Islam Explained for Christians

How well do you know your neighbour’s faith? Well enough to discuss both your and their beliefs, comparing similarities and differences? Well enough to know the way their beliefs shape how they see the world? Can you identify how those same beliefs shape their daily lives and habits? I imagine most of us are aware our beliefs are different, but we are content with small talk about the weather or our busy week. Added to this, religion is a volatile topic. This is especially true when it comes to Islam.

Why? There are many presumptions and fears surrounding Islam. It feels as if one is walking on eggshells when engaged in conversations about it. The search for understanding and truth often results in controversy. Therefore dialogue with Muslims is daunting and complex.

This book is a compassionate response to Muslims, based on reliable evidence about their beliefs.


Enter John Azumah’s book, My Neighbour’s Faith: Islam Explained for ChristiansThroughout this work, Azumah seeks to provide understanding about Islam, in the face of Western censorship and cancel culture society, particularly in the African context. He shows that Islam isn’t a detached religious institution, as many think or experience it. Rather, Islam is made up of people. Azumah gives Islam a human face: an aunt or uncle in the family; your neighbour across the street; a vendor selling bunny chows; friends at university; work colleagues; or the friendly mom at school.

Islam is Full of People Like You and Me

Though the book is scholarly, it is easy to follow, making it suitable for all types of readers. As a scholar himself, Azumah offers a faithful, detailed glimpse into Islam based on empirical, historical, and cultural evidence. Throughout his book he backs this up with reliable sources while providing commentary on the Muslim faith. Standing behind his careful and scholarly commentary is the primary intent of Azumah’s book: a compassionate response to Muslim communities, based on reliable evidence about their beliefs.


Calls for a ‘green’ Ramadan revive Islam’s long tradition of sustainability and care for the planet

Communal meals to break fast can mean lots of single-use plastics. A switch to environmentally friendly principles is in line with Islamic principles through the ages.

(The Conversation) — For many Muslims breaking fast in mosques around the world this Ramadan, something will be missing: plastics.

The communal experience of iftars – the after-sunset meal that brings people of the faith together during the holy month starting on March 22, 2023 – often necessitates the use of utensils designed for mass events, such as plastic knives and forks, along with bottles of water.

But to encourage Muslims to be more mindful of the impact of Ramadan on the environment, mosques are increasingly dispensing of single-use items, with some banning the use of plastics altogether.

As a historian of Islam, I see this “greening” of Ramadan as entirely in keeping with the traditions of the faith, and in particular the observance of Ramadan.

The month – during which observant Muslims must abstain from even a sip of water or food from sun up to sun down – is a time for members of the faith to focus on purifying themselves as individuals against excess and materialism.

But in recent years, Muslim communities around the world have used the period to rally around themes of social awareness. And this includes understanding the perils of wastefulness and embracing the link between Ramadan and environmental consciousness.

The ban on plastics – a move encouraged by the Muslim Council of Britain as a way for Muslims “to be mindful of [God’s] creation and care for the environment” – is just one example.


‘I don’t trust myself.’ For Muslims with eating disorders, fasting in Ramadan brings another set of challenges

CNN — 

As the Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins, Habiba says she is “terrified” by the thought of fasting this year.

After her disordered eating patterns spiraled into bulimia and binge eating disorder during her mid-teens, she says the ritual of abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset can exacerbate the need to restrict her eating further and risk slipping into a toxic cycle.

But making the decision to refrain from the practice feels like she is neglecting a key part of her faith, she says.

“I don’t trust myself with keeping a fast because I know … I’ll start to enjoy the feelings of hunger and I’m terrified (of) what that will do to me,” said the 30-year-old UK-based Muslim editor, who asked CNN to use only her first name for privacy reasons. “I do feel sad. I feel like I’m missing out on a really spiritual experience.”

Habiba was nine years old when she first had the urge to make herself sick, she says. By the age of about 16 she says she was skipping meals, tracking calories, blacking out as a result of hunger, overexercising and vomiting at least 15 times a day.

Female person against plate with a slice of apple. Weight loss diet concept

Here are the signs of an eating disorder — the ones you know and the ones you don’t

“I would never wish something like bulimia, especially, on anyone, because it’s like an addiction.”

Habiba is not alone in her experience. A growing number of Muslim doctors and psychologists are trying to bridge the gap between faith leaders and worshippers like Habiba, who say they face marginalization when trying to access support within their own communities, as well as in the public health system.

“Minorities are underrepresented. It’s not that they don’t have eating disorders or suffer, but there is all this stigma around who comes to get help,” Dr. Omara Naseem, a UK-based counseling psychologist who specializes in treating eating disorders, said. These are “invisible and indiscriminate” illnesses that transcend age, religion, gender and sexuality, she added.

