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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World Interfaith Harmony Week

Image: religionnerd.com

Sufi meditation in Lodz, Poland, dialogue workshops in Jerusalem, and a conference in Abuja, Nigeria, to create a national inter-religious policy–these are just three of the hundreds of interfaith events that will take place over the next seven days across six continents as part of the second annual World Interfaith Harmony Week. The UN now recognizes every first week of February as World Interfaith Harmony Week, an initiative introduced by King Abdullah II of Jordan at the UN General Assembly in September 2010 and unanimously adopted by that body in under a month. Both King Abdullah II and his wife, Queen Rania, have been among the most outspoken leaders on interfaith dialogue and peace; their hometown of Amman, Jordan, will host a number of interfaith events in the coming days.

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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.

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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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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.

Muslims More Religious Than Others?

Proclamation of faith in Arabic

According to CNN and a survey by Ipos-Mori, Muslims overall tend to be more committed to their faith  than any other religious group and consider Islam to be a more significant part of their daily lives. The survey was carried out in 24 countries, of which three (Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Turkey) have Muslim majorities.

According to the CNN piece, one reason for this stronger commitment stems from the current global political atmosphere. Increasingly, Muslims are defining themselves against a negative perception of the West. Thus, they view Islam as the only viable path towards salvation. Moreover, the article maintains that this sentiment has increased in a post-9/11 world.

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Inside Islam Radio Show: 2011 Hours Against Hate

Hannah Rosenthal and Farah Pandith (from left) attended a Ramadan iftar dinner hosted by the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. Photo: Israeli Embassy

Make sure to tune in today at 3pm CST (GMT+6) for the latest Inside Islam Radio Show, 2011 Hours Against Hate. Jean will speak with Farah Pandith, US Special Representative to Muslim Communities, and Hannah Rosenthal, US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, to learn about how their partnership at the US Department of State has sparked a global movement to build intercultural and interfaith connections through service.

For more information related to the show, check out our past pieces on interfaith service, Muslims and Jews in America, and a recent radio show with Interfaith Youth Core founder, Eboo Patel.

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.

Islam, Besa, and Pashtunwali: A Seamless Integration

Muslim-Albanian Brothers, Ramadan and Isa Nuza, Saved Two Jewish Families During the Holocaust Photo: Norman Gershman

Last week, I wrote about how majority-Muslim Albania saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with Norman Gershman, the renowned American photographer of Jewish descent who traveled over a five-year period documenting the stories of Jews, and the Muslim-Albanian families who saved them. You can listen to my conversation with Gershman below.

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Majority-Muslim Albania and the Holocaust

On October 29, 1944, Jewish refugees protected by Albanians pose for a photo following the liberation of the country. Photo: Refik Veseli

Albania was the only European country that ended World War II with more Jews living in it than before the war started. According to the International School for Holocaust Studies, every one of the 200 Jews living in Albania before the war was saved by their local countrymen and women, and over 2,000 Jews in total were hidden, housed, and provided for by Albanians. In 1943, Nazi Germany ordered the Albanian authorities to turn over government census data on Jews in the country. The Albanians refused. In fact, not a single Jew was ever turned over by Albanians to the Italian fascists and Nazis in Albania.

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