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Canon Lecture Series

About the Canon Lecture Series

The Zaytuna College Canon comprises the foundational primary texts which shape the intellectual history of the Islamic and Western traditions as well as commentaries that serve as tools to unlock those primary texts. In this series, our faculty members demonstrate why these texts have enjoyed the status conferred to them by our scholarly tradition and provide an account of how the texts have earned their place in the Zaytuna curriculum. Specifically, the series aims to address the history of a canonical text in terms of its abridgments, its architecture and composition, the debates and commentaries it generated, as well as how its author engages in salient issues of the discipline.

A Selection of Past Canon Lectures

On Imam al-Laqqani's "The Precious Pearl of Divine Unity"

Shaykh Faraz Khan

The late period of Sunni theology is largely characterized by creedal texts and their commentaries. One such text of considerable and lasting influence is the Jawharat al-tawhid (The precious pearl of divine unity), a didactic poem on Ash’ari theology authored by Imam Ibrahim al-Laqqani (d. 1041/1631). The subject of well over a dozen commentaries, Jawharat al-tawhid encapsulates the basic creed of Islam and the distinctive doctrines of Sunni orthodoxy. Moreover, due to its brevity and uncomplicated poetic meter, it greatly facilitates the theological training of students; consequently, it has been rigorously studied in traditional seminaries until the present day. This lecture by Shaykh Faraz Khan will examine the basic structure and content of the text and provide a brief overview of the theological heritage that Imam al-Laqqani’s text represents.


Reliance of the Traveler: A Terminus in the Journey of Shafi’i Fiqh

Imam Zaid Shakir

Shafi’i Fiqh is characterized by the diversity of its sources. Imam Shafi’i received his initial training in Mecca and mastered the legal school of Medina at the hands of great Imam Malik. He then collaborated with a leading student of Imam Abu Hanifa, Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Shaybani, himself a jurist of the highest rank. The final iteration of his school during its formative stage occurred in Egypt, home of Imam Layth bin Sa’d. This lecture will examine the origin, development, and features of the Shafi’i school, culminating with the work of Imams al-Rafi’i and Nawawi, which ibn Naqib al-Misri synthesizes in The Reliance of the Traveler.


Al-Muwatta’: Legacy of the Canonized City

Dr. Abdullah Ali

Medina was not only the first Muslim city-state, but it was also the center of gravity for the revelation of Islam’s moral code and sacred law. During the seventh and eighth centuries, scholars of the city, as heirs to an intellectually rigorous and scrupulous religious culture, asserted the intellectual and moral supremacy of the Medinite legal school. The potency of the Medinite claim would later be affirmed by highly influential scholars who themselves were partisans of other schools. Medina’s most impressive intellectual legacy became the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik bin Anas, a work of fiqh and a compilation of prophetic traditions. This lecture will illustrate the centrality of the Muwatta’ and the city of Medina to the overall Islamic tradition.


The Intellectual Blueprint of Legal Methodology | al-Ghazālī’s Al-Mustasfā 

Shaykh Talal Ahdab

Al-Mustasfā min Ilm al-Usūl, Imam al-Ghazālī’s foundational masterpiece on usūl, occupies a privileged position in the study of Islamic jurisprudence. As Ibn Khaldūn observes, the Mustasfā became one of the four major texts that all subsequent usūl al-fiqh works would revolve around. Since its publication more than 900 years ago, it has been the subject of scholarly commentaries, footnotes, summaries, and brief summaries. This lecture will explore the significance and impact of al-Ghazali’s Mustasfā with a special emphasis on its underlying methodology and on what makes it unique and relevant to our time.


Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics al-Tusi’s Nasirean Ethics

Dr. Eiyad al-Kutubi

Nicomachean Ethics, the major ethical work of Aristotle, occupies a privileged position in the study of moral philosophy. It profoundly influenced the schools of philosophical thought that developed soon after Aristotle’s death, and it has been the subject of scholarly commentaries from late antiquity until the present day, with its influence on contemporary moral philosophy remaining significant.


Sophocles and the  Grammar of  Human Identity | The Text: Oedipus Tyrannus

Father Francisco Nahoe

In his discourse on poetics, Aristotle famously underscores the exemplary place of Oedipus. The twenty-four centuries of subsequent cultural development have not diminished the light which this Sophoclean tragedy casts upon the fragile identity of man. Fr. Francisco Nahoe will explore the astonishing vitality of an early canonical work and its importance to the systematic study of foundational problems in reading, writing, and riddling.