracy, Jon, Joe, Holly, Kim, Jason, Bong, Lilit, Ching Boi, Tyler, Ken, Lora, Matt, Jenny, Hannah, Amber, Molly, Han Kook, Dave, Kristi, Meredith, Kristin, Robyn, Tina, Karl, Michele, Vimary, Abby, Nathy, Nancy, Jeanine, Sergio, Kristin, Deanna, Mo, Stephanie, Melva, Kathi, Wes, Liz, Albert, Mike, Monica, Daniel, Sarah, Sarah, Katie Jo, Kate, Kirk, Jamie, Matt, Allison, Casey, Phil, Jeff, JC, Honna, Jake, Kelly, Megan, Sarah, Melvina, Delores, Kay, Sheila, Chris, Brenda, Peter, Heather, Jamie… the list is endless. This only includes the people that I could think of in 5 minutes and doesn’t include staff, professors, students from other seminaries, people in the community… Need I say more?

2. The friendly folks at the Starbucks at 55th and Woodlawn know my name.

3. I now know that Joel is an actual book in the Bible.

4. Ted Hiebert taught me Hebrew and Sarah Tanzer taught me Greek.

5. Janaan Hashim and Bob Cathey answered all my ridiculous questions and never told me to shut up. Ever.

6. I got to be Lib Caldwell’s EA.

7. If you ask nice enough, Luis will put on his Dracula cape.

8. Christine Vogel lets me cry in her office and Frank Yamada lets me cry in the halls.

9. Dr. Daniels made singing “Welcome Table” my favorite communion tradition.

10. Deb Mullen helped me accept who I was on my first day of classes.

11. Joann Lindstrom has a puppy in her office.

12. Sam Evans talks in a French accent when he’s in the office.

13. David Crawford is my friend and I know how hard he works for the seminary and the people there.

14. My classmates are fabulous dog-sitters, bird watchers, fish sitters, and plant waterers.

15. Melody Knowles taught me how to write a better paper.

16. Ted Hiebert made me re-think how I read the Bible.

17. Jennifer Ayers made me appreciate food and be thankful that I have it.

18. Ken Sawyer.

19. Ken Sawyer’s Mustache.

20. David Esterline’s wife’s cookies.

21. Knowing that Priscilla Rodriguez is always laughing at my facebook posts and understands my existential angst and will always have a hug for me.

22. Christine Vogel has a constant and steady supply of chocolate in her office.

23. No one reads the Psalms quite like Nanette Banks.

24. Dr. Frank Thomas taught me how to preach like I was on fire and then he made us go play in the snow.

25. Joann Lindstrom has my back.

26. Deb Kapp is an awesome cook at Iron Chef.

27. Monica actually smiles, you just have to know how to make her do it.

28. Natasha thinks I’ve already graduated.

29. I sort of have teacher crushes on Bob Cathey, Ted Hiebert, Lib Caldwell, Melody Knowles, and Janaan Hashim.

30. Community meals are always better food than I have in my apartment.

31. David Crawford often confuses me and Abby Mohaupt.

32. Boundaries don’t actually exist at McCormick despite Joann Lindstrom’s attempts at educating us.

33. Kimchi and Chapchae are two of my new favorite foods.

34. After being her EA, Abby Mohaupt and I now know that Lib Caldwell drinks Diet Coke at break and her Starbucks order is a grande unsweetened passion fruit iced tea.

35. I learned more about YAV’s than I ever imagined was possible.

36. I learned that Frank Yamada used to be in a band.

37. Anna Case-Winters lets me call her A.C. Dub.

38. Ken Crews can eat ungodly amounts of fast food in one sitting.

39. Deacon retreats aren’t the same without Christine Vogel present.

And last but not least…

40. The University of Chicago has a library. Thank God, or none of my work would have ever gotten done.

Well, that’s it. There are other things I could have talked about on here, but this is all I had time for, I have to finish a project for Bob Cathey. Go figure. Graduation, here I come!

Peace – Shelley D.

Greetings McReaders! We’re back after a well deserved reading week here on the Southside of Chicago. Back to homework, reading, researching, going to weekly chapel, going to our respective meetings, and going back to class.In the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking at some of the classes that McCormick offers students. Sure, we have the typical Greek and Hebrew and we have our theology classes, but our professors go out of the way to create specialty classes and environments where students can learn, explore, and challenge themselves based on their own areas of study and expertise.

