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A compelling multimedia report on life as a woman in Afghanistan.

First Person

Expressions of Muslim Identity


The voices in this episode are only a sample of the many thoughtful reflections we received in response to our exploration of the many, varying expressions of Muslim identity. We created a dynamic map that allows you to read each Muslim's essay and see the broader geographical context.

Selected Poems

Poetry by Adnan Onart

Read or listen to Adnan Onart's poem featured in this program, and enjoy three more — including:

» "Ramadan in Dunkin Donuts
» "Ribbon Time: The Moment"
» "Al Miraj"
» "Morning Prayer"

Selected Voices

Voices on the Radio
Ny'Kisha Pettiford
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Ny'Kisha Pettiford

"I walk a line daily between who Muslims are and what they are perceived to be."



» read her story


Reuben Jackson
Washington, D.C.
Reuben Jackson

"I honestly believe that Islam has made me a more patient, less angry man."



» read & listen | » download (mp3, 3:58)


About the Image

A young boy flies his kite on the Maldive Islands during Ramadan.

Share a Reflection

169Reflections

Reflections

I grew up in a catholic european country and became interested in Islam through marriage. To me Islam is an extension of christian belief, sort of like an "upgrade". It made everything that I questioned, e.a. Jesus (peace be upon him) being actually God, in the sense of the creator of the universe, fall into place. To me Islam is a protection, it tells me what to strive for and what to avoid. For example, not to overeat, have clean food, not carry a balance on credit cards. The movements of prayer are a daily exercise and one feels connected to the greater universe out there. Unfortunately, for many muslims it is a tradition they are born into and they do not grasp the deeper meaning of the religion. (The same is true for many christians). My advice to people coming into Islam always is:"Focus on the basics, the Quran and Sunnah, do not look around you what other people are doing."

What I find beautiful about Islam is many things: a direct contact between a believer and the One God unencumbered by clergy; the Quran's intense and repetitive emphasis on social justice and strong rights of family and kinship; simplicity and lack of formality of its prescribed ways of worship; the obligation of paying charity (zakat) based on not on your income but your accumulated wealth--which in turn encourages circulation of wealth; beauty of its prophetic traditions that serve as guiding lights in everyday life; its demonstrable commitment to racial equality that goes back a millennium and and half; its utter prohibition of excessive consumption and wasteful ways of living; and the depth of meaning, and the linguistic and literary treasures contained in the Quran.

I find my faith guiding my actions in almost every sphere of my life. Whether its in being a responsible parent and spouse, or trying to do justice to my work obligations, or being a part of community. Of course, it exhibits in practicing of the five pillars of Islam, namely, the profession of faith itself, the five daily prayers, charitable giving, Ramadan fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca.

I am truly concerned about the contemporary dominance of narrow and
exclusive interpretation of Islamic text and traditions over more universal and expansive understanding of the beauty of its message. Furthermore, the rise of consumer culture in the Muslim world that inhibits contemplation, is likely to further expand this gap by making religious thinking the sole property of the mullahs who tend to favor the more restrictive meaning of Islam.

In the end, I'd like to share one of my favorite verses from the Quran (Chapter 2, Verse 177)

2:177 It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing.

Being a Muslim is not that big issue to me. I prefer to live in a secular society where everyone is equal, have same rights and obligations. I don't want anyone to impose a way of life on me, I just want to choose whether or not to put hair scarf for instance. In my country, I can't go out without putting on my scarf, and I feel like a stupid woman who can't be herself, though she is highly educated. To live in such a conservative society is to kill the mere thinking to be an independant creature. I have been struggling all my life to prove myself in my country, I am an assistant professor and yet I can't live my life there, everyone has a full right to interfere in my life and to turn my life into waste.

I became a Sufi Muslim almost 6 years ago after following a hindu-christian religious path for more than 30 years. Being a Muslim to me means that I do my best to surrender to God and put God first before anything else. I listen carefully inside my heart and follow the path of peace, love, mercy, justice, and freedom. It is not like what you hear on the news, but it is the way of caring for all people and working for peace and understanding and it is the way of healing for the heart. It is a way of life that requires me to be in service to God every moment of the day and when I forget, to return to God and remember as quickly as I can. It is the most beautiful religion I have ever experienced because of the inner peace and mercy. It does not make separation between Christians and Jews and Muslims like you hear on the news. It honors all the prophets of all times and brings all the religions together. I hope that all the people of the world of all religions will learn the true message of Islam, which literally means peace and that people will understand the common message between their religions, so there can be peace. I pray the salat prayer 5 times a day, I read spiritual books and do spiritual practices 1-4 hours a day. These practices help me to feel God within my heart through out the day.

I had no idea I was a Muslim when I was young and growing up in Kuwait in the 1960's until one day when mom told me we do not have a tree because "we are Muslim and not Christian". I screamed but "Mai and Dina-our Iraqi Christian neighbors- have one and they have toys under the tree, its not fair" . A few months later Mai came to our house asking me to convert her to Islam because we were being giving money for Eid -Muslim holiday- and she was getting nothing. She begged me to recite the Shahadah-witness that there is no God but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God. I was six years and old and I still to this day do not understand why I insisted on not doing it. I just felt that it was wrong and some thing bad could happen to us kids if I did it. Its only after so many years later that I realized that Islam was not about repeating a sentence but was actually a way of life.

I was a semi practicing Muslim and knew a lot about the tenants and articles of the faith but this is about all the knowledge I had of Islam.

I was forced to learn and read about my faith a few years after moving to the USA in 1989. American curiosity and questions about my religion made me realize that Islam was not just about reciting verses from the Quran, fasting and praying. It had a much more intellectual depth that I had no idea it existed. I enjoyed approaching the text of the Quran from a "student's perspective rather than a worshiper. As a worshiper I was reciting a scared text but as a student, I was indulging my self in an exciting search for knowledge.

Living in the USA and being exposed to so many different Muslims from so many different countries and cultures made me realize that there are many faces to Islam.

What I have never imagined while growing up in Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan is that one day I will be asked to speak publicly to Americans in defense of the faith. So being a Muslim in America has simply meant for me to be waiting to answer the next e-mail circulating, which describes how the Christian God is more powerful or more gentler than the Muslim one. Or how an American Muslim can never be a good citizen because Muslims worship the moon God Allah. Or that we have to kill Christians and Jews. The more I received these e-mails the more I learnt about my faith and discovered that it also talks about Embryology and Geology, Geography and Astronomy but I never got a question about such topics. I have lectured to thousands of people and no one has ever asked me a question about science! As if all that Islam has given to humanity is a bunch of nut case terrorists. No questions about the first Cataract surgery performed in the world by a Muslim. Or how Muslims borrowed the concept of Zero from India and gave it to the rest of world. The list is too long here to numerate.

To be an American Muslim means watching my President (former) equating my faith with fascism because of the behavior of a very few people. Yet no where in my lectures I equate Christianity with the atrocities committed by Hitler and Mussolini. To be a Muslim means that I have to watch on TV the so called experts, who have never spoke to a Muslim, talk about my faith. It means to pay for Cable news channels that will almost never give a chance to any of us American Muslims to be the experts on TV. Being Muslim means going to the book store and see endless titles like Why they hate and What is wrong with Islam.

However, as a female Muslim, nothing irritates me more than men and women asking me about my rights in Islam and why some cannot drive and why do I have to cover my hair. Being a female Muslim lecturer means that I will never get a question from the audience on how they can help the homeless American women who live in the woods and my mosque feeds every month. Or about the American woman in my county who could not hide from her abusive husband in our local shelter because it was over flowing with women and children or being asked about Palestinian pregnant women dying at check points or the Bosnian women who were rapped to change demographics in the Balkans.

But being a Muslim in America makes me a better Muslim. A more hopeful one. I have had hundreds of amazing messages of love and support. I have had Americans shake my hands with tears in their eyes asking me to speak more. Just this Saturday morning, I was in the company of a very intellectual group of retired men and women (oldest was 95) who are still wanting to learn about Islam from a Muslim, and for this I am for ever grateful to be a Muslim in America.

To me, Islam is what you make of it. Being Muslim means I have traditions that I choose to follow in my life that makes me feel good and unique such as the purpose of prayers, the fasting, believing that there is a superior being out there, God, and that God is as powerful as kind, that no human can speak on His or Her behalf.

I find beautiful about Islam is that it offers a wide spectrum of interpretation in a way that the bottom line to me is that we must get along and accept one another regardless which end of the spectrum a Muslim may find himself or herself. It is about finding your comfort zone and accepting it is ok for others to be in those other zones and that is the biggest challenge any one person faces, to accept others as they are.

Expressing Islam in my daily life shows at home and office from the way I deal with people to decorating. I like Islamic decoration and people asks questions about it. I translate for Iraqi refugees where I work, and that is how people found out I am a Muslim.

I hope that Muslims eliminate Islamic extremism by making tough choices such as going after terrorists wherever they are and by speaking against extremism. My concern will always be women's rights. I hope someday more Muslim women become judges, lawyers, interpret the Quran by a woman and hopefully stop once for all honor killings and domestic violence.

The future is better if Muslims let the past stay in the past and start moving forward in thinking and in the way they express themselves. I hope hate for the Jews is eliminated in Arab's culture for generations to come and that violence against women stops being shown on Arab television.

My question that I have is when Muslims will start really talking about the rights of women vs. the rights of men in Islam. To this day I can't understand why Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslim men in today's civilization where Muslims are not running the risk of being exterminated. I believe Muslim women are well capable of raising Muslim children regardless of what husband she chooses. It goes both ways.

What is it?

The Mosquers is a Muslim video contest that encourages young Muslims in Edmonton (and area) to grab a camera and tell their story about life in Canada.

Why?

1. To humanize Muslims and dispel commonly held stereotypes and misconceptions.

2. To encourage young Edmonton Muslims to be creative and showcase this creativity.

About:

j

As an organization whose aim is to eliminate racism, The Northern Alberta Alliance on Race Relations approached a few Muslim youth to work together and develop a creative tool to help decrease common misunderstandings and stereotypes about Muslims. The Mosquers was created to encourage young Muslims to tell their story about how it feels to be a Muslim living in Canada. The Mosquers is an opportunity for Muslims to showcase their creative side, while at the same time dispel commonly held misconceptions and stereotypes about Muslims.

Greetings,

What follows is a press release just submitted last week by my institution (Fuller Seminary). I am copying it myself below for you. I would certainly be willing to be interviewed or discuss these groundbreaking findings with you. I will be unavailable from July 1 - 10, but otherwise, I would be very willing to discuss this if you have interest. Since I did not write this press release, I do not have permission to let you publish it. If you do wish to do so, I am quite sure I could get permission.
Sincerely,
Jeff Bjorck, Ph.D.
jbjorck@fuller.edu
===============================

“Appeal of Moral Values” Key Factor for U.S. Women Who Convert to Islam

While it is commonly presumed that women in the United States who choose to become Muslims typically do so in order to marry a Muslim spouse, recent research contradicts this assumption. “Marriage was not irrelevant, but it was ranked as one of the least important among nine reasons that were assessed,” says Jeffrey P. Bjorck, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary’s Graduate School of Psychology and study co-author with his former student, Audrey Maslim, Ph.D. The study was just published in the American Psychological Association’s new journal, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, Vol. 1 (Issue 2), pp. 97-111.

Findings were based on a survey linked to an online magazine web site targeting North American Muslim women. Among the 304 women converts to Islam who responded, 93 percent cited the appeal of Muslim moral values in contrast to secular values as a very important reason for their conversion, whereas 79 percent cited dissatisfaction with a former faith (which typically was Christianity). “Given that the vast majority of adults who grew up in the United States were exposed to Christianity,” noted Bjorck, “this latter finding is not surprising.”

What might be surprising to some is that 75 percent cited obtaining an enhanced sense of identity and that 63 percent cited an appreciation of Islam’s cultural views regarding gender roles and ethnic diversity. Bjorck stated, “Islam is often viewed as oppressive to women by those outside the faith, but the women in our sample clearly disagreed. In addition, some researchers have noted that Muslim women view western women’s attire, for example, as encouraging their sexual objectification by men, prompting the question, ‘Which culture respects women more?’ Clearly, this is a complex issue.”

Twenty percent of women did note that a potential marriage influenced their decision, but these women also cited the importance of Muslim values and other belief-related reasons. As such, this study’s findings suggest that, for women in the U.S., the choice to become Muslim is a serious decision seen more as an end in itself and less as a merely pragmatic means to the end of a goal like marriage.

Respondents were well educated, with an average of 3 or 4 years of college, and they were obviously internet-savvy. As such, findings might not generalize to women with less education or those without computer access. “Still,” remarks Bjorck, “this is significant preliminary study, and it suggests that choosing Islam for these women is an important, thoughtful decision based on introspection and genuine commitment to their faith.”

being a muslim ...
to me Islam is not just a religion .. it is the religion that i personally hold dear.. it is not just identity it is also my way of life.. i can't imagine my self being anything other than muslim..

with all these emotions, no wonder i feel hurt whenever we are characterized as terrorists, as bohemians, and non humane "creatures"..
can you please tell me.. under what right do those people have in insulting us.. we are humans.. we are people.. we have emotions ... enough... please tell them to shut up.. tell them to leave us alone..

For me, my Muslim identity was always tied to my community. My late father, Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, a professor of sociology for 38 years, was one of the original 13 founding members of the Muslim Students' Association of the US & Canada in 1963. He later served as the first President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), in 1982, currently the largest main-stream Muslim organization in North America. The ISNA Annual Convention, this year being held during the July 4th weekend in Washington D.C., has become the single largest gathering of Muslims anywhere in the western hempisphere.

Not only did my father share stories of his travels across the country in his 1957 Buick during the 1960's, going from city to city looking for Muslims, but I also had the opportunity to visit many Muslim communities with him and my mother around the US and Canada. Together, we met, ate, and prayed with Muslim community leaders of various ethnic backgrounds, including generations of African American leaders, Indian/Pakistani, Arab, Bosnian, South East Asian and even caucasian "reverts" or non-Muslims who had converted to Islam and taken leadership roles. I have gotten to know many of our community's scholars and now aging leaders, who are more like "uncles" to me than community leaders commanding respect.

I had a front row seat in watching the formation, growth and progression of the American Muslim community in all of its shapes and forms, from the most liberal/progressive to the most ultra-orthodox. I also had a front row seat in watching the American Muslim community's setbacks, as I stood beside my father watching the horrible events of 9/11 on our television, the day after I celebrated passing the Florida Bar and obtaining my law license. I quickly realized that our American Muslim community would be soon under siege from all sides. My father, I and many other American Muslims have worked extra hard to try and rebuild our community's reputation and good name, and with the help of many other faith communities, have made significant progress, despite the daunting challenges that we still face.

Now I myself have entered the national leadership as a member of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Society of North America, following in my father's footsteps, so-to-speak. I have also taken an active role in local and national politics. I hope to share my future experiences in the growth of the American Muslim community with my wife and [so far two] children.

While I am certainly no scholar of Islam, I am an activist, dedicated to my local, national Muslim and general American community, committed to making our role as American Muslims one that provides a positive and beneficial contribution to our collective American society.

Being Muslim means practicing a faith provides guidance and structure to life; provides me with some insight and new perspectives on areas of life that I may or may not have experienced before. As an African-American professional who was born Muslim, it has provided me with an sense of confidence and distance from the burden of racism in the society I live in today. It has allowed my family to self-reflect and reach for goals thought to be unattainable and kept our family together.

Beautiful about Islam: It's common sense, it's practicality, and it's ability to help people see the good of where they come from and acknoweldgement that just because of your culture, your wealth, or your tragedies one is no better or worse--it's just circumstance, something you have to get through. While peace can come in this life, there is an afterlife to believe in that has more justice and peace than is imaginable on this Earth.

Expression in daily life: I pray five times a day, make sure that I read and understand the Qu'ran daily, always make sure that I am on good terms with my parents and other family members, and don't settle for 'just okay' with regards to my patients at work.

Hopes, questions, concerns: While the majority of the Muslims in the US are African-American--a large percentage native born Muslims, the 'power structure' in many of the mosques and organizations has been left in the hands of those who are first or second generation immigrants to the US (mainly of Indo-Pakistani origin or Arab). This has lead to a 'definition' of Islam in the US as that which reflects their cultural heritage, although we live in the US. As a result, many African-Americans have taken on Indo-Pakistani or Arab cultural norms with regards to what Islam is. Ironically, as I have learned more and more about Islam, it has become very clear that Islam merely takes what is good about one's culture and promotes and that which is not positive or harms someone's rights is discouraged. Meaning, one will see Islam practiced in many different ways all over the world, based on the culture that one lives in. My husband is from Senegal and this has really been illustrated to me as I have met his family.

This year has been a pivotal one for me in many ways, especially with respect to my faith. In September, I started a teaching job at Curie Metro, a Chicago Public School. I was teaching environmental science to grades 9 through 12. This was my first year teaching and admittedly I made some rookie mistakes. My lesson plans were sometimes disorganized and sometimes I came to school a few minutes late. But I was quite surprised, when after only a month of teaching, I was let go. My boss said it was mainly because I didn’t have the proper certification, but when I pressed her, she said that my teaching performance was also a factor. I was out of work for a couple months and it was a really trying time. I signed up to substitute-teach and from time to time, I was called to do that. I started to wonder if I really wanted to keep teaching. In March, I got an interview at Islamic Foundation School (IFS), a private school, for a job as a high school biology and chemistry teacher. I had been hesitant to apply at IFS because my teaching experience had been in public schools. I was afraid that a private school might be more restrictive in curriculum. Also, I had volunteered at a summer camp at IFS and found the group to be very difficult to manage. But when I started working at IFS, I completely changed my mind about the place. The students were respectful and disciplined. The staff was very collegial and helped me get started. I felt very comfortable in the environment because for the first time, being a Pakistani Muslim did not make me a minority. Also, as a teacher, I found I had more freedom to create original lessons and assessments than I had had at Curie. There were some challenges as well. I disliked the textbooks I had to use and I wanted a bigger budget for labs. However, I found the positive aspects to be much more significant than the negative ones. Working in an Islamic environment has deepened my faith in Allah and my faith in Muslims. I think I have more faith in Allah now because my schedule allowed time for prayer and for reflection on the Quran. I have more faith in Muslims now because I have seen evidence that they can actually run organizations in an effective manner.

My name is Omar Aref, I am a Physician in Florida, The bigest highlight in my life in the United states happened on the early hours of 9/11/2001. I was working in NY city and driving to work, while stoped ina stop light, Under the WTC, the events of that day started to unfold, and I had first hand accounts of that day more than most people. Later in the same day I was accused to be responsible for it-being Muslim- and had to defend my cread and my coummunity ever since.

I was born to a Muslim family and lived in a Muslim country most of my life. But I had the privilege of living in England and the US for almost 10 years during the prime years of my life, my twenties.

During the first four years living away from home in England, I strayed away from Islam in many ways. I womanized, skipped my daily prayers, smoked, skipped fasting in Ramadan and spent endless nights from one bar to another and from one nightclub to another.

Superficially, it was fun, it was cool and it was everything. But deep inside I was not happy and I kept feeling that something was terribly wrong. It felt like there was a big gaping hole was permanently present inside my heart, my soul, my very self.

It was funny, because one of my girlfriends who stayed with me the longest time had come to know that when I am feeling really bad and down, that the best medicine was to pray. She would say "why don't do some prayers, it will make you feel good again".

After a short period of self-reflection and assessment, I knew that I was fooling my self. This is not the life I was meant to live. So, I went back to my regular five-times-a-day prayers, I gave up sex (toughest part :) ), I did my Ramadan fasting and read Quran on regular basis. I felt alive again. The gaping hole fully sealed.

It was amazing. It is true what say about not appreciating something until you lose it. I am happy that I did not lose myself as a good Muslim permanently.

That was 14 years ago and to this day, I have been living my life according to the teachings of Islam to the tiniest details. I work, vacation, eat, drink, socialize, raise my kids, invest my money, speak, write, read and just enjoy life to its fullest according to the teachings of Islam. I consider my self a very happy and content family man.

To me Islam is not just a system of believe nor is it just performing acts of worship. It is both and more. It is a way of life in every single detail. From the order of steps you take to walk into the bathroom (left foot first) to the way you invest your life savings.

For example, when I teach my kids not to litter or to be conscious of the environment, I do so with a connection to the teachings of Islam. When I tell them not to use bad language or not to speak badly of other people, I don't only tell them it is bad manners or rude or anti-social. I tell them it's against the teachings of Islam and Allah does not like it. This in my opinion instills these positive traits in them permanently and I hope it will stay with them all of thier lives even when being environmentally friendly is no longer the fad or even when thier parents are not watching what kind of languange they use with thier friends when away from home.

Finally, I would like to point out something that I find very important and wish to share with you. This is something that I discuss with my friends on regular basis and I know that all of them feel the same way (note: most of my friends are Western educated professionals, some of whom are universtiy professors). It really saddens us greatly when we see influential countries and international organization of the West and the East try to push for a so-called "Moderate Islam" and mistakingly end up pushing for Secularism which in our opinion is the Anti-Islam in its purest forms.

If only they would treat the issue in greater depth and genuinely understand Islam and Muslims instead of the superficiality with which it is usually treated, life would be much peacful and tranquil in this tumultuous world of ours.

qil

I am an Muslim American of Jamaican descent. I am a woman who works in corporate America and yet keeps true to my faith and its laws. I walk a line daily between who Muslims are and what they are perceived to be.

I am very proud to be a Muslim and very proud to be a capable woman. I am by no means oppressed and wear my scarf with pride. I make spreading the truth about Islam (by a positive example) as much a part of my life as breathing. The average Muslim American means no harm to their fellow citizens and it is our responsibility to thwart the wrong stereotypes that others have made prevalent.

In my effort to spread the truth and protect the youth from incorrect dogma I teach about Islam to children and lead my own Girl Scout troop. Together we work to showcase ourselves and our positive contribution to American society.

When I am driving, I tend to jumble all the noises in the car as one big mixture of sound. It is almost music to my ears. There is someone talking non-stop, another snoring, one crying and one screaming for no apparent reason. Since I can not keep everyone at peace, I just let them be and focus on the road instead. This is a typical afternoon for me. It may seem as if I am talking about a car full of rowdy, uncontrollable children. However, only two of them are my kids; the other two are my parents.
I am proud to say that I am part of a “sandwich” generation. I am taking care of my kids and parents at the same time. I have a preschooler and a toddler, and my retired parents are in their mid to late sixties. My father has been quite sick for some time now, and my mother needs a good amount of help taking care of him. She has plenty of health issues herself. They live on their own about a half hour south of me. I am there almost every other day running errands for them, taking them on outings, helping them around the house, and just giving them company. My kids are with me the whole time. I do not mind it at all. I consider myself truly blessed. I have been given the opportunity to take care of my parents after all they have done for me. In my faith, parents are highly regarded; we have to honor and respect them unreservedly and treat them with utter kindness.
It can be hard sometimes to balance my time and energy between my kids and my parents. My mom tries to help me out with my kids as much as she can, but most of her time goes to assisting my dad. He needs help showering, getting dressed, walking, and doing simple tasks. Plus, the man absolutely loves food, so she is constantly cooking for him throughout the day. Unfortunately, I can not be much help in that department, because he only prefers my mom’s cooking. Nevertheless, it is this exact selflessness of my mother’s that inspires me to do more for them.
My kids have definitely gotten used to this lifestyle. They enjoy spending time with their grandparents, and they learn so much from them. In the same way, being around the kids keeps my parents content, energized, and distracted from their health issues. For example, my dad can not run around with the kids, so instead he tells stories to them, loves to tickle them, and plays simple games with them. Their favorite game is when he asks for a hug, he pretends to trap them, so the kids have to find a way out of the hug. Another example is if my daughter complains of her legs hurting due to restless leg syndrome, my mom forgets all about her arthritis and massages her granddaughter’s legs for her.
These types of moments are what give me purpose in my daily life. I can honestly say though that I did not learn to value my parents until I became a parent myself. I hope one day my kids will be able to take care of me in my old age as well. They will only learn that by example. It is never too early to instill in my kids these types of family values, which are a huge part of my religion. It is one of the things I find so beautiful about Islam. Trying to be a good person, keeping good relations, and treating people with kindness is what being a Muslim means to me.

being muslim and a lesbian has not been a challenge for me as most people would have assumed. my faith in allah as all encompassing being keeps me strong, knowing that i am not a seperate entity but a wave in his creation gives me peace and joy. my family has disowned me for the sole reason that i am a lesbian and therefore a sinner. i forgive them for sinning by judging me and deciding where i belong in the afterlife, considering me as separate from the One. I pray for them even though they said they did't want my prayers and didn't believe my prayers will be answered. I pray that they can see the beauty in the creation and the perfection of it all.

I am not a Muslim, but I am the managing editor for WFIU's (a NPR member station) Muslim Voices podcast. Our mission is to promote a greater understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim cultures. Speaking of Faith provides us with wonderful insight and is a valuable resource for our project. We'll stay tuned! Best wishes, Megan Meyer

I grew up Seventh Day Adventist. For me cultural diversity, debate and discipline were a big part of my Faith identity. I started to have some questions about Christianity theologically early in life. I vividly remember asking my Pastor pointed questions about Christianity and Ellen White before I decided to get baptized.

I didn't believe. I believed in God, that much I knew, but I wasn't big on this "Seventh Day Adventist thing". I wanted to watch college football on Saturdays, not go to church.

In any case, I had my Obediah moments in college and had been looking into different faith paths as I my questions took me further away from the church. I took some courses on religion and religious history. I read a few books like "GOD", many books on African spirituality and culture like 2000 seasons, etc.

In the end I decided that I needed a God that was familiar in a way to me. Islam seemed to be the liberal but disciplined, familiar yet different and had piqued my interest in a post 9/11 world.

After joining a few Muslim online communities with people my age and engaging in dialogue about Islam, I finally decided to take the train to a local Mosque and convert.

I converted in 2003. I don't practice now. I still believe in Islam in my heart, but after my younger brother died in an accident nearly two years ago and now that my older and last brother is dying right now, I just have the SPIRITUAL strength to believe, if that makes any sense.

You talked about the inability to really FEEL on the piece about the soul during depression. I just feel empty and while salat makes me feel better, it also feels like a betrayal somehow. Even though I don't really BELIEVE this, there is a sentiment deep in my being that says nearly aloud: "what good is God if God can't bring my brother back?"

I talked about Religion, Depression, Islam and achievement with Award winning Author Melody Moezzi. She's an NPR and Huffington Post contributor. You might want to talk to her about that aspect of Islam- of healing. Here's a link to our conversation and her site:

http://abenghorn.podOmatic.com/enclosure/2009-01-24T16_16_41-08_00.mp3
www.melodymoezzi.com

I am an American Muslim originally from Palestine. I work hard as a Muslim to shed light on the plight of Christian Palestinians who are often overlooked. As a founder and member of several interfaith organizations here in DC, including Washington Interfaith Alliance for Peace, Love Thy Neighbor and The AD Hoc Committee for Bethlehem, I often speak at local churches and colleges to highlight the tremendous hardships the Christians of Palestine face- I speak as a Muslim who understands that the well being Christian Palestinians and the physical presence of Christians in the Holy Land is critical to Islam and Palestinians.
I base this on my understanding of my faith and the historical accounts of well noted Muslim leaders who maintained deference and respect to both the Jewish and Christian presence in Palestine.
I take heart in the story of the Second Muslim Khalefa Omar bin Al-Khatab whose respect for Christianity and the Christian belief in Palestine was demonstrated and documented when he refused to pray at the Church of Sepulcher for fear that future Muslims will turn it into a church. As he had predicted Masjid Omar today stands next to the Sepulcher where Omar made his prescribed Maghreb prayed. Omar Bin al-Khatab also was the first among many Muslim leaders who historically were the only leaders of faith who allowed the return of Jews to Jerusalem.
For more than 1400 years Muslims have been the custodians of the two most important holy sites in Palestine- the Sepulcher church and the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The same two families daily open the doors of both churches for the Christian faithful according to to the same agreement devised by Omar Bin al-Khatab and Jerusalem Patriarch Sophronious. This agreement has been enshrined by Ottoman "Status Quo" treaty in 1859 and later ratified by the Berlin agreement.
My faith is central to all that I do- Islam is the youngest of the three Abrahamic faiths, and as such is respectful of both Christian and Jewish faithful.

My faith in Islam fills my heart with positivism and strength that I use in good times and hard times. Islam drives me to want to make a difference, to help the venerable and to strive for a better world.

For me being a Muslim comes with a responsibility to think at every step, every action, and every reaction, how I will affect the world around me, the people who reside in that world and my own spirituality and development as a person.

Being a “Muslim” should not only be associated to individuals who believe in Islam. Being a Muslim is one who submits themselves to Allah (the Arabic word for God used by individuals in the Arabic speaking world, whether their faith is Islam, Christianity, Judaism or otherwise). This is just one of the misconceptions surrounding Islam.

I have always seen Islam as a ground breaking faith; there are parts of the Quran which describe facts that are being proved by scientists today. Islam is a faith that pushes us to increase our knowledge and drives us to become better.

The drive for knowledge is so important in Islam it dispels ignorance, hate and archaic attitudes that cause injustice. From a young age Islam made me open my mind and heart to everyone, whether they belonged to the faith or not. To respect yourself and your faith you must strive to understand and respect others.

It scares me that Islam is portrayed so negatively, mainly due to the hard lined politicised Islamists who I believe to have lost the true essence of Islam. It is a faith that should grow with every bit of knowledge we accumulate but there are so many individuals who use the “name” of Islam to push their own agendas of power, inequality towards women and create general anarchy. It concerns me when this is the majority of what the media portrays, and individuals who believe in Islam, are stereotyped.

In my life I am blessed to have friends and family from all over the world and who have differing beliefs. But it is my faith in Islam and the knowledge my faith has given me that has enabled me to be so blessed.

To Whom It May Concern: I am writing on behalf of Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, professor at Yale University and associate research scientist at the Yale Child Study Center. She is currently conducting a study entitled, Mann Ana/Who Am I? Understanding identity formation of Arab Muslim children growing up in the US. This study involves surveying Arab Muslim children, ages of 10 to 14, and their parents (MA, CT, NY, and NJ) in order to gain a better understanding of the issues this population has faced, faces, with respect to issues of identity formation and discrimination, post 9/11. The is a ground breaking study in that it is the first to explore these issues with Arab Muslim children and youth of this age group. The project is about to go into full swing; a website will be launched sometime in July 2009(mannana.yale.edu; whoami.yale.edu) to inform and recruit participants to the study. A publicity campaign is planned to help spread the word of the opportunity for participation in these communities. This website will feature videos, team member audio clips (who they are and why they joined the Mann Ana team), along with an online recruitment form, study description and invitation to participate. Dr. Britto has authored and co-authored papers on these topics that you may find of interest. If you are interested in reading them, please let me know how I may send you the pdf versions. This population is a sensitive one and as Yale's Muslim Chaplain, Omer Bajwa says, it is time to take down the walls of misconception and to build bridges. Dr. Britto will share the outcome of this study with educators and policy makers in the US with the intent to help foster understanding and healthy change. We love your site and follow it regularly. Sincerely, N. Shemrah Fallon Project Coordinator Mann Ana/Who am I? nancy.fallon@yale.edu 203-737-2709

Note: I selected 'no' re permission to share this information publicly as we would rather wait until the Mann Ana website is launched, unless you feel otherwise.

I thank God everyday for being born Muslim. My faith is something that I guard zealously and cherish. To me being a Muslim means leading a life filled with obedience and service to my parents, love and caring towards my family, friends and neighbors. It encourages me to appreciate all the good and pure things that Allah has blessed me with,and thank Him every waking moment for His infinite mercies. It makes it easy for me to avoid harmful situations,since Islam forbids drinking,gambling,dressing immodestly,living a life of waste and extravagance,and indulging in gossip. The Holy Quran warns me that that I will be accountable for my every action, for every wilfullly broken promise, for any kind of vain talk, thus inculcating humility and honesty. I have lived in this country for 27 years now and have discovered the beauty of my faith here. Being an observant Muslim I dress out of choice in the traditional Abaya ( the long outer garment)and wear a hijab,(the head scarf). Whenever I go out in public, I receive the utmost respect and courtesy. Even in the sweltering heat of Dallas, no one thinks I am crazy for dressing the way I do.
A couple of days ago I read and heard about the President of France wanting to ban Muslim women from wearing the "burqa", because he sees it as a symbol of slavery and an insult to the woman's freedom. He could not be more wrong. Why would my freedom be impaired because I choose to dress modestly?
The images of violence from the Middle East, the tendency to identify terrorists as Islamic and the general negative tone of the media when it comes to Muslims, are a cause for concern. Yet, the numbers show that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world - so I know we must be doing something right.

The best way to share my story is to attach my poem, Morning Prayer, a poem I wrote as I was coming out of a deep depression. Morning Prayer has been included in my book The Passport You Asked For, published by The Aeolos Presss, together with Kenneth Rosen’s Cyprus’ Bad Period.

Below is the text; but please look at the PDF attachment to see the proper formatting of the poem.

Morning Prayer

In a poor Istanbul neighborhood,
At the ground floor of our house,
My great-grandmother says:
It is time for morning prayer.

If you pray, she says, pure as a child,
From this corner of the room,
An angel will appear.

I am five years old closing my eyes.
Allahü Ekber.

Essallamü alleyküm ve rahmetullah.
I am fifty opening my eyes.

In Boston, Massachusetts,
In a not so poor neighborhood
At the top floor of our house
Praying my morning prayer.

From that corner of the room,
My great-grandmother appears.

Adnan Adam Onart
Boston MA, 1997

I am an American Muslim. When I took my citizenship oath, I asked myself: are the American ideals contradictory to my belief? I think not. In fact, Islam liberates me from all false gods, as America – in principle – grants people life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The founding fathers said that these rights are not gifts from government but from the creator himself. So, I am an American who believes in god, the one god, the creator (the same one the founding fathers refer to) and sustainer of life, the most compassionate and merciful. When the question involves sin and sinners, mercy is Allah’s overriding character. America is my home, and the home of my two children. They also believe Allah is the creator, the one and only god (Quran:112-1). Mohammad, Jesus and Abraham are his messengers, none of whom claimed to be god, but all of whom had revelations from god. In my life, as well as other Muslim’s lives, Allah is most visible in the universe because his presence is overwhelming and cannot be denied. I see Allah in a baby’s birth, in an elderly passing away, surrounded by family, in acts of human kindness that come with suffering from war disease and poverty, in a school of fish so harmonious, in a flock of birds so perfectly flying in tandem (Quran: 67-19) and changing directions; both the school of fish and the flock of birds look like beautiful, well rehearsed ballet dancers. But Allah is the most invisible as well. That is, despite his overwhelming presence, you cannot contain him in a laboratory of science; you cannot talk to him or see him directly. Allah is everywhere, yet you cannot pinpoint him. But wherever you turn, there is the face of Allah (Quran: 2-142) God has sent us many messages through selected human beings: Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad and thousands of others the Quran did not reveal their names and stories. God’s words can be found in the scriptures and also seen and heard in cloud formations, ocean waves and mountain summits all over the universe around us. When I watch Hollywood productions about Jesus and Moses, I am reminded that Allah rescued Moses and the Israelites and freed them from bondage in Egypt, away from the tyranny of the Pharaoh. Allah saved Jesus from the crucifix. But many followers of Jesus were tortured and crucified for decades after Jesus left the earth. He will return to remind us once more of the fundamentals he himself once taught: peace, love and forgiveness. I grew up with the Quran. My father read it to me when I was little. I know it relatively well, but it may be difficult to read for some because they try, like any other book, to read it in a day or a week or two. That does not work. The Quran is a book of universal signs (Arabic: Ayat), signals, and treasures of wisdom. Read a paragraph or two every day. The Quran was revealed over 23 years of Mohammad’s life, because it answered questions about life as it happens in the Arabian desert, day after day, little by little. For twenty three years, the Quran provided a context for the passages of a book that would be read by billions for centuries. It would not be easy to comprehend, to read in just a few days. It is a book that takes a serious look at life and history. Even though Islam grants us freedom of choice and urges us to think for ourselves, it is a very specific book about what to do in important matters that will remain critical in human history, among them government, war, race and gender relations, banking, and poverty. I give my friends copies of the Quran, but tell them to pace themselves while reading it. I tell them that the Quran was revealed, in Arabic, to Mohammad by the angel Gabriel. English and other translations will suffice but they are just that: somebody’s translations. Some are better than others but none capture the beauty and the eloquence of the original Arabic text. That is partially why all Muslims read their prayers in Arabic, although only 10 or 15% are Arabic-speakers. We do not want to lose the Arabic text over the hundreds of years and multiple generations of translations. When I got married, my wife introduced me to camping. Camping near the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, or lake Champlain in Vermont was when I began to understand, for the first time, many of the universal signs in the Quran I thought I knew. There are chapters and paragraphs on fish in the ocean, bird formations, ant colonies, beehives and spider webs. The Quran is a substantial book. It mentions about everything in life, from men and women, marriage and divorce to business and trade, poverty and wealth. The Quran also talks about government and people, tyranny and oppression, leadership and democracy (Shura-chapter 42). As a Muslim, I know the history of Islam. However there are people in my life I consider to be significant: Khadija: Mohammad’s first wife and the woman he loved the most. If she lived with us today, she would be called progressive. She had her own successful large scale export-import business. She hired Mohammad, and then she – the boss - proposed to him. So much for the stereotypical submissive Arab woman! Mohammad was devastated when she died and married Aisha only after Khadija’s death. Mohammad never forgot Khadija for the rest of his life to the extent that Aisha expressed jealousy of her. Aisha was Jealous of a dead woman because Mohammad never stopped talking about her. Aisha is another outstanding character. She was a legal authority with recognized scholarship to the extent that Mohammad ordered his friends to study with her. She led a political rebellion after his death against the established authority, or Khalifa. In a well-documented rebellion, Aisha led the rebels into the seat of government in Iraq. Ali, the fourth caliph, could not silence her. Both opponents and their supporters respected her so much that they called her “our mother Aisha- the mother of the believers. I think the educated elite in the west should begin looking beyond the Hijab’s false symbolism that they created. The intellectuals and the media have manufactured this stereotype of millions of Muslim women being forced into it, when the reality is that Hijab is a sign of dignity, respect and expression of how Islam holds women in high regard. Hundreds of millions of Muslim women choose Hijab when they go out each morning, and in many cases, against the will of their husbands and the government. Another great inspiration in my life comes from Hussein, the grandson of Mohammad. He taught us something about courage, nobility, and selflessness when one stands up to tyranny. He answered the call to lead when people asked him to take a stand. He was killed in a brutal massacre by the illegitimate government along with his family – the women, kids all witnessing his murder. His place in Islam, especially in Shia Islam, is very much comparable to the place of Jesus in Christianity: The ultimate sacrifice, the principled and noble choices, taking a stand against the powerful establishment, making a sacrifice the world will forever remember. Hussein still inspires passion for justice, charisma and determination that is rare in human history. Islam liberates us from many false gods: people in power, material possessions, power, sex, and greed. Happiness comes from being with god, being in synch with the universe: the mercy and the beauty. But Islam is not passive and should not be confined to mosques. Muslims are called upon to take a stand for the oppressed, the weak and the poor, not to accept oppression or tyranny or injustice they are told to fight for their rights. Every legitimate act in support of social justice is considered worship. Every word you say to defend the weak, the poor and the oppressed is jihad. Jihad is a fundamental principle – a concept so demonized by well-intended and ill-intended people in today’s world. My father took me to Sufi circles of meditation in Cairo. They are magical, mysterious, and mystical. Sufi Islam is the spiritual, mystical face of Islam. You love Allah and the universe, and serve people, humbly and selflessly. Sufis saw the world as a magnificent art exhibit. The best love poems were written by Sufis. Beautiful music, songs, spiritual dances still take place in India and Pakistan. Sufis practiced meditation and love. They traveled to see the world and serve others in need. In the US, I miss that aspect of Islam. I think people in the US are hungry for spiritualism after being bombarded with materialistic messages for a long time. Islam commands me to be gentle with women. Taliban and the Media have partnered together to persuade the world otherwise. Mohammad said that he best among us are those most gentle with their women. When Aisha was asked how this man behaved at home, she said he was doing everything she did in the house - cooking and cleaning and taking care of children. Mohammad died in her lap. Her narration of that moment is truly moving. I worry about the world. I worry about Muslims. Many of them are so emotional, so easily led, so uneducated, that their leaders take advantage of them and exploit them. Islam is at a very low point in its 1500-year history, suffering from all kinds of political, social and economic ills- tyranny, oppression torture, human rights abuse, and abuse towards women, racism and anti-Semitism. All exist in Muslim societies. But we cannot forget that they exist everywhere as well, in some places more than others. What bothers me most is that Islam is misunderstood by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Thank you, for giving me the opportunity to communicate what I know and hold dearly about my faith.

I was an exchange student in Berwyn, IL on 1993-1994. My host Mom is a minister at a local church there, while I am a muslim. This is the first time when I truly learned about understanding differences.

Being a Muslim to me is like anyone else being whatever they are: Christians, Hindus, atheists. It's a part of our identity and it is what we believe in. As we are growing up, there are times when we question about our identity, so was I questioning about my faith. I am not saying that I am a devoted muslim, but yes, it is soemthing that I believe in.

Muslim world (if you want to call it) is not complex at all. It is a part of identity that connects us with Allah, as God. It is people's cultures that make things complicated and complex. I strongly dissagree to generalize all muslims. People generalize Iranians, Palestinians, poeple of Aghanistan as Muslims, while not all of them are muslims. People should not see other people only from what religion they follow. For instance, we see Americans as Americans, not Christians. We see Europeans as Europenas, not necessarily as Christians. That is why, I think it is ridiculous if Americans wants to embrace the muslim world. Which muslims? Indonesian? Egyptian? Arabian? Don't you have muslims also in your country and don't you want to learn from them first? Or is it the reason behind the hatred from the Iraqis, the Iranian and so on that you want to learn?

I am an Indonesian as well as a Muslim. Islam is my religion, it is about me and God. As an Indonesian, I also have Indonesian culture that runs in my blood. Islam, as well as Indonesian culture, really value harmonious life. Which I believe, the same thing is also valued in other religions. To me there is no muslim/Islamic culture. There are only Indonesian, Arabian or American cultures and some or most of the people happen to be muslims.

Religion is like love. You can't really describe why it is beautiful. You just drawn to it and surrender your life to it.

So, to me, being a Muslim is just like any other people. We breathe, we eat, we go to work. We valued different things because of our different cultures, but we pray the same way.

I walk every morning and listen to SOF podcasts. This morning I heard the one on "play" and experienced many things personally. As a 52 year old parent of a 20 and 23 year old, I have been one of those parents who were uncomfortable with the play that felt as though it was teetering on the edge of violence. My 20 year old son and I have had many talks about how he and his sister were never allowed to yell or play in any way that was risky or made ME feel uncomfortable.

Luckily, my son resisted that control and is now teaching me the importance of "being playful and light on my feet" as he puts it. After starting college in Chicago, he joined the Chicago Parkour Club. If you are unaware of Parkour, please watch the four part video on youtube called "The Nature of Challenge". (This video has been an inpiration for me in every aspect of my day...doing chores to gardening to going to work.) I have been constantly amazed at how this involvement in Parkour has influenced my son's entire approach to life, even when he is working or going to class. For the first time, I believe my son has found spirituality and a mindfulness that takes him beyond "happiness though consuming" to a physical and mental happiness and peace.

The people Tucker (my son) has met through Parkour are almost evangelical about non-competitive "play" and have created a worldwide family with couches to sleep on in almost every country on Earth. They have jams in various cities and train together in the most supportive environment I have ever witnessed. Taking care of themselves and each other is the theme.

Thanks for the wonderful show...I have all the SOF podcasts on my Nano and continuously listen to them over and over again while walking, doing chores or art in my studio. I am also adicted to "This American Life".

