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Islamic Society ( 17 Jun 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Fundamentals of Islam at a Glance


By Husseini Yushau BabalWaiz

13 June 2014

"Say: 'We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and the revelation given to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) the prophets from their Lord(Allah): We make no distinction between one and another of them, and to Him(Allah) we are submitters(Muslimoon)!" --- Qur'an, 2: 136

The above quoted verse implies that, from prophet Adam to prophet Muhammad, God sent all of them as messengers and prophets to preach about monotheism in the form of Islam, and all of them including Jesus(Issah) Moses(Musah) Abraham(Ibrahim) brought Islam in different forms. And all of them would inform their people about the future advent of Prophet Muhammad as the seal of all them.

Islam simply means; peace and submission to the will of Allah. And it is built on a five basic foundations or pillars. In an Hadith narrated by Abu Abdurrahman, the son of Abdallah, the son of Umar Bunl Khatab, prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said: "Islam is built on five pillars: (1) or Testifying(Shahadah) that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His (last prophet and)messenger,(2)Performing the(five daily Salat) Prayers, (3) Paying the Zakat(poor tax), (4) Fasting in the month of Ramadan, and (5) Making a pilgrimage to Mecca to perform (annual)hajj if one is capable of it." A brief Analysis of the Five Pillars of Islam 1- Testifying (Shahadah) that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger: This simple statement is a kind of a password into Islam. Uttering it with sincerity before two witnesses is all the formality required from new converts to Islam. The Shahadah is also included in the call to prayer (the Adhan) and repeated during all prayers. And yet it is more than a verbal or vocal formality, for when you declare that you take Allah as your God, it means that you take Him as the shaper and guider of your life, refusing to be swayed by other influences, be they people, things, moods or desires.

The person who professes that Muhammad is God's messenger in fact pledges to abide by the instructions and teachings of Muhammad and to acknowledge their divine source. In Islamic jurisprudence and in literature over the ages, lengthy works have been written on the far-reaching implications of declaring, "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His messenger." And the moment a person made this declaration, he and all other Muslims who have been practicing for ages are equal in the sight of Allah. His sins are forgiven. And should he die after making just a declaration, not even practiced the other pillars, he would be granted paradise! 2- Performing the (five daily) Prayers: Among all these five pillars, Salat, or prayer was the only one pillar which was ordained to the Prophet in heaven, at the throne of Allah. Due to its significance, Allah sent down Angel Gabriel, mounting an animal called Buraq-created from Barq or lightning to carry the prophet and navigate him through the celestial universe to His(Allah) throne, which is located at(sidrat ul Muntaha) the climax of this universe, within one night.

This miraculous journey that under normal circumstances would have taken NASA (through its super powerful state-of-the-art spaceship) about 3500 light years [highly impossible for them though!] has been executed back and forth with one night. Allah had an exclusive one-on-one discourse with his most beloved of mankind, Prophet Muhammad, and he finally gave him fifty prayers a day to bring to Muslims on earth to perform. However, on his way back to the earth on this journey, he met prophet Moses(Musah) who urged him(3 times) to go back to Allah and ask him to reduce the prayers, because he knows his(prophet) followers cannot pray fifty times a day.

The back and forth errand of the Prophet to Allah finally made Him to narrow it down from fifty times to five times a day! And Allah, who is full of bounty and generosity, maintained the reward of the fifty prayers for the five daily prayers. Just imagine, and fancy the similar situation in our mundane world; where you tell your boss you cannot work the normal forty hours a week, but only 10 or 20 hours, do you think any rational economic being would ever maintain your 40 hours a week payment without reducing it according the hours you prefer to work? But with Allah, that is" a piece of cake!"[As Americans say] The ritual prayer of Islam is a distinct entity, somewhat different from prayer in its wider sense, that is, communicating your feelings to Allah at any time in any place and asking for His guidance, help and forgiveness, a practice that is ordained by the Qur'an and commendable in other religions that were brought by the earlier prophets as mentioned above.

In the Islamic sense it is performed five times a day: At early morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon, after sunset and after dark. However, group prayer had strongly been recommended, because it carries more reward than praying privately. Besides, it has been scientifically proven that, when you pray behind an Imam who recites the Qur’an (as listening to the Qur'anic recitation in general), reduces the prevalence of cancerous cells in the human body and even destroys them. And in prayer also according scientists, the prolongation of prostration (Sujud) strengthens memory and prevents strokes. The scientific facts further indicate that, prostration removes positive charges in the body in the world where everything uses electricity which affects us negatively. 3- Paying the Zakat (poor tax): This is the right of the poor and the needy in the wealth of the rich and is neither optional charity nor philanthropy.

 In Islamic state, it is collected by the government and is a primary source of budget, to be complemented as necessary by other legislated taxation. It may be given to voluntary Islamic institutions, which are then responsible for its distribution, or directly to the needy in locations where Islamic law does not operate(as in the case of Muslims living as minorities all over the world or under secular rule.)

The people who qualify to benefit from Zakat are: the poor, the needy, those employed to administer Zakat, those whose hearts are to be won over (non-Muslims to enable them see the humanitarian and safety net of Islam), freeing of human beings from bondage, for God’s cause, for the wayfarer (traveller who got stranded, lacking resources). The proof from the Quran and Sunnah are very clear.

