Architecture

What Phrase Do Muslims Repeat As An Expression Of Shahadah, The Five Pillars Of Islam

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The Profession of Faith. AMuslim is one who proclaims (shahada,witness or testimony): “There is no god but the God and Muhammad is themessenger of God.” This acknowledgment of and commitment to Allah and HisProphet is the rather simple means by which a person professes his or her faithand becomes a Muslim, and a testimony that is given throughout the day when themuezzin calls the faithful to prayer. It affirms Islam’s absolute monotheism,an unshakable and uncompromising faith in the oneness or unity (tawhid) of God. As such, it also serves as a reminder tothe faithful that polytheism, the association of anything else with God, isforbidden and is the one unforgivable sin:

God does not forgive anyone for associating something with Him,while He does forgive whomever He wishes to for anything else. Anyone who givesGod associates has invented an awful sin. (4:48)

The second part of the confession of faith is the affirmation ofMuhammad as the messenger of God, the last and final prophet, who serves as amodel for the Muslim community. Molding individuals into an Islamic societyrequires activities that recall, reinforce, and realize the word of God and theexample of the Prophet. The praxis orientation of Islam is witnessed by theremaining four pillars or duties.Prayer. Five times each day,Muslims are called to worship God by the muezzin (caller to prayer) from atop amosque’s minaret:

God is most great (Allahu Akbar), God is most great, God is mostgreat, God is most great, I witness that there is no god but Allah (the God); Iwitness that there is no god but Allah. I witness that Muhammad is Hismessenger. I witness that Muhammad is His messenger. Come to prayer, come toprayer. Come to prosperity, come to prosperity. God is most great. God is mostgreat. There is no god but Allah.

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Five times each day across the Muslim world, the faithful arecalled to prayer in Arabic by a muezzin.

Facing Mecca, the holy city and center of Islam, Muslims,individually or in a grnadechworld.com, can perform their prayers (salat,or in Persian, namaz) whereverthey may be—in a mosque (masjid, place ofprostration), at home, at work, or on the road. Recited when standing in thedirection of Mecca, they both recall the revelation of the Quran and reinforcea sense of belonging to a single worldwide community of believers. Although thetimes for prayer and the ritual actions were not specified in the Quran, theywere established by Muhammad. The times are daybreak, noon, midafternoon,sunset, and evening. Ritually, prayer is preceded by ablutions that cleanse thebody (hands, mouth, face, and feet) and spirit and bestow the ritual puritynecessary for divine worship. The prayers themselves consist of two to fourprostrations, depending on the time of day. Each act of worship begins with thedeclaration, “God is most great,” and consists of bows, prostrations, and therecitation of fixed prayers that include the opening verse of the Quran (the Fatihah) and other passagesfrom the Quran:

In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate. Praise be toGod, Lord of the Universe, the Merciful and Compassionate. Ruler on the Day ofJudgment. You do we worship and call upon for help. Guide us along the StraightPath, the road of those whom You have favored, those with whom You are notangry, who are not lost. (1:1–7)

At the end of the prayer, the shahada isagain recited, and the “peace greeting”—“Peace be upon all of you and the mercyand blessings of God”—is repeated twice.

On Friday, the noon prayer is a congregational prayer and should berecited preferably at the official central mosque, designated for the Fridayprayer. The congregation lines up in straight rows, side by side, and is led inprayer by its leader (imam), whostands in front, facing the niche (mihrab) that indicates the direction (qibla) of Mecca. A special feature of the Friday prayer is asermon (khutba) preachedfrom a pulpit (minbar). Thepreacher begins with a verse from the Quran and then gives a brief exhortationbased on its message. Only men are required to attend the Friday congregationalprayer. If women attend, for reasons of modesty due to the prostrations, theystand at the back, often separated by a curtain, or in a side room. Unlike theSabbath in Judaism and Christianity, Friday was not traditionally a day ofrest. However, in many Muslim countries today, it has replaced the Sundayholiday, usually instituted by colonial powers and therefore often regarded asa Western, Christian legacy.

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Almsgiving (zakat). Just as theperformance of the salat(prayer) is both an individual and acommunal obligation, so payment of the zakat instills a sense of communal identity and responsibility. Asall Muslims share equally in their obligation to worship God, so they all areduty-bound to attend to the social welfare of their community by redressingeconomic inequalities through payment of an alms tax or poor tithe. It is anact both of worship or thanksgiving to God and of service to the community. Alladult Muslims who are able to do so are obliged to pay a wealth tax annually.It is a tithe or percentage (usually 2.5 percent) of their accumulated wealthand assets, not just their income. This is not regarded as charity because itis not really voluntary but instead is owed, by those who have received theirwealth as a trust from God’s bounty, to the poor. The Quran (9:60) and Islamiclaw stipulate that alms are to be used to support the poor, orphans, andwidows, to free slaves and debtors, and to assist in the spread of Islam. Althoughinitially collected and then redistributed by the government, payment of the zakat later was left to the individual. In recent years, a numberof governments (Pakistan, the Sudan, Libya) have asserted the government’sright to a zakat tax.The Fast of Ramadan. Once each year,Islam prescribes a rigorous, month-long fast during the month of Ramadan, theninth month of the Islamic calendar. From dawn to sunset, all adult Muslimswhose health permits are to abstain completely from food, drink, and sexualactivity. Ramadan is a time for reflection and spiritual discipline, forexpressing gratitude for God’s guidance and atoning for past sins, forawareness of human frailty and dependence on God, as well as for rememberingand responding to the needs of the poor and hungry. The rigors of the fast ofRamadan are experienced during the long daylight hours of summer, when thesevere heat in many parts of the Muslim world proves even more taxing for thosewho must fast while they work. Some relief comes at dusk, when the fast isbroken for the day by a light meal (popularly referred to as breakfast).Evening activities contrast with those of the daylight hours as familiesexchange visits and share a special late evening meal together. In some partsof the Muslim world, there are special foods and sweets that are served only atthis time of the year. Many will go to the mosque for the evening prayer,followed by a special prayer recited only during Ramadan. Other special acts ofpiety, such as the recitation of the entire Quran (one thirtieth each night ofthe month) and public recitation of the Quran or Sufi chantings, may be heardthroughout the evening. After a short evening’s sleep, families rise beforesunrise to take their first meal of the day, which must sustain them untilsunset. As the end of Ramadan nears (on the twenty-seventh day), Muslimscommemorate the “Night of Power” when Muhammad first received God’s revelation.The month of Ramadan comes to an end with a great celebration, the Feast of theBreaking of the Fast, Idal-Fitr. The spirit and joyousness remind one of thecelebration of Christmas. Family members come from near and far to feast andexchange gifts in a celebration that lasts for three days. In many Muslimcountries, it is a national holiday. The meaning of Ramadan is not lost forthose who attend mosque and pay the special alms for the poor (alms for thebreaking of the fast) required by Islamic law.

Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink from dawnto dusk during the month of Ramadan. At dusk each day during Ramadan, familiesgather to break the fast and share a meal. This practice is called “breakfast.”Pilgrimage: The Hajj. Ramadan is followedby the beginning of the pilgrimage season. Every adult Muslim physically andfinancially able is expected to perform the annual pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. The focus ofthe pilgrimage is the Kaba, the cube-shaped House of God, in which the sacredblack stone is embedded. Muslim tradition teaches that the Kaba was originallybuilt by the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail. The black stone wasgiven to Abraham by the angel Gabriel and thus is a symbol of God’s covenantwith Ismail and, by extension, the Muslim community. The Kaba was the object ofpilgrimage during pre-Islamic times. Tradition tells us that one of the firstthings Muhammad did when he marched triumphantly into Mecca was to cleanse theKaba of the tribal idols that it housed, thus restoring it to the worship ofthe one true God.The pilgrimage proper takes place during the twelfth month, Dhual-Hijja, of the Muslim lunar calendar. As with prayer, the pilgrimage requiresritual purification, symbolized by the wearing of white garments. Men shavetheir heads, or have a symbolic tuft of hair cut, and don two seamless whitesheets. Women may wear simple, national dress; however, many don a long whitedress and head covering. Neither jewelry nor perfume is permitted; sexualactivity and hunting are prohibited as well. These and other measuresunderscore the unity and equality of all believers as well as the totalattention and devotion required. As the pilgrims near Mecca they shout, “I amhere, O Lord, I am here!” As they enter Mecca, they proceed to the GrandMosque, where the Kaba is located. Moving in a counterclockwise direction, theycircle the Kaba seven times. During the following days, a variety of ritualactions or ceremonies take place—praying at the spot where Abraham, thepatriarch and father of monotheism, stood; running between Safa and Marwa incommemoration of Hagar’s frantic search for water for her son, Ismail; stoningthe devil, three stone pillars that symbolize evil. An essential part of thepilgrimage is a visit to the Plain of Arafat, where, from noon to sunset, thepilgrims stand before God in repentance, seeking His forgiveness for themselvesand all Muslims throughout the world. It was here, from a hill called the Mountof Mercy, that the Prophet during his Farewell Pilgrimage preached his lastsermon or message. Once again, the preacher repeats Muhammad’s call for peaceand harmony among the believers. Standing together on the Plain of Arafat,Muslims experience the underlying unity and equality of a worldwide Muslimcommunity that transcends national, racial, economic, and sexual differences.

The pilgrimage ends with the Feast of Sacrifice (Id al-Adha), known in Muslimpiety as the Great Feast. It commemorates God’s command to Abraham to sacrificehis son Ismail (Isaac in Jewish and Christian traditions). The pilgrimsritually reenact Abraham’s rejection of Satan’s temptations to ignore God’scommand by again casting stones at the devil, here represented by a pillar.Afterward, they sacrifice animals (sheep, goats, cattle, or camels), as Abrahamwas finally permitted to substitute a ram for his son. The animal sacrificealso symbolizes that, like Abraham, the pilgrims are willing to sacrifice thatwhich is most important to them. (One needs to recall the importance of theseanimals as a sign of a family’s wealth and as essential for survival.) Some ofthe meat is consumed, but most is supposed to be distributed to the poor andneedy. In modern times, with almost 2 million participants in the pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia has had to explore new methods for freezing, preserving, and distributing thevast amount of meat. The Feast of Sacrifice is a worldwide Muslim celebrationthat lasts for three days, a time for rejoicing, prayer, and visiting withfamily and friends. At the end of the pilgrimage, many of the faithful visitthe mosque and tomb of Muhammad at Medina before returning home. The enormouspride of those who have made the pilgrimage is reflected in a number of popularpractices. Many will take the name Hajji, placing it at the beginning of theirname. Those who can will return to make the pilgrimage.

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In addition to the hajj, there is adevotional ritual, the umra (the “visitation”) orlesser pilgrimage, which Muslims may perform when visiting the holy sites atother times of the year. Those who are on the pilgrimage often perform the umra rituals before, during, or after the hajj. However, performance of the umradoes not replace the hajj obligation.

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