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

Islam And Democracy: Are They Antithetical? – Analysis

Shûrâ, Or The Principle Of Collective Deliberation

When one evokes the relation between Islam and democracy, (1) the temptation is great to go to texts (Qur’an and Hadîth) and to Muslim political history of experiences of governance with analogies to modern pluralistic systems. (2) Hence the reformist currents of Islamic thought, which intend to promote the principle of shûrâ, which can be roughly translated as “collective deliberation”. On the theological level shûrâ refers directly to the Qur’anic text, in particular to Sûrah 42, precisely entitled “The Consultation”:

’And those who answer the call of their Lord and establish prayer and whose affair being matter of counsel among themselves, and who of that wherewith We have provided them expend. ‘’ (Holy Qur’an, 42 : 38).
وَالَّذِينَاسْتَجَابُوالِرَبِّهِمْوَأَقَامُواالصَّلَاةَوَأَمْرُهُمْشُورَىبَيْنَهُمْوَمِمَّارَزَقْنَاهُمْيُنفِقُونَ

On the mythical-political level, it refers to the prophetic city of Medina, in which the Prophet Muhammad was supposed to make his decisions after consulting his companions (saHâba) and even the members of the nascent Islamic community (‘ummah).
Shûrâ, or the principle of collective deliberation, is a principle mentioned both in the Qur’an and in the practice of the Prophet and his Companions. In the modern context, shûrâ has been understood as the Islamic term for what the contemporaries call democracy. Nevertheless, this concept remains obscure despite the publication of hundreds of books and articles on the subject over the past decades. Many aspects of shûrâ have not yet been addressed.

On the principle of collective deliberation and the evidence supporting it in Islamic normative texts, scholars have customarily referred first to two Qur’anic verses concerning the disputatio angelica, i.e. the metaphysical creation of the human order and, therefore, the meaning to be given to the unfolding of humanity.

The eminent scholar Mohamed Tahar Ben Achour (3) has stated that this disputatio has a foundational value in the creation order. We can include in it the principle of Abraham’s deliberation, having received a commandment from God about his son Ishmael. The question of whether Abraham should sacrifice his son was already settled by the divine command, but Abraham nevertheless asked his son: 

 “And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allāh wills, of the steadfast.”
 “(Holy Qur’an, 37: 102).

فَلَمَّابَلَغَمَعَهُٱلسَّعْىَقَالَيَٰبُنَىَّإِنِّىٓأَرَىٰفِىٱلْمَنَامِأَنِّىٓأَذْبَحُكَفَٱنظُرْمَاذَاتَرَىٰۚقَالَيَٰٓأَبَتِٱفْعَلْمَاتُؤْمَرُۖسَتَجِدُنِىٓإِنشَآءَٱللَّهُمِنَٱلصَّٰبِرِينَ
More generally, from an Islamic perspective, the principle of collective deliberation (4) is necessary for any form of interpersonal relationship. The importance of shûrâ in both the private and public spheres is highlighted in the Qur’an:

 “And it was by God’s grace that thou [O Prophet] didst deal gently with thy followers: for if thou hadst been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from thee. Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven. And take cou nsel with them in all matters of public concern; then, when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God: for, verily, God loves those who place their trust in Him ‘’ (Holy Qur’an, 3 : 159).

FULL ARTICLE FROM EUROASIA REVIEW

Environmental Protection in Islam

Islam is keen to protect the environment with all its components by creating a complete conception of life and its system and what it requires of  development according to fixed rules that do not change with the change of time and place. This is what gives Islamic environmental principles the status of validity that achieves happiness and prosperity for its members in this world and the hereafter. Islamic principles of the environment is not a fantasy nor a myth from the myths of the Greeks and Romans, but rather it is part of instinct which God has put in humans, a sincere approach to the creator, the one who created everything. The Almighty said: {So be steadfast in faith in all uprightness ˹O Prophet˺—the natural Way of Allah which He has instilled in ˹all˺ people. Let there be no change in this creation of Allah. That is the Straight Way, but most people do not know.} Ar-Rum verse 30. Nature, including the resources that Allah has gifted to His servants, such as water, soil, sun, and air, is the responsibility of man in this society to preserve -if possible- these natural resources that Allah Almighty has brought forth. However, modern civilization, despite its undeniable services and achievements, has had a negative impact on the human body, from work-related injuries to environmental pollution.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ISLAMONLINE.NET

Will Islam soon be the world’s largest religion?

