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The Islamic Way of Life

THE PERFORMANCE OF THE ACTS 0f WORSHIP

The first obligation of a Muslim, no matter where the world in or she may happen to live, is to establish the Islamic worships on a regular basis in his or her household. This means to observe salat regularly five times a day at the proper times, as Well as the obligatory congregational Friday prayer; to fast throughout the month of Ramadan together with observing other recommended devotional practices: to pay zakat once a year if one has savings or property which zakat is to be assessed and to perform the hajj once in a life time if one has the means for the journey and for the support of ones dependents and there is safety of travel to and from Saudi Arabia

Let us now proceed to see how Muslims go about performing these worships in practical terms. Hajj has not been included in the discussion since it is, as a rule a once-in-a-lifetime experience, which we have already covered in detail in the preceding section.

I. Salat

The practice of regular salat is the most fundamental requirement in Islam, without which a Muslim is not fulfilling even his most basic obligation to God and may well have lost the most important and precious thing in his life, his perspective and sense of relatedness to his Creator. The salat itself is prescribed in the Qur'an and the manner in which it is performed comes to us from the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). Hence all the Muslims of today, no matter where in the world they may be perform their salat in just the same manner as did the Prophet of Islam some fourteen hundred years ago. Consequently a Muslim from America can go to Tunisia or Yugoslavia or Japan or India or Iraq or South Africa or the Philippines or China, join congregational salat, and without the least difficulty Perform his worship just as he had been used to doing in America because everyone else will also be performing it in the same Way.

Salat can performed almost anywhere in a mosque, a home, Ones place of work, outdoors or in any other clean pIace either individually or in congregation. Congregational salat (consisting of two or more worshippers, one of whom leads the prayer) is preferable to individual salat because of its obvious aspects of brotherhood and solidarity. In the Muslim world mosques are the established places for congregational worship. Women as well as men may pray in mosques if they desire, but it is preferable and customary that they pray in the privacy of their homes, especially since leaving the home and children to go to the mosque five times a day is neither practical nor possible for most women; many mosques have separate sections for women in order that they may pray in complete privacy and so there may be no distraction due to physical mingling between men and women.

So great is the importance of salat in keeping the Muslim strong and steadfast in Islam that it is an obligation under all circumstances, even when one is ill, traveling, or in battle. However, certain concessions have been made for such situations. Thus, one who is ill and cannot perform salat in the usual manner may pray sitting in a chair or lying in bed, moving his hands (or if this is not possible only his eyes) to indicate the various motions. When one is traveling, he can shorten his salat and combine the second and third, and the fourth and fifth, prayers of the day so that he prays three times a day instead of five; he can, if necessary, pray while seated in his vehicle or mount, and similar concessions are made for soldiers in battle. If salat is not performed at the proper time for any reason, it is to be made up as soon as possible thereafter; it may not be missed altogether. The sole exception to this is women during menstruation and up to forty days following childbirth; these are excused from salat entirely for the duration of their condition for the reason that cleanliness (that is, the absence of bodily discharges) is a requisite for the performance of salat.

Salat is preceded by an ablution known as wudu during which the exposed parts of the body are washed; this brief preparation of the mind and body for the act of prayer is an essential requirement. If water is not available (during travel or under other unusual conditions) or if its use is likely to injure the worshipper (as in the case of serious illness or wounds), he may instead make a symbolic cleansing called tayammum without the use of water. The ablution may be maintained from one prayer to another if it is not broken by any bodily discharge, such as urination or defecation, passing gas, seminal discharge, vomiting, bleeding, etc. A full bath by means of running water (ghusl) is required after marital relations, seminal emission, and the termination of menstruation or post-partum bleeding.

The five prayers are observed during the following time periods:

(1) Dawn (Salat al-Fajr) :from the first light of dawn until shortly before sunrise;

(2) Noon (Salat adh-Dhuhr) : from just past high noon until mid- afternoon;

(3) Afternoon (Salat al- `Asr) : from mid-afternoon until shortly before sunset;

(4) Evening (salat al-Maghrib) :from just sunset until the last light fades

(5) Night (salat al- `Isha) :from dark until shortly before dawn

After performing ablution, the Muslim prepares for his salat by determining the direction of Mecca (the qiblah) and facing it. For the sake of cleanliness, since his forehead and clothing will touch the floor or ground during prayer, he removes his shoes (except on occasion while traveling) and spreads out some sort of a clean covering, often a small rug. Men may not pray in a garment which does not cover them, at minimum, from the navel to the knee, and women are required to be entirely covered with a loose, concealing garment which leaves only the face and hands exposed.

Salat consists of a combination of words and movements, performed in units known as rak'ats. The worshipper begins his salat by standing at attention, raising his hands to the side of his head and pronouncing the words "Allahu Akbar" (God is the Most Great). This utterance constitutes a declaration that he is now in the presence of God and consecrated to His worship, and this phrase is repeated again and again with each change of posture throughout the prayer.

In the first rak'at the worshipper, standing quietly at attention, recites the opening verses of the Quran, Surat al-Fateha, followed by another Qur'anic passage of his choosing. After this he bows with his hands on his knees, as one who is ready to receive his Master's orders, while he whispers words of glorification of God. After briefly standing erect for a moment, he prostrates himself on the floor or ground in a gesture of total submission and humility before God, while he silently repeats words of glorification. This is followed by the second rak'at, performed in an identical manner. After every two rak'ats the worshipper sits briefly, praising God, invoking His peace on the prophet, on himself and on all righteous people, and repeating the declaration of faith. The remaining rakats are identical except that they contain only one recitation from the Quran (that of the opening verses, Surat al-Fateha) instead of two. The final rakat is followed by the same prayer said in a sitting posture, together with a supplication for God's blessings on the Prophet and his people, and then the salat finishes with the greeting of peace, `Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatallah" (Peace be on you, and God's mercy). The worshipper may then remain sitting to offer his own personal supplications and glorification of God, either using the prayers of the Prophet or his own words and language.

A fixed number of rak'ats in each prayer are fard (obligatory), while others are sunnah (that is, following the Prophet's practice and recommended but not obligatory) Thus, while it is permissible to pray only a minimum number of rak'ats, it is preferto add to them the number of additional rakats which the Prophet used to pray and recommended, and if one wishes he may offer still additional rak'ats, again in keeping with the Prophet's own practice. Congregational prayers are performed in just the same sequence

and detail. In Muslim countries congregational prayers are observed five times a day in every mosque, the time of the prayer announced by the call to prayer (adhan) broadcast from the mosque, usually via microphone. Imams (leaders of the salat), whose salary is paid by the government, are appointed in many mosques; otherwise the worshippers select a man of learning and piety from among their number each time they gather to pray. The imam stands in front of the congregation, the worshippers lined up in straight, orderly rows shoulder to shoulder, and leads them in worship; they follow his movements in unison and absolute discipline, expressive of the unity of Muslims as one brotherhood submitting to the One God, following one Prophet, and obedient to the leadership of a single imam appointed from among them.

Islam also establishes a weekly congregational worship on Friday (Salat al-jum'ah), which is observed around noon in the major mosques of a city, taking the place of the noon prayer for those who attend it. This Friday worship is obligatory for Muslim men to the extent that if one misses it for three consecutive Fridays without a valid reason, he is considered to be out of Islam. While the Friday worship is not obligatory for women, they may attend it if they wish and find it convenient; otherwise they pray the noon prayer at home as usual. The Friday worship consists of a sermon concerning any matter related to Islam or the life of Muslims, followed by two rak'ats of salat. The function of the sermon is to educate Muslims in matters pertaining to their faith, recall them to the observance of its teaching and inform them of current events of mutual concern. Although in most Muslim countries Friday as a holiday rather than Sunday, Friday has not been prescribed as a day of rest but rather of obligatory worship, and work and business transactions are permitted as usual before and after the time of the Friday prayer.

There are a number other forms of non-regular salat which Muslims perform on various occasions. The more common ones are the nightly. taraweeh prayer during Ramadan; funeral salat, always performed in congregation the salats of the two festivals or Eid; tahajjud, the salat offered during the last one-third of the night, which is especially dear to those Muslims who want to increase in nearness to God by performing additional devotions; and istikhara, a salat consisting of two rak'ats followed by an appropriate supplication, to be performed when one is faced with a difficult decision about which he seeks guidance from God.

The Muslim child who is born into a household where salat is a natural part of the daily routine becomes accustomed to it from an early age. He sees his parents and others praying and joins in occasionally in his baby's fashion when he is still a toddler. Because salat is to have pleasurable associations in a childs mind, Muslim children are permitted to move among the worshippers without hindrance, following the example of the Prophet (peace be on him) who used to hold his grandsons on his shoulders while he prayed. A very young child can learn passages from the Qur'an in Arabic just as easily as he might memorize nursery rhymes, even if Arabic is not his native language, and as soon as he is old enough he can learn their meanings as well. By the time they are seven years old, children are supposed to be praying all the prayers, even though they may have to be reminded again and again, and by the age of ten salat five times a day becomes obligatory. Thus the Muslim child grows into the regular performance of salat easily and naturally, step by step, as the means by which he expresses his deep love and thankfulness to God, not only in words but with his entire being.

