What Ramadan means to Muslims: 4 essential reads

1. Importance of Ramadan

file-20190506-103057-ss2d5gRamadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Each pillar denotes an obligation of living a good Muslim life. The others include reciting the Muslim profession of faith, daily prayer, giving alms to the poor and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Mohammad Hassan Khalil, associate professor of religious studies and director of the Muslim Studies Program at Michigan State University, explains that the Quran states that fasting was prescribed for Muslims so that they could be conscious of God. He writes,

“By abstaining from things that people tend to take for granted (such as water), it is believed, one may be moved to reflect on the purpose of life and grow closer to the creator and sustainer of all existence.”

He also notes that for many Muslims, fasting is a spiritual act that allows them to understand the condition of the poor and thus develop more empathy.

2. Halal food

During Ramadan, when breaking fast, Muslims will eat only foods that are permissible under Islamic law. The Arabic word for such foods, writes religion scholar Myriam Renaud, is “halal.”

Renaud explains that Islamic law draws on three religious sources to determine which foods are halal. These include “passages in the Quran, the sayings and customs of the Prophet Muhammad, which were written down by his followers and are called ‘Hadith’ and rulings by recognized religious scholars.”

In the United States, some states such as California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and Texas restrict the use of halal label for foods that meet Islamic religious requirements. Various Muslim organizations also oversee the production and certification of halal products, she writes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION 

At Boston Marathon bombing anniversary, local Muslims host blood drive

blood-drive_chloe_online-768x512BOSTON (RNS) – Six years after the deadly Boston Marathon bombing, a local mosque continues to host an annual blood drive in honor of those affected by the terror attack.

Monday’s 123rd running of the Boston Marathon marked the sixth anniversary of the attack, which left three people dead and more than 260 injured, as well as the first time the marathon was run on the exact anniversary of the bombing. At 2:49 p.m. — six years to the moment when the first bomb exploded at the finish line – the Boston Athletic Association held a moment of silence, and the bells at nearby Old South Church were rung.

Days after the race, as they have for six years, members of the Baitun Nasir Mosque in suburban Sharon, Massachusetts, collected more than 30 blood donations on Friday at Boston City Hall.

“(Our community) holds this special blood drive every year to honor those affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy, help humanity and to emphasize true Islam’s teaching regarding the sanctity of life,” organizer Nasir Rana said.

“We want to tell the people that the only blood Muslims shed is to help humanity,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

Study confirms Muslims have the highest life satisfaction

12117700-0-image-a-21_1554931243403It is believed that no barometer or measuring tool can be used to quantifthe bliss a person feels in any given moment in their life. However, a new study conducted by German psychologist, Dr Edinger-Schons, found that measuring life satisfaction is as close as you can get to quantifying happiness. He found that the overarching sense of ‘oneness’ is used to envisage the overall contentment in the life of a person.  

Over 67,000 were gathered to complete a survey and after dividing the respondents by religion, Muslims were found to feel the greatest sense of oneness, leading to a greater sense of well-being. [1] 

Furthermore, a professor at the University of Illinois created a scale for happiness, or the ‘satisfaction with life scale’ (SWLS).[1] It consisted of five questions in order to determine how satisfied a person is with their life. Each question had a ranking from one to seven, and according to this, the higher the score, the more satisfied you are with your life. 

Another survey in 2016 concluded that “highly religious” people are more likely to be ‘very happy’ in life.1 90% of these ‘very happy’ people were Christians; though, now the German psychologist has concluded that the idea of oneness is the common denominator that runs through people with a higher level of spirituality in their respective faiths. 

Over 67,000 non-students were surveyed by researchers at the University of Mannheim in Germany to determine how oneness affected life satisfaction across different religions. Due to the belief that they were connected to something larger than themselves, it was found that Muslims were most likely to be the ones with a higher life satisfaction over other faiths. Oneness as a personality marker can be used to distinguish between people who seek and make more meaningful connections with others, the world around them, and the almighty entity of God. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM ISLAM21c

 

Group highlights civil rights abuses against Muslims

An elementary school student who received threatening notes in her classroom. A congressional candidate who dealt with anti-Islam political flyers during her campaign. And a mother who was subjected to an invasive airport search.

Those and many other cases from 2018 are highlighted in a new report released Wednesday by the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the state’s largest Islamic advocacy organization.

The goal of the report is to educate the public about the abuses local Muslims are facing while also encouraging people to step forward if they’re dealing with similar issues, said Barbara Dougan, the group’s civil rights director.

“The perpetrators and haters are emboldened,” she said. “The level of aggression toward women is especially troubling. Muslim women who wear hijabs are shouldering the greatest burden of the physical violence and harassment.”

