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

Important Sites: The Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem, a sacred city to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, houses Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. Both Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, known in Arabic as Masjid Qubbat as-Sakhrah, are built on the Temple Mount in the Old City in Jerusalem.

The entire area is referred to as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, and is sacred to Muslims because the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from that area during the Night Journey. The Dome of the Rock is probably more widely recognized than Al-Aqsa because of its architecture. The focus of this post, the fourth in a series on important sites, is the Dome of the Rock. Continue reading

Important Sites: Al-Aqsa Mosque

Jerusalem, a sacred city in all the Abrahamic faiths, houses the third holiest site in Islam. Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Farthest Mosque, is believed by Muslims to be the second mosque on earth after the Kaba. This ancient structure and the surrounding area that now includes the Dome of the Rock is referred to by Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary. The focus of this post, the third in a series on important sites of Islam, is Al-Aqsa Mosque. Continue reading

Important Sites: The Prophet’s Mosque

Medina, in Saudi Arabia, houses Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi, the Prophet’s Mosque. This mosque is the second holiest site in Islam after the Kaba and the Sacred Mosque in Mecca. It was built after the hijra from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E. Many Muslims performing the hajj will try to go visit this holy mosque as well. The focus of this post, the second in a series on important sites, is the Prophet’s Mosque.

The Prophet’s Mosque today stands on the site of the mosque first built by the Prophet Muhammad near his house in Medina. Originally, the mosque was an open-air building made of palm trunks and mud walls. The Prophet included a section in the mosque called the suffah, a shady place where strangers and needy people could take shelter. The mosque served several purposes: a place of worship, a community center, a court, and a religious school. Initially, the prayers faced Jerusalem; however, the qibla was later changed to Mecca. Continue reading

Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday

This past Saturday, February 4th, Muslims around the world celebrated the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday or as it’s known in Arabic, Mawlid al-Nabi. While the exact day is not known with certainty, the Prophet’s birthday is usually celebrated on the 12th day of Rabi Al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar. Even though this day is a holiday in many Muslim majority countries, Muslims do not agree on whether this day should be celebrated at all. Continue reading

Important Figures: Asma bint Abi Bakr

A Street in Mecca named after Asma

A woman who is revered by Muslims is Asma, the daughter of Abu Bakr, the close friend of the Prophet Muhammad. Asma, who was also Ayesha‘s half sister, is remembered in Islamic history for her courage, integrity, generosity, and intelligence. Many choose her name for their daughters hoping that they will display some of the characteristics of this great woman, who is the focus of this post, the eighth in a series on important men and woman of Islam.

Asma was born around 593 C.E. and was the daughter of Abu Bakr and his first wife Qutaylah. Eventually her parents divorced because Abu Bakr became a Muslim. Asma later followed in her father’s footsteps and was the 18th person to accept Islam. Continue reading

Important Figures: Fatima Al-Zahra

Fatima Al-Zahra in Arabic

Many Muslims choose to name their daughters Fatima after the youngest daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Fatima is revered by all Muslims because she was very close to the Prophet. Moreover, she is the only one of his children to give him descendants. Fatima is most often referred to as Fatima Al-Zahra (the Resplendent One) and is the focus of this post, the seventh in a series on important men and women in Islam’s history.

Fatima was the fourth daughter of Khadijah and the Prophet Muhammad. Most sources agree that she was born around 605 C.E. Fatima grew up at a difficult time in the Prophet’s life. He had just started to receive revelations and the Meccans were very hostile to the new faith. Fatima was known to be a very sensitive child and was deeply affected by the persecution that her father had to endure. There are several stories in which Fatima, even though a young child, would come to the defense of her father. One example occurred when the Prophet went to the Kaba to pray. While he was praying, some of the Meccans threw entrails of a slaughtered animal on him. Fatima ran to her father, wiped him off, and yelled at the Meccans. Continue reading

Important Figures: Sumayyah bint Khayyat

Women have played an important role in the history of Islam from its beginnings. One woman who is well known by Muslims but does not always receive that much attention is Sumayyah bint Khayyat. Sumayyah was the first martyr of Islam and will be the focus of this post, the sixth in a series on important figures.

There is little known about Sumayyah before she became Muslim other than that she was a slave. She then married Yasir ibn Amir and they had a son, Ammar. All three were among the earliest converts to Islam. Yasir, like Sumayyah, was also killed. Ammar went on to be one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad and eventually died in the Battle of Siffin. 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

Important Figures: Ali ibn Abi Talib

Ali in Arabic

One figure who has occupied a central role in the history of Islam almost from its beginnings is Ali. Like the 3 caliphs before him, Ali left an imprint on the faith that can be seen until the present day, which is why I am focusing on him as the fourth in our series on central figures. While Ali himself was not controversial and is held in high esteem by all Muslims, he is central to the question of succession after the Prophet’s death and the eventual Sunni/Shia division that resulted.

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