Important Sites: The Prophet’s Mosque

Medina, in Saudi Arabia, houses Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi, the Prophet’s Mosque. This mosque is the second holiest site in Islam after the Kaba and the Sacred Mosque in Mecca. It was built after the hijra from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E. Many Muslims performing the hajj will try to go visit this holy mosque as well. The focus of this post, the second in a series on important sites, is the Prophet’s Mosque.

The Prophet’s Mosque today stands on the site of the mosque first built by the Prophet Muhammad near his house in Medina. Originally, the mosque was an open-air building made of palm trunks and mud walls. The Prophet included a section in the mosque called the suffah, a shady place where strangers and needy people could take shelter. The mosque served several purposes: a place of worship, a community center, a court, and a religious school. Initially, the prayers faced Jerusalem; however, the qibla was later changed to Mecca. Continue reading

Differences of Opinion

Image: Stuart Miles

Hussam Sehwail is a Palestinian-American Muslim and graduate student of electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We often find Muslims arguing with each other about differences between their actions: “Why do you pray with your hands like that?”, “You’re washing yourself the wrong way,” and other similar statements frequently heard in mosques. This is especially true in multicultural Muslim communities common in Western countries. Although many grow up with whatever customs their parents follow, they may fail to realize that other Muslims might act differently than they do. Hence, it would be of benefit to understand why Muslims may have some differences with regards to religious practices.

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Important Sites: The Kaba

Mecca, the sacred city in Saudi Arabia, houses the holiest site in Islam. The Kaba, the ancient house of God, is the geographical and historical center of the Muslim worldview. Five times a day, Muslims around the world face this holy site, called the qibla, in prayer. Once a year, pilgrims from all over the world, travel to the Kaba to perform the hajj. The focus of this post, the first in a series on important sites, is the Kaba.

The Kaba is a cubical structure  about 60 feet high and 60 feet wide. It is surrounded now by Al-Masjid Al-Haram, the Sacred Mosque, the largest mosque in the world. Near the Kaba is the Well of Zamzam and the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwa. Both the well and the hills are significant because they are part of the story of Hagar’s search for water for her son Ishmael. Continue reading

Polygyny: For the Benefit of Women

Image: Colin Christopher

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day in the US and, in recognition of that holiday, the next in our series of Inside Islam radio programs will feature Jean’s conversation with the co-editors of Love InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, Ayesha Mattu & Nura Maznavi. (See the end of this post for information on how to listen and participate in the show.)

One of the authors in this collection of real-life stories about love, relationships, and dating, Asiila Imani, deals with the often difficult topic of plural marriages. We have written here about polygamy in Islam previously, but this is the first time we have heard from a proponent or participant in polygyny directly. Imani converted to Islam over 30 years ago and has followed the Jafari madhab for the last twenty. She is a strong proponent of polygyny and views it as an extended family that is most beneficial for women. The following is excerpted from Love InshAllah.

Ali became my spiritual advisor. He sent me books on the Prophet and the Prophet’s family and encouraged and helped my Arabic and Qur’anic studies. I read everything he sent me, which solidified my beliefs once again. I began to wear the khimar and identified myself with the Shi’a school of thought. Ali’s letters and phone calls came whenever I felt myself slipping back into doubt, and my faith in him grew alongside my faith in God.

We conversed about my son and about my plans to become a midwife; he told me about the communal business he ran with the brothers of his jamah, and their desire to live self-sufficiently.

Within the year, talk turned to marriage, both a hopeful prospect and a dreadful thought. Was I ready to do this again? Ali believed that both of my previous marriages had failed because he was my match. God meant for us to be together, he said. Our paths certainly had crossed many times, and we seemed to fit together perfectly, but for one thing––Ali was already married.

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The Intersection of Shamanism and Islam

Men pray the Eid al-Adha prayer in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: theislamawareness.blogspot.com

Fatima Sartbaeva is a doctoral candidate of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying female shamans among Muslim Kyrgyz.

Is there a compatibility between Islam and shamanism in Central Asia? How do nomadic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz intertwine Islam and shamanism in their religious cosmology? And are there any contradictions between Islam and shamanism among Kazakh and Kyrgyz?

In answering these questions, I sat down and spoke with Professor Oraz Sapashev of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. An ethnic Kazakh from Altay, Kazakhstan, and a scholar of Central Eurasian Turkic languages and culture, Sapashev shed some light on the relationship between shamanism and Islam. The following excerpt is a translation of our conversation in Russian.

Q: Could you tell me more about Altay and its cultural history?

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Text Message a Security Threat?

Last month, Saad Allami, a Moroccan-born Canadian man, was detained for a day while his home was searched and later arrested for 3 days. According to Allami, a businessman, the Canadian police searched his home and told his wife that he was a terrorist. A text message prompted the investigation.

Allami sent a message to his staff at a telecommunications company that was intercepted. In the text, Allami told his staff to “blow away” the competition at a trade show in New York. This expression prompted the investigation. Allami has now filed a lawsuit against the provincial police because of their treatment of him and his wife during the search and for tarnishing his reputation by treating him like a terrorist. According to Allami, he has no ties with any terrorist organizations and was never charged with anything. Continue reading

The PashTones

A few months ago I wrote about the musical contributions of Pakistanis, both past and present. From rock and pop to traditional Qawali folk, Pakistani musicians have received acclaim at home and abroad. But music from throughout South Asia has also influenced those without cultural roots in the subcontinent.

Ted Watters and Brian Tilley of the American-based group The PashTones were inspired by the language, poetry, and culture of the Pashtun people of South Asia, creating a distinctive blend of traditional American folk and Pashtun music for their first album, The PashTones.

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American Dervish

Aired February 07, 2012 | Visit the WPR Page | Download the Show

Milwaukee-born writer Ayad Akhtar’s debut novel, American Dervish, is a coming-of-age tale with a twist. As he tells the story of Pakistani-American teenager, Hayat Shah, Akhtar presents a complex and deeply personal portrayal of what it means to grow up Muslim in America.

Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday

This past Saturday, February 4th, Muslims around the world celebrated the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday or as it’s known in Arabic, Mawlid al-Nabi. While the exact day is not known with certainty, the Prophet’s birthday is usually celebrated on the 12th day of Rabi Al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. Even though this day is a holiday in many Muslim majority countries, Muslims do not agree on whether this day should be celebrated at all. Continue reading