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Thu May 30, 2013 at 04:51 AM PDT

Islam 101: Sawm

by JDsg

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the Five Pillars of Islam.  The first diary was about shahadah, the second about salat, and the third about zakat.

Sawm is the required fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan.  During this lunar month, nothing may be eaten nor drunk from the break of dawn until sunset.  Other prohibitions include no sexual activity nor any smoking.  Sawm is the opposite of all the other pillars:  with shahadah, salat, zakat and hajj, there is an activity to be performed; with sawm, no activity is done.  Instead, while fasting during Ramadan, Muslims focus their day around spiritual matters, using the empty feeling in their stomachs to concentrate their minds.

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Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 05:13 PM PDT

Islam 101: Zakat

by JDsg

This is the third in a series of posts about the Five Pillars of Islam.  The first diary was about shahadah, and the second about salat.

Zakat is the formal giving of charity in Islam.  It is related to a similar concept, known as saudaqah.  Saudaqah is the informal giving of charity that may be done at any time, in any amount, to any recipient.  Zakat, however, is more regulated.  While zakat may be given at any time of year, many Muslims try to pay their zakat during Ramadan, when spiritual rewards are greater than during the rest of the year.  The amount of money (or other material goods being given as zakat) is more specific, and zakat tends to be given to institutions (mosques, foundations and other charities, and some government agencies) as opposed to individuals, which saudaqah is normally given to.  Either way, the payment of charity is highly encouraged in Islam.  

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Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 04:04 AM PDT

Creativity of Children

by JDsg

My four-year-old daughter appears to have entered her golden age of creativity. I frequently marvel at her artistic skills and her ability to see the potential uses for various mundane objects that can be turned into a piece of art. A check that needs to be deposited into a bank needs to be kept out of sight and, more importantly, out of reach of my daughter lest she turn that little piece of paper into a pretty yellow-and-white boat.

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Wed Mar 06, 2013 at 01:06 AM PST

Islam 101: Salat

by JDsg

This is the second in a series of posts about the Five Pillars of Islam.  The first diary, about shahadah, can be found here.

Salat (sing., salah) are the formal prayers that are required of Muslims five times per day.  In addition to these required (fard) prayers, Muslims often perform additional prayers that are optional (sunnah); these latter prayers are not required, but Muslims are encouraged to do them.

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Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 03:54 AM PST

Islam 101: Shahadah

by JDsg

Recently, Ojibwa posted a diary that looked at the Five Pillars of Islam.  The descriptions for each of the five pillars were necessarily brief; however, I thought I would expand on each of the pillars in their own diaries.  This diary focuses on the first pillar, the shahadah, or testament of faith.

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Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 04:14 AM PST

NYT: Uncle Sam is No Imam

by JDsg

The following comes from the New York Times article, Uncle Sam is No Imam:

From a national security point of view, challenging ideas that underpin radical Islam makes sense. Counterterrorism is ultimately about ideas; why shouldn’t officials try to marginalize the theological teachings cited by violent terrorists?

The problem is that when American officials intervene in Islamic teachings — interpreting them to believers in a national-security context and saying which are or are not acceptable — they create tensions, both legal and strategic.

The strategic problem is easier to see: Is the government a credible authority on Islamic interpretation? Based on the results of comparable efforts in Britain, the answer is a resounding no. Simply put, young Muslim men in the thrall of radical teachings will not embrace a more pacific theology because the F.B.I. tells them to, any more than Catholic bishops would have yielded to Mr. Obama’s plan to mandate coverage of contraceptives at Catholic hospitals if he had invoked canon law to defend his position.


If I am right that the government is increasingly in danger of establishing an “official Islam,” a project that is at best ill-fated if not illegal...

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Recently I got into a discussion with The Geogre at Prayer Versus Worship and church militancy about the differences between prayer and worship in Islam, followed by an additional conversation about whether the concepts of "bless," "exalt" and "worship" in Islam were distinct.  I've rearranged my commentary somewhat to improve the flow of thought in this brief essay.

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Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 03:04 AM PDT

Islam 101: Taqwa

by JDsg

This diary was originally published at Street Prophets, and was written in response to another diary.

Karmakin, on the About "magic underwear" diary, wrote:

A good example is our cultural use of "god-fearing" as meaning a upstanding individual. (Ugly term really if you think about it)...
Now my purpose in writing this diary is not to call Karmakin out, but to give my reasons as to why "God-fearing" is, at least to me, a beautiful term.
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Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 05:51 PM PST

Tintin and the Muslims

by JDsg

I was asked to comment about a blog post from June 2008 entitled "Europe" vs. "Western Civilization".  The post is primarily a commentary about the Adam Tooze book, Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (with which I am not familiar), that has the unusual linkage of comparing Tooze's book to Hergé's comic book, Tintin in America (originally published in 1931).  I will also admit to ignorance about Hergé's work, although I've tried to do a quick review about Hergé and the comic book in question.

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Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 02:40 PM PDT

One Day in Ramadan

by JDsg

Earlier this month, I had been asked to provide an insider's perspective on Ramadan.  That person had written:

I would like to know more about Ramadan ... I mean I could look it up in Wikipedia ... However, I would like to know not only about the event itself, but the event and the event [sic] from a more personal view.

This diary tries to present a small glimpse into the Ramadan experience.

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Thu Dec 04, 2008 at 05:01 AM PST

All Recessions are Not Created Equal

by JDsg

In an announcement that was of little surprise to most of us, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) finally declared that the United States has been in a recession since December 2007.  What may not be quite as well known is that not every state is necessarily undergoing an economic recession at any given time.  I thought it might be interesting to see which states are doing well despite the recession and which states are suffering the most.

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Update:  A great big thank you to vcmvo2 for the diary rescue.  This is the first rescue for one of my diaries, and I greatly appreciate it!

The October US unemployment figures were recently released and, with very few exceptions, the numbers are rather dismal.  (Highlights can be found here.)  The numbers that were released, however, are only the "official" statistics.  Meaning, the official unemployment rate that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics gives out in its monthly press release is only one of six unemployment rates that it actually calculates.  The "official" unemployment rate is the not-so-imaginatively named "U-3."  There are two smaller unemployment rates (U-1 and U-2), and three larger (U-4 through U-6).  What I'm concerned about is U-6.

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