“It’s an act of worship to take care of your body and health. Therefore, go and get the right help that you need,” she said.


‘Reconnecting with the human’: Minnesota podcast tackles humanity, womanhood and Islam

The Digital Sisterhood launched back in 2021 and has since drawn a huge international audience


Wednesday evening into Thursday is the beginning of Ramadan.

It is a holy month when observers fast from sunrise to sunset and turn inward to pray, reflect and spend time with loved ones.

The creators of the podcast The Digital Sisterhood hope to help people do just that.

The show focuses on the stories of Muslim women in a space where religion, faith and community mix with topics like like sexual assault and suicide. But the episodes are also full of happier and lighter moments like love and Twitter comments.

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Since the show first launched back in 2021 it’s drawn a huge international audience. At the end of last year, the podcast had more than 10 million downloads. Season three is due to be released.

Woodbury, Minn.-based Muna Scekomar is producer, editor and one of the founders of the show.

MPR News host Cathy Wurzer talked with her ahead of Ramadan on Wednesday.

This is such a holy time in the Muslim world. What’s on your mind heading into this time?

I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to reset and to take a pause from the drone of everyday. Everybody’s hustling, trying to get something done for themselves.


A Ramadan etiquette guide for non-Muslims

There are about 8 billion people in the world. And about a quarter of them are fasting from sunup to sundown. Every day. For an entire month.

It’s Ramadanthe holiest month of the Muslim calendar. In 2023, it runs from March 22 to April 21.

But what if you’re not a Muslim – just a caring, considerate person. Is there anything you should do so you don’t come across as insensitive to your fasting friends in the US during Ramadan?

Short answer: No. Long answer: No.

But you can earn some cool points if you follow these 10 tips:

1. You can totally eat in front of us …

For the 30 days of Ramadan, Muslims around the world will abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry on business as usual. (Just turn a deaf ear to our growling stomachs.)

2. … but try not to schedule a work lunch

If you have to host a brown-bag, you should. But don’t feel bad if we sit there, like a vegetarian friend at a churrascaria. Ditto for a happy-hour mixer. If your Muslim co-worker takes a pass, understand.

A boy attends the early morning prayer at  Al Noor Mosque  in Sharjah, UAE.

A boy attends the early morning prayer at Al Noor Mosque in Sharjah, UAE.Francois Nel/Getty Images

3. You don’t have to fast with us …

You can if you want to see what it feels like. But it’s not going to hurt our feelings – even if we’re best friends.

4. … but you can join us for Iftar

Iftar is the breaking of the fast after sundown. We like to make it a big communal meal. You should come.

A Muslim woman walks on "sea of sands" as she prepares for prayer at Parangkusumo Beach in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

A Muslim woman walks on “sea of sands” as she prepares for prayer at Parangkusumo Beach in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

5. You don’t have to know when it begins …

Ramadan isn’t like Christmas or Thanksgiving, as in everyone knows exactly when it’ll fall. It bounces around, because the Islamic calendar is lunar. When it begins depends on when the new moon is seen. That’s why the precise dates change from year to year.


Meet the US women who have just opened a PR office in Saudi Arabia

  • Kaplan told Arab News that she had a misconception about the Kingdom on her first trip. “Women’s empowerment is really rooted in our mission”

RIYADH: With New York savvy, Miami flair and a Saudi spirit, Gwen Wunderlich and Dara Kaplan took a chance on themselves and entered the ever-changing space of Saudi Arabia’s women empowerment.

With more than two decades of experience and a solid friendship, they launched the Riyadh branch of their first women-led US-based PR firm Wunderlich Kaplan Communications.

“This will be our global expansion and the MENA division, based in Riyadh at Jax,” Wunderlich told Arab News.

“We partnered this time for this division with Noor Taher, she is partners with Good Intentions and she brought us over here and agreed to partner up with us so generously to bring big projects to us, to guide us and to be a lead here to make sure things go smoothly,” she said.

With so much happening in the Kingdom’s capital, Riyadh felt like the right fit as it is the center of the country and a magnet for talent. It is also easily accessible via air or land.

“It just feels right.”


A Stranger in Your Own City by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad review – 20 years of frustration and fury in Iraq

The architects of the 2003 invasion promised change and democracy. This book shatters western assumptions, shows the effect on Iraqis of cycles of violence – and offers cautious hope

This month sees the 20th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, with its promise to end the Saddam Hussein dictatorship and bring about democracy in the country. Today most Iraqis still suffer and there is no democracy in sight. Instead, the war unleashed brutal cycles of violence and changed life for millions, including Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. He trained as an architect in Baghdad (his pencil and watercolour sketches illustrate the book), but as the bombing began destroying his home city, curiosity and an ability to speak English found him working for the foreign journalists who had come to cover the conflict. He would become an award-winning reporter and in Stranger in Your Own City he reflects on his encounters with others whose lives were also transformed.

