Pillars Of Islam
1.Shahadah / Shahadahtan
To bear witness to the Oneness of God and the Messengership of
Muhammad in a meaningful commital way
2- Salat (Prayers)
Prayer constitutes one polar of Islam and is considered the Foundation of Religion. Any Muslim who fails to observe his prayers and has no reasonable excuse is committing a grave offense and a heinous sin. This offense is so grave because it is not only against God, which is bad enough, but is also against the very nature of man. It is an instinct of man to be inclined to adore the great beings, and to aspire to lofty goals. The greatest being and the loftiest goal of all is God. The best way to cultivate in man a sound personality and actualize his aspirations in a mature course of development is the Islamic Prayer. To neglect prayer is to oppress the good qualities in human nature and unjustifiably deny it the right to adore and love, tie right to aspire and ascend, the right to excel in goodness and achieve noble aims. Such oppression and denial constitute a very serious and destructive offense. Here lies the significance and vitality of prayer in the life of man.
It should always be borne in mind that God does not need man's prayer, because He is free of all needs. He is only interested in our prosperity and well being in every sense. When He emphasizes the necessity of prayer and charges us with any duty, He means to help us; because whatever good we do is for our own benefit, and whatever offense we commit is against our own souls. Here too, man is the center of gravity, and his common interest is the main concern. The benefit which man can derive from the Islamic prayer is immeasurable, and the blessing of prayer is beyond imagination. This is not just a "theory" or conventional assumption; it is a fascinating fact and a spiritual experience. Here is an explanation of the effectiveness of the Islamic prayer:-
1. It strengthens the belief in the Existence and Goodness of God and transmits this belief into the innermost recesses of man's heart.
2. It enlivens this belief and makes it constructive in the practical course of life.
3. It helps man to realize his natural and instinctive aspirations to greatness and high morality, to excellence and virtuous growth.
4. It purifies the heart and develops the mind, cultivates the conscience and comforts the soul
5. It fosters the good and decent elements in man, and supresses the evil and indecent inclinations.
When we analyze the Islamic prayer and study its unique nature, it will reveal to us that it is not merely a physical motion or a void recital of the Holy Book. It is a matchless and unprecedented formula of intellectual meditation and spiritual devotion, of moral elevation and physical exercise, all combined. It is an exclusively Islamic experience where every muscle of the body joins the soul and the mind in the worship and glory of God. It is difficult for anyone to impart in words the full meaning of the Islamic prayer, yet it can be said that it is:
1. A lesson in discipline and willpower;
2. A practice in devotion to God and all worthy objectives;
3. A vigilant reminder of God and constant revelation of His Goodness;
4. A seed of spiritual cultivation and moral soundness;
5. A guide to the most upright way of life;
6. A safeguard against indecency and evil, against wrong deviation and stray;
7. A demonstration of true equality, solid unity, and brotherhood;
8. An expression of thankfulness to God and appreciation of Him;
9. A course of inner peace and stability;
10. An abundant source of patience and courage, of hope and confidence.
This is the Islamic prayer, and that is what it can do for man. The best testimony to this statement is to experience the prayer and avail oneself of its spiritual joys. Then one will know what it really means.
The Conditions of Prayer
The offering of prayer is obligatory upon every Muslim, male or female, who is:
1. Sane and responsible;
2. Relatively mature and in the age of puberty, normally about fourteen. (Children should be advised by parents to start practice at the age of seven and strongly urged by the age often);
3. Free from serious sickness and, in the case of women, free from menstruation and confinement due to child birth and nursing. The maximum period of both is ten and forty days, respectively. In these circumstances women are exempt from prayers completely.
Prayer is not valid unless the following requirements are fulfilled:
1. Performing the ablution (Wudu'), which will be explained later;
2. Purity of the whole body, the clothes worn on it, and the ground used for prayer from all kinds of dirt and impurity;
3. Dressing properly in such a way as to meet the moral regulations aimed at covering the private parts. For the male, the body should be covered at least from the navel to the knees. For the female, the whole body should be covered except the face, the hands and the feet. For both, transparent clothes must be avoided in prayer;
4. Declaring the intention of prayer (NiyyA) by both heart and tongue whenever possible;
5. Facing the right direction of "Qiblah", the direction of the Ka'bah at Mecca. There are many ways to decide the right direction. If a person has no means of telling, he would follow his best judgment.
The Kinds of Prayer
The following are the various kinds of prayer:
1. Obligatory (Fard), which includes the five daily prayers, the Friday's noon congregation and the funeral prayer. Failure to observe these prayers is a serious and punishable sin, if there is no reasonable excuse.
2. Supererogatory (Wajib and Sunnah), which includes the prayers accompanying the obligatory services, and the congregations of the two great festivals (Eeds). Failure to observe these is a harmful negligence and a reproachable conduct.
3. Optional prayer which includes all voluntary prayers at any time of the day or the night. Two periods have a special preference: the later part of the night until just before the breaking of the dawn and the mid-morning period.
The Times of Prayer
Every Muslim, male or female, must offer at least five daily prayers in time, if there is no lawful reason for exemption, combination, or temporary delay, They are:
1. The Early Morning Prayer (Salatu-l-Fajr), which may be offered any time after the dawn and before sunrise, a total period of about two hours.
2. The Noon Prayer (Salatu-z-Zuhr) This prayer may be offered anytime after the sun begins to decline from its Zenith until it is about midway on its course to setting. For example, if the sun sets at 7:00 p.m. the prayer time begins a little after 12:00 noon and continues until a little after 3:30 p.m. Soon after that the time of the next prayer begins. However, there are accurate calendars telling the time of each prayer. But if there is none available, one must resort to one's best judgment.
3. The Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Salatu-l-‘Asr), which begins right after the expiration of the Noon Prayer time and extends to sunset.
4. The Sunset Prayer (Salatu-l-Maghrib). The time of this prayer begins immediately after sunset and extends till the red glow in the western horizon disappears. Normally it extends over a period of one hour and twenty to thirty minutes.
5. The Evening Prayer (Salatu-l-‘Isha’), which begins after the red glow in the western horizon disappears (nearly one hour and thirty minutes after sunset) and continues till a little before the dawn.
It is noticeable that Islam hits set the times of prayers in such a way that our spiritual recreation remarkably coincides with our physical nourishment, and combines the peace of mind with the relaxation of body. The Early Morning Prayer is due in the regular period of breakfast; the Noon-Prayer coincides with the lunch period; the Mid-Afternoon Prayer falls about the break time for tea or coffee: the Sunset Prayer is about the supper time; and the Evening Prayer corresponds with the late snack. It is also noticeable that the Muslim, by observing these prayers, marks the whole day with a spiritual stamp in the beginning, at the end and throughout. So he combines religion and life, feels the presence of God within him throughout the day, concludes his daily transactions with a spiritual feeling and builds up his moral prestige on strong foundations. Moreover, in this way the Muslim introduces spiritual vitality into all aspects of his life, and religion presents itself to all fields of activity. It becomes effective in shops and offices, homes and farms, factories and plants. It extends its light to every circle of business and work, Indeed, this timetable of prayer is remarkable because it is the work of God and the product of Islam.
It is always preferable to offer the prayer as soon as the time sets in, lest some things cause unexpected delay or postponement. These prayers are Divine contests. The reward for those who pass the contests is immeasurable, and their delight is beyond imagination. The happiness they attain, the rejoicing they feel, and the honor they receive cannot be expressed in words. On the other hand. failure to participate in these contests is a punishable sin. It causes severe penalties, spiritual deprivation, mental agony and social isolation.
