Saturday, November 10, 2018

Understanding Arbaeen: The World's Largest Gathering

Arbaeen is the world's largest gathering, larger than the annual Hajj, and commemorates the martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and the third Shia Imam, Husayn ibn Ali's in 680.

It occurs every year in Iraq at the Karbala Mosque following the 40-day mourning period after the religious holiday, Ashura.

Millions of Shia converge on Kerbala during the commemoration. According to the Independent, they walk in columns that often stretch over 50 miles and sleep and eat in tents erected along the route.

Alex Shams, an Iranian American and Ph.D. student of anthropology, recently returned from Arbaeen and tweeted an explanation of Arbaeen and many excellent images.

Shams describes a 50-mile long food festival with falafel, beans, eggs, fried fish, mutton stew, and many other foods.

He notes the wide variety of countries at Arbaeen. In addition to Iraqis and Iranians, he saw Pakistanis, Indians, Azerbaijanis, Afghans, Nigerians, Lebanese, Saudis, Turks, Bahrainis, Kuwaitis, Qataris, and many more.

Shams says that while Arbaeen is a pilgrimage for Imam Hossein, it is also a challenge to ISIS today.

And he saw many different Muslim rituals.  It's a fascinating tour!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Wahhabism & its Relationship to Saudi Arabia

Studying Wahhabism?

Saudi Arabia recently arrested Saleh al Taleb, a prominent Mecca imam, and a member of the Wahhabi sect of Islam.

Ali A Olomi, a scholar of the Middle East and host of the podcast, Head on History, used the occasion to review the history of Wahhabism and its relationship to Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Sufism: Introductory Clips

Studying Sufism?

Here are a couple of introductory clips from Oprah Winfrey and one from the Religion and Ethics News Weekly.

The first comes from her series, Belief, and  the second comes from her other series,  Super Soul Sunday.

The Religion and Ethics News Weekly has a an excellent short segment  on Sufism here. Reporter, Deryl Davis, discusses the attacks on Sufism from Muslim fundamentalists and talks to scholars like Coleman Barks who has translated many of Rumi's Sufi poems and who here explains Sufi beliefs and the meaning of whiling dervishes.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Buddhas Among Tallest Statues in the World

Statutes of Buddhas are among the tallest in the world. 

The Wall Street Journal recently published a slideshow of the five tallest statutes in the U.S. and  the five tallest in the world.  Four of the five tallest in the world are Buddhas. 

Two are in China, one is in Myanmar, and one is in Japan. The one below is the tallest at 420 feet. It's called the Spring Temple Buddha and is in China.
By Zgpdszz - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
This is the Laykyun Setkyar Buddha in Myanmar. It is the second largest statute in the world at 381 feet.
By Tetsuya Kitahata - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

And here is a Japanese Buddha, Ushiku Daibutsu in Ibaraki,in Japan. It's the third largest statute in the world at 360ft.

The fourth largest statute in the world is this Buddha called The Guanying. It's in the South Sea of Sanya, in China, and stands 354 feet tall.
By C Ling Fan from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. - GuanYin deity, CC BY 2.0,
The video below includes three of the Buddhas above, the Ushiku Daibutsu  in Japan, the Laykyun Setkyar Buddha in Myanmar, and the Spring Temple Buddha in China. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Three Teachings: Resources for Teaching Chinese Religion

Teaching Chinese religion?

Here's a great website to consider for background or as a student resource.

Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism are known as the Three Teachings in China. Historian Stephen Teiser notes that a 6th century scholar referred to Buddhism as the sun, Daoism as the moon, and Confucianism as the five planets.

 Asia for Educators has a terrific website about the three religions, all adapted from Professor Teiser's book,  “The Spirits of Chinese Religion,”  part of which you can download in pdf.  Teiser is the D. T. Suzuki Professor in Buddhist Studies and Professor of Religion at Princeton University.

Students can read a brief overview of the Three Teachings and why they are so important in understanding Chinese history. Next, they can read about each of the traditions.

Professor Teiser offers us insights far beyond what BBC and other encyclopedic religion sites offer.   For example,  readers will learn about the way of the Celestial Masters, an early Daoist movement that began in the second century.  According to Professor Teiser, the celestial masters added mythology and rituals to many Daoist groups.

And in the Confucianism section, students will learn the attributes of a the ideal ruler which, according to Teiser, are "benevolence toward others; a general sense of doing what is right; and loyalty and diligence in serving one’s superiors."

Here's a review of the Three Teachings from "It's History."