29 July 2011

Rev. Mary M. Simpson, a Pioneer in Episcopal Clergy, Dies at 85

Rev. Mary M. Simpson, a Pioneer in Episcopal Clergy, Dies at 85, by Daniel E. Slotnik (New York Times, 23 July 2011)

The Rev. Mary Michael Simpson, the first Episcopal nun to be ordained a priest and the first ordained woman to preach a sermon in Westminster Abbey, died Wednesday in Augusta, Ga. She was 85. The cause was kidney failure, said Sister Carol Andrew of the Order of Saint Helena, of which Canon Simpson was a member. Canon Simpson was ordained a priest on Jan. 9, 1977, and installed as a canon of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan later that year, when the role of women in the Episcopal Church was a matter of heated debate.
Link: Rev. Mary M. Simpson, a Pioneer in Episcopal Clergy, Dies at 85

Chinese Catholics on edge of schism

Chinese Catholics on edge of schism, by Francesco Sisci (Asia Times, 21 July 2011)

The latest choice is Joseph Huang Bingzhang, 43. On July 15, he was ordained as bishop of Shantou in the southern province of Guangdong, next to Hong Kong, without papal approval. Pope Benedict XVI reacted the day after, saying he was deeply saddened. Without papal blessing, the appointment was illegitimate, and the new bishop and all bishops who took part in it willingly, under no duress, should be automatically excommunicated.

As some 140 new bishops are expected to be appointed over the next few years, and the bilateral mechanism between China and the Holy See for agreeing on the choice of new bishops is breaking down, then the possibility of an objectively schismatic Church of China is becoming quite real. It would be a church theologically quite close to Rome but without the "pope's interference", much like the Anglican Church.
Link: Chinese Catholics on edge of schism

Reading between the lines of the Vatican rift

Reading between the lines of the Vatican rift, by Francesco Sisci (Asia Times, 28 July 2011)

The rift between China and the Holy See is deepening as it enters the rutted territory where Rome and Beijing historically have something in common: convoluted political procedure. The issue is extremely complicated, but for once, it is worth delving into the details, as they are very revealing of the political predicament in China regarding the crucial question of freedom of belief.
Link: Reading between the lines of the Vatican rift

Brooklyn churches look to tradition, community building to attract young adults

Brooklyn churches look to tradition, community building to attract young adults, by Elizabeth Paulsen (Episcopal News Service, July 25, 2011)

The ongoing struggle to get young people in the pews at churches across Brooklyn is motivating some clergy in the Diocese of Long Island to develop new ministries that challenge the popular way of how churches reach out to 20-somethings. Predominate tactics -- a rock band, projector screens and altars stripped of traditional decors -- have failed to resonate with 20-somethings. Instead, it's the traditional aspects of the Episcopal faith and its liturgy that young people are now drawn to, clergy say.

The Rev. Robert Griffith, who has been working with St. Paul's Church in Carroll Gardens, has created an initiative called Imago Dei, or Image of God, that is working to understand the Millennial Generation -- those born after 1980 -- and its views of faith in hopes of devising new ways to bringing them closer to Jesus Christ. "It's not that they aren't interested. What they are looking for is the traditional -- silence, reflection, candles," Griffith said.
Link: Brooklyn churches look to tradition, community building to attract young adults

India's Grassroots Revival

India's Grassroots Revival, by Tim Stafford, originally published in Christianity Today Vol. 55 No. 7 (July 2011), Page 28

With a new India rising up, a different kind of Indian Christianity is rising up with it. During a three-week journey across India, I discovered a vibrant, growing Christian community unfolding at the grassroots—a church thoroughly Indian, not Western.

