Dr Mohammad Hassan Khalil
Professor in Islamic Thought at Michigan State University
Adjunct Professor in the College of Law
Director of the Muslim Studies Program
This post is Part 4 of an online book panel on Modern Muslim Theology: Engaging God and the World with Faith and Imagination. This online dialogue is hosted by the Christian-Muslim Studies Network. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 may be found on the Christian-Muslim Studies Network blog.
This past spring, I assigned Professor Martin Nguyen’s Modern Muslim Theology in my Modern Muslim Thought course at Michigan State University. As the book makes reference to various scholars and schools of thought that I cover in the course, I saved Modern Muslim Theology for the end of the semester. Each student was expected to read the introduction and first chapter on their own, and then groups of four to five were expected to give in-class presentations on one of the remaining six chapters. These presentations were spread out over two class periods. Each presentation offered a chapter summary and concluded with questions for the author. We then hosted Professor Nguyen, who gave a public lecture summarizing his book and then spent a class period with my students answering their various questions. In this way, the course concluded with students witnessing modern Muslim thought ‘in action’.
‘It is one thing to study Muslim thought from afar, quite another to enter into a dialogue with a deep-thinking US Muslim theologian.’
This was a remarkable and rewarding experience, and I received only positive feedback from my diverse group of students. Students were especially impressed by Professor Nguyen’s dynamic approach to theology, his discussions of al-Ghazali and Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) and the role of doubt in faith, and his captivating reflections on the various stages of prayer (salah). It is one thing to study Muslim thought from afar, quite another to enter into a dialogue with a deep-thinking US Muslim theologian and to see how such a theologian grapples with both the weight of tradition and the challenges of our contemporary world.