The Five Pillars of Islam

Many of us with religious or spiritual beliefs, in California, want to believe that we live a life that is consistent with our beliefs, and we try to express much of what we believe through our lives, actions and our relationships with others.

But of the three major Abrahamic religions, it can be argued that Islam and its religious tenets and principles are more readily apparent than those of Judaism and Christianity. While all three may have prayer as part of their daily worship rites to their one God, Muslims’ practices of religion are more public and obvious and are a central part of their lives on a daily basis.

They are called the Five Pillars of Islam. The hint comes in the word islam, which is translated to “submission.” They are what makes Islam more of a way of life than a simple belief system. Muslims are taught to put God and Islam first in their lives, and all “securlat” pursuits are pushed aside, rather than the “other way around.” Here we will take a quick look at each of the Five Pillars of Islam and their application to daily lives.

Faith Testimony (Shahada)

As part of conversion to Islam as well as daily professions, the testimony of faith, or shahada, is a statement that all Muslims must recite (with sincerity and conviction) to enforce their devotion to the Islamic faith in practice.

Translated to English (though recited in Arabic), the statement of faith is, “There is no true god but God, and Mohammed is the Messenger of God.” This statement proves a person’s faith and devotion to Islam both as a practicing adherent and especially for those seeking to convert to the faith.

Prayer (Salat)

This is likely the most visible of the Five Pillars of Islam, as it is about praying five times a day. There are five specific times of the day in which Muslims are required to pray, and they can pray anywhere they are located, though may choose to attend a mosque for this ritual.  Muslims pray at sunrise, noon, mid-afternoon, at sundown and at night. All prayers are conducted while facing in the direction of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Charity (Zakat)

Muslims are taught to look out ffor the poor and to encourage equality among all people, so charity is considered an obligation to give a portio of accrued wealth to the poor. A percentage is declared of a persons’ wealth to be given to the poor in a community, and it is considered necessary to “purification” and growth spiritually. It is seen as similar to pruning of a tree to encourage new growth; the same principle applies with the obligatory giving of charity by those with the financial means. Those who are not wealthy or have much income are encouraged to give through good deeds to others or treating others with good behavior.

Fasting (Sawm)

During the Islamic month of Ramadan, Muslims are expected to fast, or refuse drink, food and sex during the daytime hours. This is considered spiritually healthy and purifying and is designed to bring Muslims closer to God and seek His forgiveness of sins and express gratitude to Him for all blessings while providing a reminder to those with less (the poor and needy).

Pilgrimage (Hajj)

Other than prayer, this is probably the most visible Pillar of the Islamic faith on a public scale – all Muslims, when physically and financially able, are obliged to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their human lives.  The hajj is to be done during a specific Islamic month called Dhu al-Hijjah, though some Muslims will make a second pilgrimage at any other time of year.

The rituals of the hajj include walking seven times around the Kaaba (a black building inside the Haram mosque in Mecca, a building supposedly built by Abraham and his son, Ishmael, upon God’s order) and walking seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah (signifying the travels of Hagar in support of her son, Ishmael, the “father of the Arabs”).

The Abrahamic Religions

Run this through an Ancestry.com family tree.

A single prophet is considered the “father” of several religions that have more than 3.5 billion adherents just a few thousand years later. It is one of the more impressive trees ever created.

Abraham is credited with being the patriarch of several religions in the world, which are practiced by more than half of the world’s population. While three of them are considered the three major worldwide religions and are considered as having the same starting point, they have become very different from each other in specific ways. However, their general monotheistic tenets are a unifying force among them. We’ll take a quick look at the major Abrahamic religions in the world and discuss basic tenets of each one, in chronological order of their establishment.

Judaism

Started in the seventh century B.C. (it was tribal in nature among the Israelites before this), Judaism may be the religion most directly tied to Abraham, as his descendants Isaac and Jacob are considered the “fathers” of the organized orthodox Jewish faith.  Abraham was considered one of the early monotheists of the day, as the idea of only one God was a quaint but foreign theology at the time, with many societies taking on many gods or no god at all.

Adherents of the Jewish faith not only believe in a single God, but they also believe that God is the originator of moral law by which adherents are expected to live (based on the Ten Commandments in the Bible and the Torah, the Jewish holy book). Jews generally agree with Muslims that Jesus Christ was a prophet and not the son of God, and that he was resurrected.  Judaism agrees with Christianity that God’s word came to human scribes and prophets to create the various books of the Torah and Bible.