The new-economy India is found in gleaming office towers where techsavvy Indians compete in a global market and climb the corporate ladder. The newly Christian India is found mostly at the bottom rung of society, among men and women like Shivamma, typically poor and illiterate "broken people" (the literal meaning of Dalit). Numbering 140 million or more, Dalits and Tribals (a grouping similar to the Dalits) have begun to shake the foundations of India's social order. They think in ways their ancestors never could have imagined. More of them are following Christ than at any other time in India's history, ministry leaders told CT.
Link: India's Grassroots Revival

Chinese Muslims in Niujie Mosque (Great Mosque of Beijing)

Chinese Muslims Singing and Praying in the Niujie Mosque (Great Mosque of Beijing)

Historic Arabic medical manuscripts go online

Historic Arabic medical manuscripts go online (Wellcome Trust Press Release, 28 July 2011)

Arabic medicine was once the most advanced in the world, and now digital facsimiles of some of its most important texts have been made freely available online. The unique online resource, based on the Wellcome Library's Arabic manuscript collection, includes well-known medical texts by famous practitioners (such as Avicenna, Ibn al-Quff, and Ibn an-Nafis), lesser-known works by anonymous physicians and rare or unique copies, such as Averroes' commentaries on Avicenna's medical poetry.

The Wellcome Arabic Manuscript Cataloguing Partnership (WAMCP) combines the efforts of the Wellcome Library, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and King's College London Digital Humanities Department and is funded by JISC and the Wellcome Trust. It offers a rich digital manuscript library available online for free, which represents a significant resource for a wide range of researchers - including Arabic studies scholars, medical historians and manuscript conservators - to aid and enhance their work.
Link to database: Wellcome Arabic Manuscripts Online

Link to article: Historic Arabic medical manuscripts go online

28 July 2011

Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE

Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE)

The Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) is a global program, social network and grassroots social justice movement led by Muslim women, celebrating Muslim women's legacy as diverse leaders and promoting women's empowerment and activism. WISE uses principles from the Quran and shariah, or Islamic law, to advance women's human rights with religious authenticity and recognizes the interrelated social, economic, and political factors that contribute to gender-based inequality.
Link: Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE)

Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things

Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things

Former NPR analyst Juan Williams, among other ignorant people, has an irrational fear of Muslims, and thinks you can identify them based on what they look like. Here I will post pictures of Muslims wearing all sorts of things in an attempt to refute that there is such a thing as "Muslim garb" or a Muslim look.
Link: Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things

End Gender Apartheid in U.S. Mosques

End gender apartheid in U.S. mosques, by Asra Q. Nomani (USA Today, 10 July 2011)

Last year, Thompson launched a "Pray In" campaign in Washington-area mosques, and this was our fourth action . With us, Ify Okoye, 27, a Nigerian-American Muslim convert, and Krysta Camp, 28, an American-Muslim convert, strode forward to reclaim in the 21st century rights that women enjoyed in the 7th century when the prophet Mohammad let women pray in the main hall of his mosque without forcing them behind any partition. During the other pray-ins, mosque officials called D.C. and Fairfax County (Va.) police and threw us out, charging us with trespassing. This time, we got to pray, but we had to hear shouts and insults.

Link: End gender apartheid in U.S. mosques

Ramadan and Weight Lifting

Ramadan & Weight Lifting: How to Maintain Muscle & Strength (Stronglifts.com, 6 August 2009)

During [Ramadan], practicing Muslims fast from dawn till dusk. This is a complete fast: you eat nothing, but also don't drink. Not even water. Weight lifting can be hard during Ramadan. Especially since it falls during the warmer summer months this year and the following ones. This post will teach you how to train and what to eat for best results during Ramadan.

Link: Ramadan & Weight Lifting: How to Maintain Muscle & Strength (Stronglifts.com, 6 August 2009)

21 July 2011

Ladakh: Great Buddhist Monasteries

Ladakh: Great Buddhist Monasteries, by Ajay Jain (Yatra.com/Yahoo India News, 20 July 2011)

You have to hand it over to the Buddhists. For centuries they have gone about practicing and preserving their religion, not diluting its essence over generations, and continuing to command the respect and veneration of the followers of this faith. Their art and architecture has been admirable throughout - and they managed to perch their installations on sites you can barely trudge up to. Modern day builders cannot emulate these.

When in Ladakh, you are never too far from a monastery. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot say, “You have seen one, you have seen them all.” Each is unique. The ones you must go to - in a rough decreasing order of preference.
Link: Ladakh: Great Buddhist Monasteries

20 July 2011

How Bible Stories Evolved Over the Centuries

How Bible Stories Evolved Over the Centuries (NPR All Things Considered, 17 July 2011)

Many Christians believe that the words of the New Testament are set in stone. But scholars at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary are chronicling just how much those words have evolved over time. For 11 years, they've combed through the earliest Greek manuscripts of each book in the New Testament and found more than 17,000 pages of variations. Their ultimate goal: the world's first comprehensive, searchable online database showing how the New Testament has changed.

