NEW YORK – 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.”
The Shahada is the first of the Five Pillars of Islam, expressing the two fundamental beliefs that make a person a Muslim: There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s prophet.
Sincere recitation of the Shahada is the sole requirement for becoming a Muslim, as it expresses a person’s rejection of all other gods
Egyptian-born Islamic scholar Mark A. Gabriel, Ph.D., examined photographs of Obama’s ring at WND’s request and concluded that the first half of the Shahada is inscribed on it.
“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,” Gabriel told WND.
“Dreams from My Real Father” producer Joel Gilbert, an Arabic speaker and an expert on the Middle East, was the first to conclude that Obama’s ring, reportedly from Indonesia, bore an Islamic inscription.
Photographs published last week by the New Yorker from Obama’s time at Occidental College, taken by fellows students, indicate that the ring Obama wore three decades ago is the one he is wearing in the White House.
As WND reported in July, previously published photos have shown Obama wearing a gold band on his wedding-ring finger continuously from 1981 at Occidental, through graduation at Columbia in 1983, in a visit to Africa in 1988 and during his time at Harvard from 1988 to 1991. But none, until now, have displayed the ring with enough detail to identify it as the one he currently is wearing.
WND reported a satirical edition of the Harvard Law Review published by students in 1990 contains a mock Dewers Scotch profile advertisement poking fun at Obama. Among a list of Obama’s “Latest Accomplishments” is: “Deflecting Persistent Questioning About Ring On Left Hand.”
The comment suggests the ring was a subject of student curiosity at the time and that Obama was not forthcoming with an explanation.
He still has not explained why he wore the band on his wedding-ring finger before he married Michelle.
The Occidental ring
The photographs published last week by New Yorker magazine indicate Obama was wearing the ring at Occidental College.
One photo shows Obama sitting alongside Occidental roommate Hasan Chandoo in 1981, apparently waiting for a meal to be served.
In the above photo, the ring’s design can be seen, including a series of parallel bars that distinguish its outer circumference.
Gabriel, born to Muslim parents in Upper Egypt, grew up immersed in Islamic culture. He memorized the Quran at age of 12 and graduated in 1990 with a Masters degree from the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the preeminent Sunni Muslim institution of learning.
He explained that on Obama’s ring, the declaration “There is no god except Allah” (La Ilaha Illallah) is inscribed in two sections, one above the other. On the upper section, “There is no god” is written in Arabic letters, from right to left: Lam, Alif, Alif, Lam, Ha. On the lower section is “except god,” written in Arabic letters from right to left: Alif, Lam, Alif, Alif, Lam, Lam, Ha.
In the lower section, the word “Allah” is written partially on top of the word “except,” noted Gabriel, the author of “Islam and Terrorism” and “Journey Inside the Mind of an Islamic Terrorist.” It is common in Islamic art and Arabic calligraphy, especially when expressing Quranic messages on jewelry, to artfully place letters on top of each other to fit them into the allotted space.
The exhibit below shows how the Arabic inscription fits over the two parts of the Obama ring.
‘I have known Islam on three continents’
Filmmaker Joel Gilbert, an expert on Islamic history, noted Obama wore the ring during his high-profile speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009, in the first months of his presidency.
“Now we have a new context for what Obama meant when he told the Islamic audience in Cairo that he has ‘known Islam on three continents,” Gilbert said. “He also told the Cairo audience that he considered it part of his responsibility as president of the United States ‘to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.’ All religious Muslims are by definition required to defend Islam.”
The Obama wedding ring
The ring was mentioned in a New York Times article in 2009 recounting the Obamas’ wedding.
In the story, Jodi Kantor described its “intricate gold design,” noting it came from Barack Obama’s boyhood home of Indonesia and was not traditional, like Michelle’s.
Just before the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. pronounced Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson man and wife on the evening of Oct. 3, 1992, he held their wedding rings – signifying their new, enduring bonds – before the guests at Trinity United Church of Christ. Michelle’s was traditional, but Barack’s was an intricate gold design from Indonesia, where he had lived as a boy.
There was no mention in the article that Obama already had been wearing the ring for more than a decade.
The photos of the ring from the 1980s can be compared with more recent photos, such as the ones published by the Huffington Post in 2010 in an article by Anya Strzemien, “Obama’s ‘Intricate’ Indonesian Wedding Band: A CLOSE-UP,” seen here.