September 11 cannot pass without notice. Perhaps it never will. Even though our personal memories may lose sharpness, each year the story of U.S. vulnerability to terrorist attack returns like a haunt in our media and sometimes inside of us. If we care about justice and love, we may hear a call at this time of year to speak out against stereotyping of Muslims and the injustice and hate crimes it continues to engender.
The stereotyping persists because of ignorance. Despite a growing number of Muslim Americans and the increasing visibility of Muslim holidays, practices, and intra-faith diversity—compelling reasons for non-Muslims to educate themselves—mystery still surrounds Islam and suspicion hovers over its followers. Fortunately, as UU religious educators, we are not only inclined but also well positioned to fight ignorance with education. Many UUs have been at this for a while. Our congregations and Association support youth-led interfaith service work and the exploration of world religions in our RE programs. We form partner relationships with non-UU faith communities. At home, many of us strive to bring our children stories from the world’s diverse cultures and faiths.
Now, from Skinner House Books, comes Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer, a learning tool for all ages. Sarah Conover unfolds the story of Muhammad’s journey to prophetic leadership in a way that invites readers or listeners, from grade-school age through adult, into the heart and history of Islam. The narrative evokes the geography, sensual experience, relationships, and daily routines of the Arab lands, circa 600 CE. In an enthusiastic Foreword, interfaith activist and Beacon Press author Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core, praises the book as engaging and affirms its utility for “bridging the faith divide.” After the Epilogue, Conover provides clear, useful information about Islam’s birth, development, core beliefs, and sacred text (the Quran). She writes:
Everything Muhammad revealed to others reinforced faith in a single God—the same God worshipped by the other Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity. Although today most people employ the words ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ to mean a specific religion and a person who follows it, in the Quran islam means not so much a system of beliefs but a private act of faith.
Join me in a UU act of faith this September 11: Purchase Muhammad for your family or congregation, and find a time and place to share it with others!
Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer is available from the UUA Bookstore. The UUA's three-part, multigenerational study guide for Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer is available online, at no charge.
Watch a video clip of Eboo Patel describing the Skinner House book as a particularly "accessible" biography of Muhammad to share with his own young Muslim American sons.
Michelle Richards discusses why and how to explore Islam with children in a July 15, 2013 UU Parenting blogpost.