The database is already up. The first explanations go live this fall with two books of the New Testament — Philippians and First Peter. Now, scholars have known about many of these variations for years, but some of the changes might surprise many Christians.
Link: How Bible Stories Evolved Over the Centuries

Online Resources for Hearing Impaired Muslims

Online resources for hearing impaired Muslims:

19 July 2011

Framing Muslims

Framing Muslims

Framing Muslims is an international and interdisciplinary international research network exploring the representation of Muslim identities in contemporary cultural discourses. It looks at the way Muslims are depicted (and depict themselves) across a range of areas in political, legal, public and media discourses. We are interested in tracing the recurrence of certain structures governing these representations - such as stereotyping or narrow types of agenda setting – how these appear, and how they might be circumvented or subverted by users.

Link: Framing Muslims

Striving Towards a Green Ramadan

Striving Towards a Green Ramadan, by Ameena Jandali (11 August 2010)

Ramadan is a time to nurture the spirit of sacrifice, God-consciousness and self-awareness. It is an opportunity to learn the twin lessons of moderation and conservation as we forgo food and drink and embrace the ideal of less is better. It is a month long training camp to imbibe these habits that should then be applied to the rest of the year.

Yet, we often lose sight of these goals incumbent upon us during this time, and veer to the opposite extreme of going to excess in our food, drink and consumption to compensate for our daytime fast, thereby missing out on the focus and purpose of this blessed month.

Additionally, we often forget the importance of stewardship that is conveyed in Qur’anic verses that describe human beings as vicegerents on earth: “It is He (God) who has appointed you (humankind) as vicegerents on earth.” (Qur’an: 25:39); and as conveyed in the prophetic saying, “The world is green and beautiful and We have appointed you stewards towards it.”
Link: Striving Towards a Green Ramadan

Meet the Mexican Muslim Tree Huggers

Meet the Mexican Muslim Tree Huggers, by Zaufishan (Illume, 5 July 2011)

Beginning as a meeting once upon a time in Mexico, Trees Give Life is the co-effort of Arif Malik and performing artist Mohammed Yahya. We talk to the organisation founders about why they are planting trees for religion. Less than a year old, the Trees Give Life campaign began with a trip to Latin America, one of the latest parts of the underprivileged world to embrace the Muslim faith. Founder of the campaign, Arif Malik was inspired by Islam’s environmental principles to reach out and make a difference.

He says, “As Muslims need to be more aware of our planet as we have been entrusted to take care of the planet and that includes you as an individual, as a society and community and state. So I decided that If I was to make a difference then I would not rely on anybody apart from myself and the Creator and that this was my small contribution… in trying to save the planet.”
Link: Meet the Mexican Muslim Tree Huggers

Muslim Green Guide to Reducing Climate Change

Muslim Green Guide to Reducing Climate Change, by UK Lifemakers Foundation and the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES)

A Muslim Green Guide to help households reduce climate change has been published jointly by UK Lifemakers Foundation and the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES), with the charity, Muslim Hands, meeting production costs. This booklet explains the impact of climate change using Islamic references and also explains why Muslims must do their bit for the environment. The Green Guide is unique in that it is a simple, practical handbook that looks at different aspects of the household and suggests changes from an Islamic prospective that can have a big impact on climate change. These include decisions about domestic food, water, laundry, heating, electricity, transport and recycling. Also at the end of the 20 page booklet is a green checklist that gives households something positive to aim towards.
Link (PDF): Muslim Green Guide to Reducing Climate Change

This is what a Muslim Vegetarian Looks Like

This is what a Muslim Vegetarian Looks like (A World of Green Muslims, 30 December 2010)