Elizabeth Nance

I met recently with Archbishop Weakland, still living in Milwaukee. He is ready to talk about the economy.

Not only is he out with a new book---A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church: Memoirs of a Catholic Archbishop (Eerdmans)---but he has played a vital role in advising the Vatican (and of course the pope) on the encyclical just released last Wednesday (July 8)---Veritate in Caritate (Truth in Charity).

The encyclical is on the global and American ecenomy and questions the arguably negataive role of gred and excessive capitalism in producing some of the world's prevailingly brutal dysfunctions seemingly everywhere.

It ought to be noted that Archbishop Weakland was the chair of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Commission in the early 80's that released an interfaith-in-approach pastoral letter on: The American Economy and Catholic Social Teaching. Thus he is expert over many years on capitalism and needed new frameworks of economic thought that can take better care of the most fragile and vulnerable.

You are free to contact him on your own. The contact information is below after signoff.

Should you pursue this or something related, good luck. Always do I want Speaking of Faith to continue its good work and word. In particular Weakland may help bring greater spiritual and social clarity to today's economic problems---and possible long-term solutions. Maybe talk that out with him personally?

This communique is not for publication in any way. Merely I am trying to be helpful in a thoughtful way.

Thank you. Jim Boushay
708-524-8387

Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, OSB
4140 S. Sonata Circle
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53221
414-282-8333
Rgeow@aol.com

Thank you speaking of faith for letting us the muslim nation to reflect and share with the rest of this mankind. As it may be the natural response to globalization of everything we do and effected by. Islam is a moderate religion in every aspect of it no matter what it seems to look or made look by some. Why not as it is the regulator and complete book with rules of the game for living in this earth. Moderation in its social teaching and economics teachings is among its corner stones of Islamic house. Islam does not prohibit its believers to be rich, nor it encourage to be poor. As a matter of fact when it directs its speech, the language is to spend to help the poor and how can we spend if we do not have the ability to do so. As the world is going though the economic crisis, Muslims should not be so much worried as what had been used to be was a life of greed and "what is it for me" mentality. While the rest is a secondary matter. All should have the right of owning as many deeds are through money beside a genuine smile. Interest has been considered to be a big sin since the infancy of islam, and that was not a coincident, as interest is slavery, a source of feud among members of society. And if one thinks carefully, todays main reason for the economic crisis is the fundamental principle of modern economics are based on monitory interests. With todays lifestyle, children grow with mindset that they should be rich to be able to live happy life. During the golden days of islam, Zakat (alms), the name of what a believer returns out of his or her wealth to the neediest of Muslims for the sake of the Almighty Allah, was collected and could not find a poor who deserve it. If we muslims continue to do the same, we will not find a poor in among our societies to feel empathy towards. I pray to God as the Ramadan is approaching that we all get cleansed from greediness and raise with our spirituality for the sake of ourselves and humanity

Thank you for trying to understand about the religion of Islam. I am actually a revert to Islam from Greek orthodox christianity. I have been muslim now for 2 years. Inshallah (God willing ) let me dive to your questions below. 1. What does "being Muslim" mean to you? Being muslim to me is about being submissive and obedient to the lord of the heavens and earth and everything in between. Being a Muslim i have to obey and follow the will of the most high. Worshipping him alone with out any partners is at the top of the list. This is the first of five pillars of Islam. The other four include fasting in the month of Ramadan, giving donation to the needy, praying 5 times a day and making the pilgrimage to Mecca if financially and physically able. So being a muslim I do all of the five pillars except the pilgrimage and my wish is to do that asap. Being a muslim also means to me to follow the teachings and way of life of our prophet Mohammed (peace be with him). Being modest, respecting parents, joining others in a cause of good work regardless of their faith, forbidding evil works, adopting an orphan, being kind to animals, serving fellow men, being a good husband and father, seeking knowledge and always remembering the creator are some of the duties. In conclusion being a muslim means to me is about achieving peace and success in this life and here after by submitting to Allah. 2. What do you find beautiful about Islam, and how does it find expression in your daily life? I found Islam to be the most logical and exotic religion. Islam is a way of life so it encompasses our daily life in every way. The way we keep ourselves clean, the way eat, what we eat, how we talk, even how we should sleep regulated by Islam. Just like a car manual informs the car owner about the car, Islam informs us how we should live our life. The five prayers a day helps me counter balance and fine tune my self regularly. It amazes me how people maintain peace with in themselves without talking to Allah on regular bases. Islam encourages me to be successful and reminds me that death is not that far. It is gives me hope through Allah's message in Quran and warns me not to be an evil person. Islam helps me see things in perspective of priority. As a muslim my job is to prepare myself for a judgment day while I am on this earth for a short time. Once this goal is realized the hassle of this world become less stressful. 3.What hopes, questions, and concerns are on your mind as you ponder the future of your tradition? I believe there is a bright future for Islam. Islam is very popular now due to publicity after 9-11. In show business there is a saying "There is no such thing as bad publicity". People are curious and ask a lot of questions. Since Islam is very logical and gives people more rights and responsibilities many are embracing it. Islam has the answer for key social problems which we all can benefit from. I don't have any worries or concern because Allah in Quran promised that he will maintain and protect the book (Quran). Because truth is truth and it is clear from error. I hope to see the world united under islamic umbrella where the poor and needy is cared for, greed and crime is eliminated, justice is prevailed, elders are respected, the environment is cared for, knowledge is shared, human rights respected and Allah the most merciful the most kind worshipped as he should be worshipped. I hope in the future, after this life to make it the top level of paradise. That is my hope and wish as it is all muslim's.

Recently on Twitter, someone asked, “what is the first thing you do in the morning?” An odd question, but I thought so interesting. I cannot answer the question in the 140 characters that Twitter demands. That first waking moment defines me not only for the day, but for eternity. It is who I am from before creation, when God asked “Am I not your Lord?” and we answered “Yes, we bear witness.” (Qur’an 7:172).

I begin reciting the first chapter of the Qur’an, al-Fatiha, the Opening. The seven lines that compromise this chapter are universally known amongst Muslims. It is the longest sustained prayer of the Qur’an, beginning liturgical and extra-liturgical prayers. The seven lines are:

In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
All praise to the Lord of the worlds
The Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
The Lord of the Day of Judgement
You alone we worship. You alone we seek for help.
Guide us to the right path, the path of the blessed ones,
not the path of the lost ones, nor the path of the cursed ones.

I am reminded of God’s generosity, compassion, and forgiving nature. However, that mercy is not license, but is coupled to personal responsibility, for God also judges. We are entrusted with an intellect, to be able to tell right from wrong, and to act for the good. We pray that we be guided to do the right thing. People have erred in the past, they err now, and they will err in the future. We are not perfect.

I emphasize the unicity (tawhid) of God. The Muslim declaration of faith comes after the recitation of al-Fatiha: “There is no deity but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God; Ali is the friend of God.” We know of God’s message because of the Messenger, Muhammad, and we are guided by the Prophet’s family descended from Fatima and Ali. The continual guidance is something that we are thankful for, so the salwat, a prayer for the Prophet and his family commanded in the Qur’an (33:56), ends the morning “spiritual stretch:” “O God! Bestow peace on Muhammad and the family of Muhammad.”

This rhythm is mine. It is not formal, but it reminds of my relationship with my Lord. The power of the Arabic words resonates in mind, body, and spirit. It does not matter when I rise, this is what I do. In the middle of the night, after a nap, from good night’s sleep, from a restless sleep, the name of God is there. When my children come into my bed in the middle of the night, they come to me to hear the “bismillah” first, “in the name of God,” before going to their mother for comfort. They know then they are safe and everything is normal.

Of course, if God is First and Last, how does one end the day, but in the same way? The rhythm of the day is punctuated by these two moments, but in the middle, God is never forgotten.

I am a white male anglo saxon Protestant preemie Baby Boomer West Texas Blue Dog Democrat. I support active bridges of connection with mainstream Muslim friends and colleagues at home and abroad. Allowing a small fraction of extremists who capture an inordinate amount of press to dictate my relationships with others is unacceptable. I am currently writing a feature article for Perspective Journal on Muslims and the YMCA. If you Google this connection, all you see is negative and it is a very unfair characterization of Muslims and their relationship at home and abroad with a mainstream institution in our society. Christian zionist press have exaggerated beyond fact. In fact, we in the YMCA movement have attributes and values in common with mainstream Muslims. (1) Service to others is a value upheld by Christians, Jews and Muslims. Muslims serve on YMCA boards around the world. Forson Hussein, a Palestinian Muslim, was just appointed Director General of the Jerusalem international YMCA, by a diverse Board of Directors including Christians, Jews and Muslims. (2) Regard for family and the nurturing of children is a shared virtue. (3) A belief in the wholeness of the spirit, mind and body is shared in the teachings of Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions. There is a wonderful story of observant men of faith who shared a single path up the mountain together. One was a Christian, another a Jew and the other a Muslim. They lived in support of their families in the same village below in the valley. It was only when they reached the top of the mountain that they parted ways. On return, they once again joined together on the path down the mountain. On the way they shared their mutual concerns about the welfare of the blessed community, the welfare of their family and children and their own quest to seek wholeness of integrity in their personal lives. Norris D. Lineweaver Director General (Retired) Jerusalem International YMCA Now living in Indianapolis 317-568-1699 norris.lineweaver@gmail.com

I grew up in a fairly secular Muslim home in India, and actually didn't have more than one or two Muslim friends growing up! It was only when I moved to the United States after marriage, at age 22, that I actually got to know Muslims and learn about Islam as a religion ( through friends of my husband). Earlier, we celebrated Eid and being Muslim was more a cultural identity than a religious one.
I was interviewed by Chicago's WTTW/PBS on my views as a Muslim, on the topic of body image, and Chicago Tribune on our volunteer work.

Now as a parent, passing on our Islamic heritage to my kids is very important to me. In Islam, leaving the world a better place is very, very important - whether it's making sure your neighbor doesn't ever go to bed hungry or greeting someone with a smile or teaching a refugee English. My children and I are involved in various community service projects and, with me, they've been doing their bit for the world since they were little. They are now 7 and 11. As my seven year old son wrote in a school project, when asked, "What would you do if you were given $100?", wrote "I'd give it to the poor children in Palestine who are injured and have no doctors." They are very aware of how our faith requires that we have compassion for others and do our best to serve humanity, besides praying and reading the Quran.

Secondly, Faith isn't something we relegate to one day of the week, Friday in the case of Muslims. It's an integral part of our daily conversations - when we talk world affairs, or give thanks for our many blessings. Infact, when Obama won, I gave a prayer of thanks! When we pass by a road accident, the children and I pray that the injured person be helped by God and have health / car insurance !

The coolest thing about Islam is that every deed, as long as we make the intention that we are doing it for the pleasure of God, is considered a good deed and will be amply rewarded. So for instance, if I cook and make the intention that I am doing so to fulfill my duty as to God by being a good mom, I get rewarded for that. If I clean my home, with the intention that I am doing it for God, because "cleanliness is half of one's faith" according to religious tradition or hadith, then I'm earning good deeds.

My kids, today, read the Quran in Arabic much more fluently than I and they know more prayers than I do. They are my teachers in some ways.

This year, we've begun looking at Islamic architecture so the children realize that Islam isn't just about rules and praying, it's also about art and architecture and beauty.

I don't wear the hijab, or head covering, while I do think it's important, I feel that Muslims are part of a rainbow, a spectrum. We are anything but cookie cutter. If a religion is for all time, it has allow for some variations within acceptable boundaries to survive.

Moving to America, I moved away from family and relatives and friends I'd known all my life. But I gained friends who were more active in their practice of their faith and brought the doors of Islam, closer to me. For that alone, the adjustments and upheaval involved in moving here, became well worth it.

The muslim world is diverse in language,culture, and even in understanding and practices of Islam. Such diversity is enlightening to all. But this diversity also exists between individuals. I think muslims live in the world.
Being a muslim means expressing my faith in God through the muslims practice and understanding.
The beautiful thing about Islam is its depth and unbounded approach to god. Total immersion by seeing god every where is another point.
God is a friend whom I see everywhere, in everything and in all. the depth make me seek life as I seek him, as he seek me.
I have no worries about Islam as it has contributed positively to faith in general. Traditions are frequently changed hopefully for better

Although I was born a Muslim here in America more than 65 years ago, I did not stress that fact in my life as a child. My goal was to fit into a world that did not understand and accept me as a person of color who was not a Christian and whose parents were seeking to have him learn a strange language. Those things only made me more of an outcast. In short, I had three strikes against me before I came to bat. I did not reject my faith. I kept it hidden and sought to be like the white students in my class. At that early time in my life, my white classmates in public school were released on Tuesday afternoons to attend religious services and I remained behind with my teacher. I was given the job of washing the blackboard as she babysat me while her colleagues were relaxing in the teacher's lounge. So you see there was not a large incentive for a black child to be proud of the fact he was a Muslim. As an adult, I acknowledged my faith but I did not think it was an important aspect of my life as I pursued the American dream and acceptance. I was wrong.

The events of September 11, 2001 forced me to confront my faith in a way I had not anticipated. First,I heard and read the awful things people said about Muslims and my faith. I became angry at them in their ignorance. My response was to become more observant as a member of my faith. I focused on my holy book and made an effort to study the faith of others. Over the years I had approached my faith from two perspectives: my spirituality was the acknowledgment that there is something in this universe that is so much more than me. My religion was my effort to know that something better. Islam served that end for me. Recently,when I was attending the mosque I noticed young people learning to recite the 114 Suras of the Quran. Those who have accomplished that effort have truly taken on and succeeded at a wonderful task. But I could not help but think that understanding is as important as reciting. For my understanding allows me to recite the whole of the Quran in under five minuets. It is simply "I am the Lord thy God and I am a jealousy God. Worship me and me alone." The rest is footnotes. I say that because I see man as pursued by the four horsemen of destruction: arrogance, ignorance, greed, and jealousy. As I look at man's history I can assign all the wars, human abuses, and man's indifference to suffering to one or more of these horsemen. It is only when we "worship" the one God as my holy book instructs that we remain humble. The sad tragedy is that so many of my brothers and sisters in the Muslim world who have had this wonderful book fail to understand its meaning. Often the leaders who can recite the 114 Suras are the greatest abusers as witnessed in Iran's recent election. Sadly, I look at all the Muslim countries and I am unable to find one that I consider to have values that I would trade for. The leaders of those countries fear the West and they have a right to do so. For it is the Western world Mu`slims who love their holy book and value the freedoms they experience that present the greatest threat to those who have found other "gods" to worship.

To me the Muslim world is not that complex or diverse, but rather is rich and thorough. As Muslims we believe that all humans are equal before God and that there is no power or will other than God's power and God's will; that all is according to God's plan.
Personally, I was not always able to see things in this manner. Growing up as a Muslim I encountered many questions and very little answers. But now as an adult, being a Muslim is being the best that I can be. The beauty of Islam is how achievable this goal is for the Muslim. It is a guidance that has no match, shining a light to the truth with every passing moment; constantly showing The Way to all who ask.
Every single day Muslims must remember their Lord, it is the true definition of the word. A 'Muslim' is one who has submitted, and as the root of the word implies; one who has submitted seeking peace. Muslims stand in worship at least five times a day, and while Islam teaches that worship is important, it is the constant consciousness of our Lord that is greater. Every single day, every single moment is a chance- rather, a responsibility to remember our Lord with our actions and our hearts.
For a Muslim and his future there should not be hope but rather faith. And in my heart that is all there is when I look to my future and the future of Islam, faith in what I believe, faith that all my questions shall be answered, and above all faith that the will of Allah is most supreme. I will continue on my path, striving to be the best that I can for the sake of God; being the best example I can for those around me, Muslims and non alike so that the Muslim world and the world as a whole can also be the best that it can be.

Krista: I enjoyed your dialogue with Mr. Parker Palmer. (July 25, 2009)
I was the radiology manager at Belvis NFCC (large clinic under health and hospital corporation, New York City 1998). The radiology center was fully staffed. Mr. Kevin Peel was the tech, and we had a Part Time mammogram tech and another PT Ultrasound tech. Since I was bored, I decided to use the computer in my office to enter the mammogram date and the recomented follow up date. Belvis is located near Mott heaven, a very poor neighborhood. Almost 95% never showed up for follow up studies. I was puzzled and print out the data base and put it in a binder. The next day, I met the medical director and gave him a copy. My only goal was to have follow up as per ACR/ FDA guidelines. He wanted to know, I have a copy for my reference. I said, No. He said, don't worry that he will take care. In addition to regular follow up, some of them were positive and some of them need biopsey or ultrasound.

The following week, I was asked to see Maria Agguria, Assistant Administrator. Mr. Gillbert was the administrator. Dr. Estaves was the previous medical director. I don't remember, the name of the Medical Director. (A tall black doctor).

Maria asked me" who told you to collect the data. If the results leaked /released, the center will be sued for poor patient care. The Administrator and the Medical Director want me to resign. The HR director and Maria promised that I will get a better job elsewhere with my background.

Put in a nut shell, they were afraid the information is sensitive and it could affect their reputation. It is very similar to Mr. Palmer's argument, people were afraid to disclose the financial collapse, just because they knew very well it cold annoy their boss and possibly their job.

Note: I am a retired licensed radiology technologist with graduate level education in health care administration. I have over 30 years experience in radiology administration in large and small hospitals. ospital

I am a clinical psychologist, not a Muslim, but it was a Jewish neuropsychologist researcher (Robert Ornstein of UCLA-Langley Porter Institute) on hemisphericity and consciousness, who turned me on to the works of Idries Shah, a Sufi, whose writing synergistically deeply influenced my work and understanding of my own faith and that of others around me.
Best regards and luckon this project,
Tyler Carpenter, Ph.D., FAACP

My Story: Reading the Cosmic Glyphs

“Thomas Young and John Francois Champillion deciphered from an ancient Egyptian stone, found in 1799 near Rosetta (Rashid), how to interpret hieroglyphic writing. The code of the evolving universe, a scripture more ancient and complex than hieroglyphs, energetically writes quantum-electric resonance into all cosmic embodiment. The embodiment of energetic resonance is the mechanism and purpose of communication, consciousness and conscience. “One’s personal life may be compelled by the immediate necessities of survival, which may prevent one individually from reflecting on the grand scheme of things, never-theless, such reflection is wholesome and necessary, for deeper knowledge of cosmic processing may enlighten the symbiotic reconciliation of intentional human purpose with intensional quantum-electric necessity. In sum, this is the underlying assumption and insight of the Second Enlightenment Trilogy. “The date I associate with my professional foray into the complexity of the science-religion connection is February / March 1957. By this time my studies of philosophy and theology brought me to positions that seemed logically compelling. The first position pertains to God’s essential connection in creation: if highest perfection is in God, God’s work must reflect the continuity of highest perfection; the perfection of continuity requires the absence of disconnection, for a disconnected work is a less perfect work. “The second position arises from the first: cosmic rationality must reflect divine rationality; divine rationality cannot frustrate cosmic rationality, namely, in its expectation of realized participation in divinity. Consistent with Albert Einstein’s equation of Special Relativity, embodied consciousness, material and spiritual, is unity. So says cosmic continuity. “The compulsion to investigate these conclusions pushed me to a sense of need to give equal time to scientific study as I had given to theological. My perceived need to pursue science professionally was a compelling factor in my decision to discontinue my pursuit of the Catholic priesthood. “Postgraduate studies in science began for me in the summer of 1957 with a first course in genetics at DePaul University, Chicago. I returned to Iowa in September of that year and some months later matriculated in a graduate program of studies (Botany) at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. I graduated in May of 1960 with a Master of Science degree in Plant Physiology. “Marriage in June 1959 and the birth of our first daughter in April 1960 took precedence over my avocation of pursuing the science-religion-connection, though it always occupied a stratum of my conscious interest. "By the early 1980s, life circumstances allowed me to redirect more attention to the submersed stratum of interest. I began reading and writing on the subjects of science and religion. My first manuscript (c.1983) was titled, “EARTHEOLOGY: The Phenomenon of God”. In trying to write publishable material I came to realize that my expertise was too shallow to produce a convincing product. The subject matter was so multi-faceted and complexly related that I soon realized I lacked background for making connections. Realizing this from the outset, I plunged ahead open to wherever the plunge might take me. "In keeping with spiritual advice I trusted my insights and prayed constantly that the cosmic voice within would lead me in some purposeful direction. I read and read. I did not try to write from the constraint of some preconceived logic, only by the logic of openness to invention. As pertinent insights came together I put my pen to paper. After accumulating stacks of hand-written material I began to think how forbiddingly heavy it all was. It occurred to me that breaking the material down into manageable bites could make it more interesting and intelligible, so, “poetry”, I thought, “is the way to go”. Poetry would make the material more immediate. “By 1985 I had rewritten EARTHEOLOGY; what was new about it were additions of quotes from other authors at the beginnings of chapters, and at chapter endings, a pertinent poem. By 1992 I had enough poems written that I believed they might be publishable on their own merit, so I self-published them under the title “New Genesis Poems”. This publication was trilogy-like, that is, it was divided into three parts under the headings Communication, Consciousness and Conscience. “I had come to a sense of the working of human rationality through history and the ascendancy of consciousness by the process of communication, and of coming to conscience by the interactive processes of communication and consciousness. It occurred to me that the rational processing of these three constituted the cosmic rationality of evolved ascendancy, which bore directly on “Creation Theology”. Because this sense had become so compelling to me, all my subsequent writings came together in the tri-logic form by which my thinking was beginning to evolve and have continuity of its own. “Social scientists have, as a group, I suspect, come to a consensus that consciousness is evolutionary and that the direction of civil ascendancy is generally upward even if history documents serious regression along with grudging progress. A critical question to be asked in the face of modern predicaments is what strategy does nature model that sustains ascendancy and mitigates frictions that frustrate civility, such things as war, disease, waste, pollution and self-aggrandizing obsession? For as post-modernity witnesses, compulsion to obsessive consumerism frustrates civility and destabilizes future sustainability. “Allow me to suggest that the cosmos has etched in stone and flesh the dialogic forms and processes of quantum relativity that structure the continuity and clarify the logic of intentional living consistent with the intensional necessity of cosmic-electric rationality and its reliable search of resonance for workable, sustainable outcomes —“purposeful” objectives. “From the beginnings of cosmic evolution after the big bang the unified ascendancy of energy/ matter began a journey that continues in our own persons. It seems apparent that each of us individually, and humankind globally, can advance religiously and civilly only by conforming intentional life to nature’s intensional, symbiotic, paradigmatic processes of communication, consciousness, and conscience. Globally, people act rightly when they model intentional fidelity to the necessities of cosmic evolution, and when they engage reflectively the processes of 'trimorphic resonance' in all relationships, whether with people, plants, animals, water, soil or sky. “The lessons of cosmic religion are lessons of relationships encoded in primary scripture. The rising consciousness of rationality is by way of quantum religion. Personal conscience is the continuing and faithful means of religion & civility. 'Trimorphic resonance' is the “Rosetta Code”. Trimorphic resonance is cosmic rationality’s process of continual enlightenment; human intention (purpose) can either advance in fidelity to it or frustrate it. The choice is personal and collective, not one or the other, but both. Ignorance fixated in arrogance always has outcomes of disaster; and until we honestly admit the fact of our ignorance we will continue to act arrogantly. Will we ever learn to test our personal ignorance against life’s evolutionary wisdom and conform personal codes of conduct to nature’s proven codes of evolutionary success? Yes, if we can be faithful to cosmic rationality. “Why dredge up now the Counter-Reformation history of the Catholic Church? Because it seems very clear that lines are now drawn for a new cultural war within Roman Catholicism between the ecclesiologies of Vatican I and Vatican II. That this is true, is documented in a new book Evolving Visions of the Priesthood by Dean R. Hoge and Jacqueline E. Wenger, Liturgical Press, ISBN 0814628052, reviewed by Katarina Schuth in AMERICA, A Jesuit Magazine, Vol. 190 No 4, Whole No. 4639, February 9, 2004, Pp 26-27. “Reviewer Schuth quotes Jesuit John A. Coleman to the effect “that seminaries have the responsibility to provide proper theological formation in order to prevent future priests from adopting a pre-Vatican II posture: rigid, clerical and close-minded.” The disjunction between younger priests and older priests clearly exists, and it is persistent, destructive and unacceptable. The reviewer quotes the book as to the contrasting views of younger priests for older priests and of older priests for younger priests: “Younger priests called the older priests liberals, leftist fringe, secularized, anti-establishment, a ‘lost generation,’ and priests with a social work model.” “Older priests referred to the young men as inflexible, divisive, liturgically conservative, institutional, hierarchical, and believers in cultic priesthood.” The catholic priesthood is already in crisis and a new clerical war within the church between conflicting ecclesiologies can only deepen the crises, aggravate lay distrust and render the priesthood more irrelevant than it already is. "The crisis caused by the seventeenth century Counter-Reformation is a cautionary tale that young priests and old, and all people need to understand and take seriously. This threatening new war, like the old, roots in conflicting worldviews and in incorrigible attitudes. Vatican II, in view of modern evolutionary consciousness, rightly calls for new theological analysis and synthesis that get beyond the problems of the dead and destructive absolutisms of centrism and staticism. http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=24059

Dear Speaking of Faith,

First of all, I was ecstatic that your program wanted to outreach to Muslims to get their first hand perspective about their faith. So many times other people speak for Islam and it's about time that Muslims are able to speak for themselves about their own faith.

Being Muslim means everything to me. Immigrating to the US at the age of 7 from Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion had a great impact on my family and I. We had to leave everything behind and start all over in a new land, with a new language and a new culture. In order to assimilate into the new life, my family and I began to lose our religious identity. Growing up in California in the 80's and early 90's, I had no Muslim friends at school and had very little knowledge about Islam besides some of the basic rituals such as the 5 prayers, fasting and the Eid celebration. When I was in junior high school, my sister was diagnosed with severe depression. Her illness and subsequent behaviors made me start searching for answers to life's major questions at an early age in life. I had this ardent desire to find a meaning to life and search for the path to happiness in order to help my sister find happiness and peace in her own life.

My search was accelerated when I went away for college.I was living away from home for the first time and had to establish my own individual identity. Furthermore, I had to face some moral dilemmas. I knew alcohol was forbidden in Islam. Yet it was so rampant in college life that not drinking would make you an outcast. I also knew that having sexual relations before marriage was forbidden, but I was ashamed to tell my college mates that I never had a boyfriend and was still a virgin at the age of 17. I was so torn between my American identity (and trying to fit in with my peers) and my religious identity (which I knew little about but yet wanted to still uphold). This identity crisis became more accute when certain friends would ask me why Islam forbids this and that which I had no answers for.

So my own personal spiritual quest as well as the questions I was getting from classmates pushed me to research Islam further. In my search, I was amazed at how wholistic the religion was and how Islam was a way and philosophy of life rather than some random set of rituals and edicts. During this time, I was taking classes on other world religions and I saw the similarities in the messages and universal values that these religions shared. Fasting was not unique to Islam, but also practiced by Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Jews. Alcohol was also discouraged in other religious traditions and for the same reasons; while it may have some benefits, the evil that it causes is far worse than its benefits. I knew this from personal experience as my brother in law suffers from alcoholism and has made the life of my sister and nephew very miserable. Chasity and modesty was also a univeral value, and the headcover was part of Christian and Jewish traditions very similar to Islam. While many may have argued against need for chastity and modesty, I saw that it provided real value in the life of women because so many times I had friends who suffered from broken hearts from guys who had their fun and moved on to other girls when they became bored of this one. I also felt that the specialness between a husband and wife was completely eradicated because sex was not something new to either of them. It just became a physical act like eating and drinking rather than a romatic or spiritual union which I always imagined it to be.

Holding these views made me very different from the majority of my peers and I felt very lonely until I finally met like-minded Muslims at the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at my college. It was this group of Muslim boys and girls that made me realize and appreciate the beauty of the Muslim sisterhood and brotherhood. I finally had a sense of belonging, of not being backward and "weird". The more I learned about Islam, the more I wanted to incorporate it to my daily life. I began to attend a masjid (mosque) for the first time in my life. There, I met Muslims from all walks of life, with different cultures and languages, but yet the same desire to follow the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). My friends were Palestinian, Bosnian, Afghan, Sudanese, Pakistani, Indian, Indonesian, American, Turkish, Egyptian, Chinese, Russian, German. Suddenly that loneliness that I had felt for so many years dissipated when I knew Muslims spanned the entire globe and that we all shared this common faith in God. Also, during my last year of undergraduate, I had the chance to study abroad in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world. It was the first time that I felt what it's like to be in a majority group. The Indonesian people were very welcoming, especially when they found out that I was a Muslim from America.

In the 1990s, I witnessed a more openness towards Muslims in California; people were becoming accostomed to seeing women with headscarves and men with beards. However, while my faith was growing, I was still a "closet" Muslim and only shared my faith with people I knew and trusted since so few Americans knew about the religion and had their own misconceptions of it. But after 9/11, the fury of right-wingers and neo-conservatives against Islam became mainstream. It was not just Pat Robertson saying derogatory things about Islam and Muslims, but now anything to do with Islam and Muslims was connected to some form of terrorism, oppression or abuse. Somehow 9/11 gave everyone the right to bash on Muslims, even though what they were saying was either an outright lie or twisting of the truth. Surviving the Soviet Invasion and witnessing how the 13 year war destroyed the country, killing 2 million of my people, and leaving behind millions of starving widows and orphaned children, I was amazed at how suddenly everything wrong with Afghanistan was the fault of the "Islamists". While I never defended the extremist views and actions of the Taliban, I felt the media, the neo-cons, the right winged Christian fundamentalists were using the Taliban as an excuse to debase and attack the entire religion of Islam. I became fed up with the stereotypes about Muslim women, and tired of the fear mongering put out against the peaceful Muslim American community. I wanted to counter these misconceptions and prejudices by showing that Muslims are not some fanatic crazy minded group of people. So on March 23rd 2003 I decided to put on the headscarf and come out of the closet and be proud of my religious identity. I had just finished my MBA program and had started my doctorate degree in Islamic Studies. So this was my way of saying that a highly educated, independent, free-minded, moderate woman would out of her own personal belief and free will practice the beautiful religion of Islam without apologies. The Islam that I have for years studied and practiced and seen being practiced by the Muslim communities in all the places I have traveled is nothing like the Islam that the media portrays. There is no inherent conflict or clash of cultures between the Christian west and the Muslim world. On the contrary, many Muslim Americana initially voted for Bush because we felt that the Christian values and Muslims values of community, of helping the poor, of belief in a higher power and higher purpose were so similar.

Fighting the misconceptions, distortions, prejudice, and outright hatred of some people in America will always be a challenge for Muslim Americans. It's a challenge that Muslims need to rise up to. We can do this best by embodying in our own lives the beautiful message of Islam by helping our neighbors and those in need, educating ourselves and others, defending the rights of those being oppressed anywhere in the world, being able to look critically at ourselves and correct the flaws that ail our communities, particularly by distinguishing and separating what is cultural practice with what's religious practice. The most important step we need to take is to engage with the broader American society rather than isolating ourselves from it. Participating in programs like Speaking of Faith is a terrific way to share the real Islam--the Islam which teaches that one has not attained real faith when one sleeps with a full stomach while his/her neighbor sleeps with an empty stomach; the Islam that teaches that women are twin halves of men and that paradise lies at the mother's feet; the Islam that teaches tolerance, love, patience, perserverance, justice, fairness, charity, discipline, moderation, modesty, kindness, cleanliness, and the virtue of hard work. This is the Islam I have come to love, to believe in and to practice. It defines me and what I aspire to be.

Thank you for your time and opportunity to share my story of faith.

Umm Zaheen

Dear SOP,
I am an associate dean of International Relations at IE University in Spain and a big fan of the show. Here is the english version of an OPED I wrote for a Turkish Paper on the 5th anniversary of 9 11 that discusses the issue of being a Muslim living in the West.
yours Ibrahim

Wars of Three Words

During the end of January 2002, I was having lunch with an Iranian friend in a restaurant in my hometown in California. Our waitress overheard us speaking in Persian and asked, “Where are you guys from?”
I looked up at the blonde waitress and said in a proud voice, “I am from Iraq and he is from Iran.”
“Oh, all you need is a North Korean friend and you can have an Axis of Evil luncheon,” the waitress responded, proud of her knowledge of global politics. I think she expected us to laugh or at least smile at her clever quip but neither one of us was amused. The night before, Bush had coined the term “Axis of Evil” during his January 25, 2002, State of the Union speech to refer to Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
I came to a few realizations after her comment. First, I would only give her a ten percent tip rather than the customary fifteen in the US, and I would do so begrudgingly and unwillingly.
Second, the US I had grown up in had changed for the worse after September the 11 for Muslims like myself.
Third, as much as I hated to admit, these catchy titles worked. Bush or whichever speech writer came up with the title of the “Axis of Evil” hoped to alienate the parties named, to set them apart from the rest of the “good” countries in the world. When the waitress grouped us into the unfavorable classification, I felt the marginalization the title was intended to inflict.
Not only did the title succeed in creating an identifiable enemy bloc, it also succeeded in working an entire political agenda into its listeners’ memories. After Bush’s speech, that waitress could still remember what the Axis of Evil was and who belonged to it. I then began to realize that most US government initiatives, wars and villains could be summarized in catchy two to three-word titles. For as long as I can remember Americans have been throwing around terms like “Cold War,” “Red Scare,” “New World Order,” “Axis of Evil” and “War on Terror.”
The problem with those concise, catchy titles is that they repackage complex global phenomena into deceivingly simple components. A “War on Terror” implies that terror is something that can be targeted, fought, and defeated when in reality such a title is so broad and so ill-defined that it becomes essentially meaningless. Terror is a world-wide problem that under-represented parties have resorted to for ages in their struggle for agency. The Bush administration could have more aptly declared “War on Usama bin Ladin,” or even a “War on UBL” to fit into the three word formula. Or better yet, “A War on Al-Qaida.” However, it was clear that such a broad name was intentional. There were those in the Bush administration who wanted to target not just on Al-Qaida but Iraq and Iran, and a “War on Terror” gave them free reign to justify any military action in the name of seeking out terrorists wherever they may be. Once Bush had created the villain of the Axis of Evil, I felt he would be compelled to act against them, otherwise he would lose face in front of his constituencies.
Indeed, Bush did act out against Iraq, a member of that “Axis of Evil” and justified “Operation Iraqi Freedom” as a continuation in the “War on Terror.” A war against my native Iraq was justified by merely stringing together 3 three-word titles. In March 2003, as the Iraq war was being waged, I gave a guest lecture at Koc University in Istanbul. As a 29 year old doctoral student then, it struck me as I looked out at a class room filled of only young faces that my entire audience, with myself included, probably spanned the entire range of ages in the twenties. As a group we had only managed to live through two decades, yet in the span of our lifetime the entire nature of world politics had changed.
I thought about the Cold War. The name itself was an oxymoron. It was assigned to describe the tensions between the US and the Soviet Union after World War Two, but it also masked the fact that these two countries did actually fight each other with “hot” weapons. More than a million Vietnamese and Afghanis died as proxies of the US-USSR conflict, and yet it was still called it a Cold War. Was it only worth being called a Hot War when your own citizens were on the frontlines?
In this new Holy War era, as Samuel Huntington argues, the battle is between Christian, Judaic and Islamic civilizations. I, on the other hand see the battle as a conflict where multiple Islams fight each other for the loyalties of the Muslims worldwide. The conflict within Islam has been described in the West as a battle between “radical, fundamentalist Islam” and “moderate Islam.” How does one measure if a Muslim is “radical” or “moderate?” A Muslim is not a mobile phone with a battery symbol indicating the strength of his or her charge.
I found that a better description for this dichotomy as “static Islam” versus “dynamic Islam.” Those who are called fundamentalists and radicals have one unifying factor. They believe that Islam should be interpreted as it was centuries ago in the deserts of Arabia, keeping the faith static. Some of its adherents support the use of violence to destroy any countries, entities or ideologies who challenge their views. When US troops first entered Saudi Arabia in the Nineties, Bin Ladin feared the influence of Americanism on Saudi Arabia’s Islamic values and hence eventually revived the group he founded in Afghanistan in the Eighties – what is known as Al-Qaida today. Those Muslims who see Islam as fluid believe that their religion can evolve without losing its original nature. They have managed to accommodate their beliefs within a modernizing world. Yet in doing so, they have also become the target of static Muslim groups.
Even as Usama is on the run, probably moving from one mountain hideout in Pakistan to the other, he was strengthening his position. He is the epitome of the new state of world affairs; a leader of a group of “static” Muslims who advocate apocalyptic violence, a non-state actor capable of challenging the strongest power in a unipolar world. As the man who the all-powerful US could not capture, he had defied the odds, a feat that granted him an almost mythical power. Al-Qaida worked as a “start up company;” it provided the model that new groups imitated. The exploits of Bin Ladin himself and his supporters sparked other disenchanted Muslims to act on its behalf. Once Bin Ladin became a source of inspiration and other groups began to conduct terrorist attacks without even orders from him, Usama had scored the ultimate victory.
What I wanted those students at the University to appreciate more than anything in March of 2003 that the war against terrorism and the Iraq War that followed might never achieve its goal of eradicating terror. On the contrary, it has fueled even more terrorist activity. The War on Terror made Usama bin Ladin, a renegade, an adversary worthy of the attention of the world’s greatest superpower. It told a world of malcontents that one disgruntled man can orchestrate a series of events that could mobilize a super power. It also provided a myriad of causes for those malcontents to rally against.
Exactly five years ago from today, I had returned from a three month journey around the Mediterranean by bus, train and boat to finally arrive in the UK, whereupon I stayed in my uncle’s house in London. During previous visits to his house, I had sat in front of his wide screen TV, watching hours of the latest action movies that had just been released on DVD. I could have never imagined the scene I was about to witness on that very same TV screen. I rested in one of the reclining chairs and stared at the TV in front of me, as I watched footage of two planes crashing into the Twin Towers and their subsequent collapse.
I was so fixated on the TV screen I had failed to realize that my two year old cousin wobbled into the room. She walked in front of the TV, her blonde curls obstructing the screen. I got up from the chair and hugged her, looked into her round crystal blue eyes and kissed one of her chubby cheeks.
I went back to the sofa, waiting for the latest developments on which Muslim group could be responsible for the attack. During one of the commercial breaks, I looked in the direction of my little cousin, sitting on the floor, playing with her toys. While my uncle is Iraqi, his wife is Greek Cypriot. My cousin herself was a product of Muslim and Christian cultures, and it was precisely because of that that she was so beautiful. I had just come back from a journey to Turkey convincing myself of the possibility of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity’s coexistence, and I was sitting in a living room, actually looking at a three year-old living proof of that very same fact. Watching the TV screen on September the 11th 2001, I realized that even though I had declared the war over between these religions, the rest of the world was just barely gearing up for the fight - a fight that continues unabated five years later.

Like many people my identity is diverse, being a reflection of the main influences in my life: my family; neighbourhood; home region; religious affiliations; education; and my communities of interest. These influences have had a clear effect on how I express myself, view the world and interact with it. Unsurprisingly, my world outlook is greatly influenced by my faith. Islamic culture plays a significant part in my life now and is expressed in many forms with Arabic being central. I recite and read this inspirational, poetic language every day of my life, during my daily prayers, in the lessons I give to my children, or when I socialise with friends and family. It is also often a means of accurately expressing my deepest thoughts and feelings. And yet, my faith does not require me to shun the best of the other cultural influences that are important to my life. So, as an ex-Christian I can rejoice in the friendships I made in my early years at my family church. Indeed, I return year after year to take part in one service or another: a wedding; the Christening of my God Daughter; or presenting the eulogy at my grandmother’s funeral. At this church, my large Muslim family is always welcome, valued as Muslims, recognised as people with faith in God. Over the years I have learnt that converts are often effective at bridging the gap between friends and communities of different faiths. Many of us have developed bi and even multi cultural insights and empathy that help to bring understanding and trust between the people around us. At home I am surrounded and influenced by a number of different national and cultural identities. Though my wife was born and raised in Manchester my mother and father-in-law were born in East Africa, where they were raised speaking three languages: Swahili; Urdu and English. Their parents came from the villages of pre-partition India in an effort to improve their lives in British ruled Kenya. It is their cultural influences: Indian; African; Arab and English that infuse great colour and interest into our lives. It is their beauty and multiple identies that give my young sons their handsome features, multi-lingual skills (English, Arabic and Punjabi) and the confidence to express both their Anglo-Asian and Islamic heritage. As a born and bread Mancunian, I have been greatly influenced by the city’s proud non-conformist history and culture. Manchester was at the heart of the UK’s industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th Centuries. From the sweat, toil and tears of this powerhouse rose some of the most influential social movements the world has ever seen. It was in Greater Manchester that the Co-operative Movement was established and rolled out its successful model of social enterprise and fair trade that has been copied and adapted the world over. It was the early 19th Century hell holes of the city’s cotton factories that gave birth to the Chartist Movement, the pre-cursor to the Trade Union movement and the fight for workers’ rights. These movements led Mancunians to support international liberation movements around the world, like the anti-slavery movement led by Abraham Lincoln in the American Civil War and the World Zionist movement. As a Mancunian, I have a strong, personal sense of this heritage, hard won by earlier generations to value non-conformity, creativity, solidarity and human rights. Becoming a Muslim has not been easy - I didn't expect it to be. The Quran emphasisis, "the long uphill struggle (jihad) of the self". There were times when I have felt utterly rejected and at my wits end as a Muslim, particularly after 9/11 - but mostly, over the last 19 years, I have been at peace, fascinated and aware that as a British Muslim I'm probably one of the most priveleged people in the world today. Today I can honestly say that I am relaxed about my multiple identies: Muslim, English, British and Mancunian (and God knows what else!?) and know that in the 21st Century such 'complexity' isn't anything special. We're human - we're complex! Furthermore, I've been lucky (or blessed depending on your perspective). In 1998 my father discovered that my great, great, great grandfather convered to Islam 92 years before me, in 1898 to be precise, at the age of 70. From them on he was known as Robert Reschid Longden. Raised in the Christian Israelite sect he rose to be Mayor of Stalybridge in 1875. In the 1850's he became interested in the affairs of the Ottomoan Empire, an interest that, no doubt, led him on the path to Islam. In 1901 he became the right hand man of the religious head of the Muslims in the UK, Shaykh Abdullah Quilliam and got involved in some of the first inter faith dialogue even to take place in Manchester. This surprise discovery put my conversion into perspective and has has become a source of pride and comfort for my family (both the Muslims and the non Muslims) and wider society. Indeed, it won't be a surprise to you that my first son is named after him. Note: I have other photos if you need them.

Hi,

I was a Catholic until the age of 27 when I met my future husband and his brothers while teaching ESL at a local community college. I had always wanted to follow a religion closely but found myself slippin in the traditional sense of being a Catholic...when I met my future husband and his brothers, they treated me with a new and different kind of respect I had never experienced before. He told me about Islam over coffee one evening and from that point I was hooked... I went out in search of the truth and after several months decided to convert. A month later I was engaged. After another month, we married, in North Carolina. A month later, I left the country heading to Dubai and spent an exhausting year teaching, paying off college loans, and learning about Islam. Upon returning, my husband and I started our family and we had moved several times to and from the USA to the UAE...we returned to the States in 2007 and have been in Chicago for about 2 years now, with 5 children.

Many people have misconceptions about this way of life...I advise everybody to actually read and study for themselves without taking any knowledge from other people...or better yet, go to your local mosque and listen to the Friday prayers, see how the muslims pray and what they say during these prayers, as well as reading the Quran (Noble Quran is the best translation, although the original Arabic can never really be explained in such detail as is the original.)

May Allah, the Almighty, lead everybody to Islam, the way of life which is one of peace and submission to the One True God.