Today I want to introduce you to one of those classes (and the professor that go with it). You won’t find a class like this one at any other seminary (well, you might find one similar, but not this one!).

Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Sarah Tanzer

Welcome to Bible 440, Life Cycles of Judaism! Sarah is one of our New Testament professors here at McCormick; she also teaches classes such as Greek Exegesis and Gospels (a must take if you love some NT). The class itself is designed to look at the Jewish calendar, Jewish practices, and, you guessed it, the life cycles of Judaism. Since being in this class, we’ve learned about everything from holidays and Jewish festivals, to learning how to blow a Shofar, a ram’s horn.

First year student, Tyler Orem, practices blowing the Shofar, the ram's horn which is blown on Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah

Now, it’s not about the super cool instruments and prayer shawls that we get to see in class, it’s really a class about learning where we, as Christians, come from. It’s a chance to learn more about our Jewish brothers and sisters and to gain more respect for the Jewish culture. It’s about appreciating the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Sarah even invites us into her home for a traditional Shabbat service. We are also sent out into Chicago, to visit a Synagogue of our choice (I’ll be visiting Congregation Or Chadash).

As our professor, Sarah brings a lot to the table. A practicing Jew herself, Sarah explores the class with the students (as she does in all her classes). This isn’t some class where you get a talking head for 3 hours. Nope, it’s a dialogue in which the students and professor interact in a mutual desire to learn and share information. Sarah has a love for teaching and she even makes two semesters of Greek Exegesis pretty bearable; you almost like it when you leave it! One thing that I can say, on a personal level, is that Sarah is invested in her students, and she is always around to help.

This is one of many classes that you can expect to see at McCormick. Next week, we’ll be talking about one of our Christian Education/Bible classes with Lib Caldwell and Ted Hiebert.

Have questions about more of our classes?! Contact one of our student reps in the Office of Recruitment and Admissions and we’ll be happy to tell you more!

Stay tuned to see what Wes will be bringing to the table on Thursday. Until then, happy reading!

~Shelley D.

Good evening friends!

Today has been an incredible day at McCormick – we had the inauguration of Frank Yamada as president. All those in attendance can attest to the fact that it was an incredibly powerful service. We’ll be bringing you news on that Tuesday, so stay tuned for that.

But first!

Ryan Wallace recently went with a group of clergy, seminarians and other religious leaders to the Illinois capitol to lobby for raising the minimum wage. I asked to write this blog, and it stands as a testament to the McCormick community’s continued presence in promoting justice for all of God’s children. Written below is his account of the day and why it is an important issue to fight for:

It’s safe to say that 4:45am is earlier than I want to wake up most days. But this past Tuesday, that is precisely what time I (willfully) rolled out of bed. I had a good reason though. I was on my way to meet up with about 70 others to catch an early train down to the Capitol in Springfield to lobby for SB1565: a bill to raise Illinois’ minimum wage. After all, minimum wage workers all over the state wake up even earlier than 4:45 every morning to start preparing the breakfast and coffee we grab on our way into the office a few hours later, so maybe I owe ‘em one.

At 7am sharp, our train pulled out of Union Station. After some bagels and coffee, we got down to business. We had but a few short hours to teach crash courses in minimum wage reform and lobbying. Our train car was filled with a veritable potpourri of folks—clergy, minimum wage workers, nuns, lawyers, community organizers, lobbyists, and even an economist—but we all shared in the common goal of raising the minimum wage in our state. However, in order to pass the bill, we’d need more of an argument than, “$8.25 an hour isn’t enough to live on” (though there’s no doubt that statement is woefully true). We’d need the facts to back up our moral and democratic argument that no one who works full time should qualify for food stamps. We knew we’d need to have answers to pointed questions like: How will businesses be affected by the wage raise? Won’t raising the minimum wage cost our state jobs? How can we pass a raise in the minimum wage during an economic recession?

Fortunately, we did our reading ahead of time…

First, a recent national study comparing job growth in bordering counties with differing minimum wages has effectively proven that increases in minimum wage do not negatively affect job growth. Additionally, several other studies have demonstrated that raising the minimum wage actually saves businesses money (by reducing employee turnover and thus the cost of training new employees), generates new revenue for businesses (by increasing worker productivity), and creates a better work environment (by significantly elevating employee morale).