Christianity

Started in the first century A.D. by disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ, Christianity was actually a branch of Judaism, as Jesus was born to Jewish parents who were descended from Abraham through his sons Isaac and Jacob (later named Israel).  Jesus was a prophet, but is also seen by Christians as the Son of God, with divine powers to heal and execute many miracles that other mortals could not. Jesus’ teachings did stray somewhat from orthodox Jewish teachings, and much of Christianity is based on the Bible, and more specifically the New Testament which covers Jesus’ ministry and the work of the apostles and disciples in the years following Jesus’ ascension.

In the Abrahamic tradition, Christianity is a direct descendant of Judaism and thus is based on a monotheistic God, though many sects think of God is being expressed through Jesus as a Holy Trinity. This is one way that Christianity differs from both Judaism and Islam. Christianity agrees with Islam in the beliefs that Jesus was a messianic figure and that they both look forward to his second coming as promised in their accounts of the apocalypse. Christianity agrees with Judaism that Jesus was crucified and died.

Islam

Established in the seventh century A.D., Islam claims its direct roots from Abraham through his illegitimate child, Ishmael, born to Hagar the servant. Ishmael is considered by many to be the father of the Arab people, and Muslims claim that as their heritage and call Abraham “the first Muslim.” The religion was started by Mohammed, who received revelations about the Word of God from the angel Gabriel, and said that the Qu’ran (the hold book which contains these revelations) was necessary because Judaism and Christianity had “corrupted” the true word of God.

While Christianity and Judaism spread through peaceful means, including preaching, teaching and healing, Islam grew at first mostly out of conquest in militaristic fashion throughout the Middle East and north Africa. While Christianity and Judaism started in the same general area (Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria), Islam began on the Arabian Peninsula. Also monotheistic, Islam takes a different approach and context to some of the Torah’s and Bible’s historical events, but claims to hold to the true moral law that God sent down to prophets such as Abraham, Moses and Noah. Islam agrees with Christianity that Jesus was born to a virgin mother and executed miracles on earth, but Islam agrees with Judaism that Jesus did not resurrect from the dead after crucifixion.

While there seems to be great disagreements between adherents of the three Abrahamic religions, many of the differences are finer points on the broader terms. When it comes to monotheism, the afterlife, worship rites, belief in bodily death and eternal life of the soul, and other similar matters, these three religions have several areas of common ground from which to co-exist peacefully, which they do in some parts of the Western and Arab worlds.

Who Is Mohammed and Why Is He Important To Muslims?

As one cannot talk about Christianity without Jesus Christ, and one cannot discuss Judaism without Abraham or Jacob, one cannot discuss the world religion of Islam without mentioning Mohammed.

It is claimed that Abraham is the father of the three major religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – but in some ways, the three religions are barely related to each other in terms of their doctrines and teachings. About the only thing they have in common is that they are all monotheistic religions, meaning they teach that there is only one God.  That one God, however, is looked at from very different angles, enough that it may be hard to reconcile the teachings as all coming from the same Supreme Being.

Nonetheless, who is Mohammed anyway? Let’s take a quick look at where Islam’s prophet comes from in his human experience.

Mohammed the Orphan

Mohammed was born in Mecca in 570, but was basically an orphan, as his father passed away before his birth and his mother died just after his birth. He grew up being raised by his uncle, who was a merchant in the bustling city in Arabia.

In the sixth and early seventh century, orphans were often ostracized from “normal” society, and that was similar to how Mohammed was treated. What complicated things for him were that he was a religious and spiritually-minded person growing up, while Mecca was very much given to pagan idols and a society that might be considered decadent. As a religious orphan, Mohammed was not treated well, as he was essentially bullied and disrespected despite his acting honestly and forthrightly with many with which he dealt.

Mohammed was reportedly honest and trustworthy as a merchant, but he did not always like the pagan society his fellow residents were living. He was a religious man and believed in God. As he got into his 20s and 30s, he would often escape to some caves above Mecca for long sessions of prayer and reflection.

