Maher Zain: A Muslim Musician

Muslims around the world are using multiple media to express their identities. For many Muslim artists, music has become an important space to talk about their faith and the struggles they face. The music ranges from the overtly political to the spiritual. The focus of this post is Maher Zain, a Swedish Muslim of Lebanese descent who rose to fame in 2009 and just released his most recent album Forgive Me this past April. Zain’s music is influenced by his faith and has strong religious overtones. Continue reading

The Best in Character

Crystals in Arabic (Source: www.qawareer.com)

One of the most persistent stereotypes about Islam is that it is oppressive towards women. While it is true that there are many instances of abuse and oppression of Muslim women and problematic interpretations of religious texts, there is no justification for that behavior in the faith. In fact, it is clear from the Qur’an and the hadith that the relationship between men and women should be based on respect, kindness, and love. In this post, I would like to focus on a few examples of hadith that underscore these core values and illustrate that the Prophet Muhammad himself displayed these characteristics in his interactions with the women in his life. Continue reading

Important Events: The Death of the Prophet

Prophet Muhammad's Tomb in Medina

In the history of Islam, there have been many events that have defined the faith, exemplified the character of the Prophet Muhammad, and determined the future of the Muslim community. I have written in previous posts about a few: the Night of Power, the hijra, the Battle of Badr, the conquest of Mecca, and the Farewell Sermon. However, the most trying event for the the nascent Muslim community was the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 C.E. Over 23 year, the Prophet established Islam in Arabia and founded a community of believers whose ties transcended tribal bonds and were based on a shared faith. He was the center of the Muslim community, the ummah, and served as the religious, political, and military leader. When he died, the Muslims were utterly shocked by the loss of this central figure and had to figure out a way to move forward so that this new faith would continue to grow. Continue reading

Important Events: The Conquest of Mecca

Kaba in Mecca (Source: photography.nationalgeographic.com)

The early history of Islam is important for Muslims even to the present day. The Prophet Muhammad’s life, especially, is considered to be an example for all believers. There are numerous events that exemplify the Prophet Muhammad’s struggles and his character. These events have played a defining role in the formation of the faith and the Muslim community. In earlier posts, I have written about several significant events that include: the Night of Power, the hijra (emigration from Mecca to Medina), the Battle of Badr, and the Farewell Sermon. In this post, the focus will be on the conquest of Mecca, when the Muslims took control of the city after being away from it for 8 years. Continue reading

Important Events: The Battle of Badr

Site of Badr (Source:www.khashram.net)

There are many events in the history of Islam that define it and lay its foundation. In previous posts, I have written about two events that Muslims view as significant to Islamic history: the initial revelations of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad and the hijra or emigration of the Muslims from Mecca to Medina. The first revelations established the new faith and the emigration established a new community. The focus of this post is the Battle of Badr, the first major battle between the Muslims and Quraysh, the most powerful tribe in Mecca. Continue reading

Important Events: The Night of Power

Cave of Hira

There are many events that are important in the history of Islam. The most significant, however, is the one that set everything in motion and led to the founding of a major world religion over 1400 years ago. In order to understand Islam, one must reflect on the events that have defined this faith, its community, and its history. The story of the initial revelations are told to young Muslim children throughout the world and is a constant source of inspiration for the Muslim community. The focus of this post, part of a series on important events in the history of Islam, is the first revelation of the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad. Continue reading

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

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

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: 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