Reflecting America-The Family Promise Diversity Initiative
Guide to Islam & IHN and Recruiting Muslim Congregations
This document serves as a primer on key elements of Islam vis-¸-vis IHN. It gives the reader background and explains, briefly and simply, concepts that may come into play in working with Muslim congregations. We have tried to avoid sweeping statements and generalities; please keep in mind that this information is meant as a guide to help strengthen the IHN through outreach to Muslim congregations. It is very much an evolving and dynamic document and is meant for internal informational use only.
Key Concepts --Islam is monotheistic (one God) sharing much tradition with Christianity and Judaism. --There are 5 pillars of faith: *Declaration of faith: There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger *Prayer *Fasting during the month of Ramadan *Zakat-charity in the form of a tithe of savings. *A pilgrimage to Mecca --Allah is essentially the Arabic word for God and the name Muslims use to identify God. --Muhammad is the Prophet but was nothing more than a person. He is the role model for all Muslims. Jesus is also a prophet in Islam, as are many other familiar names like Noah, Moses, etc. Mary is also revered as a righteous servant of Allah. Prophets are not seers but exemplars of righteous living. No one but Allah is divine. --There is belief in a Day of Judgment and in the afterlife. --Charity is a core element of Islam. The word for worship-Ibadah-also means service. Muslim scripture is replete with stories about charity.
Religious Practice and Belief --The Quran is the word of Allah told to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. It is not the same as the Bible; in order to be a Muslim you must believe it is the actual word of God. This is informative as to a difference in Christianity and Islam. All Christians agree on Christ, but beyond that you can have a lot of variation, a lot of questioning, a lot of dismissal of liturgy and practice. All Muslims agree on the Quran. However, since the Quran contains thousands of specific points, there is generally much less theological disagreement among Muslims. This means that despite viewpoints that would be considered highly progressive on other matters, many Muslims will view religion with the strictness of an extremely conservative Baptist, for example. --Muslim prayer is a simple and brief declaration of faith that involves prostration with forehead and nose on the floor. Prayer should be done 5 times a day and if it is not possible to go to a mosque, it can be done anywhere. A Muslim prays in the direction of Mecca, the holy city. Beyond prayer, Muslim participation in the mosque varies. In some cases it is a civic center like a church. --Sin is considered a private matter between the sinner and Allah. The sinner can ask only Allah for forgiveness and one's good deeds weigh against bad ones. --Friday is the day of communal prayer (obligatory for men) but is not a Sabbath; Ramadan is a month of fasting and spiritual reflection.
Clergy/Mosques --The leader of a mosque is an Imam; there usually is no formal schooling involved in becoming one. He-always he-is the most learned (of the Quran) man in his community and his task is simply to lead prayers; there is no official clergy in Islam. He often will take on the role as community counselor and moral guide. --Some mosques have a board; it decides on pragmatic issues, not theological ones. Mosques usually do not have staff. --There is no larger theocracy in Sunni Islam, the most prevalent kind in the US. Thus, when you deal with a mosque, generally all decisions begin and end there. --Most mosques are small, austere and unassuming. Many are converted storefronts. The prayer room is rectangular and generally sparsely decorated. Men's and women's areas are separated in a variety of ways.
Interfaith --The Islamic view of non-Muslims is benevolent and historically more tolerant than Christian nations have been to non-Christians (and other Christians)-Christians and Jews are "people of the book" also. --There may be reluctance toward the term "interfaith" because it is perceived as discussion of theology; terms like "civic" and "community" may be more comfortable. --Muslims are often very wary of Christians trying to convert so the non-religious nature of IHN must be stressed.
