What is Islam?
Islam means to submit – it means to voluntarily surrender to the will of Allah (God) by accepting and obeying His teachings which He revealed through His last prophet, Muhammad (P.B.U.H). A person who accepts this by declaring the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is called a Muslim.
Islam is a natural way of life. Allah, the creator of the universe and all that it contains Has given us guidance on how we conduct our affairs in almost every aspect of our lives. This is why Islam is said to be a way of life.
As Muslims, we are taught the best ways to conduct our relationships with Allah and His creations. Islam teaches that it is through the doing of good deeds and seeking the pleasure of Allah that we find true peace and happiness. It is in this context that the word Islam was derived from the root word “salam”, meaning peace.
There are five pillars of Islam – they set the foundation of faith for every Muslim. This means we must adhere to the duties and obligations set within these five pillars:
The five pillars of Islam are:
The Profession of Faith – Shahada
This is the most fundamental expression of Islamic beliefs whereby you intentionally declare that you are a Muslim and a true follower of Islam. Shahada is a testament that: there is no God but Allah and Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is his messenger.
Daily Prayers – Salat
Muslims are expected to pray five times a day: Fajr, Zhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha. These daily prayers are to be recited facing the direction of the Kaba in Mecca (called Qibla).
Salat is a form of submission to Allah involving the mind, body and soul. It serves as a reminder that there is no one greater than Allah (S.W.A). We must also ensure our concentration during prayers by putting aside our everyday cares and thoughts so that we can spiritually connect with Allah (S.W.A) using our words and movements. When we pray with proper humility and fear of Allah, we are brought closer to our Lord, and we will be kept from committing evil.
Alms-Giving – Zakat
The term zakat means charity. We must share our wealth with those less fortunate by contributing 2.5% of our profitable wealth (gold, silver and cash) to benefit the poor. Zakat is regarded as a type of worship and of self-purification because it acknowledges that:
- Nothing we acquire in this world are truly ours, they are loaned to us from Allah so we need not cling to them.
- Our material possessions, greed and love of money will not benefit us in the Hereafter – but helping others will.
- We learn to stay honest and self – disciplined.
Fasting during Ramadan – Saum
During the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims are expected to fast from dawn to sunset. While there are exceptions made for the sick, children, elderly, travelling and pregnant, we are all expected to refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.
Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, repentance, prayer, doing good deeds and spending time with family. We should also devote ourselves during Ramadan to attain taqwa (closeness to Allah) and to instill fear of Allah (S.W.A).
There is a significance to the last 10 days of Ramadan because Laylat-ul-Qadr (the Night of Power) is on one of the 10 nights. The Holy Quran were bestowed upon Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) as a guidance for all mankind on the Night of Power.
We get a special three-day festival to mark the end of Ramadan – Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast). This is when we celebrate the end of fasting and we thank Allah (S.W.A) for the help and strength that he gave us throughout the previous month. Children are often given new clothes and money.
The first day of Eid begins with a congregational prayer and a sermon (khutba) at the Mosque, prior to which, Zakat-ul-Fitr (fitrana) is offered to those in need.
Pilgrimage to Mecca – Hajj
All Muslims who are able are required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca and the surrounding holy sites at least once in their lives. Pilgrimage focuses on visiting the Kaaba and walking around it seven times. Pilgrimage occurs in the 12th month of the Islamic Calendar – Dhul Hijja.
Upon arrival at Mecca, The pilgrims enter a sacred state of purity known as Ihram. Men are required to wear two sheets of white cloth, which are worn in a specific way and Women wear traditional clothing and must cover their heads. One significance of the Ihram is to promote unity in Islam and remind us that no matter what ethnicity, age, status or race, we are all equal in the eyes of Allah (S.W.A).
We celebrate our second holy festival in the year, Eid ul-Adha, at the end of Hajj. This is the time of Qurbani (festival of sacrifice) which relates to the sacrifice that Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) was prepared to make in devotion to Allah (P.B.U.H). The pilgrimage of Hajj has no direct link with Qurbani.