Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Five Pillars of Islam Article

The Five Pillars of Islam
by ~Mobeen Tariq
The king of Brunei offers his people an all-expenses-paid trip to Mekkah once a year. Why does he do such an extravagant thing? Because Brunei is an Islamic country and a follower of Islam is required to make a pilgrimage to Mekkah once in their lifetime. I guess, it doesn’t hurt that he’s also ruler of the richest country in the world.

Islam made its appearance in the 7th Century (600s) AD and is the second biggest religion worldwide. One way to understand Islam and its followers, Muslims, better is to understand the basis of their religion. There are five acts of worship that the Muslims call the Five Pillars of Islam. These are 1. Sahabah, 2. Salat (prayer), 3. Zakat (charity), 4. Ramadan (fast), and 5. Hajj (pilgrimage).

Sahabah is the phrase “La ilahah illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah” (“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammed is his messenger.”). A person wanting to become a Muslim is to recite this phrase. This must be done before two adult witnesses that are Muslims.

Islam is the fastest growing religion and this is mainly because a lot of people are born into Islam. Their fathers whisper Sahabah into their baby’s ear when they are newborns and the child is then raised in the ways of Islam.

Large amounts of the people who are acquainted with Muslims are astounded at prayers centrality to Muslim life. This is because Salat (prayer) is one of the most important acts of worship for a Muslim.

A Muslim is to pray 5 times a day. They recite a ritual prayer in Arabic in combination with certain body movements. At the end of the prayer it is common practice to say a small personal prayer. All ritual prayers are to be performed facing the direction of Mekkah.  This is why a lot of prayer mats have in-built compass’.

Zakat (charity) happens once a year for a Muslim. Zakat is somewhat similar to a tithe in that a certain percentage of a Muslims income is to be given. Eight groups of people qualify to receive money from Zakat, among which are the needy, debtors, captives and also the Zakah collectors. Zakat is also used for social purposes like building hospitals, schools and mosques.

Adaqa or “secret charity” is very much encouraged among Muslims. A Muslim that gives Adaqa does it as extra to the yearly Zakat and offers it in secret. Charity among Muslims is not always in wealth form, however.  Mohammed once said that, “Even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.”

Ramadan (fast) is an annual event where Muslims refrain from eating and sexual relations during daylight hours. The point of Ramadan is for a Muslim to gain sympathy for the hungry.

There are certain people who are exempt from taking Ramadan: the sick, elderly, those on a journey, and women pregnant or nursing. The days missed are to be made up at a later date, however.

If that is not possible, say for an elderly person, they are to then to feed a needy person for the amount of days required. Because there is such a high birth rate in Islamic countries, mothers are often unable to make up the days required and are therefore thought to be “behind” spiritually.

There are two major festivals for Muslims. One of those is Fid al-Fitr, which takes place at the end of Ramadan. During Fid al-Fitr parties are thrown with special food, and people exchange presents and cards. Many give money to the poor beforehand that they may also partake in the celebrations.

If anyone knows anything about Islam, it’s usually about Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mekkah. A Muslim is required to make a Hajj once in their lifetime. That is if they are financially and physically capable of doing it. Many save up for years to make the pilgrimage. There are more than two million a year that go.

Mekkah is the birthplace of Muhammad. The Muslims who make the Hajj all dress in simple, white cloths to represent them all as equals. Together they perform prayers and religious rituals that they believe Muhammad, Abraham and Hagar did.

The Festival Id al-adha, one of the most important celebrations in Islam, commences at the end of the Hajj. Prayers are prayed and gifts are exchanged. Many Muslims then sacrifice a sheep or goat. One third of the meat from the animal is given to the poor.

I hope that you may put down this paper and continue on in your life with a better understanding of the Muslims in this world. Even if there’s only one point from this essay that stays with you, my goal will be complete. For what is it they say? Actually, maybe they don’t say anything at all…Still shouldn’t we be striving to better understand those around us everyday?

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