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran, Iran

A Pew Research poll predicts that, based on current trends, the number of Muslims worldwide will be nearly equal to the number of Christians by 2050. In conversations, you might hear this statement as proof that Islam is growing and other religions (such as Christianity) are quickly declining. But such a conclusion is misleading and does not take into consideration a number of realities happening throughout the Muslim world.

Research reveals the cultural tendencies in Muslim families, not the attractiveness of Islam itself, explains the demographic surge. The growing number of Muslims is not primarily caused by conversion but is due instead to Muslim families producing more children. The higher relative birthrate occurs for various social and religious reasons, including the fact that, in most Muslim-dominant societies, women have few opportunities outside the home.

Of course, some converts are choosing Islam—but we should acknowledge recent research demonstrating that conversion works in two directions.

Consider the Muslim population in the United States. In January 2018, a Pew Research study declared that the number of converts to Islam almost equaled the number who abandoned the faith. Thus, there was virtually no net growth at all. This study also found that about 25 percent of adult Muslims raised in the United States no longer identified as Muslims.

What about the Arab world, especially the heartland of Islam? What are the patterns there?

On June 24, 2019, The Guardian reported a study—conducted by a Princeton University-based research group—that suggested Arab Muslims are quitting Islam in unprecedented numbers. The study compares the numbers of “non-religious” people between roughly 2014 and 2019. The numbers went from 11 percent to 18 percent.

Such a statistic is stunning because the Arab world is the stronghold of Islam. This study occurred during the rise of ISIS when militant Islamist groups were committing atrocities. Many Muslims, it appears, questioned their former beliefs. If more Muslims felt comfortable answering the study’s questions openly, the numbers might be even greater.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WORLD

The Qur’an and Its Link to Christianity and Judaism

By Charles Mathewes, Ph.D.University of Virginia

In the past 50 years, thinkers have come to realize that Islam is an intrinsic part of the history of Western thinking on evil in complicated ways. Islam is linked to the older traditions of Jewish and Christian thought, but offers an alternate vision to them. There is also the way in which the Islam regards the Qur’an.

Islam and Other Abrahamic Religions

Islamic thought was deeply influenced by earlier Greek, Jewish, and Christian thinkers; and so, to understand Islamic thought reveals things about those earlier traditions that might otherwise go missing.

Islam was itself the source of the transmission of much pre-Christian literature and philosophy, especially Greek philosophy, to Western Christendom. These also picked up a good bit of insight on a series of important topics from the Islamic philosophers and lawyers themselves.

Also, Islam serves in a way as a kind of internal critic of the mainstream of Western thinking about evil; a critic who is both within and without this mainstream. It not only serves as a useful contrastive option to the main line of thinking that Western ideas of evil follow, but it also serves as a vital account that has its own integrity, even if it is somewhat oblique to that mainstream.

This is a transcript from the video series Why Evil ExistsWatch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

The Uniqueness of the Qur’an

A decorated page from the Qur'an
The Qur’an has a complicated relationship with the sacred texts of Judaism and Christianity. (Image: Acquired by Henry Walters/Public domain)

The Qur’an is unique among the scriptures of the Abrahamic faiths in explicitly rendering the episode of the origin of evil in Creation by recounting the rebellion of Iblis, the rebellious spirit. Iblis is the one who becomes ash-Shaitan, the primordial rebel against God.

