HUM 130 Religions of the World
July 26, 2008
In America today people associate Islam and Muslims with war and terrorists. It is the religion of terrorists and extremists who commit unspeakable acts against innocent people. Popular assumptions as well as ignorance are rampant throughout the United States concerning Islam. These assumptions could not be farther from the truth. Muslims worship the same GOD that Christians and Jews do; they simply call him by Allah (Encarta, 2007). Islam is in many ways very similar to both Christianity and Judaism. Through an interview with a Muslim and explanations of Islamic teachings it is the goal of the author to educate the reader on those similarities.
Islam is in many ways a very straightforward religion. Its foundation is summed up in the Five Pillars of Islam which will be detailed in the following paragraphs. Islam itself can best be explained by this statement made by the Islamic Society of North America:
Islam is an Arabic word which means peace, purity, acceptance, and commitment. As a religion, Islam calls for complete acceptance of the teachings and guidance of GOD. A Muslim is one who freely and willingly accepts the supreme power of GOD and strives to organize his life in total accord with the teachings of GOD. He also works for building social institutions which reflect the guidance of GOD (Fisher, 2005, p. 373).
This statement lays the groundwork for the Five Pillars of Islam and each individual pillar is evident within the statement itself. The pillars are: belief and witness, daily prayer, tithing, fasting, and pilgrimage (Encarta, 2007). These pillars can be seen as the Muslim version of the Ten Commandments and one is expected to follow and obey this as much as humanly possible. The first pillar, Shahadah in Arabic, is totally believing and professing the oneness of GOD, Allah in Arabic, and the fact that Muhammad was his prophet (Fisher, 2005). The Qur’an requires that the faithful spread the word and teachings of Islam so that the prospective convert will have the appropriate information to make an intelligent choice when deciding whether or not to convert. However, the Qur’an clearly forbids the use of coercion when spreading the message of Islam. The Qur’an also instructs all followers of Islam to be respectful of all prophets and revealed scriptures (Fisher, 2005).
The second pillar of Islam, Salat in Arabic, is the ritualistic daily prayers. Five times a day faithful Muslims are required to face Mecca and recite a series of prayers and passages from the Qur’an while bowing and kneeling. The prayer times are just before sunrise, noon, afternoon, sunset, and before midnight. The practice of facing Mecca when praying is designed to consolidate all Muslims everywhere into one large global family. When Muslims pray en masse they are expected to pray shoulder to shoulder and stand, kneel, and bow together. When praying in a mosque, men and women pray separately so as to avoid sexual distraction. There are special prayer services held at mosques on Fridays but Muslims do not observe a Sabbath. They feel that remembering Allah is a daily obligation and invoking the name of Allah and reminding oneself of him continually cleanses the heart (Encarta, 2007). Mosques serve as the main place of worship and prayer in the Muslim world. The first mosque was the courtyard of Muhammad's own house in Medina in what is now Saudi Arabia. The wall of the courtyard faced the direction of Mecca and was called the qibla wall. The qibla wall was provided with a roofed area where prayers were recited while the other three walls were lined with covered passageways. This scheme became the basic plan for all later mosque designs. In the center of the qibla wall is the mihrab, or prayer niche, that indicates the direction of Mecca; this indicates to attending Muslims which direction they should pray. Next to the mihrab is the