Hilarie
Um Youcef bint David
Chicago

As a Muslim, I believe one of the greatest lessons that Islam teaches is the intrisic value and dignity of each human being. One of my favorite teachings in this regard comes from the words of the Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s.), who said:

" If you desire I will tell you about Jesus (AS) son of Mary. He used a stone for his pillow, put on coarse clothes and ate rough food. His condiment was hunger. His lamp at night was the moon. His shade during the winter was just the expanse of earth eastward and westward. His fruits and flowers were only what grow from the earth for the cattle. He had no wife to allure him, nor any son to give grief, nor wealth to deviate (his attention), nor greed to disgrace him. His two feet were his conveyance and his two hands his servant."

Today we would call Nabbi Isa (a.s.) (Prophet Jesus, peach be upon him) a "homeless person", and yet he was one of the crown jewels of humanity. This should give us pause, and demonstrate for us how far we have deviated from his teachings.

Islam teaches us the value of a person is God given. Another saying of Imam Ali (a.s.) in this regard is that every person a Muslim meets is either "Your brother (or sister) in faith or your brother (sister) in humanity". Islam teaches us that we should not judge others based on their outward appearance or their worldly accomplishments, but based on their inward beauty and the truthfulness of their words and actions.

Dear Krista, My name is Wajahat Ali, author of The Domestic Crusaders [www.domesticcrusaders.com] one of the first major American Muslim plays which is premiering in New York on 9-11-09. Pleasure to make your acquaintance and thank you for launching such a timely and exceptional endeavor. Undoubtedly, the "Muslim world" is a wonderfully diverse and endlessly fascinating network of communities with a myriad of unique stories divided at times by race, language, politics and geography but united by faith. In recent times, Muslims have emerged as an "exotic" community that is often discussed but rarely been given the "conch" to speak in our own voices about our own experiences. As a Muslim American writer of Pakistani descent, I've tried to encapsulate the tensions and divides that exist within the community but are rarely aired - either due to hesitation by those who fear "airing dirty laundry" or a media that not afforded them opportunities to speak outside of sensationalist stories focusing on terrorism or the burqa. It has been a herculean and rewarding effort to stage one of the first major Muslim American plays. I'd love to talk to you about our experience and the new wave of Muslim American art that is enriching our culture with trailblazing contributions to theater, art, cinema, novels, and spoken word. Sincerely, Wajahat Ali wajahatmali@gmail.com www.domesticcrusaders.com

December 2006

Chance meetings in the City of the Prophet

Sahar Ullah
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I used to prefer sitting with the elderly pilgrims when I would sit in the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina for hours. I'm not sure why, but part of it is that I felt they had a special mercy for me as a young pilgrim. I could see prayers in their eyes without understanding the words they said; part of it is that they would not engage me in conversation and were usually in intense supplication of God with pleas informed by all the years of their lived experiences.

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One day, after having shawarma sandwiches in the Prophet's Illuminated City, I returned with Mom, my cousin, and little sister to the Prophet's mosque, (sallallahu 'alayhi wa alihi sallam). We found a place by a pillar underneath one of the domes that opens every now and then, exposing the sky and letting the birds and winter breeze in and out. My cousin and sister sat on my mother's left side and I sat on her right between her and an elderly Turkish woman who was by herself reading a book of prayers. (I assumed she was Turkish by the way she was dressed.) She gestured for me to sit there indicating there was room for me.

After noticing my interaction with my mother—we were jokingly poking each other— she asked me (or so I think she did) if that was my mother. I said yes. I asked her with the little Arabic I had learned over the years, "Anti min Turkiye?" She said yes. It made me happy that my guess was correct. Then I said, "Istanbul?" She said "Konye." Trying to impress her that I knew something about Konye, I said, "Mevlana Rumi?" Then she began to speak. A lot of Turkish. I thought to myself, “Good work, Sahar. Try impressing her now.”

After that, another elderly woman sat next to her. She informed us she was from Tunisia. Not too long after we returned to our individual prayers, the Tunisian woman began coughing. Mom offered both her and the Turkish woman cough drops. Mom always carried cough drops; she said giving cough drops was one of the best techniques to get people to pray for you sincerely.

We prayed the late afternoon prayer and returned to our individual prayers and recitations. I began reciting some Qur'an when the Turkish woman turned to me and said, "Ya Sin? Ya Sin? " I looked at her and asked, "You want me to read Ya Sin?" I turned to the chapter and recalled a similar moment in Mecca when an Iranian woman asked me to recite the same chapter for her. Not sure if she wanted me to show her the chapter or read it, I pointed to it and she nodded her head and said, "Iqra'i, Iqra'i." At that moment, I was not sure if the Turkish word for "read" was the same as Arabic (I learned later that it is not), but I knew what the word meant in Arabic and began to recite the chapter. When I ended, she seemed very happy, patted me gently, and returned to reading her book of litanies again.

Then, she again stopped a few moments later. She pointed to a verse in the Chapter of Ya Sin and tried to pronounce it indicating to me that I should read it for her. So I read it to her and she nodded her head and repeated the verse.

When the call for the Sunset Prayer began, the Tunisian woman began unwrapping something. They were dates. She was fasting. I noticed the Turkish woman reach for some snacks in her bag and I told mom that the other woman was fasting. Mom quickly took out some cookies for her from her bottomless purse of cough drops and everything else useful. Everyone wanted to get the blessings of giving food to a fasting woman.

After the final prayer of the night, we all stood up to leave. The Turkish woman and Tunisian woman turned to me and my mother and embraced us warmly. They then said a few words in Arabic and Turkish. I could not understand all the words that passed among us, but I understood both of them when they looked up, and then looked at us saying with strong emotion, "Janna; janna, insha-Allah” (Paradise; paradise, God-willing.)

From their faces, I knew they were saying, "We do not have a very long time here" and I knew they were saying "We may never see each other in this world again" but we are all here as pilgrims, we were together in our primordial states, so we hope we will be together again.

My eyes began to tear and my heart ached. I felt as if I was leaving dear friends...although we sat with each other for a few hours, barely speaking.

It then occurred to me how special our meetings with strangers were in that city of pilgrims and the small kindnesses they offered. They had no other reason to befriend a stranger for a few moments other than for the love of God and the love of another guest of the Prophet, in his city, in his house.

May we be in each other's company in Paradise.

My story begins in April 2007. In the last months of my Junior year of my undergraduate career studying media at the University of Arizona, I set out to tell make a documentary about my experience as a Muslim American and an Iranian.

The film's focus was on my personal experience as an Iranian American in a world where the US and Iran are in what feels like an impending war with one another. As someone who calls both places home, I felt a responsibility to bridge the gap in any way I could.

I chose to communicate my message in the way I knew best and that was through break dancing. After discovering a young bboy in Tehran through an internet video, I began corresponding with him by email. Within 6 months I was in Iran practicing with him and his friends and discovering their insight on bboying, life in Iran, and Iran's tense relationship with the US.

Upon returning to the US, I was met outside of the airplane in Atlanta, where I was detained by Homeland Security under suspicion of terrorist activities. After being interviewed for over 5 hours, my documentary footage was confiscated and I was sent home empty handed.

I had never felt like such a foreigner in my life in my own place of birth. I had been singled out for being a Muslim and being an Iranian. With the help of an attorney I was able to retrieve my footage from federal authorities but I am still left with a tarnished record which comes to haunt me every time I re enter the US.

For me, being a Muslim defines my path and gives purpose to my life to reach my God given potential as a human, to serve my fellow creation and to combat ignorance with knowledge and understanding. I hope to continue on this path, even though there are many obstacles ahead of me in Iran and the US.

Well, First of all, I would like to thank you for giving this opportunity for muslims in USA to express their views about islam. First of all I thank Allah for giving me the knowledge and truth about life so I can protect myself from selfdestruction. I consider my self lucky.After 53 years and last 35 years of search I reach the conclusion for my self that the only way I can survive in this world is to hold on Islamic faith. I went through trials and tribulations in my struggling years from being very poor to Allhamdu Llah(Thank Allah) living comfortable. I shall explain why islam protect me. I am not allowed to drink Alcohol. Well now we know problems with alcohol. Over 1400 years ago Prophet Muhamed (PBUH)recieved revelation (Quran) to prohibit Alcohol. There are more than 16000 death because of alcohol in USA. I am not allowed to have intimate relationship with females without marriage. Research showed impact of early non-marrital sexual intercourse on man behavioure which lead to high divorce rate. Not only that but we see now Sexually transmitted diseases are very high among teenagers and impact of this we see every day on females and males is tremendouse cost to person and economy. We have very high rates of female organ cancer at young age (cervical cancer) which cause high rates of hystrectomy in very young age in addition to suferring and economical costs. Children born without father. The impact of this on mother and society is countless. I am not allowed to do recreational drugs. we know the effect of drugs on health, life and society.
In addition to all of above the peace and tranquility my heart feels and no place for depressions in my heart. If I have a problem I return to my creator for help and support. Now there are evidence that when you pray and prostrate and your head touch the ground there are positive charges in our brain and our body neutralized by negative charges of earth and gravity and cause calm and relaxation in body. I do experience this everytime I pray (Islamic prayer).

I am not allowed to lie, steal, cheat or take any body else rights. I enjoy these in this beautiful country USA. I thank USA and all citizen of USA who understand the freedom Allah gives us to practice our religion and the respect from the Majority of my fellow US citizen to me. I ask Allah to help all of us to be the best person and help each other.

Thank you
May Allah bless all of us and USA.

I can go on and on for pages.

I was born and raised as a Presbyterian. My maternal grandfather was a circuit preacher in rural Mississippi. He had seven tiny churches in seven tiny communities and he rotated between them every seven Sundays. Both sets of grandparents were Presbyterian tea-totalers and their lives revolved around their churches. My parents however became urban, northeastern, leftist, intellectuals. Over the years we all became increasingly secular, until religion played no role in our lives whatsoever.
My husband, who was from Somalia, met when we were working on our Masters degrees in California. When we decided to get married I decided to convert to Islam for the sake of his family and for the sake of our children. I was honest with my husband that I was not going to be any more religious as a 'Muslim' than I had been as a 'Christian'. We married and went to Somalia, where our children were born and where we worked for the United Nations (this was before the war). My father-in-law was a Sufi of the Qadiriya brotherhood. While my husband is a moderate secular Muslim, my father-in-law was a widely respected religious leader. People came from all over southern Somalia for his prayers, healing, and mediation services. I came to love him deeply and through him I came to love Islam deeply.
We stayed in Kenya during the first half of the 1990', again working for the United Nations, and working to resettle my husband's family, first in Kenya, and then in the United States. We all moved to Virginia in 1995, where our children began elementary school, we helped my husband's family get apartments and jobs, I began and eventually finished a Ph.D. and my husband and I both worked. We raised our children as Muslims and we lived a hybrid lifestyle - part Somali, part American. These were frenetic years and I had little time or energy to attend to my spiritual life. My children on the other hand were actively exploring what it meant to be Muslims in America and both emerged as reformist Muslims.
About the time my children went to college I embraced Islam as my own.
I consider myself a student of Islam. I am studying Islamic philosophy and theology and I am practicing. I am deeply attracted to Sufism and wish that I had found the time to be my father-in-law's student while he was alive. He would have loved to have taught me everything he knew. While I have befriended numerous individuals who are also reformist Muslims - mainly in the context of my work - I have not yet found a community of Muslims with whom to study and practice. I am still searching for that community.

The straw that broke the camel's back for me and Christianity was my pedifile grandfather. He sexually abused his daughters and his grand daughters, including me at the age of 2. When he died, my minister brother wrote a glowing obituary of his great witness for Christ, of how he was the kind of christian every should want to be, That was when I decided I wanted no part of a religon who's heros were men like my grandfather or with followers who allowed his behavior to continue for decades.

I went on with my life with no desire to find my higher power, I wasn't looking for Islam, Islam came looking for me. In 1998, I started dating again after a divorse. One of the men I dated suggested that I educate myself on the Black experience in America. Being an avid reader, I went for it. The more I read, the more I read about the Civil Rights movement, which lead me to read about Malcom X. The more I read about Malcom X, the more I read about Islam. The more I read about Islam, the more I liked it. That lead me to accept Islam.

I am a 52 year old African American Muslim, living in Washington, DC. Like many African Americans who revert to Islam, I was raised Christian-specifically, Southern Baptist .After 10th grade or so, I basically drifted away from religion-though I always had what Jay Bakker, son of Christian minister Jay Bakker, called "a God-sized hole" in my heart. Around 1999, I began asking my Muslim friends about Islam. I also did lot of reading. A lot.
I learned a lot of the prayers from a Yusef Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) CD entitled "Prayers Of The Last Prophet", so that by the time I entered the Islamic Center here in town, I had a good working knowledge of Islam, and, I believe, a sincere desire to surrender to the will of Allah. I honestly believe that Islam has made me a more patient , less angry man. (Though I am definitely a work in progress! LOL) I also cherish the friendships I have established through going to the mosque on a regular basis.
I do, however, struggle with what I sometimes see as less than respectful treatment of women. And like everywhere else in the world, one can encounter racist attitudes.
Still, I am thankful to Allah for my blessings. As the old saying goes, I try to be the change I wish to see. I like to think that changing "the man in the mirror" is a start.

I am not really all that different from the rest of America. I have brown skin like Mr. Rajput across the street, I have similar physiques like the female basketball players who never smiled at me in high school, and most importantly, I make lasagna, I just put paprika in the tomato sauce. I have spent my entire life trying to make people recognize that being different is okay and ought to be pronounced, but I dress like a WASP. I am not looking for a philosophical solution or an Invisible Man allusion. I am really, deeply concerned with whether I should wear a pearl bracelet or the 24K gold ones that my in-laws gave me when I got married. I mean really, do they even go with my striped Oxford Shirts?
“Who and Vat are you… Ijiot?”- My mother, and yes, she meant “idiot,” “and go wear the gold before Asad’s family asks for a divorce.”
Bigger than my identity issues with trying to cover up my cultural identity from home by being more “American” was actually trying to figure out what my culture at home really was. My story is quite simple, yet complicated. I am an over-achieving, blackberry-obsessed, 22-year-old who married a young engineer who shared my passion for relief work the year we met (Now is a totally different story, he’s all about bringing home the (turkey) bacon and getting some “relaxation,” it happens to the best of us).

My parents were the quintessential odd-couple. My mother, a simple but spoiled, traditional but oddly open-minded woman in her 40s from Pakistan married my father, a 6’4, health & diet connoisseur with an American accent but who grew up in England.

And I was their child, a by-choice conservative Muslim female born in America, who studied in Saudi Arabia and Teaneck, NJ, and needed to change the World after first witnessing the torture photos of Gitmo Detainees on CBS 60 Minutes with my father. Had I not witnessed those photos, I would be a housewife to an Aamin Khan and best friends with my mother.

One thing I learned about myself was that before I died, I was going to make a difference and it would be slightly more important than standing up for all the ABCDs (American Born Confused Desis) out there and declaring, once and for all, “pearls over gold!”

“When you say you’re bored, it really just means you’re an idiot with nothing to do… go either read a book or write one.” That was Papa, a man of Indo-Pak ancestors but grew up in Kenya while the British ruled the country. He followed his pompous older brother with 10 dollars in his brown corduroy pants and began selling “I Love New York” shirts on 42nd street.

Ten years later, he out-did his brother, grew his own business, and partnered with Ashkenazi Jews he met on Broadway. I stopped going to the stores because I was bored of answering customer questions like ‘what’s that on your head?’ and salesmen wondering if I voted for Bush. I had bigger fish to fry, literally, my mother preferred tilapia over salmon, the masala sat better with tilapia.

While my mother used to yell at me for not cooking more and talking in English when she asked me something in Urdu, my father told me that I also needed to learn Swahili, Punjabi and Arabic and then impress the world to death.
“You were meant to be something big, now go help your mom in the kitchen and make sure 60 minutes is taping.”- Papa
Who Am I? I guess Papa laid it out for me, I could bridge it all and would be okay because I love dreaming about changing the world in my kitchen, standing in front of the TV with CNN blasting, while I cooked my paprika-filled lasagna and argued politics with my husband, Asad Ahmed Bandukda, while waiting for my culturally-obsessed mother to arrive, and missing my abhorrently always-correct father (who passed away recently), while in my Oxford shirt, and my right wrist adorned with a pearl bracelet and the other side shining with my gold churiya engraved Jai Ho, Victory to thee.

I became Muslim more than 20 years ago. I was raised in a family of Baptist ministers, and after my parents divorced my mother placed us in Catholic schools. This caused me to have an interest in religion and particularly how religions impact people and the world that we live in and share.

For years after becoming Muslim, I worked with immigrant Muslim families on the East Coast, helping with things like the public school system, public assistance and getting health care for their children. I was amazed at how prejudiced the people in our country are and how unkind the case workers and others were to the immigrants simply because they were not Christian and white, and because many of them were poor. I didn't know then how the images that I saw, and the insults and conversations that I witnessed would affect me.

Perhaps the most moving experience I had was when I visited an Egyptian mother who had a little girl that was only weeks old. I went to her home just to check on her and the baby and found the mother just sitting looking at ceiling and her baby lying in the crib covered with water filled boils. I didn't speak much Arabic so i just called a taxi and took the baby to the nearest hospital. I will never forget how I was treated until I raised my voice in the emergency room and said at the top of my voice "I am an American, and I am ashamed of what is happening here. I am ashamed of the way the people are being treated here, and I am going to call the mayor and my Congressman in the morning and let them knw what is going on here!"

The baby was diagnosed with scalded skin syndrome which is basically a staph infection that she was infected with in that same hospital's nursery. After examining the baby, they told me to take the baby home with a prescription for an antibiotic. I told the attending physician that before leaving, I was going to call my own pediatrician, who was very well known and who practiced in a very affluent area, and ask him to come and examine the child. I called him, and he asked to speak with the attending physician. After about five minutes, the nurses were taking the baby from my arms, and cleaning her up. She was given a spinal tap that revealed that the baby was septic, meaning that her blood had been infected and not only her skin. The baby was admitted to the hospital and my family's pediatrician was her private doctor until she was released two weeks later.

After that incident, and several similar situations, I founded the National Association of Muslim American Women (NAMAW). We began as a self help Muslim woman's organization that was mostly Muslim women raising money to help other, mostly single and divorced Muslim women to pay rent, purchase food and keep their lights on. That was in 1989. Now we are a UN accredited NGO, that is also a political action committee. Our goal is to bring the political voices of Muslim American women into the mainstream political dialogue in the US, where we can use our unique perspectives and experiences to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

My name is Aisha Abdul Rahman, I am an American Muslim revert of about 7 years now. I learned about Islam when I was in high school. I have always been interested in theology and my purpose in life. I began studying the bible, and the history of the bible, and decided to then learn a bit more about Islam.

After being a victim of a home invasion, my husband and I felt very blessed. We decided we needed to spend the rest of our lives doing the right thing. We had seen a banner on a Masjid that said come learn about Islam, and so we did. We have been active members of the Sacramento Islamic community ever since.

People often ask me what is my greatest accomplishment. I tell them becoming a Muslim, one who submits their entire self to God, not their own desires. I would not be the person I am today, nor have the many blessings I have received if it were not for Allah (swt) I am forever great-full ,and will spend the rest of this life and the next giving him, or Creator the praises that he deserves. Because it is him alone who creator the world and all that it possess, and there is none like him.

Ameen.

My story...ah well I didn't convert to Islam via marriage as is often assumed and often the case for many women. This August 2009 it will be 11 years since I came to Islam. This has not been an easy road. I've been rejected by family, harassed by former friends and, I'm sure, been declined for jobs based on my appearance.

However, I think my life is so much richer than it could have been without Islam. As a little girl, I wanted so badly to travel and to SEE other ways of living, other people and their culture. As an adult, I haven't travelled as much as I would like. Not yet. But my circle of friends is wider than I could have hoped. I've picked up smatterings of different languages, my laughable cooking skills at least include dishes from two or three other cultures and I have a great circle of sister/friends.

I'm well known for my directness and sharp tongue. I think had I not been Muslim I would never have polished my soul, made my anger mean something greater than just being angry. Ah there we go again, the angry Muslim. But you know, I was angry way before Islam. Submitting to Allah(swt) eased pain I hid in my heart, made burdens bearable and made me grateful, every day, for what I do have. I know that some will say well that could happen with any belief or set of morals. Somehow for me it didn't crystallize until Islam. Not everything is perfect, let me tell you. I'm not, Muslims aren't, but I believe Islam and Allah to be perfect.

Living in Seattle, makes it easier to be Muslim, I think. I have had great experiences in Seattle with random people on the street: "So, ah...it's great that you can still wear your cultural clothing and whatnot." If they only knew, my cultural clothing are the jeans and t shirt that I wear underneath my abaya. Can't get more American than that, can you?

I worry for my daughter. I suspect that teachers treat her differently after I walk into the school for Open House wearing abaya and hijab. [She chooses not to wear hijab yet] Sometimes I just want to shout, "Can't you see she's like any other 14 year old?! She'll hate some of you (teachers), she will love some of you, but can't we just work together so that she survives the madness of teen years and is a successful student and young adult?" How can you be a teacher and limit yourself by pretending I didn't just walk into your classroom? Or ignore my emails because it's just easier that way? Yeah, I took it personally when my daughter went on a trip to D.C. with one of her junior high teachers, who then shared pics of the trip with other parents on Facebook, except me.

There is so much that there is not enough room to tell. Muslims are not just Arabs or Pakistanis. We're not all angry, and even if we are, many of us are rightfully so, given how we are treated here and abroad. I wish you could see us as we see us: A strong, independent, hard working, loving, culture clash of a mixed and yes, sometimes dysfunctional, family that spans the globe. Aren't all blended families struggling to get it right? Does America have it right yet, some 233 years after it was founded? I think not. Give us a chance to become a part of the fabric of your school, town, state and country. You'd be surprised to know, we've been here all along and share many of the same values, day in and day out.

I've shared a group picture of Muslims who took part in the Edmonds (WA) 2009 Fourth of July parade. My daughter and I took part in the parade and she said, "You know, the Fourth is my favorite holiday." I hope that for her sake, that's what others will see, just another American teenager, who talks back, who loves bright colors and science, her friends (both Muslim and non Muslim) and who loves the Fourth of July, because she's an American Muslim, through and through.

I lost my son, Mohammad Salman Hamdani, on 911 at WTC II. Instead of grieving for my loss, I found myself defending my Muslim faith in a society who looked at Muslim Americans with suspicion. I started speaking at inter faih forums and universities talking about the sacrifice of my son. He responded to his call of duty to rescue fellow citizens irrespective of their nationlity, race, faith or color of skin. He transcended all these discriminations and that is his legacy.

I became very involved with civil liberties and the Patruit Act, under which the Habeas Corpus stands suspended since October, 2001. This demonizing of Islam has to stop if America wants to regain her dignity.

Islam is a great faith, but like other faiths, has been twisted and exploited by politicians for their selfish agendas.
You may conduct a google search and formulae your own report and get pictures of the family.

Any questions, contact me at tghamdani@aol.com.

Talat Hamdani
Mother of Mohammad Salman Hamdani
NYPD Cadet, WTC II

Being Muslim is everything to me. From the moments I open my eyes, my first act is an act of worship to God. My relationship with God guides my every action and my every decision. Being Muslim is a constant reminder that this journey of life is paving the path and building an everlasting life in the hereafter.

I am human, and in the Arabic language the word human is "Insaan" the root word of which is "Nasa" which means "forget;" because humans in their nature continuously forget. God knows this, He created us. That's why we believe that the 5 prayers a day maintains that connection to the divine. When I realize that God is with me at every moment, that I'm accountable for all my actions and how I treat others; I do my best to avoid hurting others, to treat others with respect, to make decisions that will please Him, to honor my parents, etc. That is the most striking and beautiful thing about my faith.

Being Muslim in America has become increasingly difficult. I grew up in Michigan, and never felt under attack as much as I do today. I turn on Fox News or pop in a film, and I can see a general perception of how non-Muslims view me. I feel that Muslims are continuously experiencing civil right violations, they are scrutinized unfairly and unjustly, their words are twisted, and a minority of extremists is representing the mass majority of peaceful Muslims in the minds of many of my non-Muslim neighbors. Anti-Muslim rhetoric is repeated by politicians and lawmakers, which makes me nervous.

I wonder what it will be like for my children. I'm afraid that fear-mongering will continue - recently 6 Muslims were accused of terrorism with, so far, no sufficient evidence to back those claims. I fear that another Bush will come into power and open up another facility to imprison innocent Muslims under secret evidence. I fear for Muslims in China (Uighers) (10,000 went missing besides the thousands killed), Palestinians (Israeli settlement expansion continuing, Gazans under seige), Iraqis (unrest), and impoverished Muslims across the world. I fear that world silence for such grievances against Muslims will continue.

I've visited forums and sites of right-wing conservatives who don't even believe Muslims have a right to live or practice their faith freely. How hypocritical of a people who built a country based on freedom of religion and expression.

I hope that more of my fellow non-Muslim Americans will educate themselves, disregard fringe anti-Muslim thinking, open their minds and hearts, and continue the tradition of acceptance. I love my country because many of the non-Muslims around me have only treated me with respect. We Americans are a people of resilience, love, and acceptance, and I believe our country will continue being the greatest country in the world if we hold tight to our beliefs of freedoms, and our intolerance of injustice to anyone no matter who they are.

Being muslim, to me, means accepting all faiths on this Earth, and treating every living or inanimate object with respect and genuine care and interest. (Un)fortunately, I have no reference point other than Islam, and if I take that as my base, then, the following points must be considered.

1. Per Islam, God sent 124000 messengers to share his message across different times. He also sent multiple messengers at the same time to different parts of the world.

2. Islam CLEARLY states that there is no complusion in religion.

So, if we were to take these 2 points into consideration, then, in order to be muslim, I have to openly and fairly acknowledge that I am jewish, I am christian, I am hindu, I am bhuddist etc hence I am muslim.

I say this because ALL religions, regardless of their origin, focus on humanity towards your fellow man, and, the ultimate acknowledgement that there is ONE God.

So, differences in religion to me is like differences in languages. All languages have ultimately one purpose and that is to be a medium for communication, and likewise, all religions have one purpose and that is the acknowledgement of ONE God.

Being Muslim to me is NOT about maintaining a cultural identity (Arab or indopak), nor is it about hard or fast rules that are not open to interpretation.

If something is rigid, any force put on it will cause it to break, but, if something is flexible, it will take the shape of the force exerted upon it, bear it, and return to its original position.

So, once again, being muslim, to me is being accepting of all.

thank you / Aali.

I was born in India in a family that observed Muslim traditions faithfully. I have lived in the USA for more than 35 years, most of my adult life. I have not been a practicing muslim for most of my life. Yet I am familiar with most of its practices, good and not so good.

I want to comment on French President Sarkozy's recent proclamation that French Muslim women would not be allowed to wear the burqa. I found it amusing and somewhat typical of Western colonial attitudes towards Islam.

When I was growing up, my mother wore a burqa. She was a housewife burdened with raising six children in a household that had little or no modern appliances. Frequently during her workday, she needed to run an errand: buying a forgotten grocery item taking a sick child to a doctor etc. She always a burqa on these occasions. It was convenient..she did not have to worry about the clothes that she wore underneath the burqa or if she was having a bad hair day. On Sundays when the entire family went to the local square, she dressed in her finer clothes and did not wear the burqa.

Recently, I visited India. I had been in touch with one of my nieces, a tech savvy very modern woman in her mid twenties. She and her husband both work in large modern Indian companies. When she came to visit me, she wore a burqa which she removed before we went to a restaurant. Nonplussed, I asked her why the burqa. She explained that she liked to wear modern Western clothes both in her professional and in her personal life. Unfortunately, in the neighbourhood where she lived, her attire would subject her to catcalls and unwelcome attention. The burqa kept her safe and anonymous and incidentally allowed her to dress as she pleased.

The use of the burqa under both these circumstances was a convenience and a choice for the women involved. I wonder if Sarkozy would object to these women wearing the burqa.

Being a Muslim is a way of life. Living in America as an American Muslim, I find that the basic freedom of religion that the American Constitution provides truly works out to the advantage of all religions, especially Islam. To me, being Muslim means to follow all of the commands of God and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, May the Peace and Blessings of God Be Upon Him, on a daily basis. For example, a typical day for me as a Muslim is as follows: as a college student in America, I observe all of my five daily prayers whether at home, college, or at the Mosque, treat my fellow students, teachers, and citizens with mutual respect and fairness, and answer any questions about Islam or misconceptions of Islam that people may pose to me. To me, Islam is beautiful because it is truly a uniquely perfect way of life in the sense that Islam has all of the solutions to any of my problems through the word of God in the Qur'an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, May the Peace and Blessings of God Be Upon Him. To me, being a Muslim also means to give back to the community, always speak the truth, respect the rights of my neighbors regardless of religion, and constantly do pious actions to gain the pleasure of God.
When looking at the Muslim nation today, I'm greatly concerned with the state of my fellow Muslims. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance period in Europe, the Muslim nation was at the forefront of the world with regards to literature and science. With all of the internal and external violence among Muslims today, I see one main cause to the problem. We as a Muslim nation are the cause of our decline. As God says in the Qur'an, "Verily never will Allah (God) change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls)" (part of verse 13:11, Quran). The only solution for the Muslim nation to rise up to dignity is to turn back and obey the commands of God and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, May the Peace and Blessings of God Be Upon Him. Based on this idea, it is my hope and strong belief that, God willing, the Muslim nation will rise up to dignity once again, after we change our selves, externally and internally to gain the pleasure of God.

Islam to me is beauty. It is peace and spiritual healing. I am a born and raised Pakistani-American Muslim. I do not seperate religion from my life as if the two are independent. Islam defines my existence. Islam teaches me how to live and provides me with tenants upon which to base my character and personality.
I believe Muslims get too caught up in what is absolutely forbidden in Islam, the haram, and what is allowed, the halal. Just because something is not obligatory does not mean it should be ignored and just because someone is not doing something obligatory does not mean they should be chastised. Islamic faith is between the individual and God, not the individual, Islamic community, and God.
In Islamic communities an outsider looking in will see warmth and cold. There is a strong sense of brotherhood and sisterhood which unites people and gives Muslims strength. That is the warmth. There are always people who judge or feel the need to pass judgements which isolate Muslims who appear to be practicing poorly. That is the bitter cold: bitter because when the community becomes a disconnector, it goes against it's very most amiable quality.
After 9/11 many non-Muslims around the world started leaning about Islam for the first time. Education through the media and word of mouth suddenly spawned several non-Muslim self-proclaimed experts in Islam. It angers me when non-Muslims make passionate arguments about Shari'ah or the hijab when all their evidence is media-based. Nothing scholarly or truly educated thought motivating the conversations it angers me more that they so easily speak about something that is so important to me with such juvenile knowledge. That is why I appreciate programs like these.

I am one those those "converts" to Islam. My story began at age 40, and during a time when I was searching for a deeper truth about the Christ. In those days, I was a sincere Christian. I even worked with a lay ministry that, on three or four occasions during the week, visited those persons who were sick in hospitals and homes. We also comforted persons who were dying, as well as the families of the deceased. But, as my sincere efforts increased, so did my interest in learning more about the Christ, his true nature and circumstances of his birth, and his mother's virginity. The Bible and a host of other Christian and Hebrew text could not answer it for me. This question was not satisfied.

I actually began my conversion while at a Border's Bookstore in a location in Southern Maryland. For some odd reason, I recall a statement, some twenty years earlier, someone made about the mother of Christ. They referenced her being in the Quran. While at the bookstore, I found a Quran, and tried to make heads or tails of its Index. I came across the name Ibrahim (Arabic for Abraham). I quickly read through one part of a chapter. It was very clear. From there I came across the story of the mother of Christ. I invested $20 to purchase it; I began reading the book the same day. That evening, I got a lot of resistance from a friend in whose home I temporarily stayed. He asked me to remove the book from his Christian home.

Over the course of time I would increasingly reference the Quran as the religious guide for my life. The Quran displaced the bible as my daily dose of religion. Afterwards, the reading would permeate all aspects of my living. I literally was transformed into a Muslim.

I am now 51. I believe all the holy books contain a virtually metaphysical truth about the Almighty. It is with sincerity that we individually decide what truth gets us to a place where we are in line with the will of the Almighty. For those who are most sincere, the idea of having a Christian or Jewish, or Muslim identity is replaced by the notion that one's ultimate goal is to serve the humanity. And, to do so without regard to race, religion, culture, nationality, or social status.

I came to Allah with a weary and broken heart. I had gone through difficulties that had alienated me from myself and rediscovering Islam (w/o the racialism that was such a part of the Nation of Islam) provided me with a way back to my own heart.

The way Islam expresses itself in my life is the constant rememberance of Allah. I don't cover and don't attend masjids very often because I don't find the love that brought me to Islam, but I remain a Muslim.

Being Muslim to me means that I'm here for a reason; it’s my map or guide. Without it, I’d be lost. I would have no idea why I’m here or what my purpose or goal is. Faith helps me make sense of this crazy world. For Muslims, we look at our religion as, not only being our religion, but our way of life. It’s your whole daily routine. It’s integrated into your everyday actions, so we do everything in accordance with Islamic principles.

I hope we will come to a point around the world where individuals are not judged by the acts of others. I hope we will come to a point where we ask questions about things we don't know instead of just assuming we know. I hope we come to a point in our history where we actually follow our Declaration of Independence where it says "All men are created equal."

If you have anymore questions I would be more than happy to speak about my faith. It is the one thing I can't stop talking about.

Take care,
Ammar Alo, Esq.

I am a born Muslim who was raised in India. I became a doctor, got married and came to the US. I am a practicing psychiatrist. I have 2 beautiful daughters who became dental doctors.
Half my life i just followed traditional Islam and thought that was religion. It is only when I read the Quran with meaning that I really got the zist of Islam which is to love humanity and the best way of pleasing God is to SERVE humanity. Islam is believing in ONE God . That right away teaches us that every human is the creation of that same One God, whether he is a Hindu or Christian or a Jew. If we are to please Allah (which is the arabic word for God) or Bhagwan (the Indian word for God) or simply God in English, we must respect all humans and care for all of humanity in need.
What I like about Islam is it accepts all the prophets irrespective of any religion, including Jesus ,Moses, and Mohammed. Some , including my learned father believed Ram, a hindu deity, may have been a prophet teaching humans to practice kindness, fairness and justice for all. Islam emphasizes justice for all people even at one's own expense no matter what ones religion is.
Another beauty of Islam is it orders equality for all . No one is superior to another. All are equal in Gods eyes. Freedom is another very important order. The Quran says you have no right to take away another's freedom.
Charity is emphasized. Quran says do not think of it as a loss, for it comes back to you in a better and larger way.
Finally it places responsibility of your actions on your own shoulders for we will be answerable for our own deeds and be rewarded accordingly.

I am reverted to Islam after teaching in an Islamic school for a year. I did a lot of reading of the religion and felt very drawn to it. Since coming into the folds of Islam, I have learned quite a lot. One of the biggest struggles at first is to separate the culture of a people and Islam. That was very hard and many reverts are not able to do it. There is a big push to become "Arab-ized" and many reverts fall for this. I had issues with my name; how I dressed; what door I walked into at a mosque- all these issues that were not Islam; but rather cultural responses to it. ..and then, there were the responses of my family...

Since that time, I have grown more comfortable in my knowledge and with who I am as a Muslim. I have given presentations at schools and churches. I teach in a public school. I am aware that I might be the only Muslim someone knows and so this makes me the Islamic spokesperson by default. I strive to be a better person; and therefore, a better Muslim.

I am excited to be a part of the new American Muslim- one who is active in causes; ready to bring positive change to the larger community around me- and to open those doors of understanding to what Islam REALLY is...and hopefully plant those seeds of change that are so desperately needed all around.

Wow, such a broad topic - I don't know where to begin. I'm an American Muslim, born in Michigan, of Middle Eastern descent. I was raised alongside my eight other siblings, and 8 of the 9 of us are married, most of us with children. My husband is a Canadian of Pakistani descent. We both have our businesses in the same building - he is a neurosurgeon and I am an attorney.
What I find beautiful about Islam is a few things. One, the simplicity of the belief & submission to one God. It might sound boring, but really it streamlines my life. I believe that He will judge me & therefore all my actions are done with that in mind. I can't pick & choose what I like of the faith & discard the rest - because that would mean I think I know more than God & that's not true submission. Secondly, is the Muslim character. The obligations I have to be kind to people, starting with my family, then neighbors, makes for a kind personality. I'm not saying I'm such a kind person :) but I strive to constantly improve in that area. Thirdly I would say code of conduct. I don't think anyone can appreciate the comfort I have in my home - based on conduct requirements - such as no alcohol or drugs, or adultery. It doesn't mean I'm an idiot who doesn't realize it can happen, but that it's such a crime and violation of a marriage that before it happens, my spouse or I would have to think 1000 times. It's just not such an easy transgression.

In terms of challenges - I would say two. Firstly, I feel that the society around me makes it more difficult to raise my children in an Islamic manner. I know it sounds cliche, but I think the temptations are too many, & I am scared for them. What that means to me, is that I will strive hard to instill in them the belief in God so that if they do stray, one day that strength of belief will make them return. Secondly, I find the internal challenges of the Muslim community are many. With the combination of the immigrant as well as American Muslim population, it is hard to find the right formula that will become the American Muslim culture. Simple things like the proper administration of the Islamic centers & taking into account community wants & needs in a progressive manner, as well as rooting out ultra conservative views. I don't mean rooting out the views in the sense of suppression of free speech, but in the sense of not letting those views take root in the development of the community.

My family & I are involved in the local Muslim and general community around us. That's what makes me a true Muslim. Focussing on my family and my community (used in the general sense). I don't believe as a Muslim I am allowed to ignore the ailments of those around me, regardless of their beliefs. I think this requirement has taken root, and more & more Muslims are becoming involved in local initiatives.

Thank You.

Born and raised in America to immigrant parents, Islam often seemed out of place in my world. It only seemed to exist in my home, where we would pray, read Qur'an, learn about Islamic history and fast.

Outside life was different. Food had to be examined and questioned before being eaten, and my hijab, or headscarf, was more of a point of scorn and laughter, rather than pride and respect.

But as the years flew by, my parents never lessened their grip on Islamic values, and insisted that we live by them. It wasn't hard to do -- we could see where the values saved us from trouble, and helped us feel more safe.

In fact, in high school I became more of an educator, than a student. Whenever the topic of Islam came up in class, the teacher would volunteer me to speak of the religion I practiced and share its meaning with my fellow classmates. I started to give mini-lectures on hijab, and eating halal food.

Now that I am a mother, to a child also born in America, I hope I can pass on the same appreciation of Islam to my daughter. I want her to feel the same passion when standing before God to pray, and I want her to have the same confidence when she strolls out in public wearing her headscarf.

NURAH W. AMAT’ULLAH, Founder and Executive Director of The Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development, is a program developer who focuses on faith-based community development initiatives. A graduate of the Islamic Chaplaincy Program at Hartford Seminary, Ms. Amat’ullah ministers to pastoral care needs in the urban community. Over the years her programs have been aimed at building capacity among poor and immigrant communities in the Bronx. Clients served by the programs are predominantly new immigrants with transitional needs that are culturally specific. Ms. Amat’ullah current serves as an Archival Librarian at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She is actively involved in a number of inter-faith and NGO organizations, including Women in Religious Leadership, New York Disaster Chaplaincy Services, Muslim Consultative Network, Religions for Peace-USA and Auburn Theological Seminary Women’s Multi-faith Committee.

The Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development (MWIRD) is a faith-based, community service organization focused on the following areas: hunger relief, health education, transitional needs of new immigrants and inter-faith work.

Founded in 1997, the organization initially began by opening and operating a food pantry at the Mount Hope Mosque, in the Bronx, distributing halal food to a needy population of immigrants, primarily West Africans, most of whom are Muslims. Interactions with the pantry’s clientele, who were primarily women, led to an awareness on the part of the pantry’s founder of their transitional needs, and this understanding was the catalyst for development and establishing services to low-income families, Muslims and others in the Bronx. Currently MWIRD operates a food pantry in the Parkchester section of the Bronx, at 2044 Benedict Avenue, in partnership with the African Islamic Center. Current projects include: Public Benefits Outreach, Immigrant Women’s Health, HIV/AIDS Education and Referral Services, and Youth Service Learning - working with new immigrant youth.

The Institute works collaboratively with borough, city, and state agencies, as well as nonprofit and grassroots organizations. As a result of these efforts, MWIRD is a resource for Bronx Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, seeking assistance in various areas of life. We offer referrals to literacy programs, intervene in housing-related issues, engage parents with the public schools, help clients understand immigration and medical documents, and assists in other areas on a case-by-case basis.

I am a convert to Islam. I have been a Muslim for about 5 years now. My husband is not religious and we have been married for 10 years and have 2 children together and I have a 16 year old step son. I had been attracted to Islam and the middle east as a college student. I took several classes and learned more about the history and the religion. As a person I was generally always on a spiritual quest. As a child I attneded public and christian private schools...lutheran, catholic and I attended a reformed church with my family on weekends. I sang in the choirs and was active in the youth groups there but something didn't fit for me. I had a problem with the idea of christ and of Jesus as a man and god having to prove he loved us by sending his son. When I learned more about Islam it seemed to me that it was simple. YOu had only to say the shahadah to become a muslim. And then to be muslim you had to observe the 5 pillars. Islam offered a way of life and had clear expectations of behavior and an accountability that resonated with me as a person.

Islam to me is my weekly women's class where we study quran and hadith. It is the local mosque where I can gather with fellow mulsims in congregation and pray and hear the call to prayer. Islam is everyday, my prayer and everything I strive to be and do-a good wife a good mother, friend, daughter...I have to seek out Islam since I am somewhat isolated in my religion.

I was sitting there, in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, a place where I have never been before, in a house I had never stayed in, with a man in my living room, whom I had not met before that day. He was a Palestinian man, who speaks very little English. His primary language is Arabic. I speak almost no Arabic, and my primary language is English. So, we spoke in Spanish. Even that was difficult, because he spoke the Puerto Rican dialect, ommitting s's and other letters, while I spoke the Mexican dialect. There is one thing however, that connected us more than any other thing. We were both Muslim.
I have been Muslim since 1999. I converted from Catholicism, in a search to provide a spiritual and moral guide for my life. Islam seemed to be a great fit. Since then, I found the religion has opened me up to a whole new world. You see, being an American, Latino Muslim, has pretty much made the world my home. I have been to visit Muslim communities in China. Simply because I am Muslim, I feel like, and am welcomed like, I am visiting family. I have traveled to India, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Saudi Arabia. By virtue of my darker skin tone, I automatically fit in, but the fact that I either speak the language or am of the same religion, almost gives a sort of celebrity status on occasion. You see, India and Saudia Arabia, don't see many Mexican visitors. But, a Mexican American Muslim! They look at me like I came off of Galapagos Island.
You see, I'm not such a rare breed here in the U.S. In fact, I've found that the world is becoming more like me every day. Or perhaps it is more humble to say I have become part of the natural evolution of the world. As I continue to travel, God willing, I will continue to discover the goodness of humanity and incresingly more cosmopolitan world we live in.
My friend, Zayad, in Puerto Rico, will always be my friend. He helped us a great deal while we knew him for those 6 short days, and we had him and his children over for dinner the night before we left. And he, may God reward him, did even more for me, because as he stated, I was a traveling Muslim. How many of you would do that? Invite a strange man, in a foreign place, into your home for dinner, only because he is the same religion? Well, we did, and he'll forever be my friend, because first, he's my brother in Islam. He's progammed into my phone as "Zayad de Puerto Rico" to be sure I don't forget who he is.

(The picture I attached is my family in Puerto Rico: my wife and children,and In-laws)

"Oh, you don't look like a Muslim..." "Oh, I didn't know you were a Muslim - you speak English so well!" "Oh, you're a Muslim? But I thought you're an American..." I've heard these comments countless times since 9/11, although I've lived in this country for 30 years & have been proud to hold a US passport since I was 18! There remains so much confusion & misunderstanding about what it means to be a Muslim, especially an American Muslim. Yes, I'm an American Muslim - my skin is brown because my parents are from Sri Lanka & Pakistan, my English is excellent because that's the ONLY language I speak, & I pray to God every day. The same God which Jews & Christians pray to - the God of Abraham, Moses, & Jesus - simply God...yet why do so many of my fellow citizens continue to view my religion with suspicion & hatred?

