Islam’s anti-racist message from the 7th century still resonates today

One day, in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad dropped a bombshell on his followers: He told them that all people are created equal.

“All humans are descended from Adam and Eve,” said Muhammad in his last known public speech. “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

In this sermon, known as the Farewell Address, Muhammad outlined the basic religious and ethical ideals of Islam, the religion he began preaching in the early seventh century. Racial equality was one of them. Muhammad’s words jolted a society divided by notions of tribal and ethnic superiority.

Today, with racial tension and violence roiling contemporary America, his message is seen to create a special moral and ethical mandate for American Muslims to support the country’s anti-racism protest movement.

Challenging kinship

Apart from monotheism – worshipping just one God – belief in the equality of all human beings in the eyes of God set early Muslims apart from many of their fellow Arabs in Mecca.

Chapter 49, verse 13 of Islam’s sacred scripture, the Quran, declares: “O humankind! We have made you…into nations and tribes, so that you may get to know one another. The noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who is most righteous.”

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This verse challenged many of the values of pre-Islamic Arab society, where inequalities based on tribal membership, kinship and wealth were a fact of life. Kinship or lineal descent – “nasab” in Arabic – was the primary determinant of an individual’s social status. Members of larger, more prominent tribes like the aristocratic Quraysh were powerful. Those from less wealthy tribes like the Khazraj had lower standing.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION

Must Islam and the West Fight? Religion and Politics Class Tackles Sensitive Topics

Course pairs students with religious groups to expand their learning

The two things you’re not supposed to talk about in polite company are religion and politics. And that’s what this class is about.”—Timothy Longman

The titular twin taboos in Timothy Longman’s Religion and Politics class certainly coaxed language heated enough to upend a genteel dinner party during a recent Zoomed session. Longman, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of political science, lectured about the Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, an influential article and 1996 book by the late Harvard scholar Samuel Huntington, who posited an irreconcilable cultural battle between supposedly rational Western democracies on one hand, and Islam, with its inherent “violent propensity,” on the other. 

Lillian Ilsley-Greene (CAS’20) succinctly sums up her peers’ reaction: “God, this is like bonkers racist.”

Huntington published his book 20 years before the election of a president who imposed a controversial travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations. Ilsley-Greene found it “terrifying,” she says, that Huntington’s thesis echoes today from advocates who don’t realize the effects of their words on the non-Western world. 

Steven Rubin (CAS’22) scoffs at Huntington’s division of the world into eight major civilizations as simplistic, lumping together what Rubin called a ginormous sprawl of Muslim nations with disparate cultures. “How many times will Westerners take a map of the world and try to draw lines all over it?” he asks.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BOSTON UNIVERSITY BLOG

Newspaper apologizes for ‘horrific’ ad that claims ‘Islam’ was going to bomb Nashville

“The ad is horrific and is utterly indefensible in all circumstances,” The Tennessean’s editor said.

By Tim Stelloh

Executives at a newspaper in Nashville, Tennessee, apologized Sunday for publishing what a top editor called a “horrific” full-page advertisement that said “Islam” was going to detonate a nuclear device in the city next month.

The ad in The Tennessean, which also said President Donald Trump “typified many biblical leaders,” was from a religious group that the newspaper described in a non-bylined story as “fringe.”

Kevin Gentzel, the chief revenue officer at Gannett, which owns The Tennessean, said the company was launching an investigation to determine how the ad was published.

“We strongly condemn the message and apologize to our readers,” he tweeted.

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The editor of the paper, Michael Anastasi, was quoted in The Tennessean as saying there had “clearly” been a breakdown in how the newspaper’s ads are scrutinized.

“The ad is horrific and is utterly indefensible in all circumstances,” he said, according to the paper. “It is wrong, period, and should have never been published.”

The story said the advertisement had been pulled from future editions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NBC NEWS

Mahershala Ali and Ramy Youssef On Why Islam Is the Key to Acting

By Ramy Youssef

On the new season of Ramy, Mahershala Ali stars as the wise and charismatic Sheik Ali to a lost and confused Ramy Hassan, played by show creator Ramy Youssef. In an excerpt from A24’s quarterly zine, Youssef interviews his co-star about his relationship to Islam, refusing to do sex scenes, and how prayer factors into his acting.