The Noon (Zuhr) and the Afternoon, (‘Asr) Prayers may be offered together, if a person is traveling or sick. The same permission is granted with regard to the Sunset (Maghrib) and the Evening (‘Isha) Prayers.
The Partial Ablution-(Wudu’)
Before offering the prayer one must be in good shape and pure condition. It is necessary to wash the parts of the body which are generally exposed to dirt or dust or smog. This performance is called ABLUTION (Wudu’) and is preferably carried out as follows:
1. Declare the intention that the act is for the purpose of worship and purity.
2. Wash the hands up to the wrists, three times.
3. Rinse out the mouth with water, three times, preferably with a brush whenever it is possible.
4. Cleanse the nostrils of the nose by sniffing water into them, three times.
5. Wash the whole face three times with both hands, if possible, from the top of the forehead to the bottom of the chin and from ear to ear.
6. Wash the right arm three times up to the far end of the elbow, and then do the same with the left arm.
7. Wipe the whole head or any part of it with a wet hand, once.
8. Wipe the inner sides of the ears with the forefingers and their outer sides with the thumbs. This should be done with wet fingers.
9. Wipe around the neck with wet hands.
10. Wash the two feet up to the ankles, three times, beginning with
the right foot.
At this stage the ablution is completed, and the person who has performed it is ready to start his prayer. When the ablution is valid a person may keep it as long as he can, and may use it for as many prayers as he wishes. But it is preferable to renew it as often as possible. It is also preferable to do it in the said order, although it will be accepted from those who fail to keep this order. Ablution in the said way is sufficient for prayer unless it is nullified by any reason.
Nullification of the Ablution
The ablution becomes nullified by any of the following:
1. Natural discharges, i.e., urine, stools, gas, etc..
2. The flow of blood or pus and the like from any part of the body:
4. Falling asleep;
5. Losing one's reason by taking drugs or any intoxicating stuff.
After the occurrence of any of these things the ablution must be renewed for prayer. Also, after natural discharges, water should be applied because the use of toilet tissues may not be sufficient for the purpose of purity and worship.
Complete Substitute for the Ablution (Tayammum)
Tayammum or resort to pure earth may substitute for the ablution and even the bath. This is allowed in any of the following cases:
1. When a person is sick and cannot use water;
2. When he has no access to water in sufficient quantity; 3. When the use of water is likely to do him harm or cause any disease;
1. When the performance of ablution makes the person miss a funeral or Eed
Prayer, which has no substitute.
In any of these instances it is permissible to make ‘Tayammum’ which is performed as follows:
1. Strike both hands slightly on pure earth or sand or stone.
2. Shake the hands off and wipe the face with them once in the same way as done in the ablution.
3. Strike the hands again and wipe the right arm to the elbow with the left hand and the left arm with the right hand.
This ‘Tayammum’ is a symbolic demonstration of the importance of the ablution, which is so vital for both worship and health. When Islam introduced this repeatable ablution, it brought along with it the best hygienic formula which no other spiritual doctrine or medical prescription had anticipated.
Special Facilities in Ablution
With regard to the ablution Islam has offered certain facilities. If socks or stockings are on and have been put on after performing an ablution, it is not necessary to take them off when renewing the ablution. Instead of taking them off, the wet hand may be passed over them. They should be removed, however, and the feet washed at least once in every twenty-four hours. The same practice may be resorted to if the boots are on and their soles and appearances are clean. Similarly if there is a wound in any of the parts which must be washed in the ablution, and if washing that particular part is likely to cause harm, it is permissible to wipe the dressing bandage of the wound with a wet hand.
The Complete Ablution (Ghusi/Bath)
The whole body with the nostrils, mouth and head must be washed by a complete bath before entering prayer in any of the following cases:
1. After intimate intercourse;
2. After wet dreams;
3. Upon expiration of the menstruation period of women;
4. At the end of the confinement period of nursing women, which, is estimated
at a maximum of forty days. If it ends before, complete ablution should be done.
It should be pointed out that at the start of the bath or ablution, the intention must be clear that it is for the purpose of purity and worship. Also, a person who is performing an ablution, partial or complete, should combine his performance with some utterances glorifying God and praying Him for true guidance. The forms of such utterances are described in detail in the elaborate sources of the religion. One, however, can say one's own best utterances if one does not know the exact wording. That is sufficient as long as it is in the praise of God and is said with sincerity.
The Prayer Call (Adhan)
Now the worshipper has performed his ablution as explained above and is ready for prayer. When the time of prayer comes, it is good practice, after the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad, to say the Prayer Call (Adhan). The caller stands facing the Qiblah (the direction of the Ka’bah at Mecca), raising both hands to his ears and says, in a loud voice, the following:
1. Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest), (repeated four times);
2. Ashhadu An La Illa-L-Lah (I bear witness that there is no god but the One God), (repeated twice):
5. Ashhadu Anna Muhammadan Rasulu-l-lah (I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God), (repeated twice);
4. Hayya 'Ala-s-salah (Come fast to prayer), (repeated twice, turning the face to the right),
5. Hayya 'Ala-l-falah (Come fast to success), (repeated twice, turning the face to the left.
6. Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest of all), (repeated twice); 7. La Ilaha Illa-l-lah (There is no god but the One and true God), (once).
When the Call is made for the early morning prayer, the caller adds one sentence right after part (5) above. The sentence required is this:
As-salatu Khayrun Minan-nawm
(Prayer is better than sleep), (repeated twice). Then the caller continues with parts (6) and (7). This exception is made in the morning only because it is the time when people are asleep and in need for a reminder of prayer.
Entrance Into Prayer (Iqamah)
When this call is uttered, the worshippers get ready for prayer and inaugurate it with an announcement called ‘Iqamah’. The sentences here are the same as those of the Adhan above with two differences:
(a) The Iqamah is said in a faster and less audible voice and (b) right after part (5) this sentence should be said twice:
(prayer is ready). Then parts (6) and (7) should follow to the end as usual.
The Performance of Prayer
After the worshipper has done the ablution and after the ‘Adhan’ and ‘Iqamah’ are said, the prayer starts as follows:
1. The Early Morning Prayer (salatu-l-Fajr)
In this prayer two units (Rak’ahs) are offered first as supererogatory (Sunnah). These are followed by two other units as obligatory (Fard). Both Supererogatory and obligatory units are offered in the same manner except that, when declaring the intention, one has to distinguish between the two kinds. This is the description of performance:
Act 1. One stands in reverence and humility, facing the Qiblah, raising his hands up to the ears, and says: "Nawaytu Osalli Sunnata Salati-l-Fajr or Farda Salati-l-Fajr (As the case may be); Allahu Akbar."
This means: "I declare my intention to offer the supererogatory or obligatory (as the case may be) prayer of the morning; God is the Greatest of all." Then he lowers his arms and places the right hand over the left one right below the navel.
Act 2. He then says in a low voice the following: "Subhanaka-l-lahumma wa bihamdik, wa tabaraka-smuk, wa ta'ala Jadduk, wa La llaha Ghayruk. A'udhu bi-l-lahi mina-sh-shaytani-r- rajeem. Bismi-l-lahi-r-rah-mann-r-raheem".
This means: "Glory be to You, 0 God, and Yours is the praise, and blessed is Your name, and exalted is Your majesty, and there is no god besides You. I seek the refuge of God from the condemned devil. In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful."
Act 3. Then in a low or audible voice he recites the Opening Chapter of the Qur’an (al-Fatihah), followed by any passage from the Holy Book. (The Opening and examples of these short chapters and verses will be found later in this section.)