Even after my two teenagers & I wrote 'The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook' in order to dispel stereotypes & misconceptions about Islam - we still hear racist & negative comments, whether in the media, the blogosphere, or letters to the editor in newspapers across the country. After 8 years, why are so many people still so intent on willfully misunderstanding me & my religion?

I was the Vice President of the Arizona Interfaith Movement - interfaith dialogue & religious pluralism remain my passions in this life. I dream of a day where people of all faiths (or no faith) can respectfully share their beliefs with each other, a day where a person kneeling in a pew or prostrating upon a carpet are viewed equally as co-religionists on their spiritual path, a day when my children are proud to be called 'Muslims'...

I am an American born (indigenous) Muslim. I took shahada 39 years ago. I am 67 years old and a practicing Muslim. Islam has illuminated and informed my life as a human being, a wife, a mother a grandmother, a professional international maternal and child health advocate, and as a citizen of the world. There a many things I love about Islam: its simplicity ;the direct relationship with Allah without the need for an intermediary; it's teachings about caring for the poor and the sick, the spiritual equality of men and women (see it in the Qu'ran: all of the inequitable treatment you see of women are culturally based, not Islamically based); the perfect example of Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him; the status of mothers; the fast during the month of Ramadan to let us know what it is like to be hungry and make us more compassionate towards those for whom hunger does not end at sunset each day; the exhortation to be generous in giving; the significance placed on the acquisition of knowledge; the respect it teaches for parents and elders. I love the protection and respect and freedom that dressing modestly affords me as a woman In the United States, Muslims are not monolith. Muslims in America are comprised of indigenous African Americans and European Americans, Latinos,South Asians, Arabs, Africans, and Europeans. Too often Muslims are thought of exclusively as immigrants. It is the universality of Islam that is one of its strengths, as witnessed by anyone who has ever performed the Hajj in Mecca, which was beautifully described by El Hajj Malik Shabazz in "The Autobiography of Malcolm X." Muslims from all over the world recognize the oneness of God and the brotherhood of humanity. I am very concerned about Islam being hijacked by people with political motivations who wrap themselves and their hatred for the west in Islam and commit unforgivable acts of violence against innocent people. I am concerned about the Wahabi and Salafi teachings that are spreading in the U.S. among young Muslims that are intolerant and misrepresent the teachings of Islam. I invite you to visit www.aaii.info, the website of the African American Islamic Institute (AAII), the international humanitarian NGO of which I am the Executive Director, to see how our humnaitarian work to promote universal education, access to health care, empowerment of women, protection of children, alleviation of hunger and poverty and peace building is based upon the teachings of Islam

Husayn El-Mekki Abdullah-Aziz was born in 1980 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Aisha El-Mekki and Yahya Abdullah-Aziz. His parents came from a Christian and Catholic background, and became Muslim during the era of Malcolm X, and their passion for Islam and the Ahlul-Bayt (Holy Progeny of Prophet Muhammad) grew even more during the Islamic revolution of Iran. They decided to pioneer to Iran to study and further research Islam during the early 80’s. His father and mother made many sacrifices and stayed in Iran for four years at that time and studied in the Islamic seminary giving their children an opportunity to see and be part of an Islamic society. They were blessed with the opportunity to meet many of the elite scholars of that time, including being honored as personal guest of the leader of the Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini (May Allah have mercy on his soul).

He was a very fast learner and always received high academic grades.
In 1994 his family traveled to Iran again. Upon completion of the Farsi Language Course and graduating with honors he moved onto broaden his education in the field of theology, religious science and Islamic Studies. Some of the courses in the Religious Seminary included: Arabic grammar, philosophy, metaphysics, Hadith, Quranic science and commentary, Ethics, Persian literature, Islamic law, and several others. He maintained a 17.0 (out of 20.0) GPA. After four years, at the age of 18 he returned to the United States and gained work experience as he simultaneously engaged in college courses in the field of Computer Information Systems. He went on to expand his this knowledge at Wrightco Tech vocational school where he would receive certificates in business telephony, fiber optics communications and security systems. He maintained a 3.2 GPA.

In 2006 he returned to Iran in order to further his knowledge of Islamic studies and to gain vast work experience in the field of translation. He specialized in tutoring and teaching English to high raking officials. He also worked at numerous educational institutes and universities specializing in translation and transcription, including The Porch of Wisdom Institute (www.islamquest.net), Sina Institute (www.insight-info.com), Sibtayn International Institute (www.sibtayn.org), Mofid University and several others.

He also married at this time, 8 time Iranian Gold Medalist (in Basketball and Martial Arts), Fatemeh Osfoori-Fard who also ventured into the field of Islamic Studies.

In 2008 he was accepted into the online MA program of I.C.A.S. (Islamic College for Advanced Studies), validated by Middlesex University. He is a current student there majoring in Islamic Mysticism.

He is a talented public speaker who establishes great rapport especially with the youth, who focuses on religious, inspirational and interfaith topics. He is invited regularly to travel and give lectures all across the United States and thus far to over 6 different countries. Some of the places he has given lectures at include: Rutgers University, Islamic Center of England (London, U.K.), Islamic Education Center (Tampa, FL & Potomac, MD), Muhammadia Center (Patterson, NJ), Wales Ahlul Bayt Youth Society (Cardiff, Wales), Jaffari Islamic Center (Orlando, FL), The Council of Islamic Guidance (Toronto, CA), Idara –e- Jaffaria (Burtonsville, MD), The Ahlul-Bayt Association (Austin, TX), SABA (San Jose, CA) and several others.

In 2009 he started the company, I.F.A.S. (Innovative Fitness & Advanced Scholarship); an after-school program dedicated to physical fitness and academics especially for Muslim youth.

He also writes articles and poetry for multiple websites, magazines and newsletters locally and abroad.

He is fluent in Western Persian (Farsi) and is well-versed in Eastern Persian (Dari) and Arabic.

His hobbies and interest include:
Spending time with family, reading, giving to the needy, sports, writing poetry, traveling, Islamic studies, computers, cooking and occasionally playing video games.

Hello. My name is Raef, 27 from Germantown MD - but I usually just say the DC area. I am a public high school teacher in Montgomery county. I teach C++, Java, and other tech-related courses at Northwest high school. I am also a singer/songwriter and am part of the Poetic Vision Tour (http://www.poeticvisiontour.com/). I am the vocalist and bass player for the band Great Seneca. I used to work for a security software company in VA.

My story is pretty simple - being Muslim just means that I am in sync with the rest of creation, and I do what I do to help others and please my creator. I apply this simple concept of Islam to my career and my life.

I decided to switch careers from a software eng. to a high school teacher because I wanted to help others in a more direct way (and because it was pretty boring sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours a day). The prophet Muhammad mentioned that anyone who paves a path for knowldge, Allah paves a path for him to paradise.

I was also concerned about negative views that people may have about my beautiful faith. When fellow teachers, students, and parents see me, a practicing Muslim, who is working tirelessly to help make a difference in the lives of 120+ students every day, they have a tangible counter-example of the so-called Muslims that make the evening news.

In my music, the lyrics I write and sing are all influenced by the values that Islam brings to people of all faiths. I sing about being grateful, being productive, and taking advantage of health before illness, wealth before poverty, and youth before old-age : all which are lessons taught by the Quran and practices of prophet Muhammad.
The Poetic Vision Tour is a traveling musical concert that is made up of artists and music that is spiritually compliant with Islam. During our concerts, we invite the audience to discuss and study the lyrics handed out to them. Muslims and people of other faiths have attended and enjoyed our music.

Born and raised here, I am fortunate to have close friends of numerous faiths. The years following 9-11 changed the way people view me and my faith. The constant mentioning of terrorism and Islam in the same sentence still worries me. Growing up, I was never taught to hate, or even put down others - the beautiful thing about Islam is that it is accepting of ALL people. Just walk into one of our Islamic centers - people of all walks of life come together and pray to 1 God. Islam makes so much sense to me because it's very natural - there's no middle-'man' between me and my creator. I don't need anyone or any special place to connect, ask, or pray to God.

I pray that God will give me the energy, and life to continue to do good and help others.

Raef Haggag
Germantown , MD

As a young American Muslim, I face a multitude of challenges on a daily basis. A minority within the larger American society, I must summon the courage to maintain my faith on a daily basis. I have to deal with people who misunderstand Islam, those with negative views of my faith, and those who try to stereotype me based on my religious convictions. Yet as I look around me and see the increasing number of converts to Islam throughout this country, I realize that with all the misunderstandings about Islam and the negative propaganda campaigns, Islam in America remains a viable and growing faith. It is an honor to be a member of a religion that recognizes the prophets of the other Abrahamic faiths and instructs us to leave the world a better place than we found it. It's an honor to be a member of the fastest growing faith around the world and to be a part of a faith community that has contributed to the betterment of the world through the sciences, technology, health, astronomy, philosophy, and geography.

This is a sort of blog entry/journal note that I wrote after making a major decision in my life about the Muslim headscarf. The note was very well received and a friend of mine suggested I submit it. It may need a lot of work so I am certainly open to edits.
Thanks!

As I have just completed my undergrad and begin to think more carefully about my future, I have been doing a lot of reflection on my life, and in particular my faith. Having thought about this for some time now, even over the past few years, I have decided to stop wearing the hijab (headscarf).

I have been talking to many people about my decision, and finding ways to talk about it has not been easy. But one of the things I realized, is that it’s important for me to go back to the beginning, because my story about wearing/not wearing a hijab is not one that spans just a few years, but rather is something that has been with me my entire life.

I attended a private Muslim school from kindergarten through the 6th grade, where a headscarf was a mandatory part of the school uniform. Outside of the school setting, I did not wear a scarf. This academic environment was contrasted by my family environment, where neither my mother, nor many of my relatives, wore a headscarf. Growing up in the academic setting, being taught that hijab was a mandatory part of the faith, I told myself that I would start one day, and arbitrarily picked high school.

My first week of high school was also my first week wearing a hijab in a more permanent manner. It was also the week of 9.11.01. Having been born and raised in a diverse city and attending Lane Tech, the largest high school in the city and among the most diverse, I was fortunate to have generally positive experiences in our post-9.11 world. During these years of high school, I struggled a lot with my faith, and was often challenged the most by my friends of other faith backgrounds. Christa challenged me to understand my faith better, for example questioning my wearing a scarf with a short-sleeved shirt (an effort to fit in then, which I now look back at with horror [my horror is by no means to pass judgment on others, but rather is a reflection of the change of my views over time]). In other ways, I learned more about my faith and myself as I made new friends through high school and college, like Nazia, Hazel, Khatija, and Amina, friends that have become my family. I firmly believe that these friends have drawn me even closer to Islam, in addition to the countless friends of other faith backgrounds that have been equally wonderful. Other times, I challenged myself, struggling to find what it meant for me to wear a hijab. For example, I did not wear a hijab in settings where I wore traditional desi clothes, not only due to my vanity but also because I believe in the flexibility of the scarf, which I liken to someone wearing an abaya (long Islamic dress) in only some settings.

In any case, my reasons for wearing a hijab were diverse and not necessarily rooted in a firm belief that it was a mandatory part of Islam. Some wear it because they believe it was mandated by God, while others do so for reasons regarding modesty or culture. I wore it simply because I felt that it made me more God-conscious and as a means of empowerment in a world that increasingly subjugates women. I liked being the hijabi that broke stereotypes, that was active in the community – with Muslims and individuals of other faith backgrounds, and I really believe that over the years it has helped me grow significantly, bringing me closer to my faith. My faith, just like everyone’s, Sana recently stressed to me during our conversation about the hijab, is something that is constantly changing, with ups and downs like a roller coaster. Over the past eight years of my wearing a headscarf, I feel that it has truly brought me up.

But at the same time, it is not without its downs. I’ve been feeling a lot lately as if I’ve gotten too comfortable wearing a hijab, to the point where I’ve let myself go on other aspects of faith that are much more important. Moreover, I’m not happy with the stereotypes associated with being a hijabi, and while I enjoyed being the one to break them, I think the issue is much more prevalent within the Muslim community than outside of it. Relationships, for example, are dictated between people who wear a headscarf and those who do not, as if a class of “better Muslim sisters” is created simply by wearing the hijab, where individuals try merely to fit in with, what they assume, falsely, is a “more religious” crowd. I had become so comfortable in this place that for the longest time I was afraid of taking it off because I feared that people would judge me. Hijab also has become more of a social or political statement lately, or even worse, a fashion statement. In our commercial society, we have even commodified the hijab – and I say this to myself first.

Additionally, I have come to the realization that while I do believe that in some respects wearing a headscarf makes me more God-conscious or I enjoy being a physically-represented Muslim, I wonder, as Tanya encouraged me to reflect, why I have to rely on a piece of cloth to do so. I should represent Islam not by how I dress, but by how I act and speak. I should be God-conscious not simply by being more careful or aware based on how I dress, but in every part of my life anyway.

So for these reasons and more, I am no longer wearing a hijab. There are many things I’m going to miss. As I told Michelle for example, I am going to miss being the hijabi that broke all your stereotypes. I am going to miss being physically represented as a Muslim, where fellow Muslims could say Salaam to me on the street. I am going to miss the respect that I received, while I question at the same time, why this respect does not last through my non-hijab days now. However, this is a sign of the fact that I have been wearing a headscarf for all the wrong reasons, and that stands against my faith, not for it.

But even my story is just one - perhaps unique, perhaps familiar - out of the many. And that is exactly as it should be treated: as a single story, of my life, my experiences, my interpretations, and my opinions, that may or may not share commonalities with the stories of others, but is still wholly mine. The Muslim mantra, if you will, after 9.11, was that “Islam is not a monolith but this phrase is something we had used in an isolated manner only for the non-Muslim community, not taking our own advice and asking instead for conformity within the faith. Our community lacks serious, open and respectful discourse, not just about the intrafaith issue of hijab, but about so many others things. Even more than all of this though, is the realization that my story is still not complete. In talking to Nate about this the other day for example, I was reminded of how great it was that this is something that I can revisit. Wearing a hijab or not wearing a hijab, any part of my faith, is something that needs to be revisited, so that it can be better understood and appreciated over time. None of us have completed our stories yet; only God knows.

I did not wear my hijab out the other day, and it was terrifying. But it was also an experience that was relieving because I know it is the right thing to do at this point in my life. So, a big thank you to all my family and friends that have heard me talk about this for countless hours and that provided much needed advice and support. Eight years ago, when I started high school it felt like the easiest thing in the world to put on that scarf over my head; the other day, it felt like I was taking off a part of myself. But it felt right.

Maybe, God willing, I will wear it again someday. But when I do, I hope it’s because I am ready to do so, when I am at a place in my life and faith in which I can learn from it and grow from it.

Until then, I have a million scarves that are now for sale!

Being a Muslim means everything to me. It helps me make decisions in my daily life, it bring meaning to everything I do.

The beauty in Islam is how simple it really is. It's me and my God and that's all. Obviously this is oversimplified, but what I mean is that when any crisis or goodness comes in my way, the one I turn to is God. He's always there, and there is a direct connection between man and God. When I need him, he is there, and what he wants me to do, I try to do my best. There are many parts of Islam, meaning many things Muslims are required to do (5 pillars of Islam), but the way I view it is that these things are there to help us become better people in general, for example, Zakat (charity) -> this helps us from being greedy and makes fortunate people realize that we should help those who are unfortunate out of our humanity that God has blessed us with. Fasting is another requirement that really helps us remember God more than usual and control our innate desires (with food/sex).

The way I see things since I'm Muslim, is that everything that God requires us to do is really making us better people, whether we realize it or not, and knowing that we will one day return back to him and leave this world also helps us not get too greedy about things here and be more accountable for everything we do even if we think no one else is looking.

That's my 2 cents

Lost in Transition

I was born and raised in Jerusalem Palestine under the Israeli Occupation in 1984. Being Muslim deemed me not one of the "chosen ones" and as a result I was not allowed to have citizenship in the country in which I was born, the country in which my grandfather lost his leg fighting for our identity and the land in which my entire lineage was born and raised. Although my birth certificate states "Israel" as my birthplace, I was given Jordanian citizenship and an Israeli ID card that will allow me to pass through certain cities but prevent me from voting. This ID was later taken back and I will never be allowed to become a resident of Palestine or Israel because I'm Muslim. This sent a clear message of unworthiness from the moment of birth-simply because I was born to Muslim parents.

Although I was born Muslim, I didn’t accept Islam as my faith until the tender age of eight. It was a sunny and bright calm day. My brother and I were playing on the balcony in Jerusalem when we decided to question this whole existence of a "God" that seemed to be causing so much bloodshed and chaos in our homeland. Across the street from us, a neighbor was hanging up some clothes to dry as they did not have a dryer. The young lady was in the middle of hanging up her laundry but the basket was fairly full. We innocently challenged God himself and said "If she stops hanging up the clothes, takes her basket and goes back inside-then there is a God." I objected to my brother that it would be an unfair way to test God. Why would she do that when she hasn't finished her task? He said "if there is a God, and he can do anything, just like he prevented that tear gas from hitting you on the way from school, and gave me strength to get up after being slapped by an Israeli soldier for wearing a necklace in the shape of the Palestinian map, then he can do this." Within seconds, the young lady stopped hanging up her laundry, took in the remaining clothes and went inside her house. From that moment on, I believed in God and inside me grew an unwavering faith that has not left me to this day despite the baggage and hardships associated with being Muslim.

During my early childhood, the first intifada broke out. My Dad, a physician who owned an ambulance on several occasions would come home and we would help him clean out Palestinian/Muslim blood from his Ambulance. One clear memory I have of this was after the Aqsa (mosque) massacre in which unarmed Muslim worshipers were massacred inside the mosque. My father described it as a raining of bullets, so severe you can barely see in front of you. When my Dad came home that day and opened the Ambulance door, blood which had flooded the Ambulance’s inside gushed out like a waterfall.

My parents finally moved us to the United States at the age of 12 for a safer environment and to get a better education. Growing up Muslim in America was free of bullets and tear gas but came with its own challenges and identity crises. From bullying at school, death threats after 9/11 to an identity crisis of trying to uphold my Islamic faith while assimilating to my peers and into corporate America as a young adult. My main conflict was that I was raised to believe certain things were wrong and only bad people did them. Things like drinking, going to clubs, speaking to strange men and dating.

After graduating and starting a career with a multi-billion dollar distributing company I started interacting with people who seemed very good but did “unislamic” things. Almost every business meeting included a happy hour or an open bar. This caused an internal conflict. How could it be that someone who did not follow Islam be good? To further complicate things, I even met American Muslims who assimilated to American Culture and were genuinely good well educated people but also did “unislamic” things.

After a few years of thinking, researching and interacting, I've come to the conclusion that Islam is just an Arabic word meaning complete submission to God. People express their submission in different ways. Islam is not meant to complicate one’s life but to make it more simple. I've reached internal peace when I was able to differentiate between Islam and Muslims.

Islam is not a terrorist killing in the name of God, nor is it a man taking four wives but never kneeling to pray. Islam is the man who lost his son in war and people came to give their condolences, he was very content and thankful. When questioned, he simply answered “God gave me four children, took one but left me with three. For that, I am thankful”. This to me is Islam and this is a great example of a good Muslim.

Islam to me now is a feeling inside my heart. It is a faith there is a higher power looking over all of us amidst the chaos in our world. Islam is the feeling I got when I visited the birth place of Jesus and the Aqsa mosque. Islam is the feeling I had after running the 33rd Annual Marine Corps marathon to raise funds to educate people I don’t even know and will probably never meet. Most of all I see Islam in my 6 month old baby niece. Born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother, unaware of the complications she will face. Living in blissful oblivion, an innocent child who is completely helpless but giggles plays and sleeps because she is in full submission.

I strive to become that kind of Muslim and to submit completely and fully despite any adversities I may face. To giggle smile and keep the innocence of a child in my heart because I am completely submitted to a higher power that will watch over me.

I was once told that there will come a time when being Muslim is like holding a hot coal in ones hand. I believe we are living that time, and although I dropped that coal when I felt it burnt too much or it was hurting me. I quickly picked it up, because that same coal that has been burning also lit my path in my darkest hours since that day I was on the balcony and chose Islam, chose to submit. I hope that coal will continue to burn and be fueled with my faith and passion to show the world the truth about Islam and distinguish it from the Muslims who have tarnished its name.

I would like to share with you the news of completion of my Islamic studies that has taken me about 20 years while maintaining an engineering career.

I recently finished my PhD in Islamic Studies at the University of Birmingham in England. I chose this university because of its stronger Islamic studies department among the western countries that I could identify. It took me four years to complete it as a full time student. My thesis topic was: A comparative review of some widely-used English translations of the Qur’an.

While working as an engineer, I started my Islamic Studies in a serious way about 20 years ago. After a few years, I felt that I must learn the Arabic language. Almighty God arranged for me to go to Saudi Arabia thru my engineering job and to study the Arabic language in there. After 4 years in Saudi Arabia, I moved to Washington, DC area because of the Islamic universities that had opened up in here. I completed the equivalent of a BA in Islamic studies, first. Then, I did an MA in Islamic studies after which I went for my PhD. I quit my engineering job (at Boeing) so that I can concentrate on my studies and finish my PhD.

Now that my Islamic studies are completed, I would like to transition my career from engineering to teaching Islamic studies in the universities. I have done these studies because that is where my heart and mind has been all along. Further, because I have felt a severe need in this field and I have felt that that I can better serve the cause of Islam and Muslims, in this way.

This accomplishment can become a model for other Muslim youth in the western countries that they can do serious Islamic studies besides their professional careers. Yes, it requires a lot of sacrifices, but it is possible! If approached with the right intention and some genuine efforts, not only it would bring them closer to God (Allah), but they can better serve the cause of Islam/Muslims, such as struggling against the misinformation and misunderstandings about Islam and Muslims, and reaching out to bridge the gap between the various communities of faith.

It should be noted that the completion of some university degrees do not make a person a real scholar in the vast field of Islamic studies and the Qur’an, but it is only a step towards it. For example, my own knowledge in the ocean of the Qur’an and its English translations is like a person who has just made his feet wet in the shore while dreaming to swim in that ocean. In fact, these kinds of degrees can be a real burden on a person if not used and practiced properly.

May God guide me to use this accomplishment, which has been achieved only with His guidance and support, in the service of Islam/Muslims and the rest of the humanity in the most effective ways!

By the way, I am originally from Afghanistan and I have lived in the United States for the last 26 years as a citizen. I have been living in Northern Virginia for the last 10 years.

My name is Ali Syed. I am a Shia Muslim-American, born and raised in the United States. I am a medical student in Baltimore, Maryland hoping to do good in this world. My grandmother is my greatest inspiration - she is altruism, respect, love, modesty, and compassion in human form. She taught me to serve others, especially those who are impoverished, and to care for the elderly, as she did when she was a youth growing up in India. I love to cook, play tennis, admire God's creation (Mother nature), and share knowledge.

What does "being Muslim" mean to you?
It means I am a servant of Allah, or God. I am also a member of a 1+ billion strong community.

What do you find beautiful about Islam, and how does it find expression in your daily life?
- Its inclusiveness of all humanity and faiths
- the priority given to knowledge and education is of the highest
- Doing any good deed is considered an act of worship. My being a future physician means that every day, just the fact that I am earning money by legitimate means is a form of worship. The fact that I am also dedicating my life to service of humanity through my profession is an even higher virtue and even greater form of worship. Plus, I get to make Allah (The Exalted and Glorious) happy everyday. :)
- Sharing knowledge with others is so highly praised by Allah
- its emphasis on service, compassion and charity
- its strength lies in its ability to provide us with the tools to make good, logical decisions in our everyday lives
- the emphasis on humility before God
- the rich combination of the sciences and spirituality
- I get to communicate with God through my prayers everyday. I can ask for His Aid and beg for His Mercy, express my gratitude and humble myself.

What hopes, questions, and concerns are on your mind as you ponder the future of your tradition?
- I hope that we can raise the scholastic level of our community. This is especially important because in Islam we strongly believe that education is an incredibly worthy pursuit because it is the solution to all vices.
- As a Shia Muslim, I would like to see the American government more supportive of Shia groups, especially Shia-friendly nations in the Middle East, and learn to stand up to injustices done against this significant population within the Muslim community. This includes the Shias in Saudi Arabia (who are often victims of violence and injustice just for being Shia), Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain (a country with a Shia majority but unfortunately, extremist schools of thought are infiltrating and oppressing the Shias).
- I hope more people will stand up to extreme and illogical ideologies that misrepresent Islam. Extremists are ruining the beauty of our faith - it's about time the true Muslims, those who believe in moderation, educate the public and help promote peace and understanding.
- I hope that more people will understand that the Hijab is an expression of a woman's respect for herself and her connection to Allah.
- Muslim-American youth are becoming incredibly active in their centers and mosques and are hoping to facilitate an era of peace, prosperity, understanding, and tolerance among all people of the world. These youth need to be engaged by the American public, media, and the government. Look for them and Inshallah (God-willing) you will have found an exceptional and trustworthy human being.

Assalamo Alaikom (Peace upon you)

Being a Muslim and living it from day-to-day is the best gift I could have imagined and hoped for. I like to thank and pray to my creator, the creator of everything around, and not to the creation.

May God bless you and show you the light of Islam,

Adam--

The Muslim World is VERY diverse. The vast majority of Muslims do not speak Arabic as their primary language, Arabic speaking peoples are only 1/5 of the Muslim population. Indonesia is the largest Muslim populated country in the world and most Muslims are in South and Southeast Asia. Myself, I am American born but my parents immigrated from Somalia in the 80s (in the case of my mother) and in the 70s (in the case of my father as a teen). Islam is the backbone of Somali practices. From the way we marry to the way we eat to what wear to how we conduct ourselves culturally and even behavior. The Muslim world has similar practices but the style of practices are different.

Islam is a way of life, it governs everything we Muslims do. Growing up in America, the values Americans talk about are compatible with our faith. You can be American and be Muslim at the same time. I grew up here, I practiced my faith and grew up in it and I don't feel alienated for who I am. There are things such as drinking, partying, and what not many people my age do, but I stay away from it all as it conflicts with my faith and in the end, the choices I make for Islam will make me a better person.

I am a Black American. Growing up during the 1960s and early 1970s my father was marginally involved with Islam via the Moorish American Science Temple movement and my mother belonged to a Pentecostal church. I spent Fridays going to the temple/mosque and Sunday going to Sunday school and church. By the time I turned 13 I began to notice that the diversity I found in the mosque did not exist in the churches. I attended a Black church and knew that there were White churches. I began to ask why if everyone was praying to the same God why the churches were separated by skin color?

Also, my father had subversively gotten me very interested in reading history and comparative theology literature. The history revealed the role of the Church in the slave trade and comparative theology caused we to challenge the mental gymnastics required to address the concept of the trinity. It did not help that in order to fully embrace the religion of my mother I had to reject that of my father. At the same time, my father's religion embraced the message of the Christ (pbuh) and presented a challenge only to some of the doctrine of the Pentecostal church while allowing me to embrace the broader message and its messenger.

Finally, it was Islam that saved my life and allowed me to escape the poor inner-city neighborhood I was born into. Islam's restrictions against intoxicants keep me away from alcohol and drugs. Its insistence on education and learning caused me to pursue academic excellence to the point where now I am a university professor with a PhD.

I feel sad that the only imagine so many Americans have of Islam is of "Jihadists" and they do not see the faith that has guided my life and allowed me to fulfilled the American dream and become a good husband, father and even son.

It was the most beautiful and poignant place in the world for me. Jerusalem, the Holy City, surrounded with innumerable graves, many unmarked, its history saturated with death, warfare and magnificence. God, or fate, whichever one you may believe in, played a joke on humankind when it was named Jerusalem, City of Peace.

While I sat at the Israeli border, for seven hours, I pondered this. There I was, a devout Muslim American, stuck sitting and waiting, waiting with patience evaporating as it does from a pot of boiling water. It was a city beloved by my Israeli mother, whose father and uncle fought for its liberation and it was a city beloved by my Palestinian father whose parents chose exile for fear of the Israeli forces and fought for it's defense.

This place, where I sat waiting endlessly, was full of flies. There was some black gunk on the tiles and no air-conditioning. This infuriated me as I realized these conditions were for my benefit and the rest of the second rate humans – the Arabs. I sat on and off alone during those seven hours. They took my brother aside several times for interrogation and left me sitting there. Finally, I had had enough. I, an American, was not used to having lawful prejudiced displayed to me (except for my VIP treatments at airports, of course). I told my brother I wanted to go back to Amman and I did not want to wait any longer. So we told them to give back our American passports and we wanted to leave. They finally let us through, only 10 minutes before they closed.

It was an uneventful trip to Jerusalem except for the disconcerted looks I got when people noticed my headscarf, my American accent, and my Pakistani outfit, which I wore as a tribute to my raising and a consolation to my culturally torn soul. We arrived late at night at a distant cousin's house. I was surprised to find that they had stayed up waiting for us, even the children. Not eating, but waiting to share this meal with us as their honored guests. Then we were to set off sight seeing. I was moved by the honor they granted us. We had three days until I had to return to Amman and then to the United States.

As we set off into the night, I felt as if my mind and my vision were clear and precise, even in the dark. Truly this was a place of holiness. This pilgrimage was soon tarnished by the constant stops at all the checkpoints. We were in two cars, and the car I was in got stopped constantly. The other car, which had my brother Rajab, who is half Palestinian and half African American, and my light eyed and light haired cousin, was never stopped. The driver, (a distant relative?) grumbled something in Arabic and my aunt agreed. When I enquired, she explained, "They stop us because of your hijab (head scarf) and your brightly colored Pakistani clothes. They don't stop Rajab and Khalid (my cousin) because they look American."

This sat uncomfortably on my mind. Out of everyone there, I was the one who was the third generation American, I was the one who spoke English and I was the one who was actually Israeli! – I wondered if they would actually have treated me differently if they had known. I decided that from then on I would smile broadly at every stop at the suspicious and/ or puzzled soldier.

Soon, I was in the car with my brother Rajab and my cousin Khalid. Rajab started to lament at the arduous time we were having. He began to recall his interrogation, and tried to add humor to the moment. He recalled an ugly, uni-browed soldier asking over and over again whether he had been to Saudi Arabia. "No." was Rajab's answer and he would offer his passport as proof. But this did not discourage the soldier from his relentless pursuit. My cousin laughed and commented, "Poor Ilana! Her first time in Palestine and she was treated with such hospitality! We'll just have to make up for it." I laughed, but not because of his wit. Rather, his tone reminded me of that kind of humor my mother described as Yiddish humor.

The events of the day sobered me and I looked out the window a lot except for the occasional stop at a checkpoint. I asked, "Is it common to wait seven hours at a checkpoint?" Rajab translated for me. "Yes", answered my cousin, "especially after 9-11. In Gaza it always happens. There over 400 women have given birth at checkpoints." His tone of acceptance and normalcy stunned me.

Khalid then pointed to a fancy building. He spoke with a tone of pride and happiness. Rajab translated. "Khalid's first job as a contractor, when he came to this city, was that building. But, he is not allowed in it because he is Palestinian and here they are second class citizens." Rajab never hesitated to put in his opinions in subtle ways.

I looked out and saw two soldiers talking. They were a boy and a girl. They looked down at the pavement and seemed to be talking casually, but shyly. I began to think of them and how they seemed so oblivious to the consequences of their actions and the role they are playing. They were completely unaware of what they instilled in the hearts of others through their actions.

That night I cried. I cried for dashed hopes, for love lost, and for hate that seems to triumph in this land and beyond. I had been given a window that looked onto despair, injustice, and a place where wrongs were considered commonplace. I could not help but feel that the idea of a second rate citizen was absolute perversity. I remembered my cousin's face when he looked onto the building that represented for him a great accomplishment. The weight of this experience started to weigh heavily on me and started to be overwhelming. I felt as if I couldn't breathe. I recalled the Civil Rights Movement and thought that this must be how Blacks felt at that time. Tears streamed down my face and I buried my face in the pillow so that no one would hear my gasps. I felt anger, frustration and fear of the endless violence. I wanted to go home. I wanted to go back to America. I reached over to the dusty glass window and wetted my finger with my tongue and wrote, "Equal, please."

I want you to imagine that you wrote a great paper and your teacher gave you a low grade. Imagine the anger and frustration you would feel. The proof of your hard work is there in black and white. You followed the directions and reviewed everything. How would you feel? Well, multiply that so many times, maybe one hundred times or even a thousand. Because, this injustice consistently defines who you are and your future and you can't do anything about it.

The next morning we were to visit the Dome of the Rock. The goal of our pilgrimage. As the family stepped out of the hotel and walked toward the car, I looked out onto a view of the Old City of Jerusalem. There was the Dome of the Rock. The brightness made my eyes feel naked. I was seeing a skyline that I had only seen in pictures. Our guide was a Christian Arab. He took us to the holy sites of his religion and told us, when we were on the road, that Jesus had taken this route when riding on a donkey and entering Jerusalem.

Finally, we entered the Old City walls and walked in a labyrinth of walkways and steps. I saw East Asians, South Asians, Greeks, Italians, Germans and many Russians. As for the Palestinians, I was surprised at the range of colors: some as black as the darkest Africans and others so red and white that their lashes shone white in the sun, Such a view of diversity warmed my heart. I loved it.

As we entered a church I saw people were crying and praying at a slab of stone, sometimes children even kissing it—the site of Jesus' crucifixion, according to the Greek and Russian Orthodox Church. Then we exited and went back on the street where Druze priests, Orthodox Jews, Shiites, Sunnis and church bells littered the street. We weaved our way through the massive marketplace that seemed to infiltrate every vein of Jerusalem. The walking seemed never ending. It was when we past the Western Wall that we came near the end, walked past three Muslim graves and out a gate. A courtyard full of huge trees greeted us. A Mexican couple lost their group (their shirts had the flag), and I smiled, as a language, though incoherent to me, felt almost as familiar as English, flooded my ears.

Then an awesome sight met my eyes. From between the trees stood the enormous image of the golden Dome of the Rock. It was like seeing the sun up close and realizing it was a sphere. And as we got closer and closer, you could see the blue, green, white—and even red marble. There was such immense attention to detail, it was mind boggling. Our Christian tour guide entered with us in the Dome of the Rock. The inside was so amazing, I can't describe it. Such pains taken to make God's blessed place beautiful and through abstract art, prefect in geometry and symmetry, glorifying God in exquisite calligraphy—it overwhelmed my heart and my eyes filled with tears. It brought such peace and thankfulness to my heart. I felt a passionate need to pray, and I did, bowing up and down in the ritual prayer and during supplications.

We then walked down to the Omar Mosque, right next to the Dome of the Rock. It was a magnificent palace—no, even superior—beautifully decorated columns reach up so high that several trees could be piled up.

"Rajab," my voice seemed intrusive, but I went on, in awe, pointing to the ceiling, "There are birds." People lay on the floor of the mosque, perhaps some asleep. Others read Qur'an or prayed. Peace filled the place and my heart felt at ease. After praying a bit, my brother and I lay down, our faces upward contently observing the amazing art of the ceiling. Two birds circled the dome above us in opposite directions. "Maybe they are praying in their own way," Rajab remarked. "Look at the stars." He pointed to the vibrant colored glass. "Look, the center star is the Star of David. Maybe the Islamic star is the Star of David overlapped with more Stars of David," he said in a totally serious voice. I sensed no rancor or sarcasm. "It's places like this, our mosques, which give our souls peace, a sanctuary from the turmoil of the outside world." That last comment struck such a cord of truth in my body. Perhaps, God created such holiness, such peace because the nature of life can be filled with such turmoil. Maybe such places are a reward for those who turn to God in their time of need. Maybe God created such a sanctuary amidst chaos to give us this comfort, because the nature of humankind is to pray in need. But because chaos exists doesn't mean its right. Perhaps God places holy sites where peace is needed most.

Topics: Diversity, East Asia and the Pacific, Middle East and North Africa
Keywords: Ramadan, Islam, Muslim students

04 August 2009
Ramadan in a Multi-Faith Family

Ilana Alazzeh was born in San Francisco to an Israeli mother and Palestinian father. She currently attends Smith College in Massachusetts, where she stays active in community service and interfaith work, regularly speaking on panels regarding Islam and religious pluralism.

Celebrating Ramadan at Smith College has always been difficult. My thoughts always drift back to celebrating with my family, such as heading to the beautiful masjid every weekend for iftar. Smith’s masjid is less dazzling: It’s a large, bare room. Still, it is a truly blessed place of salaam, and I try to go whenever I am not too tired from homework. The community there is small but diverse, and is one of the most sincere I have ever encountered. It’s not only Muslims, but the religious, the curious and the ambiguous all join each other for breakfast. Ironically, this diversity still reminds me of home.

When my Israeli mother celebrates Ramadan, she always incorporates her heritage into the holiday. For example, while my Pakistani stepfather is downstairs making pancakes, she will loudly sing Hebrew songs from her childhood to wake us up for suhoor. Although she has converted to Islam, she still keeps her Jewish customs alive.

Once, my mother’s father came to visit during Ramadan. He is a small, mischievous and comical man, a Palmach war veteran of Israel. Unlike my mother, he refused to celebrate Ramadan. He would begrudgingly come to the masjid with us, and even though he knew Arabic, he only spoke in Hebrew or English. While we were inside doing our night prayers, he would smoke outside with my stepgrandmother: a Southern Baptist African American who converted to Judaism. It certainly wasn’t the traditional picture of Ramadan.

But even though my grandfather did not celebrate with us, he did respect the holiday. I remember him giving my younger brother a clap for teasing me with food when I was fasting. Even though he wasn’t fasting with me, he honored my decision.

I’ll never forget the night during Ramadan that my puzzle of a family and I piled into our van to see the Christmas lights. We sang Jewish, Christmas and Dawud Wharnsby songs. (Watch the YouTube video “We’ve scanned the sky Dawud Wharnsby.”) My family of different cultures and religions were all celebrating together, enjoying each other’s company and acknowledging our diverse faiths. Although our coexistence was rough at times, it was built out of respect and real love.

My celebrations at Smith will never be able to match Ramadan at home, despite its best attempts. Iftar at Smith’s modest masjid are usually a sad but wholehearted attempt at what’s made at home. However, as my mother stresses, “Ramadan isn’t about iftar.” And she’s right. Ramadan for me is a time of peace and introspection, which ironically happens the most in congregation. It is when I celebrate with others that I feel closer to God. Community begets personal faith and personal faith begets the community thriving with full spectrum in God’s multi-faith world.

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or any other agency in the federal government.

http://www.america.gov/st/peopleplace-english/2009/August/20090804110422...

To me, being Muslim means fostering a good relationship with my Lord. It means establishing a strong connection with the One who nurtures, feeds, clothes, shelters, protects and raisies me to higher levels in life. It means having the most love for the One Who is The Most Loving. My very being and all else that exists in the universe is at my disposal so I can make this relationship with My creator more solid. He provides us with every tool, method, and idelogy to sucessfully navagate through this life and the next. It is sad for me to witness so many of my brothers and sisters from the Muslim World become preoccupied with establishing better relationships with the creation as opposed to better relationships The Creator. If we only understood that it is the latter that facilitaes the former. If only we realized that all benefit and all harm are under His control so He is the One to be most sought after.

The complexities amount when we ,as a community, try to take on others' traditions in an attempt to preserve our own. In reality we are only furthering others' traditions at the cost of our own. If only more of us would recognize the value and beauty of our way of life which can not be found in any other. We can adapt others' ways that may make our worldy lives better but this is not the same for our spiritual lives. We must realize that our system is pure and should not be altered. We must stand firm. We are carrying on the traditions of prophets. We walk in the footsteps of Adam, Noah, David, Solomon, Jacob, Abraham,Moses, Jesus and finally Muhammad. What an honor this is. What a tradition to carry. What a travesty to lose it. What a dilemma we face.

We should understand that diversity can be both a uniting and divisive factor. To the degree we take on the characteristics of others as opposed to characteristics our Lord as legislated for us is to the degree we have the type of diversity that causes differing between us. This is the downside of our diversity. On the upside, we embrace all colors, all races, all nationalities, all economic and educational backgrounds, all age groups and respect both genders. This provides us with a richness of cultures and a connection to all peoples of the world. All become united under one theme: Worship of the One Who created us all, Allah and following the example of His Messenger, Muhammad. We all become a single brotherhood, cooperating upon good and rejecting evil. This theme should penetrate to our cores and adorn all of our interactions with the rest of creation. This theme should be apparent in how we interact with our families,neighbors,co-workers, friends, foes, animals, plants and the enviornment we all share.

Taking all that was previously said into consideration, we are all human beings with all of the strenghts, weaknesses, beauty and ugliness that can be attributed to our race. We suceed and we fail, we get it right and we fall short. It is a beautiful thought that The One Who is The Most Perfect in all respects, Free from every flaw and blemish,The Most Beautiful in His self, names, attributes, actions and speech leaves a clear path for us to take to Him if we are so inclined or desirous of a companion the likes of Him. But how many of us turn down His invitation of friendship?

Dear reader, this is the Islam I know and love with all of its beauty and splendour. Here is the honor bestowed upon us when we live our lives by God's final book, the Qur'aan, and the dilemma we face when we chose other paths. Here is how diversity affects us and here is the way to our salvation. Thank for this opportunity to express my views. I hope this has contributed to some of the clarity you were seeking as well as well a sparked some more curiosity so you wil continue to seek. I bear witness that there is nothing worthy of worship but Allah alone, without any partners in that worship and I bear witness that Muhammad is His true servant and final Messenger. My final prayer is All praise is due to Allah the Lord of the worlds May he sedn peace and blessing upon His Messenger and his followers and may He unite all of our hearts upon the truth, Amin.

I converted to the religion of Islam 17 years ago. I was going through some very difficult times when guidance to Islam came to me. I feel like I had pretty much given up on everything in life. I felt like all of my friendships were superficial. I was being harassed at my job. My family life was a mess. Basically, everything in life was collapsing around me. I had decided at the time that life was no longer worth living. Yes, I had planned to take my own life. All I remember is looking at myself in the mirror and saying, "God, whoever You are. Come help me and I will find you." Little did I know at the time that God is closer to us that our own jugular vein (from Quran). God entered my life almost immediately at that point. My older brother had converted to the religion before me and gave me a Quran to read. It was everything that I felt that I always believed in my heart. Being Muslims simply means submission to God. It is affirmation that God knows what is best for my life and I should follow the guidance given through the Quran and Sunnah (life and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). The beauty of Islam is that it is a way of life. I used to attend church on Sundays and felt that the rest of the week went by without any spiritual connection. Muslims pray five times a day to bring us back to our spiritual selves and to God. My hope for the future of Islam to to see a true American Muslim identity emerge, filled with tolerance and cooperation with other faiths. One concern that I have is Muslims always respect the traditional Muslim scholars of the past and not be misled by fanaticism, racism or hatred.

Q:If you are Muslim, we'd like to understand more about the complexity and diversity of "the Muslim world," as it is often called. What does "being Muslim" mean to you? What do you find beautiful about Islam, and how does it find expression in your daily life? What hopes, questions, and concerns are on your mind as you ponder the future of your tradition?

