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Don Stewart :: What Are the Essential Religious Practices of Muslims?

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What Are the Essential Religious Practices of Muslims? (The Five Pillars of Islam)

Islam – Question 7

The Islamic faith has developed an intricate code of religious observances that are the normal practices of most Muslims worldwide. These are known as the “five pillars.” They are derived from explicit commands in the Quran, the holy book of Islam, or the hadith, the traditions practiced by Muhammad and his followers. These religious observances are not voluntary. Indeed, they are obligatory for all Muslims.

We should also note that some Muslims add Jihad, or the struggle, as a sixth pillar.

We can simply state these five pillars as follows.

1. Confession of Faith (Shahadah)

The first duty of a Muslim is to confess the following creed.

There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.

This confession of allegiance to Muhammad is of primary importance. In fact, this is how one becomes a Muslim.

2. Prayer (Salat)

Obedience to Allah is demonstrated by prayer. This occurs five times each day; morning, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. There is no passage in the Quran where these five prayers are mentioned together. The Quran, however, does say to establish regular prayers.

And establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night: for those things that are good remove those that are evil (Surah 11:114).

There is another place where it commands regular prayers.

When you pass congregational prayers celebrate Allah’s praises, standing, sitting down, or lying down on your sides; but when you are free from danger, set up regular prayers: for such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times. (Surah 4:103)

Muslims must always face toward the direction of Mecca when they pray. Prayer can take place at home for individual prayers or in a Mosque for community prayers. There is nothing specifically said in the Quran about this obligation. The requirement comes from the traditions about Muhammad’s behavior and practice that is recorded in the hadith.

Before a Muslim prays there are certain things that must precede it. The Quran gives the following command.

O you who believe! When you prepare for prayer wash your faces and your hands and arms to the elbows; rub your heads with water and wash your feet to the ankles. (Surah 5:6)

These are the rules that govern Islamic prayer.

3. Almsgiving, Tithing (Zakat)

This, along with prayer, shows who is a true believer. Money is given to the poor, orphans, and travelers. Money is also given to support Islamic causes. Muslims must give at least 2.5 percent of their total wealth to the poor and needy.

4. Fasting (Sawm)

Fasting occurs during the holy month of Ramada which is the ninth month on the Muslim calendar. This is the same month Muhammad is said to have first received the revelation of the Quran from Allah through the angel Gabriel.

Muslims abstain from food and drink during the daylight hours. They may eat between sunrise and sunset. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are to refrain from food, water, and sex from sunrise to sunset.

5. Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

If at all possible, at least once in a lifetime Muslims are to travel to the holy city of Mecca. This is known as the Hajj. Once there, they are to engage in rituals of prayer and worship at the central shrine, the Kaaba. They are to circle it seven times, and kiss it. Muslims believe there is power in this sacred stone. After their pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims normally go to Medina, also in Saudi Arabia, to touch the grave of Muhammed to receive power.

Salvation Rests upon Performance of These Deeds

Muslims believe their eternal salvation rests upon their performance of these religious practices. Muslim buildings have representations of a pair of scales on their walls. This is to remind the faithful that salvation is based upon their good works outweighing their bad works on the scales of justice. This idea is taken from the Quran. It says,

Then those whose balance [of good deeds] is heavy—They will attain salvation: But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in Hell they will abide. (Surah 103:22, 23)

The Muslim, therefore, will strive, to obey these regulations.

However, it must be stressed that salvation in Islam is not the same thing as salvation in Christianity. Islam does not believe in original sin. Therefore, it is not necessary to atone for our sins. The death of Jesus Christ was not something that was essential in the plan of God according to Islam. Salvation is escaping the judgment of hell by following the commands of Allah. The emphasis is on doing rather than believing.

This sums up the essential religious practices which all true Muslims must follow.

Summary – Question 7
What Are the Essential Religious Practices of Muslims? (The Five Pillars of Islam)

The religious practices of Islam can be summed up by five pillars. These practices are not voluntary but rather are obligatory. Each Muslim must observe these five things. First and foremost is the confession of the true faith. One must state that Allah alone is God and that Muhammad is his prophet.

Next is prayer. Prayer must take place five times a day. The prayer must be to Allah while the person is facing toward Mecca.

A third pillar consists of almsgiving or financially supporting Islam. Islamic leaders and Islamic causes must be underwritten or financially supported by faithful Muslims.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is also a pillar of the faith. This means abstaining from food during the daylight hours for the entire month. Food can be eaten during the darkened time.

Finally, there is the Hajj or a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. Each Muslim is expected to make this pilgrimage once in their lifetime. They visit the sacred shrine and perform a number of religious rituals.

This sums up the duties of the faithful Muslim.

For the Muslim, their salvation is based upon the performance of these deeds. If the good deeds outweigh the bad then the Muslim will be granted access to the pleasures of heaven. If not, the person will be sent to the judgment of hell. Consequently, in the end, the eternal fate of a Muslim is based upon their works. This is in contrast to the teaching of the New Testament. Our eternal salvation is not based upon anything which we do. Rather it is based upon whom we believe in or trust. If we trust Jesus Christ as the One who has taken away our sins then we are given the "gift" of eternal life. We cannot earn it. Indeed, Christ has done it all. Our obligation is to believe in Him.

If the Quran Is Not the Word of God, Then What Was Its Actual Source? ← Prior Section
What Do Muslims, Jews, and Christians Have in Common? Next Section →
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