Conversations with a Muslim Mom: Faith Basics

2013 November 16

2Bloggers 2Religions 2Moms #MormonMuslimMoms Series

I always wished I had taken comparative religion courses when I was in college. I’m fascinated by other mom’s and how their religion works in their lives. Amanda of and I decided maybe other people are as fascinated as she and I are about each other’s religion.

2 moms muslimmormonmomsI mean a Muslim mom and a Mormon mom?
You really can’t get much more different than that, can you?

Or wait…?
Maybe we’re not so different after all?

Join us the next few weekends while we share our Basic Beliefs, Holidays and Cultural Celebrations, Common Myths and How we Raise our Children in our Respective Faiths.

Tomorrow I will be guest posting on her site.


Please help me welcome Amanda!

MarocMama Family PicI’ve met so many interesting people through blogging and meeting Carissa is no exception! I’m really excited to be swapping weekend posts with her as a part of a dialogue where we each share our faiths.

So who am I?  My name is Amanda Mouttaki, I’m a mom of 2 boys, I’m Muslim, and also an American expat. We live in sunny Marrakech, Morocco after spending almost 10 years between Washington DC and Western Wisconsin.  I spent most of my life as a Lutheran but at 20 years old I became a Muslim. I don’t pretend to be a scholar of my faith but have spent a lot of time learning and exploring. This week Carissa and I are tackling the topic of the basic beliefs of our faiths.

What do Muslims Believe?

Sometimes when I begin this conversation I feel like I’m David going against Goliath. There’s a lot of information and confusion that people have about Islam. I’m also going to do my best to explain terminology as much of the vocabulary of our faith is in Arabic.

Our faith is Islam and we as followers of Islam are called Muslims.  Islam means to submit to God and Muslim translates as one who submits to God. There are over 1 billion Muslims in the world. Arabic is the language of our faith but only 20% of Muslims have Arab ethnicity. Our holy book is the Qu’ran (or several other transliterations of that spelling).  We believe that the Qu’ran is the literal word of God that was transmitted to Mohammed and recorded. Islam is an Abrahamic faith, like Judaism and Christianity and much of the Qu’ran is the same as the stories of the Torah and the Bible.  Muslims believe that God delivered the Torah and the Bible to previous prophets but that overtime the texts and practice of the faiths were distorted.  Therefore, Mohammed was sent as a prophet to guide people back to the right path.

There are 5 pillars of faith in Islam.  These are truly the 5 most important things that Muslims must follow.

  1. The Shahada – this is a statement that testifies a persons’ faith in God as the only God and Mohammed as the messenger of God.
  2. Prayer – Muslims follow a strict prayer ritual. There are 5 prescribed daily prayers at specific times of the day.  This is fairly regimented. No matter what your native language is, prayers are done in Arabic, save for one portion in which one can pray for their specific needs in their native language.
  3. Zakat – or charity. Muslims are commanded to give a fixed portion of their wealth to the needy. It’s a religious obligation to care for the needy.
  4. Fasting – During the 9th Islamic month, Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.  We abstain from food, drink, bad behaviors, sexual activity, etc during these hours as a reminder of the suffering of others.  There are extra prayers during this time as well to gain a deeper and closer relationship to God.
  5. Pilgrimage/Hajj – Every able bodied Muslim that is financially able should make a pilgrimage to Mecca (in modern day Saudi Arabia) once in their lifetime. There is a very specific ritual that happens during hajj.

Unlike Christianity or Islam we have no hierarchy of religious authority.  Mosques are led by imams who are generally the most well-educated (of the faith) in the congregation.  There is no higher leadership directing the congregation. There are two sects of Islam; Sunni and Shi’ite and there are many differences.  That being said we are Sunni and so my understanding of the faith is based on this.  Also, there are different schools of thought (madhabs) within Sunni beliefs. Because Islam is not only a religion but a way of life including a legal system, the school of thought one follows can affect these things.

Hassan II Mosque Casablanca

Common Questions

Muslims pray to a different God than Jews and Christians, right?

