Important Sites: Al-Azhar

Cairo, in Egypt, houses one of the oldest mosques and universities. Al-Azhar Mosque and University is now the foremost Sunni institution in the world. Al-Azhar mosque was the first in Cairo, the capitol of the Fatimid Caliphate. The university followed and became the second oldest continuously running academic institution after Al-Qarawiyyin. Al-Azhar, part of a series on important sites in Islam, is the focus of this post. Continue reading

Green Faith

How does faith affect eco-consciousness? Is religion more focused on the after-life than on stewardship of the earth? Experts on Islam and Christianity join us for an interfaith conversation about faith and environmental activism. This show will preview an Inside Islam conference on Green Faith that will be held on March 6th at the Pyle Center at UW-Madison.

Indonesia’s Islamic Environmental Boarding Schools

Today’s Inside Islam radio show, Green Faith, will preview the upcoming event Green Faith: An Interfaith Conversation on Eco-Consciousness and Activism, to be held at the Pyle Center at UW-Madison on Tuesday, March 6th. Jean Feraca will speak with Anna M. Gade, UW-Madison Associate Professor and expert on eco-Islam in Indonesia, and Cal DeWitt, UW-Madison Professor and author of Earthwise: A Biblical Response to Environmental Issues. (Broadcast details follow below.) In addition to today’s radio show, earlier posts here on the blog have explored Muslim and Christian perspectives.


Indonesia is home to more Muslims than any other country, with 205 million, or 13% of all Muslims worldwide. In addition to being the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia is also one of the most eco-conscious places on the planet. We’ve talked about eco-Islam in Indonesia before and it is one of the foci of our Green Faith series because the country’s combination of biodiversity, religions, and cultural traditions have formed the basis for the unparalleled development of widespread integration of faith and environmentalism.

The video above is an environmentally focused religious song performed by students from Pondok Pesantren Al-Ittifaq, an Indonesian environmental boarding school, or pesantren. An expression of love for God, eco-consciousness, and artistry are all rolled into one, as students integrate the idea of environmentalism naturally with other aspects of their daily life.

Since the 1950s, Islamic environmental pesantren have been teaching students the importance of stewardship and the deepening of their faith through a higher level of environmental consciousness and activism. It’s also important to point out that “environmental activism” as seen in the U.S. may be understood differently in an Indonesian context. Environmental practices such as water conservation and the planting of trees are commonplace practices in Indonesia and not necessarily viewed as uniquely progressive, political, or radical acts.


Anna M. Gade, filmmaker of the clip above and Associate Professor in UW-Madison’s Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, has been studying the intersection of Islamic practices, community initiatives, and government policies in Indonesia for over a decade. Gade and renowned Evangelist environmental steward and scholar, Cal DeWitt, will speak to Jean on today’s Here on Earth radio broadcast about faith-based environmentalism, from both local and global perspectives.

How to Listen and Participate

Green Faith: A Christian Perspective

This is the second in a series related to our upcoming event, Green Faith: An Interfaith Conversation about Eco-Consciousness and Activism. If you missed the first post in the series, you can read it here and also see the end of this post for information on tomorrow’s related radio show.


Tim Mackie is a teaching pastor at Blackhawk Church in Middleton, Wisconsin, and a faculty member of the Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches Hebrew Bible.

I grew up in the heart of a large city, one which is surrounded by immense natural beauty. Portland, Oregon, sits at the convergence of two large river valleys (the Willamette and the Columbia) that join and head into the Pacific Ocean. My earliest memories of the city recall the majestic Mt. Hood, which stands like a sentinel looking out over the city. The coast is just 1.5 hours away, and there is green everywhere you go, all year round.