What does being Muslim mean to me? That’s a question I don’t get very often. You see, most people don’t bother to ask the question because they already assume that they know all the answers. All they have to do is watch FOX news and viola!... instant Muslim expert! The truth is, being Muslim is so complex, yet so simple. Paradox, it is. But, I understand it. Does NPR care to know why? We shall see.
Being Muslim in America, as an American, as an African-American, as the son of educated parents, as a person of multicultural awareness and worldwide acceptance, it’s easy. As a Muslim, I have all the freedoms I need. All the joys I ever wanted. All the pleasures I can imagine. You see, being Muslim is about not answering to anyone but God. So, for as long as I am doing my best, and I am aware of that best, then what anyone else has to say or think of it really doesn’t matter. That translates into minimal, if any, enemies, no grudges, no hang-ups, no impossible-to-fulfill wishes, and so on. I live my life to the simplest satisfaction. I really am happy with it. Sure, there are always areas where it could be improved-a little more money on my paycheck, a little easier time at work, a little more time with the family, a little more leisure, a little more…it’s not a lot to ask. But, you see, as a Muslim, I have learned to be grateful with what I have already been given. It is not difficult to forget these blessings, but it is easy to be reminded that others don’t have it, and if I continue to be ungrateful, it will be taken from me and given to someone else. As the saying goes…you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Being Muslim also means having acceptance of the world around me. Sure, it’s not going well in certain areas, but I also recognize that everything happens for a reason. I do not agree with slavery, but I recognize that without it, I may not have been born. I do not agree with lots of things that happen in the world, but I do accept that all things happen for a reason, beyond what many of us can even begin to imagine. I don’t write the fate, I swim with it and just make sure that I have my lifejacket on and keep on swimming in the right direction, even if it seems upstream. Getting swept away with the current of life is just not an option I was given by God. I have strength to use. I have courage to ignite. I have hope to embrace. This is Islam. I also recognize that many world religions have the same foundations and creeds of love, honesty, caring, knowledge, sacrifice, and so on. So, by being Muslim, I have to uphold the universal truths, the universal imperatives, and the universal codes of excellence and betterment of my society. If I were Christian, Jewish, or Hindu, and I followed these same facts, it would not be abnormal. Now, do this as a Muslim, and it’s news!
Islam is beauty and contains it. I love the beauty of the Muslim woman, the architecture, the Qur’an’s flawlessness, the simplicity, the love, the unity. Everything is beautiful, as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I don’t find flaws or ugliness with Islam. People, prejudices, politics, greed, and ego make Islam ugly. Not many of us would admittedly stare aimlessly at something that we thought was ugly and repulsive. Islam has been around for a long time. Something must taste good to the eyes of many.

It finds expression in my daily life in many ways. I pray, fast, give alms, wear modest clothing, and such. All these things don’t directly make me “seem” Muslim, but they are focused characteristics of anyone who takes their way of life serious. My way of life is being focused, reduced stress, and plenty of love. If that means that I try my best not to look intently at every woman I see because I don’t want my wife to get on my case or for fear of falling into an irreversible relationship, or if it means that I don’t worry about every little thing people say, do, accuse, complain, rant, fight, kill, and think, or even if it means that I make sure I am kind to everyone I meet, even people I don’t necessarily care for all that much, but they would never know that, then yes, I think I am doing a good job. Is it because of my Islam? Maybe. Maybe not. It could just simply be my personality. In the end, it really doesn’t matter now does it. Love does not wear a face, cross, yarmulke, sport-jacket, or hijab…it just is. People may not know that I am Muslim. I am just the nice teacher. In that instance, being Muslim is not important, being nice is. That is what God sees. That’s what I will be judged on. That’s what I feel and believe. And no, I could not care less who disagrees with that as well.

I do ponder a lot in regard to my tradition of Islam. But, my concerns are with myself. You see, I can’t do a darn thing for anybody or any cause or any issue or any calling until I can handle my own self, my own feelings, my own heart, and my own sins. This does not mean that I don’t care about anyone or anything. What it means is that I can’t afford to be judgmental about someone else’s affairs when I have work to do on myself. But, that’s just me. Or maybe that’s just Islam. You decide.

I lived a near perfect Islamic lifestyle from the time that I was born until the age of 9 years old. My family lived in New Mexico close to Dar-ul Islam mosque & school built in the mountains in Abiquiu. The Muslim community there was incredibly diverse, beautifully spiritual, and open-minded. Most of the people had converted to Islam decades ago and were raising their children in this new faith they had come to understand and love. There in the New Mexican Muslim haven that our parents had established, us kids grew up without knowing much about racism or violence and spent our time outside for most of the daylight hours. When my mom was offered and accepted a teaching job at an Islamic school in Canton, Michigan our lives became radically different. We found that the Muslim community in Michigan was also diverse yet quite segregated. It took one year for us to become part of the family there, and once we were in we were loved and considered 'the cool black family' from the Southwest.
I began wearing the hijaab or headscarf at around 10 years old. It wasn't an issue until I attended a public high school, but even then, there were 3 hijaab-ed girls there already, representing Islam and cushioning my entrance as a freshman. Because I didn't only associate with the other covered Muslim girls, but I mingled with the chem nerds and starred in drama productions, and read the morning announcements over the speaker, I quickly became one the well known and liked students at Ypsilanti High School.
Four years later on a full-ride scholarship, I entered The University of Michigan, a college of which the Muslim Students' Association (MSA) was legendary! Freshman year I became the liaison for the MSA and the Black Student Union, next year I served as Secretary of the MSA, and, senior year I was the Vice President of the organization. For all four years of my undergraduate career the MSA was in the running for 'Best Campus Organization' and we took the trophy home 2 times during my 3 executive board terms. Unfortunately or fortunately, I haven't yet decided, I put more focus and effort into MSA than I did my schoolwork. Although I grew significantly academically, my faith and enthusiasm for Islam blossomed exponentially. We did so much good for Muslims and everyone on campus, by raising money for disaster victims, collecting food, raising awareness, and establishing spiritual getaways -- MSA was incredible to be a part of! I do have to mention that as much as we tried not to be, the MSA was a tad clique-y.

After graduation I wanted to start a working career but due to the recession and perhaps my hijaab, I was not able to find employment. I got married in December 2008, officially sealing the marriage circle of my parent's children and introducing yet another race into our diverse spouse pool (we have Japanese, Italian, African, Kurdish, and Caucasian). Currently, I work three jobs: I am a paid writer for Examiner.com (Detroit Muslim Examiner), I am a standardized patient instructor at the UM school of Dentistry and Medicine, and I am a child care provider at a Muslim owned daycare in Ann Arbor, MI. I volunteer at my local masjid, I donate to charity once a month, I like to be educated and up-to date of current affairs, I keep my nose clean and stay out of trouble. I am a lovely example of the American citizen.
Asalaamu Alaykum & God Bless America.
~Sakina

I was born to Black American Muslim parents in Manhattan. At two years old we moved to New Mexico to get away from all the negatives of the big city. I lived in New Mexico, mostly Santa Fe until I turned 14 after which I moved to Michigan and have pretty much resided here ever since, with the occasional year in Arizona or Colorado.

I didn't realize that Islam meant anything in particular to me until I was working at Schlotsky's Deli in college and one day at rush a regular said to me," You know I come here every day at lunch and it is always crazy busy and you are always smiling and happy. Even when customers are rude and annoying and everyone else is scowling. Why are you always so smiley?"
I stumbled a bit and thanked him for his compliment and then replied, "Uh, I'm Muslim..."
He was puzzled, but not nearly as puzzled as I was.

I went home that night and seriously thought about why Islam was the thing that really kept me smiling when all others seemed to scowl. I think that that was when I began to realize that most of us are Muslims because we love Islam and want to strive to be what Allah asks of us (loosely, brothers and sisters of humanity), whereas others are Muslim because that's what their "culture" is or because that's what saved them when they were going through their worst time and those people could have just as easily been Christian or Jewish or Buddhist. Unfortunately the latter two are also usually the crazy freaks who get the most publicity and make Islam seem to be so different from it's grandfather religions, Judaism and Christianity when it really isn't.

I love the fact that Islam is so all encompassing. In the second chapter of the Qur'an it states many times that the closest to us are "the people of the book", that would be Jews and Christians because those are the other two monotheistic religions who use a holy book whose wisdom was brought to the people through prophets Musa (Moses) and Issa (Jesus) respectively.

Islam is a deep, complex religion but it is also very easy and all encompassing and it's all about moderation. I find it sadly disgusting how a small amount of people who call themselves Muslims continuously disregard the moderation that Islam is all about. It's usually the people that the media likes to refer to as Orthodox Muslims (although there is no such thing) who are the ones who try and force Islam down the throats of their friends and neighbors when Islam clearly states "there is no compulsion in religion".

My story is too long to tell and the things that I love about Islam are too numerous to calculate but I must say that I dislike many Muslims and while that seems to be an oxymoron it is not. It's the same sentiment that comes from me when I walk down the streets of Detroit and see my black brothers and sisters making excuse after excuse for why they are not trying to better their situation. It disgusts me and shames me and used to make me wish I wasn't black the way that certain Muslims used to make me feel like I would certainly not be Muslim when I grew up. But I am black and I love being black and I am Muslim and I love Islam and I had to recognize that though the "bad apples" of my two minorities are what the media chooses to focus on, that is certainly NOT the norm for blacks or for Muslims!!

I pray that this note finds you and your families in the best of health and spirits.

May God reward you for seeking out the opinions and experiences of Muslims here in America.

I do have one suggestion, please. Yes, do ask the Muslims about their own stories, ideas and experiences. But when you want to know about Islam, please refer to the scholars of Islam as opposed to professors of religion or non-Muslims who consider themselves "expert" on Islam and the Muslims.

We have scholars such as Iman Zaid Shakir and Iman Hamza Yusuf of the Zaytuna Institute, California and Dr. Umar F. Abullah of the Nawawi Foundation of Chicago, Illinois.

Thank you for your consideration of my request, and best wishes on this project.

Peace,
Azeeza Mohamed

P.S. If you're keeping stats, I'm a female, white convert to Islam of 11 years. I'm 47 now, thank God.

As a Muslim woman of European heritage, I stick out in my native US and in most of the Muslim world. Wearing the scarf (hijab) constantly reminds me that I am "other". The most moving experience of belonging to the world community was when I made the pilgrimage to Mecca. The first three days all the men are clothed in two white sheets of terry cloth--no stitching, no hats, nothing to distinguish the street cleaner from the billionaire. I wept or laughed while we went about our ritual activities, at once overwhelmed by the spiritual sobriety of the millions of pilgrims and ecstatic with the joy of companionship. For once, I was in a place where I fit; I was welcome and comfortable.

After the third day, the pilgrims are allowed to change into their normal street clothes. Now their clothes reflected the extreme diversity of cultures that call themselves Muslim: the bright cotton wraps of West African women, the giant black turbans of Pakistani mountain men, the plaid sarongs of Malaysian men, the black abayahs and face covers of the women of the Gulf. By this time, the differences illustrated the unity of the Muslims and I prayed that we would all take that sense of fraternity back to our various homes and "pass the peace".

I was born in 2000 as a muslim. My mom is American and my dad is Iranian. I grew up for 4 years in Iran and spent the rest of my life in American. I am haveing a good life, I am happly that I have my mom, she teaches me about Islam everyday. Islam means to me that there is one God and one day we will meet with him and prophets and that everyone should be one equal. The beautiful thing is that I think of God everyday and in what I am about to do, is it the right or wrong thing to do. Islam helps me make decisions. I hope and pray that all Muslims will think the same way and don't think they are better than others. THE END

Yasamin Tahaei

I came to the United States in 1971. I came as a visitor, and CHOSE to make this country my home. This is my home. I consider myself a practicing muslim and have never found being in America in any way to hinder with my practices. I like to pray as often as 5 times a day, fast during the month of Ramadan and have been to the Hajj pilgrimage a few times. My friends have always been very sincerely interested in all my practices, and I have never been hesitant to share with them my experiences. I have been asked to give talks/ presentations to womens groups and have been received with utmost cordiality and a desire to get to know me, my faith and how I practice. It has always been my pleasure to promote their understanding of Islam. To me, Islam is a way of life...I do not practice Islam as a religion per se. I know of no other way to live my life. Ofcourse that does not mean I practice Islam in its perfection...I just try to do the best I can with all my human shortcomings. Islam teaches me to be patient with myself, and with my fellow human beings...in this too I am not perfect and slide from time to time...more often than I would like to, but this is also part of being human. The most beautiful thing about Islam I find, is its Universality. I try to visit church gatherings, temples of various faiths an pray with all of them and feel one with them. So far I have found nothing that is in any way uncomfortable in any of these services or gatherings. To truly appreciate other religions, I have been taught by my family and my teachers ; is to keep an open mind and to embrace the universality in religions as opposed to dissecting the minor differences. I am not a scholar...just an interested student/human being. I love people, I love being a part of this cosmos and I know i am not created in vain. My existence serves a purpose. I am part of a whole. I make this life whole and it does not matter if only in a tiny way.

Im not muslim but Try this magazine. NPR did a story on it and I thought that was a nice start. http://www.muslimgirlmagazine.com/mgmag/

On Being a Muslim
By Kari Ansari
Since becoming a Muslim many years ago, I have been compelled to strive for the potential I was born with, but up until that time did not use. My connection with God, through the teachings of Islam, has given me gifts of character and spirituality that I still find surprising.

Islam has made me smarter. God gave me a brain, but Islam gave me the reason to use it. For instance, being a Muslim woman has demanded that I grow intellectually. The Quran tells us over and over, “these are words for those who think.” Islam is a religion of thinking, questioning, revising our opinions, and considering the world from different perspectives. Over the years, I have listened to Muslim thinkers, scholars and teachers who have changed, moderated and enhanced their understanding of Islam as they themselves changed, moderated, and grew older and wiser. Islam has room for this. The message in the Quran is so layered and rich with meaning that it begs the reader to dive into the words over and over, only to surface each time at different places in its sea, leaving us gasping for breath from the complexity and simplicity that coexist simultaneously.

Being a Muslim has broadened my worldview. Being a Muslim in America means that I am part of a faith group that encompasses people of wildly different cultures and ethnicities. I have made friends and have worked with people from virtually all corners of the world. Since becoming a Muslim, I no longer view people through the lens of a television or movie camera, edited for my sensibilities; instead, I get to learn about them firsthand. I have friends who have transported me to their native land with a simple cup of tea and a little conversation. As an American Muslim, I have learned that the world is full of warm people who would give you their last meal, simply because that’s the way they have always lived.

Islam has taught me true empathy. I grew up in America’s safe neighborhoods, attending excellent public schools. With this advantage, I never experienced discrimination or disrespect from others until after I embraced Islam and wore the hijab, the Muslim headscarf. By taking on this visible identifier, I learned what it feels like to be the “other.” When someone spit on the street as I passed, just after the 9/11 tragedy, I experienced a little of what Catholics and Jews and other religious minorities in America went through in decades and centuries past. When my husband, a native of India, and I were swiftly refused a previously promised lease on a house after we faxed in our driver’s license photos to the out-of-town owner, I understood the resentment and frustration felt by those who suffer insidious bigotry. When I was made to stand with my arms and legs spread like a criminal for a physical pat down in plain view of other air travelers, I understood the humiliation of being profiled simply because of my faith. However, I consider these experiences a privilege, as they have taught me empathy for those who have suffered simply for being.

Islam has made me a stronger feminist. Contrary to common perceptions, being a Muslim woman demands that I become educated, one who questions authority and the status quo. The women who lived during the time of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad were constantly questioning the meaning of the revelations; they wanted to know where their place in society lay, and they asserted their intelligence in defining themselves. They asked the Prophet questions about their lives. They did not ask by means of their husbands or fathers; they spoke directly to the Prophet. Islamic teachings elevate women to equal status with men—the only qualifier of merit is one’s conviction of faith and actions. Islam leaves room for women to assert themselves in all aspects of community life, and while Muslims in America are struggling against the misogyny brought from overseas, Islam gives us the strength and framework to claim equal standing with men in the mosque and in the greater society.

Islam has taught me real humility. Muslims are taught to perform each prayer as if we are in the presence of God – whose magnificence is more than any of us can fathom. Muslims must pray in a prescribed manner, and the most intimate position of the prayer is called sajud, where one kneels down and places the forehead and nose on the floor. In the very beginning for me, an American raised with a large amount of pride, it was difficult to pray in this position. I thought to myself, “This is humiliating,” but was told that this is the purpose of sajud. I performed the prayer as taught, but was disheartened when I did not find the solace promised. A wise Muslim woman told me to continue with the ritual, regardless of whether it felt hollow or not. So I persisted. Weeks passed, and I went through the motions of the daily prayers, until one day–all in an instant–I felt myself in the presence of God while in sajud. During those brief moments I gained everything I would ever need in this world…the eternal longing for that most intimate connection with my Creator.

My husband and I named our son Sajid, which means one who prostrates to God.

Kari Ansari is Editor-in-Chief of America’s Muslim Family Magazine, based in Chicago, IL. Mrs. Ansari was born and educated in the United States, and is a convert to Islam. She has been an active member of the Muslim community, working toward the positive inclusion of Muslims into the mainstream of American society. Her four children range in age from 21 to 7. She and her husband, Ahmed, a native of India, live in the suburbs of Chicago, IL, with their children.

Kari Ansari
America’s Muslim Family Magazine
www.americasmuslimfamily.com
kari@americasmuslimfamily.com
PO Box 6335
Villa Park, IL 60181
703-354-1025

August 12, 2009
Hello NPR, Thank you for this opportunity. I was born to a Jewish mother and a Christian father in Concord Massachusetts in 1946. My mother's immigrant Russian parents disowned her when she married my father in 1940. As a result of this heartache, my parents moved to Southern CA, (the Mohave desert) where several of my father's brothers and their families had relocated from Mass. I was barely 5 yrs. of age when they moved. My mother was determined to let me pick my faith as she did not want me to relive her experience. She exposed me to all of the Christian faiths. She insisted that I attend the Seven Day Adventist School for four years to develop a strong knowledge of the bible. On Sundays, I attended the local community church where my aunt played the piano. My father's family in CA were from the "born again" Christian faith. There were no synagogues in the desert in those days, and my mother told me very little about her faith, as Jewishness in the 1950's was kept a secret in this heavily Christian community. Jews and Blacks were not allowed to join the Community Swimming Pool. She told me not to tell people that she was Jewish, although my father's family knew, but kept it hushed up. I could never understand this as a child. Children are so pure of heart. At any rate, I became a mainstream Christian (so to speak) but with little passion for God, Jesus, or religion. I hated being intimidated by my Christian relatives who would say, "the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ, so you need to accept him as your Lord and Savior." I felt there was a creator, but I could not find him the way everyone else had. I felt very guilty inside. I thought that perhaps I was a child of Satan, a pure sinner. I felt I was headed for hell throughout my teens and first marriage to an Episcopalian. That religion left me cold, as I saw no real passion other than the Sunday worship. Other times we just enjoyed each other's company, and it seemed more about social status than saving ones soul. Then I found Islam through a man who was caring for my father when he became ill. He did not try to convert me. I just kept asking questions and found what I was looking for, not the "pat" answers of just "have faith" that I kept getting when I asked questions of my pastors and relatives. I found proof in the Qur'an, (the word of God that has never been changed) through the miracles that were cited. Now I had proof that there was a God. This unchanged book sent by God through Gabriel to Mohammed cited things they could not have known 1400 years ago. My hard heart started to soften and open to this information; I wanted to stand in the light of this book and now the real God whom I had been searching for. These proofs, that I had been missing in the bible, opened my mind to the fact that God really existed. For instance, God describes the exact look of the forming embryo in the womb and that it is three layers deep in the belly of the female; That the mountains are as deep as they are tall to form the balancing pins of this spinning earth; that there are three different waters that divide as the river meets the sea with different fish in each; that the world is a sphere and not flat, and much more. None of this could they have known 1400 years ago, as there was no microscope to see the minute embryo, and only in the 19th and 20th centuries did we have the science and technology to confirm the hundreds of scientific statements made in the Qur'an. God says that on the day of judgement he will bring back even the tips of our fingers. Back then it meant nothing. What does it mean now? We now know that we each have an identity through our finger prints. These things were all I needed to follow this book and to realize this is the straight path. Not the crooked path that I had been on. I love wearing my hijab (head covering) and my jelbab (long dress) to let folks know who I am. I am a Muslim woman who guards her body with modesty for her husband, and places God first in her life. Thank you NPR for letting me share this beautiful religion that comes with an instruction book to take us to the promised land.
Paula Safiyah Blake, Columbia, Maryland 410-381-2420 443-472-6464

Being a Muslim means to be in obedience/ submission to the will of God; The God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, the Creator of the universe.
It means to be good, and work on being better person, citizen, husband, father, son, a friend and good co-worker.
To serve God by serving the creation of God, the humanity.
To await the return of Jesus, the Messiah, and the Propeht of God.
Islam (monotheism and submission to the will of God) is what Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad taught. So it is a universal religion.

Everything is beautiful about Islam.
Some things might seem strange in isolation, but when put in context AND in relation to teaching of other major faiths (including Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism etc...) they don't seem as strange anymore.
Not every thing is applicable at all times. Just like anything, there are rules and then there are the exceptions. Some times many forget the exceptions.

Muslims' traditions & cultures are as different as African Christians as compared to American Christians etc...
Islam is different from culture & tradition, but it seems like more often culture is what makes it in the media, and portrayed as "Islamic."

My fear/ challenge?
Despite all my humanly efforts to be good, I cannot live up to the high standards of Islam. I am afraid the people around me might judge Islam based my faults and shortcomings.
So, please, don't judge Islam soley based on my actions, traditions, or culture.

I can add more, but this might be enough. :-)
Tamim

Islam is the path that Allah revealed so that man could reach his full potential and please his Lord and Creator. When a person is far from Islam, like someone flying high over a road in the desert, it may seem like a narrow and difficult way. But when you come close to Islam you find it is a broad path that is complete both in its scope and in providing flexibility for man's diverse needs.

Does merely accepting Islam with your tongue, "la ilaha illAllah" (there is no deity worthy of worship other than Allah), erase all human foibles and weaknesses? No. But practicing Islam does bring out in a person those positive qualities that can be recognized by people everywhere. Indeed the Prophet, Allah's prayers and blessings be upon him, said it best when he said that he had been sent to improve the manners (akhlaque) of the people.

Part of what makes Islam beautiful to me is the barakat (blessing) that Allah puts in gatherings of Muslims who seek to learn and practice His religion. I just came back from attending a two-week course of lectures on theology, religious law, and more -- some 150 students took part. They came from all over the world to become roommates and classmates; we were together when we prayed, ate meals, studied, played, and took exams.

And to testify to how blessed and uplifting those two weeks were, there were so many positive comments from the staff at the event-hotel, including a non-Muslim engineer who spoke to us as a group and said that he had never addressed a gathering at the hotel before but he was moved to do so by his interactions with us.

When one thinks of the challenges Muslims face today, discrimination and wrongful prosecution are high on the list. The founding fathers of America rightly feared demagoguery but hate- and fear-mongers have risen to power here throughout the country's history, persecuting whatever group was a convenient target at the time. Yet the way to combat such villainy is through educating our countrymen about what Islam is and how we live as Muslims -- and Allah asks precisely that of every Muslim.

Some people are Muslims by birth and some by choice. I am the latter. Though Islam teaches that all people who believe in God and surrender to Him are "muslims," meaning those who surrender. In that case, I have always been muslim but several years ago became Muslim.

Searching for God has been an ongoing journey since my teenage years. Learning and appreciating different religions has too. In the beginning, I tried to get involved in my own Eastern Orthodox tradition. I liked going to church because it was a peaceful time full of chants and focus on God. And I loved the incense. But it never spoke to me, or maybe I never listened well enough. Whatever the reason, I moved on to the traditional American Christianity: Bible class and non-denominational church. Out of that, I received intense fear of Hell and dispair because 1. I was not sure if I had been saved and 2. I was sure my family and people of other faiths were not saved. Thinking of Hell was a private hell.

So I moved away from that, though perhaps the people I had been associating with simply misinterpreted the faith to me. I liked spending time with an extremely nice Christian girl who told me she did not make non-Christians her close friends because it would take her away from her religion. I have thought of that logic often since then.

And later, by some chance, or Godly design, I got involved in the interfaith community and realized that there are many different religions and spiritual paths, and I got a lot more comfortable. Here were all the teachings and thought I had been looking for. It was fascinating learning about different paths to the same God.

And I considered myself an interfaith person, or a person of no particular faith. This was fine for me, I was friends with everyone and respected everyone's tradition. A few years later it was not enough.

So I first fasted for Ramadan. And I loved it! It was strange because I have never been a person who skipped a meal or gave up the extra piece of cake. So how could I not eat or drink the whole day, over and over again? It had to be something bigger than my base desires that was driving me.

And that was the most peaceful I had ever felt. It was unreal. And of course, it was not something I was going to forget about but it lead me further and further into Islamic practices. I started praying. I would perform the correct prayer postures on my little rug and recite my own prayers. Then I started facing in the direction of Mecca. Then I decided to learn the Arabic words. So I would do the postures and have my little cheat sheet, that is how the ritual prayers were committed to memory. When I finally could do the whole thing without cheating and withough stumbling, I felt like I had accomplished something important, like I belonged to something, like there was a higher purpose for my actions.

And so it went: I continued to fast every year, prayed often, learned more and more about Islam. Eventually, I felt the need to declare myself officially Muslim. And when I did, it was as though a huge weigth was lifted off of me. Finally, I belonged, I was committed to something, I had a practical way of relating to life and God and I was so much happier.

Now, we as Muslims, and all people the world over are faced with the fact that some terrorist acts have been committed by Muslims. And this has clouded over everything Islamic from now on. Not a day goes by that I don't read some hateful book about how Islam really is the religion of violence, and all other religions are ones of peace. The authors come up with all kinds of inaccurate "proofs" that they are right, and I am shocked at how much Islamophobic hate there is out there.

The only thing I know to do to counter this is to establish personal relationships with non-Muslims. Since I do not wear a scarf over my hair, no one who sees me on the street would ever think I am Muslim. But one day when I was coming from the mosque with my friend, we were both wearing scarves, and we are both white Russians. An older lady asked us why we dressed the way we did and we explained that we were Muslim and this type of dress is part of our religion and she very politely thanked us. It was a sweet and telling exchange: if you want people to understand you, you have to show yourself to them. As a white non-scarf-wearing Russian, I do not fit into the typical mold of a Muslim woman. Which is fine with me. If someone meets me and thinks "why would she choose Islam as a religion?" then maybe they will be interested to find our more and will see that Islam is a great religion appropriate for anyone, from any country, race, or nationality.

And so I go around town and give talks on Islam if anyone requests it, I write for an online newspaper about Islamic topics, and I try to talk to people who have questions about Islam in a way that would show the true nature of our religion: a peaceful surrender to God's plan and a way of living that creates a symbolic order in our lives.

I am a 50 year old female and I came to United estates when i was 18 years old. I was born in Pakistan and was raised by two beautiful muslim parents.I cam here after I got married, have 4 grown children born and raised in America. It is very sad to see such ignorence in a country like America. But I also understand it is human nature to fear what we don't understand.
Islam is a very beautiful, simple and pure religion.Because of Islam I am a better daughter, a better sister, a better mother, a better friend, better neighbour and a better worker. We muslims don't observe Islam only during certein days or months we live it everyday. Islam teach us to be fearful of Allah (GOD)and yet at the same time reminds us how mercyful HE is and how much he loves us. There is no middle man between a human and GOD, everyone has a direct line to reach HIM, all we have to do is raise our hands in humility and beg for his mercy. If we follow his command and know that he is waching us all the time and we can not hide from him this will make us a better human being.
it is very difficult to capture the beauty of islam in few paragraphs, I love Islam and I am proud to be a muslimah!

Maimunah Ikramullah

Being a Muslim means to me that I have a daily relationship with God, in which I hope that every word, every action in my day will help me attain God's pleasure and paradise. Our time on this Earth is a big test; testing our belief in the unseen God and our steadfastness in prayer, helping others, and doing good. God has been the closest to me more than any other. He knows me better than anyone in this world and I would feel lost without Him and His guidance. As a Muslim-American female who was born and raised in the U.S., I find Islam extremely freeing in the sense that I am liberated from being a slave to uncomfortable, exposing fashions or to look a certain way or to compete with others in terms of looks. I have worn the Islamic headscarf since I was 14 years old, by my own choice. While this wasn't easy to do in High School, I felt that it was important to do for God and myself. I did not want people judging me by my body, but for my brains and intellect. I find that in American culture, a female's worth and self-worth is determined by her sex appeal, even from the early years of elementary and middle school. By wearing a headscarf, I felt that I was changing this rule for myself and that each woman who wears it, is changing this unwritten rule, one woman at a time. I would not allow myself to be degraded to nothing more than an exposed body for passing men to admire. I am a person, with thoughts, feelings, and opinions. In addition, Islam has granted women so many rights that Western women were not granted until the early-late 1900's. Muslim women have the right to their own inheritance and have the right to keep every cent they earn in a job. They are not required to share any of their wealth with their husbands. In Islam a woman in not required to cook or clean. If she does so in her household it is considered a charity. I feel that being a Muslim woman makes me extremely content, happy and grateful to be born into this religion. As a mother of two daughters, I hope to pass on to them this tradition of liberation and empowerment for women in Islam and most importantly the love and worship of God the most Merciful.

I was born in Houston, Tx to some very young parents. My Grandparents are devout Babtist Christians who raised us close to this religion. Our parents didn't really follow any religion, so I used to ride the bus to church alone. When I got my license i drove myself there each Sunday. I stopped attending church after I graduated high school and began life as an adult. I spent some time in college and began working as a photography studio manager. I came back to Dallas from NY and after managing for 5 years began my own photography company, Zanphotography.

I had a background in Photography, Sales, Graphic Design, and Management so I wasn't too worried to do it all alone. I advertised for free using my own graphics and with the help of Myspace pages I was off! I scored a few huge jobs shooting celebrity events for Ghost Bar, inside the infamous W Hotel in Dallas. Only the most beautiful and successful people partied at this place. I shot everyone from Justin Timberlake, to Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson...and lots of other sports and pop stars that graced through our doors. With this job came lots of other restaurant openings, and every other main street night club had me shooting their private parties. My work then went into all the Dallas magazines, sometimes even in People and Paper City was a weekly regular. I got to hang out with publicist from Vogue and worked with the best in the media business. It was simple and glamorous and along came with it, lots of Glam friends. I could walk into any party and it seemed I couldnt go anywhere at night without spotting friends. I even had to look the part while working. I had to wear sexy clothes, loads of makeup and "fohawk" style hair...it was popular at the time. I often found that I had "fans"...people acutally came up and wanted to have their picture with me, on their own cameras...later I would see it posted on myspace or facebook. I partied, and drank, and only cared about one person....Me. Deep down inside though...this life and the people in it started to wear down on my soul. It's a wicked life....I remember standing next to Justin Timberlake, and all the flashes from the crowd going off and we could barely see 5 feet in front of us...I only took about 3 shots of him, so I wouldn't get fired and then I slid my lens to the side...I couldn't do it more...it felt horrible all these people screaming flashing, body guards around him, managers yelling...and this was after he had finished a 3 hour concert. What kind of life was that? I felt dirty that I was part of the reason he couldn't have a normal life. I started wondering what was so great about my life, what was I doing to better anything around me? Nothing, just shooting pictures of people partying and drinking and Wow..."Here is my contribution America, I'm here to make the world and more materialistic and vain place!"...not exactly something that would make my Grandmother proud.

So here it came...the overwhelming sensation of doubt about who I was and what I was doing with my life. I couldn't sleep I began having nightmares with people screaming out to help them. I also couldn't escape the thought of the most important question that I had ever asked myself..."What will you say when you must explain your life to God?" OMG...what do you say...Umm sorry God I am too busy drinking and hanging out with cool people to think about You or to help others....THis is defintely a defining moment in my life where I knew it was time for some changes. I talked with friends about what I was feeling, they tried so hard to help. One friend recommended that I watch a few lectures on youtube...one of which from a guy named Yusuf Estes...a Muslim convert who used to be a Christian pastor...the best part was he was from Texas! I watched the lectures and when I got to his...I heard a bearded man explain everything I was going through right to me as though he was reading my mind...He told the story of his conversion to Islam from Christianity. Said he needed a greater purpose in life, a better reason to wake up in the morning...Oh how nice this sounded to me. To wake up without thinking..."What did I do last night, and how did I get home alive?" I became obscessed with learning more about his religion. I would come home from shooting around 2:30 AM and get online till the sun came up. It was so relieving to listen to other converts too...Yusuf Islam, his exact reasons for converting...the same as mine! Holy Cow I found some help! Of course when studying and believing in this religion...you start to look at yourself differently. It's like you see yourself from outside your body! I remember...a friend of mine, (who is now my husband) said to me..."Who is it that thinks your so glamorous and cool? What kind of people are they...they are just like you only caring about themselves and living for nothing better"...Ouch those words drove straight through me. He became my biggest supporter in my transition.
I remember one day I wanted to start going to the New Muslim classes at the local masjid and I went into my huge closet to find something suitable to wear...HA! Good Luck! This day I went crazy I think. I teared up as I thrashed through the hangers of sexy tops and tight jeans and pants...not one single thing that I could wear to a holy place. Most of the tops had to be taped on to avoid the loose fabric from exposing your chest! I began crying at myself...what kind of girl was I!...I tore through the clothes throwing them behind me in a huge pile of slinky embarrassment. When I was done there was only a small rack of barely modest things left. I couldn't afford to replace them all so I slowly began the process of a new wardrobe. I started with looser pants, shirts with long sleeves...modest shoes instead of stillettos...and a low pony tail became my daily routine. Then it went from there, and slowly but surely God carved his way through my black heart and planted Himself deeply inside. I said my Shahada in April of 2007 in the office of Dr. Yusuf Kavacki, the Father of Elif Kavacki. My later husband Hassan was there supporting me, as well as a few new girlfriends I had made from the New Muslim classes. I have a slew of new friends now, who follow the same lifestyle as me. I didn't get rid of any of my old friends...but if your not down for meeting people at the bar, then they tend to stop calling as much, until it's just never at all. No problem for me I am busy as I ever was and happily married with a wonderful family of In-Laws not far away.
I asked Hassan if I could visit Jordan, he is from Amman and his parents and siblings live there. His family was so happy to have me, Muslims have the best since of family and welcome guests as if they are blood. I stayed with his Mom and Dad for a month. I started wearing the hijab full-time there, it made being out in public easier for me, less men harassing you and people really respect you more...Wow, people respecting me for the way I dress and carry myself in public, that was a new and wonderful feeling. When I came back to Dallas, I couldn't take off the scarf. I just couldn't stand the thought of going back to being just another "piece of meat" for men to glare at. I didn't want to go back to competing with women based on whose boobs look bigger, and what brand are you wearing and are you sexy enough to be my friend....No more of this life for me. I wanted to be free from those chains and wearing the hijab was the only answer for this. I wore it proud, wore it with style and actually more men than ever in my life opened doors for me and showed me respect. One day a man in his 40's came up to me at a store and said...where did you get these clothes, you look so classy and stylish...I wish my wife would start dressing this way. Why wouldn't men love this...they have a beautiful wife who shows her skin only to him and in public she covers demanding respect for herself and her religion with every public apperance she makes. I am currently working on designing new headpieces for hijab wearing women to wear. Soon, Inshallah I will have the first set completed.
I still do photography but I keep it clean, you know. I don't shoot clubs or crazy parties anymore. I stick with charity functions, fundraisers...and my newly started wedding and bridal photography is going quite well. I also take part in MAS, (Muslim American Society), and WCTI (Woman Converts to Islam). I speak sometimes to schools about Islam, and even to Muslim schools to the younger girls, I try to tell them to stay away from the wrong kind of life...I tell them from experience that it gets you nowhere, a vicious lonely circle where everyone is lonely and rich and it never gets any better. I have a huge following on Myspace, thanks to the youtube interview done on me. I use the page on myspace to reach out to other "praty girls" and show them that you can escape that life. Even if you don't wanna become a Muslim, just clean up your life and you will change forever for the best. Having God in your life is the best therapy you could ever hope for, and it's free! I also love working with Sr. Elif Kavacki, she is a great woman and really trying to open doors for Muslim women everywhere. I am happily married, and we are hoping one day Allah will bless us with an addition to our new little family. My husband and I enjoy living in downtown and keeping each other close to our religion. We frequent trips to the masjid and enjoy nights with friends for dinner, we have picinics by the lake and watch the sunset, and attend a lot of functions with his career. This replaced all the late night parties and people who dont' really care about you. I think it's a pretty good trade, Hamidillah...

What never ceases to amaze me are the expressions that people have when they first meet me. Because I'm an exhibiting contemporary artist a lot of time I'll interact with people like curators, museum directors, patrons and such, online or by phone long before I physically meet them. Sometimes I think they expect a wild eyed scraggly beaded man wearing traditional Saudi attire (I'm Egyptian by the way). Or they think that because I'm a visual artist then I'm sort of 'anything goes' hedonistic secularist, fat blunt in one hand and glass or Merlot in the other.

But I'm not, I'm just an American Muslim.

And I'm part of the birth of a new Muslim cultural identity that's truly a historical event to witness. We are the fruit of the American melting pot, where the divisive cultures of our parent's homelands are foreign to us. I do not see color or ethnicity as a hierarchy but as an opportunity, the same opportunity that exists in teaching and learning about each others' religions.

This is the true essence of Islam, that unfortunately has been distorted through people who have monolithic ideals. Yes, we have limitations on what we can and can't do, how much or how little we are permitted to engage with certain aspects of any society. But those parameters are hardly limiting, actually liberating in knowing you are safe to indulge in the permissible.

From time to time I find the challenges of being an American raised Muslim coming more from other Muslims who have not understood the full potential afforded Americans. Yes, I am an artist. My discourse on the world around me is done visually. Mundane details like hairstyle and choice of attire are at times unorthodox. I listen to music when I'm inspired to create the object that I hope will become vehicles of conversation in galleries and museums. I knew this was my future when I went to Hajj, camera in hand, documenting experiences for future audiences. So please, call me Hajji Hippie Arteest.

Again, I'm still a Muslim. These activities are the gifts given to me by my creator, and I use them in pursuit of a better understanding of my religion, and the cultures of my parents' region. An understanding that is not just focused on "westerners" but also critical for Muslims to be introspective of how they are viewed, and why they are sometimes misunderstood.

The good thing is knowing that I'm comfortable and privileged to be part of a generation that is free to distill the hubris of ethnocentric culture from the superstructure of Islam. This is what makes America great.

We skate, we snowboard, we make art, we make music, we fall in love, we slam poetry, we go baggy, we go skinny, we get emo, we get big.

But we also pray, we memorize Quran, we fast, we give in charity, we educate, we represent.

We are the ambassadors of an emerging American Muslim identity, just as rich and full of nuanced subcultures. My niche is art. You'll find me in the mosque after the gallery reception. I hope one day we'll break fast together.

I converted to Islam 5 1/2 years ago at the age of 19, while studying Islamic World Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. I was the first person in the US to receive my undergrad in Islamic Studies. Ramadan has always been a challenge for me. My non-Muslim family thought I had an eating disorder. I had to fight with my parents about the mental, spiritual and emotional virtues associated with fasting while always trying to include some kind of a "its good for you, like a detox" spin on why it was physically healthy for me. I am addicted to coffee. I was addicted to cigarettes. The splitting headaches that you get when you are first fasting are debilitating. I have had to learn craniosacral massage techniques to get through the pain and caffine, nicotene withdrawls that accompany the fasting.

This year I start my first year of law school in fort lauderdale the same week Ramadan starts. I live alone, and will be starting and breaking my fast without the support of my Muslim friends who are all in Chicago, and without my non-Muslim family to eat with. I am hoping that although I will be doing this at the most intense, and important time of my life, and although I will be doing it all alone, like I never have before, I can make this Ramadan particularly special and show myself what kind of discipline I can have when I have no spiritual support around me.

I was raised in a typical Muslim family, where we would go the Masjid on Friday, fast the month of Ramadan and celebrate Islamic occasion. When I was 8 years I completed the Arabic recitation of Quran; and in essence it was the conclusion of my duty as a Muslim. I didn’t understand anything that I read in the Quran. In fact I didn’t even think that there would be any meaning to the Quran. Over the years, I grew distant from the Quran. I went to a Catholic High school and from there, the Bible lead me to Quran. Every classroom in our school was stacked with Bibles, King James Version. One day, feeling bored and lethargic from work, I grabbed one of the many Bible copies from the back of my history class and began to read. And thus began my epic Journey to Quran. Science was my favourite subject. I especially enjoyed studying the human biology and astronomy. We learned about the human reproductive system from conception, to formation of zygote to embryo and finally birth. Much to my surprise, throughout the unit of reproduction, my teacher failed to mention God. Human creation is not possible without God. Our teacher taught us that an addiction or absence single chromosome can cause disastrous birth defects, adverse health effects and even gender complications. How can a single cell create and destroy life? How can this be a coincidence that a single cell would create or destroy life? Why didn’t my teacher ever mention God? The same thing repeated in astronomy unit. We studied about the creation and expansion of the universe, the solar system and the rotation of celestial bodies. There was no mention of GOD anywhere. It was as if my teacher was deliberately skipping GOD from her lectures. It seemed like a great betrayal, and dishonour to praise and admire the creation and purposely ignore the Creator. I gave up on science and turned my focus towards religion. I wanted to learn about the Creator. I would eagerly sit in the front of the religion class, note down everything the teacher said. Though I was happy I was happy to be in class, it was very rare that we ever talked about God. Some saint or Jesus as the highlight of every lecture. This was religion class, we were suppose to talk about Who God is? Where is God? Why He created us? Why were we discussing the lives of people? Disinterested, I spent many lunch breaks reading the Bible in our school chapel. The book was unfamiliar and mysterious but soon I had read it a great deal. The things I didn’t understand, I would ask my religion teacher. Like in the Book of Genesis, I read Jacob wrestled with God all night long and won. My teacher told me, here the word ‘god’ means, angle or a demon. So god is used interchangeably in the Bible? How will I know when god means demon, and other times means angel? Isn’t the Bible suppose to be God’s book? There shouldn’t be any confusion in this regard then. He should be the focused? In 1 Chornicles, and the Book of Psalm and Isaiah I read the earth has four corners and it is immovable. So I rushed to my geography teacher and said well this is not what we learned in geography?! She only smiled and nodded. Many times I was told that the Bible was not to be taken literally. It was symbolic, rather metaphorical. How can the truth be metaphorical? How can the truth ever be taken as a loose figurative sense? Anyway, I still used to go to mass. In grade 9 and 10 I think I didn’t miss a single school mass. I would listen very attentively to the priest and much to my surprise, in every mass, he would read the following massage from the Book of John: 16:7 and 16:13: "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart I will send him unto you . . .We will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak . . ." Didn’t the priest realize? This is in reference to Muhammad sallahu alyihi wa sallam. He was the only comforter and mercy to mankind that came after Jesus. He guided humanity to the truth, he spoke the revelation which was sent to him by Allah. By this time, I understood that if I wanted to learn about my Creator, I had to study Quran. But I didn’t know how? I did not speak or understand Arabic. And the English translations didn’t satisfy me. In grade 11 and 12 law was my absolute passion. I was law obsessed. The one thing I wanted the most at that time was to become a lawyer. I was fueled by the desire of establishing justice and equality. But every law that I read seemed good on paper but in reality it was no where in practice by any of the law institutes or governments. The law was good on paper, but it was impractical in real life. No matter how good of a law was passed, the criminals always found a loophole to beat and cheat the system. Law did not people just, upright, modest, generous. It merely outlined an ideal mode of behaviour which was expected from society. But what are those means through which the society could become civil? What incentive I could give them so there were be no murder, no rape, no break ins? Then a point came in my life and I didn’t want to pursue my career in law anymore. I liked the idea of sending criminals to jail but how many people could be possible lock behind bars? There are to be some way the peoples’ ‘hearts’ could change and their moral conscious could guide them, motivate to do good and be good always? It was around my high school graduation that my mom told me about this Quran course Al Huda was offering. I know in my heart I was searching for something. Whatever it was, I didn’t get it from law or science. I was still interested in religion, so I decided to take a year off from university and explore Quran. I had already studied the Bible, I had also read several parts of the Hindu Vedas. My research and study of these two scriptures constantly lead me to read Quran. I would read a passage from the Bible and automatically remember something Islamic my mother had told me as a child. But I didn’t know where to or how to even read Quran. I had read it independently in my high school years, but the English translation didn’t satisfy me. I knew I studied the Bible initially under Catholic teachers, maybe what I needed now was a Quran teacher? So I registered for the course without even considering the logistics. I didn’t know what was in the Quran. I didn’t know who the teacher would be. All I knew was I wanted to know what the Quran, so I came to class. And with the very first lesson, I felt there was a void in my heart, which has been filled, a sadness that has been removed, a emptiness that’s been filled and a happiness I found. True Quran made me a better person. It inspired me to be more patient, kind, caring and generous. But more than anything, Quran gave me answers. It was as if it knew me more than I knew it. Quran spoke of biology and astronomy. For example, of the many verses that I read are: "What is the matter with you, that you are not conscious of Allah's majesty, seeing that it is He Who has created you in diverse stages? See you not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another, and made the moon a light in their midst, and made the sun as a (glorious) lamp? And Allah has produced you from the earth, growing (gradually)" (71:13-17). Also, “Allah created all things, and he is the agent, upon which, all things depend” (39:62) Only a few months into the course and Quran became the only way forward for me. Quran touched every aspect of our lives. It addressed each aspect of human needs. Each judgment gave insight into the complex rational and legal thinking of the Most Intelligent Creator. So if people knew their Creator and read the Creator’s message, Quran, then they will change? They will recognize their true worth and responsibility. Along with Quran, at Al Huda I studied the lives of the early Muslims who actually lived in a time when the Quran was received by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). They took the Quran first hand from the Prophet and implemented it. The first recipients of Quran were worshiping stones and vegetables, mischievous, corrupt, defiled of many vices, shameless, uncultured. But in a short span of less than 25 years, the worst country and the most civilized and well mannered people on the earth. In the less than a 100 years, the people of Quran encompassed an area ranging from Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean. The world of ours cannot present any other example of this miraculous success. Quran transformed these people. Quran is the cure for the problems and diseases of the modern world. I am happy I found the Quran. I hope to convey it to others as much as possible.