“Are Muslims allowed to be vegetarians?” and “Why would any Muslim want to be a vegetarian?” usually follows the polite explanation that I don’t eat meat. Over the years my responses to these questions changed but I now usually respond with a rather non-committal ‘well, it depends on the person’. I have been asked to speak as a Muslim vegetarian on a couple of occasion and whilst I was more than happy to do it, I often felt uneasy ‘representing’ Muslim vegetarians due to the diverse views and opinions we hold.
Link: This is what a Muslim Vegetarian Looks like

A Green Dargah

A Green Dargah, by Rekha Pal (Washington Bangla Radio, 15 April 2011)

The holy and world-famous Ajmer Sharif dargah in Ajmer, Rajasthan, is finally getting an eco-friendly makeover. From switching to solar power electrification to recycling the mazaar flowers to make itr (perfume), it is perhaps the first shrine in the world to go green.

Dargah Sharif or the Holy Dargah is one of the most sacred Muslim shrines in India. Revered by both Hindus and Muslims, it is the tomb of Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti, a Sufi saint who came from Persia and devoted his life to the service and uplift of the poor and downtrodden. Khwaja Sahib arrived in Ajmer at the age of 52 around 1190 AD on his divine mission, unique in the annals of Islam. He made Ajmer his abode from 1192 to 1236 AD and established the Chisti order of fakirs in India.
Link: A Green Dargah

The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism (2 Parts) [E-Book/Scribd]

The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism (Part 01) by Henry Corbin

The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism (Part 02) by Henry Corbin

A Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection (Ibn 'Arabi) [E-Book/Scribd]

al-Dawr al-ala(Hizb al-wiqaya) By Ibn Arabi (ENGLISH)

The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam's Mystical Tradition (E-Book/Scribd)

the Garden of Truth the Vision and Promise of Sufism Islam 039 s Mystical Tradition

Beauty and Islam: Aesthetics in Islamic Art and Architecture (E-Book/Scribd)

Beauty and Islam Aesthetics in Islamic Art

Sacred music in Manchester: beyond belief

Sacred music in Manchester: beyond belief, by Riazat Butt (The Guardian [UK], 4 July 2011)

In the back room of a Manchester church, a woman fishes a stereo and some CDs out of a carrier bag . As the evening sun streams through the frosted windows, choir leader Jacqui Allen calls to order the dozen people exchanging small talk around her. Then something extraordinary happens. The choir sings gospel songs such as Face to Face and Joyous in a way that makes the spine tingle, the heart soar and the tummy flip. The same thing happens at its rehearsals every week, but this one is different. The choir of the New Testament Church of God is preparing for its biggest appearance to date – alongside US gospel singer Candi Staton – for the Sacred Sites arm of the festival, which puts international performers in places of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim worship across the city. "I feel very privileged, motivated and encouraged to know the festival is not an in-house event," says Diane Plummer, a choir member since its inception five years ago. "It will bring the community into a place they don't normally go." Fellow singer and parishioner Cory Bernard says the choir has "never done anything like this before. I don't know what people expect. There are lots of stereotypes about gospel choirs. I think they will hear passion and something different." The church noticeboard testifies to the event's popularity, with three pages' worth of congregants requesting tickets for friends and family.
Link: Sacred music in Manchester: beyond belief

Hareni Mekabel Alai (Jewish Devotional Ritual)

Videos of Sufi Devotional Rituals/Practices (Dhikrs, etc.)

Background Readings:

Selection of video clips on various Sufi devotional rituals/practices (Dhikrs, etc.) from YouTube:
  • Sufi Dervishes (Turkey):

  • Hadhra (Tunisia):

  • Naqsbandi Dhikr (Germany):

  • Naqshbandi Sufi Whirling Dervishes of Montreal:

  • Naqshbandi Whirling Dervishes of Indonesia

  • Bosnia Dhikr Naqshbandiyya

  • Chechen Dhikr

  • Chechen Dhikr Imran

  • Chechen Dhikr

  • Chechen Dhikr in Pankisi Valley

  • Chechen Qadiri Dhikr:

  • Sufi Dhikr with Sheikh Hassan Dyck ("La ilaha ilallah")

  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Allah Hoo Allah Hoo (full version)

    Also available in a 2-Part version:

  • Hu Hu Hu Allah:

  • Alhamdulillah Allah: