Classes for Everyone

Prayer Room Stained Glass

The Ansari Institute is pleased to promote Classes for Everyone. Through this endeavor, the Institute invites participants to deepen their understanding of religion and the important role it plays in our world. Through careful curation, the Institute shares courses which are designed for a general audience and not for academic credit. All the courses that the Institute promites are free and open to the public. These courses cover a broad range of topics on religion and its practical application for personal enrichment, community engagement, interfaith encounters, and informed activism.

The Socioreligious Dimensions of Hinduism

Instructor: Dr. Ankur Barua with Dr. Saad Ismail, editor of Project Noon, a collaboration of the Cambridge Interfaith Programme

About the Course


Picture of Mysore Palace
Photo of Mysore Palace; free image available at

Dr. Barua writes of the course, "My principal aim in giving these 10 lectures is to promote informed discussion and critical reflection with respect to Hindu socioreligious universes. They do not presuppose any acquaintance with Hindu beliefs and practices, and are open to anyone who is interested. I will gradually unfold a long-range narrative by taking audiences through five points: 1. the Vedas, 2. the Upaniṣads, 3. the Bhagavad-gītā, 4. Vedāntic visions, and 5. post-1757 recalibrations of premodern Hindu worldviews. These lectures are directed to “Muslim audiences” in the sense that I envision them as the first stage of a long-term three-stage process. The first stage is these lectures; the second stage would be lectures on styles of Indian Islam given by scholars of Islam; and the third stage would be directly comparative discussions of religious visions and sociocultural formations across Hindu-Muslim borderlines."


Interested participants may register for the course here.

Imagining New Stories of Race & Religion

Instructor: David Hooker

About the Course

Professor David Hooker

We live our lives in stories. Stories tell us who we are, what we owe to others and the past, what worlds we inhabit in the present, and where we want to go in the future. They help us fight oppression, though they can also justify it, or make certain kinds of oppression invisible. But the world is changing. Perhaps, our stories need to change with it. In this course, participants will be introduced to narrative theory to examine the role of religion and race in local and global conflicts. The stories we tell ourselves position people and groups as characters in asymmetric power relations. They shape our expectations, craft our ideals, nurture our ambitions, construct authority, and provide us with a moral compass. Racialized narratives can create conflict, while certain narratives have the potential to heal and form community. Using case studies that the instructor is directly engaged in, participants will explore how approaches to “religious” or “racial” history, mission, and dialogue contribute to local, regional, or global reconciliation efforts. If we can imagine new stories, we can change the world.

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Previous Courses

Everyday Religion in a World of Many Faiths

Instructor: Adnan Aslan

Adnan Aslan

All major religions invite us to live contemplative lives. But it is ever more challenging to do so today when there is less time to contemplate. This is ironic because of the greater diversity of faiths all around us: at work, at home, and in public. What is my approach to the big questions that define life? Am I consistently inclusive, exclusive, or pluralistic, and what does that say about my faith? Are there limits to the friendships I can form with others? Am I reasonable in my faith? Have I reconciled with “the problem of evil” in the world? Does science require us to rethink our traditional positions on ancient wisdom? Join this class to examine these kinds of questions in order to better understand yourself and your neighbors. While there is a text to guide our explorations—Chad Meister’s Introducing Philosophy of Religion—the course is primarily conversational, relying on the stories and active engagement of the participants.