From an economic standpoint, there is also strong evidence that suggests we should raise the minimum wage. It’s been estimated that raising the minimum wage would generate over $2 billion in new consumer spending in Illinois over the next four years. Raising the minimum wage means putting more money in the pockets of low-income families who will turn around and spend that money every month (because they still won’t make enough to put it into savings), primarily on goods and services in their own local communities. In fact, some economists project that this new consumer spending could create as many as 20,000 new jobs in Illinois over the next four years.

If that’s not convincing, I imagine most of us would agree that minimum wage should, at the very least, grow at the same rate as our economy. However, as our economy has expanded, minimum wage has lagged behind. If minimum wage had simply kept pace with inflation over the past forty years, it would be over $10 an hour today.

While in Springfield, we collectively visited the offices of all 59 Senators and every last one of the 118 Representatives, delivering to each a scroll with the signatures of more than 200 faith leaders from around the state supporting an increase in the minimum wage. Many of us were even lucky enough to catch some of the legislators and sit down to chat about the reason for our visit to our state’s capital. We then gathered in the rotunda of the Capitol for a press conference featuring clergy, sponsoring legislators, workers, and experts, all attesting to the fact that the time is now to stand up for the lowest paid workers in our communities.

Many of us were also able to track down the legislators from our own home districts. Whether our Senators are co-sponsors or opponents of SB1565, we wanted to let them know where we as constituents stood on the issue. We hope you can join us for our next Springfield excursion, but until then…

Find your Senator, ask where she/he stands on SB1565, and let her/him know that you support SB1565 to raise the minimum wage in Illinois to $10.65/hour over the next four years.

Thanks for sharing this story with us and for standing up for minimum wage workers!

See you next week!

Happy Unusually Warm Thursday!

Last December, a few members of the McCormick community were invited to sit and have a chat with Different Drummers, a web-based program produced by CBS here in Chicago.

Lets have a look: Click to view (link opens in a new window!)

Melva Lowry, Angela Ryo (whom you might remember from a post last September), and Dean of Students Christine Vogel talk about what specialized ministry is and why it’s important. McCormick has a long tradition of preparing students for all aspects of ministry, including parish and specialized. Through McCormick’s unique degree programs, which include Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Discipleship Development and Master of Arts in Urban Ministry, students gain the tools necessary to become successful in anything and everything God is calling them to do!

See you next week!

Happy Wednesday McCormick Community.

So often you all get to meet our professors and students, but there are other aspects to our community, like our adjunct professors that we want to show off as well. They’re pretty awesome, especially today’s interviewee: Janaan Hashim, Esq. Janaan teaches alongside of our favorite Nesting in Beirut Theology Guru, Bob Cathey. Not only is she one of our favorites here, she’s also a lawyer (and one of the founders) of the first law firm founded by 6 Muslim women right here in Chicago, the Amal Law Group. She’s also a maker of homemade baklava, and she has a great sense of humor. Janaan also lectures wherever and whenever she can. She covers a range of topics, and I was lucky enough to go to one of her recent lectures right next door at LSTC.

Janaan plays a really important role in the life of the McCormick community. To state the obvious at this point, she’s a practicing Muslim (trust me, there’s much more to this lady than only that!). Chicago is a place rich for interfaith learning and conversation, and Janaan helps to bring that directly into our classrooms. Personally, I can attest that she has helped me, a white, Christian, Southerner, to connect with someone of another faith and to really learn. Through interaction, we get the information first hand and that’s how people make relationships and come to have a respect for one another. This is how things change and how people learn.

Now it’s time for me to stop rambling on and on about her, you come by the Religious Pluralism class on Friday mornings and meet her as well. You’ll also get another change to meet her and take a class from her and Bob Cathey this coming Spring semester as they teach a new class, Arab Reawakening. Check it out on the McCormick page for more information! Without further ado, here she is!

Please tell us your name, where you are from, and what exactly it is you do at McCormick.

My name is Janaan Hashim, I was born a mile south of the Mason-Dixon line in Cumberland, Maryland but grew up just outside the Capitol in Rockville, MD.  At McCormick, I try to keep students in my class awake Friday mornings by engaging them in thought-provoking analysis of the faith being studied that particular day, and when we go on our site visits to various houses of worship, I do my best to set a good example of being a respectful guest and learner.  And what class would draw students out of their comfortable quarters on a Friday morning?  Religious Pluralism and the Ministry.


Tell us a little bit about your family.

There’s not much to be said.  My father is from Iraq, my mom is from Ohio, so I’m a Scotts-Irish Arab…reality is, if I were a horse, I’d be valuable.

As for the boring stuff, I have two older brothers and when I was young, our family included two guinea pigs, Spicey and Cutie-Pie, two rabbits, Bunny and Fredrick, and several tanks of fresh water fish.  I went to public school (thus, my weak geography skills), played the piano for nine years and trumpet for four, enjoyed photography tremendously in high school, was a member of 4-H and spent parts of my summer on the shores of the Atlantic at Ocean City, MD.  Oh, and I was a runner doing cross-country, indoor track and spring track in middle school and high school with my mom at too many meets to count, cheering me on every step of the way… no pun intended.

You are a McCormick adjunct professor, and (besides the rumor that you make some stellar baklava), we hear you are also a lawyer. What’s that all about?

Good question.  Hmmmmm, well, I had just finished meeting my goals at the high school at which I taught (journalism and desktop publishing) and was trying to determine whether I should set new goals or do something different.  My husband reminded me of my interest in continuing my higher education and suggested law.  Since my kids were in upper elementary school, I figured why not?

I was intrigued by the analytical thinking and reasoning skills that many lawyers carry, and thought that this was something I’d like to polish.  With that, my skills as an oralist also improved, thanks to both the Socratic Method and the moot court team I was on.  Through these experiences, I came to realize that when I find myself put on the spot, whether it’s the professor or a judge wanting an answer, it was either shrivel away or step-up to the challenge.  Early on, I decided I would always try the latter and not worry about being wrong, looking silly, or anything like that.  It was an incredible learning experience to say the least and one that has made me into a better person and thinker.

How did you come to teach at McCormick? What do you teach/will you be teaching?

God really works in strange ways…at least, strange to us.  It took a trip to Barcelona, Spain to get me to McCormick – talk about taking the scenic route!  I was a panelist at the 2004 Conference of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.  Among other speaking engagements, I participated in a panel discussion entitled, “The Headscarf Debate and Ultra-Secularism in Democratic Societies” in which two others and I talked about our head covering experiences.  Of course, with the other two democracies being France and Turkey, it was easy to make the US shine above the others in terms of religious freedom and expression while also expressing caution with the growth of Islamophobia.  Afterward, Professor Cathey’s daughter approached me, with Professor Cathey and his wife by her side, we talked and exchanged contact info.  That fall, Professor Cathey invited me to speak to his class that attended the Parliament, then the following year he approached me to tweak his Parliamment class so that McCormick could provide a course relating to the interfaith movement between Parliament events given the pluralistic city we live it.

Bob and I met, we discussed a few avenues for the course, and then came up with the current model that was based on a course I took in law school.  The course, Religious Pluralism and the Ministry was born, approved by the administration and has earned a steady spot in the fall as an elective.

The other course that I will also team-teach with Professor Cathey is Arab Reawakening which will be offered for the first time this spring.  It will be really interesting because we will look at Arab Christian and Arab Muslim immigrants who moved to Chicago from six specific Middle Eastern countries over the past 100 or so years, the impact they have had on the community and its impact on them, and then what kind of impact that may have had on current life in the Middle East all within the context of diaspora in the Bible and Quran.  Cool, eh?

Personally, I think it’s pretty important that we have you as a professor. You’re a practicing Muslim, and that’s something really great that you bring to the table for students to learn from and to engage with. Why do you think it is important that you are part of the McCormick community? What role do you see yourself playing (besides the obvious professor role)?

This is a great question.  Without a doubt, if I were to learn about, say, Judaism, I would be smart to go to an observing Jew or even a Rabbi, ask my questions and learn from them.  Similarly, a smart school would do the same if it chooses to offer a course that involves Islam: it would pull in someone who not only knows the faith, but feels it, breaths it, lives it.  That makes all the difference in teaching students because it brings in passion and brightens an otherwise dry topic.

