Islam students at LUC

Archive for January 2013

week 3

Posted on: January 30, 2013

I thought this weeks class was very interesting and insightful for two reasons. First, getting to meet new classmates by getting into groups and hearing everyone try and come up with a definition for religion. Second, the class lecture after the break was insightful to me. I am still new with the religion of Islam so hearing about the roots and basics of the religion was good and helpful to my understanding of the class/religion.

I Thought class discussion was very lively. I think a lot of people expressed opinions on really tough questions. A lot of groups came up with very similar lists of top ten things that encompass religion. However, I think it is impossible to give one definition of religion. Religion is huge! if you are a believer or a non-believer you can interpret that word in so many ways. To me religion just means being the best person you can be and being a moral and respectful person in society. I do not practice, pray or attend church in any form.

in response to catlover1415:

I agree with a lot of what you said about war and violence being the outcome of religion. The crusades and WWII being two prime examples. And there are many more examples. On the other side of the coin, many if not all religions help out with charity and building communities. It kind of goes along with Khan from the movie. He was always saying there are good people and bad people. You will have good people that practice religion and you will have bad people that practice religion. You will have good atheists and you will have bad atheists. So, I guess the question that arises is does religion to more good or more bad in society? I do not know the answer. Its just something to think/talk about.

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In the last lecture, I was highly intrigued by Professor Mozaffar’s question of “Is religion bad?” I think many people are hesitant to look at this question objectively. Yes, religions more often than not promote and preach ideas that are in general for the benefit of people. No, edit that, for the benefit of its followers. Religion is not a constant positive presence in people’s lives, as we can see from the wars that break out over religion and religious lands. However, even on a more small scale, when we look at elements of certain religions, I would risk saying that religion can promote ideas that are not good. For example, the Catholic/Christian fundamental idea that homosexuals should not be allowed to marry. Regardless of one’s political stance on this issue, it is hurting other people who are not followers or carry the same exact beliefs. That, in my opinion, is bad. Another example comes from the Hindu tradition. Many years ago, and in some cases still in the rural parts of India, when a woman’s husband dies, that woman will throw herself onto the ceremonial funeral fire and kill herself because she is worth nothing if her husband is no longer alive. Again, this is harmful. Of course, saying the word “bad” gets into tricky territory because it is those followers’ beliefs and what they see to be normal; one should try to approach these issues objectively. Yet, as a human looking at these beliefs and practices, they are harmful and do not promote peaceful interactions between people.

In response to abashofsalt and your discussion on the afterlife, particularly under the umbrella of atheism, I think all religions do have some belief about the afterlife. From my understanding, many religions’ main goal or final aim is to live life on earth in such a way that you are able to be closer to god when you die. I think the idea of an afterlife makes death less scary to some people, which can be a huge comfort for people trying to live their every day lives, especially when they believe that what they are doing each day is going to play a role in their relationship with their god after death. When looking at atheism, and as an atheist, there is still a belief about the afterlife, and that is simply that you are dead. You will cease to exist on this planet and will be gone from it forever. There is nothing more. However, if one equates the afterlife with being connected to god or some higher power, then atheism, at least how I view it, does not concern itself with an afterlife.

I really enjoyed today’s discussion about the definition of religion–coming up with all those elements of what makes a religion and seeing all those words on the board reminded me how deep of a topic religion in general is. I was thinking about the question of religion versus ideology or philosophy–I believe someone in class said something to the effect of, “Religions include philosophies, but philosophies are not themselves religions.” Extrapolating that idea to the example of veganism, I think the reason I don’t feel that veganism is a religion is that it applies to only one aspect of a person’s life. Yes, it is a lifestyle, and yes, the diet choice represents a person’s larger ideals and beliefs, but being a vegan does not affect how you behave with other people, or set your moral code. We talked about a lot of potential definitions for religion today, but I feel that a key element of any religion is that your religion applies to every part of your life: your behavior, your character, your choices, your beliefs, etc. I think that a lot of people define themselves, actually, through religion or lack thereof.

whosaidwhatnow:

