What Makes the Call to Prayer so Important for Muslims?

The Islamic call to prayer is not only a way to express Islamic faith. It is also the way for a Muslim community to declare its presence in a country.

Adhan has long been an inseparable part of the Islamic way of life. It’s a call for Muslims to congregate  at the mosques where people – rich and poor, educated and illiterate – all stand together to pray five times a day. 

Starting from Prophet Muhammad’s time in the 7th century, adhan, which is recited by a preacher from a mosque, has symbolised the presence of Muslims in its surroundings

After adhan was instituted by Prophet Muhammad in the early Islamic period, “it became one of the symbols of Islam very quickly”, being one of the major expressions of Muslim community’s religious identity, says Usaama al Azami, a British-Muslim academic and a lecturer in Contemporary Islamic Studies at University of Oxford. 

“If the adhan was not heard in a community, this was taken by the Prophet Muhammad to indicate the absence of a Muslim congregation in a particular locale,” Azami tells TRT World. Since then Muslims ensure that the call to prayers is announced from the mosques five times a day as a show of their loyalty to Islam and the Prophet. 

Due to adhan’s central role in a Muslim’s daily life, any restriction on it is seen as violation of religious rights. 

In India, the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing criticism for launching a crackdown against loudspeakers that mosques use for the call for prayers. Mosque administration in different cities have been forced to remove the loudspeakers – some also face police cases for violating the ban. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM TRTWORLD (INDIA)

US Muslims See Rise in Islamophobia

After a six-year hiatus, U.S. President Joe Biden last week resumed the 22-year-old tradition of hosting an Eid celebration at the White House.

“Muslims make our nation stronger every single day, even as they still face real challenges and threats in our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia that exists,” Biden told a group of prominent Muslims.

Biden’s comments marked a significant change of tone from his predecessor, Donald Trump, who said in 2016, “I think Islam hates us.”

Trump did not host a White House Eid celebration while president, though he did issue statements marking the annual Muslim festival and invited diplomats from Muslim-majority nations to the White House for iftar dinner during Ramadan in 2018 and 2019.

FILE - President Joe Biden, left, listens as Talib M. Shareef, President and Imam of Masjid Muhammad in Washington, speaks during a reception to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 2, 2022.
FILE – President Joe Biden, left, listens as Talib M. Shareef, President and Imam of Masjid Muhammad in Washington, speaks during a reception to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 2, 2022.

The shift in the White House’s tone comes at a time when U.S. Muslims fear Islamophobia is on the rise.

Last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported a 9% increase in the number of civil rights complaints it received from Muslims in the United States since 2020.

“CAIR received a total of 6,720 complaints nationwide involving a range of issues including immigration and travel, discrimination, law enforcement and government overreach, hate and bias incidents, incarceree rights, school incidents, and anti-BDS/free speech,” the report said. BDS refers to the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement that seeks to advance social change through economic pressure.

Huzaifa Shahbaz, an author of the report, told VOA the rise in complaints about Islamophobia coincided with the lifting of COVID-related restrictions and the reopening of workplaces, worship centers and restaurants.

Others echo CAIR’s findings and point to other reasons as well.

“Over the last year, we’ve seen racism in the United States rise across the board as a consequence of the pandemic, the intensification of white supremacist groups, political polarization, and even though we have Trump out of the office, this rising climate of racism is still feeding the Islamophobia that exists really heavily in the United States,” said Khaled Beydoun, a law professor at Wayne State University.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOA

Jordan’s King Abdullah, custodian of holy sites, meets US Christian leaders

Reconfirming the status quo in Jerusalem will require some hard diplomacy and a lot of goodwill.

(RNS) — It is unusual for a world Muslim leader visiting the United States to request to meet with local Christian leaders. But King Abdullah II of Jordan has his responsibilities: The Hashemite king, whose lineage goes back to the Prophet Muhammad, is also the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, via a religious trust known as the Waqf Council.

On Monday (May 9) in New York, the king met with a group representing American Catholics and several mainline and African American Protestant denominations, as well as Armenian and Greek Orthodox Christians, to discuss a host of issues — from taxation to the renovation of Christ’s tomb and the Chapel of the Ascension at the Mount of Olives. He also met with affiliates of some evangelical Christian groups that have been seeking full recognition in Jordan.

But the meeting with Christian leaders was primarily aimed at paving the way for crucial discussions in Washington later this week about mounting tensions at Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which is the third holiest site in Islam and includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

An immigrant Muslim finds his model of empowerment in Black American Islam

One in a new series of interviews with contemporary faith-based leaders reinventing American faith.

(RNS) — Rami Nashashibi, who founded the Inner-City Muslim Action Network on Chicago’s South Side 25 years ago, is a community builder, a teacher and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” award. Georgetown University has called him one of the world’s 500 most-influential Muslims.

