Monday, November 23, 2009

Who Is Mohammed?

Tonight, from 8-9:30 at Mellon Board Room, Chatham hosted the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh's Imam Tadese and Muslim rap artist Hamza Perez in a lecture about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

The two guests were introduced by our very own Eman Daghestani, beginning with Hamza Perez. He talked briefly about an upcoming documentary about Perez, New Muslim Cool, produced for a PBS series called POV. It started out as a film on music and the role it plays in the Islamic religion, but ended up being more biographical.
Perez discussed how music is a touchy subject in Islam. He talked about how many contemporary hip hop songs and artists are arrogant in nature, and arrogance is something we try to curtail in Islam.
Perez describes the film as "someone who's ignorant who discovers that he's ignorant", in talking about how he discovered the ignorance he originally had of the Islamic religion. He talked about how it is important to look at people as regular human beings, souls doing good in the world. "Human beings, we learn from tasting, experiencing", Perez said. He discussed his experience working with a Jewish poet in the process of working on the film.
He talked about his belief that it is up to our generation to set a new, different tone.
Perez's "mini-lecture" ended with him saying he's just trying to be "cool", like Professor Muhammad had been.

This segued into the next speaker, Imam Tadese, who gave a mini biography of Prophet Muhammad's life.
Prophet Muhammad had an interesting life. Tadese made a point to say that he was a real person, with real emotions. Muhammad was born in the year 570 in Makkah, a city of business, the "wall street of the Arabian Peninsula." His father died before his birth, his mother died at an early age, and his grandfather as well. These were so many deaths for a young child to cope with, but cope he did. It was a cultural thing among Arabs to take care of each other, so Muhammad was taken in by essentially a foster mother.
At age 25, he worked for Khadijah, a prosperous local business tycoon. She was 40 years old. Khadijah, noticing his good qualities, particularly his humility, proposed to him, and they married. The couple had six children together, four girls and two boys. All but one child died. Prophet Muhammad felt the pain, and it was apparent to those who surrounded him.
This wasn't the only experience he'd have with losing a child, as a child born of a later marriage to a Christian woman would also end up dying. Prophet Muhammad was a dedicated man, husband, and father.
Many people claim that Prophet Muhammad had no right to "claim the prophethood."
Tadese talked about the various scientific miracles in the Qur'an, how it explores previously unknown subjects such as a woman's trimesters during pregnancy.
Tadese recommended a book to the audience if they wished to learn more, Muhammad, by Karen Armstrong.
He continued with the story.
Prophet Muhammad had to leave Makkah because he was about to be assassinated by his own people for refusing to worship idols. Tadese compared this to the Founding Fathers having to leave Europe for fear of religious persecution.
Muhammad faced a grand welcome in Madinah, but the persecutors from Makkah still proceeded with their actions. Prophet Muhammad was patient through this entire tumultuous time.
The Qur'an was revealed to him in 23 years.
In a time span of 10 years, the number of Muslims in the area grew from 313 to a whopping 240,000.
When the Prophet returned to Makkah, he didn't do so with arrogance. He came back in humility.
His wife Khadija died in a time period that has been come to be referred to as "the Year of Sorrow."
He later married a woman named Aisha. Tadese told the story of a time when Aisha was traveling, and she had gotten left behind from the caravan because she was looking for a lost necklace. The only person who stood with her was her security guard, and she was accused of being unchaste, a public disgrace. Prophet Muhammad was sure the truth would come out, and eventually it did. It was the persecutors that had chased him out of Makkah in the first place that had spread the rumor about Aisha being unfaithful.
Prophet Muhammad's role as the head of state was also briefly discussed. He was well-known in the Islamic world around him, as the kings of the world had been told about the religion of Islam.
There were once two big tribes fighting in Madinah. Prophet Muhammad brought them together and created a harmonious relationship between them, showing his expertise at diplomacy.
In another instance, Prophet Muhammad signed a treaty between Muslims and non-Muslims in Makkah for peace in the city.
Tadese briefly read a few testimonials by non-Muslims on what a great person the Prophet truly was.
He spoke about the miracles, such as an instance where Prophet Muhammad blessed a meal and this resulted in endless food for the people eating there that day. He also spoke of angels fighting alongside soldiers in battles against the idol worshippers. The final miracle mentioned was the negotiation from 50 daily prayers down to five for Muslims worldwide.
Then came the Question & Answer session.
One girl asked what Hamza Perez had in his hand, and he answered that they were prayer beads.
Another asked a question regarding Aisha's age at marriage, and how it is sometimes regarded as controversial that she married the Prophet at such a young age.
Tadese answered that only in America and Europe is such an age difference a severe "no-no".
The marriage wasn't consummated until Aisha was of age. Because of the marriage, she became the most knowledgeable of the companions. Because of Aisha, we know more about Prophet Muhammad's private life, not just his public one.
Tadese also compared this arranged marriage to President Kennedy's arranged marriage. He talked about how it is common for wealthy people to arrange marriages amongst themselves.
Perez ended the answer and the session by talking about how American & Western youth in general are different from elsewhere. The concept may be abnormal for us, but the world is bigger than just "us". He referred to this uniquely Western phenomenon of "the thing of a mystery called a teenager." He ended with talking about how, if a Western boy were faced with a tank, he'd run in the other direction, but a boy in Gaza faced with a tank would run. We're all just in different societies and shouldn't so quickly dismiss other cultures.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Welcome to Chatham MSA's new blog! We're hoping to post here about upcoming events, as well as event recaps as they come. This will, in time, hopefully become just another place for meaningful dialogue to occur about important issues facing our immediate community. Thanks for visiting, and we hope to see you back here soon!