I agree with what said about religion/government in your post, and I think that the religion/gov’t question in general is a very interesting one. The US claims separation of church and state–I am Muslim, but I was born and raised in this country and I have grown up like any other American child. I used to think that people who contested the inclusion of “one nation, under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance were just being picky, but as I’ve grown older, I have started considering the foundation of that argument. We claim separation of church and state, but even if a child believes in nothing, he must place his hand on his heart and swear “under God” every morning. We claim separation of church and state, but every single president concludes every single speech with “God bless America”. I think most religions include a human set of morals that no one will argue, and there’s nothing wrong with basing laws and government off of those common values. I’m not saying that no politician should ever be allowed to publicly reference God ever again. I’m just saying it’s something to think about. Professor Mozaffar asked if “religion is bad for you” today, and after thinking about it, I think the majority’s religion can be “bad” for the minorities that don’t believe in it. A lot of religious morals include honesty, generosity, truthfulness, fairness, and other good values. But if you’re gay in this country, for example, then religion is bad for you. I think religion should be involved in government only up to those core values that everyone agrees on. Further than that, and we start contradicting those ideas about individual freedom that this country is built on.

2

Posted on: January 30, 2013

We started the class off today by splitting up into groups and discussing the elements that make up a religion, as well as coming up with a definition for a religion. Just by the way, here is dictionary.com’s definition of “religion“, and I personally think that it doesn’t quite do the word justice; I think we did a better job in class. Anyhoo, while forty was a somewhat large number, my group did manage to come up with 22 elements. However, I did notice that some elements had the potential to overlap, depending on the interpretation. For example, it can be argued that Place of Origin is included in History, and that Creed is included in Belief, but then again, Place of Origin and Creed mean things on their own as well. I guess the difficulty just really comes in when to decide that they need to be separated. I’m not even sure if any of this is really making sense, so I’ll just move on. In regards to the element concerning the Afterlife, do all religions really have some belief about the Afterlife? That’s a question that anyone is free to answer. I’m not a religious scholar or anything, but I feel like there has to be some religion out there that doesn’t have any belief about the Afterlife. I mean, if we consider Atheism as a religion for a moment, does that have any belief about the Afterlife? If Atheists just believe that there is no God, then what happens after they die? It seems that the Afterlife is related to a belief in a Higher Being because that Higher Being decides what to do with you. And again, I understand that I might be wrong in all of this, so feel free to contradict. Moving on, I found the discussion on religion and government to be interesting. I feel like things get complicated when the two are merged, especially in the case where not everyone in the country is not of the same religion. Although general beliefs that span religions, such as kindness and what not, can be incorporated into laws, but it can get tricky when it comes to specific beliefs. Sure, religious governments can work in some countries, but in the case of America, things would probably get pretty bad. I think a valid example would be England, with separation of Church and State. For a long time, problems arose due to the strong connection between the two, but eventually the tie had to be broken because it just wasn’t working out. Alright, enough about government. We began talking about Muhammad’s (pbuh) life, and that’s pretty much it. 

In response to vaultingrambler, I also thought that the information about the mosques in Makkah and Medina was interesting. I actually did not know that there were jets of cool water running under the courtyard, but hey, you learn something new everyday. I also didn’t know that the area surrounding the Kabah could accommodate so many people. But anyway, I like how you related the fact of the cool water jets to be an act of faith, which I agree with. It’s much easier to be spiritual when in comfort, which the jets provide. Being comfortable allows one to focus on the more important things at hand. I also like how you talked about Nietzsche’s ideas. The first of his ideas that you brought up is interesting, because it kind of covers the main elements of a religion that we discussed in class. I also agree that the other idea you mentioned fits well with any religion, and relates back to My Name Is Khan as well, about how there are really only two types of people in this world. 

Today we began our conversation on religion and Prophet Muhammad.  At first, when we got the topic to discuss 40 elements of religion, I thought, “wow that’s a lot.”  It came a lot easier than I thought, though.  I believe that all religions prescribe a way to live life.  Religions differ on levels such as the concept of afterlife, deity, and specific concepts, but they’re all linked in that they prescribe a set of ideas that a certain group of individuals follows.  One of the questions posed by Professor Mozaffar was “Is religion bad and does the absence of religion in government increase or decrease violence?”  I didn’t get a chance to answer this in class, but I believe that the presence or absence of religion in government is not related to whether it’s good or bad.  As history tells us, differences between individuals create problems whether it’s religion, race, socio-economic status, gender, etc.  Therefore, I would say that the absence of religion in government would be better because not everyone follows the same religion.