My name is Jennifer Kabir and I am an American Muslim. I am that woman who people often look at with a mixture of curiosity and wonder. Maybe it's the blue eyes and sometimes blonde strands of hair that make their way out from my hijab-the head covering worn by many Muslim women, that tell a different story of who I am. I suppose my exterior speaks of a different kind of Islam that has been purposely chosen and embraced.

I was raised in Southern California in a traditional American family. My family attended church, trimmed the Christmas tree, spent days at the beach, and shopped at Gemco and K-Mart back in the days when no one had ever imagined a Wal Mart or the concept of a global world. Islam or Muslims were not a part of our reality as we had never known anyone who practiced the Islamic faith.

I've come a long way from the beach town of Southern California where I used to spend endless summer afternoons in flip-flops and shorts with the smell of the salty ocean wind mingling through my sun bleached hair. Today you will most likely find me sitting barefoot in the mosque, listening to the Imam recite from the Qur'an, and trying my best to keep my two young children quiet inside the walls of the prayer hall.

My journey to Islam may seem unlikely but to me it was inevitable.

For as long as I can remember I had been on a spiritual search for deeper meaning and guidance in my life. People have often asked me: Why Islam? Why not the faith I was born into? The only honest reply has been to say that on every level of my being, Islam resonated for me. Maybe it's the way Muslims are taught to worship-bringing our minds, bodies, and spirits into complete submission to God. It is the beauty that transpires with the constant remembrance of God and the immense rush of inner peace that comes from setting aside one's will or rather "the ego consciousness" by giving all glory, all praise, and all recognition of power to God alone.

One might say Islam freed me from my inner world to some extent, by giving me an awareness greater than myself.

It is my deep desire to see there be a greater understanding of Muslim women's lives and the veil. The hijab means different things to different Muslim women who wear it as part of their dress and the way hijab is worn varies from country to country and culture to culture. For some, it is an expression of spirituality. For others, it is an issue of comfort and achieving a personal desired level of modesty. A Muslim Mom may look on hijab as setting the proper example to her young children or a woman may be seeking a greater closeness to God. Ultimately, the hijab is mandated in the Qur'an by God so that a woman may increase her own faith and spirituality.

The hijab is about her faith, modesty, and the purification of heart. The act of wearing it is an act of worship to God.

Finally, it is my hope that we can go beyond the veil to understand authentic Islam and what drives women to share this expression of faith through their appearance.

Brief Bio:

Jennifer Kabir is a Journalist and Founder of TouchofShimmer.org: a unique site featuring modest style and beauty for the everyday Muslim Woman. Jennifer pens a Muslim Women's Style Column at Examiner.com. Hailing from Southern California she resides in Michigan with her husband and children.

In the name of God, the merciful.

I first have to apologize. I am not someone who can tell you much about the "Muslim world." I was born and raised in America. I barely know any language other than English. I studied math and computer science -- so I did not even study much about the "Muslim world" either. So please accept my sincerest apologies if I waste anyone's time with this.

I can, however, talk a little bit about what “being Muslim” means, to me. To put it short, it means going through life with a constant consciousness of the creator. But this state of mind, alone, is not enough. Islam is a balance between knowledge and action: the knowledge of the creator is a pre-requisite, but the actions (prayer, fairness and justice in one's affairs, charity, etc) should be logical conclusions of that knowledge. What “being Muslim” means, at the simplest level, is to accept that there is one God, and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent as a messenger, and that the Qur'an is the word of God, transmitted through the Prophet.

If you truly, in your heart, accept these things, the implications are so much more than I can begin to write about here, but I'll try to list a few. If you accept the Qur'an as true in your heart, then you start to see the blessings in so many things. In the very ability to see and walk and breathe, for example. And when you look at the world, you see all things as creations, which necessarily remind you of the creator. So when you see a tree, instead of seeing its physical properties, you are reminded of a verse in the Qur'an: “Do you not see how Allah has made an example of a good word as that of a good tree: whose roots are firm, and its branches are in heaven? It gives fruit at all times, with the permission of its Lord...” (14:24-25).

Having Islam in one's heart in this way, and viewing the world in this way, allows you to see the true beauty in the world. It causes you to reflect upon just how much more unimaginatively beautiful the creator must be.

Right now, as I am preparing myself for Ramadan, it is imperative for me to constantly remember God through his creation. During Ramadan, when we fast every day from early morning until sunset, we are reminded of our own physical limitations by being constantly confronted with hunger and thirst. But this confrontation causes us to think about the higher things – about things that are eternal, that don't simply go away once we have the food and drink that we so desperately need. We realize that the problems we have are just so temporal that we cannot obsess too much over them. So when I think about what it means to be Muslim, it's hard to find an answer better than, “Constantly remembering the eternal in all our daily actions.”

I apologize if this was unclear, as it's hard to really capture this in one short piece. If I have said anything correct or profound in any of my words, it is only by the will of God, and if I have said anything wrong, it is purely my own error.

I am a convert to Islam. As such, living in America I am somewhat of a minority within a minority. It is hard to say what being Muslim truly means to me, because Islam satisfies so many different aspects of my life, I almost don't know which to pick or emphasise. I'll give you a list: spiritually, Islam means connecting with God several times a day through prayer and remembrance. Socially, Islam means spending my time with my dear brothers in Islam who sincerely strive with patience to overcome their shortcomings and egos and try to submit their will to God. In business, Islam means striving to keep my word with my parters, customers and to be a good example for my employees... to deal with all of these people in an honest and fair way without being weak or oppressive. In marriage, it means making sure I've addressed my duties towards my wife in a kind and generous way -- from keeping a roof over our heads to taking her out on a weekend getaway. In family life, Islam mean maintaining close ties with my Mom, Dad and in-laws and trying to spend as much time as possible with them and show my appreciation for all the sacrificing they have done for us. As a father, it means trying to be the best example to my son, to show him that although the time, culture and society seems to have a lot to offer us, God has sometimes much greater to offer us, but only if we seek it out. Intellectually, it means having a rich framework with which to analyse current and past events. It means finding greater appreciation for the Creator as more scientific details are revealed about this world and it's inhabitants.

The beauty of Islam lies within the completeness of it. God sent Muhammad and the Quran to teach us to strive and struggle for something much greater than ourselves and our short term desires... to be in awe of the mercy of God and the vastness of his generosity, to worship Him through actions... by striving to enjoy the many gifts He has bestowed upon us without becoming arrogant or stingy. In Islam, we probe as deep as we can, questioning things and seeking out truth. In the Quran (the book of God), the Hadith (the sayings and actions of the final messenger of God) and the Sirah (the life of Muhammad), there is so much to reflect up and so many timeless life lessons.

When I think about the future of Islam, I don't rely on hope. I have no doubt that God will always protect this way of life and that there will always be some people striving for his pleasure. That being said, I think that Islam is so relevant to the times we all live in and wish more people (Muslim and non-Muslim) would educate themselves about Islam and get all of the benefits it has to offer in this life and the next.

The word Muslim literally means to one who submits to God, our Creator. To me it means to follow the same basic teachings of all the Prophets, from Abraham, Moses, Jesus to Muhammad (peace be upon them), by submitting to the Will of God and striving to lead a righteous and pious life. It means giving charity, even if all you have to give is a smile, and being a good neighbor. It means representing Islam not just by your good deeds, but also by your good character.

I find beauty in the simplicity of Islam. The simple message of worshiping one God, for me, answers the question, "What is the purpose of life?". There is also great beauty in the straightforward daily rituals of worship such as the five daily prayers and the ritual purification before the prayers. This gives Muslims a chance to take a break from our daily lives and focus on remembering our Creator throughout the day, striving to be God-Conscious at all times.

One of the great strengths of Islam is it's diversity and unifying quality. It was taught 1400 years ago by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that racism is impermissible and that we are all equal, both men and women, in the eyes of God, except in terms of pity and good deeds. It was also taught that we were made into nations and tribes so that we may know one another. Islam teaches that shouldn't let out cultural differences or nationalism get in the way of uniting together as the one human race.

A concern that is central to American Muslims is one of Islamophobia. It unfortunate that a small but vocal minority of Islamophobes use their positions in the media to attack, distort and flat out lie about Islam and Muslims. My concern is that American Muslims aren't given an equal platform to respond to the attacks. It's unfortunate but many of the Muslim organizations can't afford or aren't given the opportunity for airtime to combat many of the stereotypes and misinformation that are circulated about Islam and Muslims. Hopefully in the future American Muslim community will become increasingly able to have access to the mainstream media to lend it's voice to the conversation.

My overall hope would be that the Muslim world, or the Ummah, unites together under the teachings of Islam, setting aside petty differences, and works towards a future of peace, prosperity and happiness, together, within the framework of Islam.

First of all I would thank NPR for taking this initiative to have a discussion about the American Muslim prospective.

The role of a Muslim American is often misunderstood by many Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. Prior to 9-11 the role of Muslim American was like any other American minority experience. However post 9-11 this role is constantly evolving and taking a wide range of meaning and responsibilities.

Like many others I had to take a long and hard look at my role as a Muslim American. To me being a Muslim American means to strive to improve every aspect of me and my surrounding with the guidance of Allah. This might sound too ambitious but this is what I like to aim for. To fulfill my role, I am involved with community services such as skid row feeding program, restoration of parks and trails with Treepeople, helping others, also focusing on self improvement such as being on time.

My concern is how society reacts to Muslims identity and its effect on Muslim Americans. For instance, certain government agency’s inappropriate conduct with Muslim community can discourage Muslim Americans to get involve in their community. I am also concern about the youth in the Muslim communities, because they are struggling the most to define their role in the society.

Majority of the Muslims realize that Islamic values are American Values. Unlike some so-called “Muslim countries”, here you do not have to lie or bribe someone to get the job done. Yes there are ailments in this society as well. But this is the perfect opportunity to apply one’s Islamic teaching to improve oneself and the society.

Thank You

P.S. The picture was taken at the last year's Humanitarian Day downtown Los Angeles.

I myself grew up Christian and to make a long story short I became Muslim after some troubled teen years, that most Americans go through. Looking back over the past five years I can see all of the amazing things I have accomplished. I went from being a kid with no purpose but just going through the everyday steps just because that's what you do. Go to school, go to work, enroll in college etc... When I remember those days, I can remember feeling dead, like a zombie, without thought doing the daily activities. Now as a Muslim, with the purpose of my life I now recognize that Allah did not create humans or jinn except to worship him. Everything I do whether it is reading the Quran, praying, fasting, or simply doing my laundry it all can be considered as worship as long as I keep my purpose of life in mind and perform the actions the way Islam instructs me to do so. Everything I do can be classified as worship and this is the reason I now perform so well in all of my tasks. I have found that I am far beyond any other kids my age. After completing two years of a four year degree I have obtained a position at a medium sized company in a field that I plan to stay in for my life. Now I am earning more than any other kid my age. The funny thing about it is that I don't care about the money. I looked for something that I thought I could be happy in, that would be beneficial for Islam and ultimately pleasing my creator; and it just so happened to be that this was also a high paying career.

Part of the greatness in Islam that allowed me to achieve these accomplishments is the brotherhood in Islam. Muhammad, Allah's final prophet and messenger, may peace and blessings are upon him said, “A believer is a mirror to his brother. A believer is a brother of a believer: he protects him against any danger and guards him from behind.” I have created a network of people that I love just as much as my own real blood brother and they are all over the world. Islam has the widest variety of people in the world. There are Muslims from every continent that has life.

With this wide variety of people and large number of followers it is hard to imagine every one of them having success stories such as mine and this is the problem I fear faces the Muslims today. We have the tools it takes to become the greatest person alive, but not all of us know how to use these tools. It’s like having a plumber in a computer hardware store. Even with all the tools in the world he could not repair the computers. The Muslims need to learn to be better rounded and know that every single one of us is extremely important and can contribute to the return of Islam. We need politicians, we need computer programmers, we need journalists, we need shoe makers, we need garbage collectors and we need religious scholars. I pray that Allah gives success to the Muslims and that he shows the beauty of Islam to the people. In order to get the best perspective when looking at the beauty of Islam I invite you to become a practicing Muslim and see this beauty.

The "muslim world" to me has, for the most part, lost the morals and ethics tought by the prophet Mohammad peace be upon him yet has retained the name 'muslim'. This ignorance of hte muslimd of their religion has allowed for few to hijack Islam and taint it with terrorism. To me, being muslims is not a name or a title, rather it is an attribute. The attribute of submitting to Allah alone (the one true God worthy of worship). Only in this direct connection to God do I find peace and love and guidance. Islam is all beautiful. The entire way of life which is nessesetated by worshipping one God only is the solution to problems all over the world.

In terms of daily life, Islam (submission to God, is expressed in every aspect of my life. When I sleep, I pray to Allah to keep my soul safe. When I marry, I do it to please Allah. When i speak, I try to say only what pleases Allah. Anything i do that pleaases allah is considered worship [on top of the 5 daily prayers and other rituals]. Even an action of the heart such as forgiving someone is a good deed. In this way, my life, rituals, and death and all that in between can be worship with the right intention and right action. This is the purpose of life as Allah has told us in his book of guidance (the Quran) and as explained by the prophet mohammad's actions.

Thank you

For me, Islam serves as a guideline for living my daily life. Being Muslim, to me, means living a life with purpose and gratitude to God for what he has given us. I believe that every day presents us with tests of faith and strength and I think there is beauty in everything if you allow yourself to be swept away. Each day there is the opportunity to do a good deed: help a person cross the street, rescue a wounded animal on the side of a road, warn someone of danger ahead, pick up a lost item and return it...I personally work in an environment where there are few Muslims so in that sense I do not worship publicly. I do, however, cherish the time I take out each day to observe the daily prayers. Each prayer can take just under 5 minutes and serves as a reminder of our true responsibility, i.e. that of worshiping. In the Muslim community itself, there are those who see the daily prayer as a sort of burden. They do not observe it at all or instead delay it until after work. This is a critical failure because the prayer is a simple yet compulsory duty for Muslims. At the same time, I have found that my prayer has been strengthened by those who do piously observe it. As a student in university some of my favorite moments were spent gatherings remembering God's unending mercy and the prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) devotion to Him. Circles of knowledge have provided me with the support and courage I needed to feel fully satisfied in life, yet aware that everyone's time on this earth is limited.
My hopes for the future of the Muslim community, or the Ummah as it is known in Arabic, are those of unity, honesty, and the end of arrogance. Islam encourages people to be truly humble and embrace the humanity in everyone, realizing that God created us all, and that as our Creator, He knows us best. Thus we trust in Him and His words as relayed in the Holy Qur'an. I hope that Muslims around the world, especially those in conflicted areas, can realize the commonalities between the Abrahamic religions, despite historical disputes. Non-Muslims are supposed to be guaranteed safety in Muslim societies. There may be a tax, but every society charges a price for providing security.

I was born a Muslim and have always cherished this blessing. Even though growing up I didn't pray my five daily prayers, I never missed fasting Ramadan, and I always knew that the tenants of Islam are true... There is only one God and Mohammed is His last prophet. We were created to worship God the Almighty. Growing up in the Arab world I never thought of my faith being different or needing explanation. Then my family moved to Canada in the mid-eighties. I was one of few black students, and to my recollection, one of two Muslims in my class. At the age of 12, I knew that I was on the right path. I knew that I was blessed to be born Muslim. I felt that I was in the light. I felt bad that my classmates were confused as to the why they were created and what the purpose of their lives was. At that time I didn't wear the hejab neither did anyone in my extented family, but we were without a shadow of doubt Muslim. As teeanger, I knew that loved being Muslim. I have had many tribulations in my life. I lost my mother whom I adored with every fiber of my being when I was young, and became responsible for my younger siblings. I could have been bitter and angry, but I asked God to help me. I asked for patiences. I kept repeating what we say in Islam when somone days; " to God we belong and to Him we retun" My faith sustained me. In my early twenties I keep at a fork in the journey of my life. I had my first ever crush that felt like the real thing. It was someone who was not Muslim. I asked myself what is the most important thing in my life. I said that being Muslim and wanting to worship God Almighty was more important. I looked in my heart and saw my naked soul without pretense, lies, covers or adornments. I sincerely like who I was and I loved being Muslim. I never looked back. Few years later, I sat myself down again and looked in my heart and saw my naked soul once more. I asked myself what is stopping me from wearing the hejab. I said I am not 100% sure about the need for wearing since people have different opinions. I asked myself if I wanted aa piece of cloth to be the reason that God is not pleased with me, and I lose my chance to enter Paradise. I decided not to take any chances and to put the hejab on. At that times and many times to come, I accepted that I will not always know the answers to everything. I believe in the goodness of God and the truth in the message of Islam. I am the servant of God and am happy if He accepts me in that role. My life continues .... but I think this is enough. The bottom line is I love being Muslim before 911 and after. The religion is pure and awesome. The people can be good or bad but I don't worship them. I only worship the Almighty God. The words that I live by and pray die with them on my lips are.. "there is no God but God and Mohamed is His messenger. "

I was born and raised in an educated family of Pakistan, where the emphasis was on strong moral ethics according to teachings of Islam. However, I must admit that all my Prayers, fasting and charity was more of a ritual, until I came to US in 1997.Islam was revealed to me and my faith increases as I saw the misery in people's lives by not following the teachings of Islam. There is no such thing as culture or creed in Islam.Muslims are united by their Ideology and belief in One God,and accepting all Prophets, Muhammad being the last one.Although, after WW I, the nationalism and ethnicity has lead to a lack of Unified Muslim Leadership. The most beautiful thing about Islam is the concept of "Measured out" by the " Most Just" Creator.It effects our daily lives: there is no turf war between man and women, between Privileged and poor, between the Capital and labor once the rules of the Creator regarding the Rights and responsibilities are followed. My concern is the lack of awakening regarding Islam in the Muslim world, and hope that one day people will devote as much of their time towards the Understanding of Islam as they do to obtain their livelihood or for entertainment.When the changes come from the hearts of People, it will be only then that the real Peace will be on earth.

I was born into Islam with Muslim parents in a Muslim country. I came to the United States when I was two years old with my mom and dad's hopes and dreams of a better future. I attended Alexandria City Public Schools, had the most amazing teachers on the planet- and attended George Washington University. Islam, I was taught was a belief in a merciful Allah swt who has created the univerise and who will at the end of time judge all people for their actions on Earth. While growing up, I learned to pray salat,read the Holy Quran in Arabic, and recite prayers, by example and attending the local mosque. Each year of Ramadan brings a special magic in the air to cleanse myself of all my impurities physically and spiritually and Eid is a most special occasion where I see Muslim brothers and sisters of all colors, ethnicities, nationalities come together under one prayer and embrace each other with hugs and smiles- united under one faith.
Although I was brought up a Muslim, and taught all of the physcial and spiritual rituals- I came to respect and be proud of my religion even more when I explored college and stumbled into the lectures of Professor Seyyed Hossien Nasr, who taught me the rich history of our civilization and all of the contributions that Muslims have made. I became aware of my identity as a Muslim American to teach my non- Muslim friends by example of what Islam teaches me; patience, tolerance, generosity and to become a better person and to respect and protect this land given as a blessing from Allah swt. Islam teaches me, that as a Muslim I am obliged to be responsible to take care of myself and strive to be the best person that I can possibly be at the same time helping my family, friends, and even a stranger if need be in becoming a better individual and as an ummah united and taking care of all of Allah swt's blessings.
The beauty of Islam is that in Islam there is no class, caste, or nationality, race or ethnicity- all people regardless of rich or poor are seen as one equal in the eyes of Allah swt. Islam has taught for centuries what is recently being taught in regards to taking care of your health, body, family and enviroment.
As a Muslim and an American I hold the same values of treating each equally, while having the freedom given by Allah swt to practice my faith while my neighbor worships their faith.As a Muslim woman I have the freedom to cover my head with a hijab and be respected as an individual.
As for all of the Muslim world- no matter the differences in tongues, cultures, or ethnicites we are united under the one declaration "la ilaha illa allah" ( There is no God but one God )
I am grateful, proud and yet humbled to be a Muslim American who can practice my faith freely,express my mind openly- and intend to make the world a better place insha'Allah.

My sister recently said to me that she's so proud of my "millenial" family- I have three Korean-American, Egyptian, Muslim children. But I guarantee that I never, ever imagined that this is where my life would lead me, and that I would have someday been trying to convince the Korean shopkeeper that I was indeed Korean, despite my headscarf.

I pretty much grew up in the Catholic Church, in a small Midwestern town. At St. Joe's, everyone knew that I held a sort of honorary status as a non-baptized Catholic. I was a cross-bearer, a member of the choir, I often read the second Bible reading in Mass. I found a home in the church that gave me purpose and status. But what I realized as I moved on from St. Joe's, was that the faith hadn't moved me to implement it in my personal life. I could write a rousing report on St. Sebastian, but couldn't extract personal meaning to apply it to my daily life.

When I was 21, I began working with someone who did some very peculiar things like fasting, and disappearing to pray at odd times of the day. When I learned that they were Muslim, I became intrigued. I wondered what was within this faith that could impel someone to engage in these acts so publicly, but do them with such pleasure and conviction. So I picked up the Quran and read. The very first page captivated me:

"In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.

"All praise and thanks is due to the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds; the Most Gracious, the most Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and thine aid we seek. Show us the Straight Way, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, Those whose portion is not wrath. And who go not astray. Amen."

I read those seven lines maybe three or four times over. It was such a complete prayer- one that filled my heart with such hope for the future. I continued to study the Quran, finding treasure troves of not only spiritual guidance, but scientific facts that quenched my need for some kind of intellectual foundation.

A few months later, I reticently walked into my boss’s office and told him that I would need a longer lunch break than usual. I could have told him that I had a dentist’s appointment and he would have believed me. Instead, to combat my fear, I said it out loud: “I’m going to the University of Maryland for Muslim prayer services.”

I think he found it amusing. Silly, naïve young woman having an identity crisis, seeking truth in the world’s religions. He smirked at me, didn’t ask too many questions, and complied with my request without hesitation.

I cannot tell you that I remember the words that were spoken at that prayer. I can tell you that I remember who spoke them, and that still today he speaks with the same conviction and persuasiveness with which he spoke 12 years ago. I do remember the orderliness of the day. I remember how compartmentalized the men and the women were, and how unnaturally natural it was that it didn’t feel odd. I remember how quiet the audience was, and how clearly the speaker’s voice echoed through the air, and how the silence between his pauses formed sweet moments of serenity that seemed to wash over us as purification. I remember how it felt when a cohesive rustle erupted from the congregation when he called to establish the prayer. I remember how it felt to pray, for the first time, with purpose and meaning. I remember the thrill of feeling shoulders on either side of me, being ecstatically bound by something that was not restrictive, not suffocating, not forced, and not false.

Over the next few years, my transformation became final. Donning the headscarf, I could no longer use my appearance as a crutch in the workplace. My self-worth was released from the grip of personal opinion, and my talents and abilities stood by themselves for the first time.

After 9/11 I wrote an op-ed piece in the local Muslim newspaper, fearing for the legacy that we might leave our children if we did not deal with this tragedy properly. I said that we would no longer be practicing our faith in obscurity, but for all intents and purposes we would be front and center stage. Having studied political science at the Naval Academy, I knew that the repercussions of 9/11 would certainly be long-lived. I warned that we were standing on the forefront of a historical era in which we help determine what would be written in the history books. I then asked each and every Muslim out there to conduct themselves with the highest Islamic standards, the standards of conduct that had drawn me to the religion in the first place.

Through the ensuing scrutiny and frequent disparagement, I found greater strength and commitment to my faith. There are answers for every charge or insult, and they are bound in dignity, mutual respect, and grace.

Islam is a commitment. It is a commitment to live your life with integrity, sincerity, magnanimity, mercy, and patience. It is a commitment to recognize that everything that you have had, have now, or ever will have, is a bounty from God that you cannot take for granted. It is a commitment to be God-conscious, to train yourself to see the signs and goodness of God wherever you look. I know that I, and my fellow Muslims, may fail the spirit of Islam in so many ways on a daily basis, but what I know for sure is that Islam never fails us.

So, I'll handle all of the puzzled looks that surface at the Korean store with pleasure. Because I, too, am proud of my "millenial" Muslim family, who eats halaal chicken that we buy at the Korean store, prepare with Pakistani spices, and share with our American, Chinese, Pakistani, Moroccan, Syrian, and Egyptian Muslim friends.

What drew me to Islam was the fact that it is all-encompassing and by that, I mean that it is not simply a "religion" by today's standards, but rather; a way of life. And a beautiful one at that. Being a Muslim means surrendering with love and servitude to God. I have searched far and wide, the only pure monotheistic religion with pure sanctity of God and not attributing any deficiencies to God is Islam. I feel, as a Muslim, I am always conscious of God. I love praying to Him five times a day. It truly makes me feel as if I always have a connection with God Almighty and no intermediaries, just God and myself... To a certain extent, my words are limited in describing what it truly feels like to be a Muslim.

Peace be upon those who follow guidance,

My story, well let's see. I started exploring what faith really meant to me in high-school. I passed through a 'holy ghost' type of church in the process (which I later realized informed my penchanct for scriptural based faith). Along the road to Islam I passed through other faiths as well. Given my ken for all things eastern I looked into Confucianism and Daoism briefly. I also studied American Indian spirituality at a superficial level. I was looking for a common thread or theme. What I think I found was a belief in a Supreme Deity or Ultimate Power. All paths seemed to have this as a commonality, but they expressed its' particulars differently. This was filed away in my heart for some years. Then I read Malcolm X's autobiography and this inspired me to read the Quran. Upon reading just a small portion, not even completing the second chapter, I knew I had found my path and what I perceived as the perfection of that common thread (one supreme deity). I found my peace a couple years later when I reverted to my god-given state of worshipfulness by testifying that nothing deserved to be worshipped or adored except for Allaah (God) and that Muhammad (bin 'Abdullaah) (Allaah's prayers and peace be upon him, and all the prophets) is his slave/worshipper and messenger.
The "Muslim World"; the diversity in this realm comes about mostly through regional variety and cultural variation. In some ways, we are very much alike, no matter where we're from. This comes from our common faith. In others we are very different, this is often due to culture. The one thing which remains true is that Muslims the world over having an overwhelming tendency to show geniune love for their brethen from other parts of the world, no matter the cultural or language barriers. I have experienced this first hand and it still touches me deeply.
Being Muslim to me means living my life, as much as possible, in concert with Allaah's will. Knowing that I may falter, but also knowing that the door is open for my repentance and return into His favor.
What do I find beautiful? The most beautiful thing I've found in Islam is the filling of deep and sincere faith when it touches you. And it doesn't happen often or for very long, at least for me. There is at once both a sense of powerlessness that's very liberating and a sense of being completely sufficed by Allaah's Mercy. Also, I find an expression of this in my love for my youngest son. In him I've found a quality I would have never believed I had. Even as I write these words I grow misty thinking about it. In that love for him that I feel is a reflection, however dim, of Allaah's love for his obedient slaves (us).
My hopes and concerns truthfully revolve around myself; this may seem narcissitic, but let me explain. I believe very firmly that my first duty is to perfect myself. Through each of us working on our own short-comings and tending to our own fences, we will effect a greater change in the world then if we look past ourselves and focus on the outer rather than the inner. I worry about my motivations, my emotions, my reactions; all those things which belie the states of my heart. Mind you, I don't advocate divorcing yourself from the world. Those who know me know that I'm very opinionated about many things, and my opinions are not uninformed. However, my greatest fear (and hope) is my own rectification. By being the best I can be I pray to make to world a better place for my children and for all. Thank you for this opportunity; may Allaah (God) guide us and you, and rectify all of our affairs.

My mother became Muslim in the early seventies, and I was born in the mid 70's when Islam was just beginning to burgeon within the African American community of the north.

I grew up in the projects and ghettos of Brooklyn. Like many other black kids, I did not know my father. But my love of baseball and comic books (and my very strict mother) kept me off the streets.

However, nothing could keep the streets from getting to me. With NYC's crime rate rising in the early 90's, my mother made a drastic decision, and sent me to Senegal, West Africa to study Islam. I was 14 yrs old.

I studied for three years in Senegal before switching to Darul Uloom, an Islamic education institute in Trinidad and Tobago. I spent two years there and finally returned to New York.

I returned to NY, went to College, got married, graduated, got a job, and started having kids.

People tend to make assumptions about me. Because I am American, and I don't wear traditional Muslim clothing, Muslims usually think I'm new to Islam, or don't know much about my faith.

They are often surprised by what I know.

And non-Muslim Americans are generally surprised to learn that I'm Muslim. After all, Muslims aren't Mets fans! Muslims don't know how Spider-Man got his powers!

American Muslims are not like Muslims from other parts of the world. We are very fortunate, economically speaking. But we are torn. And in more ways than one.

My time in Africa and Trinidad made me love America. I missed home so much that I absorbed everything American. I craved American food and learned to distinguish between the many different American accents.

But when 9/11 happened, things changed. This is what I mean by American Muslims are torn.

I am a descendant of slaves. My family has fought in several American wars. I am just as much a part of this nation's legacy as anyone else.

Yet, my country sometimes appears to be at war with my faith.

We (Muslims) have to be careful what we say for fear of being labeled a terrorist or even worse, being arrested or investigated.

We have to be careful which websites we go to. Some Muslims have been arrested for saying the wrong things in Muslim chat rooms.

We have to be careful about which charities we support. Some Muslim charities have been accused of supporting terrorist groups overseas.

We have to be careful which Muslims we invite into our homes. The FBI has used undercover Muslim agents to indict Muslims for various crimes.

And then there's the issue of raising the next generation of American Muslims.

My kids love T.V., movies, candy, and video games like any other American child. But I have to be careful to regulate what they see. And I must still make sure they get an adequate Islamic education.

For me, the future is about hope and fear.

Hope that Islam will continue to grow in America. I am confident of that because I see how many Muslims are here now compared to when I was a kid.

I have hope that we will someday be able to reconcile our faith with American political aims. I have hope that more average Americans will become familiar and comfortable with Islam without thinking we're trying to take over and change American values.

But there's always that underlying, creepy fear that one day, a really bad terrorist attack will happen in America, and the wrong person will be President.

As-Salaam Alaikum
To all the Muslim brothers and sisters out there, Eid Mubarak, the best time of the year has indeed started for the fastest growing segment of the USA and spiritually conscious people all around the world. I take this effort to tell our story with the general public dispite a common attide of pregidis against muslims in total.
The point that must be made is to ask, that reasonable minded America consider that we are a logical country here so we need to wakeup to the fact that to paint a billion plus and growing number of the world peolpe as evil because we are also "vitimized", to profess the same religion as a small, less than 1 persent of our true religion, how can logical people conclude that we are all the same? The term islamic terrorist is an oxymoron. A person may be a terorist or a muslim but not both at the same time? the terms contradict each other. Ours is a religion of peace we only believe that we have to protect our selfs,family and our fellow muslims from attacks on us. We muslims are truly logical people, meaning that we understand all christians can't be lumped together with madmen that are so out of touch with reality that they may think that they are christians when in reality they have simply strayed off the true path of that religion. America don't be afraid of muslims, the vast majority of us only want to be friends in peace and undestanding.
Now a little more about us, well we feel peace in our hearts that our guide book The Honorable Qu'ran is unchanged, unaltered and the exact same message The Almighty God expressed through his angel Jebril(Gabriel)to our belovet Prophet Muhammad(s.a.a.w.)more that 1000 years ago. That along with our Prophets life stories listed in his Hadiths this imformation is all we need to let us know, we are on the best path, not the only path, we are tought that TRUE CHRISTIANS and TRUE JEWS will also make it into Heaven, but we feel our is the most clearly defined road and the path without any confusion if you only read our Qu'ran and the Prophets Hadiths.
The Specking of Faith host Ms.Tippit, on the radio, asked the question,what do we muslims find beautiful in Islam... well the answer is all around us every day. Almighty Gods endless creation is one aspect of this life we find beauty in. God Almighty created everything,the animals with their innate knowledge of life, that is no accident that new born babies in the wild can be up and striving soon after birth with little or no teaching, depending on which animal you want to talk about. Where would we be without honeybees
and the wonderous work they do for peoples food supplys?
In our wonderous Qu'ran we are told taht if one were to double the worlds oceans and if you were to use all that water as ink, if that were possible, all that ink on all the paper from all the worlds trees, would not be enough to express on paper all the glory and prasize that God almighty is trully due for all that he has given to mankind. Ramadan is about refousing our lives on what rally matters.
God did not make this universe and this worlds lifetime for us humans just for fun and games. We muslims we get that we know that, we are tought that from BEFORE the cradddle. Ramadan is our time to remember for anyone that may have lost focused, that Almighty God, the prasizing of him is why we are in this lifetime.
As much as the devil wants people to get lost in this worlds material
nonsence, only God and what he wills, that is the only thing that matters now and the only thing that will matter on judgement day.
how people see you today is what foolious people worry about when only success on judgement day, that is where the real winners and losers will be sorted out. America also likes to beleive that we get to set the rules on judgement day... only the devil working overtime
could have us thinking that our wills, our wants matter on that day. wrong people only the creator and owner of that day gets to make the rules for that day, we as muslims know this fact and Ramadan is a gift of a time for us to refocus on what really matter's; Prasizing God,respecting all his messengers and his signs, loving each other is very key in our religion, we are incomplete until we love each other as God loves us all. Once again understand that that last point is flat against the idea of being a terorist.
This is just a small idea of what we are all about but the hard part is that to get the full picture one needs to read our holy book and that is only in arabic. The english copies aren't translations because
the lanquage doesn't translate completly enough to have the full true same meaning. The Qu'ran in english will only give you a small idea of what your missing until you csn read the real thing in arabic.
Unfortuantly Arabic words have so many meanings that one must read it in it's Arabic to fully appreciate it.

At one point or another in our lives, no matter what faith we were brought up to believe in, each and every one of us faces our beliefs and makes a choice. We either accept or reject, embrace or push aside, strengthen our belief in our faith or let doubts and questions linger unanswered. Growing up with Islam in today's day and age meant scrutinizing everything my faith entailed through the eyes of a skeptic.But then again Islam does after all teach us not to be blind in our faith:

When they are told, "Follow what GOD has revealed herein," they say, "We follow only what we found our parents doing." What if their parents did not understand, and were not guided? [Holy Quran 2:170]

Indeed, they have rejected this without studying and examining it, and before understanding it. Thus did those before them disbelieve. Therefore, note the consequences for the transgressors.[Holy Quran 10:39]

But what I and every other Muslim soon realizes is that in due time doubts and questions are answered and that faith in Islam is never blind. It is this simplicity and reasoning that draws so many to this faith. That and the simple human yearning towards GOD. And to this yearning Islam answers:

When My servants ask you about Me, I am always near. I answer their prayers when they pray to Me. The people shall respond to Me and believe in Me, in order to be guided.[ Holy Quran 2:186]

I am an American 59 year old woman who was raised Jewish and attended Hebrew school until after my Bat Mitzvah. My parents were not religious but wanted me to have a religious education. In early childhod around age 5 I started questioning my existance.
Later in my late teens I became agnostic which was a short lived experience. Around the age of 25 someone gave me a book on mysticism from the Sufi tradition. I read the book while I nursed my newborn. I felt I had to find these Sufi's. As it turned out I found a group in Vermont, that I stayed involved with for onver 22 years. Although the group which was focused on aspects of Islam, didn't ask you to convert. I tried to fast Ramadan at that time. I was 35 years old. I questioned aspects of the Koran and visited Muslim Sufi's. I was told one really couldn't be a Sufi unless one was Muslim. This comment stayed with me for years and simmered inside. Many years later I met an imam from California. I was in my late 40's. He made such an impression on me without saying anything. (proslytizing is forbidden in Islam) A few years later I saw him in NC and all of a sudden asked him about converting to Islam. What was it that was so strong? Beauty and a scent of love and passion. I converted to Islam in front of 100 or so people. This was a hard decision due to so many external "rules" that contradicts our Western freedom. It is now 10 years later and the beauty of this amazing religion or "spirtual path" as I see it still is a huge undertaking of learning "knowledge" and developing insight into one's existance. Islam, to me is an art form and a wholisitic practice of the body, mind and spirit
I feel this invitation by God is a gift. I am now a member of the Jerrahi Halveti Sufi Order in Spring Valley NY. It is a traditonal Muslim Sufi Order.
My husband and I plan on perform the hajj this November.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!” – Dr. Seuss

…and I think I am:

I am a Muslim. Islam is ingrained in my being. I pray five times a day, fast during the month of Ramadan, and give alms to charity. I am the generation that went from an ordinary person on September 10, 2001 to waking up the next morning and being demeaned. After 9-11, I knew as an American-Muslim that our perceptions and image were going to change. We had to be prepared to refuse the image that these radical fundamentalist had given us. I approached The University of Arizona to endorse and help us initiate the Muslims Student Association. That year, we started the Fast – a – thon tradition. We invited everyone on campus to join us on one day during the holy month of Ramadan, to fast with us. At the end of the day we had a feast. For every person that participated, Muslim-owned companies or stores donated a monetary contribution to the local Food Bank. This tradition is in its 5th year, and last year we were able to raise over $2,500. My generation has been able to reinvent the meaning of “American Muslim“ or perhaps “Modern Muslim“.

I am an architect. We create things and leave our impressions on earth. Relentlessly I am designing new things; whether, it is a master plan for The University of Arizona Arts Oasis project, Phoenix College Fine Arts building, or the Tucson Bus Shelter. I am constantly creating. Now I am on a mission to expand the margins and create contemporary, yet symbolic Islamic Architecture at the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at Harvard and MIT. Muslim communities continue to implement the same architectural vocabulary that they are familiar with, mimicking and emulating their neighborhood mosque from the Middle East to Western suburbia. I witnessed this frenzy while working as a designer and cultural / religious advisor on the new Islamic Center project in Seattle, Washington. From that experience, I realized that I have a passion to expand the boundaries and create a new vocabulary for the next generation.

I am you. I am not defined solely by where I am from, my traditions, heritage, rules, and culture. I believe in the best from everybody, everywhere, and everything; morphing it into a modern culture. We all should be global citizens where we learn from each other and import the best things from others into our own lives. We should be open and yearning to change; push for new things and be unique. Celebrate life with me; celebrate the holy month of Ramadan.

______________________________________________________________
Maryam Eskandari, Director of American Institute Architect Associate
Graduate Student | Aga Khan Program Islamic Architecture Harvard and MIT
Architectural Designer | A.I.T | NAAB | NCARB
Ph. 520.891.0084
E. maryam.eskandari@yahoo.com
http://maryameskandari.blogspot.com/

There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled.
You, feel it, don’t you?
----Rumi

One night, a few months ago, I read this line of poetry and it pierced the deepest part of my heart, psyche, and soul. It still does each and every time I read it. I’ve spent many nights thinking what does this mean to ME? Why does it speak to me so loudly, so clearly-almost like my inner self is whispering in my ears, clearly audible to me, but not to others. I still haven’t delved into the depths of this quote and my inner soul, but I do know that this is what I am constantly searching, chasing, craving for and what Islam means to me, especially during the spiritual month of Ramadan. This is the time, the month, when I really should be thinking, questioning and checking myself, as a Muslim, about my personal state of affairs. How far have I come as a person? What have I accomplished in life? What is my spiritual state? Where are my priorities? What are my goals as a Muslim, a human being, a woman, a mother, a daughter, and a wife? I still struggle with these questions specifically, but ultimately know that this is a lifelong struggle, a yearly “check-in” with myself and my relationship with God. This is what Islam means to me on a very basic, every day level- that quest for continuous improvement and spiritual fulfillment as I come closer to the Divine.

Along with these personal questions I struggle with, there are other concerns that keep me up at night. Concerns I have not only for myself, for my children, but even broader to both the Muslim and non-Muslim community. I find myself preoccupied with the thought of how do I raise my children to become Global Citizens? How do I ensure that my kids have that love and respect for humanity, for the planet/creatures, and ultimately love for God that I believe will make this world a better place? Like any mother, I have hopes and dreams for my kids. I want them to be proud of their mixed ethnic heritage- being a mixture of Syrian and Venezuelan descent, be confident of their Muslim identity despite these times of misunderstandings, and have the courage to stand up for what they believe, be true to themselves, and be future leaders who can bridge between sometimes differing cultures and continents. I want them to live in multiple countries, absorb multiple languages, and truly see the beauty within each and every country, culture, and race. This is how I believe we can become global citizens, respect each other, the earth, and walk in each other’s shoes. This isn’t just a candle in my heart, but a burning fire in my soul that blazes with passion…here, far away, in Indianapolis.

The attached pictures is in the old souk of Damascus with my husband Diego, Zayd-my son, and Serene-my daughter.

This month is not simply about Fasting from food, but fasting from prohibited things as well. For if you are not guarding your eyes, ears, tongue, and heart, for you are only going hungry and not truly fasting for Allah (swt).

This month is about the Quran, coming close to Allah(swt) and those that you love. abstaining from that which is not loved. I like to call the beloved month.

The month of Ramadhan is the month in which Allah (swt) sent down the Quran. It is a month in which Allah has made greater than any other month. The Shaytan are locked up, and the gates of Paradise are open. Any good deed that one does during this month, has greater blessings than it would in any other month.

We have awaited like kids on the first day of school for this month to arise year after year. Masjids become fuller than they typically are. you greet family and friends with the blessings of the month. You obtain from what is haram, and observe the fast during the daylight hours.

It is in the Holy month that many renew their faith, and work on the weaknesses and draw themselves closer to Allah(swt). This month for myself personally I intend to spend more time on my Islamic studies and the Arabic language rather than on Facebook and Twitter.

Not that I watch much TV, but I will insure that I lower my gaze from things that are Haram, especially that which is on TV. Guard my ears and my tongue. For these will sure make a weak heart. Inshallah I ask Allah(swt) to bless us all during this month, guide us to do what is right, and protect our families from the fire of hell. Ameen.