Act 4. Then he says: "Allahu Akbar," (God is the Greatest of all), lowering his head down at a right angle, placing the palms of his hands on the knees and saying in a low voice:
("Glory to my Lord the Great", repeated three times). This is called Ruku’. After that the standing position is resumed with these words: "Sami’a-l-ahu Liman Hamidah; Rabbana Laka-l-Hamd
(God accepts any who are thankful to Him; Our Lord, praise be to You). When saying this the hands remain on the sides.
Act 5. The worshipper then says: Allahu Akbar, prostrating himself with the toes of both feet, both knees, both hands and the forehead touching the ground. This is the position of Sujud and is accompanied with these words:
(Glory to my Lord the Most High, repeated three times).
Act 6. Then with the utterance of Allahu Akbar comes the Julus, a short rest in a sitting posture: the outer side of the left foot and the toes of the right one, which are in an erect position, touching the ground and the two hands are placed on the knees.
After this a second prostration (Sujud) is repeated in the same way with the same utterances as in the first one. This completes one unit (Rak’ah) of the prayer.
Act 7. After the first unit the worshipper rises, saying Allahu Akbar, to assume a standing position for the second unit and recites the Opening (the Fatihah) followed by a Qur’anic passage as in the first unit.
Act 8. When he has finished the second bowing and the two prostrations in the same way as the first, he takes a sitting position as in Julus and recites the Tashahhud with its two parts. (This will be found later in this section.)
Act 9. Finally he turns his face to the right side saying these words: "Assalamu ‘Alaykum wa rahmatu-I-Lah (Peace be on you and the mercy of God). Then he turns his face to the left side uttering the same greetings.
This is how any prayer of two units (Rak’ahs), whether obligatory or supererogatory, is performed. When knowing how to perform this prayer in the right way, all other prayers will be found very easy. It should be pointed out that every move or every word in the Islamic prayer has a great significance attached to it and is symbolic of a very deep meaning.
2. The Noon Prayer (Sulatu-z-Zuhr)
This consists of four units as Sunnah, followed by four units as Fard, and then two others as Sunnah. The performance of the Fard of this prayer is as follows:
(a) The first two units are performed in the same way as in the morning prayer. The Fatihah and a portion of the Qur’an are recited in a low voice. Bowing and prostration postures are observed in the same way.
(b) When reciting the Tashahhud after the second unit, the worshipper stops at the end of the first part of it to resume the posture of standing.
(c) Then he recites the Fatiha only in the third unit without any added portion of the Qur’an.
(d) When he concludes the third unit, he stands for the fourth and recites the Fatihah only as in the third.
(e) After bowing and prostration he takes the sitting posture of Julus and recites the whole Tashahhud with its two parts.
(f) Then he utters the peace greetings right and left.
(g) Offering the two Sunnah units is like the morning prayer but in a low voice.
3. The Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Salatu-l-'Asr)
It consists of four units as Sunnah followed by four others as Fard. These are performed in the same way as the noon prayer and in a low voice.
4. The Sunset Prayer (Salatu-1-Maghrib)
It consists of three units as Fard followed by two as Sunnah. It may be said in the first two units with a low or audible voice; the third unit is in a low voice. It is performed in the same way as the noon or mid-afternoon prayer except that the fourth unit is excluded and the final sitting here, following recital of the Fatihah, bowing, and prostrations, comes after the third unit, which ends with the utterances of peace greetings. The two Sunnah units are offered in the same way as the Early Morning Prayer.
5. The Evening Prayer (Salatu.l-‘Isha’)
It consists of four units as Fard, two as Sunnah and three as Witr (higher than Sunnah and lower than Fard). The first two units of the four Fard may be said in a low or audible voice. Other than that, it is performed the same way as the noon or mid-afternoon prayer. The two Sunnah units are performed exactly like the early morning prayer.
As for the three Witr units, they are performed just like the sunset prayer with two exceptions: (a) in the third unit the Fatihah is followed by a portion of the Qur’an, and (b) while standing after bowing and before Prostration the worshipper says these words:
"Allahumma inna nasta'eenuk, wa nastahdeek, wa nastaghifiruk, wa natubu ilayk, wa nu'minu bik, wa natawakkalu 'Alayk, wa nuthni 'alayka-l-Khayra kullah. Nashkurk, wa la nakfruk, wa nakhla'u wa natruku man yafj-uruk. Allahumma iyyaka na’bud, wa laka nusalli wa nasjud, wa ilayka nas'a wa nahfid. Narju rahmatak, wa naklisha 'adhabak; inna 'adhabaka bi-l-Kuffari mulhaq wa salli-l-llahumma 'ala sayyidina Muharnmad wa 'ala alihi - wa sahbihi wa sallim."
This is called Qunut and may be interpreted as follows:
"O God! We beseech You for help and guidance, and seek Your protection and believe in You and rely on You, and extol You and are thankful to You and are not ingrate to You, and we declare ourselves clear of, and forsake, him who disobeys You.
"O God! To You do we pray and prostrate ourselves, and to You do we betake ourselves, and to obey You we are quick, and Your mercy do we hope for and Your punishment do we fear, for Your punishment overtakes the unbelievers.
"O God! Exalt our Master Muhammad and his people and his true followers."
If this Qunut cannot be commanded by memory, it is sufficient to say any recitation similar to it till it is mastered. All the Sunnah (supererogatory) prayers are to be said individually, that is not in congregation except the ‘Eed prayers, and the Witr in the month of Ramadan.
The Sunnah Prayers are not required from a person who has missed some Fard Prayers. Instead, he must make up for what he has missed and offer the obligatory services. Also the Sunnah Prayers are not required, if the due time of the accompanying Fard Prayers has expired. So, if a person misses any prayer and wants to make up for it, he has to offer the Fard only.
If a worshipper does not know how to say his whole prayers in, the Arabic version, he may use any other language he knows if it can express the same meaning of the Arabic. To make the Arabic version easy we are giving the words in transliteration.
The Fard Prayer is much more preferable when offered in a congregation (Jama’ah) led by an Imam. The congregation is best when it is held in a mosque, but it may be held in other places.
The Congregation (Jama'ah) Prayers
1. The congregation is led by an Imam from among the present worshippers. He must be chosen on his merits of religious knowledge and piety.
2. The Imam of the congregation stands in the front by himself while the followers stand him in straight lines, all facing the Qiblah. A congregation can be made up of even two persons: the Iman and one follower.
3. After declaring tile intention of player the Imam recites the Fatihah and the complementary passage of the Qur’an in an audible voice in the Early Morning Prayer and in the first two units of the Sunset Prayers. When the Imam is reciting tile Qur’an aloud, the followers listen to him in mediation and humility. They do not recite the Fatihah nor the other passage after the Imam.
4. When the Imam concludes the Fatihah the followers say ‘Ameen’. After the Imam stands from the bowing posture he says: "Sami’a-l-lahu liman Hamidah" (God accepts any who are thankful to Him), and the followers respond in these words: "Rabbana laka-l-Hamd!" (our Lord praise be to You).
5. The followers should follow the Imam in his movements without anticipating him in any act. Should any follower supersede the Iman in any movement, this person's prayer will become void.
6. The congregational prayer is not valid unless the Imam declares his intention that he is acting in the service in the capacity of Imam. The followers also must declare their intention that they are following that particular Imam in the same particular prayer he is offering.
7. If a person comes after the start of prayer and joins the congregation, he must, even if he has missed one unit or more, follow the Imam. When the Imam completes the service by uttering the final peace greetings, this late comer does not join in that, but takes a standing position to make up for the early units he has missed. When a person joins the congregation in the bowing position, before rising, he is considered as having joined from the start of this particular unit. But if he joins in any position after bowing he has missed the unit and must make up for it individually right after the Imam concludes the prayer.