No, the God of Adam, Abraham, and Jesus is the same God that Muslims believe in. We believe in only one God.  The Arabic word for God is Allah. If you walked into a church in an Arabic speaking country (and yes, they do exist!) they would be praying and invoking the name Allah.

Muslims don’t believe in Jesus?

Muslims very much believe and revere Jesus as a prophet of Islam. In fact Jesus is mentioned more times in Islamic scripture than Mohammed. Maryam (Mary) the mother of Jesus, is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qu’ran and one of the books of the Qu’ran is titled Maryam. We however also believe that Jesus had no earthly father, there is no mention of Joseph in the Qu’ran.

Where and how do you pray?

The holy building for Muslims is called a mosque. However, Muslims are encouraged to pray anywhere. We also have a ritual washing that must be done before prayer, as we are to come before God clean. There are 5 daily prayers that are based on different times of the day. One in the early morning before daylight, one in the early afternoon, one in late afternoon, one right after sunset, and the final in the later evening. Islamic prayers are quite physical involving standing, bending, and prostration. During prayer men and women are separated for this reason.

 Who was Mohammed?

We believe that Mohammed was the last prophet of God. Beginning in the year 610, of the current era, God gave Mohammed the words of the Qu’ran through revelations from the Angel Gabriel (the same angel that appeared to Mary). This occurred in Saudi Arabia. Mohammed was 40 years old when the revelations began. During this time many people in the region believed in polytheism and Mohammed’s mission was to bring them back to follow the one and true God and abandon the others. He was widely persecuted and after 12 years left Mecca with his followers for the city of Medina. In this city a constitution was created to secure the community and delineate the right and responsibilities of all inhabitants; Muslims, Jews, Christians, and pagans.

At the age of 25 Mohammed married his first wife Khadija, who was 15 years his senior. Their marriage was completely monogamous.  After her death it was suggested he marry again. He had several wives, many of whom were widows. The most controversial (today) marriage was to Aisha. There is no proof as to her age at marriage but by modern-day definitions she was young, and likely under 15 years old. While by today’s standards this seems very young, in Medieval Europe it was common for girls to get married around the age of 12. {I think it’s important for me to add here, I in no way support the marriage of girls who are not adults. Though I respect the cultural norms of the time, I believe this is one thing that is outdated}

Arabia at this time was a tribal society and Mohammed has a reputation in modern American discourse of being a violent ruler.  In the last 10 years of his life he was the leader of Medina and was at war with pagan Mecca. God commanded Mohammed to spread the word of God, much like Christians believe they were commanded to do so vis-à-vis wars and events such as the Crusades or Inquisition.  Religious war was not a novelty during this time period.  It is also during this time that the word jihad entered the lexicon.  Jihad means struggle – any struggle – not specifically relating to a religious war.  For me not drinking Diet Coke is a jihad!

Other Sources of our Faith

quran-img1The Qu’ran provides the rules and beliefs of our everyday life, however the sunnah and hadith are also important documents.  The sunnah is a way of life based on the practices and teachings of Mohammed. We believe Mohammed was an example that we should strive to, so following his practices and teachings are one way to do this. Many of these things were recorded, and transmitted to future generations.  Some Muslims attempt to follow these prescriptions as closely as possible while others don’t.  The hadith are a report of the sayings and deeds of Mohammed. Hadith are not limited only to Mohammed but also other important early figures of the faith. These form the basis of Islamic law, interpretation of the Qu’ran and early Islamic history.

There’s so much more and I feel like I’ve left out more but it’s a start! Thank you Carissa for allowing me to share – I’m really looking forward to learning and sharing more. Next week, we’ll be tackling holidays and celebrations of our faith. If you’ve got questions I’ll be happy to answer them the best I’m able and I know Carissa and I will be having more conversations on our social media pages going forward!


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35 Responses
  1. November 17, 2013

    This is a really interesting series – thank you to both of you for openly discussing your religions – I knew very little of either and it’s wonderful to have this opportunity to learn. Thanks!

