The full connotation of the word ‘Islam’ is ‘the perfect peace that comes when one’s life is surrendered to God’. After Muhammad’s time, Muslim authorities subsumed most of Islam under three heads:
- iman – articles of faith
There is no god but God (Allah). Allah reveals His will through Muhammad his messenger; through the Qur’an, his revelation; and through the angels.
- ihsan – right conduct
The Qur’an gives comprehensive guidance for all acts of everyday life from birth to death.
- ibadat- religious study
The following are known as the Five Pillars of Islam that constitute the ‘straight path’ the Muslim is to follow in order to be assured salvation.
1 Repetition of the creed (Shahada)
"There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet". This is the creed which every Muslim must believe and repeat.
2. Prayer (Salat)
Prayer consists of a ritual of ablution, prostrations and recitations from the Qur’an. The main themes of prayer are expressing praise and gratitude and also supplication to Allah. The 5 times of prayer are at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and bedtime. Friday is the special day of public prayer where all assemble in the mosque.
This is a free-will offering made to the poor, the needy, debtors, slaves, wayfarers, beggars and charities. It is calculated at two and half percent of the accumulated wealth of a man or his family at the end of each year.
4. The Observance of Ramadan
This is the fast undertaken during the holy month that commemorates Muhammad’s receiving his initial commission as a prophet and ten years later, his historic Hijraj from Mecca to Medina. Those who are able, fast from daybreak to sunset. Fasting also makes one think, teaches self discipline, reminds one of man’s frailty and dependence on God and make one feel for the hungry and needy.
Once in a lifetime every Muslim, man or woman, is expected, unless it is impossible, to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
There are many different sects of Islam the chief two being the Shias and the Sunnis. Islamic mysticism is known as Sufism. Devotion, meditation and prayer form important parts of the Sufi way of life.
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