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

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: University of Al-Qarawiyyin

Fes, a city in Morocco, houses what many deem to be the oldest university in the world. The University of Al-Qarawiyyin was founded in 859 C.E.; it was initially part of a mosque built by Fatima Fihriya, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Fatima decided to use all of her inheritance to build a mosque; later, the university was established. The University of Al-Qarawiyyin is the oldest continuously operating degree-granting university and the focus of this post, the latest in a series on important sites in Islam. 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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Islam does not support “honor” crimes

The Shafia daughters and their stepmothers from CBC News

On January 30th, Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Yahya, and their son Hamed were convicted of first degree murder in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. In June 2009, they planned and carried out the murders of Zainab Shafia, Sahar Shafia, and Geeti Shafia, as well as Rona Amir Mohammed. Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti were Mohammad and Tooba’s daughters and Hamad’s sisters. Rona was Mohammad’s first wife. The three daughters were considered by their parents to be “shameful” because they had boyfriends and did not dress the way their parents wanted. Rona, a victim of domestic abuse, was killed because she supported the daughters’ behavior. Their crime, which is being called an honor killing, has no support within Islam. Continue reading

Important Figures: Khadijah bint Khuwaylid

Khadijah in Arabic

A very common name for girls among Muslims is Khadijah. Many choose this name to commemorate the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad. Even though Khadijah only lived to see the early stages of a Muslim community, she was considered a central figure in the history of Islam. Khadijah is the focus of this post, the fifth in a series on significant figures in Islam. Continue reading

What’s in a Name?

Artistic rendition of then Mos Def. Source: Lisafordblog.com

This past fall, Brooklyn-based international hip hop star Mos Def (Dante Terrell Smith) announced that he is changing his name in 2012 to Yasiin Bey. Bey reverted to Islam in 1992 at the age of 19, just before his career as a hip hop artist took off. Famous for his collaboration with Talib Kweli in the duo Black Star and subsequent solo work, Bey will move forward with his music and acting careers under his new name. This Friday, Bey will officially perform under his new identity for the first time and rap in front of hometown fans at New York City’s Highline Ballroom.

The decision to change his name highlights an issue faced by many Muslims. Since approximately one fourth of all practicing Muslims in the US identify as reverts or converts, it’s a common topic for many that taps into a range of emotions related to personal identity.

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