Ramadan: An Inside Islam recap


Ramadan Kareem to all our readers! Photo: desertpeace.wordpress.com

Ramadan starts tomorrow, and for the next month, Muslims around the world will be fastingfeasting, and celebrating. Ramadan is also a deeply reflective time as Muslims worldwide count their blessings and develop spiritually.

We have covered Ramadan from various perspectives over the years, and as Inside Islam heads towards a close, it’s a good time to recap some of what we’ve discussed. In fact, Inside Islam is historically linked to Ramadan, as our first very radio show was held during Ramadan, on September 19, 2008.

So here’s a rundown of our coverage of Ramadan over the years. Continue reading

Will Muslim athletes be at a disadvantage during the Olympics?

Noor al-Malki, a Qatari sprinter. Photo: Associated Press

Muslim athletes attending the London Olympics this summer will face a unique set of challenges, as the dates of the world’s largest sporting event overlap Ramadan almost exactly. The Games run from July 27 through August 12, while Ramadan commences on July 20 and ends a lunar month later. So Muslims athletes will be affected both in the run up to the Games and during the entirety of the event.

In an environment as mentally and physically taxing as the Olympics, Muslim athletes will have a difficult choice to make—either compete at the top of their form or observe Ramadan and abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset. Continue reading

Ramadan, Beyond the Fast

Sultan Ahmed (the Blue Mosque), Istanbul. Photo: Colin Christopher

In a few months, Eid al-Fitr will mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The most significant Islamic religious observance of the year, Ramadan is primarily known for its requirement that practicing Muslims in good health and of appropriate age abstain from food, drink, and sexual activity from dawn til sunset. Those that are able and interested recite Qur’anic verses during the evening hours, as it is recommended for Muslims to read all 114 verses, or suras, over the duration of the lunar month. But there’s much more to Ramadan than this.

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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

Islam and Mental Health

Hadiyah Muhammad

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.

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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.

Pillars of Islam: Hajj

The Kaba during Hajj

In previous posts, I wrote about the first four pillars of Islam: shahadah (the proclamation of faith), salah (prayer), saum Ramadan (fasting during the month of Ramadan), and zakat (almsgiving). Hajj, the fifth and final pillar of Islam, is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who is financially ready is required to perform the pilgrimage.

The pilgrimage to Mecca predates Islam. Mecca was on a major trade route and also home to Kaba, the holy sanctuary in the middle of the city that many people would visit for pilgrimage. For Muslims, the Kaba is the center of the Islamic worldview. During prayer, Muslims face the Kaba. Muslims also believe that Abraham and his son Ishmael built the Kaba for the worship of one God and by the time of the Prophet Muhammad it had been filled with idols. Many of the rituals of the hajj stem from the Abrahamic story. Continue reading

Pillars of Islam: Giving Zakat

I have written in previous posts about the first three pillars of Islam: shahadah (the proclamation of faith), salah (prayer), and saum Ramadan (fasting the month of Ramadan). In this post, I will focus on giving zakat, or almsgiving. The word zakat comes from the Arabic root “to purify.” Muslims purify their wealth by giving around 2.5% of standing wealth, wealth that they have not needed to use during the year, to those in need. Zakat is different from voluntary charity called sadaqah because it is required of all able Muslims. Continue reading

Pillars of Islam: Fasting Ramadan

Ramadan Greetings

In recent posts, I have written about the first two pillars of Islam, shahadah and salah. The third pillar of Islam is fasting the month of Ramadan, in Arabic saum Ramadan. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims who are physically able are required to fast from dawn to sunset. Fasting means refraining from food, drink, smoking, and sexual intercourse. Basically, they do not take anything into their system during daylight hours. The month lasts either 29 or 30 days, at the end of which is a feast called Eid ul-Fitr. Continue reading

It’s the Thought that Counts

Today, known as Black Friday, marks the beginning of a holiday shopping season here in the US characterized by increased spending and to a certain degree extravagance. While Muslim majority countries also have shopping seasons around Eid Al-Fitr, after Ramadan, and Eid Al-Adha, during the hajj, where there are seasonal products, the level of extravagance is not the same. Stores do not open at midnight or in the middle of the night and there isn’t the same drive to buy so many gifts. Having said that, though, giving gifts is important in Islam, but moderation is the guiding principle. Continue reading