Cultural Issues --Prohibitions on the mixing of men and women vary greatly among Muslims. In every mosque, men and women are separated. Beyond that, some Muslims will not shake hands or receive objects from members of the opposite sex. However, women are considered equal to men and do take leadership roles within the community; they cannot act as religious leaders in any way toward men. These separations and prohibitions stem from the Muslim ideal of modesty and prevention of lust. Particularly when men and women are both involved, one should heed the requests of one's Muslim hosts on these matters and understand them in the context of the religion and culture. --There are specific rules of etiquette. To enter a prayer room (and sometime mosque) you must take off your shoes and enter with the right foot first. And if you are a woman bring a scarf, as you will usually be asked to cover your head. In general, dress should be modest avoiding exposure of skin for both sexes (skirts to ankle, bare arms covered). --Overall, Islam is a conservative religion prohibiting alcohol, gambling, usury, promiscuity, etc. with the focus on leading moral and god-fearing lives. It is also racially egalitarian, with considerably less separation than in churches. Nevertheless, different ethnicities within Islam-Arabs, African-Americans, South Asians-may attend mosques primarily with those of the same cultural background. --Many of the negative associations made with Islam-subjugation of women, terrorism, brutal application of law-are overstated and are cultural, needing to be viewed in the context of history and politics, not religion; in fact, you can find the same issues in countries of every religion. --In general, Muslims do not mind the ignorance of others and enjoy speaking about their religion and correcting misperceptions.
USA Facts --The vast majority of Muslims in the world, and in the US, are not Arabs and the terms are not synonymous. Most Arab-Americans are Christian. --Most experts estimate that there are 6-7 million Muslims in the US. That number will double in the next 20 years. Currently, there are more Muslims in the US than Episcopalians. Shortly, Muslims will outnumber Jews and Presbyterians. --In the US, Muslims are from the following groups South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, etc.) 33% African-American 30% Arab 25% African (non-Arab) 3.4% European origin (Albanian, Bosnian, etc.) 2.1% White American 1.6% Southeast Asian (Indonesian, Malay, etc.) 1.3% Caribbean 1.2% Turkish 1.1% Iranian 0.7% Latino 0.6%
--There are about 2000 mosques in the US. There are 500 schools, 3 colleges and nearly every university has a Muslim Students Association. There are hundreds of publications, thousands of businesses. --There are Muslims in every state. The largest populations are in California, New York, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, Massachusetts, metro DC, Pennsylvania. Just about any community with a significant African-American population or a major university, health center or high-tech industry will have a mosque in it.
IHN & Islam IHNs have served many Muslim guests. We do not know how many and we certainly have served some without knowing they were Muslims. The majority of these guests have been American-born. But we have had guests from Egypt, Bosnia, Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Indonesia, Kosovo, India, the Sudan and Somalia. The experiences have been like the experiences with other guests: many wonderful, some ordinary, a few difficult. Affiliates that have served Muslim guests include: Phoenix, Denver, Northern Kentucky, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, Essex, Middlesex, Morris, Union, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Memphis, Cleveland, Washtenaw, Columbus, Toledo, Philadelphia Main Line, NW Philadelphia, Houston, Roanoke, Passaic, Madison, Ft. Wayne, Washington DC, Cumberland NC, Sussex, Spokane.
There are a number of Muslim IHN staff members. However, until last year, we have had minimal volunteer involvement: translators for the immigrant Muslim guests and a very small number of $ contributors. So far this year, we have made great strides to include Muslims in volunteering. A developing network in Mobile includes a Muslim congregation. Likewise, Rochester, Baltimore, and New Haven all have Muslim participation in development. At last count, 32 existing networks have started to build relationships, with volunteering occurring in Ambler, Columbus, Phoenix, Reno, Cheyenne, Monmouth, Essex, Main Line, Washington DC, Mercer and likely in many others. InshaAllah, of course (that means God willing).
Ultimately, IHN's appeal to Muslims can be tied to: *The primacy of charity in Islam *The egalitarian nature of Islam *The history of tolerance of other faiths in Islam
Recruitment Referrals are key. If Family Promise cannot provide you with a lead, then ask IHN clergy and volunteers if they have any connection to local Muslims-even their eye doctor, for example! If you can approach an Imam or board president with a reference from someone in the community it will help.
Once you are meeting, stress IHN's civic nature and make it clear we are not religious. Since it will be difficult for most mosques to host, make sure not to focus on hosting. Generally, the relationship will probably build slowly and take the opportunity to ask the Muslim(s) you are speaking with what their suggestions are for involvement. For all of this, feel free to talk to Family Promise about materials, suggestions and our affiliations with national organizations.