Life before the invasion had been challenging for many. Years of conflict and sanctions led to a humanitarian crisis, with people denied access to basic goods and services. This made Iraqis initially supportive of the invasion and its promise to bring about change. But as Abdul-Ahad writes, emotions quickly went from “euphoria to frustration to fury”.

While many books have been written on the Iraq war and its legacies, this one matters because it shatters some of the assumptions held in western capitals about the country. Many foreign correspondents who wrote about Iraq at the time argued, for example, that the country was historically deeply sectarian, with divisions springing from a history of Shia-Sunni hatred. Removing Saddam simply unleashed ancient societal hatreds, they said. What A Stranger in Your Own City reminds us is that sectarianism was imposed on many Iraqis post-invasion by new rulers who came back to the country after decades in exile. They needed a political system based on sectarianism because it helped them build constituencies in a place where they had become strangers.

Award-winning reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad
Award-winning reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. Photograph: Rena Effendi

Before the war, religions and sects coexisted peacefully in neighbourhoods. But in the new Iraq, as the book’s title suggests, many locals began to feel like strangers on their own streets. Abdul-Ahad recalls learning, for the first time, whether his childhood friends were Sunni or Shia. The new sectarianism also rebuilt the physical map, as Iraq’s new leaders set up checkpoints, closed routes, and segregated areas – disorienting many as they drove around Baghdad: “the usual gatherings… in gardens and on street corners had become toxic, and a source of friction, with arguments like ‘Shia are collaborating with the Americans… Sunnis are killing innocent Shia.’”


Muslim Day at the Capitol in Oklahoma City crowd urged to be ‘civically courageous’

The importance of engaging with elected leaders in an era of increased polarization came to the forefront time and time again as Muslim Oklahomans gathered in Oklahoma City on Monday for an annual advocacy event.

More than 100 people registered for the ninth annual “Muslim Day at the Capitol” hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter. Several organizers said the crowd was smaller than in previous years because of spring break. Imad Enchassi, senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said the event typically draws a large contingent of students, teachers and some parents from Mercy School, an Islamic school in northwest Oklahoma City, and a similar school in Tulsa, but the schools were out for break.

Still, there were plenty of youths and young adults among the crowd that gathered on the second-floor rotunda and a meeting space for brief opening remarks, break-out sessions and lunch. Former U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn gave the keynote speech, and the group gathered for prayer after the last session.

Masood Abdul-Haqq, CAIR-OK’s board chairman, encouraged the crowd to take seriously the event theme of “Being Civically Courageous.”


Islam And Judaism: Choosing To Be Chosen And Plural Relationships – OpEd

A major misunderstanding of the Biblical concept of God choosing a people or a prophet is caused by the use of the word ‘the’ chosen when a better translation would be ‘a’ chosen prophet or people. Relationships are always unique and exclusive, but just as a parent can and should have a loving relationship with several different children; God can and does have unique and exclusive relationships with many different prophets and many different religious communities. 

As a well known Hadith says, “Prophets are paternal brothers (sons of one father by co-wives). Their mothers (mother tongue, motherland etc.) are different but their religion (from the one and only God) is one.” (Bukhari Vol. 4: Book 55  #651 and Muslim Book 30: #5834-6). 

According to the Bible the relationship between God and Israel is similar to a marital partnership, as can be seen from the following Biblical verses. 

God proposes a marriage covenant at Sinai.

God said to Moses “Speak thus to the house of Jacob, and tell this to the children of Israel… Now if you listen to me and keep my covenant, then you will be my special possession out of all the peoples, for the whole earth is mine. You will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation. These words you shall speak to the people of Israel” (this is the proposal) 

“Moses came and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all these proposals as God had commanded him. All the people answered together, “All that God has proposed, we will do. (the acceptance, like “I do” at a wedding). Moses brought this answer back to the Lord.” (Exodus 19:5-8)  

Why the Jews?  Because God loved their ancestors. 

“The Lord cared for your ancestors, loving them and chose their descendants after them from all nations, as you are this day.” (Deuteronomy 10:15) “I will fulfill my covenant between myself and you (Abraham) and your descendants after you, generation after generation, an everlasting covenant, to be your God, yours and your descendants after you.”  (Genesis 17:7)”All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you (Jacob) and your descendants.” (Genesis 28:14)