Hadiyah Muhammad is a first-year Health Behavior Health Education student at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on mental health issues in U.S. Muslim communities and identifying the intervention efforts and instructional programs best suited for mosques and Islamic centers of learning.
My parents converted to Islam as young adults in the late 1970s. Choosing to become Muslim changed my parents’ health behaviors immediately. I was born to two people who, in love with their new way of life, no longer consumed pork, alcohol, and tobacco, preferred men and women separated at gatherings, fasted during the month of Ramadan, and joined a community of like-minded converts to sustain their practice and grow religiously. Islam does not separate day-to-day action from belief; therefore the behaviors that my parents immediately accepted as a common daily practice were not simply rituals performed during certain times of the year. My parents’ conversion to Islam was their attempt to create a new and better life for themselves and my family. Interestingly, while the physical health behaviors of my parents changed almost immediately, the mental health challenges remained the same among my uniquely Muslim nuclear family and my non-Muslim extended family.
Hesham Hassaballa is an intensive care unit physician, co-founder and Executive Director of the Bayan H. Hassaballa Charitable Foundation, and serves on the board of directors for the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations. He is also a freelance writer and author of Noble Brother. This is his response to questions we asked him about his Islamic faith and profession as a physician.
“So, you are going to become a doctor, right?” This question, I am quite certain, has been asked of scores of Muslim children by their parents all across this world. Does Islam, somehow, motivate Muslims to become physicians? Perhaps slightly, especially since the Qur’an says that saving a life is like saving all of humanity. But I think that is more of a “fringe benefit” than a major motivation for Muslims to become physicians.
Islamic Calligraphy Depicting the 13th Century Andalusian Morrish Sufi Mystic and Philosopher, Ibn Arabi
We hear a lot about the decline of intellectual and cultural production in the Muslim World, but very little attention is paid to the actual heyday of Islamic scholarship itself. Many of these traditions have indeed declined, but so too have recognition and knowledge of the most important spiritual, artistic, and scientific contributions Muslims have made. Islamic scholarship—from poetry to the philosophy of metaphysics—has been rich since the founding of Islam in the 7th century, but very few even know it exists.
A variety of factors have prevented many of the most insightful and stunning works of art and scholarship from gaining recognition. Pieces remain hidden treasures in the minds of a handful of academics and on the dusty shelves of libraries and museums around the world.
On the most recent Inside Islam radio show, Islam and Science, Jean talked with George Saliba, professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Columbia and a leading expert on the history of Islamic science, and Ehsan Masood, author of Science and Islam: A History. In addition, the show aired a recorded interview with Nidal Guessom, professor of physics and astronomy at the American University of Sharjah.
The show explored the contributions of scientists under the Islamic Empire and the role they played in the rise of modern science. The questions discussed included:
- Why have the contributions of these scientists been ignored?
- What role can religion play in advancing science?
- What were the reasons for the decline of Islamic science?
- What is the state of scientific inquiry in the Islamic world?
In general, the show shed light on an important part of scientific history and generated discussion even after its airing with a blog entry on MuslimMatters.org .
The next Inside Islam radio show will air on March 11th and will focus on the art of reciting the Qur’an. The Qur’an may be one of the world’s most misunderstood texts. Many do not realize that there is an aesthetic dimension that plays a central role in eliciting an emotive response in the listener. The show will explore this aesthetic aspect in order to shed light on the Qur’an.
Have you ever heard the Qur’an recited? What was your reaction? Do you think that there is an emotive response to Qur’anic recitation? Why? Do you have a specific Qur’anic reciter that you enjoy listening too? Is there something about Qur’anic recitation you have always wanted to ask? Please leave your comments and questions below and they may appear on the air on the next Inside Islam show.
al-Hassan Ibn al-Haytham, father of the modern scientific method and the first to give an accurate account of optics
A few months ago, I wrote a post about the contributions of scientists during the Islamic empire and how they have often been glossed over. Next Thursday, January 28th, the next Inside Islam radio show will take up the topic of Islam and Science. Professor George Saliba from Columbia and Professor Jim Al-Khalili from the University of Surrey will join host Jean Feraca to explore the contributions of scientists from that period, the reasons for the decline, and the role of science in the modern Muslim world.
Among the important questions for the discussion will be: What were the scientific contributions of the Islamic empire to modern science? Why are these contributions forgotten in narratives about the rise of modern science? Why was there a “decline” after such a glorious past? And what kind of scientific developments are occurring now in the Muslim world to regain the spirit of scientific inquiry that once defined the empire?
These are not the only questions for this discussion, and we welcome your input into the show. Please share your comments and questions below or on the air.
From October 2-3, 2009, a conference was held at Hampshire College titled “Darwin and Evolution in the Muslim World.” Discussions at the conference addressed a number of aspects that included: authority of the Qur’anic text in the creation story, authority of religious scholars versus scientists, and how evolution is addressed in textbooks in Muslim countries. This topic has also received attention recently with a few articles appearing in The New York Times and The Guardian, for example. Continue reading
Did you know that the Islamic empire and its scientists were once at the forefront of scientific development? Or that many of the things we take for granted like glasses, which depend on an understanding of optics, have their roots in the Islamic empire? Some history books might mention the fact that many of the ancient Greek texts were translated into Arabic and then into European languages. But the Arabs were more than mere translators of texts; they reflected on the material, argued with it, and added their own contributions. So, the assumption that the scientists, philosophers, and translators of the Islamic empire were simply the vessels by which the Western world was brought out of the dark ages needs to be questioned. The contributions of Islam and its empire are often forgotten with the focus being solely on how Islam is so ‘different’ and ‘antithetical’ to the modern world. How can that be possible when at one time Islam and science enjoyed a relationship that Christianity rejected? The Islamic empire fostered a spirit of inquiry that advanced the world’s knowledge of astronomy, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medicine, and philosophy.
In the Inside Islam Radio series, we would like to explore the history of Islam and Science. These are a few questions we would like to answer: What have we ignored about the contributions of the Islamic empire to science? Why were these contributions ignored? Why was there a decline in the Muslim world after such a glorious past? What is the role of science today in the Muslim world? Can science be a place for interfaith dialogues? If you have questions to add or suggestions for this show, please share them below.