Mohammed the Prophet

Around age 40, while Mohammed was at one of his regular cave prayer retreats, he claimed that he was visited by the angel Gabriel. Mohammed said he kept getting visited by Gabriel with various revelations for more than 20 years, and would eventually have all his revelations – which he claimed came from God Himself – written in a book, called the Qu’ran, Islam’s holiest book.

During those early years, he started gathering a few followers who listened to his revelations. But he was not accepted by his fellow men in Mecca, and in fact, many of the tribes in the area despised him and were hostile to him as he tried to teach and spread his “word of God” to others. He left Mecca and took refuge in Medina – about 260 miles away. The start of this journey is signified by the start of the Islamic calendar.

It must be said, in fairness, that while he claimed to be very much against the decadence of the culture and society present during his lifetime – which included illicit sex between men and women, polygamy, and infidelity – he reportedly had as many as 12 wives at one time, and allegedly had sex and married girls as young as nine years old, even when he was in his 50s.

Mohammed the Father of Islam

After being rejected for several years and not getting very much traction with his new religion called Islam (which means “surrender” or “submission”), late in his life he gathered 10,000 followers and turned them into an army and launched an attack on his beloved city of Mecca, looking to finally uproot the pagan idolatry of the city.

This “army” of Muslims took over Mecca upon its invasion, and once conquered, it flipped from its pagan belief system to the monotheistic Islamic faith. In his last years, Mohammed was believed to have ordered more than two dozen militaristic conquest missions of his “army” of believers in order to spread his theology and to increase his estate planning.

Mohammed’s revelations, known as the “word of Allah (God)” are read in the Quran, while the Hadith contains Mohammed’s own sayings and teachings.  Today, about 1.5 billion people are believed to be followers of Islam.

Some Insight On The Quran

While the three major worldwide religions are monotheistic and promote one God, they also have one singular book that dominates all their teachings and is the foundation of each doctrine.

Judaism revolves around the Torah, Christianity the Holy Bible, and Islam has the Quran. All three books are based on teachings from God, or Jehovah or Allah. All three are called Abrahamic religions, in that they are all believed to be descended from Abraham, one of the great religious prophets.

Let’s take a look a little deeper into the Quran, considered one of the holiest books in the world.

The “Recitation”

The most holy book of the Islamic faith is called the Quran, which is translated into “recitation,” which is what the book is claimed to be – a transcript of all the revelations that the prophet Mohammed received from a series of visits from the angel Gabriel.

Mohammed claimed to be first visited by Gabriel around 610 A.D., when he was 40 years old. He supposedly had some servants or followers who were directed to remember and recite Mohammed’s revelations as he relayed them, and after Mohammed’s death in 632, the revelations were compiled and organized into the holy book.

It is considered Islam’s “word of Allah (God),” and it actually does refer to several stories, parables and allegories in the Bible. These revelations reportedly elucidate some of the moral and spiritual insights from these stories, touching on some just a little bit and having a full expounding of others based on the moral and spiritual message that may be considered “erroneous” from other interpretations out of the Bible or the Torah.

Muslims claim that, while other holy books can be read and understood in various languages, the Qu’ran can be only truly understood when read in the original Arabic.

A “Pure” Holy Book?

All three books are deemed to be the “word of God,” and are compiled by a series of scribes and the prophets have little direct work on each of the books. With the Bible and the Torah, though, there are some references to history as well as theology to lend some context to the teachings and doctrine that were espoused in those books.

With the Quran, though, there is no reference to historical events to provide context in some of its teachings. It is virtually a theological book throughout. Without historical context, Muslims will often consider all of its teachings as timeless and can be applied in any society and culture over the last 14 centuries.

Complications of Transcription

The early years of the Quran were based on oral tradition, with only a portion of Mohammed’s revelations actually being taken down while Mohammed lived. A select few memorized everything, with another group memorized most of the revelations but were able to recite them later. Much of the writing took place in the immediate years after Mohamed’s death, when many of these scribes wrote what they memorized or remembered. However, due to several military missions to expand Islam, many of these scribes were killed in battle, which made compilation of the revelations extremely difficult and let to several versions of the revelations making the rounds.

Finally, though, a caliph (Islamic leader) settled much of the disagreements about what Mohammed said or meant, created a single Quran and declared it the “authoritative” word, and ordered all previous manuscripts and copies to be destroyed. So there is no known record of the process in compiling the book and no record of what the original texts said, or if there were any texts that were left out or included at the last minute.