    • November 17, 2013

      Wow You’re welcome Marie-Claude, we were totally hoping we weren’t the only ones interested (and totally clueless about the other’s religion)! We will be answering each other’s and everyone else’s questions during the week between weekend posts on Twitter and Facebook.. Join us?? 🙂

  2. Christina El Meddah permalink
    November 17, 2013

    Its interesting that you and Amanda have been blogging together. I was born and raised as Mormon my self, but reverted to being a Muslim. For me, I have found more peace and feel satisfied with my life more now and things making more sense as a Muslim. My mom still is Mormon and I still have friends of the church. Thanks for sharing both sides of religion.

    • November 17, 2013

      Really Christina?
      I was so surprised to hear Amanda converted to Muslim?
      I had no idea that was even an option?
      Thank you for checking in on our series!

    • November 18, 2013

      Christina— I was even more excited to do this because of our conversations in the past 😉 xoxo

  3. November 17, 2013

    A few of my husband’s family (my husband and all his relatives are Muslim) have asked me to convert. I have not, and Fahim (the husband) supports me in this. It’s like me expecting Fahim to convert to Mormonism. I honestly believe in what I believe just as he honestly believes what he believes.

    But yes, conversion to Islam is entirely possible and even common enough. I have a friend who was Christian and converted to Islam just as I know a few Muslims who converted to Christianity.

  4. Josie permalink
    November 17, 2013

    Hi! A friend posted a link to this on Facebook. I am Mormon and though I have a few Muslim friends I don’t know much about the religion so this is super interesting to me! I just had two questions, one deeper than the other :). In reading the comments I wondered about how the process of conversion to Islam happens officially, for example, in many churches there is a baptism or other ritual, does Islam have something like that?
    Second, being a mom who is currently breastfeeding I don’t fast with my congregation, I didn’t when I was pregnant either. This is really more cultural than religious, but I wondered if pregnant and breastfeeding moms fast during Ramadan or if there is more leeway for them, or is it just personal choice.
    Thanks ladies!

    • November 17, 2013

      Thanks Josie… The funny thing is I asked Amanda the SAME question about the conversion process. 🙂
      And I hadn’t even thought about the fasting similarity yet?
      I’ll let Amanda answer both of your questions.. though.

  5. November 17, 2013

    Hi Josie – thanks for reading! When someone converts to Islam, there needs only to be the reciting of the shahada (I briefly discussed shahada above). A person declares their intention and then recites “Ash-hadu an la ilaha ill Allah.” (I bear witness that there is no diety but Allah.) and “Wa ash-hadu ana Muhammad ar-rasullallah.” (And I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.) We don’t have a ritual of baptism, though when a child is born the father recites the call to prayer in the ear of the child, essentially welcoming them to the faith. Some mosques to issue a shahada certificate, which is really only beneficial if you want to make hajj or have to deal with registering an Islamic marriage in a Muslim country.

    On the question of fasting – pregnant and breastfeeding women are exempt from fasting during Ramadan. Many will make up the fast later on, or they donate money/food to feed the needy. Some women chose to fast but again it’s not required. Women are also not required to fast, and not permitted to engage in ritual prayers during menstration. The reasoning being their bodies are already under extra stress and so it’s a mercy on them.

    Hope that answers your questions – hope you’ll stick with us the next few weeks!

  6. November 18, 2013

    Thanks for sharing, Amanda. Very interesting. It is really interesting to me that the roots of your religion and mine (Mormonism) are very similar – that God’s church had been lost and distorted, so he sent a prophet to led people back.

    • November 18, 2013

      Hey Katie!
      I’ve been so surprised too as I ask questions about the similarities between religions. It tells me there is truth out there in all religions.

  7. November 18, 2013

    Thank you both for sharing your insites. Discussions like this need to happen more often as education is really the key. I look forward to reading more and sharing your posts in the coming weeks.

    • November 18, 2013

      Thanks Aimee, exactly how we feel!
      I figure if you learn about my religion and you decide to JOIN my religion that would be amazing!! (I’m sneaky that way). But more important to me for this is that you LEARN about my religion and respect and love me for my choices not the other way around you know?
      And definitely for a Muslim Mom and a Jewish Mom and any number of Christian Faith Moms!!