What he is not is an imam. He is part of a rising generation of lay leaders blending ancient tradition with modern activism to mobilize their faith communities. Leaders such as Nashashibi are not replacing traditional institutions or houses of worship, but they bring an immediacy to their faith-based work that is re-energizing American religion. 

Born in Jordan to Palestinian parents, Nashashibi founded IMAN in 1997 with his friend Abdul-Malik Ryan, a lawyer and Muslim convert, in Chicago Lawn, a traditionally Black neighborhood that was rapidly becoming a hub for Arab Americans. The two had the goal of providing a place where first-, second- and third-generation Muslim Americans, converts and non-Muslims would all feel included.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

American liberals are confused about Islam

On abortion, they have embraced a religion they don’t understand

With the turning tide of US abortion law has come a predictable wave of anti-religious sentiment. Fearing that repealing Roe v. Wade will bring about an authoritarian theocracy, liberals of all stripes have taken to calling out ‘Christofascism’. 

Such vengeance towards conservative Christians is nothing new, but an unexpected topic has been thrown into the latest conversations about abortion rights: Sharia Law. Being something of a culture war staple, these two words seem to trend periodically on Twitter with little impetus, but in recent days have found their way into commentary on Roe v. Wade. This started with a number of posts comparing pro-life Christians to Islamists, including one which asked ‘why does it feel like the Christian version of the Taliban is taking over America?’

Secular opponents to the pro-life stance are (not for the first time) seeing semblance between ‘Christofascism’ and Sharia Law: both are perceived as patriarchal and oppressive systems that control women’s bodies and threaten human rights, democracy and other cornerstones of their particular interpretation of ‘Western values’. 

But soon after, such comparisons were quickly met with backlash and accusations of Islamophobia. Many expressed outrage towards the conflation of the American Christian right with Islam, along the lines of the former being a patriarchal force of oppression rooted in white nationalism and the latter a minority identity which has been victimised by it. Yet most strikingly, these rebuttals were accompanied by a bold claim: that Islam, unlike oppressive and patriarchal white Christianity, in fact allows abortion. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM UNHERD

Interfaith Trolley offers tour of religion in America

By Bob Smietana Religion News Service

CHICAGO (RNS) — In America’s third largest city, it’s possible to get a crash course in the world’s religions in a journey of just a few miles — from the University of Chicago’s majestic, ecumenical Christian Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on Chicago’s South Side to the humble Masjid Al-Taqwa, which meets in a converted stable, still under renovation a 15-minute ride to the south.

On Orthodox Christian Easter (April 24), 70 or so passengers took that ride on the Interfaith Trolley, a tour of sacred spaces inspired by this month’s convergence of Ramadan, Passover, Easter, Vaisakhi (celebrated by Sikhs), Ridvan (observed by Baha’is) and Ram Navami (a Hindu holiday).

Perhaps more reminiscent of speed-dating than a comparative religion course, the tour made brief stops at five religious sites across southeast Chicago, hearing from a series of faith leaders and lay people from different religious groups.

“This was a beautiful event, far more beautiful than I expected,” said Kim Schultz, coordinator of creative initiatives at the InterReligious Institute, part of Chicago Theological Seminary. “The words shared and the community shared really struck my heart.”

“This is an incredible opportunity to come together to educate our communities and shape the public narrative about what it means to live well together amidst our religious and cultural diversity and difference,” organizers said in announcing the event.

At the Rockefeller Chapel, Mayher Kaur, the leader of the Sikh Student Association gave an overview of Sikh practices and explained that Sikh gurus worked to overcome India’s caste system. A Hindu student told participants about Ram Navami, a Hindu holiday that fell on April 10 that celebrates the birth of Lord Rama, whose story is told in Ramayana. Shradha Jain, a Jain student spoke of her faith’s beliefs and the April 14 festival of Mahavir Jayanti, marking the birth of Jainism’s founder.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HERALD DEMOCRAT

US Muslim advocates weigh in on abortion rights battle

By Dalia Hatuqa

Forty-nine years ago, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that changed the lives of American women, formally legalising the right to abortion across the United States.

Now, as Roe v Wade faces its most serious threat in decades, Muslim Americans, like many others across the US, have been contemplating what overturning that decision could mean for women’s reproductive rights and access to safe abortions.

Aliza Kazmi, co-executive director of HEART, a national organisation that focuses on sex education in the Muslim community, said reproductive access and choice – including safe abortion care – is already limited or non-existent for many in the US, namely people of colour and low-income people.

“We know that many Muslim women are already being pushed away given how health inequities impeding abortion access exist and persist including due to Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, homophobia, transphobia, heteropatriarchy, Christian supremacy, etc. within the provision of health services,” Kazmi told Al Jazeera in an email.