The events of 9/11 propelled me into the interfaith world and, through it, I’ve realized that the only way we can undermine the nay-sayers out there who are convincing the world that faith is part of the world’s problem, is to step up to the plate and say, “No, faith is part of the solution.”  The basis of this is simple. I’ve found through my interfaith work, especially with the CPWR, that no faith calls for the annihilation of the other, no faith calls for starving the other, no faith calls for hate and violence toward the other.  I hope to bring that into my classroom and help my students see the beautiful world beyond the circle of their own faith.

In terms of role, I guess there’s a bit of helping the student realize his/her own stereotypes or prejudices of a person who doesn’t dress like them and helping the student overcome these preconceptions through my role as an educator.  It’s pretty fair to say that most of my students have had little contact with Islam, Muslim women, or an American Muslim woman.  I’ve noticed that over the course of the semester, the student shifts from seeing me as “the professor who wears the hijab” to “the prof who teaches the Religious Pluralism class.”  In essence, they, themselves, move beyond defining my scope or essence, in their view, by what they see on the exterior toward defining my scope or essence with what is deeper through what they see in class, experience on the road, learn from in debriefings after site visits, etc.

To me, the reality is that it’s a pluralistic world out there, especially in the US, and more so in Chicago.  The sooner seminarians can enlarge their comfort zone such that it includes “the other,” the better equipped they will be as religious leaders in their community.   I hope that my presence as a member of the MTS community helps with that process and that students years from now will say, “I had this professor who was Muslim, and I learned that when you go to a mosque, expect to see the wall lined with shelves filled with Qurans in the prayer area, or when a Sikh greets you with his hands clasped together, the best response is to reciprocate with the same gesture, or when you go to meditation at a Buddhist temple, expect to sit for a long time.”  So long as I’m making this a part of my students’ learning curve, then I can sleep well at night knowing that our future is a bright one.

You mentioned your involvement with the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Can you speak to that a bit?

I was first exposed to the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR) in 2004 when I was invited to speak on a couple of panels at the Barcelona Parliament event.  I then stayed connected by helping with the programming of the 2009 Parliament event in the context of finding highly qualified Muslim speakers to talk on a variety of relevant and interesting issues.  In 2010, I was privileged to join their Board of Trustees.  I currently sit on the HR committee and I also served on the Site Selection Task Force Committee to determine which bid city would host the next Parliament Event in 2014.  Working with the CPWR staff, Dirk Ficca, the Executive Director (and a MTS grad!) and other trustees has been a tremendous experience and wonderful gift.

At the beginning of our reading week, you gave a lecture on the shariah at LSTC, and I hear you get a lot of requests for speaking engagements. What kinds of things do you get asked to speak about? Which one was your favorite to give?

Most of my talks involve Islam one way or the other.  Typically they address Islamophobia, eg. religious freedom in the US, the hijab, rising hate toward Muslims both at the personal level and within a legal context; women’s issues ranging from my work as a criminal defense attorney to Muslim women’s involvement in society and women’s rights in Islam; my work with Radio Islam and religion in the media; and now, as you mentioned, Shariah since it is becoming a political issue and it seems that politicians and their constituencies, including many Muslims, do not know what Shariah really is.  I really love talking about issues relating to Islam, it really lights the fire in my belly! I love informing and educating folks and seeing the light above their heads turn on as well as exploring issues with scholars and seeing my own light shine a bit brighter.

I know you’ve traveled to study Arabic. Where all have you gone and how’s that going?

I have studied classical Arabic for the past three summers in Amman, Jordan at Qasid Institute.  It’s a fabulous program and I hope to ultimately complete its five levels.  Until I found this program, learning Arabic was a great challenge and I became increasingly frustrated with the fact that, to know my faith, I have to rely on someone else’s translations, their proficiency (or lack thereof) in Arabic and English, and whatever social and personal influences they may carry when determining what English word properly translates the corresponding Arabic word.  With this handicap, libraries upon libraries filled with thousands of classical works by brilliant minds – both men and women – are closed to me; but once I learn the language, imagine, not only will those library doors be open, but I won’t need a library card to read the works!  So, with great patience, I plow forward, finding myself closer to my faith as I hear and better understand what I’m saying and reading.

Honestly, you work with Bob Cathey. How great is it to get to work with him?