  8. Faryelle permalink
    November 18, 2013

    Hello Carrisa and Salaam (peace) ya Amanda. Very nice to see a posting like this. I think it’s sometimes especially important to have convert/reverts explain Islam to non-Muslims than those born into the faith since the religion is chosen and not necessarily forced upon(and I’m not just speaking Islam, I have some “re-covering Catholic” friends’ as they call themselves, who completely understand this statement. So thank you, Amanda, for doing this since Islam is very misunderstood or not understood at all, by so many. I look forward to reading about Mormanism as well, Carissa. I have very limited knowledge of it other than a brief paragraph in a religion class I took in college.

    I would like to mention a couple quick add-ons to the post. It’s true in the masjid (mosque) men and women are separated during prayer but in the home with family, men and women may pray together not separated. A male family member would act as the Imam and the women in the family would be behind. I used to pray slightly (a step) behind my father on his right, if it was just us two praying together. I still do this with my husband today. Also, an Imam is a person who may just leads prayer and/or be quite knowledgable in Islam and a leader in the community (a women can be an Imam too but only when it’s just women praying). We have other knowledgable people, as well, like Sheikhs (or Sheikhas for a women) who are usually older, and are usually scholars of Islam(unlike like my kids that get called Sheikhs by family members since they go to Islamic classes) and serve as a religious official.

    Sorry ladies didn’t mean to take over this post. Turned out to be quite the mouthful. Anyhow, I look forward to learning more from the both of you. Thanks so much for this. 🙂

    • November 18, 2013

      Ha! Happy to let you take over!

      Thank you so much Faryelle (dying to know how to pronounce your name!?),
      I’m happy to learn more about your Faith… and I agree it’s lovely to hear from Amanda who is sort of a baby to the religion as she learns more about her faith we see that too.

      I was just about to ask her about prayer with her family VS in a Mosque, so thanks for that clarification.

  9. November 18, 2013

    First blog series that has caught my attention in a long time. I love this. Nice to meet you Amanda. I have always been fascinated by Carissa’s religion in that I really respect the family and community values Mormons are able to cultivate.

    I was raised Catholic, I have pretty much only exposed my children to Jesuit teachings of the Catholic Church. I have personally been away from the church for about 15 years however, my youngest son has a strong calling for the Church and I am finding my way back through him I suppose.

    My one question to both Carissa and Amanda-do the men of your families “lead” the family. Do you allow them to be the final decision maker in things?
    Twitter: barblikos

    • November 19, 2013

      I love your comment Barb…

      To answer your question from my point of view of things…

      YES and NO.
      In so many things especially in the home and parenting and lots of other things I make the decisions, I share my perspective with my husband and for the most part he says.. great! Do it! But I think just like in any marriage there are plenty of things I happily let him be the lead in. For example a lot of years I took care of most of the ‘family finaces’.. but more lately, as things have gotten more complicated I happily let him deal with that side of things and the stress! 🙂

      On the Religious side of things I totally find in our marriage that we have flip flopped back and forth… some times in my life I’m just more down and not able to be as spiritual and during those time he has been much more of a leader. Other times I find I have to be the strong spiritual one in the family?
      If you mean, because he’s a man and in the Mormon faith he holds the priesthood therefore he makes all decisions and we have no say?

      I think you know me too well to believe that?? That’s just not a realistic way to raise a family. Mutual respect is a lot closer to where we aim? And I believe the leaders of the church fairly SHOUT to the members… husbands love your wives, Wives love your husbands. There is no room for one to rule the other. 🙂

      • November 19, 2013

        That is exactly why I asked. I do know you too well for that and all the LDS wives I know. I have “heard” exactly that-men hold the Priesthood and therefore dictate the family decisions. So that clears up a huge misconception and fuzzy area for me. Thanks!
        Twitter: barblikos

        • November 19, 2013

          I think this is a HUGE misconception and I think there is only a minority of families where the father (or maybe the mother??) rules the home in a negative way. We actually have a term for that: Unrighteous Dominion. Meaning exactly what you are suggesting.. .that a man uses his religious reasons to dominate UNRIGHTEOUSLY! 🙂
          Again, the leadership fairly shout NOT to fall into this.

