Tuesday’s twelve o’clock hour usually finds many students wandering Yuba’s campus, perhaps studying or catching a little nap. Occasionally, the lucky can wander into room 521 to catch an installment of Crossing Borders, Building Bridges. On November 28, Nasreen Aboobaker treated many students and faculty to an hour of her experience and knowledge of Islamic faith and culture. A native of Pakistan, Aboobaker immigrated to the United States in 1972, where she studied computer programming at CSU Northridge and UC Santa Clara. She worked in the computer industry, settling in Sacramento in 1984, programming software for airplanes at McClellan Air Force Base. About that time her young sons started asking many “why’s” about their religion, and as a concerned parent, she wanted to find answers for her three sons’ questions.
“Education is so important,” Aboobaker said. “ Mothers should be educated, so they can teach their children.” As the director of the Islamic Speakers Bureau, Aboobaker is able to present information she has learned and provide understanding of Muslim beliefs. “Islam,” she explained, “ is an Arabic word for ‘peace’ or peace through surrender to the will of God.”
The religion’s rulebook is the Quran, which has 114 Suras, or chapters that call for belief in God, encouragement for moral lifestyles, and portrays damnation and forgiveness. It also contains stories of prophets before Islam and the rules governing the social and religious life of Muslims. Who believe that the Quran is the verbatim word of Allah as the Angel Gabriel relayed to the prophet Muhammad. According to Aboobaker, there are roughly 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide, 6.7 million in the US, 1 million in California and 35,000 in the Sacramento area. Eighteen percent of Muslims are Arab (and speak Arabic), while eighty-two percent come from other areas: Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, India, Africa, Pakistan, England, France, North America, China, and other parts of the world.
There are five pillars, or acts of worship that are displayed by true followers of the faith: First: Shahadah the declaration of faith, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Second: Salat prayer, facing Mecca, conducted five times daily. Third: Sawm fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar year.
A festival, Eid–ul-Fitr, celebrates the end of Ramadan; its one of the two big Muslim holidays.
Fourth: Zakat giving alms, or 2.5 percent of the year’s excess earnings to poor.
Fifth: Hajj making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime, if physically and financially possible. The trip occurs two months and ten days after Ramadan is over, and lasts for three days. One can make a mini pilgrimage, or Umrah, during rest of the year; there is no fixed time for it. After the Hajj, the second Muslim Holiday of Eid-ul-Adha is celebrated.
Muslims are also forbidden to consume pork, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. The body is to remain pure according to God’s design. Because life is a gift, given by God, it demands honor and respect, and the body is not to be abused. However, consumption of caffeine is accepted, and Aboobaker made her point by admitting her need for a daily Chai Tea. The Muslim religion is very diverse different customs arise in each community but all cling to the same beliefs. There is one God, and Muhammad was his messenger. God is the God of Jesus, Adam, Abraham, Moses and all the prophets. The Holy Quran is the final word of God, which completes the prophecies. They do not believe in the trinity, but they do believe that the angel Gabriel came to Mary and Jesus was born, not as the Son of God, but as a prophet.
It is believed that people have both free will and destiny. What life a person is born into and where and when he will die is out of his control, but all the space inbetween is lived according to his own free will. After death, everyone will be resurrected and judged by God, giving a detailed report of his life on Earth. Permanent life is in Heaven, and God’s forgiveness can be asked at any time. Baptism is not required as
Amboobaker explained, “Only we can save ourselves.” To uphold honor and dignity, all are required to wear modest, loose clothing. Men are not to wear shorts, yet women are not required to wear burkas; Islamic requirement is modest loose attire. Head can be covered with a scarf known as hijab. Although it isn’t essential, many choose also to cover their faces. All humans are considered equal, all offspring of Adam and Eve. Islam has an outstanding record of equality among the sexes; members believing men and women were created equal and are entitled to the same worship, rewards, sin and punishment. Muslims believe that Eve did not commit an original sin by seducing Adam rather it was human nature. People are born sin-free and learn to be corrupt. There are rules against the mixing of genders: no dating, no premarital sex; no two people of the opposite sex may be alone together unless they are married or blood relatives. Mixed genders may study and work together as long as doors are open, and they are in a public place. For the last 1,400 years, Islamic women have voted, owned and inherited property, and can earn a living, men are required to earn a living and make a home for their families. There are instances, like in Saudi Arabia, where women are forbidden to drive, but that is not a religious law. Women can maintain their maiden names, accept or deny a marriage proposal, even divorce their husband, enjoying many rights long before their western counterparts acquired them. The Muslim fundamentals are the same around the world, but culture changes from region to region. Muslims are encouraged to seek the difference between what they do out of custom and what is done for true religious reasons. This religion ties many diverse populations together. One hour isn’t enough time to delve completely into a religion, but Aboobaker introduced many to and made believers out of a few. Nasreen Aboobaker can be reached at Isbsalam@hotmail.com for further questions and comments. Islam: Beliefs and Principals, part of the Crossing Borders, Building Bridges Series was sponsored by the Public Events Series, Yuba College Foundation, Staff Development and Donors to the College.