Ramy Youssef: We’ve talked before about the spiritual struggles you had early on in your career over doing certain things you didn’t think you should do onscreen. How’d you come to terms with that?
Mahershala Ali: If you look at Judaism, Islam, maybe some versions of Buddhism, the Sikhs — any time anyone is hard-core practicing those faiths correctly, it feels like anything outside the faith is haram. But as you move further along, as you embrace the faith, get more comfortable in it and understand how you identify as a Muslim, you’re always examining your relationship to anything secular, anything outside of your actual faith. If you grow up Muslim, you probably have more of a natural barometer for what “slacking off” means for you — that middle ground where you’re okay not following something to the tee. Embracing the tenets of Islam that say you will be held accountable for all your actions, that you will be credited for all your positive actions, and you will essentially be called out on all the things you knowingly did wrong and all that, you begin to examine your work — entertainment, storytelling — and anything outside of your faith. And you have to strive to bring that into alignment with not just your religion, but with how your religion informs the way you see the world and what is okay and what is not okay, so that you can have peace.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VULTURE.COM

The Apocalypse as an ‘Unveiling’: What Religion Teaches Us About the End Times

For people of many faiths, and even none at all, it can feel lately like the end of the world is near.

00VIRUS-APOCALYPSE-palehorse-superJumboShamain Webster, who lives in the suburbs outside of Dallas, has seen the signs of a coming apocalypse for a while now, just as the Bible foretold.

Kingdom would rise against kingdom, Jesus taught his disciples in the Book of Luke. Ms. Webster sees widespread political division in this country. There will be fearful events, and great signs from heaven, he said. She sees biblical values slipping away. A government not acting in the people’s best interest. And now this — a pandemic.

But Ms. Webster, 42 and an evangelical Christian, is unafraid. She has been listening online to one of her favorite preachers, who has called the coronavirus pandemic a “divine reset.”

“These kinds of moments really get you to re-evaluate everything,” she said. As everyone goes through a period of isolation, she added, God is using it for good, “to teach us and train us on how to live life better.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

 

How coronavirus challenges Muslims’ faith and changes their lives

5e5fc86cfee23d229f525014As the world faces the greatest disruption of our lifetimes, Muslims throughout the world are also grappling with the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Islamic cultural, spiritual and theological dimensions offer Muslims myriad ways of coping.

Adapting to new social norms

Muslims have relatively large families and tend to maintain extended family relations. Prophet Muhammad encouraged Muslims to keep strong family ties. The Quran inspires Muslims to be generous to kin (16:90) and treat the elderly with compassion (17:23).

These teachings have resulted in Muslims either living together as large families or keeping regular weekly visits and gatherings of extended family members. Many Muslims feel conflicted about the need to apply social distancing on one hand and the need to be close to family and relatives for comfort and support. Tighter restrictions on movement in some parts of Australia (NSW and Victoria) mean Muslims, like everyone else, are not allowed to visit extended family anymore.


Read more: What actually are ‘essential services’ and who decides?


One of the first changes brought about by social distancing has been to the Muslim custom of shaking hands followed by hugging (same gender) friends and acquaintances, especially in mosques and Muslim organisations. After a week or two of hesitation in March, the hugging completely stopped, making Muslims feel dismal.

Visiting the sick is considered a good deed in Islam. However, in the case of COVID-19, such visits are not possible. Checking up on those who are sick with phone calls, messages and social media is still possible and encouraged.

Cleanliness is half of faith

One aspect of coronavirus prevention that comes very naturally to Muslims is personal hygiene. Health organisations and experts promote personal hygiene to limit the spread of coronavirus, especially washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.

Islam has been encouraging personal hygiene for centuries. The Quran instructs Muslims to keep their clothes clean in one of the earliest revelations (74:4), remarking “God loves those who are clean” (2:222).

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION 

 

Want to know more about Muslims and Islam? We’ve got an email course for you

PF_20.01.15_miniCourseIMuslims_Islam_featured-1With an estimated population of 1.8 billion, Muslims are the world’s second-largest religious group, after Christians. But our surveys have found that about half of Americans – as well as most Western Europeans – say they know little or nothing about Islam. Try our email course on Muslims and Islam Learn about Muslims and Islam through four short lessons delivered to your inbox every other day. Sign up now!

Pew Research Center has conducted more than a decade’s worth of global research on religion, including surveys of Muslims in 39 countries, three comprehensive surveys of Muslim Americans, several demographic studies of the world’s major religions (including population growth projections), and a series of surveys that measure how people living in the U.S. and Europe view Muslims and Islam.

