Pillars of Islam: Hajj

The Kaba during Hajj

In previous posts, I wrote about the first four pillars of Islam: shahadah (the proclamation of faith), salah (prayer), saum Ramadan (fasting during the month of Ramadan), and zakat (almsgiving). Hajj, the fifth and final pillar of Islam, is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who is financially ready is required to perform the pilgrimage.

The pilgrimage to Mecca predates Islam. Mecca was on a major trade route and also home to Kaba, the holy sanctuary in the middle of the city that many people would visit for pilgrimage. For Muslims, the Kaba is the center of the Islamic worldview. During prayer, Muslims face the Kaba. Muslims also believe that Abraham and his son Ishmael built the Kaba for the worship of one God and by the time of the Prophet Muhammad it had been filled with idols. Many of the rituals of the hajj stem from the Abrahamic story. Continue reading

Three Ways, One World, Our Choice

On December 25, Tariq Ramadan spoke to thousands of Muslims at the RIS conference in Toronto. Photo: Aqnus Febriyan

This past week, tens of thousands of Muslims gathered in Toronto for the 10th annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) Conference. To highlight the conference theme, Control, Chaos or Community: Three Ways, One World, Our Choice, speakers from around the world stressed the importance of self-reflection, community service, and social activism.

I’ve been writing over the past year about Muslim-based organizations and initiatives that are countering extremism, participating in the political process, and serving communities. The annual RIS conference has turned into a central meeting point for this growing movement that was initiated and organized by predominately young Muslims born and raised in North America.

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Pillars of Islam: Giving Zakat

I have written in previous posts about the first three pillars of Islam: shahadah (the proclamation of faith), salah (prayer), and saum Ramadan (fasting the month of Ramadan). In this post, I will focus on giving zakat, or almsgiving. The word zakat comes from the Arabic root “to purify.” Muslims purify their wealth by giving around 2.5% of standing wealth, wealth that they have not needed to use during the year, to those in need. Zakat is different from voluntary charity called sadaqah because it is required of all able Muslims. Continue reading

A Muslim Christmas?

Christmas time at the Wafi Mall in Dubai

December 25th was an an average day for the majority of the world’s Muslims, but for some, it signified Christmas along with its variety of associated meanings. Muslim beliefs related to Christmas and its celebration vary considerably–from a fun-loving holiday, to a dangerous heretical practice. The majority of the world’s Muslims don’t give the 25th of December much thought at all, but with increasing numbers of Muslims living in the predominately Christian West and Christians living in the predominately Muslim Middle East, it’s difficult not to have some kind of opinion or interpretation of Christmas.

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Siblings Fighting for Attention?

Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children at the YMCA Peace Preschool in Jerusalem make a banner that flew on a shuttle to the International Space Station. Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill, AP

On our latest radio show, Jean spoke with Professor Suleiman Mourad about Jesus in Islam and Christianity. They discussed a number of topics, ranging from the importance Islam gives to Mary–the Qur’an dedicates an entire chapter to her, Sura 19, Maryam–to Islam’s take on prophethood. A number of callers’ comments during the show added other interesting perspectives, but what struck me most was the symbolism that Mourad used to describe the theological differences between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He sees the theological disagreements among followers of  Abrahamic traditions as similar to siblings vying for parental attention. He sees the differing views on Jesus as

part of the terrain, competition over attention of the parent. Often we mistake this [as] anxiety; this [is] eagerness on the part of each member of this community of believers to receive the complete attention of their Father. … There is an excessive protectiveness of God. … We need to be more scholars and historians than religious defenders.

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Pillars of Islam: Fasting Ramadan

Ramadan Greetings

In recent posts, I have written about the first two pillars of Islam, shahadah and salah. The third pillar of Islam is fasting the month of Ramadan, in Arabic saum Ramadan. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims who are physically able are required to fast from dawn to sunset. Fasting means refraining from food, drink, smoking, and sexual intercourse. Basically, they do not take anything into their system during daylight hours. The month lasts either 29 or 30 days, at the end of which is a feast called Eid ul-Fitr. Continue reading

The Muslim Jesus

Jesus has a unique role as a divine figure in Islam. He is highly revered and esteemed as a super prophet, on a par with Mohammed, and in certain respects, even above him. An Islamic scholar joins us to talk about how two of the world’s greatest faith traditions differ in their understanding of one of the most important religious figures of all time.

Radio Show: Jesus in Islam

Photo: zazzle.com

Our latest Inside Islam Radio Show will air live today at 3 PM (GM+6), as Jean will speak with Professor Suleiman Mourad and Todd Lawson about the commonalities and differences of Jesus in Islam and Christianity.

In the Qur’an, Jesus is mentioned 25 times, and more often by name than the Prophet Muhammad. For Muslims, Jesus is usually referred to as the Prophet Jesus, or Musa Isa in Arabic. In total, Islam says there are 124,000 prophets, but the Qur’an highlights Jesus as one of the most important. Although Christianity and Islam both revere Jesus of Nazareth and largely agree upon the foundational principles that he spoke of and practiced, the two faith traditions differ greatly in their opinions of who he was.

Most Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God or God Himself in human form, while Muslims view him as a prophet and believe the worship of him as anything more to be heretical. In Islam, Jesus is considered to be a Muslim, or one who submits to the will of God. Conversely, most Christians do not recognize the Prophet Muhammad as religiously significant so the idea of a Muslim version of Jesus is usually ignored. However, because of the tensions between the two faiths, and the centrality of Jesus in both, when the topic does come up, it can invoke strong emotional reactions.

We’ve decided to explore the issue head-on, and hope that you get a chance to tune in and share your thoughts.

How to Listen and Participate

  • Leave a post below and the Inside Islam radio team will consider airing your comments and question during the broadcast.
  • Listen live on radio stations in Wisconsin Public Radio listening areas. The show will be broadcast live at 3 p.m. and re-broadcast at 9 p.m. CT.
  • Listen to a live webstream of the show on the Ideas Network.
  • Call 1-877-GLOBE-07 to leave a voice mail for Here on Earth: Radio without Borders anytime.
  • Leave a comment on this page, or send us an email with your thoughts.

Pillars of Islam: Prayer

Muslims Praying in Jerusalem

The second pillar of Islam after the shahadah, or the proclamation of faith, is salah, prayer. This ritual is probably the most well known to non-Muslims. Stories on Islam and Muslims many times include a picture of Muslims praying. Salah is so conspicuous because it includes many physical motions, the culmination of which is complete prostration with the face touching the ground.

Muslims are required to pray 5 times daily. The prayers are spread out throughout the day at dawn, around noon, afternoon, sunset, and in the evening. The daily prayers are suppose to establish the believer’s direct relationship with God. When a Muslim prays, even if the prayer is done in congregation, they are standing in front of God as an individual without any intercession. Continue reading

Does Comedy Help?

Can comedy defuse an increasingly Islamophobic atmosphere in the west? Or do short films, sketches, and new media actually solidify preexisting bigotry and reinforce stereotypes through caricatures of Muslim people?

In the wake of the Lowe’s controversy, some comedy sketches have poked fun at the ridiculousness nature of fearing Muslims and Islam. In one sketch (below), two men of presumably South Asian Muslim descent, visit a Lowe’s Superstore to shop for “materials.” The epic background, set by what is meant to be “Islamic-sounding” music, presents an ominous mood, preparing the viewer for the culminating, climactic event. I don’t want to spoil the ending, so watch the clip to see what happens.

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