A Young Muslim’s Guide to Religions in the World

A NOTE ON ISLAM

The reterences to Islam which are scattered throughout the book should give the non-Muslim reader an idea of the basic principles of Islam. What follows is a summary which gathers up ail the essential facts.
Islam is monotheistic. Belief in the oneness of God or Allah as the Muslims cali Him is so basic to Islam that associating any other being with Him is considered the worst of sins. This beliet is known as Tauhid. Next to Tauhid, the most important requirement is belief in Risalat, which means acceptance of the doctrine that Muhammad was the last of the true Apostles of Allah, whose mission was to deliver the Quran to humanity and teach them, in perfected form, the morallaws which successive prophets brought them.
Islam rests on five pillars as they are called :
a) Iman or correct belief;
b) Salat or prayer;
c) Siam or fasting;
d) Zakat or poor tax;
e) Hajj or pi/grimage to Mecca.
Iman implies unqualified belief in certian articles of faith. These are stated in the Kalima or confession of Faith which a Muslim is required to learn as part of his religious training. There are several confessions of faith. The first among them is called Kalima-e Tauhid which is as follows: 1 believs and testify that Allah is One and Unique; there is no god but He; He has no
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associates. The second Kalima asserts that Allah is One and that Muhammad in His servant and Apostle. The thirdKalima calls upon the Muslim ot testify to his faith in the Oneness of Allah; His angels; His Books; His Apostles; Predestination.; the Day of Judgement; and Resurrection after death.
Ali Muslims irrespective of their race or language have to accept these basic beliefs. They must not only accept Muhammad as the last of Allah’s Rusul or Messengers, but also acknowledge their faith in ail earlier prophets such as Moses and Jesus. They must believe that the soul is immortal and that there is a Judgement Day when ail men must account for ail they did on earth. The angels are the agents imployed by Allah to convey his Message to His Rusul or Messengers. Predestination implies faith in the doctrine that ail power belongs to Allah who in His wisdom decides how things happen. Man has been endowed with freedom of choice but Allah knows in advance how he will exercise this choice.
Man’s accountability for what he does on earth rests on the theory that after the last Judgement the virtuous will be rewarded with bliss in Heaven and the wicked punished in Hell.
ln token of his submission to Allah man must pray five times a day in the manner prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad. The timings fixed by him are: at dawn before sunrise; early afternoon; late afternoon; immediately after sunset; and late in the evening befere midnight, usually an hour after the sunset prayers. The names given to these prayers are Fajr; Zuhr; Asar; Maghrib; and Isha. A Muslim can pray alone but he is urged to join congregational prayers whenever possible.
Early afternoon prayers on Fridays must be congregational. The prayer service is preceded by a sermon by the prayer leader or Imam.
Muslims are required to fast for a month during the Ramadhan, which is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. The calendar being lunar, Muslim communities living in different areas in different hemispheres do not have to endure the same climatic problems year after year during the fasting period. Fasting means abstention from food, drink and sex from before dawn to sunset as an exercies in self-purification. The end of Ramadhan fasting is celebrated by the festival of Idul-fitr.
Zakat is a tax on wealth payable by ail who have surpluses left at the end of a year’s earning. The rate is 2; per cent of the surplus. The money realised from this source is to be spent on welfare programmes for the poor.
Finaly, every Muslim is required to go on pilgrimage to Mecca once in his lifetime, provided he can afford the expenses and has no other claims on his wealth.
The purpose of the Hajj which takes place in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar is to give the Muslim community a sense of unity and to impress on them that they form a single brotherhood regardless of distinction of race or colour or eanguage.
The principal sources of Islamic law are two: the Quran whose authority overrides everything else; and the Hadith, a term applied to records of the Prophet’s sayings and actions. What the Prophet did or said was designed to illustrate how a Muslim was to practise the principles laid down in the Quran. His companions took careful note of whatever he said or did, and soon after he died collections or htese records were produced for the use of the Ummah or Muslim community.
Differences and division in the Muslim community are ail based on how the Hadith are to be interpreted. The two main divisions are the Sunnis and the Shias. The Sunnis who form the majority in the community are again divided into four groups according as they accept and practise the interpretations of four scholars: Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad Hanbal and Imam Malik. There are however no differences among them as to the basic beliefs.
The Quran deals not only with general moral principles, but with specific codes of conduct on food, drink, education, marriage, inheritance, burial, intracommunal relations and also on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Alcohol, carrion, pork and blood are forbidden. Muslims can accept food from any source provided it does not fall into the forbidden category.
Equality among Muslims is not a theoretical ideal. Although differences of wealth exist, absolute equality is enforced in the mosque where social and economic rank is completely disregarded.
Muslim law, although based strictly on the Quran and the Hadith, allows for evolution. If the community is faced with any problems on which they cannot find specific guidance in the Quran and the Hadith, they are required to resort first to the principle of Oiyas or analogy. This means seeking parallels to the situation they face in the Ouran and the .Hadith and arriving at decisions which do not run counter to their spirit. If no analogy can be found, the best minds in the community are called u’pon to rely on Ijtihad or consultation. The decision again has to be in harmony with the basic tenets of the faith.

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