Saturday, April 30, 2011
First up I wish to thank Miss Grace for sharing her journey with us last week! Thank you so much Grace!
This week we have a new interview so please welcome Hesham A. Hassaballa.
Hesham is a Muslim and I know you will enjoy his interview as well!
Here Is Hesham A. Hassaballa's Introduction:
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago doctor, writer, well-published author, blogger and a leader in the Muslim Community. Hassaballa’s pieces have been published across the county and around the world. Dr. Hassaballa's articles have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Kansas City Star, Philadelphia Inquirer, the Forward, the Jewish Week, among many other publications.
Dr. Hassaballa has been a Beliefnet columnist since 2001, has written for the Religion News Service, and is a contributing writer to altmuslim, the premier Muslim news and commentary website. Dr. Hassaballa's articles have been distributed worldwide by Agence Global, and he is a guest blogger for "The Seeker," the Chicago Tribune's religion blog.
Dr. Hassaballa is co-author of The Beliefnet Guide to Islam (Doubleday), and his essay, “Why I Love the Ten Commandments,” was published in the award-winning book Taking Back Islam (Rodale). His latest book of poetry about the Prophet Muhammad, Noble Brother, was published in November 2010 by Faithful Word Press.
In 2007, his blog, "God, Faith, and a Pen," was nominated for a Brass Crescent Award for a blog that is “the most stimulating, insightful, and philosophical, providing the best rebuttals to extremist ideology and making an impact whenever they post.” God, Faith, and a Pen has also received an award for being one of the Top Muslim Blogs for 2010 by Awarding The Web.
In addition to writing, Dr. Hassaballa helped found the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations and has served on their board of directors. He also co-founded the Bayan H. Hassaballa Charitable Foundation and serves as its Executive Director.
1) What religion do you practice?
2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I was raised in the faith. Yet, there was a time in my life - during college - when I experienced a faith crisis. I questioned everything that I had previously come to believe as "Gospel truth." Yet, after personal soul searching, I came to accept Islam as my Divine path. So, in a sense, I am both "Muslim-born" and a "Muslim convert.
3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox, conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
Islam has some basic principles and beliefs, but the degree to which any individual chooses to practice is quite variable. There are no hard and fast criteria that distinguish a "conservative" from a "liberal." To some, I am quite conservative, but to others I am an extreme liberal. But what ties all Muslims together is the belief in the unity of God and the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him).
4)Within your religion what degree of observance are you ((ie. Orthodox, conservative, moderate, liberal) ? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
I am quite strict when it comes to the ritual practices, i.e., the five daily prayers, fasting, etc. I do not drink or eat pork. To many Muslims, that makes me Orthodox. Yet, my views on cultural practices and other aspects of being an American Muslim casts me as a "liberal." That's why these labels don't make much sense when it comes to Islam.
5)What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
There is a whole different phase of life after death, which is a waiting period until the Day of Resurrection. The Prophetic literature is full of descriptions of this life. There definitely is a Heaven/Hell in Islam, and the Qur'an is full of descripions of this as well.
6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
That is up to God. It is way, way, way above my paygrade to make any such judgments about who will or will not enter Paradise. Yet, knowing the beautiful nature of God, I would not be surprised if most everyone, if not everyone, makes it to Paradise.
7) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
Islam just makes sense to me. The insistence on the unity of God makes the most logical sense to me; It is the natural culmination of the entire Prophetic tradition from Adam, through Noah, Moses, Jesus, and ending up with Muhammad. The Qur'anic text is extremely powerful for me, and it is a living miracle that helps guide me in my daily life.
8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
There are two "official" Islamic holidays: Eid ul Fitr (which is celebrated after the month of Ramadan, which is the month of fasting), and Eid ul Adha (celebrated at the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, or Hajj). We gather for communal prayers in the morning, and then my family and I typically go out to eat and do something recreational: bowling, arcades, etc. We try to make it as fun as possible for the children. There are other special religious occasions throughout the year, but they are not "official" holidays.
9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Absolutely. Some of my dearest friends are and have been Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Bahais, and even atheists.
10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
Not formally. But, I would not mind attending a Passover seder as an observer, for example, or attending my neighbor's Christmas dinner or holiday party.