          I can’t name a single family, friend etc who this is going on. So if someone tells you: those wacky mormons, the dad runs the house and no one has any say.. tell them… they’re wrong! 🙂

    • November 20, 2013

      I think what Carissa said fits the bill for us too. Ultimately yes the man is the head of the family and religiously speaking on the day of judgement he will answer to Allah about his spiritual guidance for the family. In the day to day running of the home the husband is expected to financially provide for his family and the wife is not required to work. If she chooses to the money she earns is hers to do with as she wishes. Many people still follow this, though for other couples they have agreed to share the financial burden of a family. In my home there’s no ‘leader” and my husband doesn’t really have the final say in things. We discuss everything and decide together. He doesn’t assume he gets to make all the decisions. What Carissa said really holds true for us too. Though like others have mentioned in a mixed group men lead the prayers. It’s an interesting topic in practice and in the myths people sometimes have gotten through other accounts. I’m not saying all relationships are like ours but I know many are.

  10. November 19, 2013

    Great idea – thank you for sharing some basics about the Muslim faith too – I was pretty clueless (but I’m not religious at all) and I love learning about others!

    • November 19, 2013

      Yes Robyn, I think people of all faiths (and those not practicing at all) still find this sort of thing fascinating! I know I do!
      THANKS! 🙂

  11. November 19, 2013

    Here is another nit picky one I asked over on Amanda’s but it’s still in moderation:

    I love love love the idea of this series. Growing up in AZ and then raising my kids in Las Vegas we know many Mormon families that are friends. Including Carissa 🙂
    OK, here is my question. I know Mormons aren’t supposed to drink caffeine and wine? Why? And why do almost everyone I know actually drink caffeine? Not wine. But caffeine seems to be the biggie. I was always so uncomfortable when a Mormon kid would come over to play and the first thing they did was grab a Mountain Dew. Do you tell the parents? Is it OK? OH NO I HAVE RUINED THIS CHILD. Help!
    Twitter: barblikos

    • November 19, 2013

      Did I miss this on Amanda’s blog?

      I answered a tiny bit about the Mormon Dietary restrictions and suggestions and rules (On her FB page).. and I plan to write much more in-depth about it later in the series (so stay tuned!?) :).

      But quickly.
      First realize the commandment is kind of vague: it says something like stay away from ‘hot drinks’. That’s it.
      The leadership has interpreted that to mean ‘Coffee and Tea’. Still not super clear cut and dried.

      Here’s where most members use their own judgment and personal relationship with God to decide for themselves.
      Personally I take that to mean stay away from Coffee and any non-herbal tea. I really like herbal tea in fact. But I don’t eat coffee flavored ice cream for example. Or iced coffees or iced teas or whatever.

      Also I don’t drink any green/black etc teas. And I stay away from the hard core ‘energy’ drinks.

      There is no prohibition against ‘caffeine’. And members tend to choose for themselves. In my world we drink Diet Coke and Diet Mountain Dew. Sometimes I hit a point where I feel like there’s an addiction and I’ll seriously take a break from soda for a while.
      I know people who don’t each chocolate though because of the caffeine in it. (I can’t imagine!) 🙂

      I only know for myself on some of this. So to your question: if you offer my kid a coffee or even ‘iced tea’ I might be annoyed that you didn’t ask me first or explained to my kid what it was for sure. But a caffeinated soda doesn’t bother me?
      And it wouldn’t be the end of the world in any case. PLUS, and this is big for me anyway. I would expect my kids to simply, politely decline something like this anyway. The part about the kids seeming to aim for ‘caffeine’ type sodas? I don’t know? I think that’s weird too? Perhaps, like in my house, the grown ups tend to drink those sodas and my kids get sprite and root beer…
      Am I helping??!

      Reminds me of a family growing up without a TV in their house.
      MOST BORING Kids to play with, cuz they never left our TV alone! 🙂

      • November 19, 2013

        Oh. Interesting. I never knew it was “hot drinks” I always thought it was caffeine and alcohol. OK, so I will wait for the series to find out WHY HOT? That has me curious.