During the month of Ramadhan Allah (swt) offers us an opportunity to gain major blessings thins month, more than we would any other month. One specific opportunity is through reading the Quran.

Many of us gather at night for the Iftar( breaking fasts), Nightly Prayers, and recitation of the Quran. I miss these days, and I wish that they would never end; for it is this blessed month that I have no excuses than to spend time with my Lord and those that I love and hold so close to my heart.

The Koran says that no one is Muslim unless he is waging jihad. this jihad is a necessary struggle against one's own lack of ambiution, and one's own tendecy toward immorality and vile pursuits.

I see a growing desire in many to adopt Islam but they do not understand they mjust adhere to the Koran to be a Muslim. This means fighting for a muslim community, the Ummah, and for shari'a law.

this is why I left Islam, it cannot be true that a religion requires its adherenets to kill off everyone else. But I do not think that you will include people who leave a religion; my story is as much a part of the religion as is those who stay.

Even though Islam is the religious tradition to which I subscribe, my roots in the so-called “Muslim World” are tenuous at best, non-existent at worst. I’m an “indigenous” Black American Muslim convert, and while I am not qualified to talk about the complexity and diversity of the historic “Muslim World,” I do feel that my personal experiences--along with my knowledge of the tradition (however scant it might be)--imbue me with the capacity to discuss such issues as Muslim identity in America intelligently and sagaciously.

I was born into a Catholic family in Pensacola, a navy port town in the Panhandle of northern Florida. Still vivid in my mind are the Sundays when my family would attend Mass at the local Catholic church. As a young teenager, I became engrossed with character of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) and his teachings. Moreover, I grew to admire the priests, nuns and deacons of my community (an admiration that persists this very day), so much so that I had aspirations of becoming a priest myself. They all seemed to exude a sense of holiness, justice and mercy as went about serving the parish and the community as a whole. In my youth, I wanted to emulate their passion and zeal,so that I could one day serve my community in a similar fashion.

Despite the respect I had garnered for the priestly class and the passion I had for teachings and character of Jesus as described in the Bible, I had some uneasiness about certain theological positions of the Christian faith. Late into my high school years I struggled with the sensibility of the Trinity and doctrine of Vicarious Atonement. Finally, after a year and half of questions and internal debates amidst the auburn street lights of my neighborhood, I decided to reject the doctrines of the Trinity and Vicarious Atonement and pursued a more “agnostic” approach to religion. I still identified myself as Christian at that time, but only in the sense of following the teachings of Jesus, only in the sense of being “Christ-like.”

After a graduated high school in 2005, I met my first Muslim while working as a grounds keeper at a local community college. She was an older, Black, Southern woman whose personal experiences extended back to the days of the Nation of Islam and Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. She, with her boisterous self-assurance and somewhat profane modes of expression, impressed upon me the Muslim position concerning God, Jesus, the Bible and humanity. I was drawn to her words and to passion with which she spoke them. My last day of work, she gave me an English translation of the Qur’an and said to me, quite prophetically, “you gon’ be Muslim!” I converted at the University of Florida later that year, right before Ramadan. The rest, as they say, is history.

For me, being a Muslim is more than an artificial demarcation of personal or cultural identity. Being Muslim has at its core a deep intellectual recognition of humanity’s position in all of creation vis-a-vis creation itself. It represents a willful acknowledgment of the necessity to submit by way of congruency to a greater power and will that both paradoxically lies far beyond our conventional means understanding and yet is so close to our minds and hearts that we can let this transcendental power and will manifest in our daily actions. It means living in world riddled with Niebuhrian ironies, tragedies and paradoxes: of being people both of peace and violence, of being people both concerned with the affairs of this life and the one to come, of being people who both call to love and justice. For me, being Muslim means coming to terms with my humanity, with being a tension-riddled human being full of contradictions and weakness and knowing that this inner and outer struggle for equanimity and peace, which all conscious individuals endure regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof, serves a greater end, an end which our ken’s are incapable of grasping.

So when I pray, when I prostrate, when I fast, when I give charity with my money or even with a simple smile, when I do good in this life, when I struggle to do what is just, when I recognize--for good or ill--my humanity, I think of the birds and the trees and the celestial bodies in the heavens and say to myself, “I have found my place in creation, as a humble servant of God.” And herein lies the beauty of Islam: that every person, irrespective of hue or tongue or socio-economic status, is interconnected with each other and creation itself, but since we humans have the moral agency to act upon our wills (to a certain extent), we are obligated to take care of creation and each other. Moreover, the act of attending to this responsibility via self-actualization and humility is considered to be the greatest form worship. This, to me, is Beauty.

I know I’m still quite young, with much more to learn and--perhaps more importantly--much more to unlearn. However, despite my youth and the naiveté that is suppose to accompany it, my intuition and hope lead me to believe that Muslims will continue eke out meaning, fruitful existences in the States. After all, for most of us, this is our home. I, for example, was born in this land; my family is here and nowhere else; my culture is here and nowhere else; my language is here; my history is by and large here; my religion is here; my life is in this land, and quite possibly, so will be my death. I therefore hope that Islam will find its place in American society.

This land has been a source of peace and prosperity for many Muslims, but it has also been a source of caustic and bitter irony. Such contradictions make me wonder if we Muslims will be able to adequately answer the questions posed by modernity, even post-modernity, in America. They make me wonder if we will be effective in resolving the inner tensions between the different racial, ethnic, tribal and socio-economic components of the Muslim strata in America. They make me wonder if Muslims will become more critical engaged in American society. Most importantly, they make me wonder if we Muslims will ever get to narrate our own stories, to tell our own tales, instead of someone else doing it for us.

I contemplate these issues during these Ramadan days and nights, hoping to find answers of some appreciative magnitude and caliber. ‘Cause God knows we need ‘em!

A Ramadan Reflection (originally written for the Kabobfest blog): I felt sorry for myself all day yesterday-sorry that the pounding of Oakland’s unseasonably warm sun further parched dehydrated skin, sorry for myself watching my co-presenters inhale an all-you-can-eat hotel breakfast buffet consisting of custom-made omelets and waffles, Thai food, and guzzling down free water given to session presenters. I felt sorry for my ailing body that endured these sights and for it to be weakened by the onset of disease and the thrashing of psyche by melodramatic internal organizational in-fighting. How could I consider creating a salvation strategy for some self-serving, opportunistic member of the group who burned almost every other member important in the scheme of things when I was so pre-occupied by basic human needs like food and water? After linner at the aforementioned Thai restaurant in Oakland with group members, at which I took notes to avoid thinking about the praised sticky rice and spicy shrimp in front of me, the rest of the group decided to go back to the hotel and participate in a “group writing cipher.” It was 6-ish at this point, less than a half hour/forty-five minutes till iftar. This was the point I should have formally cued and vocalized my stage right exit, to get back to Berkeley to try to break the fast with my brother. But I foolishly followed the herd. In doing so, I refused to recognize that I was on emotional “E” at this point. All my fuel had been used up from the past two full days of hashing and re-hashing organizational drama. Right before the cipher started, I realized that it was time to break my fast. I was irritated that no one in the whole group understood the significance of the dark velvet draping of the night’s sky. I finally mustered up enough energy to speak up, excusing myself for my low-energy as a result of the fast, and my body’s desire to take part in the nourishment it was entitled to at this point. A big “ohhhh”rounded the circle like a moving current of electricity. In the place of a hoped for excused exit, a different kind of suggestion came in: “Well, why don’t you get something from the hotel market over there.” In disappointment over the result of my passive-aggressive approach towards leaving the scene, I followed orders like a Syrian soldier-one of performing an assigned task with loathing compliance and dragged feet. Scouring the selection available to me-condensed Campbell’s soup, Nutri-grain bars, and expired yogurt-I settled on water and pretzels (and was suddenly reminded of the cliff bar in my purse). I came back and the group had already started the writing assignment. Feeling obligated to participate, I downed all of my water, vacuumed up a handful of pretzels (an anathema to the Arab Muslim’s conception of an iftar meal), and joined in. The timed writing exercise came to a close and now was the time we all shared our products. During the time four of the five other group members shared their work, I tried hard to concoct a good excuse that would exempt me from reading my exceptionally negative response to the writing topic of “A gang of gypsies.” Time was up. All I could come up with was the truth: “I don’t feel like sharing.” So-finally, with that the 24 plus hours of group interaction had come to a close. I swept up all my belongings, said my salaams, and fled. As I walked out in a huff, I ripped off a piece of the cliff bar in dissatisfaction. Before I turned the corner to where my car was parked, I noticed a man huddled under the awning of a storefront door. It was hard to make out the black shirt he was wearing from the black soot all over his body. Sitting down next to his trashbag, he made chewing off every ounce of protein from an already sparse chicken wing sport. As I passed him by, he didn’t ask me for one thing: not to “spare some change” or “provide a meal”-nothing. What struck me was that I saw this sight and walked on. Because I was so engulfed in my self-pity trance, I failed to recognize the great disparity of our lots in life as i begrudgingly bit off another piece of chocolate almond crunch-ness. Finally it hit me 10 paces past him: “What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I feeling sorry for myself? I actually have food in my hands and in my mouth! Who am I to feel sorry for myself?” So I walked back to the man, gave him my cliff bar, to which he said “bless your heart” and headed back to my car. My self-pity and complaining stopped there because, 27 days in, I was reminded the point of Ramadan on a visceral level-something we were constantly taught on an intellectual one. This was the point of Ramadan. No matter how hungry I am during the day, I will always have food at the end of the day. There are many people out there who cannot be eased by such a guarantee. Even my meagre dinner that night-water, a handful of pretzels and two bites of a cliff bar-pales in comparison to the struggle by 852 million people worldwide(13 % of the population), who suffer from malnourishment and starvation, to find even a morsel of that on a daily basis.

I've experienced Ramadan in three culturally distinct countries: India, my birth place, Saudi Arabia, where I spent my early childhood, and United States where I have lived for the past 15 years. The mental, physical, and spiritual struggles were and have been consistent throughout all the Ramadans I’ve been able to observe.
However, there is one particular Ramadan in which I spent almost one week in the largest Mosque in the world, Masjid al-Haram, in Mecca Saudi Arabia that sticks out in memory.
That was an experience like no other. I can't compare it to anything else I have experience in my life. The aura the mosque embodies is all consuming. When I saw it for the first time, I recall being overwhelmed with joy but also with strange sensations of apprehension nervousness. However, once I walked into the Mosque, I left two of those feelings at the door steps.
Breaking my fast in the mosque after the Maghrib prayer (sunset) with millions of people for a week was absolutely surreal. To pray all the five payers from when dusk broke until the last payer at night was incredible. There was a sense of oneness and peace I felt there which I have no words to describe. I was 14 years old at that point and I can’t wait until I have another opportunity to experience that again with the awareness and maturity I have accumulated since then.

I converted to Islam about one year ago. Before this I was a hodge podge of Christian/Buddhist/Unitarian Universalist. Being a ceramic artist who's work targets religion and spirituality, I have observed and learned about several faiths. I felt could never pin point my beliefs to just one system, but Islam was one religion I never got the chance to fully learn about until about a year ago.

Being very liberal minded, my main hang up with religion was judgment from other people and from God. I would always think, "What about homosexuals? People of other faiths? People who do good service all their lives but don't believe? Would a forgiving God really banish all these people to hell?" And then something clicked. Why was I trying to answer all of these questions when I didn't possess the power to? If I truly believed that God was just and merciful, what did I need to worry about? For humans to say one way or the other about someone's eternal destiny is taking on the power of God.

I also find it very interesting how people are so quick to cast each other to into hell. "You had a child out of wedlock! You're going to hell!" "You don't believe in my God, you're going to hell!" I have NEVER heard it the other way around... "You gave that homeless man a dollar! You are SO going to HEAVEN for that!" Not that I think we should take advantage of God's mercy, but we can't let fear be our driving force.

Muslims have their problems as a community just like any other religious community, but what I have learn from Islam is the strong link between the self and God. We all have our individual struggles (aka the real Jihad) on a daily and hourly basis. Islam has taught me that instead of pointing fingers at someone with a different struggle, we must focus on ourselves, help each other get through life with love and compassion, and leave judgment up to God.

As an American Muslima I find it difficult to find "true" explanations of Islam in any Media source. The media continues to propagate the sensational stories; proclaims most terrorists as "Muslims" or "Islamic Extremists." The general popluation seems to think women are down trodden, subservient 2nd class citizens who cannot do anything and are, under rules in the Quran, to be hidden, treated poorly and tucked away.

As a member of the NPR system - KXJZ in Sacramento - I appreciate this moment in time. Islam is rules and morals of life;, an encompassing way of life as well as a belief. To dispell a few common misperceptions: I am not a 2nd class servant. I wear the Hijab because I want to. I am not married to a "foriegner." My husband does not keep me home. I work outside the home as well as at home. I cook because I want to and choose a healthy Halal diet for the same resons persons of the Jewish faith choose a Kosher diet - I am commanded to in the Quran. Islam is peace. The Quran, provides life guidance that finalizes the guidance given in the Torah and the Gospels. In all my studies I've only encountered love, kindness and positiverules to live by. I pray 5 times a day to keep my life centered and the thought of Allah at the center of all I do; it makes me a better person.

I'd appreciate it if NPR would do some additional research and discontinue the now long standing trend of calling Terrorists Muslim Terrorists. I pray that all will some day have a real understanding of Islam, not the cultural preferences seen on TV.

As we go forward, I am encouraging you to say hello when you see me. Smile rather than turn away and call me "strange." One woman even asked if I had ears "under that thing" on my head. Yes, I have ears and I hear you. If the words or actions you are contemplating would hurt your, the will hurt me.

Please don't read this as a rant. This is my attempt to share with you the beauty of Islam. I've met sisters who speak Swahelli, French, Urdu, Arabic, Spanish, Farsi, Turkish and yes, English. We are one. Salams
For more information about Islam go to www.WhyIslam.org

One of my favorite parts of Ramadan is the Sahur or morning meal. I love getting up extra early to prepare a hearty meal for my family. My family sits together and eats excitedly foods that we may not ordinarily eat for breakfast. We stay up until dawn and pray the dawn prayer together. What a wonderful way to start a fasting day, Masha'allah!

The following is my conversion story to Islam:

Having repeatedly been asked about how I became Muslim, and why, I have decided to tell the story one last time, but this time on paper. However, I feel conversion stories are worthless unless related with the lessons learned, and it is with those lessons that I intend to begin.

No doubt, there is a certain fascination with conversion stories, and for good reason. Frequently they involve dramatic life-altering events, sufficient to shock the convert out of the materialistic world and into the spiritual. Those who experience such life dramas are brought face to face with the bigger issues of life for the first time, forcing them to ask the ‘Purpose of Life’ questions, such as ‘Who made us?’ and ‘Why are we here?’ But there are other common elements to ‘conversion’ stories, and one of them is that the convert is humbled to his or her knees at such moments, and looking back, most relate having prayed with sincerity for the first time in their lives. I have been intrigued by these commonalties, and have noted some significant lessons. The first, I would say, is that most converts who passed through these moments of trial and panic prayed directly to God, without intermediary, and without distraction. For example, even those who spent their lives believing in the Trinity, when faced with catastrophe, instinctively and reflexively prayed directly to God, and never to the other proposed elements of the Trinity.

Let me relate a story as example. A popular television evangelist once had a lady relate her ‘Born Again’ Christian conversion story, which revolved around a terrible boat-wreck, from which she was the sole survivor. This lady related how during her days and nights of survival against the harsh elements of the open ocean God spoke to her, God guided her, God protected her, etc. You get the idea. For maybe five to ten minutes she told her tale, which was indeed dramatic and captivating, but throughout the story she related how God did this, God did that, and seeking His favor, she prayed to God and to God Alone. However, when she was saved by a passing ship, she described how the minute she landed on the ship’s deck she threw her arms open to the heavens and yelled, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Well, there is a lesson there, and it relates to sincerity. When in the panic and stress of circumstance, people instinctively pray to God directly, but when conceiving themselves safe and secure they frequently fall back into previously held beliefs, many (if not most) of which are misdirected. Now, we all know that many Christians equate Jesus with God, and for those who would like to argue the point, I just suggest they read my book on the subject, entitled MisGod'ed (available through www.Amazon.com). For all others, I would just continue by saying that the real question is ‘Who truly is saved?’ There are countless convert stories, all telling how the God of this or that religion saved the person in question, and all of these converts conceive themselves to be upon the truth by nature of the miracle of their salvation. But as there is only One God, and therefore only one religion of absolute truth, the fact of the matter is that only one group can be right and all others are living in delusion, with their personal miracles having confirmed them upon disbelief rather than upon truth. As Allah teaches in the Holy Qur’an, “Allah leaves astray whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]” (Translation of the Meaning of the Qur’an [hereafter ‘TMQ’] 13:27) and “So those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him – He will admit them to mercy from Himself and bounty and guide them to Himself on a straight path.” (TMQ 4:175) As for those astray in disbelief, they will be left to stray, as they themselves chose.

But the strength of belief, even when misdirected, is not to be underestimated. So who is going to become Muslim based upon my conversion story? Only one person -- me. Muslims may find some encouragement in my story but others may be left empty, just as Muslims sigh and shake their heads in despair when hearing others relate the ‘miracles’ which followed prayers to patron saints, partners in the Trinity, or other distractions from the One True God. For if a person prays to something or someone other than our Creator, who, if not God, might be the one answering those prayers? Could it just possibly be a certain one who has a vested interest in confirming those who are astray upon their particular flavor of disbelief? One whose dedicated purpose is to lead mankind astray?

However a person chooses to answer those questions, these are issues addressed at length in MisGod'ed, and those interested can investigate. But for now, I will tell my story.

In the winter of 1990, when my second daughter was born, she was whisked from the birthing room to the neonatal intensive care unit, where she was diagnosed with a coarctation of the aorta. This meaning a critical narrowing in the major vessel from the heart, she was a dusky gunmetal blue from the chest to the toes, for her body simply was not getting enough blood and her tissues were suffocating. When I learned of the diagnosis, I was shattered. Being a doctor, I understood this meant emergency thoracic surgery with a poor chance of long-term survival. A consultant cardio-thoracic surgeon was called from across town at the pediatric hospital in Washington, D.C., and upon his arrival I was asked to leave the intensive care unit, for I had become overly emotional. With no companion but my fears, and no other place of comfort to which to go while awaiting the result of the consultant’s examination, I went to the prayer room in the hospital and fell to my knees. For the first time in my life I prayed with sincerity and commitment. Having spent my life as an atheist, this was the first time that I even partially recognized God. I say partially, for even in this time of panic I was not fully believing, and so prayed a rather skeptical prayer in which I promised God, if, that is, there was a God, that if He would save my daughter then I would seek and follow the religion most pleasing to Him. Ten to fifteen minutes later, when I returned to the Neonatal ICU, I was shocked when the consultant told me that my daughter would be fine. And, true to his assessment, within the next two days her condition resolved without medicine or surgery, and she subsequently grew up a completely normal child.

Now, I know that there is a medical explanation for this. As I said, I am a doctor. So when the consultant explained about a patent ductus arteriosis, low oxygenation and eventual spontaneous resolution, I understood. I just didn’t buy it. More significantly, neither did the Intensivist – the Neonatal ICU specialist who made the diagnosis. To this day I remember seeing him standing, blank-faced and speechless. But in the end, the consultant was right and the condition spontaneously reversed and my daughter, Hannah, left the hospital a normal baby in every respect. And here’s the rub -- many who make promises to God in moments of panic find or invent excuses to escape their part of the bargain once the danger is past. As an atheist, it would have been easy to maintain my disbelief in God, assigning my daughter’s recovery to the doctor’s explanation rather than to God. But I couldn’t. We had cardiac ultrasound taken before and after, showing the stricture one day, gone the next, and all I could think of was that God had made good on His part of the deal, and I had to make good on mine. And even if there were an adequate medical explanation, that too was under the control of Almighty God, so by whatever means God chose to effect His decree, He had answered my prayer. Period. I did not then, and I do not now, accept any other explanation.

The next few years I tried to fulfill my side of the bargain, but failed. I studied Judaism and a number of sects of Christianity, but never felt that I had found the truth. Over time I attended a wide variety of Christian churches, spending the longest period of time in Roman Catholic congregation. However, I never embraced Christian faith. I never could, for the simple reason that I could not reconcile the biblical teachings of Jesus with the teachings of the various sects of Christianity. Eventually I just stayed home and read, and during this time I was introduced to the Holy Qur’an and Martin Lings’s biography of the prophet, Muhammad, entitled, Muhammad, His Life Based on the Earliest Sources.

During my years of study, I had encountered the Jewish scriptures referencing three prophets to follow Moses. With John the Baptist and Jesus Christ being two, that left one according to the Old Testament, and in the New Testament Jesus Christ himself spoke of a final prophet to follow. Not until I found the Holy Qur’an teaching the oneness of God, as both Moses and Jesus Christ had taught, did I begin to consider Muhammad as the predicted final prophet, and not until I read the biography of Muhammad did I become convinced. And when I did become convinced, suddenly everything made sense. The continuity in the chain of prophethood and revelation, the One-ness of Almighty God, and the completion of revelation in the Holy Qur’an suddenly made perfect sense, and it was then that I became Muslim.

Pretty smart, hunh? No, not at all. For I would err greatly if I believed that I figured it out for myself. One lesson I have learned over the past ten years as a Muslim is that there are a lot of people much more intelligent than I am, but who have not been able to figure out the truth of Islam. It is not a matter of intelligence but of enlightenment, for Allah has revealed that those who disbelieve will remain upon disbelief, even if warned, for in punishment for having denied Allah, Allah in turn has denied them the treasure of His truth. As Allah teaches in the Holy Qur’an, “Indeed, those who disbelieve – it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them – they will not believe. Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and over their vision is a veil.” (TMQ 2:6-7) But, on the other hand, the good news is that “…whoever believes in Allah – He will guide his heart” (TMQ 64:11), “Allah chooses for Himself whom He wills and guides to Himself whoever turns back [to Him]” (TMQ 42:13), and “And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.” (TMQ 24:46)

So I thank Allah that He chose to guide me, and I attribute that guidance to one simple formula: recognizing God, praying to God Alone, sincerely promising to seek and follow His religion of truth, and then, once receiving His mercy of guidance, DOING IT.

Copyright © 2007 Laurence B. Brown—used by permission.
The author’s websites are www.eighthscroll.com and www.leveltruth.com. He is the author of The Eighth Scroll—the modern-day religious murder mystery described in Booksurge's marketing copy as “bar none, the most exciting journey of 2007.” His other works include two books of comparative religion entitled MisGod’ed and God’ed, and the Islamic primer, Bearing True Witness. All of his books are available through Amazon.com.

I think growing up and trying to fast was always seen as a bragging right. Even though you are not required to fast until the age of 14, kids as young as 5 years old would attempt the feat! I particularly remember when I would fast on the weekends when I was younger, I would "collect" snacks and treats all throughout the day to save for the time when we broke fast. I remember going to the grocery store on a Saturday and collecting samples or getting candy from friends. By the end of the day, I would have my own goody bag. Now, so many years later, I see my 9 year old doing the same thing. Sometimes, I help her build the goody bag because I'm rewarding her for such a major accomplishment.

I am a convert to Islam. It happens to me every year: we're at an iftar (breaking of the fast) at a friend's house. Our host is Sudanese. My sister-in-law, also a convert, leans in. "So, tell me, back home, what do you do for Eid?"

Eid is the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. For me, this is a challenging time. My sister-in-law and I have our own family traditions of course, the kind that have spanned generations, passed down from our parents to us with love and tenderness over the holidays for over 20 years. But they are recipes for mincemeat pies and heirloom tree ornaments. Carols and Christmas stockings. I am waiting for someone to tell me how I too can get that "Eid feeling", that "it's Ramadan" nostalgia. Once you set yourself adrift from the customs of your childhood, how do you "transfer" your affection to a new set of holidays? Who provides you with the customs you'd like to become attached to? And how long does it take to become attached in the first place?

Tradition and history are intertwined in their very nature - a "tradition" implies something you don't do often, but have done repeatedly over a period of time. The fact that you only partake in a certain ritual - be it a type of food, clothing, decor, even smells - at a specific time and rarely in between, gives it that "specialness", as well as the exclusive memories of enjoying it under the same conditions - at Ramadan or Eid time. In the early years after my conversion, this was hard to come by.

My best personal success story in this regard is the sweet milk my husband's family makes. I won't divulge the exact recipe, but it's milk with nuts and cardamom and tapioca. The first year I had it I enjoyed it well enough. The second year I liked it and it reminded me of the previous year. Now seven years later, to break my fast with that Ramadan milk and a date - it's like coming home. The first day of the month my heart almost bursts at the first taste, "it's RAMADAN!"

We recently moved away from our extended families, and it's made me feel a bit like a new convert all over again. Over the years, my husband and I have shared many of the customs of my South African in-laws. Eid has always involved lots of family and lots of good home cooked food. But I've come to feel lately, now that I have children of my own, that I am still looking for *my* tradition to pass on to them. For fear of falling into the trap of mimicking Christmas, I have had to think long and hard about the customs I want my children to take with them to be *their* Ramadan and Eid traditions one day. Part of me wonders if that's part of the larger picture of us being away from family, to push me onto my own 2 feet in creating something special for us, for me. Maybe it's a challenge ten years in the making. I hope I will perfect it one day.

I wish every month is Ramadhan :) when so many muslims live under control of emaan. Muslims try to control their desires, control from evil things,many muslims read quran more, many people cry for their sins and feel deep peace in heart, many people give more charities and many good things that all muslims try to do more and more in Ramadhan masha Allah, the month that even better than 1000 months....I feel the blessings of Ramadhan is not only for muslims but for all creatures.

I can feel different atmosphere in ramadhan alhamdulillah, I feel peace and close to Allah....I feel somehow it's just a month that I don't wanna lose forever...so wonderful I feel ,I don't know why.....

In Ramadhan I feel that I have to do the best I can do to add my good deeds for myself and others for Allah sake and it makes me happy alhamdulillah......try to serve more people around me with love alhamdulillah :)

I know many muslims passed Ramadhan with no effects, still do zina, drink and eat haram, still do shirk, still dress half naked, still do many haram things, even their heart is blocked from understanding about islam and Allah astagfirullah.....many muslims leave Ramadhan with nothing left in their heart except evil stay in their heart and life naudhu billah, May Allah save me and all muslims from evil and give us the increase of eman and taqwa by ramadhan,ameen

Ramadhan is a training season for our soul and physique. All du'as will be answered by Allah. If any of us have soul problems, hard to be good muslim/muslimah, hard to follow all Allah's orders, let's pray more and more to Allah to heal and purify our soul and help us to be good muslim, and Allah will answer our du'as......whatever haram we have done in life, let's stop it ,let's train ourselves to be good muslim,let's improve our taqwa to Allah in this blessing month :)

Ya Allah please save me and all muslims from evil whisper and weak soul that follow satan,
Ya Allah please forgive my sins and all muslim's sins,
Ya Allah please guide all humans to you and help all of us to be good muslims, and save us from hellfire,
Ya Allah please bless us with laylatul Qadar in this ramadhan,
ameen ya Rabbal 'alameen

When I think of Ramadan, I think of many things, but the first is almost always my mother, up before the rest of us an hour and a half before dawn to prepare the food we would sleepily consume in the last half hour before the fast began.

My mother, a doctor with a strong interest in nutrition, was always sure to get as much protein into our systems as possible: there were scrambled and boiled eggs, fava beans slow-cooked the traditional Egyptian way, tuna salad. But there was always something for our teenage taste buds: My mother would wake us up with home-cooked french fries, still sizzling on the plate. Into our bedroom she would sweep, singing “wake up, wake up, your food has come to you” in a jolly voice, and as I rolled over on the top bunk to face her, I would find a handful of hot, salty fries stuffed into my mouth before my eyes were even open. It certainly was an effective tactic.
When we were younger, we would “fast” from breakfast until lunch and then from lunch until dinner, feeling for the first time what it was to have sustained hunger, to not cure it immediately with a stop at the fridge or the cupboard. The pangs in our stomachs would knot first, then twist, and there was something so satisfying about not succumbing, about defeating that part of ourselves that cried out to be served, to be given now now NOW!

Experience is learning, is knowledge, and the value of that knot in the pit of my stomach can never be underestimated. I knew, ever so briefly, what it was to want; knew the slight pain, the slight light-headedness that came with it; but more than anything, knew the gratitude of sunset, of taking that first sip of water, that first sweet bite of a date, sweet and soft and buttery, melting on my tongue. And as I got older, I knew too the gratitude of having that water, that date, having what so few have, and especially what so many everywhere can't reach: a fridge full of food; a house with a roof; a blanket to cover my bed; a loving mother who would wake up in the middle of the night to make sure her daughters were well-fed before the fast began.

My father broke his fast with a glass of hot milk, heated to the point of scalding in the microwave, nearly foaming at the top, and three or five dates to go along. It was my father who taught us the supplication to make when breaking our fast:
“Oh God, for you I have fasted, and from your blessings I have broken my fast, and on you I depend, and in you I believe”. And then each one of us would turn inward and think of what she wanted and pray a private prayer, just between her and God, before that first bite, that first sip. It could be anything: I would pray for a good grade on an upcoming test, for a class trip somewhere fun, to get out of babysitting that Friday at the mosque, for forgiveness for my sins – a rude word, a look of ridicule, the missing of one of the five daily prayers.

After the dates and milk we would pray our sunset prayer before having a proper meal, and there we would stand, my mother, my three sisters and I behind our father, reciting the Quran, choosing, somehow, the verses that would nudge our hearts that particular day, his words poetry, a calling to God.

Being a Muslim means that I recognize God in everything around me, and submit to His Glory and Majesty.

For example, when I wake up, I try to remember to thank God, and before I go to bed, I ask Him to take care of and have mercy on my soul. When I eat, I remember to thank God, and ask for more of His blessings. When I study/teach Biology, I am awed at the complexity of the human body, and how true it is that we submit to God, willingly or unwillingly (considering how many involuntary processes occur without out knowledge). When I am confronted with an "unfortunate" incident, I try to remember that it could have been worse, and there is some wisdom behind it. When I pray, I'm really begging the Creator, who has the ability to change or do anything. When I see someone less fortunate than myself, I wonder if it is a test for me, to see if I will thank God for what I have, and help those in need from that which I have been given more of. When I look out my window, I can't help but think, there is a Creator, who is Majestic, Omnipotent, Compassionate, and All-Knowing even about every leaf that falls, and every tear that is shed.

And I remember that all of this, too, will end. Except the glory of God. And while I fear that mankind seems to be moving away from humane treatment, and more towards violence and hatred, I have hope. I cannot change anyone but myself. And I know that His Judgment on the Day of Judgment will not wrong anyone. It's a beautiful feeling, knowing that all of the wrongs committed against the innocent in this world will not go unchecked in the next.

Christmas for a Muslim child outside of an Islamic country is eclipsing. It is an over the top, in your face, commercial extravaganza that sucks in the most determined cynic with it's glittering, dripping lovliness - it apparently now begins in August and runs straight through December. Even my Jewish friends tell me their kids get Christmas envy - really, how could they not if they are not firmly grounded in their faith. I often feel sad for our Muslim kids here in the States. It's very hard to feel Ramadan like they would in Muslim countries.

My dear friend, an American who converted when she married said to me last week, "I don't know why all these people look forward to Ramadan every year. I don't get it. I know I am not supposed to say this, but frankly you are starving and thirsty all day but they all can't wait for Ramadan!!" Well, when she said this, I felt very sad and dismayed. Ramadan in Egypt is the best place in all the world.

Everyone hustles to purchase a Fanoos Ramadan (ramadan Lanterns) that are a tradition going back over 1000 years to the Fatamid dynasty. The children sing ancient songs in the streets and collect nuts and sweets from family & neighbors. The very air is saturated with the sounds of Qur'anic recitation and the hope of forgiveness and mercy. Every neighborhood hangs colorful lights and banners and there are carnival rides for the children to enjoy after the long days fast is broken and families go out and stroll together and visit. The night air is alive with the smell of Ramadan sweets and the sound of the devout filling the mosques and streets for the nightly Taraweeh prayers where they stand praying 1/30th of the Holy Qur'an every consecutive night throughout the month of Ramadan into the early morning hours. The streets are filled with tents and tables for the poor and traveling to sit and break their fast. These tables are sponsored by private individuals and businesses. Everywhere there is laughter and the awe of God's great mercy on the lips of every Muslim. The television is filled with special Ramadan programs and in Cairo, especially, there is night after night of special events, concerts, music, boat rides on the Nile for enjoyment. It is a very happy time where every Muslims eye is on his closeness to the Almighty and his charity to his fellow man. Charity is the hallmark of Ramadan, and it flows in excess during this month. The most amazing sight is a city like Cairo - that is dense and loud and pulsating with 24 hour life and people upon people - becomes silent and the streets empty and quiet with stragglers rushing home right before the cannons fire and sundown announcing sundown for the breaking of the day's fast.

Here, in America, it feels so empty for our children that I have made it a point to encourage all my firends to put great efforts into making Ramadan big, meaningful and translate the sweetness of this blessed month for their children and to establish our own traditions for our families. My 6 year old son, Zakariya, now asks when Ramadan will be here months in advance. He understands but no longer envies his Christian friends or wishes for Santa. We decorate our house, make special treats and calendar pockets are filled with small surprises to delight. My kid quietly puts money away to give to charity at every Friday prayer and wants to fast with us even a few hours every day. He's starting to get it. But the greatest triumph, is when my child says, "Mama lets go pray," and leads the prayer for the very first time in his life. I know that, here in America, where he is surrounded by so much that would pull him away or even turn him away from his faith he will be alright.

Just a brief comment on the difficulty of "being a Muslim," in a time that one of the primary Muslim countries,Iran, is systematically killing, raping and terrorizing its own Muslim population, all in the name of Islam. Have you noticed any significant outrage any of the other Muslim countries? No! These atrocities go unchallenged.

When I was growing up, it was perfectly acceptable to debate and talk about Islam, the Quran, Prophet Mohammed's shortcomings, etc. Today it is unacceptable and even dangerous to debate about how Islam is practiced in our home countries as well as in the West. In our countries, be it Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, we are punished severely. In the West, we are labeled, intolerant and prejudice.

So a true Muslim, speaks out about the cruelties committed in the name of Islam, especially during the month of Ramadan when their consciousness is Heightened by fasting and praying.

I am writing this with the hope that you might be a little more courageous in your questions and what you publish about Islam. Your program will serve a greater cause confronting this injustice, rather than perpetuating a romantic notion about beautiful things about Islam.

Funny, your love affair with Islam.

From my experience any muslims who explore sources of morality other than Islam are threatened with death, and Muslim women who escape the virgins' cage are branded whores. Why not learn the truth of Islam as I have from Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She was once a muslim from Somali.

Here read this and learn about THE REAL ISLAM, not the puff pieces you proclaim on your show.

Islam is one road, one way among many to connect with God, our Creator and connect with essential self, our Soul. It is one way that has brought me peace and challenges, answers and questions, and continual closeness to my Gracious Lord. I converted to Islam from being an active Methodist thirty years ago while on a conscious journey searching for worship and a community that moved me spiritually. I started out as a conservative Muslim needing the rules of devotional worship and a lifestyle guided by accepted interpretations of religious text. I am now a little off the conservative path, in a place of following my heart more than rules and finding peace within me and with my God. I continue to connect with God daily through prayer and meditation, through readings of the Qu'ran and other spirtitual works. I find direction and solace in my Islam and from teachings of other faiths and spiritual leaders as well. I live my Islam inside with through connection and worship with God as taught in all faiths, and outside through being an active community member, doing good works as taught in all faiths. As a proud Muslim, I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend to many people from many faiths. As a active community member, I am a counselor, a teacher, a diversity facilitator, and an community activist promoting social justice. I am a grateful Muslim woman raised in and lovingly living in a diverse ethnic and faith community in beautiful Colorado sharing the values of my Chrisitan upbringing, my Muslim life, and the spiritual ideals of many of those around me. Thank you for reading my story. Peace and blessings to you.

I was fasting as I wrote this, observing Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam. During this holy month, fasting is practiced daily from dawn to sunset. The wisdom underlying the choice of this month for this sort of worship is that this was the month in which the Qur'an was revealed. I take this to mean that Ramadan offers an occasion for personal revelation or the courting of inspiration. Something about my sensibility makes this particular observance appealing to me. Perhaps, it has to do with the ascetic ideal as I see it.

A figure transfigured, seated amid implacable calm. Stillness surrounds him, emanates from him, the harvest of a lifetime passed in quiet quest of exalted pursuits. The gaze is steady, of one accustomed to looking from dizzying heights at unfathomable depths--free of ill will, guile, or self-interest. Arms and legs neatly folded, he sits, lost in thought, found in peace. Conversely, the ascetic ideal conjures an image of the desert-ravaged hermit, spewing prophecies and lusting for divine union. The first ideogram is of one who has overcome; the second is of one who has fused.

What is common to both is the suggestion of being transported, or of entering the presence of something unknown and unknowable. How else to justify the existence of intuition, intimation or inspiration other than seize upon the fallen crumbs from that ineffable table? Perhaps such mysticism transcends religion altogether, if religion is understood as an unseeing belief in the written, and mysticism as unwritten faith in the unseen. Yet, this meditative/ecstatic state is one that, I believe, can be accessed through religious practices such as fasting.

"There is only one religion, but there are a hundred versions of it" said George Bernard Shaw, and the same may be said of the practice of fasting. Besides Muslims, Baha'is, Buddhists, Catholics, Copts, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Pagans, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox believers all engage in some variation on the theme. The fast may take place anywhere from a day to around half a year, yet it appears to be conducted in differently similar manners, for similarly different reasons. People abstain from food and drink, or solid foods, or meat, dairy products and eggs, or fish (on some days but not others).

The reasons are as free-ranging as the human imagination: spiritual nourishment, spiritual improvement, and/or spiritual warfare. This translates into purification, freeing the mind, freeing the body, compassion, solidarity with the poor, practicing austerity, resisting gluttony, control of carnal desires, tempering the power of habit or the violence of instinctive desire, sharpening the will, enhancing concentration, penance for sins, closeness to God, petition for special requests from God, to advance a political or social-justice agenda (as Gandhi made a way of life and diet) or even as a counterbalance to modern consumer culture (there is a television and entertainment fast). What emerges from this diversity is an innate human balancing system, feasting and fasting along the slippery road to moderation.

The discipline of fasting seems to express a kind of body/spirit antagonism: Fasting, which clearly serves some basic human function, is in effect a punishment of the body. How to feed a god and beast, at once? It's a dilemma of human existence. In this light, fasting acts as an undoing of the body and a dimming of its din. The suggestion being: if you wish to have an out-of-body experience, you must deny the physical body, experience a sort of semi-martyrdom or dying to the flesh in order to feed the spiritual body. It is a reminder of our other-body selves, our spirit-body and the otherworldly food it hungers for. This is perhaps why street magician David Blaine and his ascetic spectacles capture so much attention and speculation.

No stranger to punishing practices, Blaine is a hybrid of showman and fakir, perpetually testing the limits of his powers. One of his feats of endurance (September 2003) involved starving himself in solitary confinement, suspended from a crane by the River Thames in a glass box for 44 days. The illusionist believed that living without food and human contact, he'd experience "a higher spiritual state," which would lead to "the purest state you can be in." At first, the public repaid him for his efforts by pelting him with insults, paint-filled balloons, tomatoes, golf balls, and other forms of violent distraction; i.e. trying to cut off his water supply, and flying a remote controlled helicopter carrying a burger up to his box.

In Franz Kafka's story The Hunger Artist, the protagonist faces the same sort of hostility as Blaine. The parallels are unmistakable: both suffer from the mob's suspicion, nay, outright hostility toward the exceptional. Perhaps people are loath to be reminded of their own neglected human possibilities, but over time the public comes round, demonstrating a less complicated appreciation.

At the end of his six-week spell, witnessed by some 250,000 pilgrims, Blaine emerged from his glass box pronouncing tearfully: "I have learned more in that box than I have learned in years. I have learned how strong we are as human beings." Nevertheless despite the triumphant tone of his parting speech, and "considering the peculiar nature of his performance," as Kafka described it, the uncanny similarities with Kafka's disquieting moral parable linger.

Whatever else The Hunger Artist may be, it is an allegory of spiritual dissatisfaction, opening with the line, "During these last decades the interest in professional fasting has markedly diminished." The strangely affecting, self-dramatizing, contrary narrator proceeds to chart this decline from the morbid curiosity of the marveling crowds and their grotesque merriment, to their eventual revulsion, malice, and crushing indifference to the "suffering martyr" who perversely fasts on and on, even after everyone, including himself, has stopped keeping track of the records he has broken. Interestingly, the longest period of fasting fixed by the hunger artist's impresario was at forty days, the length of Christ's fast. "Just try to explain to anyone the art of fasting! Anyone who has no feeling for it cannot be made to understand it," exclaims the narrator in exasperation, at one point in the story.

The unhappy ending of this human experiment, mercifully unlike David Blaine's, is the burial of the crazed old artist. And rather than leave his "perfectly good cage standing there unused," he is replaced by his antithesis: a young panther, his "body furnished almost to bursting point with all it needed." But, more than anything else, it is the haunting dying words of the hunger artist that best communicate the incommunicable: "I couldn't find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else."

With this in mind, I believe fasting to be a form of practical mysticism, or a belief in privileged moments. Perhaps this is the "artist's metaphysics" that Friedrich Nietzsche described, but I do think that fasting can stir whisperings of another world or glimpses into uncharted regions of the soul. "Only something supernatural can express the supernatural," says Ludwig Wittgenstein, which does not make it any clearer to the uninitiated. Yet fasting is this, too--a pursuit of clarity. And, just as regular baths are prescribed during longer fasts, so fasting is a hygiene of the spirit.

To put it differently, when poet Philip Larkin writes, "Deprivation is to me what daffodils were to Wordsworth," he voices the bitter-sweetness of self-sufficiency. It is not deprivation per se that he is enamored with. It is having fallen in love with a pain, not for how it impoverishes but how it enriches: fortitude, profundity, insight. Likewise, Michel Foucault does not explicitly speak of redemption through sacrifice, but he does hint at the transformational process in his own terms when he writes of "a sacrifice, an actual sacrifice of life... a voluntary obliteration that does not have to be represented in books because it takes place in the very existence of the writer."

Naturally (and unnaturally) there are other ways to willfully enter this altered state. Whether such experiences go by other names--Martin Heidegger's "unthought" or Karl Jasper's "boundary experience"--is immaterial. The point of the exercise is the salvaging of truths not afforded by everyday experience. For in the act of fasting, it is not merely food one renounces, but thoughtlessness. This is also evidenced in Eastern mysticism in the practice referred to as "immaculate speech." To maintain immaculate speech, oftentimes silence is required, another renunciation. In the final equation, it is a question of attention, sustained attention--an idealistic attempt to align what is thought with what is said and done. Whether one can approach and enter this state having diligently sought it or having been mysteriously granted it, fasting offers a gradual awakening or gentle shock out of soul-deadening routine. To fast is to slow down, almost to stillness, and distill what is necessary.

*

I'm an Egyptian poet and author of Signposts to Elsewhere, a book of 300 of my original sayings: www.janestreet.org/press

As a Muslim American in my early thirties, most of my co-religionists who are near my age are "second generationers." Either they are the children of immigrant parents who came to this country in the late 1960's and early 1970s, or they are the children of Americans who converted to the religion of Islam during that same period.

I chose Islam as my religion on the eve of my 18th birthday while away at college in New England. I had been thinking about it for years, my initial interest sparked by encounters with Muslims who were extraordinarily generous of spirit. My heart and mind were contented that Islam was the proper path for me and although I knew that there would be social consequences, the decision of my heart and soul was to convert and accept Islam as my own religion.

When I was a new convert in the 1990's , the American Muslim community was a lot more conservative. Some of the "re-evalutaions" of how Islam should be lived in America, especially post-9/11 has resulted in a "loosening of the belt," which has translate into a combined large roar coming from Muslims my age asking for an "American Islam."

