The story is currently making its way in the conservative blogosphere that the wedding ring Obama wears as a wedding band on his left hand includes the Islamic declaration of faith, "There is no God but Allah."
According to World Net Daily (WND), a website that has been consistently critical of Obama, the president had been wearing the ring long before he got married. The ring now doubles as his wedding band, the report claims.
Egyptian-born Islamic scholar Mark A. Gabriel, Ph.D, examined photographs of President Obama's wedding ring at WND's request and concluded that it is inscribed with the first half of the Muslim shahada or Islamic declaration of faith.
The shahada is the first of the Five Pillars of Islam that is a declaration or confession of what is probably the most basic or fundamental article of the Muslim faith: "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is Allah's prophet."
Obama's ring purportedly bears the first part of the shahada, "There is no god but Allah,"(La Ilaha Illallah) but excludes the second part, "...and Muhammad is Allah's prophet."
Gabriel, according to WND, is a former Muslim Iman who fled Egypt after conversion to Christianity. He is the author of several books about Islam. WND reports that after examining a photograph of Obama's ring, he commented:
“There can be no doubt that someone wearing the inscription ‘There is no god except Allah’ has a very close connection to Islamic beliefs, the Islamic religion and Islamic society to which this statement is so strongly attached.
“Muslims recite the Shahada when they wake up in the morning and before they go to sleep at night. It is repeated five times every day in the call to prayer in every mosque. A single honest recitation of the Shahada in Arabic is all that is required for a person to convert to Islam.
“By wearing this religious statement on one’s hand, it connects the person to Islam. It is worn in hopes that Allah’s protections would be with the person, in hopes of gaining favor with Allah.
“Though Islamic law prohibits the wearing of gold jewelry by men, it is a widely accepted custom, even in strictly Muslim countries. The wearing of gold rings is even more acceptable when it contains a religious message, such as ‘There is no god except Allah.’”WND gives a background on Obama's use of the ring:
"As a student at Harvard Law School, then-bachelor Barack Obama’s practice of wearing a gold band on his wedding-ring finger puzzled his colleagues. Now, newly published photographs of Obama from the 1980s show that the ring Obama wore on his wedding-ring finger as an unmarried student is the same ring Michelle Robinson put on his finger at the couple’s wedding ceremony in 1992. Moreover, according to Arabic-language and Islamic experts, the ring Obama has been wearing for more than 30 years is adorned with the first part of the Islamic declaration of faith, the Shahada: 'There is no god except Allah.'”
According to WND, in 1990, students published a satirical edition of the Harvard Law Review that contained a mock profile advertisement about Obama that listed one of his “Accomplishments” as “Deflecting Persistent Questioning About Ring On Left Hand.”
Obama's critics and opponents would like to believe that the "mysterious" ring is conclusive evidence that Obama is Muslim. And that is the view that Pamela Geller expresses when she writes in Atlas Shrugs:
"I'd like to see one member of the press corps ask Obama about this. It certainly jives with Obama's islamophilia and his pro-sharia foreign policies, and with his extensive Muslim background, as detailed in my book, The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America."
However, David Emery, writing in Urbanlegends.com, features a high resolution image of the ring, and says:
"Contrary to what has been claimed in various online sources, President Obama's gold wedding ring does not feature the Muslim saying, 'No God but Allah' in Arabic script. It bears no visible inscription at all, only an abstract design."But what if it is true that the ring bears the inscription 'no god but Allah'?
It has been noted that it is significant that the ring, as WND claims, contains only the first part of the shahada which makes the inclusive statement there is" no god but God," and excludes the second and more exclusive part that says "Mohammad is his prophet."
The first part of the shahada, La Ilaha Illallah, is only a declaration of monotheistic faith and it applies to Christianity as well as Islam.
The Blaze notes:
"If the ring were said to have the second portion of the shahada, then eyebrows would likely raise a bit more. After all, Muhammad is confined to Islam and such a statement being present on jewelry would certainly be indicative of Islamic inclination."
According to The Blaze, an expert in Arabic studies, a professor at Duke University, agreed that the script could be the first portion of the shahada in Arabic script. The professor explained to The Blaze that,
"the purpose for the ring might be more rooted in other sentiments that lay outside of the Islamic religious tradition. In fact, some individuals wear rings similar to Obama’s for personal protection...
“Usually people in the Middle East — they wear such rings just for protection against any evil [spirits], car crashes — to keep them safe from evil..."
The professor explained further that:
"gold, in some areas of the Middle East, is not a metal that many Muslim men are permitted to wear. Thus, by some standards and in certain localities Obama’s ring would disqualify him from entering a mosque or even participating in worship — theoretically, speaking."The Blaze also spoke with Harvard University's Dr. Ali Asani, professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures. The scholar said the image of Obama's ring presented was not clear enough to make a firm determination. He said: “I’d actually have to see it much closer to see exactly what it says."
But Asani agreed that wearing a ring that makes a declaration of monotheistic faith in Arabic script means very little. He told The Blaze:
"It’s very clear that its not the whole shahada — of course in the shahada there the two different phrases. One is inclusive. It’s a statement any monotheist could accept — that there’s only one god. It‘s only the second part that’s exclusivist.”
However, Asani said that not all Muslim men believe that Islam does not allow them to wear gold. He said: “It depends on whose interpretation of Islam. Some ultra-conservatives have this [restriction on gold but] lots of Muslim men wear gold rings.”
Asani, who was born in Kenya, also explained that a relative might have given the ring to Obama. To illustrate his point, Asani said his father gave him a gold ring that belonged to his grandfather and that he still wears the ring.
The Blaze quotes another expert Raj Bhala, Associate Dean of International and Comparative Law at the University of Kansas School of Law:
“Let‘s suppose he is wearing a ring that says ’there is no god but God,‘ 'there are no deities but God,' 'nothing is worthy of being worshiped in the universe accept God.’ What that would mean is the president is a monotheist. He believes in a single God. He’s in the Abrahamic tradition of Jews, Christians and Muslims.”
The consensus among scholars is that the word "Allah" in Arabic simply means "God," and thus an interpretation that places the purported words on Obama's ring in its right context would read: "There is no god but God."
An English-speaking Muslim would call the Islamic deity "God," without intending to refer to the Christian "God," just as an Arabic-speaking Christian would call the Christian deity "Allah" without intending to refer to the Muslim deity. Similarly, a liberal theist could reasonably argue that the concept of "God" is universal and that it does not necessarily refer to the deity of any particular religion or sect.