11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
The "burka" is a cultural practice. As far as Sharia is concerned, it is a very complicated subject that requires a lot of explanation. It is much more than what is commonly thought of here in the West, such as stoning of adulterers or cutting off the hands of thieves.
12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
There is not an ordained clergy in Islam. That being said, women may be religious teachers, and some of the most learned scholars of Islamic history were women. My mother was the most influential Islamic teacher in my life by far. There is disagreement among Muslims whether a woman can lead the weekly Friday prayers. Most say no, but some say yes.
13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
Yes, it does. In my mosque, the women are placed above the men on the second floor. It is hard for me to answer whether it makes me feel bad or good, as I have always been able to worship in the main section. I know some sisters who do not like the segregation, and for good reason: some mosques have horrible accomodations for women. I am totally opposed to that. If there are to be separate spheres for men and women, then the women's area should be as nice and spacious as that for the men.
14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
I try to apply the principles of Islam in all aspects of my daily life.
15) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
I do not know...who goes to Heaven or Hell is up to God, not me.
16) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
I do feel that a "practicing Muslim" should at least do the basic rituals such as prayer, fasting, etc. That being said, I know a lot of Muslims who do not do those things, and I love them just as much. Again, at the core of things, belief in God and His Prophets is the essence of Islam. The degree to which someone fulfills the ritual requirements is something between him and God.
17) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
Thank God no.
18) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
My religion invigorates me.
19) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
It not only gives me peace of mind, it also give me peace of heart, peace of soul, and peace of being.
20) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
If this means being "born again" and living a new life on earth, then no. I believe that I have this one life to live and then I am resurrected after death to face judgment for what I have done. This is traditional Muslim belief.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Today's quote is brought to you by Bill Cosby:
Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.
There's a new post coming Saturday so be sure to check back!
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
below is a list of all the YMR participants who have already been featured or are coming up over the next couple months:
Feri Witchcraft: 1
Messianic Judaism: 2
Sufi Darvish: 1
YMR's always in need of participants, so if you're interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also be sure to vote as the polls close soon!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
I wish to thank Sarah for sharing her faith journey with us last week. I very much enjoyed it! Thank you Sarah!
This week we have a new post so please welcome Miss Grace.
Grace is an Atheist and I know you'll enjoy her interview as well!
Here Is Miss Grace's Introduction:
I'm a working single mother of one living in California. I blog at Miss Grace's Disgrace (www.missdisgrace.com)
1) What religion do you practice?
I'm an atheist, so I don't practice anything.
2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
My parents are atheists, my grandparents were atheists, of my 8 great grandparents, one of them was religious, but not very.
3)Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
It's not something that I think about all that much. Actually I don't think atheism, by definition, is a religion (although I do think that there are people who worship the religion of science).
4)What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
Nothing happens when a person dies.
5) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
There is no heaven.
6) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
It makes sense, and science answers all of my questions.
7) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Absolutely, we're a minority.
8) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
I celebrate a lot of the Jesus-based holidays - Christmas, Easter, etc. I just don't focus on the god parts. More on the giving and the food and the chocolate bunnies.
9) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I don't really think that it's my place to judge.
10) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
11) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
In that I don't believe in a higher power judging our actions, yes.
12) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
13) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
14) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
No. I believe that the matter that makes up my body will go on to be trees and grass and butterflies and other people, but that is not reincarnation.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Today's quote is brought to you by Lucy Maud Montgomery:
We must have ideals and try to live up to them, even if we never quite succeed. Life would be a sorry business without them. With them it's grand and great.
There'll be a new interview on Saturday so be sure to check back!
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
I wish to thank YMR Participants:
Lily Shahar Kunning, Leah Jane, Derek Leman, Upasana, Loga'Abdullah, Michelle of Crowsfeet and Sarah.
Thank you all for sharing your unique voices with us. I learned much from all of you and I thank you for that!
Thanks for making this a very enjoyable Spring!
Saturday, April 16, 2011
We have a new interview today so please welcome Sarah. Sarah is a Mormon and I know you'll enjoy her interview as well!