Although I understand some of the intent behind this call, I am weary of my second generation co-religionists who are willing to sacrifice Islamic traditions in order to finally feel accepted by American society.
I am lucky that this has never been a consideration for myself. Even before I was Muslim, as a middle-class Black American , I was raised to believe that, "try as I might, I would never be white." I would never be the fully American in the eyes of some.

Almost immediately after my conversion to Islam, I traveled to North Africa to begin learning Arabic and to feel what it was like to live in a Muslim majority society, some place where my headscarf was the norm or at least not disdained. That was thirteen years ago. I have since traveled, visited, studied, and lived in three Muslim majority countries in North Africa,the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.

What I have come to understand from spending all of this time abroad is that whatever "American Islam," becomes it must always humble itself to the well established traditions of older Muslim communities, be they in Malaysia, Senegal or Syria.

I say this because, yes it is true that Islam adapted to each place where it went to create a distinct culture, but there were also inner consistencies and logics that were not shed. I fear that in our quest to be more American than Congress, we as a community may actually weaken and dillute our faith.

Tonight I got a ride home from the mosque from an Iraqi couple. They are recent refugees who, we discovered, live on the street over from my apartment here in Chicago. The woman is older and would like for me to spend some time with her daughters. From only just speaking with her a little, I was already impressed by her knowledge of Islamic religious schools of thought.

It is through contact with such people that I feel myself grow, and that I learn how to live Islam more fully regardless of where I am. Before we prayed tonight at the mosque the Iraqi woman and I were debating about whether someone could actually live off of what is given as pubic assistance in America. She was commending America for offering such a program, whereas in Arab countries she said, people only get what they work or beg for. Yes, I told her, but public assistance is not enough to live off of. She disagreed. If one lives a simple life, no television, no (cell) phone - it is enough. She was adamant. The call was given for us to pray and so our debate ended.

Later ,in the car, as I showed her where I lived, she joked that we should get together at the park near our house and play tennis together. We both laughed at this joke.

I am a Black American convert to Islam, for whom "American Islam" means melting all of the diasporic Islamic traditions together, not cutting and pasting so called Western and so called Islamic values together until Muslims are safe and go unharrassed in their pursuit of a materialistic American dream.

I am fully confident that I am American, the descendant of a people who gained their citizenship after centuries of bondage. I am striving to be a good Muslim and this too requires serious effort. A lot of effort is also needed to explain this Path that I have chosen to my fellow Americans. Perhaps if they see me and my Iraqi neighbor playing tennis in the park with our headscarves they will understand.

SOF asked...We would like to understand the complexity and diversity of “the Muslim world.”
I am a Muslim revert, a convert to Islam. My Muslim world is in the largest city in NH, a state that is 99% white, mostly rural, and mostly Protestant. Manchester is a refugee resettlement area, with a long history of immigration, initially to the mills from French-speaking Canada, but also from Greece and Ireland during other times in its history. Manchester has Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians of all denominations, two Mosques, several Synagogues, and a Buddhist Center. The people who attend my Mosque on Friday include Muslims from Bosnia, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Syria, and other countries. Our experience as people is extremely diverse, and our experience as Muslims is also therefore diverse. I have devout Muslim friends who cover with Nikab, and culturally Muslim friends who smoke and drink. As a convert to Islam, my experience is colored by my own life as an educated woman from small town northern New England; and by my own spiritual journey that began in Congregational Protestantism. My “Muslim World” is indeed diverse and complex.

What does being Muslim mean to me?
Being Muslim means to me searching for an inner peace through acceptance of a structure that gently and consistently brings me back to God, and to a focus on the larger fundamentals of my existence. Wearing hijab reminds me to consider my actions from an Islamic perspective. Praising God throughout the day reminds me to think about the many gifts I have received, including the gifts of lessons, even when they may have aspects that are not pleasant in the moment. Attending Jummah (Friday Service) is an opportunity to stop and think about the way in which Islam interacts with the world, and to hear other Muslims speak about their thoughts and studies in this topic.

As a convert to Islam, I come to Islam intensely and intentionally, digesting it not as I digested Christianity as a child, but rather as an adult, questioning and mulling over details and implications that were not apparent to me in my childhood experience of God. As a convert to Islam, being Muslim means constantly learning and questioning; what do I believe? What does Islam believe? What do Muslims believe? Which Muslims are we talking about? Attending local adult classes about Islam are as important as finding resources on my own.

What do I find beautiful about Islam; how does it find expression in my daily life?
The sound of the Athan, the call to prayer, has come to hold the beauty of hymns for me. Standing in a line of women making Salat together feels ordered and beautiful. It is beautiful to me to attend Jummah and to see that the average age is young. Taking time throughout the day to stop and think about God in the five daily praises of Salat gives me perspective on the relative triviality of my work difficulties. Memorizing surahs from the Qur’an to repeat in Salat allows me to rethink basic religious principles, and how they apply in my life now, relative to other times. Standing tall, bending forward, bowing low remind me of the Sun Salutation I learned in yoga. Except for Salat, or playing time with babies, I really don’t spend that much time in flexible postures. Using my body to praise God fills out my experience as a part of God’s world.

Eating halal keeps my meals and my foods closer to home. I grew up in an environment of gardening, and of eating locally and seasonally. Driving out to the farm to pick my goat for halal sacrifice reminds me of the preciousness of life and the special gift that allows meat to arrive on my table. I realize in Ramadan that I can eschew food and drink from dawn to dusk. It reminds me of the suffering of others, and of the importance of controlling my own personal responses to difficulty.

It is a wonderful thing to hear from a stranger, “Asalaama Alaikum Sister.” My hijab brings me family everywhere I go. Being part of the Masjid in my community offers the opportunity to be part of that community. I meet other families who like to pick strawberries, go to the park, share recipes, learn together. This community offers a wonderful addition and counterpoint to the larger communities in which I move.

What hopes, questions, and fears are on my mind as I contemplate the future of my tradition?
In a multicultural community, I have had many questions about what is culture and what is religion. Why do different cultures cover differently? Why do different countries view the role of women in Islam differently? Even within cultures, there are rural and urban differences in practice and thought. As a revert to Islam, these questions are puzzling and on my mind in ways that do not seem to trouble many of my born-Muslim friends.

Women’s liberation in the US has made becoming a physician so much easier for me than it was for my mother only 30 years earlier. Yet, the incidences of heart disease and lung cancer in women clearly rose during that time. Recently, I have begun to see young women in my practice with violent injuries; not victims of violence, but perpetrators. Children in the US are much more likely to grow up with only a mother than with only a father.

I look at feminism with very different questions from an Islamic perspective, than I did from my Women’s College view. Islam notes that husband and wife are parts of the same whole. The genders complement one another, not imitate or compete with one another. My questions are less about whether I get to keep up with the boys, and more about how we can work together better. I wonder how this will play out for me, and in my very diverse Muslim community. SOF programs have allowed me to hear prominent Muslim women’s thoughts on topics I am still learning about.

It would seem that if anyone could leave the violence and vengeance to God, it would be religious communities. Islam specifically enjoins against unprovoked violence. Seeing the wide variety of beliefs and understanding in my own community, I can see how it could happen that even people within the same faith could disagree about important issues. As the non-Muslim world becomes more aware of Islam, it looks in on Muslims’ internal struggles. It is increasingly important that disagreements within Muslim societies be civil, for our own sake, and for our public image in a global community.

I hope for my Muslim community to see the outside world as more than a threat; to see itself as more than a victim; to see the larger communities of the faithful as siblings rather than rivals. I hope we will work to understand each others’ perspectives, and to understand how our own perspectives impact others. I am reassured to see the interfaith groups in my community gather to learn more about each other, and explore our similarities and differences together. I hope my Muslim community is up to the task of greeting the plurality of US society as an equal member of that plurality.

Islam is what shapes my life. Praying five times a day to the Eternal Creator, fasting on the Month of Ramadan for 29 or 30 days depending on the sighting of the moon and NOT on astrological assumptions, not stealing, not showing off, not fibbing, being respectful towards your elders, constraining your desires, believing in One Eternal God Who has Eternal Power and Exists Without A Place and cannot be imagined and that Prophet Muhammad is the best and final messenger of Islam. In the future I aspire on learning more and more about the knowledge of Islam and hope that if i have children(God willingly I will)they will become pious Muslims and make supplication to Allah for me and spread the belief of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa; that God exists Without a Place and does not need anything and everything is in need of Allah.

Being born into a Muslim family, raised in a Muslim society (Pakistan) for most of my life is a blessing in more than ways. It however is also a very non-diverse experience (if you know what I mean…). I however migrated to US based on Job requirements and other factors. Being thrust into this melting pot of cultural racial and socio-economic diversity called America has been quite a rollercoaster. Before 9/11 I was looked at as just another person of faith with his own nuances. 9/11 changed it all. Needless to say that the change in attitude is very understandable. Having said that, it was at times really hard to breath in this land of the free. I however have not experienced any real persecution that many in the Muslim community have faced- I have indeed been blessed. Apart for the first few months when me and my family had to face some angry attitudes some harsh stares etc. I have also had some very positive and humbling experiences, which I fondly narrate to my fellow Muslims, when I get a chance. For instance as a Muslim, I am required to pray 5 times a day and on Fridays ensure that the I pray the afternoon prayer in a congregation (In a Mosque). Once my colleagues in the office found out about my prayer obligations, they have not only been respectful of the prayer timings, rather in many situations they have reminded me that I (in my laziness) will miss the prayer if I don’t get up right now! An even more humbling experience was when one of my colleagues even went so far as not only to find me a quite place in the office to pray; rather he cleaned the area where I was to place my prayer rug. I can safely say that that the trials and tribulations of the past 10 or so years in the US of America, have given me greater appreciation of what it is to be a Muslim. And indeed has made me a better Muslim.

Ramadan brings the memories of childhood when I would run up the street to wait for the lights on the mosque to be lit... it was the most amazing moment for me. Before that I would run to the bakery and get somun (a special bread made during Ramadan) and all the streets had the scent of freshly baked goods. Bosnia during Ramadan was just a joyous place as I would be dressed up as a doll and would go to the mosque with my grandmother. I loved the outfit and was so proud of it and then surely during the tarawih prayer adults looked like they did not know what they are doing. As they would go down during salat, I would go up and vice versa. After a while I would get tired of their not getting right and fall asleep. To this day there is nothing in the world that provides such peace, serenity and comfort as the mosque does. Sitting in the mosque the other day, a friend noticed running and crying children but we both knew that these are precisely the moments they will cherish and remember forever. This Ramadan I have made a decision to go on a cultural exploration of the vibrant and colorful world of Islam. I have visited an Arabic, Indian, Pakistani, Turkish and a Bosnian mosque (by these definition I mean that majority of people that attend these mosques come from these countries). I was welcomed with a delicious, sweet tea at the Pakistani mosque. In an Indian mosque an eleven year old had tried to set me up with her cousin, with all the seriousness of an adult woman that I could not help but laugh. And at the Arabic mosque the men were so kind and generous but the nicest thing that happened I met a wonderful friend Fazlina who just recently came to the States from Kuala Lumpur. There is something sacred in the notion of brotherhood and sisterhood that comes with the Islamic way of life, that I cannot help but feel privileged and honored to be part of billions of people who turn to Makkah every day. The favorite guest of my heart is about to depart. I already feel sadness as there only few days left of the most amazing gift that God bestowed upon us. I was talking to my grandmother this morning and I felt sad and tearful for Ramadan coming to an end and she said my child remember, 'we all come from dust, so dust anywhere is your homeland and people everywhere are your brothers and sisters.' So it is and so they are... and America has given me home when I had none. Things to remember and be grateful for. Eid Mubarak Olsun to all Muslims and Blessings to Humankind!

What I love about Islam is how compatible it is with any other culture - Most people don't know that Arabs are actually the minority among Muslims and constitute only about 14% of all Muslims. We have more Muslims in Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, India, etc. It truly is a very diverse and open religion that many people from all over the world find peace in. It is also perhaps the only religion that has a set structure for religious, political, military, government, and social practices - everything is covered in Islam. As many say, Islam is not only a religion, but a way of life. On a more local tone, American Muslims are among the most active citizens - you will see us spearheading many of the social and community events. Why? Because it is part of our religion...

Ramadan: A Wife's Perspective (And A Husband's)

By Zehra Rizavi and Yusif Akhund

This piece was originally published at www.altmuslimah.com on September 11, 2009

A Wife's Perspective

My husband’s heavy breathing assures me he is sound asleep. I cautiously tiptoe out of the darkened bedroom, careful not to stub yet another toe on a piece of furniture, and make my way downstairs to the kitchen. As I begin to prepare the French toast and tea, warm smells fill the first floor of our home, but at this early hour they do not strike me as appetizing: it is 4:30 a.m. and I am putting together my and my husband’s sehri.

As I repeatedly call over the incessant ringing of my husband’s alarm in my attempt to awaken him, I feel the irritation creeping in. The trumpet to sound the arrival of Judgment Day could not possibly create the clamor of this alarm so why is he still asleep? And here I am, standing on the stairs at the crack of dawn shouting over this blaring ringing, all the while rubbing sleep out of my eyes and fretting over whether or not his French toast remains warm and crisp. It strikes me that, at this moment, I resemble my mother. A few years ago, it was she who would impatiently call up the stairs as I lay in bed, willfully ignoring my alarm, and she who would be overly concerned about the temperature of my omelet. I miss her and I miss her omelets.

When my husband finally makes his way down the stairs, my frustration abates and he and I sit across from each other and share our early morning meal. We speak intermittently and keep one eye trained on the clock to ensure we finish our food by the time dawn prayers begin. Despite the sparse conversation and the hurried meal, I enjoy the feeling that we are both beginning our obligatory fasts together, as a unit.

Once I have cleared the table and said the dawn prayer, I sit beside my husband as he begins his ritual, early morning recitation of the Q’uran; I listen to his clear, seemingly effortless pronunciation and feel remorseful that I did not practice my Arabic after I completed the Q’uran at the ripe age of nine, as is customary in Pakistani culture. As an adult, I always read the English translation of the Holy Book, missing the rhythm and melody of the lyrical language in which the Q’uran was originally revealed, but finding gratification in understanding the wisdom and application of Allah’s guidance. While the Arabic language remains alien to me, I pray that through the mere act of listening to these holy words, I will earn Allah’s pleasure and through some process of spiritual osmosis, will become a more pious human being.

Once we lay down to sleep, I guiltily recall the tinge of envy I had felt as I had crawled out of bed while my husband lay fast asleep; it is now he who, in another hour and a half, will abandon sleep and trudge downstairs to change and drive to the office to push through a long work day. As I burrow deeper under the cozy covers, I reflect on the balance Allah has created in our relationship and those of many of our equally fortunate friends. Many of the Muslim wives I know find the limits of their patience tested through caring for their capricious little ones while feeling the fatigue a fast brings on. They ignore the rumbles of their complaining stomachs while grocery shopping and set the pre-dawn alarm to prepare daily sehris. Their male counterparts, on the other hand, endure long, tiresome work days without the welcome lunch break, and make the daily drive to the local mosque to perform the special evening prayers of Ramadan. In this month, more than any other, we push though these difficulties in the hopes of cleansing our corroded hearts; we find relief in sharing our trials, small and large, with our spouses. As I drift off to sleep, I say a silent prayer of thanks to Allah for the food and the companions with which we begin and end our fasts.

A Husband’s Perspective

It is 2:00pm, and the hunger is starting to peak is it does every day at this time. It is about the time I start counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds until I will be on my way home. I am imagining how sweet that lone date will taste on my parched tongue, how the cool water will feel as it rushes down my throat and fills my empty stomach in an instant. It is now 2:02pm. Clearly these thoughts are not helping to pass the time.

But eventually the clock strikes 6:30pm and it is time to rush home to discover what delights my wife has prepared for iftar. Impatient and unable to wait the 15 minutes it takes to get home, I call from the car to find out what is on the stove and to squeeze in my last minute request for rice over roti. I get home to see my wife busy cutting fruit in the kitchen while stirring something in a large pot, pausing intermittently to glance over one of many scribbled recipes in a small spiral notepad. In these moments, I envy my wife for the spiritual rewards she receives through this seemingly routine act of preparing a meal. By providing me the means with which to break my fast, she obtains the rewards for both of our fasts on a daily basis throughout the entire month. In this manner, Allah has bestowed an immense honor on any Muslim, male or female, who spends the last hours of the fast, when the hunger is most intense, standing over a hot stove, tantalizingly staring at and inhaling an aromatic blend of meat, vegetables, and spices while unable to indulge in even the slightest taste.

I peak my head in the kitchen to see if I can get a glimpse at what awaits, only to have my wife shoe me back towards the living room, reminding me to make use of the blessed time immediately prior to sunset for dua. I would let most of these golden opportunities go wasted if it were not for these not so subtle reminders. So instead of getting in her way, I take my wife’s advice and spend the last few moments of the fast in silent prayer, hopeful Allah will hear answer our prayers through the blessed act of fasting.

Finally, the time for iftar arrives. My wife places a colorful bowl of lightly spiced fruit in front of me, and we both dig in looking up only to smile at each other, not wanting to waste a precious moment that could be spent on chewing another satisfying bite. However, we hasten to finish this short culinary interlude so we can get to the main course. But first, we must lay out the prayer rug to say the dusk prayer together. I find this to be the prayer with the most impact in Ramadan. I am standing before my Lord and beside my wife, having just indulged in a few morsels of food after a long day of hunger and thirst, and I realize just how much there is to be thankful for. Unlike at other times during the year where prayers can end up being just a “going through the motions” type of exercise, this prayer offers an opportunity to give thanks for all the things that we could so easily be deprived of, such as food and companionship. Thank you O Allah for this meal prepared by the wife you picked out for me. Thank you O Allah for this month to remind me that I need to thank you for these simple, beautiful blessings each and every day.

Zehra Rizavi is Associate Editor of Altmuslimah. Yusif Akhund is a New Jersey-based engineer.

My name is Radwan Mohamed, I'm a 24 years old Muslim, living in Canada. We moved here when I was 5, and I started fasting shortly after that. When you're that young, all you wanna do is prove to your parents and siblings that your old enough not just to fast the whole day but the whole 30 days. So you start of with half a day here, a quarter of a day there and full days on the weekends. But as I get older and especially this year, I've come to see that Ramadan is a lot like the Obama administrations favorite cliche, a reset button. The one time of the year where you truly get to reflect on your relationship with not only food but with your family, your friends, your community and most importantly your relationship with GOD. How New Years should be, but with a lot more will power to meet all your resolutions. Cause if you just spend a whole month replacing your yearning for food, entertainment and leisure with family, charity and GOD. Then losing those last 10 pounds are a breeze, quitting smoking, a walk in the park (something you'll be able to do anyways, after you quit).

This year, Ramadan fell on the dog days of August and September, where the days are long and the night short. But yet of the 24 Ramadans, i've been alive to see and of the 19, i've fasted. This one is by far the most important, one where i've prayed the most, cried the most, asked for the most forgiveness and the most guidance. And for the first time, i've even lost some weight. But more importantly this Ramadan has reconfirmed to me that Islam is the only thing that can help you realize the simplicity of life and explain the complexity of death.

Ramadan: A Fast Track To A Larger World
Ramadan arrived in August this year. I'd grown accustomed to the Muslim month of fasting being an autumn affair. But because Ramadan follows the lunar calendar — moving back about ten days every year — the dawn prayer preparations are even earlier and the dusk fast-breaking meal later. It is a dramatic break from my normal routine.

Usually, I start thinking about my second cup of coffee before I'm barely halfway through my first. When I cannot decide between sweet and savory at breakfast, I order both. I don't have particularly caviar tastes, but like most middle-class Americans, if I want an iced tea in the afternoon, I go out and buy one. I live in the land of serial small desires, serially satisfied — and most of them revolve around food and drink. Eating is the way I pass my time, and how I plan my day.

But Ramadan is another country. And like any experience of elsewhere, the biggest difference lies not in the change in landscape, but in the altered perspective of the traveler.

My system slows down during Ramadan — it's the only way to make it through the day. I find myself noticing things I otherwise wouldn't, and feeling connected in ways I usually don't.

I pay attention to the hopeful look on the face of the guy selling bottles of water in the middle of Western Avenue. I'm walking too slowly to use the, "I don't have time excuse," with the woman selling the homeless newspaper on the corner. So I stop and buy a paper and ask how her day is going.

I remember one Ramadan when I was in college, walking out of an afternoon class, feeling my energy fading fast, and starting to feel a little sorry for myself. I overheard a classmate blithely say to a friend, "I'm starving, I haven't eaten since breakfast."

The line shocked me back into a kind of clarity. "You're not starving," I thought to myself. "And I may be very hungry right now, but I'm not starving either."

It's not the kind of thought I would have had at any other time of year, whether I skipped lunch or not.
Eboo Patel
Enlarge Courtesy of Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core and the author of Acts of Faith.
Eboo Patel
Courtesy of Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core and the author of Acts of Faith.

Frankly, if it was up to me, I wouldn't choose Ramadan. If I didn't feel required to fast, I probably wouldn't. That afternoon iced tea would keep calling my name, and I'd keep answering.

But after a while, I find something spiritually numbing about constantly getting what I want. It feels like I'm building a world that revolves around fulfilling my minor wishes. I know, intellectually, that I'm not the center of the universe, but my daily routine around food sure indicates otherwise. If it wasn't for Ramadan, I would just keep repeating that pattern every day, all year, for the rest of my life. And my world would feel smaller and smaller.

Ramadan is an expansion. Knowing that I am not allowed to eat or drink, I find different things to look forward to. I read more, and I pray more, and I spend more time with the people that I love most.

I find myself strangely grateful for my hunger and thirst, for the opportunity to put at the center of the universe something larger than my desire for a second cup of coffee.

Ramadan: A Fast Track To A Larger World
Ramadan arrived in August this year. I'd grown accustomed to the Muslim month of fasting being an autumn affair. But because Ramadan follows the lunar calendar — moving back about ten days every year — the dawn prayer preparations are even earlier and the dusk fast-breaking meal later. It is a dramatic break from my normal routine.

Usually, I start thinking about my second cup of coffee before I'm barely halfway through my first. When I cannot decide between sweet and savory at breakfast, I order both. I don't have particularly caviar tastes, but like most middle-class Americans, if I want an iced tea in the afternoon, I go out and buy one. I live in the land of serial small desires, serially satisfied — and most of them revolve around food and drink. Eating is the way I pass my time, and how I plan my day.

But Ramadan is another country. And like any experience of elsewhere, the biggest difference lies not in the change in landscape, but in the altered perspective of the traveler.

My system slows down during Ramadan — it's the only way to make it through the day. I find myself noticing things I otherwise wouldn't, and feeling connected in ways I usually don't.

I pay attention to the hopeful look on the face of the guy selling bottles of water in the middle of Western Avenue. I'm walking too slowly to use the, "I don't have time excuse," with the woman selling the homeless newspaper on the corner. So I stop and buy a paper and ask how her day is going.

I remember one Ramadan when I was in college, walking out of an afternoon class, feeling my energy fading fast, and starting to feel a little sorry for myself. I overheard a classmate blithely say to a friend, "I'm starving, I haven't eaten since breakfast."

The line shocked me back into a kind of clarity. "You're not starving," I thought to myself. "And I may be very hungry right now, but I'm not starving either."

It's not the kind of thought I would have had at any other time of year, whether I skipped lunch or not.
Eboo Patel
Enlarge Courtesy of Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core and the author of Acts of Faith.
Eboo Patel
Courtesy of Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel is the Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core and the author of Acts of Faith.

Frankly, if it was up to me, I wouldn't choose Ramadan. If I didn't feel required to fast, I probably wouldn't. That afternoon iced tea would keep calling my name, and I'd keep answering.

But after a while, I find something spiritually numbing about constantly getting what I want. It feels like I'm building a world that revolves around fulfilling my minor wishes. I know, intellectually, that I'm not the center of the universe, but my daily routine around food sure indicates otherwise. If it wasn't for Ramadan, I would just keep repeating that pattern every day, all year, for the rest of my life. And my world would feel smaller and smaller.

Ramadan is an expansion. Knowing that I am not allowed to eat or drink, I find different things to look forward to. I read more, and I pray more, and I spend more time with the people that I love most.

I find myself strangely grateful for my hunger and thirst, for the opportunity to put at the center of the universe something larger than my desire for a second cup of coffee.

HERE IS THE PHOTO OF ME TAKEN IN 1966. AND AS I SAID IN MY FIRST FEEDBACK EMAIL: MY ~"book"~ IS THE REASON WILLIAM MARRION BRANHAM AND I LOOK LIKE TWINS. IF YOU GO TO www.LivingWordBroadcast.com YOU CAN SEE THE PHOTO OF WILLIAM MARRION BRANHAM AND HOW MUCH HE LOOKS LIKE ME.

What would it do to ~“everyone’s”~ ~“attitude’s”~ about ~“everything”~ to see and understand exactly what the ~“paragraph”~ below ~“is”~ and ~“means”~?

And they are: The ~“seven churches”~, ~“seven Spirits”~, ~“seven golden candlesticks”~, ~“seven candlesticks”~, ~“seven stars”~, ~“seven lamps”~, ~“seven seals”~, ~“seven horns”~, ~“seven eyes”~, ~“seventh seal”~, ~“seven angels”~, ~“seven trumpets”~, ~“seven thunders”~, ~“seventh angel”~, ~“seven thousand”~, ~“seven heads”~, ~“seven crowns”~, ~“seven plagues”~*, *~“seven last plagues”~, ~“seven vials”~*, *~“seven golden vials”~, ~“seven mountains”~, ~“seven kings”~, ~“seven,”~, and ~“seventh, chry…”~.
LOOK! A ~“77”~ of ~“seven”~ ~“aligned”~! Reread “P.S.” on pg. 27!

You can see the (correct) ~"alignment"~ of these ~"seven..."~'s in an earlier version of my ~“book”~, in pdf format ~ for free ~ at www.LoveGodIsLove.org . Or send me an email and I will send you the latest version in pdf format: sev748@yahoo.com

~"Feeling"~ ~"led"~ almost ~"compelled"~ to ~"write"~ my ~"book"~ by ~"bolding"~ and ~"underlining"~ and placing ~"tildes"~ and ~"quotes"~ around many of the ~"words"~ and ~"phrases"~ throughout my ~"book"~, I ~"discovered"~ a ~"hidden"~ ~"alignment"~ of ~"seven..."~'s in the book of ~"Revelation"~! Do you think ~"this"~ "physical" ~"evidence"~ of ~"Spiritual Intelligence"~ (i.e. ~"God"~) might make more of ~"us"~ sit up and take notice of what it truly, truly means to ~"Love thy neighbour as thyself."~? I know that ~"God"~ has ~"given"~ me ~"this"~ ~"evidence"~ to share with the world. If ~"You"~ would like to help me get one of The Most Important ~"Co"~ written ~"books"~ of all time ~ to the world ~ call me! ~"God"~ has. 615-220-1599

The text below is the main body of this open~letter.

There is ~“evidence”~ of ~“God”~ in the ~“structure”~ of the ~“text”~ of my ~“book”~ ~“DIVINE 9/11 INTERVENTION”~. It is a TRUE story and it's free at www.LoveGodIsLove.org

(At www.MySpace.com/Love_God_Is_Love you can watch a 5 minute video of one ~“event”~ of this ~“Divine Intervention”~.)

March 1st, 2007
Dear Neighbour,
Hello ~ my name is Arnold Joseph White and I was born in Nashville, TN on July 7th, 1948, and (as with most people?) from time to time in my life, I have had “experiences” that could have possibly been the ~“Spiritual Realm”~ of ~“God”~ at work in my life ~ or not. I never had an experience that did not have a logical and rational explanation ~ until ~ 1996 or 1997 when I began to experience ~“things”~ that at that time, I concluded they were ~“things”~ I believed were from the ~ “psychic realm” ~ of ~ “psychic phenomena” ~ as ~ “psychic ability” ~ and ~ “psychic power” ~. But then ~ on December 15th, of 2000 ~ I witnessed ~“something”~ that as I tried to come to a rational explanation of what I was witnessing, the first thing that came to my mind ~ was ~ “witchcraft” ~. From that point on ~“these things”~ continued to escalate until early in 2002 when it “finally” dawned on me that what I was being ~“approached”~ by was ~“God”~. ~ “WHY?” ~ was not the first question that came to my mind; ~ “WHAT?” ~ was the first question. What do I do with this ~“Revelation”~ of this ~“Epiphany”~? Were ~“these things”~ for my own personal knowledge and mine alone? Or was I supposed to share with the world that ~ “My God! There actually is a God!” ~? It did not take me long to realize that I was being ~“called”~ to tell my story and share my beliefs about ~“these things”~. ~ So ~ I did.
Many of you ~ if not most of you ~ will have a real problem with much ~ if not most ~ of what ~“God”~ has ~“called”~ me to ~“speak”~. But that is not my problem. My problem has been to find a believable way to tell my story as best I could. And on my birthday 07/07/06 ~“God”~ gave me very strong ~“evidence”~ that ~“He”~ has ~“called”~ me to do what I am doing through an ~“alignment”~ of the ~“seven…”~’s from the book of ~“Revelation”~. It's on pg.’s 30, 31, 40 & 41 of my ~“book”~.

Factoring in ALL of the ~“events”~ and ~“circumstances”~ that ~“led”~ to the ~“Revelation”~ this ~“alignment”~ was ~“hidden”~ in the book of ~“Revelation”~. It is ~“statistically impossible”~ for ~“this”~ to be a random, mindless, coincidence! This means this ~“sentence”~ is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT ~“Co”~ written ~“sentences”~ In All Of Human History! These are either ~“the last days”~ of ~“faith, hope, and love”~ or ~ these are ~“the last days”~ of –“doubt, despair and fear and loathing”–. So!
~“choose you this day (~ EVERYDAY ~) whom ye will serve;”~
Joshua 24:15
~ “You must be the change you wish to see in (~ YOURSELF ~)
the world.” ~ Mohandas Gandhi

~ “Love is the answer.” ~ ~“God is love.”~
Arnold Joseph White ~“a white”~
Call me? ~“God”~ has.
615-220-1599

~ “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” ~
~“these things” ~ are in the King James Bible ~“7”~ times each.
~“I am the Lord thy God”~ ~“love thy neighbour as thyself.”~
~“the end of the world”~ ~“that which is right”~
~“the last days”~ ~“Jesus is the”~ ~“judge not”~
~“forgiveness”~ ~“message”~ ~“feel”~ and
~“a white”~
~“a prophet”~ is in the King James 53 times in ~“48”~ verses.
Is ~“7/7/48”~ my sign?

www.outskirtspress.com/divine911intervention
www.MySpace.com/Love_God_Is_Love (5 min. ~“video”~)
www.PatriotsQuestion911.com
www.LoveGodIsLove.org (Free copy in pdf.)
www.amazon.com
www.bn.com (Barnes & Nobel)
www.target.com
~“Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.”~ John 4:48

I used this picture on the front cover of my ~"book"~ for sale on line; it was taken during Christmas of 2002. In the lower left corner is the ~“outline”~ of a ~“wing”~ which is not on the blanket. It is in the air, above the blanket! In the upper right corner there is a ~“golden cloud-like swirl”~ of ~“shapes”~ in which I see an ~“Angel”~ standing, looking down on the child. And when you turn the picture to the left, the right wing of the ~“Angel”~ becomes the outstretched head and neck of ~“a white horse”~ running at full speed. The book of ~“Revelation”~ mentions ~“these things”~! Others have ~“seen”~ ~“other things”~ in the ~“golden-swirl”~. What do ~“You”~ see?

Your reflections on the many faces of Islam was a poridge of platitudes except for Ms. Romero's unabashed anger at everyone. However, it ignored the many fascinating questions about that particular closed logic system:

1) How did Islam conquer so much territory so quickly?
2) What powered its meteoric elevation of arts, science and commerce?
3) Why did it make women, the life givers, second class or worse?
4) Why did it implode after giving us (among other things) mathematics, superb buildings, paper money and texts, infectious disease wards and naming every star in the sky?

Your participant from Spain where Muslims, Jews and Christians still are tolerant likely knows the answers. When Suliman the Great destroyed the Crusader invasion, he allowed the survivors to leave the Holy Lands or stay and practice any religion they wanted. That was in stark contrast to the wholesale slaughter of Muslims and Christians by the Crusaders.

Partnering with Jews in the lands they conquered by superior swordsmanship allowed camel herding nomads to run the huge cities within a few hundred years of bursting out of Arabia. The major split in Islam diluted its power and both factions attacking the Jews literally cut off its head. Nations with that religion soon became second class in science and commerce and are to this day except for oil wealth which likely will be under pressure from other energy sources.

The relagation of women to servant class is simple Job-Security on the part of the men.

These are issues your program should be addressing.

Paul Wheeler

May I kindly offer:

It is said : The first word God said to Mohamad (peace be upon him as it should be upon all creations) was to read "not to surrender".

To listen to your stories; Some of your Moslem contributors stating the Koran and its stories of people whom talked about the prophet , is accepted without question, is most puzzling.

Perhaps was appropriate in the long past.

Pilgrimige should not be to Mecca, Undrestanding inequality of food distribution through Fasting should not be just for a month, Praying should not be by standing and kneeling to a direction at a specific time, giving to needy is not just by money based on your income only to a person.

The duty to "read" should be for all men and women. Without it any religion will always stay in one place if not limping backward into darkness.

This is what Ramamdan means to me.

Kind Regards,

PS Ms. Tippett & American public radio: God takes care of people whom take care of people. He/she will take care of you all, as you have taken care of me by providing me with room to grow.

Shad Zee (live happy)

I loved listening to this last week's program of the muslim's. It made me think of the many parents I know who are raising their children without any "structured" faith at all.
I am a mother of a 10 year old and feel that it is important to give my child some knowledge of a religion so that she can use that as a basis to discuss or evaluate other religions when she is older.
Just thought I'd comment on that.

Thanks for your time
Barb

Islam means to surrender. To me it is a natural way of life without question. My name is Queen Sheba and I took my shahada when I was 14.
I fell in love with this religion at the age of 11. I believe all of humanity are Muslim in some shape, form of fashion.I am often amazed at how many are practicing and being more aware of this faith which claims are races and ethnic groups globally. Being Muslims means beauty and freedom. Islam is splendor and all facets of this deen is remarkable. When you take notice to nature and people it is a reflection of various if not many verses in the Holy Quran.

It makes since to worship daily and teach others the same about the numerous rituals one practices dutifully.Gratitude is action in practice and not just by word of mouth. The African American Islamic Institute founded by our beloved Shaykh Hassan Cisse (may GOD be pleased with his work) was a very humble scholar and teacher who taught us much about Islam before he returned to GOD.

I hope by the sometimes negative coverage in the media about this glorious faith that one would pay attention enough to research our faith and hope it will unfold much light and education that they too can accept Islam as a way of life as I did many years ago.

Peace be upon you

The religious significant of smoke

The American Indian: The Blackfoot Indian grew only one plant, the tobacco plant. Other American Indian tribes smoked all types of different plants each tribe had their favorite, but the importance was the smoke, the peace pipe, and plants that had a reputation for peace and love. The cigar is given at birth to symbolize life, that spirit is sweet, the aroma remains with you to enjoy and then it’s gone, into a new form. The spirit that lingers and then flies away.
Anabaptist Experience life, Enjoy, celebrate Christ had died for your sins!
Buddha, Buddhism Strongly encourages the individual or group to make the burnt offering at least twice, once in the morning and once in the evening what you burn is up to you.
Christian Ashes to ashes dust to dust this burnt offering is a must. St. Anthony encouraged all people to smoke, the earlier the better; still celebrated each year in Italy. Christ died for our sins, your sins are like ashes you should aim for the ash tray, the right way, but it’s not the end of the world if you miss, as long as it’s done in peace.
Confucius Great Chinese philosopher had a hemp hat, a 2500 year old stash of high quality weed was found in the Gobies desert
Hindu Lord Shiva Encourages the people to smoke or eat hemp 2 or 3 times a day. Ash Wednesday is not just one day a year for holy is an opening for the living
Jewish The Holy Scriptures, These plants are your meat. God saw it and it was good. The smoke in the scriptures was not just for God, but from God.
Muslim The water pipe has been a good place to smoke, sit and praise God
Protestant The bible is revealed to the individual in Gods own time and way all things are possible under God as long as the moral of Christ is maintained, the power over the plants and animals granted to man in the first page of the Christian bible.
Pagan- Rainbow tribe, Amazon tribe, voodoo, all of these place a huge importance on making the burnt offering using hemp or other plants to reach a spiritual plane that does not fit into a computer

The American significant of smoke

History America first settlers survived because of tobacco, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew weed.
Law This country constitution was founded on “Gods nature and his Natural goodness” the supreme law that everyone is responsible for
Victory- WWI- WWII the tobacco farmer was exempt from service for national security reasons. The war was indirectly won because of tobacco “take 5 smoke em if you’ve got em “
Prosperity Tobacco has been important in trade and prosperity for the American people, hundreds of independent growers and tobacco shops that flourished in the 1920s and 1950s
Common since They recommended planting hemp along side roads and in farms for erosion control. Nicotine patch, designer steroids for athletics do you really believe they can’t control the crave?
Customs and culture people would leave cigs in a glass case for guest; the smoker was taken into consideration form ash trays on planes, restaurants, and cars. To free matches- one of the US presidents gave out free cigars. Pipes were not an excuse to harass the people but common place.
Science Henry Ford made a car out of weed they can make fuel out of weed. NASCAR was started and powered by moon shine
Health we do not recognize a profit driven organization that cannot tell every atom or cell in a plant much less dictate to a free American especially since they worship Apollo and swear to Hippocrates a Greek god making the Hippocratic Oath.
Nicotine is found in potatoes, Increased metabolism, weed is recommended by Canada and European medical communities, and is high in potassium, tobacco plants can be used to grow vaccines or vitamin C added. Statistics can be swayed to fit any argument; 2 out of every 3 accidents are caused by people not drinking or doing drugs. Man has had smoke in his lungs since the beginning of time. The blood of Christ is wine
Read more in the book ABOUT CHRISTIANS AND FREEDOM @Amazon.com

I am a 59 year old African-American Convert to Islam. I, like many other black people of the 60's, was very intrigued by the very pervasive Black Nationalist rhetoric of the time.

I was serving in the U.S. Air Force at Wurtzsmith AFB in Oscoda, Mich. A friend with whom I was stationed began visiting the Nation of Islam temple in Saginaw and invited me along one Sunday afternoon. As you probably know, the Nation of Islam's teaching under the Hon. Elijah Muhammad was more of an ingenious means of teaching black self-reliance than it was a means of promulgating the religion of Islam. Nevertheless, I was greatly attracted to what was, until that time, the only "Islam" I had heard. Soon after that, I recieved orders for Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. While there, I feverishly studied the Holy Qur'an and learned to read it in the Arabic script. I am tempted to say that I found glaring contradictions between what I experienced in the Nation and the fundamental teaching of the Qur'an. On the contrary, I found that I was more prepared to embrace the Qur'anic teaching, once I became assured of my own humanity. Before the Nation of Islam, I existed on what could only be described as a sub-human level, living out a crude adaptation of a Christian mythos that was never designed for free Black people. A mythos that seems to discount the potential of the human mind.

The month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and of highest accolade in that it commererates the revealing of the first verses of the Qur'an to Muhammad. Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting; where muslims do not take in anything by mouth, not even water from the dawn of sunrise until after the sun sets. The act of participating in the fast helps clear the mind and heart, allowing one to become closer to Allah, hearing the words of the Qur'an more clearly, because the body is not busy doing anything else. It is a time of deep intimacy, as one prays more often during the days of ramadan, deeping the understanding of the words of Muhammad. One of the core virtues of Islam is Zakat, meaning charity. It is though the acts of charity that muslims participate in during ramadam that they come to feel this deeping of personal spiritual intimacy with their beliefs. Muslims "open" or end their fast at sunset. They do this with a prayer, meal and celebration with others. Children are exempt from the practice of fasting during ramadam, until they reach puberty.

Many of the people who shared their stories on speakingoffaith.com told memories of their childhood and of their attempts to show reverence for their Islamic faith through fasting. There was the story stroy of the Bengali girl who while in the sixth grade wanted to participate in her first full fast. When she looked upon the calendar she saw that ramadan began on the day of her much anticipated field trip- to McDonald's. The young girl saw this as an opportunity to practice her religious virtures in spite of her classmate taunting her with french fries. She remained strong in her fast for most of the field trip, even giving away food that had been gifted to her by someone at the McDonalds who thought she meerly could not afford to purchase a meal. She gave away all of the food- except the french fries, which she could not pass up. I found this endearing because it shows the gentleness and beauty of a child with budding faith.

Thank you for providing this background and for all of the people that have responded to the call for their expressions Living Islam.
I grew up and have lived in a small rural MN area and for the most part have not lived more than 30 miles from where I grew up. I recently have had to travel to a larger city to find work and have (after 50 years) come in contact with people of different faiths (other than Christian) and have not wanted to offend anybody by asking what may appear to be silly questions.
The stories that the people have sent in have really helped me to gain some insight to their daily lives and a little about their faith. I especially liked the story from Mr. Allee Ramadan and how it took the fallout from 9-11 for him to reevaluate his life as a member of Islam and how he felt he had to try to blend in with all of the other students when he was growing up.
The reason that this touched me so much is that the community I grew up in could very well be the same community as he grew up in and I wonder if any of my fellow classmates felt the way he did (I hope not). I remember leaving school once a week for Bible study and really never gave it any thought if somebody in the class did not leave when the rest of the class did and can only imagine how they felt if they were left behind.
If you want to share this with Mr. Allee Ramadan that would be great as he opened my eyes to my childhood and how our community may have (without even trying) missed out on opportunities to make somebody feel welcome and to have learned from them at the same time. I am so proud that he has come from being a student that felt compelled to blend in to a proud member of Islam that let his voice be heard throughout the world.
Thank you MR Ramadan
Sincerely
Jerry Jasmer

I have read the transcripts for both the radio show on Ramadan and Living Islam. I am a Christian, but I am very curious about the Islam faith and have been doing what I can to seek the answers to my questions. I have taken a class on Monotheistic religions and learned some of the origins of Islam, but I have found that these 2 radio shows have given me more insight.

I have been curious to really know and experience what being a Muslim is like. What is it like to be a devout Muslim- is it like being a devout Christian as I am? What are the core beliefs in Islam in comparison to Christianity? I feel more of these questions have been answered by being able to listen to people living life instead of reading from a book. Thank You.

I have worked in a primarily muslim business for the past two years and have seen the passion they have for their religion and all the practices that come with it especially Ramadan. I have also learned how beautiful the Muslim religion is.

After listening to this broadcast and also listening to the personal stories of the people that I work with it has spread a new light on it all for me. The first year I worked there and Ramadan came around I actually fasted with them, and let me tell you it was not easy. I made it through three weeks but then caught a cold and had to take medicine and eat food during the day to get better. Even if you take the religious meaning away from this practice it is something we all should think about. The way I was told and the way I think about it is that it is a way to show appreciation for all the things people have gone through and suffered through to allow us to be where we are today. It really made me look back and think about what its like to go just a day without food and water and how some people do that for long periods of time.

In the end it made me appreciate the passion and adherance that Muslims show toward their religion and the laws of their religion. I think the most important thing that I have learned is that Muslims as a whole are nothing like the images that we see on tv. And not to make blanket stereotypes about Islam from the extremist terrorists we see and hear about, and they in no way are like the quiet peaceful people that most Muslims are.

I received this URL from a friend.
I tried to listen to your broadcast on the net, but it seems complicated. Can you assist me in giving me the direct URL, in order for me to be able to listen to your radio and participate in your questionnaire as convenient!?

I look forward to hearing from you very soon. Thank you in advance for the attention you will give to this message.

Mohammed Abu Aql
Jordan
www.leaders-jo.com