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Islam is an Arabic word which means Submission or to Submit to The Supreme Being, The Creator, whose proper name is ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala. The Oneness of ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, is the basic principle of Islam, and is called Tawheed. Muslims are those who submit, totally, to ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala.
The guidance for Muslims comes from two primary sources, the Noble Quran, which is the Divine Scripture of Islam, and the Hadith, which are the recorded deeds and teachings of Prophet Muhammad, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, the final Messenger of ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala. The Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, over a period of 23 years, through the Angel Jibril (Gabriel), alaihis salaam. The Quran contains the words of ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala. Since its initial revelation, over 1400 years ago, the entire book has been committed to memory by many Muslims. It will continue to be memorized by many Muslims until the end of life on earth. The Prophet, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, practiced the guidance of the Quran to the point where he is said to have 'lived the Quran'. His actions and teachings, which helped explain the wisdom and guidance of the Quran, have also been recorded in what is referred to as the Hadith or the Sunnah of the Prophet, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam. This too has been committed to memory by numerous Muslims. The science of recording and authenticating the Hadith is one of the most precise sciences known to man. Every Hadith must have an authentic chain of narrators which leads back to the Prophet, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam. Muslims worship ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, The Creator and Sustainer. As part of this worship, Muslims are required to believe in :
Islam is based on 5 pillars :
These will be explained later. Some of the additional practices Muslims are required to observe include Modesty, Kindness to neighbors, Cleanliness, Justice, Close family ties and Facing the direction of the Ka'ba during Salat. Some of the practices which are forbidden to Muslims include Eating pork or pork by-products, Consuming alcoholic beverages, Incest and Riba, which is dealing with usury. It should be noted that a prohibition in Islam requires totally avoiding any association with the prohibited item. For example, the prohibition of alcohol means it is not allowed to drink it, transport it, buy it, sell it, manufacture it, grow the raw materials for producing it or in any way being involved with it.
The Muslim calendar is called the Hijra Calendar and is a lunar based calendar. It consists of 12 months, with each month beginning upon the sighting of the new moon. This results in months that are 29 or 30 days long. (No month can be longer than 30 days.) Hence the Hijra calendar seems to float or span through the Gregorian Calendar. The calendar gets its name from the Hijra (migration) of the Prophet Muhammad, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, from Makkah to Madina.
In the following sections, you can find a brief explanation of the 5 pillars of Islam. For more information on Islam or Muslims, please contact IFANCA or your local Islamic Center or Masjid.
The next section briefly discusses the 1st pillar of Islam: Shahada, or the Oath.
SHAHADA - The Oath
I bear witness there is no God but ALLAH and I bear witness that Muhammad is HIS Messenger.
This is the oath that brings a person into the fold of Islam and unites the person with the over 1.4 billion Muslims in the world today. It is a simple phrase, with enormous meaning.
First, one must testify, bear witness, take the oath, and believe, that there is only one God, whose proper name is ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala. ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, is the Creator, the First and the Last, the All-Seeing, the All-Knowing, the All-Encompassing being that created the Heavens and the Earth, the Just, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace, the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms, the Forgiving.
ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, has no partners and ascribing partners to HIM is the only sin which will not be forgiven.
Next, one must testify, bear witness, take the oath and believe that Prophet Muhammad, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, is the Messenger of ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, sent as a mercy for all creatures. Muslims believe in all the Prophets and Messengers, alaihim assalaam. That includes the ones whose names have been revealed (as listed above) as well as the over 124,000 others whose names have not been revealed. Muhammad, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, is the seal of the Prophets and Messengers, alaihim assalaam. There will be no more Prophets sent to mankind, as the final Message has been delivered in the form of the Quran.
To be a Muslim, one must utter this simple phrase, believe in it, and hold true to its meaning. That brings one into the fold of Islam. This is the most important pillar of Islam. The belief in One God, ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, is referred to as Tawheed and is the basis of Islamic belief. All acts of worship are based on this.
The next section briefly discusses the 2nd pillar of Islam: the Salat, or prayers.
SALAT - Prayer
Salat, sometimes translated as prayer, is the 2nd pillar of Islam. Salat is the foundation of Islam and is a gift from ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala. Salat was prescribed by ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, during the Prophet Muhammad's, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam, Night Journey and Ascension, when he went from Makkah to Jerusalem, led all the Prophets, alaihim assalaam, in Salat, and then ascended through the 7 Heavens. At the final stop, he received the 5 daily Salawat (plural of Salat) from ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala. Muslims are required to perform Salat 5 times everyday at prescribed times. These times are referred to as Fajr, Thuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha.
Before Salat is performed, one must be in a state of purity and cleanliness. This requires performing Wudu, Ablution, in a specific manner and may require a full shower or bath. Salat can be performed individually, but the reward is greater if it is performed in a group, referred to as a Jama'ah, with an Imam leading the group. Normally, the Jama'ah performs their Salat in a Masjid, or Mosque, referred to as a House of ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala. In addition, Muslims are encouraged to offer voluntary Salat at most times during the day and night. (There are some times when Salat is not allowed.) The voluntary Salat are offered in the same manner as the required 5 daily Salawat and can be offered in Jama'ah, but usually are offered individually.