        So maybe all these years I just assumed the caffeine was a no-no. I always had Sprite in the house since that didn’t have caffeine specifically for those kids. Silly me
        Twitter: barblikos

  12. November 19, 2013

    Very interesting and extremely informative. I attended Catholic schools from 6th grade through college and was required to take courses in comparative religions. But scratching the surface of another religion at a young age doesn’t help you truly understand it. This does. Thanks!
    Twitter: SahmReviews

    • November 19, 2013

      THanks Nicole… I have to agree… reading this sort of thing from another mom’s perspective is more interesting and engaging than a college course.. and yeah… like reading a classic novel at 16.. and then again at 40? Very different what you will get out of it eh? 🙂

      • November 20, 2013

        A college course would probably make me nod off and would skim through the more interesting parts and focus on the heavy historical information. I love that I get to know more about the day to day life and practice of Carissa and her family!

  13. November 19, 2013

    This was very interesting to read. Thank you for sharing it.
    Twitter: AMomBlog

    • November 20, 2013

      Glad you enjoyed! It’s nice sharing to people who are genuinely interested in just learning more!

  14. November 19, 2013

    What a neat series!! Seriously… I love reading about other religions and cultures and this was a great start into the Muslim religion.

    • November 20, 2013

      Hey Jamie!
      THANKS for stopping by… I think you’ll enjoy the rest of the series over the next few weekends..
      Because it will be more about the ‘daily life’ stuff that is most fascinating (at least to me?!)…
      Amanda has been great to answer any questions so stop by her FB page srsly if you have any questions for her! 🙂

    • November 20, 2013

      Thanks for reading Jamie! Glad you found it interesting and hope you’ll join is in the next few weeks too!

  15. Cindy permalink
    December 12, 2013

    Great idea to have Sprite on hand! I think the important thing to know about the “Word of Wisdom” that we Mormons try to follow is that we are supposed to eat healthy and take good care of our bodies. So if we know and understand that something is not good for us we try to avoid that and eat and drink things that are good for our bodies. I don’t drink caffeinated beverages unless I intentionally need some caffeine- like when I’m driving and feeling sleepy. I do eat a little chocolate, but I wouldn’t touch those energy drinks! I do not judge other LDS people for what they drink or eat.

  16. Nichole permalink
    December 12, 2013

    “Hot Drinks” has to do with what was happening at the time the Word of Wisdom was revealed to Joseph Smith. Coffee was on an upsurge in the US and even fluctuating in use with tea in European countries where most early Mormon followers lived. To that end, “hot drinks” is considered to be coffee and tea because of the timing of the Word of Wisdom (1833). Much speculation has been made about why the “hot drink” inclusion with items like alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Modern-day interpretation points to the caffeine in the hot drinks and being unhealthy and ultimately, the Word of Wisdom is a law of health. (the official website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka the Mormons) has this to say about the Word of Wisdom and might answer this question in even greater detail-

    I’m LDS and though I had family members who drank caffeinated sodas, I never really did until 4 years ago when I was pregnant and started getting migraines. My migraines haven’t gone away and are definitely somewhat hormonal. I use caffeine as a “medicating” medium to avoid taking other pharmaceutical drugs as much as possible. So I’m a Mormon and I drink caffeine. 🙂

    BUT, my kids are definitely not allowed to. Mostly because there is quite a bit of research out there that I’ve found regarding the harmful effects caffeine can have on a growing brain. And that’s exactly what I tell my children when they want a drink of my Coke. So I would hope my kids know enough not to reach for the caffeine at their friends’ houses too.

    If it feels weird to you, you could always ask the parents, “Just checking…how do you feel about your kids drinking Mt. Dew? I’m asking just to be sure that I can help enforce any rules you have at your house.” Or even ask in general about food and drink rules. I have friends’ whose children aren’t allowed to eat X, Y, & Z and it isn’t about religion but about health beliefs. Never hurts to ask. 🙂

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