Beliefs Of Islam - Part Three
The Five Pillars of Islam
This is what Muslims practice.
The creed is a simple one,
but it must be recited with conviction several times daily:
"There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is Allah's messenger."
Reciting this simple creed is sufficient
to enroll one in the ranks of Islam.
Devout Muslims observe prayer five times a day
(upon rising, at noon, midafternoon, sunset, and before bed).
These prayers are compulsory for men and women over the age of ten,
and they may be said publicly or privately.
They believe that it is better to say their prayers a mosque,
which most men do, but women often do not because of domestic duties.
Muslims always pray facing Mecca.
Before they pray, they must ritually cleanse themselves with water,
washing face, arms, hands, ankles, and feet with clean water.
If there is no water, sand can be used on the face and arms.
Just before each prayer, a muezzin,
who is the one who calls the faithful to prayer
five times a day, sings and cries
from the minaret of the mosque,
"Allah is the greatest I bear witness
that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
Come to prayer.
Come to prosperity.
Allah is the greatest."
For the devout Muslim,
fasting includes more than "not eating."
It means abstaining from eating, drinking,
smoking, and sexual relations.
For one month each year, during the holy month of Ramadan,
all men, women, and children over the age of ten
must fast during the daylight hours.
They may rise early before dawn to eat breakfast
and eat again as soon as it gets dark.
It is intended primarily to be a spiritual
and moral discipline so that physical desires can be conquered.
At one time, almsgiving was a voluntary practice,
but it has since become an obligation under Islamic law.
It is the duty of Muslims to give to the poor.
This pillar is based on teaching in the Qur'an
and the instruction and example of Muhammad.
Once in a person's lifetime, if able to afford it,
he or she is to take a pilgrimage to Mecca during the month of pilgrimage.
The trip helps Muslims attain salvation.
Saudi Arabia forbids the entry of any non-Muslim into Mecca at any time.
Some Muslims claim a sixth pillar known as Jihad.
This term refers both to "holy war" involving physical battle
and to rigorous spiritual discipline.
The use of physical force is sanctioned in the Qur'an
(Surah 2:163-64; 9:5, 29).
Muslims believe that those who die in a holy war gain instant paradise.
However, Muslims can call for Jihad against each other,
as in the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq.
There are additional practices which are part of Islam,
but which do not have the status of the five pillars and Jihad.
They include circumcision, the veiling of women,
and prohibitions against eating pork, drinking alcohol,
gambling, eating meat killed by strangling,
and lending money on interest.
Islam also includes the usual moral prohibitions,
such as lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, and murder.
Since Muhammad did not believe in any separation of church and state,
Muslims place great importance on obedience to Islamic law.
For example, the death sentence by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini
on Salman Rushdie for his infamous book, The Satanic Verses,
arose out of Khomeini's ruling about Muslim laws on blasphemy.
The emphasis on law in Islam has led to legalism
and to turmoil in Muslim countries over
who has the proper interpretation of the law.
Just as Christians are not united in all beliefs regarding their faith,
so it is within Islam.
There are two major sects
within the Muslim faith,
and they are sharply divided over some aspects of their faith.
The Sunnis represent "orthodoxy" simply because
they comprise about ninety percent of all Muslims.
Sunni Muslims believe that Muhammad's successor
was to be someone from his tribe
and that Islamic leaders are to be elected by consensus.
These leaders in history, known as caliphs,
do not have the authority of Muhammad.
The Shiite sect believe that the only rightful successor to Muhammad
must be a descendant of Muhammad.
They believe in the doctrine of an infallible,
divinely appointed Imam (successor of Muhammad)
to whom Allah entrusted the guidance of His people.
This continued until the last or twelfth Imam, who disappeared in 874.
Shiite Muslims believe
that he is in a state of supernatural suspension
until he returns as the Messiah at the Day of Judgment.