Ep. 85: Abdul-Rehman Malik
Abdul-Rehman Malik is an award winning journalist, educator and cultural organizer. In June 2019 he was appointed Lecturer and Associate Research Scholar at the Yale Divinity School. He also serves at the Program Coordinator at Yale University’s Council on Middle East Studies, and is responsible for developing curricula and partnerships with public schools to promote better cultural, language and religious literacy about the Middle East to educators and students alike. Abdul-Rehman also serves as Director of the Muslim Leadership Lab, an innovative student leadership program being incubated at the Dwight Hall Center of Social Justice at Yale. He remains programs manager for the Radical Middle Way, which offers powerful, faith-inspired guidance and tools to enable change, combat exclusion and violence and promote social justice for all. His work has spanned the UK, United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, Mali, Morocco, Singapore, Canada and Malaysia.
Abdul-Rehman is a frequent journalist for BBC Radio, offering contemporary perspectives on contemporary spirituality. Until 2018 regularly presented the popular Pause for Thought segment on Radio 2 and Something Understood on Radio 4. His most recent essay for Radio 3’s Holy Week 2019 was entitled “Behold the Man”. In conjunction with The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Abdul-Rehman will be launching and hosting a new podcast in 2020 entitled “This Being Human”, which will explore kaleidoscope of contemporary Muslim experience and identity.
In addition to providing curation and content guidance to a variety of cultural and literary institutions, Abdul-Rehman works to create platforms at the intersection of arts and social change. He is committed to building Muslim cultural capital, cultural leadership and supporting cutting-edge artistic production. In January 2015, he became director – a voluntary position – of the Insight Film Festival, a unique year-round festival that celebrates the intersection between faith and film. He was creative advisor to English Touring Theatre’s acclaimed, radical reimagining of Othello from 2016-2019 and curated The Othello Project, a multidisciplinary festival of artistic responses to the production.
Abdul-Rehman recently trained over 150 young civil society leaders in Indonesia to use the power of theatre and storytelling to bridge interfaith and intercultural divides against the backdrop of violence and discrimination as part of a Google.org funded initiative called Project Cerita. The “Duta Cerita” – young leaders – have now, in turn, reached over 1500 of their peers. The program has now been piloted in the UK and in the Netherlands and is being launched in Singapore in March.
Abdul-Rehman was artist-in-residence at the Doris Duke Foundation’s Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Design and Culture in June 2018. During his residency at Shangri La, Abdul-Rehman curated a series of programs and original performances around the theme, “What is Muslim Culture?”. He serves on the advisory board of the Said Foundation’s Amal Muslim Cultures & Arts program fund.
Hadith “Whoever is not concerned with the affairs of the Muslims is not from them” (Hakim)
Understanding the Muslim Mind
If we could take all of Islamic intellectual history, what sort of patterns and principles could we deduce? More importantly, if we found someone who actually knew all this information, what would they look like, think like, talk like, etc.?
One of the unique features of Islam as an intellectual system is that it possesses a mechanism for renewal and revival within itself. This mechanism is the instrument of ijtihād- independent legal reasoning- that allows a trained and licensed jurist to develop new rulings and judgements for situations that are unprecedented, nuanced, and, in a way, of a troublesome nature. There is a lot of literature within Islamic legal tradition that explains the vast contours of ijtihād. Familiar discussions outline the common set of must-know legal rules and principles, interpretive tools used to unlock meanings within the primary texts, and auxiliary disciplines needed in order for one’s ijtihād to be effective and within the broad limits of orthodoxy. These are standard in any work that discuss the instrument of ijtihād. There are other discussions, however, that one comes across from time to time that shed a little more light on the phycology and mindset behind the person engaging in ijtihad, namely the mujtahid. One interesting description, courtesy of Imam Ghazali (d. 505/1111), is the need for the mujtahid to have vast amounts of creativity. The more creativity a mujtahid has, the more creative thinking they can bring to bear on a particular issue, the better they will be able to come up with right solutions and right answers; especially solutions that will last the test of time. To be creative in this context, therefore, is to think outside the box and dare to be innovative. It is to ask the right questions, not just memorize standard answers.MORE