Ramadan and the Purity of Pork

My closest friends have heard me say it before, "I'm counting on pork to get me to heaven." Irreverent though that sentiment may seem, this is because refraining from eating pork is about the only thing I do purely for the pleasure of God. I don't expect any health benefits from my abstinence and it certainly doesn't give me a lot of social cache, it doesn't bolster my ego or make me feel like a super pious person; it's just there, a simple and pure act of "I hear and obey." Beneath nearly … [Read more...]

Ramadan and Poverty

We often hear that fasting in Ramadan makes us understand the plight of the poor better as going hungry for a month gives us an insight into what it is like to go hungry. And indeed, the experience of hunger day after day over the course of a month does spur many Muslims to action, whether it be sending charity to neighborhoods or countries where poverty runs deep, volunteering in a soup kitchen here in the States, or contributing to a canned food drive at the mosque. I applaud these efforts, … [Read more...]

Islamic State

I wrote a version of this poem some time ago; this revision seems appropriate to the declaration of "the Islamic State" in what used to be parts of Iraq (and may yet again be parts of Iraq). When Prophet Muhammad came to rule in Medina, he established a multi-religious state where Christian, Jew and Muslim were free to follow their religious beliefs.  We are told over and over in the Qur'an that the sins of our brothers, neighbors, co-religionists, and people of other faiths are not our … [Read more...]

Ramadan and individual responsibility

When I first became Muslim, I figured that I would fast Ramadan every year until I died. Then I got married and got pregnant. I worried about the effect that fasting would have on the development of my unborn baby. Research led me to believe that fasting while pregnant was not a good idea, for the baby or for me.  When I looked to the the Qur'an  for guidance I was relieved to read: O You who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that … [Read more...]

Ramadan Mubarak!

It's that time of year again... the month of Ramadan, a time of joy and community fellowship, of shared devotion to purity and piety. It's difficult to convey why a month of privation is such a meaningful and blessed experience for so many, why people look forward to Ramadan so eagerly. It seems contra-intuitive that a month of fasting from first light to sunset would be something to treasure, and yet for millions of Muslims around the world, Ramadan is indeed a treasured month. I believe … [Read more...]

Islam and the Culture of Rape

violence against women

Today the White House called on universities to more aggressively combat sexual assaults on campus. "“Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said. “No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to give victims the support they need, like a confidential place to go, and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice.” He could have been addressing the Muslim world. As a community, we need to set … [Read more...]

Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Challenge of Progressive Critique

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The news that Brandeis University cancelled the honorary degree it was planning to give Ayaan Hirsi Ali has raised a storm of controversy. On one side  were Muslims applauding the move as an apt recognition that Ali's narrative was, if not Islamophobic in itself, fodder for the cannons of the rabid Islamophobic right. On the other were those protesting that the withdrawal represented a betrayal of freedom of speech and a cowardly retreat in face of the howling of religious … [Read more...]


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