I couldn’t have a better teacher to be by my side.  He has terrific patience with me, introducing me to various aspects of life in academia and the pace with which it operates.  In class, he gives me full freedom as an equal when it comes down to everything from grading to in-class analyses and discussion of students’ writings.  He has been very supportive of my interest in entering academia and provided many great ideas.  MTS is blessed to have him on board.

What is the one thing you hope your students get to walk away with when they are done with your class?

Other than my baklava?  Wow, hard to beat that.  Seriously, though, I hope they feel that their horizons have broadened, as cheesy as that sounds.  I really want my students to leave the semester saying, “I feel that I not only learned a lot, but I’m a better person now because 1) of what I learned, and 2) how I’m going to use that knowledge-base and gift that I’ve been given.”

What’s on your playlist right now?

Nothing.  Sorry, I can’t concentrate and listen to music at the same time.  You?  What’s on your playlist? (Um, I’m still listening to the Yusaf Islam CD you gave me!)

The food you hate the most?

Ugh, my mom’s split pea soup.  It’s the worst thing I ever tasted!  (and Mom knows this reality…) Thank GOD she hasn’t made this during my adult life – the memory from 35 years ago is still that painful!

If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, right now, who would it be and why (and you can’t say the Prophet!)?

Khawla bint Tha’laba.

Here’s the context:  Back in the day, one way in which divorce was possible in Arab culture was through zihar, a specific expression that reduced the wife to the status the the husband’s mother’s backside, meaning the wife was completely devoid of sensual attraction.  Under Arab custom, zihar was irrevocable and thus, it became prohibited for the husband to touch his wife, and yet she was not free of the marital bond.  It’s unknown what made Khawla’s husband, Aws ibn Samit, reject Khawla with this vulgar expression, but when it happened, she was stuck without any ability to override such norms and customs.  So she decided to take her concerns to a higher power – to God.

When Khawla approached the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) to complain of the injustice fallen upon her, she left dissatisfied because, as the Prophet explained, unless God revealed a new ruling, he was without authority to change existing custom; the change had to be through devine revelation, not the Prophet’s own decision.  The Prophet received no revelation on the issue, and thus, Khawla left disappointed, but not without hope.

Convinced that the custom was unjust, she continued to complain to God, and waited near His messenger.  The answer came in the first two verses of chapter 58:

“God has heard the words of she who disputes with you regarding her husband and made her complaint to God.  God hears your conversation.  Verily, God is all-Hearing, all-Seeing.

“Those of you who shun their wives by zihar – they are not their mothers.  Their mothers are only those women who gave birth to them.  Indeed they utter words that are unjust and false; but God is absolving of sins, all-Forgiving.”

With these verses, God openly confirmed what Khawla knew all along: that what her husband had done to her was unjust and needed to be prohibited by law.

Although she was an average person, like her contemporaries, she was involved in society and shaping its direction.  She fought in two significant battles and by the Prophet’s side.

Many years later after the Prophet died, she stopped the Caliph Umar while he was walking with another and started advising him.  She was an old woman, and as she was talking, the companion interrupted her, saying she was talking for too long, asking whether she knew with whom she is talking, and then saying that she was talking to the caliph. Then Umar said to his companion, “Let her talk.  Do you know her?  This is Khawla to whom God listened from above the seven heavens, and so Umar has to listen, too.”

I’d like to meet her because of this strong character and to see what life was like in the time of the Prophet and thereafter.  She had the distinction of having her complaint heard and answered by God, fought by the Prophet’s side, and honored when she was old and almost forgotten by the younger generation.  I think I’d like to see her thoughts on the current state of Muslims – seeing this week an expected five million pilgrims gathering peacefully in her hometown to worship and reflect, while at the same time looking at the nation-states that claim to be based on Islamic jurisprudence.  I doubt there would be enough tea for such a conversation!

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading short stories in Arabic, حكايات كليلة و دمية لطلاب اللغة العربية ,Tales from Kalila wa Dimna for Students of Arabic , To Kill A Mockingbird (it’s been about 25 years, what a great book!) and some of the books for class next semester.

What’s the most annoying sound you’ve ever heard?

A child’s cry that is not comforted …I’m not annoyed at the child, but at the caretaker for not comforting the child.

Wow, thanks for that Janaan! Well, there you have it my faithful readers. Just one more reason for McCormick to be proud of our adjunct professors!

Until Friday!

Peace ~ Shelley D.

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