Background And Beliefs Of Islam
The Islamic faith has served as the foundation for the moral and spiritual development of many generations of people. The word Islam literally means submission to Allah (Higab 1983). Islam is a monotheistic religion. Any person who makes a pledge to submit to Allah is referred to as a Muslim. Muslims display their Islamic beliefs through everyday practices, guided chiefly by the teachings in the Qur'an. The Qur'an is the holy book that serves as the blueprint for the life that Muslims believe Allah prescribed. The Qur'an, along with the Sunnah, and the Hadith, practices and traditions of the prophet Muhammed, provides guidance and direction for daily living. Each person is obliged to live his or her life in accordance with these traditions and practices (Al-Hali and Khan 1993). The Prophet Mohammed is believed to be the one true prophet who received the word of God in the seventh century as recorded in the sacred writings of the Qur'an. The religion of Islam has less formal structure than does Judaism or Christianity; there are no rabbis, priests, or ministers, for example. The imam of a mosque, the closest parallel to these roles, is considered to be more like a teacher than a leader or mediator. The other chief divergence between Islam and Judeo-Christian religions lies in the six articles of faith and the five pillars of Islam listed below. In addition to worshipping Allah (God), the practicing Muslim must pray five times a day, fast yearly during Ramadan, contribute to the poor, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. Due to the nature of these practices, Islam tends to be more visible, more daily, and more ritualized than other religions may appear to be (El-Amin 1991).
The Six Articles of Faith represent the necessary beliefs that undergird the religion of Islam. These beliefs support the core of Islamic faith. They are:
- Belief in the Oneness of God (Allah). This view stems from the belief that God is one being, and there are no other creators but God. Muslims believe in various prophets who were sent divine messages from God, but they worship only one God.
- Belief in the Holy Book. This concept pertains to Muslims' belief in the Holy Qur'an. This book serves as the blueprint for a way of life. Muslims believe that it contains all of the necessary elements for a productive life here on earth.
- Belief in the angels. This is the belief that angels are messengers sent from God. However, they should not be worshipped by humans and should only be viewed as messengers from God.
- Belief in the Prophet. Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last prophet sent by Allah. However, Muslims also believe that other persons such as Abraham and Jesus are prophets.
- Belief in the day of judgment. This stems from the Islamic belief that there is life after death and that one's actions as an earthly being shall be judged by the Creator (Allah).
- Belief in predestination. Muslims believe that Allah predestines one's life in reference to good versus evil.
The Five Pillars of Faith represent the fundamental practices necessary to incorporating Islam into a way of life. The five pillars are:
- Worship of Allah (God). This basic pillar incorporates the other four. To acknowledge Allah is to adhere to the messages sent to Muhammad as the Holy Word.
- Prayer. This pillar is viewed as one of the most fundamental practices of Islam. Muslims believe that praying five times a day serves as a daily vow of submission to Allah. Prior to prayer, cleansing is done (i.e., washing of hands/body) as a sign of purifying one's self in preparation for giving praise to Allah.
- Fasting. This Islamic principle serves as Muslims' vow of abstinence from food, drink, or sexual behavior for a period of time. This serves as a test of one's willingness to submit to Allah.
- Zakat. This principle refers to the donating of a portion of one's property/income to various areas of need within the Muslim community. These may include donations to the poor and maintenance of public facilities.
- Pilgrimage. When possible, this pillar is viewed as a sacred voyage back to the holy city of Mecca. It is believed that Mecca is the city where the Prophet Muhammad received his revelation from Allah. It is at this time when all Muslims can come together to pay homage to Allah.