“Should Roe v. Wade be overturned, this narrowing would devastate a majority of people in this country,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

Islam, democracy, and women empowerment

THIS year’s commemoration of Eid’l Fitr or Feast of Ramadan coincided with World Press Freedom Day on May 3. Muslims worldwide observe this religious holiday to mark the end of Ramadan’s month-long, dawn-to-sunset fasting. It became a national holiday in the Philippines starting 2002.

On the other hand, World Press Freedom Day acts as a reminder to governments about the need to respect their commitment to one of democracy’s pillars — freedom of the press. It was the United Nations General Assembly that declared on May 3, 1993 and every year thereafter that the right to freedom of expression must be upheld in keeping with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The convergence of these religious and secular concepts may be found in the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), established in 2002 amid the global and domestic challenges confronting Filipino Muslims. At that time, the US and its allies were waging a “war on terror” — with the Philippines being tagged as the next front after Afghanistan. This new front was centered naturally in Mindanao mainly because of the Abu Sayyaf, a renegade band of fighters with alleged ties to al-Qaeda.

As a result, the “war on terror” fanned a growing global debate that Islam is incompatible with democracy, which threatened to undermine the democratic space in Muslim societies. This debate accompanied the rise in radical movements among Islamist organizations, culminating in the fatal attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

Thus, the PCID was founded by three Filipino Muslim intellectuals who saw the need to articulate the voice of the Bangsamoro: Amina Rasul, who served in the Cabinet of President Fidel Ramos; Abrahan Iribani, previously the spokesperson of the Moro National Liberation Front; and Nasser Marohomsalic, a former Human Rights commissioner. Its members consist of prominent leaders and thinkers from government, business, academe, military, and other sectors, with representation from Mindanao’s major tribes.

Believing that democracy is enshrined in Islam, they recognized that the current elements of the continuing struggle for genuine self-determination are hallmarks of a functioning democracy for Filipino Muslims. These elements include just peace, human rights, credible elections, capable autonomous governance, and equitable development.

PCID treasurer and board of convenors member Yusuf Ledesma said the organization has been focusing recently on empowering women in war zones through a podcast series titled “She Talks Peace” hosted by Ms. Rasul. In partnership with Women and Gender Institute, PCID capacitates female participants on governance, economic empowerment, political participation, peace-building, and rights-based approaches to community development.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BUSINESS WORLD (Philippines)

For Muslims in Ukraine, war revives questions of faith and belonging

LVIV, Ukraine — The Quran on Murad Suleimanov’s desk has become a crisis management manual as he figures out how to serve the hundreds of terrified, displaced people who stream through the doors of the mosque he leads in western Ukraine.

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When his heart grows heavy over Russia’s war, Suleimanov reads about lopsided battles in Islamic history. When he checks on a Muslim elder whose house was destroyed by shelling, he recites verses about faith in hard times. And when the imam sees pro-Russian Muslim militias 
participating in brutalities, he turns to passages about the sanctity of life and thinks there must be “some other kind of Muslim, with some other Quran” to justify such acts.

For Suleimanov and others in Ukraine’s tiny Muslim population, there’s no question that they should share in the country’s protection. Muslims here are fighting on the front lines and providing humanitarian relief, viewing their wartime efforts as both a religious duty and an assertion of Ukrainian identity in a nation that hasn’t always welcomed them.

“Yes, we’re the minority here, but we’re a part of this country,” Suleimanov, 31, said one recent evening. “We must do something.”

At his headquarters, the Islamic Cultural Center of Lviv, a display case exhibits faded old Qurans carried by Crimean Tatars, Muslims who were forcibly deported in 1944 during a Soviet ethnic cleansing campaign. Displayed in another case are chunks of shrapnel and spent ordnance from Russian attacks in recent weeks that leveled Muslim-owned homes in the suburbs of Kyiv, the capital.

Shells and parts of weapons that one of the men from the Islamic Cultural Center of Lviv community found recently in his garden near Kyiv are displayed at the center. (Kasia Strek for The Washington Post)
These mementos, collected nearly 80 years apart, represent chapters in the long story of Muslim suffering at the hands of rulers in Moscow. Islam has deep and tangled roots in the region; six of the former Soviet Union’s 15 republics were majority-Muslim.

Today, the 20 million Muslims living in Russia face worsening repression, including torture and arbitrary detention, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

Eid Mubarak to our Muslim Friends!

Muslims around the world are celebrating the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Eid al-Fitr, or “the festival of breaking the fast”, begins with the first sighting of the new moon, and it often varies from country to country.

Celebrations begin with a special early morning prayer in mosques and open-air spaces and later move on to feasts and festivals.

This year, Eid al-Fitr comes amid a surge in global food prices exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. Against that backdrop, many Muslims are still determined to enjoy the holiday and the easing of coronavirus restrictions in their countries.

But for others, the festivities are marred by conflict and economic hardship.

At the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, tens of thousands of Muslims attended prayers on Monday morning at the Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. It was shuttered when Islam’s holiest period coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and was closed to communal prayers last year.

FULL PICTORAL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA