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Understanding
Islam & Muslims
Contd.
This page was incorporated from the book, Understanding Islam and the Muslims, prepared by The Islamic Affairs Department, The Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington DC., Consultants The Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, UK, 1989.

Contents:


What Are The 'Five Pillars' Of Islam?

They are the framework of the Muslim life: faith, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.

  1. Faith

    There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which all the faithful pronounce, in Arabic, the first part is la ilaha illa'Lah - 'there is no god except God'; ilaha (god) can refer to anything which we may be tempted to put in place of God - wealth, power, and the like. Then comes ilia'Llah: 'except God', the source of all Creation. The second part of the Shahada is Muhammadun rasulu' Llah: 'Muhammad is the messenger of God.' A message of guidance has come through a man like ourselves.

  2. Prayer

    Salat is the name for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam and no priests, so the prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Qur'an, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Qur'an, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one's own language.

    Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as fields, offices, factories and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life.

  3. The 'Zakat'

    One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust, the word zakat means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion of those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.

    Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of one's capital.

    A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqa, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as 'voluntary charity' it has a wider meaning.
    The Prophet PBUH said:

     

    'even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.'

    The Prophet PBUH said:
    'Charity is a necessity for every Muslim.'
    He was asked:
    'What if a person has nothing?'
    The Prophet PBUH replied:
    'He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity'.
    The Companions asked:
    'What if he is not able to work?'
    The Prophet PBUH said:
    'He should help poor and needy persons.'
    The Companions further asked:
    'What if he cannot do even that?'
    The Prophet PBUH said:
    'He should urge others to do good.'
    The Companions said:
    'What if he lacks that also?'
    The Prophet PBUH said:
    'He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity'.

     
  4. The Fast

    Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.

    Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in one's spiritual life.

  5. Pilgrimage (Hajj)

    The annual pilgrimage to Makkah - the Hajj - is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.

    The rites of the Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include circling the Ka'ba seven times, and going seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafa and join in prayers for God's forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgement.

    In previous centuries the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, Saudi Arabia provides millions of people with water, modern transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities.

    The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated with gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the Eid al-fitr, a feastday commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the main festivals of the Muslim calendar.

Does Islam Tolerate Other Beliefs?

As for such [of the unbelievers] as do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, God loves those who act equitably. (Qur'an, 60:8)

It is one function of Islamic law to protect and privileged status of minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths: when the caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city.

Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the minorities themselves.

What Do Muslims Think About Jesus?

Muslims respect and reserve Jesus UHBP, and await his Second Coming. They consider him one of the greatest of God's messengers to mankind. A Muslim never refers to him simply as 'Jesus', but always adds the phrase 'upon him be peace'. The Qur'an confirms his virgin birth (a chapter of the Qur'an is entitled 'Mary'), and Mary is considered the purest woman in all creation. The Qur'an describes the Annunciation as follows:
'Behold." the Angel said, 'God has chosen you, and purified you, and chosen you above the women of all nations. 0 Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honoured in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near to God. He shall speak to the people from his cradle and in maturity, and shall be of the righteous.'

She said: '0 my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?' He said: 'Even so; God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, "Be!" and it is.'
(Qur'an, 3:42-7)

Jesus UHBP was born miraculously through the same power which had brought Adam UHBP into being without a father.

Truly, the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, 'Be!' and he was. (3:59)

During his prophetic mission Jesus UHBP performed many miracles. The Qur'an tells us that he said:
I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God's leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God's leave. (3:49)

Neither Muhammad PBUH came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it. In the Qur'an Jesus UHBP is reported as saying that he came:
To attest the law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear God and obey Me. (3:50)

The Prophet Muhammad PBUH said:

 

Whoever believes there is no god but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and that Paradise and Hell are true shall be received by God in to Heaven.

(Hadith from Bukhari)

 

Why Is The Family So Important To Muslims?

The family is the foundation of Islamic society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued, and seen as essential for the spiritual growth of its members. A harmonious existence of extended families; children are treasured, and rarely leave home until the time they marry.

What About Muslim Women ?

Islam sees a woman, whether single or married, as an individual in her own right, and with the right to own and dispose of her property and earnings. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use, and she keeps her own family name rather than taking her husband's.

Both men and women are expected to dress in a way which is modest and dignified; the traditions of female dress found in some Muslim countries are often the expression of local customs.

The Messenger of God PBUH said:

 

'The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manner and kindest to his wife.'

 

Can A Muslim Have More That One Wife?

The religion of Islam was revealed for all societies and all times and so accommodates widely differing social requirements. Circumstances may warrant the taking of another wife but the right is granted, according to the Qur'an, only on condition that the husband is scrupulously fair.

Is Islamic Marriage Like Christian Marriage?

A Muslim marriage is not a 'sacrament', but a simple, legal agreement in which either partner is free to include conditions. Marriage customs thus vary widely from country to country. As a result, divorce is not common, although it is not forbidden as a last resort. According to Islam, no Muslim girl can be forced to marry against her will: her parents will simply suggest young men they think may be suitable.

How Do Muslims Treat The Elderly?

In the Islamic world there are no old people's homes. The strain of caring for one's parents in this most difficult time of their lives is considered an honour and blessing, and an opportunity for great spiritual growth. God asks that we not only pray for our parents, but act with limitless compassion, remembering that when we were helpless children they preferred us to themselves. Mothers are particularly honoured: the Prophet PBUH taught that 'Paradise lies at the feet of mothers'. When they reach old age, Muslim parents are treated mercifully, with the same kindness and selflessness.

In Islam, serving one's parents is a duty second only to prayer, and it is their right to expect it. It is considered despicable to express any irritation when, through no fault of their own, the old become difficult.

The Qur'an says:

 

Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and be kind to parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, do not say a word of contempt to them or chide them, but speak to them in terms of honour and kindness. Treat them with humility, and say, 'My Lord! Have mercy on them for they did care for me when I was little'.

(17:23-4)

 

How Do Muslims View Death?

Like Jews and Christians, Muslims believe that the present life is only a trial preparation for the next realm of existence. Basic articles for faith include: the Day of Judgement, resurrection, Heaven and Hell. When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed, usually by a family member, wrapped in a clean white cloth, and buried with a simple prayer preferably the same day. Muslims consider this one of the final services they can do for their relatives, and an opportunity to remember their own brief existence here on earth. The Prophet PBUH taught that three things can continue to help a person even after death; charity which he had given, knowledge which he had taught and prayers on their behalf by a righteous child.

What Does Islam Say About War?

Like Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defence, in defence of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock. As Muslims see it, injustice would be triumphant in the world if good men were not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause. The Qur'an says:

 

Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors. (2.190)

If they seek peace, then seek you peace. And trust in God for He is the One that heareth and knoweth all things.

(8.61)

 

War, therefore, is the last resort, and is subject to the rigourous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The term jihad literally means 'struggle', and Muslims believe that there are two kinds of jihad. The other 'jihad' is the inner struggle which everyone wages against egotistic desires, for the sake of attaining inner peace.

What About Food?

Although much simpler than the dietary law followed by Jews and the early Christians, the code which Muslims observe forbids the consumption of pig meat or any kind of intoxicating drink. The Prophet taught that 'your body has rights over you', and the consumption of wholesome food and the leading of a healthy lifestyle are seen as religious obligations.

The Prophet PBUH said:

 

'Ask God for certainty (of faith) and wellbeing; for after certainty, no one is given any gift better than health!'

 

How Does Islam Guarantee Human Rights?

Freedom of conscience is laid down by the Qur'an itself: "There is no compulsion in religion'. (2:256)

The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred whether a person is Muslim or not.

Racism is incomprehensible to Muslims, for the Qur'an speaks of human equality in the following terms:
0 mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honoured of you in God's sight is the greatest of you in piety. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware.

(49:1.3)

 

What The Holy Qur'an Says?

 

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects Evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

Al Baqarah (2:256)

Invite (all) to the Way Of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: For thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. And if ye do catch them out, catch them out no worse than they catch you out: but if ye show patience.

Al Nahal (16:125)

Say: "0 ye men! Now truth hath reached you from your Lord! Those who receive guidance, do so for the good of their own souls; those who stray, do so in their own loss: and I am not (set) over you to arrange your affairs."

Follow thou the inspiration sent unto thee, and be patient and constant, till Allah doth decide: for He is the Best to decide.

Yunus (10:108-109)

Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!

Fussilat (41:34)

(They are) those who, if we established them in the land, establish regular prayer and give regular charity, enjoin the right and forbid wrong: with Allah rests the end (and decision) of (all) affairs.

Al Hajj (22:41)

 

A Translation of the Call to Prayer

God is most great. God is most great.
God is most great. God is most great.
I testify that there is no god except God.
I testify that there is no god except God.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Come to prayer! Come to prayer!
Come to success (in this life and Hereafter)! Come to success!
God is most great. God is most great.
There is no god except God.

This Page Last Updated 25/11/2009 3:58:10 p.m.

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