Back To CourseWestern Civilization I: Help and Review
17 chapters | 308 lessons
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In all major religions, there are elements of the faith that are seen as requirements, usually found in the canon of the religion and often attributed to the founder, a prophet or God. In Judaism, one will find the Law of Moses, with not only the Ten Commandments but many rules and restrictions laid down in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy that serve as a guide to morality, spirituality, and even something as commonplace as dietary restrictions.
In Christianity, they share many of the same requirements as found in Judaism, but expand on the teachings of Moses and adhere to other restrictions introduced through the teachings of Jesus and later added by the apostles and Church leaders over the centuries after the time of Jesus. These include the celebration of certain holidays (such as Christmas and Easter) as well as the tradition of pilgrimage to the Holy Land (modern-day Israel), although some of these traditions are not practiced with the same devotion as they once were.
Pilgrimage, dietary restrictions, and morality codes are also found in Hinduism, one of the largest faiths on Earth. Their rules and regulations are both a mix of tradition and godly advice just as in Judaism and Christianity, and they are found in such texts as the Bhagavad Gita and the Laws of Manu.
Buddhism also shares in the tradition of holy rites, rituals, and restrictions, and depending on the school of Buddhism, a follower can look to the priestly class, or the sangha, or to the teachings of the Buddha directly in the Tripitaka or Dharmapada.
From Judaism to Buddhism, from Hinduism to Christianity, religion and rules go hand-in-hand, and Islam is no exception. As the world's second largest religion, Islam has its own set of rules, regulations, and restrictions, as well as requirements. And like other faiths who have holy texts to guide them in life, so too it is with Islam, where the faithful Muslim is called by God, Allah, to adhere to a set of rules that cover everything from prayers to almsgiving, morality, and pilgrimage. Known as the Five Pillars of Islam, they are outlined in the Muslim holy texts, the Qur'an and the Hadiths, and are among the most concise of all religious guidelines in the world today.
What are the Five Pillars of Islam? The Five Pillars of Islam are the basic framework of the Muslim way of life and serve as a foundation for their faith, their community, and work.
The first, known as Shahada, is a formal declaration of faith where the Muslim professes there is only one God, Allah, and that Mohammed was God's messenger or prophet. The statement is usually recited during the daily prayers and is a key part of a person's formal conversion to the Islamic faith.
The second pillar of Islam is the necessity of prayer five times each day. These five times are: dawn before the sun rises, noon, afternoon, evening, and at night. Muslims must wash themselves before prayer and recite their prayers while facing Mecca. The prayers are meant to remind Muslims of their submission to God's will and also their reliance on God's mercy.
Almsgiving, or charity, to those who need it, is the third pillar of Islam. It is considered to be the personal responsibility of all who have to give to those who have not; to ease economic hardships, inequality, and suffering. If one is wealthy, money can be given; if not, other deeds and actions can take the place of monetary assistance. Like other faiths, Islam looks favorably on those who do good deeds and works within the community.
The fourth pillar is ritual fasting, where the adherent to Islam denies himself food and water during certain times of the year and certain times of the day. The fasting is obligatory during the holy month of Ramadan, where from dawn until dusk, Muslims may not eat food or drink anything. Fasting is meant to focus the mind on matters of spirituality and on Allah, and the pangs of hunger remind one of the true suffering that goes on in the world. The fasts are broken each day when the sun goes down, and obligatory fasting ends after Ramadan is complete.
The final pillar of Islam is the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. As was the case during the life of Mohammed, Mecca remains the holiest city in the Islamic world, and it is the duty of every devout and able-bodied Muslim to travel to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. The act of pilgrimage is one of supreme devotion and provides the believer with a sense of spiritual satisfaction that few rites can.
Most of the world's faiths have some sort of religious law from the Torah of Judaism to the Laws of Manu found in Hinduism, and they are practiced to varying degrees among the followers. So too it is with Islam, where the divine law of Allah, known as Sharia, governs all aspects of a Muslim's life and has even become a part of the national law of many Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Oman, among many others.
Sharia covers every aspect of human life, from the worship of Allah to commercial activities, marriage, divorce, and even criminal law. It is the last category that Sharia is often associated with in the West, where many see the law as draconian and medieval in its approach to punishments.
Indeed, while punishments such as the death penalty and amputation of limbs are part of Sharia, it is a far more complex system of justice than it seems at first glance. There are many more benign rules established for behavior, regulating everything from education to eating and drinking and rules for what is acceptable sexual behavior.
While criticized by outsiders, many within the Muslim world feel that the law and order maintained by Sharia is quite beneficial to their societies, giving them a level of peace and crime-free living that is not enjoyed in societies with more liberal legal systems.
By far the most important source of Sharia law and most other Islamic teachings and traditions, including the Five Pillars of Islam, is the Qur'an, known as the Holy Qur'an to Islam. Like the Bible, the Qur'an is a collection of histories, teachings, and supposed revelations from God to his prophet, Mohammed.
Muslims believe the Qur'an was revealed to Mohammed over the course of his life starting at the age of 40 in the year 610 CE. He then passed on these revelations to others around him via sermons, poems and other methods, teaching what he believed was the will of Allah to those who would listen. His followers would then memorize what they heard and pass it along to others again and again, a common method of transmitting knowledge at the time. Similar oral traditions kept alive the teachings of the Vedas and the Buddhist sutras for many centuries before they were written down and codified.
The teachings of Islam did not have to wait so long, as the revelations of Islam were collected and organized partially during the life of Mohammed and continued after his death. There is dispute on when the Qur'an's final version took shape, but most likely it was during the time of the first Caliph, and the man given credit was Abu Bakr.
Regardless of when the Qur'an took shape, it has become the cornerstone of Islam, providing moral guidance, spiritual growth, and a glimpse into the afterlife for the believer. It has also been the foundation on which great civilizations have been based and on which a great religion has seen its popularity swell over the centuries. Not all agree with its teachings, to be sure, but the Qur'an is certainly one of the most influential books ever written in human history.
To be Muslim is to be part of a tradition spanning over 1,400 years, directly linking the faithful to the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. The link is more than one of faith, but also one of practice, as Muslims today engage in the same rites and rituals as their ancestors did for centuries upon centuries. From the practice of the Five Pillars of Islam to Sharia law, Islam represents an unbroken religious tradition that links the past to the present and promises continuity and stability to the believer, even into the future. With the Qur'an at the center of their faith, the Muslim has a steady source of wisdom, rule, and law on which to base his or her life and find the ultimate peace that is the quest of all those who seek God.
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Back To CourseWestern Civilization I: Help and Review
17 chapters | 308 lessons