The Qur’an is the sacred text of Islam, but it is not viewed, per se, as the Muslim Bible. Yes, it’s roughly as long as the Christian New Testament and similarly divided into sections. There are 114 suras (chapters) in the Qur’an and each of those suras is composed of verses called ayahs, which is also translated as the word ‘sign’.

Each of the verses, thus, of each of the suras of the Qur’an is a sign of God’s providence and love towards humanity. So far so good; it looks like another holy book.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GREAT COURSES

Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar’s More Tolerant, Liberal Islam: Not What It Seems

The end of oil, the Abraham Accords and Turkey are forcing Gulf states to renegotiate the role of religion in their societies. Talking up openness and moderation, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha have different playbooks – but share a common aim

It wasn’t long ago that Gulf states were actively promoting ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam, and didn’t shy away from cultivating political Islam either. The U.S. National Intelligence Assessment from April 1970 judged Riyadh as “likely to support conservative non-governmental groups in the Arab world, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.”

But times are changing. Gulf states are being forced into a comprehensive rethink of their religious, political and economic systems, triggered by, most immediately, the prospect of drastically declining oil revenues as global demand shifts away from dependence on hydrocarbons. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM HA’ARETZ

How modernity and globalization influenced the message and expansion of Islam

In order to understand how cultural and societal changes influence any religion, we must first know the definition of religion. Religion is a relation with God which human beings regard as sacred, divine,  spiritual, holy and worthy of  respect. It consists of the ways to deal with different concerns of human life. Religious influences are rooted  in all aspects of human life. Religions evolve  and change with time. Religions consist of  ideas, values, practices and stories that are embedded in culture and are not separable. It is not possible to understand a religion without its cultural dimensions How Islam has adapted cultural and societal changes as it has spread throughout the globe is an interesting and complex phenomenon.

Islam traveled in many ways through different regions. The history of Islam is full  of events  that led to Islam’s spread across the globe. Sometimes it was transferred through military conquests, it was also carried through trade caravans that travelled over vast distances or through the missionaries. When  Islamic ideas came into contact with  new societies, they evolved in unique ways and took on diverse forms. That’s why these societies have multiple different interpretations of Islam. The spread of Islam across different regions involved some prominent factors such as inter-marriages, trade, influencers etc . Spreading of Islam is a complex phenomenon and to say that it travelled merely through sword is not justified. Muslim culture developed from the ninth century to the  twelfth century, and crystallized into what we currently know as Islam. The military expansion of the early centuries facilitated the spread of Islam in name only and it was later that Islam spread in true meaning, as a  number of citizens started converting to Islam. Expansion  of Islamic culture was carried out by missionaries and  political convoys, it also expanded through trade. Group of travelers (caravans) used camels to transport goods and themselves across different regions, they played the most important role in the spread of Islam. These caravans helped in expanding Islamic civilization and culture by connecting different provinces (with the Islamic empires) which were far apart. Merchants carried out trades across different regions. These trades were equally influential in expanding culture and created a sense of multiculturalism or internationalism. These new cultural relationships led to the transfer of technology, science and other forms of culture. This was the start of globalization. But at that time it was just known by multiple names like multiculturalism or internationalism. Cultural globalization is a multidimensional process which leads to different impacts and consequences and makes possible the coexistence of  different values with Islamic symbols , values and discourses. Islamic culture does not consist of  merely a group of  a combination of rituals rather it is a complete way of life prescribed by the Quran.

“The human history is the graveyard of great cultures that the disastrous end of them has been due to this matter that they couldn’t present a planned, rational and volitional reaction against the challenges.”  -Erich Fromm

FULL ARTICLE FROM MODERN DIPLOMACY (EU)

Fact check: Joe Biden quote on teaching Islam in schools needs more context

Posts on social media make the claim that U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden wants “Islam to be taught in our schools”, suggesting this would be at the expense of teaching Christianity. This claim is misleading and misrepresents Biden’s remarks.

One example of the claim, shared over 154,000 times since July 23 is visible  here  . Other examples are visible  here  and  here  . 