Here Is Sarah's Introduction:
Hi my name is Sarah, I was born and raised in England, and lived there until I came to America on vacation and met my future husband. I decided to miss my plane home and marry him instead! That was five years ago and I spend most of my days happily exhausted trying to keep up with our two ridiculously cute kids who are 2 yrs old and 7 months old.
1) What religion do you practice?
I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days. Members of our church may be more commonly known as LDS or Mormons (we are sometimes referred to as Mormons as we believe in a book of scripture called the Book of Mormon, in addition to the Bible).
2) Did you convert or were you born into this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
My family were members when I was born, they had joined the church in the 1960's in Wales. In our church when you are 8 you can decide to be baptized if you want to. We believe that you are innocent until that age, and that from that age you become more accountable for your choices before God. I made the choice to be baptized at 8 and although I was raised a "Mormon", I always had the choice whether or not to follow the church's teachings. I have always believed in Jesus Christ, even as a young girl, and have always 'felt' that this church was organized by Him. I have attended other churches with friends at various times, but the feeling hasn't been as powerful there. When I was a missionary (for my church) we took a lady to church with us, and she said as soon as she walked through the doors it felt like she was coming home. That's how I feel, and that's why I'm Mormon.
3) Would you consider yourself a moderate, conservative or other.
Let's see. I think I would mainly be classified as conservative, but it all depends on the subject matter.
4) In your opinion, what makes you moderate/conservative/other?
I would say conservative views tend to be more traditional, moderate more modern. I don't really know.
5) In your opinion, what makes someone conservative? What makes someone moderate?
Whether their opinions about something change more often, or if they are more fixed.
6) What's your heaven/paradise like?
Heaven/paradise to me is a place where we live with our family members, it's where Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father reside. It is where you go when you have been judged and resurrected. It's a place where you are free from pains and sicknesses, our bodies will be perfect there. A place of happiness.
7) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
No, I don't believe that everyone makes it into Heaven. Paul talks about there being different degrees of glory, likened to the sun, moon and stars (1 Cor. 15:41), so this is Heaven, with different levels within it. There is also 'outer darkness', which I guess I would classify as 'Hell'.
8) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
I actually think many religions would be a good fit for me, as many, if not all, religions offer insights that can benefit individuals. The reason why I have chosen to belong to this church is because I believe it is true.
9) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
Sunday would be classed as a holy day. We go to church on the sabbath, and the focus is on worshipping, spending time with your family and helping/visiting those in need. Another day, which isn't really a holy day, but is an evening set aside from other nights, is Monday. Our church has designated that as a Family Home Evening night. Usually the family would have a little lesson on a gospel principle, play some games or do an activity, have a song and a prayer, and of course eat yummy treats! Aside from those two days we follow the holy days Christians typically follow, as in Easter and Christmas.
10) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Absolutely. I have had friends of practically every faith there is, and some with no faith at all.
11) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
I have celebrated Hanukkah and the Passover with friends before. I don't think I would have a problem joining someone to celebrate their holy days.
12) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
I'm assuming this is the 'Sharia' law and 'burqa'? I don't know too much about the Sharia, except that it is the Islamic religious code, their guidelines for how to live their life, that they get their teachings from the Qur'an as opposed to the Bible, and that the burqa is clothing that muslim women wear to cover their bodies whilst in public. I am obviously a Christian, and so put more weight in the bibles teachings, but I also think it's important to be tolerant of others beliefs. Our church teaches that we should let others worship 'how, where and what they may'.
13) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
Women in our church do not hold the priesthood, but they do hold 'callings' within the church. For example, as teachers or Presidents of different Auxiliaries, such as Primary, which provides Sunday instruction for the children aged 3-12yrs, or in the Relief Society which is the church's women's organization for women 18+ in the church, to name but a few. I have absolutely no problems with not holding the Priesthood. We have many opportunities for service in our church, we are treated as equals and seen as daughters of God. We do not have any paid ministry, and the Priesthood is not seen as something that increases your worth over someone who does not have it, it is viewed as an opportunity to serve, as the Priesthood can only be used to bless the lives of others, not on yourself.
14) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
The only time it segregates is for a portion of the sunday meeting at church. Church is split into 3 sections: Sacrament meeting, which is for the whole congregation, then Sunday School, where the adults will meet together, the 12-18yrs will meet together, and the under 12yrs old will go to primary. The last block the adult women will meet separately from the adult men and will go to their Relief Society and Priesthood classes. The instruction in there is taken from the same gospel manual, but is usually taught by someone of the same gender. The same will happen with the youth, the girl's will go to Young Women's and the boys to Young Men's. I think it is a great way of doing it as it allows you to bond and make friends more easily with the other women, in my case, and the lessons can be personalized a bit better to the needs of the class, i.e. mothering.
15) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
I think my religion does affect my life greatly. It's to the point though that I don't need to question my decisions with 'what would the church have me do?'. I feel like I have the principles/values within me and so they are now part of me, and I make my decisions based on how I feel about them.
With regard to abortion and gay marriage, my views are the same as my church's. With abortion I don't believe it is the right choice (unless the health of the mother is in jeopardy, or that the baby is the result of rape or incest). Having had children I feel this even more strongly now, we have also had two miscarriages and I can honestly say that I can feel the baby's life in me, that it's a person, not just an embryo right from the start. I say, wait the 9 months and see if it's a person or not, and see if they want to live, give them the choice, because they will become a 'them' not an 'it'. Aside from a religious stand point, I have a few friends who have adopted as they were unable to have children, and the waiting lists are so long, there are so many loving options for those babies, parents who have been praying and yearning for them. Adoption is a selfless act, and I believe it would be much more healing for the mother than having to deal with the feelings an abortion can leave them with. With gay marriage, we believe that God unreservedly loves all his children, and that we should love one another. We also believe that God has defined marriage as being between a man and a woman (with no sexual activity outside of marriage).
The church however, openly supports other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment. I think our church's stand on it is based on love ultimately, but that is not recognized most of the time. Both of these are sensitive topics as they involve areas which are can be a source of pain or conflict for people.
Ultimately, I would reiterate that we are all children of God, and that whilst we may not always agree on things, we should always be loving and treat each other with kindness.
16) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion? Honestly, I would rather they married someone who had the same ideals, and religious beliefs. It would produce more harmony in the home I think. However, if my child felt that what they were doing was right, I would be 100% supportive of them. I want to raise them to make their own decisions, so that means trusting them too.
17) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
No. I think where you go (i.e. which degree of Glory) after this life is determined by our works and God's grace.
18) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? I.e. who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
I can't think of someone in the public eye who claims to speak for our religion. There are public figures who are members, like Steve Young, Mitt Romney, Stephenie Meyer, The Osmonds, etc., but they have never claimed to speak FOR the Church, as far as I am aware of at least....
19) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime?
I suppose the only time was when I was a proselyting missionary for 18 months for my church. We had some rocks and water thrown at us a couple of times. Aside from that I have never been persecuted in my every day life. In fact, everyone has been really respectful. Hate crimes come from intolerance and misunderstanding, and I feel our religion is definitely misunderstood sometimes when people believe that we practice polygamy, are not Christian or are anti-gay, which are all incorrect.
20) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
Never. I feel the opposite in fact.
21) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Having faith in the Savior gives me peace of mind. My religion is one of the vehicles to help me come closer to Him.
22) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
No. I believe we existed before we were born, and will live after our body dies, but, all as the same person. I don't think there are do-overs for this life, but that during this life we can repent and change and learn to overcome our weaknesses. If I knew I would go through this life again, where would be my motivation to be the best I can be now, I would just give up and hope for better luck next time!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Hello and Happy Saturday!
I wish to thank Loga'Abdullah for his very interesting interview last week. Thank you so much for sharing with us Loga'Abdullah!
This week we have a new interview so please welcome Michelle of Crowsfeet. Michelle is a Pantheist and I know you will enjoy her interview as well!
Here Is Michelle of Crowsfeet's Introduction:Recently I dreamt I was discussing how much I loved my religion to other people. The dream surprised me, because I haven't thought of myself in religious terms in a long time. It also surprised me because the religion I belonged to in my dream wasn't one I have ever practiced. I woke up thinking "how odd!" The very next day, Debra's email arrived asking me if I'd like to answer questions about religion, at the moment I have no answers... how could I resist that?