Among the prominent cases highlighted was one involving a fifth-grader at Hemenway Elementary School in Framingham who received two notes in her classroom storage bin — one calling her a terrorist and the other threatening her with death. The incident prompted an outpouring of support from across the country as some 500 people sent letters of encouragement to the young student as part of a campaign promoted by the council.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS

The world’s largest Islamic group wants Muslims to stop saying ‘infidel’

2019-3-8-kafirThe largest Islamic organization on the planet has a request for all Muslims.

Quit calling people kafir, an Arabic word for infidels or nonbelievers.

This proclamation was issued by Nahdlatul Ulama or NU, an Indonesian collective claiming more than 90 million adherents — from clerics and politicians to shopkeepers and farmers.

One of the group’s core tenets is promoting a more tolerant brand of Sunni Islam. Its leaders aim to uphold a secular state. They preach coexistence with Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Shia Muslims. And the word kafir, NU says, undermines that mission with “theological violence.”

“When someone calls you a kafir, that means you’re considered someone who is godless,” said Alex Arifianto, an Indonesian political scientist with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“The largest Muslim organization in the world is saying, ‘Look, we have to treat non-Muslims as equals.’”

Alex Arifianto, political scientist, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore

“Or you’re someone whose religion is considered inferior to the Islamic belief,” he said. “That’s why this is so significant. The largest Muslim organization in the world is saying, ‘Look, we have to treat non-Muslims as equals.’”

The group is hardly progressive by American or European standards — its leaders’ views on sex, family and piety are conservative — but NU does define itself in opposition to hyperorthodox Islam.

Its leaders believe their teachings are an antidote to fundamentalism, exemplified by the Wahhabism theology exported by Saudi Arabia.

In one of NU’s promotional films, a cleric intones that “genuine Islam … has been supplanted by a coarse, cruel and savage Islam. I am absolutely certain that our understanding of Islam is shared by the majority of Muslims worldwide.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM PUBLIC RADIO INTERNATIONAL 

How Islamism Drives Muslims to Convert

merlin_69030512_e89f91f9-c16f-4605-ae9a-89a6bcb6ee8b-superJumboThe antigovernment protests that erupted in Iran in the last days of 2017 showed that millions of Iranians are now disillusioned with the Islamic Republic. Moreover, there are signs that quite a few Iranians are now also disenchanted with Islam itself. Often silently and secretly, they are abandoning their faith. Some opt for other faiths, often Christianity.

This trend is being observed and reported, with understandable excitement, by Christian news sites. “Despite Regular Targeting and Imprisonment, Christianity in Iran Is Spreading,” the Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News reported recently. The Christian Broadcasting Network, which transmits globally from Virginia, even declared, “Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Republic of Iran than in any other country in the world.”

While a 2015 study by two researchers, Duane Alexander Miller of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and Patrick Johnstone of WEC International in Singapore, estimated Iranian converts to Christianity from Islam from 1960 to 2010 at 100,000, it is hard to know the exact number. But the trend seems strong enough to worry Iran’s religious establishment — and make it turn to a solution it knows well: oppression.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has reported that since 2010 more than 600 Christians in Iran have been arbitrarily detained. Iranian authorities have also raided services, threatened church members and imprisoned Christians, particularly evangelical Christian converts.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

The Real Midterm Elections Wave Wasn’t Blue—It Was Muslim

first-muslim-womenThe Muslims are no longer coming—they are here!

Well, in reality Muslims have been in America and contributing to it even before the nation was formed, since approximately 15 percent of the slaves from Africa were Muslim.

But now Muslim Americans are “here” in a whole new way as a record number won their elections last Tuesday. And ironically many of these candidates were inspired to run in response to the most openly anti-Muslim president our nation has ever seen, Donald Trump.

This “Muslim wave” was led by the first Muslim American women ever elected to Congress in our nation’s history: Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib.

Omar’s story is especially inspiring given that Trump would have banned her from the country if he was in office when she was trying to immigrate here because she’s from Somalia, one of the nations listed in Trump’s Muslim ban. Now Trump will have to deal with her as a new Democratic member of Congress.

Other big winners among Muslim candidates included Keith Ellison, who became the first Muslim ever to win statewide office with his victory as Minnesota’s attorney general. In North Carolina, we saw the first Muslim American ever elected to the state Senate with the victory of 32-year-old lawyer, Mujtaba Mohammed, who is Indian-American. And there were also numerous other Muslim Americans winning elections in local races, including five Muslim American women who were elected in California’s Bay Area, from City Council to Board of Education. As the Council on American Islamic Relations noted, all told a record 55 Muslims won election last week from federal to local offices.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DAILY BEAST