Dr. King: A Pragmatic Dreamer

Source: Seattle Times

This past week, the US celebrated one of the great moral and theological figures of American history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King rarely directly addressed the topics and themes that we focus on here at Inside Islam, but his unique combination of pragmatism and dreaming allowed his faith-inspired message of peace, love, and brotherhood to flourish throughout the world in a way that we can still learn from today. Although the roots of his oratorical style derived from a specific Southern Baptist upbringing, his words continue to inspire all people. King called upon communities to come together to combat societal problems, something that is woefully missing from contemporary discussions.

Continue reading

Talking with the Taliban

Aired January 19, 2012 | Visit the WPR Page | Download the Show

The Taliban announced this week that ten years after 9/11, it is finally willing to talk with the United States. There’s only one catch: in return, the Obama Administration has to release at least five senior Taliban officials held at Guantánamo. President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner joins us to talk about prospects for peace, and the future of Guantánamo.

Important Figures: Khadijah bint Khuwaylid

Khadijah in Arabic

A very common name for girls among Muslims is Khadijah. Many choose this name to commemorate the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad. Even though Khadijah only lived to see the early stages of a Muslim community, she was considered a central figure in the history of Islam. Khadijah is the focus of this post, the fifth in a series on significant figures in Islam. Continue reading

Tariq Ramadan on The Muslim Brotherhood

Tariq Ramadan Photo: britishmuseum.org

Next Wednesday, January 25, Jean will speak with Oxford University Professor Tariq Ramadan about the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan, the grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder and a leading scholar of political science and Islam, will speak with Jean about the Muslim Brotherhood’s platform and its likely influence on Egypt in the coming years.

Continue reading

Important Figures: Ali ibn Abi Talib

Ali in Arabic

One figure who has occupied a central role in the history of Islam almost from its beginnings is Ali. Like the 3 caliphs before him, Ali left an imprint on the faith that can be seen until the present day, which is why I am focusing on him as the fourth in our series on central figures. While Ali himself was not controversial and is held in high esteem by all Muslims, he is central to the question of succession after the Prophet’s death and the eventual Sunni/Shia division that resulted.

Continue reading

Salah for the Mind, Body, and Soul

Photo: kambingbujang.com

For most practicing Muslims, salah, or prayer, serves as the foundation for their faith. Nearly all Muslims agree that five daily prayers are prescribed by God, representing the second pillar of Islam. The cleansing of the soul through one’s submission to God is the underlying concept embodied through salah, but there are a number of aspects of the practice that facilitate this love for God (and subsequent reflection of that love that allows Muslims to love those around them) that are rarely discussed. Salah can provide physical, emotional, and other benefits that assist Muslims to become balanced in their lives and allow them to more readily embrace their true selves.

Continue reading

Important Figures: Uthman ibn Affan

Uthman in Arabic

Like Abu Bakr and Umar, Uthman is a very common name among Muslims. The name is chosen to commemorate Uthman ibn Affan, the third of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs, according to Sunnis. The focus of this post, the third in a series of important figures in Islamic history, is Uthman. His life and death left an imprint on the history of the faith.

Uthman was born to the powerful Banu Umayya clan in the Quraysh tribe. His father, Affan ibn Abi al-As, died as a young man and left a large inheritance for Uthman. Following in his father’s footsteps, Uthman was a successful buisnessman and became one of the wealthiest men in Quraysh. Continue reading

Why I Am a Doctor: One Muslim’s Perspective

Image: Healthspablog.org

Hesham Hassaballa is an intensive care unit physician, co-founder and Executive Director of the Bayan H. Hassaballa Charitable Foundation, and serves on the board of directors for the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations. He is also a freelance writer and author of Noble Brother. This is his response to questions we asked him about his Islamic faith and profession as a physician.

“So, you are going to become a doctor, right?” This question, I am quite certain, has been asked of scores of Muslim children by their parents all across this world. Does Islam, somehow, motivate Muslims to become physicians? Perhaps slightly, especially since the Qur’an says that saving a life is like saving all of humanity. But I think that is more of a “fringe benefit” than a major motivation for Muslims to become physicians.

Continue reading

Important Figures: Umar ibn al-Khattab

Umar ibn al-Khattab in Arabic

Umar is probably one of the most common Muslim names. Many choose this name because it commemorates an important figure in Islamic history. The focus of this post, the second in a series on central figures in Islam, is Umar ibn al-Khattab. Umar went from being one of the strongest opponents of Islam to one of its staunchest believers.

There is not much information about Umar’s early life. He was born to an average family and as a youth tended to his father’s camels. As a young man, Umar learned martial arts, horseback riding, and wrestling. He was also described as being tall and physically strong, and it’s for this reason that many people feared him. Continue reading

What’s in a Name?

Artistic rendition of then Mos Def. Source: Lisafordblog.com

This past fall, Brooklyn-based international hip hop star Mos Def (Dante Terrell Smith) announced that he is changing his name in 2012 to Yasiin Bey. Bey reverted to Islam in 1992 at the age of 19, just before his career as a hip hop artist took off. Famous for his collaboration with Talib Kweli in the duo Black Star and subsequent solo work, Bey will move forward with his music and acting careers under his new name. This Friday, Bey will officially perform under his new identity for the first time and rap in front of hometown fans at New York City’s Highline Ballroom.

The decision to change his name highlights an issue faced by many Muslims. Since approximately one fourth of all practicing Muslims in the US identify as reverts or converts, it’s a common topic for many that taps into a range of emotions related to personal identity.

Continue reading