Salat combines recitations from the Quran, Glorifying ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, hand movements, bowing, prostrating and head movements. For more information on Salat or any other aspect of Islam, please contact the IFANCA or your local Islamic Center or Masjid.
The next section briefly discusses the 3rd pillar of Islam: Zakat, or alms-giving.
ZAKAT - Alms
The 3rd pillar of Islam is Zakat. Zakat is a purification of the wealth ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, has entrusted us with. Every Muslim who has exceeded a minimum quantity of wealth is required to pay Zakat. The Quran discusses Zakat in over 80 ayat (verses), and it is frequently in combination with Salat. The Quran also discloses the qualifying recipients of Zakat.
Zakat is not a charity. Rather it is the right of the needy upon those who are not needy. When one gives their Zakat, they are grateful to find someone willing to accept it. The latter has done a favor for the giver by accepting their Zakat. With this attitude, Zakat is the mechanism by which poverty is eliminated. It is preferred that the Zakat be given directly by the giver to the receiver, rather than through an intermediary. By this method, the wealthy interact with the needy, they see their condition and they feel some of the hardship. This should soften their hearts and encourage them to give charity as well. Zakat does not replace or eliminate charity. On the contrary, it encourages charitable contributions, especially when it is given directly to the receiver. For more information on Zakat or any other aspect of Islam, please contact the IFANCA or your local Islamic Center or Masjid.
The next section briefly discusses the 4th pillar of Islam: Siyam, or Fasting during the month of Ramadan.
SIYAM - Fasting The Month Of Ramadan
The 4th pillar of Islami is Siyam. Siyam is fasting and Muslims are required to fast during the month of Ramadan, which is the 9th month of the Hijra calendar. The Quran teaches us that fasting is a form of worship which has been prescribed and practiced through the ages by many peoples. The Quran states:
"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed
to those before you, that you may (learn) GOD-consciousness."
Here the guidance that fasting is required of Muslims is made clear, as well as the reason for this requirement. Fasting is intended to make one more conscious of the Creator, HIS existence, and HIS presence. It should place this consciousness within us, all the time, so we conduct our lives with the knowledge of HIS presence all around us. This consciousness guides our activities and creates a barrier that separates us from all evil and wrongdoing. Fasting is performed by not taking any food or drink between Fajr time and Maghrib time, every day during the month of Ramadan. After Maghrib, one is allowed to eat and drink Halal (lawful) foods and beverages until Fajr. Of course, since fasting is a prescription for ALLAH-consciousness, other activities are involved, including additional voluntary Salat, additional reading of Quran and meditation and Glorification of ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala.
Note: It should be noted that all intoxicants, including alcoholic beverages and drugs are prohibited and could not be partaken of during or after the fast. In addition, smoking, is discouraged at all times and would break the fast if engaged in during the prescribed fast time. Enjoying marital relations (sex is only permitted between husband and wife) also breaks the fast if performed during the prescribed fast time.
For more information on Siyam or any other aspect of Islam, please contact IFANCA or your local Islamic Center or Masjid.
The next and last section briefly discusses the 5th pillar of Islam: Hajj, or the Pilgrimage to the Ka'ba in Makkah.
HAJJ - Pilgrimage To The Ka'ba In Makkah
The 5th pillar of Islam is Hajj. It is required of every able Muslim once within their lifetime. To be considered able, one must be able to handle the financial burden, the physical burden, and be above the age of puberty. Hajj is performed at a prescribed time of the year, during the month of Thul-Hijjah, the 12th (last) month of the Hijra calendar.
Hajj is a magnificent form of worship, combining Salat, physical effort, long hours of meditation and supplication and Glorification of ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala. It is also a remembrance of the tests endured by Prophet Ibrahim, alaihis salaam, of his wife Hajar and their son Prophet Isma'eel, alaihis salaam. Hajj reminds us of our destiny, of the shortness of this worldly life and of how we will all leave this world with nothing but our recorded deeds. It will be those deeds that determine our final standing or position in the Hereafter.
Hajj can only be performed in Makkah and it offers Muslims the opportunity to visit the Ka'ba, the Ancient House, the House of ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, the first House constructed on earth for the purpose of worshipping ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala. It was originally built by Adam, alaihis salaam, and rebuilt by Ibrahim and Isma'eel, alaihim assalaam, on its original foundation. Many of the duties performed during Hajj are based on the supplications of Ibrahim, alaihis salaam, and the trials and test he, Isma'eel, alahim assalaam, and Hajar endured. Hajj results in the largest gathering of Muslims at any one place and during Hajj, one will experience Salat in a jama'ah of over 1 million Muslims.
For more information on Hajj or any other aspect of Islam, please contact IFANCA or your local Islamic Center or Masjid.
This concludes the 5 pillars of Islam.