8. Whenever there is an opportunity for praying in a congregation, a Muslim should not miss it. Prayer in congregation is a handsome demonstration of unity in purpose and action, of plural piety and humility before God, of effective solidarity among Muslims, of public order and mutual response.
The Islamic congregation is a positive answer to file acutest problems of humanity rising from racial discrimination, social castes and human prejudices. In the congregational service of Islam there is no king or subject, rich or poor, white or colored, first or second class, back or front benches, reserved or public pews. All worshippers stand and act shoulder to Shoulder in the most disciplinary manner regardless of any worldly considerations.
6. The Friday Prayer (Salatu-1-jumu’ah)
So far we have been dealing with the daily prayers. Now we come to the weekly convention of Friday Congregation. This service is compulsory upon every Muslim who is required to observe the other prayers and has no reasonable excuses to abstain. It falls on Friday of every week and is especially important because:-
1. It is the occasion earmarked by God for the Muslims to express their collective devotion.
2. It is an appointment to review our spiritual accounts of the week gone by and get ready for the following week just as people do in any other business.
3. It is a convention for the Muslims to reassure themselves and confirm their religious bonds and social solidarity on moral and spiritual foundations.
4. It shows how the Muslims give preference to the call of God over and above any other concern.
The Highlights of the Prayer
This prayer of Friday is marked by these features: -
1. Its time falls in the same time as that of the noon prayer (Salatu- Zuhr), and it replaces the very same Prayer.
2. It must be said in a congregation led by an Imam. No single person can offer it by himself.
3. If any person misses it, he cannot make up for it. Instead, he has to offer the noon prayer, the original prayer which this service normally replaces.
4. All kinds of normal work are allowed on Friday as on any other week day. For Muslims there is no Sabbath. They can carry on with their usual duties and activities provided they come to the congregational service in time. After the service is over, they may resume their mundane activities.
5. This Friday prayer must be performed in a Mosque, if there is one available. Otherwise, it may be said at any gathering place, e.g. homes, farms, parks, etc.
6. When the time for prayer comes, the Adhan is said. Then, four units of prayer are offered as Sunnah, individually in a low voice as in the noon prayer. When this part is completed, the Imam stands up facing the audience and delivers his sermon (khutbah) which is an essential part of the service. While the Imam is talking nobody should talk or pray; everyone present should take a sitting position and listen to the sermon quietly to the end
7. The sermon (khutbah) consists of two parts each beginning with words of praise of God and prayers of blessing for Prophet Muhammad. In the first part some Qur’anic passage must be recited and explained for the purpose of exhortation and admonition. At the end of the first part the Imam takes a short rest in the sitting posture, then stands up to deliver the second part of his sermon. General affairs of the Muslims may be discussed in either or both parts of the sermon. In the second part, especially, the Imam prays for the general welfare of all Muslims.
8. After that the Iqamah is made and the two obligatory units are offered under the leadership of the imam who recites the Fatihah and the other Our’anic passage in an audible voice. When this is done, the prayer is completed. After that two other Sunnah units are offered individually in a low voice.
The earlier four and the late two Sunnah units may be offered at home. Also they may be replaced with some obligatory prayers that one has missed in the past and for which one has to make up.
Any participant in the weekly congregation or the ‘Eed Prayers should do his best to be neat and tidy. Though there is no compulsory reason for a complete ablution, a bath is strongly recommended as it makes one fresher and more pleasant.
The Significance of ‘Eed Prayers
‘Eed means recurring happiness or festivity. The ‘Eed Prayer is very important for all Muslims. It has the merits of the daily prayers as explained above, the effects of the weekly convention (Jumu’ah) and the characteristics of annual reunions between Muslims. There are two such ‘Eeds. The first is called ‘Eedu-1-Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking). It falls on the first day of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Muslim year, following the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed and which is the month of Fasting. The second is called ‘Eedu-l-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice). It falls on the tenth day of Dhu-l-Hijjah, the last month of the Muslim year, following completion of the course of Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), an extremely devotional course.
The Islamic ‘Eeds are unique in every way. To them there can be no similar in any other religion or any other sociopolitical system.
Besides their highly spiritual and moral characteristics, they have matchless qualities:
1. Each ‘Eed is a wholesome celebration of a remarkable achievement of the individual Muslim in the service of God. The First ‘Eed comes after an entire month of "absolute" fasting during the days of the month. The second ‘Eed marks the completion of Hajj to Mecca, a course in which the Muslim handsomely demonstrates his renouncement of the mundane concerns and hearkens only to the Eternal voice of God.
2. Each ‘Eed is a Thanksgiving Day where the Muslims assemble in a brotherly and joyful atmosphere to offer their gratitude to God for helping them to fulfill their spiritual obligations prior to the ‘Eed. This form of thanksgiving is not confined to spiritual devotion and verbal expressions. It goes far beyond that to manifest itself in a handsome shape of social and humanitarian spirit. The Muslims who have completed the fasting of Ramadan express their thanks to God by means of distributing alms among the poor and needy on the First ‘Eed. Similarly, the Muslims who have completed the course of Hajj at Mecca, as well as those who are at home, offer their sacrifices by slaughtering oblations to be distributed among the poor and needy. The distribution of alms and oblations constitutes a major part of the ‘Eed’s highlights. This Islamic form of thanksgiving is a wholesome combination of spiritual devotion and humanitarian benevolence, a combination which cannot be found except in Islam.
3. Each ‘Eed is a Day of Remembrance. Even in their most joyful times the Muslims make a fresh start of the Day by a plural session of worship to God. They pray to Him and glorify His name to demonstrate their remembrance of His favors. Along with that course, they remember the deceased by prayer for their souls, the needy by extending a hand of help, the grieved by showing them sympathy and consolation, the sick by cheerful visits and utterances of good wishes, the absentees by cordial greetings and sincere considerateness, etc. Thus the meaning of Remembrance on the Day transcends all limits and expands over far-reaching dimensions of human life.
4. Each ‘Eed is a Day of Victory. The individual who succeeds in securing his spiritual rights and growth receives the ‘Eed with a victorios spirit. The individual who faithfully observes the duties, which are associated with the ‘Eed, is a triumphant one. He proves that he holds a strong command over his desires, exercises a sound self-control and enjoys the taste of disciplinary life. And once a person acquires these qualities he has achieved his greatest victory, because the person who knows how to control himself and discipline his desires is free from sin and wrong, from fear and cowardice, from vice and indecency, from jealousy and greed, from humiliation and all other causes of enslavement. So, when he receives the ‘Eed, which marks the achievement of this freedom, he is in fact celebrating his victory, and the ‘Eed thus becomes a Day of Victory.
5. Each ‘Eed is a Harvest Day. All the good workers in the service of God, all the faithful believers reap the fruits of their good deeds on the Day, as God grants His mercy and blessings abundantly. The Islamic society, on the other hand, collects the due subscriptions to religious brotherhood and social responsibility, in which subscriptions are paid in the form of mutual love, sympathy and concern. Every member of the Islamic society will be reaping some fruits or collecting some revenue in one way or another. God gives infinitely, especially to those who are sincerely concerned with the general welfare of their fellow believers. Those beneficiaries who cannot give will receive, along with God's enormous grants, the contributions of their fellow benefactors. The haves and have-nots will all enjoy the providence of God in a most plural fashion, and the Day will indeed be a Good Harvest Day.
