The “Multiplicity in Singularity” That Is Islam
by Krista Tippett, host
“If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again.” —Flavia Weedn (photo: Mushda Ali/Flickr)
We’re thrilled to put our show with 14 distinctly different Muslim voices back on the air a year after we created it. It is really more an experience than a show — one that was as full of discovery to produce as to hear.
In fact, we were surprised to find ourselves creating it. At the beginning of the summer of 2009, we extended an invitation to Muslims to reflect on their lived experience of Islam, of what it means — in a daily, particular way — to be part of what is often referred to in the abstract as “the Muslim world.” Responses were slow at first but began to pick up in number and intensity as our query was circulated in networks far beyond the public radio universe.
Hundreds of people responded from an incredible range of backgrounds, ages, and sensibilities. They came from an Iraqi-American Muslim growing up in Monterey, California and also from Mexican-American and a Russian-American converts living in robust Muslim communities in places like Seattle and Dallas. They were artists, stay-at-home moms, lawyers, college students. They wrote from Indonesia and Turkey, England and Canada, Saudi Arabia and Oman. We began to call some of them up to hear their voices. And Trent Gilliss — our senior editor who conducted most of these interviews — created an interactive map that blends personal photos, audio, and essays.
And though we had asked people to reflect on Muslim identity in a broad sense, we were immediately struck that so many had a vivid, epiphanal Ramadan story to share. We created a 30-day daily podcast — a new voice for each day of Ramadan — which you can still download if you’d like. And we pulled together this show with 14 stories across a spectrum of life and spiritual sensibility.
A bit of background: Ramadan commemorates the month when the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It is marked by recitation of the Qur’an, prayer, and fasting — sun up to sun down. The Ramadan fast is a spiritual discipline of commitment and reflection; but it is also meant to align Muslims with the larger experience of need and hunger in the world. And Ramadan is a period of intimacy and of parties — of getting up when the world is quiet before the sun rises for breakfast and prayers with one’s family, of ending or breaking the fast every day after nightfall in celebration and prayers with friends and strangers.
Of the many links on our site, none intrigues me more than our Flickr page, where you can see the faces behind the stories and voices. Taken together, the people who have become part of this project embody and illustrate the “multiplicity in singularity” that is Islam, as Feruze Faison put it. It was a delight, and an honor, getting such an intimate glimpse inside this holiest month of Islam.