Beliefs of Islam Essay
Beliefs of Islam
The central beliefs of Islam are summed up in the Five Pillars. These pillars express obligations imposed on Muslims in order to live in accordance with the will of Allah and set requirements for everyday Muslim life. They are the foundation of Islamic faith and reflect its basic tenets.
The first Pillar is Shahada, or Iman, believing in God’s oneness. The essence of the first Pillar is reflected in the saying: “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet” (University of Calgary). All Muslims pronounce this simple formulation that embraces the basics of what they believe in. The saying also means that the only worthy purpose in life is to serve and obey Allah and to do so through learning and following the teachings of Muhammad who the Muslims treat as the Last Prophet.
Another Pillar is the prayer, or Salah, which the Muslim is supposed to perform five times a day. The prayer establishes a direct connection between the praying person and God. As Islam does not have a hierarchy of priests typical of other religions, “prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Qur’an and is generally chosen by the congregation” (Islam 101). The times for prayers are morning, noon, later afternoon, evening and sunset. In this way, prayers accompany Muslims the whole day and remind them of the need to worship God.
The next pillar is Zakat, or the obligation to give charity. This demand, “originally a free-will donation”, has now turned into a compulsory demand to direct 2.5% of one’s annual income for charity or religious purposes (University of Calgary). Muslims in this way purify their wealth by setting aside a portion of it for the poor. Those willing to give more than required by Zakat can do so in secrecy, allocating a portion of their income as sadaqa-h, preferably in secrecy from other Muslims.
Fasting (Sawm) relates to the obligation to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse in the daytime in the month of Ramadan. The requirement does not refer to those who because of health problems cannot give up eating in the daylight hours. Their fast is transferred to another time, or they have to compensate for it in other ways. Each evening of the Ramadan, Muslims meet to “break” the fast together when the sun sets.
Hajj (Pilgrimage) refers to a trip to Mecca, the holy place to all Muslims. The trip has to be undertaken in an “egalitarian atmosphere, Ihram” including “donning of simple white garments, refraining from sex, haircuts, jewelry, arguing” (University of Calgary).
During their trip, Muslims circle the Ka’ab, the holy stone. Walking counterclockwise around the stone, they underscore the centrality of the stone in their beliefs. In general, the pilgrimage is arranged in such a way as to commemorate the prophets Abraham, Hagar Ishmael and Muhammad. For example, Sa’y, “running seven times between hills and drinking from Zamam spring” symbolizes “Hagar’s running for water” (University of Calgary). The Hajj is not really binding on Muslims since they only have to do this trip if they are physically fit to do it and financially able to afford it.
The Five Pillars effectively capture the basic beliefs of Islam: belief in the one-ness of God and the fact that Muhammad was the Last Prophet, centrality of Islamic faith in everyday life, moderate life, sharing of wealth between the rich and the poor. In my opinion, the first Pillar, Iman, is the easiest to realize since it only involves repeating the words over and over again.
This is an effective way to remind a person of the nature of one’s beliefs; however, it does not take too much effort. Ramadan, on the other hand, is extremely challenging both to health and will power. At one point I had a good friend who was a devout Muslim and I could observe how staunchly he resists eating and even drinking during the Ramadan. Such abstention can only be withstood by someone who is really devoted to one’s principles and has strong faith in religion.
Islam101. The Five Pillars of Islam. Retrieved June 16, 2006, from http://www.islam101.com/dawah/pillars.html
University of Calgary. (n.d.). The Five Pillars of Islam. Retrieved June 16, 2006, from http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/I_Transp/IO5_FivePillars.html
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 April 2017
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