I took all this for granted growing up, as I got the best of both worlds: a large urban center surrounded by a lifetime’s worth of hiking and outdoor adventure. Growing up in that part of the country had a formative shaping influence on me, but there was one other key catalyst that revolutionized my relationship to the world of nature. When I was 20 years old I became a follower of Jesus, which forced me to rethink a great many things about my patterns of living. Continue reading

Important Sites: University of Al-Qarawiyyin

Fes, a city in Morocco, houses what many deem to be the oldest university in the world. The University of Al-Qarawiyyin was founded in 859 C.E.; it was initially part of a mosque built by Fatima Fihriya, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Fatima decided to use all of her inheritance to build a mosque; later, the university was established. The University of Al-Qarawiyyin is the oldest continuously operating degree-granting university and the focus of this post, the latest in a series on important sites in Islam. Continue reading

Green Faith: A Muslim Perspective

This is the first in a new series within Inside Islam that will explore the intersection of faith and environmentalism. Posts here on the blog by diverse religious leaders and community activists are leading up to an interfaith panel discussion (to be held in Madison on March 6th) and a radio show on the topic. Specifics on those events follow below.


Huda Alkaff is the founder and director of the Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin (IEG) and president of Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light. She taught ecology at UW-Oshkosh and has spent over a decade working as an advocate for environmental justice, initiating Muslim and interfaith programs focused on energy, water, and land conservation. In addition to orchestrating the Green Ramadan project, Alkaff has also led IEG’s monthly environmental awareness campaign.

Huda Alkaff feeding a llama at the Eco-Justice Center in Racine, Wisconsin

Believe it or not, I have been an environmentalist since I was a child. Back then, I remember being asked the famous question from the adults in my family and my teachers, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Remember that question? To everyone’s surprise, my answer was “An ecologist, an environmentalist!” I was and still am fascinated by nature, the sea (my best friend) and all its inhabitants, the mountains, the stars, the trees, the birds, etc. And I wanted to learn more about them.

Ecology is the study of interconnections and interdependence among everything in space and in time. Systems Ecology interested me the most since it looks into the big picture and studies patterns, processes, and relationships among different parts. The continuous attempt at establishing connections is the driving force for my ongoing work to build strong and sustainable bridges between the environmental teachings in Islam and my university environmental training and education.

Continue reading

Sufis Under Fire in Macedonia

Damage from an arson at the Harabati Baba teqe, a Sufi Muslim religious complex in Tetova, Macedonia. Photo: Bektashi Community of Macedonia

Stephen Suleyman Schwartz is author of The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role in Terrorism (2002) and The Other Islam: Sufism and the Road to Global Harmony (2008). He is the Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism.

As an informed global media audience should know, traditions of pluralism that were long established in Islamic statecraft, law, and public institutions today face a mortal threat from adherents to radical, fundamentalist interpretations of Sunni Islam. The latter mainly comprise Saudi-financed Wahhabis, who masquerade as “Salafis,” and South Asian Deobandis, who support the Taliban. In the Balkans, the front line between Sufism and Wahhabism runs through the Albanian- and Muslim-majority – and in the past, Sufi-identified – city of Tetova in eastern Macedonia.

Continue reading

Important Sites: The Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem, a sacred city to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, houses Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. Both Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, known in Arabic as Masjid Qubbat as-Sakhrah, are built on the Temple Mount in the Old City in Jerusalem.

The entire area is referred to as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, and is sacred to Muslims because the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from that area during the Night Journey. The Dome of the Rock is probably more widely recognized than Al-Aqsa because of its architecture. The focus of this post, the fourth in a series on important sites, is the Dome of the Rock. Continue reading

Islam’s Open Door Policy

Come, come whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times.
Come, yet again, come, come.

         -Jalal-ud-din Rumi, 13th-century Persia

Rumi’s words, translated into countless languages, constitute one of the most profound vehicles through which Muslims and non-Muslims alike have understood Islam. This particular quote captures the forgiveness, mercy, and compassion of God, all foundational principles within Islam. Continue reading

Important Sites: Al-Aqsa Mosque

Jerusalem, a sacred city in all the Abrahamic faiths, houses the third holiest site in Islam. Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Farthest Mosque, is believed by Muslims to be the second mosque on earth after the Kaba. This ancient structure and the surrounding area that now includes the Dome of the Rock is referred to by Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary. The focus of this post, the third in a series on important sites of Islam, is Al-Aqsa Mosque. Continue reading