There are more than 30 verses in the Qur'an, as well as multiple Hadith of the prophet about Zakat. It generates and strengthen strong bond and love between members of the Muslim community, whom the prophet described as, "like the organs of thee body, if one suffers then all others rally in response." Literally, the word Zakah means "purification" in Arabic, meaning that one purifies one's money by giving to the needy their just portion out of it. As Muslims pay the Zakah, they have the genuine feeling that, it is an investment that would increase their reward in leaps and bounds in the eternal and ethereal world. 4- Fasting in the month of Ramadan: The month of Ramadan (which is coming in little over two weeks from now) is part of the Islamic lunar calendar, and since it is eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, Ramadan comes eleven days, earlier each year, which allows fasting in various seasons and weathers throughout one's lifetime. From dawn to sunset during each day of Ramadan, Muslims go without any food or drink (not even water). Sex (with one's legal partner) is also banned during the daytime, and to preserve one's fast, one should not exhibit anger or any other misbehaviour.

Ramadan is not a month of starvation, since nutrition and hydration are ensured at night. It is recommended, however, that, one should exercise moderation while taking evening and pre-dawn meals. Those who are ill, children, nursing mothers, and the elderly (aged) are exempted from fasting. As one conquers the pull of daily habits and endures hunger and thirst, Ramadan furnishes as first class drill in self-restraints and willpower (and what would humanity be if the faculties of self restraint were lost?) Fasting becomes a very enriching experience as one transcends the needs of our material component and cherishes the spiritual. And fasting has been proven by numerous medical experts as a practice that has a panacea to cure so many diseases. [I will deal at length with this aspect in the coming weeks in Ramadan, God willing!] 5- Making a pilgrimage to Mecca to perform (annual) hajj if one is capable of it: Islam relates to the monotheistic mission of Abraham that its fifth pillar (hajj) is none but a formal commemoration of the patriarch Abraham's obedience to God. Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) consistently obeyed God throughout the many trials he endured in life. In one test, God ordered him to take his wife, Hagar, and his only son at the time, Ishmael, to the seemingly desolate region of the south-western Arabia.

Putting his trust in God for their welfare, Abraham left his wife and child at the site of the future city of Mecca. Soon after his departure, when their provisions (especially, water) were depleted and Ishmael's mother had to go through the ordeal of searching for water in panic and near despair, moving from one hill to the other, with the hope of seeing a moving caravan of traders to ask for water, while the little baby was crying out of thirst, suddenly water began to gash out beneath his toes, and this became a well called Zam Zam, which is replete with miraculous power of healing. Abraham, who periodically visited them, was later ordained by God to build, with the assistance of Ishmael, the first mosque for the worship of God and to call the believers to visit or make pilgrimage (hajj) to that mosque in worship, if they have the financial means.

The pilgrimage therefore started with Abraham and Ishmael and has continued non-stop ever since. Hajj season comes with the twelfth month of the lunar calendar, which is called the month of hajj (Dhul Hijjah), already known when Islam came, since it was an Abrahamic event. During hajj, women wear ordinary clothes that cover the whole body, except the face and hands. Men must wear two pieces of white unsewn cloth, without other clothing except, perhaps sandals and a (pocketed) belt.

This is the universal dress and the pilgrims all looks alike, without any class distinctions [regardless of your social status-whether you a President or a king], you should become a common man and mingle together in full brotherhood, circumambulating (Tawaf) under the throne of Allah at Ka’aba, the black cube, which has been confirmed by scientists as approximately located at the centre of the earth. The pilgrims over look and transcend all differences in; colour, culture, language, race, ethnicity, degree or education etc. Apart from circumambulation mentioned above, hajj rituals also include; several to-and-fro walks(Assa'yu) between the hills of Safa and Marwah, where prophet Ishmael's mother, Hagar, frantically ran in search of water for her son; the assembly around Mount Arafat[where Adam located his wife Hawah (Eve), after Allah descended them on earth] in prayer and supplication, which climaxes the basic hajj rituals; and stopping at the three sites [where the devil tried to tempt Abraham against(God's test of ordering him to slay his son) and throwing pebbles at the pillars placed there, symbolic of conquering temptation by the devil. The highlight of hajj is the collective prayer and sermon on the Eid ul-Adha (feast of sacrifice), followed by sacrificial slaughter of a ram, a camel, a goat, or a cow [donated to the poor, but part goes to the family and friends], following the tradition of Abraham, whom after obeying the command of God and was about to slaughter his son Ishmael, God then sent down Angel Gabriel with a ram to replace with his son. So this ritual of sacrifice supposed to be practice by both pilgrims at Mecca and non-pilgrims in their home-countries on the 10th day of the month of hajj, last month of the annual Islamic calendar, and it would last for three day. And it is highly recommended to visit the graveyard of the prophet in Medina, which is located in his mosque. This Hadith serve as a source of encouragement for Muslims to do that: "The space in-between my grave and my podium (Membar) is a garden as part of the garden of paradise!"

Husseini Yushau BabalWaiz, is the Research & Outreach Coordinator at the Center for Media & Peace Initiatives, New York, Author of three books, including "Not good without God" and Tutor in Arabic & Islamic Studies, NY. Further Reading: Reading the Muslim Mind, by Hassan Hathout, Not god but God, by Reza Aslan