Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Muhammad's birthday opens dialogue on Islam
Muslims say the recent controversies have given them the opportunity to tell world of the prophet's greatness.
Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News

Daniel Mears / The Detroit News
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About the celebrationMany Muslims in Metro Detroit are marking April 12 as the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. Celebrations include banquets, lectures, discussions and poetry at local mosques.
Daniel Mears / The Detroit News
Dr. Hakim was the keynote speaker at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights last week. People of other faiths joined in the prophet Muhammad's birthday celebration.

As Muslims across Metro Detroit commemorate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad this week, many are using the occasion to reaffirm their faith at a time when, some feel, Islam has come under attack.
In the wake of a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that showed a sharply diminished appraisal of Islam among Americans, controversies over the publication of caricatures of Muhammad and the attempt to prosecute a Muslim who converted to Christianity in Afghanistan, many Muslims say the significance of the prophet's birthday is greatly increased this year.
"This has taken on an importance, particularly in these times when the prophet's character has been attacked," said Victor Ghalib Begg, chairman of the Council on Islamic Organizations of Michigan. "At our mosque, it has taken on this sort of meaning: Here is an opportunity to tell the world who the prophet is."
Many of Metro Detroit's estimated 125,000 to 200,000 Muslims will commemorate the birth of Muhammad on Wednesday. The prophet was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in about 570 A.D., but Muslims in different parts of the world celebrate the day at different times of the year -- or don't celebrate it. The true significance of Muhammad is trumpeted not only by imams in local mosques and officials in charge of Islamic organizations, like the Council on American Islamic Affairs, but also by the faithful themselves. And some followers of other faiths are joining in.
Michael Hovey, assistant adviser for ecumenical and interfaith affairs for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, attended a birthday celebration at the Islamic House of Wisdom last week.
"I was excited to read about him," Hovey said. "He was a person who, in religious terms, seemed to respond very much to the presence of God in his life.
"It's very unfortunate that 9/11 is probably the main cause of an increase of interfaith discussion and relationships," he said. "But, in my opinion, that is probably the best thing to happen out of the whole catastrophe."
Zayd Allebban of Inkster thinks it is more important than ever to spread the word. "In a non-Muslim country, there is a stronger responsibility than just commemorating his birthday. And not by violent protests … but by conferences and lectures and really spreading the true and relevant information," said Allebban, 27, a Web site developer for the city of Detroit and a student.
Even some Muslims say they will mark the holiday this year by learning more about him.
"I consider myself to be a Muslim who needs to learn a little bit more," said Saba Ali of Romulus, who attended a celebration at the Islamic House of Wisdom last week. "Growing up, we focused on the two big Eids, the holidays after the fasting of Ramadan and after the Hajj. The birthday of the prophet is called an Eid, too."
Even some believers are sometimes divided about the faith. For example, not all Muslims mark Muhammad's birthday, which is called the Milad-un Nabi, or Mawlid.
"Primarily Muslims who are Sufis or Shi'a observe this," said Dawud Walid of the Council on American Islamic Relations. "Some Sunnis do observe the Mawlid. But to certain Sunnis, it is seen as a despicable religious invocation, because the prophet did not celebrate his birthday."
But for all Muslims, Muhammad symbolizes tolerance, forgiveness, purity and the transcendence of human desires in the quest of godliness.
"The Prophet Muhammad is the most inspiring personality for every Muslim … he is the best example of a moral, ethical man who lived by his ideals," said Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini, of the Islamic Center of America, who is considered a direct descendant of Muhammad.
Qazwini and other imams frequently preach about the life of Muhammad as an example of how to live. "He was a very caring man and he did not reciprocate hostility with his own," Qazwini said.
You can reach Gregg Krupa at (313) 222-2359 or

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