6. Each ‘Eed is a Day of Forgiveness. When the Muslims assemble in the congregation of the Day, they all wholeheartedly pray for forgiveness and strength of Faith. And God has assured those who approach Him with sincerity of His mercy and forgiveness. In that pure assembly and highly spiritual congregation any true Muslim would feel ashamed of himself before God to hold any enmity or ill feelings toward his brethren. A true Muslim would be deeply impressed by this brotherly and spiritual assembly, and would overcome his ill feelings if he has been exposed to any. Consequently, he would find himself moving along with others responding to the spirit of the Day to purify his heart and soul. In this case, he would forgive those who might have wronged him; because he himself would be praying for God’s forgiveness, and would do his best to acquire it. The spirit of this highly devotional assembly would teach him that if he forgives he will be forgiven. And when he forgives, the virtue of forgiveness will be mercifully exercised by God, and widely exchanged between the Muslims. And that marks the Day as a Day of Forgiveness.
7. Each ‘Eed is a Day of Peace. When the Muslim establishes peace within his heart by obeying the Law of God and leading a disciplinary life, he has certainly concluded a most inviolable treaty of peace with God. Once a person is at peace with God, he is at peace with himself and, consequently, with the rest of the universe. So when he celebrates the ‘Eed in the right manner, he is actually celebrating the conclusion of a Peace Treaty between himself and God, and this marks the ‘Eed as a Day of Peace.
That is the proper meaning of an Islamic ‘Eed: a Day of Peace and Thanksgiving, a Day of Forgiveness and moral victory, a Day of Good Harvest and remarkable Achievements, and a Day of Festive Remembrance. An Islamic ‘Eed is all this and is much more; because it is a Day of ISLAM, a Day of God.
The Performance of ‘Eed Prayers (Salatu-l-‘Eed)
1. As on Friday, every worshipper should go to the ‘Eed Congregation in his best, neat, tidy and high-spirited. In the mosque or the place of assembly a certain verbal prayer is said before the actual prayer begins. This is known as Takbeer and will be found at the end of this section.
2. The time of the ‘Eed prayers is any time after sunrise and before noon. No Adhan or Iqamah is required. The prayer consists of two units with the Imam reciting in each the Fatihah and another passage from the Qur’an audibly.
3. The Imam declares his intention to lead the prayer saying Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest of all). Then he repeats the same utterance three times, raising his hands up to the ears and dropping them by his sides at the end of each utterance. On completion of the third Takbeer (utterance) he places the right hand over the left one under the navel as in other prayers. The worshippers follow the Imam in these movements step by step, doing and saying exactly the same.
4. At the end of the first unit, the Imam rises up for the second, saying Allahu Akbar. Then he adds three such utterances doing the same thing as he did in the first unit, and followed by the congregation in a like manner.
5. After the prayer is completed in two units, the Imam delivers a sermon of two parts with a short recess in between. The first part is begun by saying Allahu Akbar, nine times, and the second by making the same utterance seven times. The rest of the sermon goes along the lines of exhortation and advice like those of the Friday sermon.
6. In the sermon of the First ‘Eed of the year, the Imam must draw the attention to the matter of Sadaqatu-l-Fitr (the Charity of Breaking the Fast). This is an obligatory tax, whereby every individual Muslim who can afford it must give at least one full meal, or its value, to the poor. If he has any dependents, he must do the same thing for each one of his dependents. For example, if he provides for himself and three dependents, he has to distribute as a minimum four full meals or their value to the needy. This charity is far more rewarding and preferable if it is distributed early enough before the prayers so that the poor may be able to receive the Day in a festive and cheerful Spirit.
7. In the sermon of the Second ‘Eed, the Imam should draw the attention to the duty of Sacrifice. On the day of ‘Eedu-1-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) every Muslim with means is to offer an oblation. A goat or sheep suffices for one household. A cow or steer suffices for seven different households. It is preferable to slaughter the animal of Sacrifice on the, ‘Eed Day after prayers. But if it is slaughtered on the second or the third day, it will be accepted. With regard to the meats of the slaughtered animals the Holy Qur’an stipulates these instructions: Eat of-them and feed the poor man who is contented and the beggar ... (22:36).
In the same reference, the Holy Qur’an declares that God is neither interested in nor does He get the meats of the oblations or their blood; but it is the piety of His worshippers that He gets and is interested in.
It should be repeated that the ‘Eed prayers do not substitute for the obligatory Early Morning (Fajr) Prayers, and cannot themselves be substituted for by any other prayers
The Takbeer, which is said before the Prayers of both ‘Eeds and after the ordinary congregations offered during the three days following the Second ‘Eed, is called Takbeeru-t-Tashreeq. It goes as follows:
Allahu Akbar, (thrice). La ilaha illa-L-Lah.
Allahu Akbar (twice) wa lil-Lahi- 1-hamd.
Allahu Akbaru Kabeera. Wa-l-hamdu li-l-Lahi Katheera.
Wa subhana-l-Lahi bukratan wa aseela.
La ilaha illa-l-Lahu wahdah. Sadaqa wa 'adah, wa nasara 'abdah.
Wa a'azza jundahu wa hazama-l- ahzaba wahdah.
La-ilaha illa-l-Lahu wa la na'bdu illa lyyah, mukhliseena lahu- d-deena wa law kariha-l-kafi- run.
Allahumma salli 'ala Sayyidina
Wa 'ala ali Sayyidina Muhammad,
Wa 'ala Ashabi Sayyidina Muhammad,
Wa 'ala ansari Sayyidina Muhammad,
Wa 'ala azwaji Sayyidina Muhammad,
Wa 'ala dhurriyyati Sayyidina Muhammad,
Wa sallim tasleeman katheera.
This Takbeer means:
God is the Greatest (three times).
There is no god but the One True God.
God is the Greatest (twice) and His is the praise
Surely God is the Greatest. His is the abundant praise.
Glory to Him, day and night.
There is no god but God, the One True God.
He fulfilled His promise, supported His servant (Muhammad), granted His soldiers a manifest victory, and inflicted decisive defeat on the allied enemies. There is no god but God, and we worship none but Him, with sincere devotion, even though the disbelievers may resent it.
0 God! Exalt and have blessings on our Master Muhammad,
And on the people of our Master Muhammad,
And on the companions of our Master Muhammad,
And on the supporters of our Master Muhammad,
And on the wives of our Master Muhammad,
And on the descendants of our Master Muhammad,
And salute all of them with much peace.
Shortening of the Prayer
1. When a person is traveling with the intention of proceeding forty-eight miles or over from his home, he should shorten the obligatory prayers of four units to each. The curtailment is applicable to the Noon (Zuhr) Prayer the Mid-Afternoon (Asr) Prayer, and the Evening (‘Isha’) Prayer. The Early Morning (fajr) and the sunset (Maghrib) Prayers remain unchanged.
2. This advantage remains effective even after the traveler arrives at his destination, if he does not intend to prolong his stay there for fifteen days or more. Otherwise, he should offer the reducible prayers in their original and complete number of units.
3. While traveling under these circumstances, he is exempt from all supererogatory prayers (Sunnah) except the two Sunnah units of the Early Morning (Fajr) and the Witr which follows tie Evening (‘Isha’) prayers.
Times When Prayer is Forbidden
The Muslim is forbidden to offer either obligatory or supererogatory prayers at:
1. The time when the sun is rising;
2. The time when the sun is at its Zenith;
3. The time when the sun is setting;
4. The period of menstruation or confinement due to childbirth and nursing;
5. The time of impurity, partial or complete.
Making Up For Delayed Prayer;
1. As a rule, every Muslim, male or female, should offer the prayer in its due time. Failing to do so is a punishable sin unless there is a reasonable excuse for delay.
2. With the exception of women in confinement or menstruation and any who remain insane or unconscious for some time, every Muslim must make up for his or her delayed obligatory prayers.
3. When making up for the delayed prayers one must offer them in their original form, e.g., if they were due shortened they should be offered so and vice-versa.