On July 20, 2020 Biden sought support from Muslim Americans during an online event hosted by Emgage Action, a membership organization mobilizing around issues affecting American Muslims ( here  ,  emgageaction.org/about-us/  ). 

Speaking virtually before the Million Muslims Vote Summit, Biden said, “I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith.” He added: “I wish we talked about all the great confessional faiths. It’s one of the great confessional faiths.” 

Biden specified that, from a theological standpoint, “what we don’t realize is that we all come from the same root here, in terms of our fundamental basic beliefs.” ( here ) 

During his remarks, Biden did not imply substituting the teachings of one religion over another but encouraged learning broadly about the “confessional faiths”, or faiths usually associated with a formal statement of doctrinal belief, including different denominations of Christianity and Judaism.  

Biden is a Roman Catholic who for years has written and spoken publicly about his faith ( here ). Most recently, Biden has leaned into his religious commitments, emphasizing his faith during the presidential election and the Democratic National Convention this past week ( here ). 

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS

The Ottoman sultan who changed America

America, Protestantism and coffee all have a Muslim history

By Alan MikhailAlan Mikhail is professor of history and chair of the department of history at Yale University and author of the new book “God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World.”August 20, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

Most Americans don’t know that their morning cup of coffee connects them to the Ottoman Empire. Few are aware that this bygone Muslim state helped to birth Protestantism, America’s dominant form of Christianity, or that the European explorers who “discovered” the Americas did so because of the Ottomans’ and other Muslims’ stranglehold on trade between Europe and Asia. In fact, some Americans don’t even know what the Ottoman Empire was. When Americans think of the Middle East, they often view it as a theater for American wars and a region essential for its oil. Yet all of us owe important parts of our culture and history to the most important empire in Middle Eastern history, the Ottoman Empire, and specifically to one sultan who lived half a millennium ago.

This September marks the 500-year anniversary of the death of a singular, but forgotten, historical figure — Selim I, the ninth sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Selim’s life and reign spanned perhaps the most consequential half-century in world history, with reverberations down to our own time. He nearly tripled Ottoman territory through wars in the Middle East, North Africa and the Caucasus. More than Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, German Catholic priest Martin Luther, Italian diplomat and political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli or others of his contemporaries, Selim’s triumphs literally changed the world.

In 1517, Selim and his army marched from Istanbul to Cairo, vanquishing his foremost rival in the Muslim world, the Mamluk Empire. Selim now governed more territory than nearly any other sovereign. He held the keys to global domination. He controlled the middle of the world, monopolized trade routes between the Mediterranean and India and China, and possessed ports on all the major seas and oceans of the Old World. His religious authority in the Muslim world was now unrivaled. And he had enormous resources of cash, land and manpower. Lording over so much, he fittingly earned the title “God’s Shadow on Earth.”AD

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

What does Islam say about climate change and climate action?

Many Muslim majority countries bear the brunt of climate change, but their cultural awareness of it and climate action are often staggeringly limited. 

A movement of “Islamic environmentalism” based on Islamic tradition – rather than imported “white saviour” environmentalism based on first-world political campaigns – can address both. And the post-COVID-19 lull in emissions is an opportunity to fast-track this.

It is a movement we sorely need. My home country Turkey, for example, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as temperatures are rising and rainfall is decreasing year on year, causing serious problems with water availability. In Bangladesh, it is estimated that by 2050 one in seven will be displaced by climate change, creating millions of climate refugees. In the Middle East, large areas are likely to become uninhabitable due to heatwaves likely to sweep over the region in the next few decades.

However, despite their vulnerability, many Muslim countries are contributing to the problem. Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world, is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and is doing little to curb emissions. Bangladesh and Pakistan are the two most polluted countries in the world, but have taken no serious measures to address pollution. Inaction in the Muslim world persists despite a declaration by Muslim countries in 2015 to play an active role in combatting climate change.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA