Sunday, August 20, 2017
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Earlier this week, the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr was celebrated, after the Holy month of Ramzan, and the period of fasting, was completed.

The great Prophet, Mohammad Saheb, was born in the sixth century. He died, according to the ordinary synchronism, on the 7th of June, 632, (12 Rabia, AH 11), and his birthday was exactly sixty-three or sixty-five years earlier, the latter number being evidently an interpretation in lunar years of a number thought to refer to solar years.

Mohammad Saheb himself introduced the lunar system in Arabia. The name Muhammad (or Mohammad, Mahomet, Mehmet, representing the Turkish pronunciation) is a derivative of the Hebrew ( Hag. ii. 7) equivalent root contained in a prophecy, and meaning, “and the desired of all nations shall come.” It is the belief of many scholars that this may have been taken by the prophet as the equivalent of “Messiah”. His “kunyah” (i.e, the Arabic title of respect, in which a man is called after his son,) is Abu’l-Qasim; other names by which he is called are titles of honour, e.g. “Mustafa” (the Chosen One).

The followers of the teachings of Prophet Mohammad are called Mohammedans or Muslims (in Anglican, “Moslem”), and the religion they follow is called Islam.

“ISLAM” is an Arabic word, meaning “pious submission to the will of God.”

The acts of worship required by Islam are five in number. They are: (1) the recital of the creed; (2) observance of the five daily prayers; (3) the fast in the month of Ramazan (or Ramadan); (4) giving of the legal alms; and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The creed is the belief --“la ilaha illa-llahu, Muhammad rasul allahi”, (this is the “kalma”) that there is no God except Allah, and Mohammad is His Prophet. It is required that this shall be recited at least once in a lifetime aloud, correctly, with full understanding of its meaning and with heartfelt belief in its truth. It is to be professed without hesitation at any time until death.

Every man who professes Islam is required in ordinary life to pray (“namaaz”) five times in each day. In the Holy Koran, these prayers are commanded thus: “ Wherefore glorify God, when the evening overtaketh you, and when ye rise in the morning, and unto Him be praise in Heaven and Earth; and in the evening and when ye rest at noon” (xxx 16-17). The evening includes the sunset and also after sunset and, therefore, the five times are: (1) Dawn or just before sunrise; (2) just after noon; (3) before sunset; (4) just after sunset, and (5) just after the day has closed. Tradition decides within what limits the recitals may be delayed without impairing their validity. Prayer is preceded by the lesser ablution (wazu) consisting in the washing of the face and hands (to the elbows) and feet, in prescribed manner. Complete washing of the body (ghusl) is required only after legal pollution. In prayer, the worshipper must face towards Mecca, (the Holy Black stone, or “Ka’ba”) and this holy direction is the “qibla”. In a mosque, the qibla, or the direction of prayer is indicated by a niche (“mihrab”) in one of the walls. The prayers consist of prescribed recitals, petitions, and from parts of the Holy Koran, always including the first “sura”, (“sureh-fatiha”) accompanied by prostrations of the body. Detailed physical positions are prescribed for each part of the worship. On a journey, in times of war, or in other special circumstances, the set form of prayers may be modified in accordance with appointed rules. Besides these private prayers, there is a prayer of the assembly, which is observed on Fridays (“yaum ul-juma” or the day of the assembly) in a mosque. The call to prayer is the “azaan.” The prayer usually accompanied by an address or declamation (“khutba”) delivered by the “imam” of the mosque, from a step of the pulpit (“minbar”). Special prayers are also prescribed for certain occasions, as on the eclipse of the sun or the moon.