4. Order between the delayed prayers and between these and the present ones should be maintained; i.e., the first in dueness is offered first unless the missed prayers are too many to remember their exact dates, or the time available is not sufficient for both missed and present prayers. In this case, the present prayer comes first and the missed ones may be offered later. At any rate, the Muslim must make certain that his record is clear to the best of his knowledge, and that there are no missed prayers.
The Taraweeh Prayers
These prayers are a special characteristic of the month of Ramadan. They follow the Evening (‘Isha’) Prayers. They consist of eight to twenty units (Rak’ahs) offered two by two with a short break between each two units. It is much more preferable to say them in a congregational form and before the Witr, which is the last part of the Evening Prayer.
Invalidation of Prayers
Any prayer becomes invalid and nullified by Any act of the following:
1. To anticipate the Imam in any act or movement of prayer;
2. To eat or drink during the prayer;
3. To talk or say something out of the prescribed course of prayers;
4. To shift the position from the direction of Mecca;
5. To do any noticeable act or move outside the acts and movements of prayer;
6. To do anything that nullifies the ablution, e.g., discharge 'of urine, stool, gas,
7. To fail in observing any of the essential acts of prayer, like standing, reciting
the Qur’an, Ruku, Sujud, etc.;
1. To uncover the body between the travel and the knees during the prayer in the case of males, or any part of the body, except the hands, face and feet, in the case of females.
Any prayer which becomes invalidated must be repeated properly
The Funeral Prayers (Salatu-1-Janazah)
1. The prayer to God for the deceased Muslim is a common collective duty (Fard Kifayah). This means that some Muslims should offer this prayer, and when it is offered by some of the Muslims present at the time it is sufficient, and the other Muslims become exempt from responsibility.
2. When a Muslim dies, the whole body beginning with the exposed parts of ablution (wudu’)-must be washed a few times with soap or some other detergent or disinfectant, and cleansed of all visible impurities. When the body is thoroughly clean, it is wrapped in one or more white cotton sheets covering, all the parts of the body.
3. The dead body is then placed on a bier or in a coffin and carried to the place of Prayer, a Mosque or any other clean premises. The body is put in a position with the face toward the direction of Mecca.
4. All participants in the Prayer must perform an ablution unless they are keeping an earlier one. The Imam stands beside the body facing the Qiblah at Mecca with the followers behind him in lines.
5. The Imam raises his hands to the ears declaring the intention in a low voice to pray to God for that particular deceased one, and saying Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest). The worshippers follow the Imam's lead and after him place their right hands over the left ones under the navel as in other prayers.
6. Then the Imam recites in a low voice what is usually recited in other prayers, i.e., the ‘Thana’ and the Fatihah only.
7. At this stage he says Allahu Akbar without raising his hands and recites the second part of the Tashahhud (from," ‘Allahumma saili ‘ala Sayyidina Muhammad" to the end).
8. Then he makes the third Takbeer saying Allahu Akbar without raising the hands and offers his supplication (Du 'a') in any suitable words he knows, preferably these:
Allahumma-ghfir li hayyina wa mayyitina, wa shahidina wa gha'ibina' wa sagheerina wa kabeerina wa dhakarina wa unthana.
Allahumma man ahyaytahu minna fa ahyihi 'ala-l-Islam. Wa man tawaffaythu minna fa tawafahu 'ala-l-Islam. Allahumrna la tahrimna ajrah, wa la taftinna ba'dah.
"O God! grant forgiveness to our living and to our dead, and to, those who are present and to those who are absent, and to our young and our old folk, and to our males and our females.
"O God, whomsoever, You grant to live, from among us, help him to live in Islam, and whomsoever of us You cause to die, help him to die in Faith."
"O God! Do not deprive us of the reward for patience on his loss and do not make us subject to trial after him."
9. Then the fourth Takbeer (saying Allahu Akbar) without raising the hands is made followed by the concluding Peace greetings right and left as in other prayers. It should be remembered that the worshippers behind in lines follow the lead of the Imam step by step and recite privately the same utterances in a Low Voice.
10. After completing the prayer, the body is lowered for burial with the face resting in the direction of Mecca. When lowering the body down, these words are said:
"Bismi-l-Lahi wa bi-l-Lahi wa 'ala Millati Rasuli-l-Lahi Salla-l- Lahu'Alayhi wa Sallam."
"In the name of God and with God and according to the Sunnah (Traditional) of the Messenger of God upon whom be the blessings and peace of God."
Besides these, any other fit prayers may be offered.
If the deceased is a child under the age of puberty, the prayer is the same except that after the third Takbeer and instead of that long supplication the worshippers recite these words:
"Allahumma-j'alhu lana faratan wa j'alhu lana dhukhra, wa i'alhu lana shafi'an wa mushaffa'a."
"O God! make him (or her) our forerunner, and make him for us a reward and a treasure, and make him for us a pleader, and accept his pleading."
The whole funeral prayer is offered in the standing position.
Whenever a funeral procession passes by, be it of a Muslim or otherwise, every Muslim should stand out of respect for the dead.
A man washes a man and a woman washes a woman. A woman may wash her husband, and a man or woman may wash young children. During the washing the washer's hands should be covered by gloves or cloth, and the private parts of the dead body should be washed without being seen.
The grave should be built and marked in a simple way. The dead body should be covered with white cotton sheets of standard material. Any extravagance in building the grave or dressing up the body in fine suits or the like is non-Islamic. It is false vanity and a waste of assets that can be used in many useful ways.
The custom of some North American Muslims of offering a big and costly banquet upon burial of the deceased is also non-Islamic and an irresponsible waste of money and effort that can be of infinite benefit if used otherwise.
General Remarks on Prayers
As already pointed out, the Muslim's mind should always be occupied with the remembrance of God and his tongue be busied with utterances of praise and glory of Him. Besides the above- mentioned forms of prayer, there are many other occasions where prayer is strongly recommended by Prophet Muhammad. Such occasions are like these:
1. The time of excessive rain;
2. The time of drought and shortage of rain;
3. The time of the sun's eclipse.
In times like these the Muslim is advised to pray as many units and as long as he wishes.
There are other times where he utters certain expressions without resorting to the prescribed forms of ordinary prayers. In such utterances he expresses gratitude to God and appreciation of His favors, hope in Him and reliance upon His aid, remembrance of Him and prayer for His mercy. Among these times are:
1. The time of childbirth;
2. The time of performing marriage;
3. The time when going to and rising from bed;
4. The time of leaving the house and returning to it;
5. The time of entering and leaving the toilet;
6. The time of starting a journey or entering a city;
7. The time of riding or driving;
8. The time of entering a boat;
9. The time of distress;
10. Before a looking glass or facing a mirror;
11. After bath or ablution;
12. When receiving the first fruits of the harvest;
13. When visiting the graveyard.
On each of these occasions the Muslim is advised to remember God with proper and fitting utterances expressing his feelings and thoughtfulness.
There are given prayers for these occasions, but one can use whatever one knows as long as it is in praise of God and remembrance of Him. Here we give some specific examples to be used as a suitable pattern:
1. Before meals or drinks one says:
"Bismi-l-Lahi wa'ala barakati-l-lah."
"In the name of God and with blessings from God."
It is also good practice to recite the Fatihah before meals.
2. When finishing meals one says:
"Al,-Hamdu Lil-Lahi-L-Ladhi At'amana, wasaqana, wa Ja'alana Muslimeen."
"All praise is due to God Who has given us to eat and to drink, and Who has made us Muslims."
3. When visiting the sick, one says
"Adhhibi-l-ba'sa Rabba-n-nas, wa-shfi Anta-Sh-shafi; la shifa a' lla shifa-'uk-shifa'an la yughadiru saqama."
"Take away the sickness, 0 Lord of all people! and restore to health, You are the Healer; there is no healing but the healing You give; grant recovery which leaves no ailment behind."
Now it is time to deal with the Fatihah, the Tashahhud and some short passages from the Qur’an.
1. The Fatihah (The Opening or Al-Hamd)
Bismi-l-lahir-Rahmani-r-Raheem. Al-Hamdu li-l-lahi Rabbil-ala-
Ar-Rahmani-r-Raheem; Maliki yawmi-d-Deen.
Iyyaka na'budu wa Iyyak nasta'- een.
lhdina-s-Sirata-l-Mustaqeem; Sirata-l-ladheena anamta 'alayhim,
ghayri-l-maghdubi 'alayhim wa la-d-dalleen. (Ameen)
This may be interpreted as follows:
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgment.
Only Thee do we worship; and Thine aid we seek. Show us the Straight Way,
The way of those on whom Thou hast, bestowed Thy Grace,
Those whose portion is not wrath and who go not astray. Amen,
2. The Tashahud
(a) The first part
At-tahiyyato-li-l-lah wa-s-salawato wa-t-tayyibat
As-salamu'alayka ayyuha-n-nabiy wa rahmatu-l-lahi wa barakatuh.
As-salamu 'alayna wa 'ala 'ibadi-1-lahi-s-saliheen.
Ashhadu an la ilaha illa-l-lah wah- dahu la shareeka lah wa ashha-du anna Muhammadan' abduhu wa rasuloh.
All reverence, all worship, all sanctity are due to God.
Peace be upon you, 0 Prophet, and the mercy of God and His blessings.
Peace be upon us all and on the righteous servants of God.
I bear witness that there is no god but God alone, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger.
(This part is recited after the second unit in every prayer consisting of three or four units, and then the worshipper stands up for the third unit.)
b) The second part
Allahumma salli 'ala sayyidina Muhammad wa 'ala ali sayyiddina
Muhammad, Kama sallayta'ala sayyidina Ibraheem wa 'ala ali sayyidina Ibraheem.
Wa barik 'ala sayyidina Muhammad wa 'ala ali sayyidina Muhammad, Kama barakta 'ala sayyidina-Ibraheem wa 'ala ali sayyidina Ibraheem, fil-'ala- meena innaka hameedun ma- jeed.
0 God! Exalt our Master Muhammad and the people of our Master Muhammad, as Thou didst exalt our Master Abraham and the people of our Master Abraham.
And bless our Master Muhammad and the people of our Master Muhammad, as Thou didst bless out Master Abraham and the people of our Master Abraham, verily Thou art praiseworthy, and glorious.
(The two parts of the Tashahhud are recited in the last unit concluding any prayer, With the end of the second part followed by the peace greetings, the prayer is completed. The second part alone is recited in the funeral prayer after the third Takbeer’.)
3. Short Passages of the Our’an
Qul huwa-l-lahu Ahad
Lam yalid wa lam yulad.
Wa lam yakun lahu kufwan ahad.
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Say: ‘He is God, the One and Only God, the eternally besought of all. He gives no birth, nor is He born.
And there is none like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 112).
(b) Bismi-l-lahi-r-Rahmani-r-Raheem. Wa-l-'asr.
Inna-l-insana lafee khusr Illa-l-ladheena amanu wa'amilu-s- salihat wa tawasaw bi-l-haq wa tawasaw bi-s-sabr.
In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful By (the token of) time (through ages) Verily man is in loss
Except those who have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual teaching of truth and of constant patience (Qur’an, 103).
One of such short passages is recited after the Fatihah in each of the first two units. In the third and fourth units no recitation other than the Fatihah is required.
There are many short and easy passages in the Qur’an. Every Muslim must make some efforts to learn by heart as many passages as he can. Also he must read and study the instructions of the Qur’an. Reading the Qur’an is in itself a high form of worship and a fruitful session of devotion.
3- Sawm/ Fasting
Another unique moral and spiritual characteristic of Islam is the prescribed institution of Fasting. Literally defined, fasting means to abstain "completely" from foods, drinks, intimate intercourse and smoking, before the break of the dawn till sunset, during the entire month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. But if we restrict the meaning of the Islamic Fasting to this literal sense, we would be sadly mistaken.
When Islam introduced this matchless institution, it planted an evergrowing tree of infinite virtue and invaluable products. Here is an explanation of the spiritual meaning of the Islamic Fasting:
1. It teaches man the principle of sincere Love; because when he observes the Fasting he, does it out of deep love for God. And the man who loves God truly is a man who really knows what love is.
2. It equips man with a creative sense of Hope and an optimistic outlook on life; because when he fasts he is hoping to please God and is seeking His Grace.
3. It imbues man with a genuine virtue of effective Devotion, honest Dedication and closeness to God; because when he fasts he does so for God and for His sake alone.
4. It cultivates in man a vigilant and sound Conscience; because the fasting person keeps his Fast in secret as well as in public. In Fasting, especially, there is no mundane authority to check man's behavior or compel him to observe the Fasting. He keeps it to please God and satisfy his own conscience by being faithful in secret and in public. There is no better way to cultivate a sound conscience in man.
5. It indoctrinates man in Patience and Unselfishness; because when he fasts he feels the pains of deprivation but endures patiently. Truly this deprivation may be only temporary, yet there is no doubt that the experience makes him realize the severe effects of such pains on others, who might be deprived of essential commodities for days or weeks or probably months together. The meaning of this experience in a social and humanitarian sense is that such a person is much quicker than anybody else in sympathizing with his fellow men and responding to their needs. And that is an eloquent expression of unselfishness and genuine sympathy.
6. It is an effective lesson in applied Moderation and Willpower. The person who observes his Fasting properly is certainly a man who can discipline his passionate desires and place his self above physical temptations. Such is the man of personality and character, the man of willpower and determination.
7. It provides man with. a Transparent Soul to transcend, a Clear Mind to think and a Light Body to move and act. All this is the never- failing result of carrying a light stomach. Medical instructions, biological rules and intellectual experience attest to this fact.
8. It shows man a new way of Wise Savings and Sound Budgeting; because normally when he eats less quantities or less meals he spends less money and effort. And this is a spiritual semester of home economics and budgeting.
9. It enables man to master the art of Mature Adaptability. We can easily understand the point once we realize that Fasting makes man change the entire course of his daily life. When he makes the change, he naturally adapts himself to a new system and moves along to satisfy the new rules. This, in the long run, develops in him a wise sense of adaptability and a self-created power to overcome the unpredictable hardships of life. A man who values constructive adaptability and courage will readily appreciate the effects of Fasting in this respect.
10. It grounds man in Discipline and Healthy Survival. When a person, observes the regular course of Fasting in consecutive days of the Holy Month and in the Holy Months of the consecutive years, he is certainly applying himself to a high form of discipline and a superb sense of order. Similarly, when he relieves his stomach and relaxes his digestive system, he is indeed insuring his body, not to mention the soul, against all harm that results from stomach overcharge. In this manner of relaxation he may be sure that his body will survive free from the usual disorder and break, and that his soul will continue to shine purely and peacefully.
11. It originates in man the real Spirit of Social Belonging, of Unity and Brotherhood, of Equality before God as well as before the Law. This spirit is the natural product of the fact that when man fasts, he feels that he is joining the whole Muslim society in observing the same duty in the same manner at the same time for the same motives to the same end. No sociologist can say that there has been at any period of history anything comparable to this fine institution of Islam. People have been crying throughout the ages for acceptable belonging, for unity, for brotherhood, for equality, but how echoless their voice has been, and how very little success they have met! Where can they find their goals without the guiding light of Islam?
