The Farewell Sermon

Mount Arafat

As I have written in previous posts, the Prophet Muhammad is a central figure for Muslims. Not only is he considered to be the final prophet of a long line of prophets sent to humanity, but he is considered to be the role model that Muslims should emulate. It is for this reason that there is a great deal of emphasis placed on the hadith and the sira, the biography of the Prophet Muhammad. There are many aspects and events in his life that exemplify his character, but one in particular highlights his nature and the way he envisioned Islam. Before his death in 632 C.E., during the final hajj, the Prophet gave what has been called “The Farewell Sermon” or khutbat al-wadaa` in Arabic. In this sermon, he reminded his followers that were with him and also those in the future of the core principles of the faith. Continue reading

Religious Egocentrism

Mohamed Ghilan is a Muslim-Canadian of Yemeni and Sudanese decent and a graduate student of neuroscience at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Ghilan has formally studied Islam for the past four years and offers his own perspectives related to topics in Islam on his blog.

A disease that has taken over many Muslims nowadays is religious egocentrism—the over-obsession with one’s own religious understanding to the point of it becoming dogmatic. If this were to remain confined to one’s own life, it would not warrant much attention. But when it moves into the public sphere and people begin to enforce their beliefs upon everyone else, it becomes a problem.

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How to Think of God

Allah. God in Arabic.

A Muslim’s relationship with God is central to their belief. In Islam, God (or Allah, the Arabic word for God) is beyond human comprehension but is also very close. In other words, there is a sense of both awe and intimacy in the relationship with the divine. Because God is considered to be beyond human comprehension, Muslims do not depict God. Rather, they use calligraphy to write out His name. There are, however, numerous verses from the  Qur’an and hadith that illustrate the closeness of God to humans. Continue reading

Helping Others: A Core Principle of Islam

One of the central principles of Islam is helping others. While some perceive Islam as a faith that encourages violence rather than positive contributions to society, the Qur’an and especially the hadith highlight how helping another human being is a fundamental aspect of Islam. Muslims’ primary goal is to worship God, but this is done not only through rituals like prayer and fasting but also through treatment of other people. Continue reading

The Middle Path

Moderate community in Arabic

As we have pointed out before, Islam is often perceived as a religion of extremists and Muslims are almost as a matter of course portrayed as rigid and fixed in their ways. There are Muslims, certainly, who have a more extreme understanding of the faith and believe that it must be practiced in a particular way; however, the vast majority of Muslims follow the principle of moderation in everything, including their faith. Continue reading

Islam and Sports

Tonight at 7pm at the Union South Marquee Theater in Madison, Wisconsin, join Inside Islam for a free public film screening of Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football. A post-film panel including UW-Madison cross country star and 2012 Canadian Olympic hopeful Mohammed Ahmed will explore perspectives on faith in competitive athletics.

The Fordson football team’s unique demographic makeup of predominately Arab Muslim Americans has been covered by just about every media outlet, from NPR to ESPN. The team initially received attention by holding their late summer pre-season practices from midnight to 4 AM, allowing 95% of their players to observe fasting for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. But they are not alone: Whether it’s Lebanese-Australian Muslim girls playing Aussie rules football (“footy”) or Lebanese-American Muslim boys playing the American version of the game, Muslims are playing Western-style sports and games in increasing numbers. The stereotypes of Muslim female passivity and Muslim males only playing in the field of engineering are being directly challenged by the realities on the ground. In fact, Arab Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Arab community in the US, have been playing football for generations.

Increasing attention has focused on faith in sports, most recently brought about by the success of NBA star Jeremy Lin and NFL quarterback Tim Teboe. During our panel following the Fordson film, Ahmed, a practicing Muslim, will speak about the role of Islam in his athletic life. If Ahmed is selected for the 2012 Canadian Olympic cross country team for the London Games as expected, he may have to deal with challenges similar to those faced by the Fordson players. In fact, he will likely compete with the greatest runners on the planet without any food or water during daylight hours, as the holy month of Ramadan covers the entirety of the three-week-long Summer Olympics. But Ahmed won’t be alone. Nearly one fourth of the 2012 Summer Olympic athletes are likely to come from Muslim-majority countries and a majority of these participants are expected to fast.

Please join us tonight for the film screening and discussion. If you are not in Madison but would like to participate in the discussion, post your thoughts on the intersection of faith and sports below.

The Criterion

The Qur’an is one of the most misunderstood texts. It is often considered to be the source of any extremism carried out by Muslims. However, as I have written in previous posts, the Qur’an is not only a complex text that should not be approached in a piecemeal fashion, but it is a book that lays out clear guidelines for believers and outlines the positive role they should have in society. The focus of this post is verses 63 through 76 in chapter 25, which both describe the behaviors of believers and demonstrate Islam’s overall peaceful message. Continue reading

The Importance of Accountability

Faith in Arabic

One of the most important aspects of Islam is the belief in a Day of Judgment. It is one of the six articles of faith and is central to the Islamic concept of accountability. For Muslims, the present life is not the goal; rather, it is the life after death that is the focus. This does not mean that Muslims should not enjoy their lives, but it does mean that they have to be conscious of God in all aspects of their life knowing that they will be asked about their decisions. Continue reading

Knowing the Divine: The Names of God

99 Names of God

Allah is often (mis)understood as the Muslim God. However, “allah” is simply the Arabic word for “god”; thus, Arabic speakers from other faith traditions will also use that word. In Islam, Allah is not only known by this name, but is also known by attributes that are found in the Qur’an and the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad. Commonly, Muslims say there are 99 terms that are considered to be both names as they refer to God and attributes because they describe different aspects of God. These attributes all refer to the singular being of God, but are representative of various traits. A metaphor for these attributes given by Hamza Yusuf, a well-known scholar, is the numerous colors that appear when light is refracted. Continue reading

Important Sites: The University of Timbuktu

Timbuktu, the historic city in the West African country of Mali, housed an ancient university that became known around the Islamic world. Founded in 1100 C.E., Timbuktu eventually became a center for the expansion of Islam in Africa and an intellectual and spiritual capital. The University of Timbuktu is the focus of this post, part of a series on important sites in Islam. Continue reading