We have drawn on this research to answer questions such as: How differently do Muslims around the globe practice their faith? What do they believe? How are they viewed in public opinion in various Western countries? How much discrimination do they face?

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH 

Meet the activist who explains climate change through Islam

773x435_cmsv2_677bf064-8644-5c99-ba03-5169808937a3-4355590Lina Yassin was 15 years old when Sudan was hit by the worst floods in a quarter of a century.

The disaster, in 2013, affected half-a-million people and saw 50 killed, 70 injured and 25,000 homes destroyed, according to the country’s ministry of health.

Although a high school student, she did volunteering work to help her city recover. It was during this time that wondered why Sudan could not anticipate the disaster or, at least, adapt and prevent future floods.

“That was a life-changing experience for me because I got to know the victims on a personal level,” Yassin, from Khartoum, told Euronews.

Mohammed Mahmoud
Linna Yassin on a workshop in Khartoum about climate change communication.Mohammed Mahmoud

“I started reading about floods and I found a lot of articles that linked them to climate change. My mind was blown by the fact that no one was talking about this, even though Sudan is quite affected by it,” she said.

Yassin started to write for the high school newspaper about this issue: she wanted to engage as many people as possible with a matter that she thought would change her country forever.

FULL ARTICLE FROM EURONEWS

IDENTITY AND ISLAM

1568139680494University of Delaware professor seeks to reframe religious narrative

In the days, months and years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Muqtedar Khan found himself grappling with an unrelenting question of faith and identity: “If al-Qaeda, ISIS, and all the human rights violations committed in the name of Islam are not my faith,” he would ask himself, “then what is?”

The University of Delaware professor of international relations calls his most recent book, Islam and Good Governance, “my much-delayed response.”

“Islam and Good Governance: A Political Philosophy of Ihsan,” was published in April 2019
“Islam and Good Governance: A Political Philosophy of Ihsan,” was published in April 2019

Simultaneously an endorsement of religious and political freedom and an academic reinterpretation of the Quran, the book seeks to reclaim the beauty, mysticism and virtues of Islamic teaching through a concept Khan said he believes, “Muslims have not yet understood — or simply ignored.”

That concept is Ihsan, taken from the Quran passage that says, “God is with those who do beautiful deeds.” In Islamic tradition, it also lives in the words of the prophet Muhammad, who was asked by the angel Gabriel to define Ihsan: “To Worship Allah as if you see him; and if you can’t see Him, know that He sees you.”

Rethinking the Muslim religion through this lens will require a fundamental philosophy shift, Khan said. Ihsan goes against how many economies and institutions have evolved over centuries. It stands in opposition to how the Muslim world is perceived and understood.

“An Islamic State is currently one where Islamic Law is enforced — and these are laws that come from the medieval understanding of Islam. Until we change that, we will never have good governance,” he said. “It is unfair of Muslims to demand non-Muslims bypass realities like ISIS and al-Qaeda and discover true Islam. Muslims must manifest what it is. The Prophet has said three times that you’re not a Muslim if your neighbor is afraid of you.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE WEBSITE 

Why the de-faithing of Islam is a threat to all America’s religions

  • Asma T. Uddin explores religious freedom — or the lack thereof — in her new book, When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.
  • She identifies and dispels myths surrounding Islam that attempt to weaken the rights of Muslims, such as the idea that Islam is a monolith, or is not a religion at all.
  • It’s important to understand that religious freedom primarily involves a relationship between the government and religious individuals or organizations. This differentiates it from religious pluralism or tolerance.

Hanaa-Unus-18In the aughts, a number of Christian conservative figures, including Pat Buchanan and Austin Ruse, were aligning their political-religious worldview with Islam in an attempt to separate from liberal Democrats. Just over a decade later, the same men were branding Islam as a purely political system while claiming it’s actually not a religion at all—and thereby not protected by American religious liberty laws.

Such a pivot has important consequences. If Islam is, in the eyes of the courts, deemed to not be a religion, then Muslims are longer protected by the freedom of religion clause. While such a notion seems absurd given that Islam is the planet’s second largest faith, there is precedent for this argument, writes lawyer and scholar Asma T. Uddin in her new book, When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.

Myth 1: Islam is not a religion

Uddin knows this topic well. In 2010, she represented the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, which was building a new mosque roughly 30 miles outside of Nashville. Having outgrown its previous facility near Middle Tennessee State University, members raised $600,000 for a new complex. Then the vandalism began.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BIGTHINK.COM