125: Coffee with Amir Hussain

Dr. Amir Hussain is Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he teaches courses on world religions. His own particular speciality is the study of Islam, focusing on contemporary Muslim societies in North America. His academic degrees (BSc, MA, PhD) are all from the University of Toronto where he received a number of awards, including the university’s highest award for alumni service.  His most recent book is Muslims and the Making of America where Dr. Hussain addresses the fear of American Muslims and the misconceptions regarding the religion.


Proof of God

In this interview Amir mentions some fascinating distinctions in the story of Abraham’s being called to sacrifice his son. While Jews and Christians work from the shared text of Genesis 22, Muslims have the same story with slightly different text in the Quran. The name of the son is missing in the Quran and is believed to be Abraham and Hagar’s son, Ismail.

In Amir’s story of greatest trial he graciously reflected with us just after the 25th anniversary of his wife’s passing. Shannon died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism when she was just 28. In his reflections Amir invoked this poem by William Blake when Amir said, “It is any easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity.”

“What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song?
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath, his house, his wife, his children
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy
And in the wither’d field where the farmer ploughs for bread in vain

A memorial for Amir’s wife, Shannon Hamm at the University of Toronto.

It is an easy thing to triumph in the summer’s sun
And in the vintage and to sing on the waggon loaded with corn
It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted
To speak the laws of prudence to the homeless wanderer
To listen to the hungry raven’s cry in wintry season
When the red blood is fill’d with wine and with the marrow of lambs

It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements
To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughterhouse moan;
To see a god on every wind and a blessing on every blast
To hear sounds of love in the thunderstorm that destroys our enemies’ house;
To rejoice in the blight that covers his field and the sickness that cuts off his children
While our olive and vine sing and laugh round our door and our children bring fruits and flowers

Then the groan and the dolour are quite forgotten and the slave grinding at the mill
And the captive in chains and the poor in the prison and the soldier in the field
When the shatter’d bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead
It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity:
Thus could I sing and thus rejoice: but it is not so with me.”
― William Blake

The next picture is with Morgan Freeman and the American Muslim calligrapher, Mohamed Zakariya. Amir is an advisor to The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, and they filmed a segment at the Islamic Center of Washington DC. This was the third episode of the second season, titled “Proof of God”.

Links:

Sponsor: United Faith Leaders

Muslims and the Making of America by Amir Hussain

Oil & Water: Two Faiths One God by Amir Hussain

A Concise Introduction to World Religions

World Religions: Eastern Traditions

World Religions: Western Traditions

Video Interview on PBS (Travis Smiley Show)

LMU.edu Bio and More

Loyola Marymount University

California State University Northridge

William Blake

Abraham’s Blood Sacrifice (Muslim, Christian, and Jewish interpretations vary)

The Qur’an: English translation and Parallel Arabic text (Amir referred to chapter 55)

Richard Thompson

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Albert Collins (not Albert King)

Mark Knopfler (from Dire Straits)

Dire Straits