Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hesham A. Hassaballa

Hello and Happy Saturday!

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.

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful testimony I enjoyed reading! I appreciate the Honesty and the true Faith. Thanks for sharing it with us all.
    Warm wishes. Marie