In response to braaaaaains: I got a good laugh out of reading the part of your blog where you analyzed the film from a film production student’s perspective.  First of all – cool major! Secondly, it’s Bollywood! You should check out some of the other movies they have out there; this was actually one of the better one.  The majority of the movies you see, you’ll think to yourself, “how did this film ever make it out of pre-production?”  I shouldn’t be complaining though – I grew up on Bollywood and it did me good, haha. Anyway, you also touched on the thought of advantages and disadvantages of studying a religion in a language other than the religion’s predominantly taught language.  This is an issue that I’ve recently realized to be a big problem, especially for Muslims like myself.  As a child, I learned to read Arabic, but I never understood it and this was the norm.  Many of us non-Arabic speakers are able to read the Qur’an but we don’t understand it.  This always confuses people because this is not how we learn English or most other languages – we learn to read it while or after we learn to speak it.  In order to get my dose of the Qur’an, I have to refer to different translations and then interpret that English because it’s not necessarily modern English and it’s a process.  Unfortunately, I don’t engage in this process enough and that’s something I need to work on.

Thoughts:

I thought the information about Mosques in Mecca and in Medina is very interesting.   The fact that so much attention has been paid to worshiping these holy sites is very impressive.  The lengths gone to to make sure rituals can be followed exactly and in comfort such as cooling the limestone show how dedicated to faith Muslims can be.  As far as our discussion on what a religion is goes I am entertained by Nietzsche’s idea.  He wrote on the idea that any attempt to bring order or belief in any constant and supreme ideal or being is a religion. For this he mean that those who believe in truth, justice, virtue, knowledge, etc. are all just as religious as those who believe specifically in a God.  This greatly cuts down on the number of people who are actually atheists.  Aside from that another Nietzsche idea I think fits in well with religion is the idea of acting for the good of the action itself and not for positive or negative consequences.  It is the best good in my opinion to do a good action because it’s good and not in order to get into heaven or escape hell.

In response to  from last week:

I agree that My Name Is Khan taught a message that America is a place where understanding and tolerance (acceptance) are key for coexistence without violence.  This ties back to the idea of religion and government.  The US government supports multiple religious practices but seems to embody the commonalities between them.  For example it is wrong to steal, kill, rape, lie etc both constitutionally and religiously.  In this way the US government acts as a religion would, however instead of punishing ones mind or body it punishes that which is physical and corporeal.  I agree that the Violence already committed in the world is enough, and retaliating within the US against innocent Muslims, or people of any faith will not get us to a peaceful existence.  In our age of information, understanding is the only thing that will pull us out of impulsive and generalized ways of life.

For the first two classes we watched a Bollywood Film, “My Name is Khan.” The film was about Rizwan Khan, a Muslim, who leaves his home to meet the President and tell him “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist” after his son was killed in a hate crime. Even though this film had many exaggerated moments, I thought it did a good job of showing the prejudices that people had after the 9/11 attacks. I also thought it did a good job of showing how many Muslims reacted to these prejudices. Some Muslims, like Rizwan Khan, continued to remain calm and positive even while experiencing harsh treatment. Others felt that they had to hide who they really were. For example, Rizwan’s sister-in-law stopped wearing her hijab. The film highlighted how many people have negative connotations to Muslims and Islam because they are unaware and ignorant about the religion. For class we had to read two articles that explained how closely related Islam, Christianity, and Judaism really are. I really enjoyed both articles because both articles explained how names and language can connect religions. All three names for God from the three religions all come from the same root word and therefore mean the same God. 

In response to bluebythelake2013:
I like that you brought up how Rizwan Khan kept correcting people’s pronunciation of his name. The fact that Khan kept trying to get people to correctly say his name shows how he identified himself as a Muslim and he wanted everyone to be aware that his name was Khan and it was pronounced a certain way. These scenes link with the article we read because they reflect how important names can be to identify people and religions. I think it’s really interesting how in many ethnicities and religions, your name is very important and can define who you are. I think in America, names aren’t considered as important as some other cultures consider it.