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Faruqi, Isma‘il Raji al- (01 January 1921–27 May 1986), scholar of religion and Islamic social activist, was born in Jaffa, Palestine, the son of ‘Abd al Huda al-Faruqi, a wealthy Muslim judge; his mother’s name is unknown. In 1941 he received a B.A. in philosophy from the American University of Beirut. In 1942 he was employed as a registrar of Cooperative Societies by the British Mandate in Jerusalem, which appointed him in 1945 as the district governor of Galilee. When Israel became an independent Jewish state in 1948, Faruqi fled to the United States and enrolled as a graduate student at Indiana University. In 1949 he graduated with an M.A. in philosophy and was accepted as a graduate student at Harvard University, where in 1951 he earned a second M.A. in philosophy. He then returned to Indiana University, from which he obtained a Ph.D. in 1952. During his graduate studies, Faruqi translated books from Arabic into English for the American Council of Learned Societies. He married Lois Ibsen some time around 1952; they had three daughters and two sons, the younger of which died on a trip to Mexico in March 1986....

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116776).

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King, Martin Luther, Jr. (15 January 1929–04 April 1968), Baptist minister and civil rights leader, was born Michael King, Jr., in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of the Reverend Michael King ( Martin Luther King) and Alberta Williams. Born to a family with deep roots in the African-American Baptist church and in the Atlanta black community, the younger King spent his first twelve years in the home on Auburn Avenue that his parents shared with his maternal grandparents. A block away, also on Auburn, was Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his grandfather, the Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, had served as pastor since 1894. Under Williams’s leadership, Ebenezer had grown from a small congregation without a building to become one of Atlanta’s prominent African-American churches. After Williams’s death in 1931, his son-in-law became Ebenezer’s new pastor and gradually established himself as a major figure in state and national Baptist groups. In 1934 the elder King, following the request of his own dying father, changed his name and that of his son to Martin Luther King....

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Lovejoy, Elijah Parish (09 November 1802–07 November 1837), abolitionist editor and preacher, was born near Albion, Maine, the son of Daniel Lovejoy, a Congregational preacher and farmer, and Elizabeth Pattee. Lovejoy graduated from Waterville (now Colby) College in 1826 and a year later moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he conducted a private school and edited the ...

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Maffitt, John Newland (28 December 1794–28 May 1850), Methodist preacher, was born in Dublin, Ireland, to a middle-class family that belonged to the Church of Ireland, a branch of the Anglican church. Information about Maffitt’s family background and early life is decidedly spotty: his parents’ names are unknown, although we do know that his father died when Maffitt was twelve and that his mother shortly thereafter attempted to establish him in a mercantile establishment devoted to tailoring. One account claims he graduated from Trinity College. The teenage Maffitt indulged a love of reading novels and historical romances, however, until a conversion experience in a Methodist meeting at age eighteen or nineteen—accounts conflict on this score—convinced him to become a preacher. The Irish Methodist church did not recognize him as a licensed preacher, and his sporadic attempts at evangelical work both in and beyond Dublin were a mixed success at best. Even so, he displayed a highly melodramatic style, which would personify his later career in the United States. He married Ann Carnic at age twenty. They had seven children; the oldest son, ...

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Malcolm X Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115058).

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Malcolm X (19 May 1925–21 February 1965), African-American religious and political leader, also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Earl Little and Louise (also Louisa) Norton, both activists in the Universal Negro Improvement Association established by ...

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Pratt, Parley Parker (12 April 1807–13 May 1857), author and church leader, was born in Burlington, Otsego County, New York, the son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson, farmers. Pratt spent most of his youth working on his father’s farm and had very little schooling. At the age of nineteen he went to Ohio, where he started his own farm. In September 1827 he married Thankful Halsey; they had one son. Shortly thereafter he met ...

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Seghers, Charles Jean (26 December 1839–28 November 1886), Catholic archbishop and Alaskan missionary, was born in Ghent, Belgium, the son of Charles Francis Seghers, a florist, and Paulina (née Seghers), a cook. His parents later became moderately wealthy shopkeepers. At the age of twenty he became the sole survivor of his parents and siblings, most of whom died from tuberculosis. Upon graduating from a local Jesuit college in 1858, Seghers entered the city’s diocesan seminary. Despite weak health he enrolled in 1861 in the American College of Louvain, founded to train clergy for missionary careers in the United States. His intelligence, unassuming piety, and pleasant disposition led teachers and classmates to view him as an ideal seminarian. Ordained a priest in 1863, Seghers emigrated to the Pacific Northwest in hopes of ministering to Native Americans; instead his fluency in English and poor health kept him in Victoria where he served as parish priest and assistant to Modeste Demers, bishop of Vancouver Island. During the bishop’s absences from the diocese Seghers acted as his replacement. Demers, expecting that the consumptive young priest would not live long, invited Seghers to travel with him to Rome as his secretary for the First Vatican Council. Upon returning to Victoria, Seghers assumed increasingly more responsibilities when Demers’s own health began to fail. In 1873, two years after Demers’s death, 33-year-old Seghers became his successor....

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Joseph Smith. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90309).

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Smith, Joseph (23 December 1805–27 June 1844), founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as the Mormon Church, was born in Sharon, Windsor County, Vermont, the son of Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack, farmers. Joseph Smith was notable among religious figures for claiming to receive revelations and to translate ancient religious texts. Mormons consider these writings, published as the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon, as scripture on a par with the Bible and think of Smith as a prophet in the biblical tradition. Smith did not consider himself to be either a reformer or the founder of a new religion. In his own eyes, he was restoring the Christian gospel as taught by Jesus and the first apostles. Nothing in Joseph Smith’s background prepared him to write scriptures or to head a religious movement. His parents were poor New England farmers who began life with a farm in Tunbridge, Vermont, but lost it in 1803 after a commercial venture failed. When Joseph Smith, Jr., was born two years later, the Smith family lived on a farm rented from a relative. In 1816 they migrated to Palmyra, New York, and in 1818 purchased 100 acres in Farmington (later Manchester) a few miles south of Palmyra village. For the first time in fourteen years they owned land of their own....