Some key elements: --The fact that our guests have been Muslim is a good starting point-even if you have not had guests in your network about 25% have. We can ask a mosque for help making the IHN more attentive to the needs of Muslim guests. --Invite members of the congregation to visit the day center and talk to IHN staff. --Or for them to talk at a coordinators' or board meeting. --A particularly good approach is to have a Muslim congregation address a specific IHN host congregation about Islam and working with Muslim guests. That can pave the way to a dialog between the two and maybe an invitation to support. (So pick a congregation temperamentally and geographically disposed to the Islamic congregation.) --If the Islamic congregation has a large number of non-native born Muslims, you may want to ask the representative from the mosque to arrange an educational meeting for you to come in and address members of the congregation about IHN. The IHN model of volunteerism may be unfamiliar to immigrants from any culture. This meeting is almost like a community meeting, from which you will pull out those people truly interested. --If there are any Islamic social service agencies, establish a partnership with them. They may welcome the IHN as a supportive environment for Muslim families and the IHN can use that agency for special needs for Muslim guests. --Muslim Student Associations at local colleges can be recruited. They are used to an interfaith environment and often are very attuned to social justice. --If you make contact with a medical professional, you might want to invite that person to volunteer her services which can then lead to larger involvement down the road.
There are five compelling reasons for Muslims to become involved 1. Charity and helping others is a pillar of the faith 2. Family homelessness is a severe problem in the community 3. Involvement in activities like this allows Muslim to demonstrate the true meaning of their faith and dispel misperceptions 4. Integrating Muslims into the religious community means their concerns will find new advocates among the existing religious leaders 5. Islam provides more perspectives on the issues and solutions, enriching the IHN
This is an outstanding opportunity for the Muslim community, IHN and the community at large. Good luck! Selected Terms (spellings vary for Arabic phrases) Abrahamic-the best adjective for Christian-Jewish-Muslim connections. Muslims do not believe in the Bible as the word of God so Biblical is not an appropriate term. Allah-God. Non-Muslim Arabs (mostly Christians) refer to God as Allah. Assalamu Alaikum-Peace be upon you-Traditional Islamic greeting. Dawa-Inviting people to Islam. This is done respectfully and in the US a "Dawa" center often aims to increase understanding among non-Muslims. Hadith-sayings of the Prophet (Muhammad) quoted by his companions that are more anecdotal and illustrative than the Quran. Halal/Haram-Halal means permitted; haram forbidden. Usually refers to food. Pork is haram. Muslims can only eat meat that is processed according to halal standards. Hijab-The headscarf and dress many Muslim women wear. This is not the Burka, which covers the face also. Imam-literally: the one who stands before. The leader of prayer and de facto leader of a mosque. There is no intercession between people and God. Islam has no clergy. Islam-means, roughly, submission. Use Muslim to identify an adherent; either Muslim or Islamic as an adjective. Jihad-struggle. It means one's own struggle to adhere to the faith. Its use in terrorism is an appropriation of the term and not inherent to the concept. Koran/Quran-The word of God as told by angel Gabriel to Muhammad. The central scripture of Islam. Mosque-house of worship. Also called a Masjid-which is the original Arabic term and preferred by many Muslims. Mosques range from Islamic centers with the external grandeur of a cathedral to the much more common small, unassuming buildings or storefronts converted for the purpose. Inside, mosques tend to be simpler and more austere than churches, with the prayer room (masalla) often being just a large, carpeted rectangular space. Nation of Islam-Farrakhan's group, which represents a very small percentage of African-American Muslims. There are some significant differences but this group has started moving back towards mainstream-Sunni-Islam. Many Black Muslims are connected to Warith Deen Muhammad's Muslim American Society, a traditional Sunni organization that formed in the 70s in a split with NOI and is generally very receptive to interfaith efforts. There are a number of other small groups but the majority of Muslims in the US are Sunni. Ramadan-A month (it's movable as the Islamic calendar has fewer than 365 days) celebrating the revealing of the Quran to Muhammad. Muslims fast from sunup to sundown (in part to remember those who are hungry). Muslims strive in this month to curb all detrimental desires and negative or uncharitable thoughts, and to nurture love, patience, unselfishness and social consciousness. Shi'a, Shiites--A minority among Muslims who have a theocratic structure of leadership and believe in the holiness of writings from early Islamic leaders in addition to Muhammad. Iran is the largest population of Shiites. In the US, the distinctions are often not made. Sunni-The vast majority of Muslims, often referred to as Orthodox Islam. Wudu-ablutions-the washing done before prayer.