Salat is the central point of the Muslim's existence, without which he would not be able to maintain a strong and vital link with his Lord or continue his unremitting inner struggle against temptation and wrong-doing. Thus, no matter where on earth he may be, it is at once his duty and a necessity of his being to maintain salat faithfully and, whenever possible, in the company of his fellow-Muslims. Hence, while many Muslims living in the Western world may not have access to mosques, in many communities congregational prayers, especially that of Friday, are observed regularly in some designated place such as a university facility, an Islamic center, or someone's home.




ACTS OF WORSHIP

Central to the Islamic teachings and way of life are various obligatory acts of worship (ibadat) which are often referred to as the "Five Pillars of Islam." These consist of:


(1) the declaration of faith, "I bear witness that there is no deity except God and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God,"
(2) the prescribed prayers,
(3) fasting during the month of Ramadan,
(4) the poor-due, and
(5) the pilgrimage to Mecca.

While the aim of each of these acts of worship is the remembrance and glorification of God Most High, it must be emphasized that God's majesty and glory do not depend in the slightest degree upon the praise or even acknowledgement of His creatures, for He is absolutely independent of His creation and free of all needs; rather it is man who needs these recurrent forms of worship to keep his contact With his Lord and his vision of the true Reality clear and strong. The Purpose of the Islamic worships is, therefore, to strengthen the individual's faith and sense of submission to God, to solidify his character, to discipline him for his role as God's faithful servant and steward on earth, to make it possible and easy for him to live in the manner ordained by God. And to reinforce the ties of brotherhood and affection among Muslims.

These acts of worship require the participation of all aspects of man's nature - his soul, his mind, his feelings and his body with its various needs and appetites, and his time, energies and possessions as well-and thus they are the worship by the total human individual of God Most High. It will also be seen that the various forms of worship are prescribed at various time intervals. For example, the declaration of faith is to be always present in the mind and heart of the Muslim and to be uttered again and again with the tongue during his daily prayers. The prayers are to be performed five times daily every day of one's life after attaining puberty, and even more often if one desires to strengthen his relationship with God further and come nearer to Him. Fasting is for a full month every year, while the poor-due is to be calculated and paid once yearly, and the pilgrimage is to be performed once in a lifetime if possible (the latter two are obligations only on those Muslims who meet certain required conditions, as will be seen presently).

These two aspects of the Islamic worships-the involvement in them of the total human being and the prescription of them at different recurring intervals-make them extremely unique and complete expressions of man's total dependence upon God and submission to His will, his utter humility and creatureliness before the greatness of the Creator, and his desire to serve and obey Him alone.

These acts of worship are obligatory upon all Muslims no matter where they may happen to live, whether they are institutionalized in a Muslim society or one happens to be a single Muslim living far away from any Muslim community. It is the collective obligation of Muslims to provide the means and facilities for carrying out these duties faithfully. Each of these acts of worship is prescribed in the Holy Qur'an, and each is performed in the manner in which the Prophet (peace be on him), who is the example for all Muslims of every time and place, himself performed them.

In this section we will discuss the concepts and significance of the various Islamic worships. 1. Declaration of Faith (Shahadah)

"Islam is based on five things: the testimony that there is no deity except God and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, the observance of prayer, the payment of the poor-due, the pilgrimage, and the fast during Ramadan." (Hadith)

The first of the acts of worship is to believe with the heart and declare with the tongue that there is no deity except God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. This is expressed in the words"Ashaduan la ilaha illa Allah wa ashaduanna Muhammadan Rasool Allah" (I bear witness that there is no deity except God and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God).

Here, as we saw earlier, the word "deity" is used in the broad sense which the Arabic word ilah conveys: that is, anyone or anything who is worshipped to whom one's love and devotion are given and one's goal is directed; it also denotes that Being in Whom is vested ultimate authority and the right to prescribe and legislate, Whose words or commands are considered binding, and Who alone is worthy to be obeyed. Thus it becomes clear that this declaration has a far broader meaning than the words convey in English. It is, in effect, a proclamation that the one who believes and utters it cancels from his heart loyalty, devotion, obedience, submission to and worship of anything other than God, the Praised and Exalted-not merely of man-made idols of wood or stone, but also of any conceptions ideologies, ways of life, desires, loves, preoccupations and authority- figures which claim his supreme devotion, loyalty,obedience and worship.

Similarly, "Muhammadan Rasool Allah," although it is a very brief, terse statement, denotes a whole train of thought beyond the mere words as they are rendered into English. This proclamation of belief in Muhammad as God's Messenger is simultaneously a proclamation of belief in the guidance which that Prophet (peace be on him) brought to mankind-God's final and complete guidance for all humanity- and at the same time implicitly a statement of the intention to faithfully follow that guidance.

 
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