The Differences Between The Shia And Sunni Muslims

The clashes that occur between two Islam sects, the Shia and Sunni occur across the world of Muslim’s. In the area of the Middle East, a powerful mix of politics and religion have increased this divide between the Gulf States that have the Sunni governments and Shia government of Iran. The Pew Research Centre has published a report that has discovered that 40% of the Sunnis do not regard Shia to be real Muslims. Here is what divides the Shia and Sunni Islam and how deep this rift has gone.

These arguments date all the way back to 632 to the death of the Islam’s founder known as Prophet Muhammad. The tribal Arabs of this time that followed Prophet Muhammad disagreed on who would succeed him as well as inherit the religious and political office. The majority which then became known as Sunni’s that make up 80% of the Muslims of today are the ones that backed Abu Bakr who was one of the Prophets friends as well as the father to his wife.

The other side believed that Muhammad’s kin should have become the rightful successor. They went on to claim that Prophet Muhammad had anointed his cousin Ali and this group became the Shia which is a contraction from “shiaat Ali”, which were the partisans of Ali. The backers of Abu Bakr’s won, although Ali still briefly ruled in the role of the 4th caliph which was a title given to the successors of Muhammad.

The split in Islam became concrete when there was violence against Hussein son of Ali led to his death in the year 680 in the area of Karbala know today as Iraq by the caliph troops of the ruling Sunni. The Sunni rulers carried on by monopolizing political power and the Shia continued to live in the shadows of this state. As the years went by religious beliefs between these groups began to diverge.

Here’s a great video that explains the difference and how the segmentation isn’t an accurate representation of how to explain Muslims today:

What Is The History Of The Hijab?

The hijab is actually just one individual name for a number of different headscarves that are all very similar. It’s the most popular veil for Muslims who chose to wear them in Western nations. Such veils consist of either one or even two scarves. They cover the neck and head but leave the face exposed. Outside of Western nations, many Muslim women in Arab nations and other regions of the world also wear this traditional veil.

Head coverings are something that plays significant roles in a number of different religions, and Islam is far from the only one. Catholicism and Orthodox Judaism also have a substantial head covering traditions of note. In the specific case of the hijab, it is largely associated with the Muslim faith.

Islam started out on the Arabian Peninsula as a small faith community. It started in the city of Medina by the proclaimed prophet of the religion, Mohammed, who lived roughly from 570 until 632 CE. The religion spread throughout the Middle East into areas such as Central Asia, societies around the Arabian Sea, and also into sub-Saharan Africa. Islam even spread into Europe at points as well.

Scarves and veils were already customary in many cultures before Islam rolled in. As it spread, it incorporated a number of local veiling customs into its practice, while influencing others. However, it’s only been in recent history that a number of Islamic states, like Iran, have started mandating women to wear such things.

Critics of this practice argue that it impinges on the freedoms of women. The debate is sometimes different in Western nations where daughters of immigrants fight for the right to wear them an expression of their faith. The history of the hijab is intertwined with the Islamic faith, as is its use in current political debates in some countries.

Is This Racist? Team America’s Derka Derka Derka Muhammed Jihad

Despite it being incredibly hilarious, the fact that he is wearing “black face” and speaking jibberish is very offensive to anyone living in the middle east not just Muslims. I mean, I’ve never seen such acting either, except in old 1920s musicals where they would be minstrels and put on a “black” show. And although this movie was in 2004, I feel that it plays a lot into the current stereotypes that Donald Trump used to win the election in the United States.

I treasure all your friendships so I value your opinion on whether or not you find this racist. Please feel free to contact us and let us know your opinion.

Trump’s Muslim Ban

If you have been plugged into the news recently, you have probably heard a lot about the Muslim “bans” United States President Donald Trump has instituted throughout his country. While these bans lead to a great deal of turmoil in both the Muslim community and the rest of the world, people are still very unsure as to what the ban means.

The thing is, President Trump’s new policy is not so much a ban as it is a heavy restriction on free travel to the United States. Under the revised policy, visa holders are not affected, and the 120-day waiting list for citizens from Syria entering has been lifted. The United States government has taken the stance that free travel is not a universal right, although the only ones who don’t have access to this are Muslims. This piece of legislation is concerning in its implications and affects on Muslims around the world. For more information on this topic, please watch this video.