1. The Kalimah - The Confession of Faith.
Islam is divided into iman, the belief of a Muslim, and din, the practice of his religion. Just as there are six articles of faith, so there are five compulsory works, generally known as the "Five Pillars of Islam". Muhammad is alleged to have defined these pillars according to the following tradition:
- 1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah's apostle.
- 2. To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly.
- 3. To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity).
- 4. To perform Hajj (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca).
- 5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.
The foremost duty in Islam, and anyone wishing to become a Muslim is to recite the creed, known as the Kalimah (the "Word"), or the Shahadah (the "Testimony" of Faith), with an express intention to personally profess what he is reciting (this intention is known as the Muslim's niyyah) to be admitted to the faith.
The whole of the religion of Islam is briefly summed up in the two short sentences, La ilaha ill-Allah, i.e. there is no god but Allah, or, nothing deserves to be made an object of love and worship except Allah, and Muhammad-un Rasulullah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. It is simply by bearing witness to the truth of these two simple propositions that a man enters the fold of Islam.
The actual testimony is a single creed - La ilaha illullah Muhammadur-Rasulullah - and whereas the whole confession does not appear in this exact form in the Qur'an, its two constituent parts appear in Surahs 9.31 and 33.40 respectively. It can truly be said that this brief declaration is the equivalent of the Apostle's Creed in Islam. It is written above the mihrab in many mosques or above their entrances, on letterheads, pendants and posters, and indeed can be found inscribed almost everywhere in the Muslim world. This is hardly surprising as Muhammad is said to have claimed that whoever actually professed this testimony would never be touched by the Fire of Hell.
2. Salaah - The Prescribed Ritual of Prayer.
Five times a day a Muslim is bound to perform the Salaah, the fixed ritual of the Islamic prayer-worship. He should properly go to the nearest mosque to offer his prayers together with the whole congregation. Each of the five periods is preceded by the adhaan (or azaan as it is more commonly called). The muezzin (more correctly mu'adh-dhin) calls out on each occasion:
Allaabu Akbar (four times - "Allah is Most Great").
Ash'hadu an laa ilaaha illallaah (twice - "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah").
Ash'hadu anna Muhammadar-rasulullaah (twice - "I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah").
Haya 'alas-salaah (twice - "Come to prayer").
Ilaya 'alal falaah (twice - "Come to the good;').
Allaaku Akbar (twice - "Allah is Most Great").
Laa ilaaha illallaah (once - "There is no god but Allah").
After the call to the good during the Fajr prayer (just before dawn), the crier calls out twice: "Prayer is better than sleep". Then follows the actual performance of prayer itself in which anything between two or four rituals (each one known as a rak'ah - a "bowing") are performed. The worshipper begins with the qiyam, the standing posture. He raises his hands to his ears and then folds them, right over left, upon his breast. Following this is the ruku in which he bows down and places his hands on his knees, thereafter returning to the standing position. Then comes the sajdah, the prostration of the whole body on the ground. This is performed twice with a brief sitting in between. He then comes back to the sitting position, the qa'dah and passes the greeting as-salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah - "peace on you and the mercy of Allah".
In between these postures various expressions and passages of the Qur'an (especially the Suratul-Fatihah) are recited. These include the takbir ("Allah is Most Great"), the tahmid from the Fatihah ("Praise be to Allah"), the tahlil ( There is no god but Allah") and the tasbih ("May Allah be Glorified ). This fixed ritual of prayer is so rigid in Islam that there may be no departure from it and the pious Muslim will slavishly follow it day after day. It is far removed from the spirit of true Christian worship.
Prayer is reduced to a gymnastic exercise and a mechanical act.
The dominant feeling connected with the five daily prayers is probably that of a prescribed religious duty being duly performed".Before going into the mosque the worshipper must perform an ablution, known as wudhu (or, in certain circumstances, a washing of the whole body known as ghusl), the ritual of which is set out in the Qur'an.
Zakaah and Saum - Alms and Fasting
The Qur'an constantly enjoins on believers the duty of paying Zakaah, a prescribed almsgiving. The book often links the duty of charity with the observance of Salaah (e.g. Surah 9.5) and refers to it as an act of piety to purify the believer. Fasting is also prescribed as an obligatory duty of Islam and the Muslim is obliged to fast from sunrise to sunset during the thirty days of the month of Ramadan. The command to fast is found in the Qur'an:
Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting. But if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Surah 2.185
The believer must declare his niyyah before dawn each day and must abstain from all foods, liquids and other pleasures during the day. He should partake of a proper breakfast, a sehri, before the morning prayer. At sunset he should also break his fast as soon as he can. The fast-month ends with the sighting of the new moon heralding the month of Shawwal and the Eid festival.
Throughout the Muslim world this fast, although commanded only once in the Qur'an, is rigidly observed, even by those who are otherwise lax in religious observances. In some Muslim lands it is a criminal offence to fail to keep it.
Written by: Darrell G. Young