• Fasting in the month of Ramadan
• Hajj/pilgrimage to Mecca
To be a Muslim a person must say the kalimah, which is the declaration of faith. The wording is:
La ilaha ila Allah; Muhammadur-rasul Allah. 'There is no deity worthy of worship except for Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.'
This small statement is divided into two parts, the first part declares the oneness of Allah and the second testifies to Muhammad being the messenger of Allah .
These two parts go together, we have the religion from Allah and Muhammad the messenger of Allah taught mankind how to live by this law.
By saying the shahada a person is a Muslim provided it is done with true belief and followed up by action..
Prayer is a main act of worship and is done five times a day in Islam at various times throughout the day, to constantly remind man of Allah and the purpose for us being in this world. It is a protection from doing wrong. It benefits the whole being and refreshes the soul.
Before prayer can begin it is necessary to purify oneself by doing wudhu or ablution which is done by washing hands, mouth, nose, face, ears, hair, neck, arms to elbows and feet three times each with water. It is also necessary to wear clean clothes and find a clean place to pray. Also it is necessary to face the qiblah, which is the direction of the kabah in Mecca. Finally one must make the proper intention before starting the prayer.
The prayer times are as follows:
- Fajr/dawn prayers
- Dhuhr/noon prayers
- asr/mid-afternoon prayers
- Maghrib/sunset prayers
- Isha/early night prayers
Prayers consist of verses from the Quran, accompanied by various bodily postures - standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting. Prayers are said in Arabic, the language of the revelation. This means no matter where you go in the world the prayer will be the same. Personal supplications after the prayers can be offered in any language. In Islam there is no clerical authority, no priests or ministers. Prayers are led by any learned person who knows the Quran and is chosen from the congregation, this person is called the imam.
The word zakat means purification and growth. Through giving to charity we purify our wealth and income. Zakat is an act of worship and by spending for the sake of Allah we purify our heart . . This financial obligation on Muslims is very important, as charity is a big part of Islam.
Allah says in the Quran, 2:177: ........and spend of your substance out of love for Him (Allah), for your family, for the orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask,......Such are the people of truth those mindful of Allah.
Zakat is paid on surplus of wealth and is normally a rate of 2.5%, this charity is due once a year.
Zakat helps everyone. The giver is purified from greed and selfishness. The recipient is purified from jealousy and hatred for the rich. The zakat helps the whole of society as it creates a bond between the rich and poor, it minimises social tension and it bridges the gap between rich and poor. It provides social and economic security for the whole of society.
Apart from zakat a Muslim can pay voluntary charity, known as sadaqah, any time he or she wishes and any amount.
In Islam we believe that everything belongs to Allah and wealth is given to us by Him in trust.
Charity in Islam is not just about money. The prophet Muhammad told us that even a smile and cheerful face is an act of charity. Muslims can do charity by many means, like helping others, advising others and improving his or her own life.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan:
Ramadan is the 9th month of the lunar calendar which Muslims follow. This month is very important in Islam as it was in this month the Quranic revelations started.
During this month Muslims must fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from all food and drink. Apart from that we must also not have any sexual contact, It is strongly recommended to wake up before sunrise to have a meal, as fasting is not there to make life difficult for you, Allah does not want anyone to suffer. Following the tradition of prophet Muhammad Muslims break their fast at sunset with dates and water.
Those who are sick, on a journey, young children, elderly and women who are pregnant or nursing a child may break their fast but have to make up for days lost at a later time.
You are forbidden to fast if fasting will endanger your life, also women who are menstruating are forbidden to fast but must make up for the days lost. If someone is physically unable to fast they must feed a needy person for each day missed. Children start fasting (and praying) from puberty although many start before.
Although fasting is beneficial for the health, it is regarded principally as a method of self-purification. During fasting you are cut off from worldly pleasures and comforts. when fasting you gain sympathy for those who go hungry on a daily basis, so you are more willing to help them. While fasting you achieve spiritual growth, you learn discipline, self-restraint, patience and flexibility.
During the month of Ramadan a Muslim should read the entire Quran, from cover to cover.
Also during Ramadan there are special prayers each evening after Isha prayers. These prayers are called Tarawih. The Quran is divided into 30 parts called Juz, and each evening one of these parts are recited so that the whole of the Quran will be completed at the end of Ramadan.
During the last 10 days of Ramadan there is a special night called the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). To spend this whole night in prayer and worship is equivalent to a thousand months of worsip, so Allah's reward for this is very great.
On the first day after the end of Ramadan, which is when the next moon is visible, the festival of Eid ul Fitr is celebrated and fasting stops. On this day Muslims who are able to will feed the poor, called Zakat al-Fitr. On the day of Eid Muslims put on their best clothes and attend Eid prayers at the mosque. After this the day is normally spend celebrating with family and friends.
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is obligatory, but apart form Ramadan there are other voluntary fasts throughout the year. Muslims are encouraged to fast six days of the month of Shawwal which is the month following Ramadan. Also Mondays and Thursdays are recommended for fasting and the three middle days of each month. Another day recommended for fasting is the day of Ashura, which is the 10th day of Muharram, which is the first month of the lunar calendar. It was on this day that prophet Moses (as) and his followers were saved and the pharaoh was drowned.Fasting on the days of Eid is strictly forbidden in Islam.
Hajj/pilgrimage to Mecca :
Pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia is obligatory on every Muslim at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able to do so.
Hajj takes place in the 12th months of the Islamic calendar (Dhul Hijjah). It lasts for six days.
Male pilgrims wear Ihram, which is a two piece white seamless garment. Women can wear their normal clothes.
Around 2 million Muslims from all around the world gather here each year to perform the rites and rituals of the hajj, all men dressed alike, no matter which colour or financial status they are from, all are one brotherhood in Islam. All stand together as one and equal before Allah . The only thing which makes someone greater in Islam is someone's knowledge and actions of the faith.
The rites of Hajj go back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim (as) who rebuilt the kabah with his son Ismail (as). These rites include circling round the kabah 7 times anti clockwise to signify it's centrality in Islam, this is called the Tawaf. Another rite is running back and forth between the mountains of Safa and Marwah, just as Hagar (Ibrahim's wife) did while searching for water for her son Ismail (as). This is also where you will find the sacred well of zamzam. Pilgrims also gather on the plain of mount Arafat to join in prayers for Allah's forgiveness, it was here prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon. Finally the pilgrims go to throw stones at pillars representing Satan before they sacrifice an animal (mostly a sheep). The hajj is a very spiritual time and the reward for doing hajj in the right manner and with a proper heart is paradise. You will leave the hajj sin free insha Allah and you go home to start your new improved life.