The third important pillar of the faith is the fasting “roza” (a complete abstinence from food and drink from sunrise to sunset) during the month of Ramazan. The law is laid down in the Koran Shareef (ii 179-184) and is as follows:
A fast had always been a part of religion. In Islam it was to fall in this month because in it the Holy Koran was revealed and it was, therefore, holier than the others. It was to begin when the new moon was actually seen, and last until sight of the next new moon; to extend each day from the time when a white thread could be distinguished from a black one and until nightfall; to be absolute in that time as to food, drink, women. The daytime should be passed, by preference, in retreat (“i tikaf”) in the mosque, in pious exercises; during the night, all otherwise lawful things being lawful. The sick and those on a journey might be excused, but should fast thereafter an equivalent number of days. Unexcused breaking of the fast might be atoned for by the feeding of the poor (“but if ye fast, it is better for ye”). The last ten days of the month are regarded as especially sacred; these the Prophet himself used to pass in retreat. During this time falls the “Night of Decree” or “of Power” (Koran xc. I), though its exact date is not known. On it communication between Heaven and earth is peculiarly open and many wonders take place. Fasting during Ramazan, being one of the pillars of Islam is considered to be an absolute requirement for all Mohammedans.
This fast was probably instituted in the second year at Medina. At that time, according to the calendar then in use, Ramazan, the ninth month was always in the winter. Then, the Prophet decreed the use of another lunar year, which remains, till today in use by the entire Muslim world, so that the month of fasting now occurs at all seasons of the year in turn. The fast is associated with the statement that in this month God sent down the Koran from the seventh heaven to Gabriel in the lowest that it might be revealed to the Prophet.

The next important part of the faith is the giving of alms. These are of two types: the legal or determined (“zakat”) and voluntary (“sadaqat”). The former were given in the form of cattle, grain, fruit, merchandise and money, once a year, after a year’s possession. For cattle a somewhat elaborate scale is adopted. Of grain and fruit a tenth is given if watered by rain, a twentieth if the result of irrigation. Of the value of merchandise and money, a fortieth is prescribed. In the early days of Islam the alms were collected by officials and used for the building of mosques and similar religious purposes. At the present time the carrying out of these prescriptions is left to the conscience of the believers, who pay the alms to any one who is needy.

The fifth religious duty of a follower of Islam is the pilgrimage (“hajj”) to Mecca, which should be performed once by every muslim “if he is able” that is, if he can provide or obtain the means to support himself on pilgrimage and his family during his absence, and if he is physically capable. This pilgrimage is made at one time of the year, namely, from the 7th to the 10th of the month “Dhu’l-Hijja”. (The day after the Hajj is celebrated as “Eid-ul-Zuha” or “Bakr’eid”.)

The revelation of God is two-fold—in a writing (the Koran Shareef) and by the Prophet. The manner of life of the Prophet (“sunna”) was contained in the tradition (“al-hadith”). The ethics of the Koran are based on belief (“iman”) and the principle of doing good deeds. Fear of the judgment of God must at all times be in one’s consciousness. All actions must be so motivated, bearing in mind always that on the Day of Judgment, the believer will stand before God.

A complete surrender to God’s will (“Islam”) is the necessary condition of a proper, religious life, and is expressed in the term “insha-allah”, or, if it is God’s will. God is one and universal. The emphasis is on the unity of God. At first His might is taught by the name “Rabb” (Lord) which is generally used as an attribute as “the highest Lord”, “Lord of the worlds, or entire universe”, “Lord of all men”, “Lord of heaven and earth”’ or, “our Lord”. Then he is identified with Allah and the first part of the Muslim creed (explained earlier) is announced-- “La ilaha illa-llaha” (there is no God but Allah), Every act of creation is a proof not only of God’s power but also of his beneficence (xiv. 37), and so He becomes known as “ar-Rahaman” (the Compassionate, the Merciful, the Benevolent.).

Islam is based on the principles of brotherhood and goodness. This is best exemplified by the concept of “Eid-ul-Fitr.” The prayers of the last Friday of the holy month of Ramazan herald the nearing of the ending of the fasting. When the new moon is sighted, the next day is the celebration of the festival of “Eid.” To enable everyone to partake of food on that auspicious day, it is believed, and practised, that for every member of one’s family, an amount sufficient to ensure another’s meal (this is “fitra”) is donated, before saying the namaaz, thereby ensuring that, while one man eats, his neighbour does not go hungry.

There is, of course, always the need for constant remembrance of the five pillars of Islam, which are, “Kalma”, “Namaaz “, “Roza”, “Zakat” and “Hajj.”

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