The Opening

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the world; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray. (Al-Fatiha, Yusuf Ali Translation)

Al-Fatiha Calligraphy Artist: Fahad Kehar

Al-Fatiha, or “The Opening,” contain the first seven verses in the Qur’an, and is repeated  at least seventeen times per day by Muslims who perform five or more daily prayers. Depending upon which scholar you ask, it may even be the most important prayer in Islam. It speaks of God’s grace and mercy, and asks for guidance and support for believers to follow the “straight path.” The real question, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, is what is the straight path. (For more background on the English translation of Al-Fatiha, see this explanation.)

Continue reading

Extremism Produces Extremism

About three weeks ago, Pastor Terry Jones burned a copy of the Qur’an. Jones had planned to burn Qur’ans on September 11th of last year but was persuaded against it. However, last month, Jones put the Qur’an “on trial,” found it guilty, and executed it.  The consequence of Jones’ action was violence in Afghanistan that left at least 20 people dead and more than 80 injured.

Continue reading

What is the Qur’an?

Arabic script from a 14th century Iraqi Qur'an Source: British Museum

This coming Wednesday, February 23rd, University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Anna Gade will speak with Jean Feraca about Islam’s most important text–the Qur’an. A scholar of Sufism and Qur’anic recitation, Professor Gade has also done extensive work on the Indonesian island of Java where she studied eco-Islamic grassroots movements.

Continue reading

Understanding the Qur’an

An upcoming Inside Islam radio show at the end of February will focus on the Qur’an. Professor Anna M.  Gade , author of The Qur’an: An Introduction, will join the program to shed light on the text that many do not understand.  Some like Geert Wilder have gone so far as to compare it to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and others like Terry Jones called for people to burn copies of the Qur’an.

Professor Gade was part of an earlier program on the art of reciting the Qur’an. In this program, she will talk with Jean about the content of the Qur’an so that listeners have a better idea about the complexity of the text, its moral message, and its role in the lives of Muslims worldwide.

What would you like to know about the Qur’an? Do you think that it calls for violence? Have you ever read a Qur’an? What was your reaction? Please share your thoughts below.

Ed Husic: First Muslim MP in Australia

Yesterday, September 28th, history was made in Australia. The first Muslim Member of Parliament was sworn in using the Qur’an. Edham (Ed) Husic, the son of Bosnian Muslim immigrants, was elected into office on August 21st and became the first Muslim lawmaker on the federal level in the 109-year history of the country.

His election, however, was not without its trials. In 2004, Husic ran for a seat but lost the election. Flyers were distributed that said that he was a devout Muslim trying to push for Islam in Greenway, in Western Syndney. In this election, Husic faced similar challenges from his opponent David Barker, who posted anti-Islamic comments on his Facebook page and tried to highlight Husic’s Muslim background. Barker, however, was asked to step down by the Liberal Party.

Although Muslims only make up 1.5% of the total Australian population, Husic’s win has meant a move towards more tolerance and acceptance. In this context Husic has called on the Australian Muslim community to be more vocal in their opposition to terrorism and said that a collective effort is needed to ease the tensions that have emerged since 9/11.

With all the conflict surrounding Muslim citizens, mosques, veiling, and immigration in America and Europe, this story reminds us that there are positive steps toward tolerance.

What do you think of this story? Is it significant that Husic was sworn in on the Qur’an?  Do you think his election indicates more tolerance? Please share your comments below.

Burning the Qur’an

As the month of Ramadan comes to an end, many Muslims and non-Muslims alike are concerned about the plans of a Florida church to burn copies of the Qur’an on the 9 year anniversary of 9/11. Ramadan is more than just a month of fasting; it is a month that celebrates the Qur’an and for it to close with such an affront to the faith is troubling.

Despite numerous calls by officials and condemnations of the Qur’an burning rally, Dove World Outreach Center‘s pastor Terry Jones has said that the church will carry out the public burning. General David Petraeus has said that the Qur’an burning could endanger American troops; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the burning is a “disrespectful and disgraceful act“; and even the Vatican has said that this is an “outrageous and grave gesture.” Continue reading

Understanding Islam through the Prophet

Muhammad in Arabic

On the last Inside Islam Radio show, the topic was the Prophet Muhammad’s relevance to the world today. After spending some time in the Middle East this summer and then recently seeing again the film “The Message,” I realized  that people do not know that much about the Prophet Muhammad. One cannot truly understand Islam without knowing about the Prophet and his centrality in Islam.

Even though it has been almost 9 years since the September 11th attacks and the United States is now at war with two Muslim countries, many still do not understand Islam. However, part of this lack of understanding stems from what people know or think that they know about the Prophet Muhammad. Moreover, there is a tendency to base their knowledge of Islam and the Prophet on the violent actions of a few Muslims.  Continue reading

Why the Prophet Muhammad Matters

On the next Inside Islam radio show, Wednesday, May 12th, Jean will be talking with Professor Omid Safi, the author of Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters about the Prophet Muhammad, his image in Western discourse, his place in the Muslim worldview, and his relevance in the world today.

According to Safi, the image of the Prophet has changed throughout time in both Muslim and non-Muslim circles. Safi asserts that some negative images have continued through time even as knowledge of Islam and exposure to Muslims by non-Muslims have increased. For example, offensive and negative imagery of the Prophet Muhammad can be seen in work as old as Dante’s Inferno where the Prophet is described as  residing in Hell and in contemporary situations as when Evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell call the Prophet was a “terrorist.” Continue reading

Islamic Feminism

The next Inside Islam radio show will air Thursday, April 8th and will focus on Islamic feminism.  While many might consider Islam and feminism to be contradictory, there is a clear global movement that began in the 1990’s in which Muslim women are using Islamic discourse to argue for their rights, gender equality, and social justice.

Islamic feminists seek to transform patriarchal readings of the faith that they argue go against the real message of the Qur’an where there is a clear emphasis on gender equality based on the concept of human beings.  According to Margot Badran, Islamic feminism calls for more gender-sensitive re-readings of verses that are not present in the male interpretations. Continue reading