12. It is a Godly prescription for self-reassurance and self-control, for maintenance of human dignity and freedom, for victory and peace. These results never fail to manifest themselves as a lively reality in the heart of the person who knows how to keep the Fasting. When he fasts in the proper manner, he is in control of himself, exercises full command over his passions, disciplines his desires and resists all evil temptations. By this course, he is in a position to reassure himself, to restore his dignity and integrity and to attain freedom from- the captivity of evil. Once he obtains all this, he has established inner peace, which is the source of permanent peace with God and, consequently, with the entire universe.
Now, someone may be tempted to raise the objection: If this is the case with the Islamic institution of Fasting, and if this is the picture of Islam in this aspect, why are the Muslims not living in a utopia? To such an objection we can only say that the Muslims have lived in and enjoyed a utopia in a certain epoch of their history. The realization of that utopia was a phenomenon of a unique achievement in the history of man. We say unique, because no religion or social system other than Islam has ever been able to realize its ideals in reality. The utopia of other religions and social systems has always remained in the category of theories or wishful thinking and dreams-sometimes clear, sometimes vague, sometimes near, most of the time far. But the utopia of Islam was realized and put into practice and production at full capacity. In a human and practical sense this means that the utopia of Islam can be reestablished once again right here on this earth, and that it is raised on solid foundations and practicable principles.
The reason why the Islamic utopia is not being established nowadays is manifold and easily explicable. But to restrict our discussion to the institution of Fasting we may say that many Muslims, unfortunately for them, do not observe the fast or, at best, adopt the attitude of indifference. On the other hand, most of those who observe it do not realize its true meaning and, as a result, derive very little benefit out of it or, in fact, no benefit at all. That is why the Muslims of today, on the whole, do not enjoy the real privileges of Fasting.
Again, someone else may say that what is claimed about the Islamic Fasting is also true of other types of fasting like the Jewish Passover, the Christian Lent, the Ghandian Type, etc. Why, then, do the Muslims make these arbitrary claims about their type of Fasting?
To such a person and to all others like him we direct our appeal. It is against our religious principles and our morals as Muslims to defame any prophet of God, or reject any truth, or falsify any Divine religion. Other people do feel free to commit these irresponsible offenses, but we Muslims do not; because we know that once we plunge into this low level of morality or rather immorality, we are virtually out of the ranks of Islam. We do also know that the institution of Fasting is as old as history itself, and that it was prescribed by God for the people before Islam as it has been prescribed by Him for the Muslims. But we do not know-and we do not believe that many people knew--the exact form or the proper manners in which God prescribed those other types of Fasting. However, we may, for the sake of the truth and enlightened curiosity, substantiate our contentions by comparing this institution of Islam with the other types of fasting:
Fasting in Comparative Perspective
1. In other religions and dogmas, in other philosophies and doctrines, the observer of fast abstains from certain kinds of food or drinks or material substances, but he is free to substitute for that and fill his stomach to the top with the substituting stuff, which is also of material nature. In Islam one abstains from the things of material nature-food, drink, smoking, etcetera, in order to have spiritual joys and moral nourishment. The Muslim empties his stomach of all the material things: to fill his soul with peace and blessings, to fill his heart with love and sympathy, to fill his spirit with piety and Faith, to fill his mind with wisdom and resolution.
2. The purpose of Fasting in other religions and philosophies is invariably partial. It is either for spiritual aims, OR for physical needs, OR for intellectual cultivations; never for all combined. But in Islam it is for all' these gains and many other purposes, social and economic, moral and humanitarian, private and public, personal and common, inner and outer, local and national-all combined together as mentioned above.
3. The non-Islamic Fasting does not demand more than partial abstinence from certain material things. But the Islamic type is accompanied by extra devotion and worship, extra charity and study of the Qur’an, extra sociability and liveliness, extra self-discipline and conscience-awakening. Thus the fasting Muslim feels a different person altogether. He is so pure and clean inside as well as outside, and his soul is so transparent that he feels close to perfection because he is so near to God.
4. To the best of our knowledge on the authority of daily experience, other moral philosophies and religions teach man that he cannot attain his moral aims or enter the Kingdom of God unless and until he uproots himself from the stem of worldly affairs. Accordingly, it becomes necessary for such a man to divorce his mundane interests, neglect his human responsibilities and resort to some kind of self-torture or severe asceticism of which fasting is an essential element. Fasting of this kind with people of this type may be used- and it has been used- as a pretext to cover the humiliating retreat from the normal course of life. But Fasting in Islam is not a divorce from life but a happy marriage with it, not a retreat but a penetration with spiritual armaments, not a negligence but a moral enrichment. The Islamic Fasting does not divorce religion from daily life or separate the soul from the body. It does not break but harmonizes. It does not dissolve but transfuses. It does not disintegrate but bridges and redeems.
5. Even the timetable of the Islamic Fasting is a striking phenomenon. In other cases the time of Fasting is fixed at a certain time of the year in a most inflexible way. But in Islam the time comes with the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the year. The Islamic Calendar is a lunar one, and months go according to the various positions of the moon. This means that over a period of a limited number of years the Islamic Fasting covers the four major seasons of the year and- circulates back and forth between the summer and the winter through the fall and the spring in a rotating manner. The nature of the lunar calendar is such that the month of Ramadan falls in January, for example, in one year and in December in another year, and at any time in between during the succeeding years. In a spiritual sense this means that the Muslim enjoys the moral experience of Fasting on various levels, and tastes its spiritual flavors at variant seasons of variant climates, sometimes in the winter of short and cold days, sometimes in the summer of long and hot days, sometimes in between. But this variety of experience remains at all times an impressive feature of the liveliness of the Islamic institution. It also stands as an unfailing expression of readiness, dynamism and adaptability on the part of the Muslim believer. This is certainly a healthy, remarkable component of the teachings of Islam.
The Period of Fasting
It has already been indicated that the period of obligatory Fasting is the month of Ramadan. The daily period of observance starts before the break of the dawn and ends immediately after sunset. Normally there are accurate calendars to tell the exact time, but in the absence of such facilities one should consult one’s watch and the sun's positions, together with the local newspapers, weather bureau, etc.
The Fasting of Ramadan is obligatory on every responsible and fit Muslim (Mukallaf). But there are other times when it is strongly recommended, after the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad. Among these times are Mondays and Thursdays of every week, a few days of each month in the two months heralding the coming of Ramadan, i.e., Rajab and Sha’ban, six days after Ramadan following the ‘Eedu- l-Fitr Day. Besides, it is always compensating to fast any day of any month of the year, except the ‘Eed Days and Fridays when no Muslim should fast. However, we may repeat that the only obligatory Fasting is that of Ramadan- which may be 29 or 30 days, depending on the moon’s positions. This is a pillar of Islam, and any failure to observe it without reasonable excuses is a severely punishable sin.
Knowing what Fasting can do for man, God has enjoined, as an alternative, the fast of three days on anyone who breaks an oath. Similarly, if someone declares his wife as forbidden for him as his mother,-an old pre-Islamic custom, he must pay for his carelessness and irresponsibility. To expiate for this sin he has, as an alternative, to observe the fast of two consecutive months (Qur’an, 2:183-185; 5-92; 58:1-4)
Who Must Fast?
The Fasting of Ramadan is compulsory upon every Muslim, male or female, who has these Qualifications
1. To be mentally and physically fit, which means to be sane and able;
2. To be of full age, the age of puberty and discretion, which is normally about fourteen. Children under this age should be encouraged to start this good practice on easy levels, so when they reach the age of puberty they will be mentally and physically prepared to observe the Fasting;
3. To be present at your permanent settlement, your home town, your farm, your business premises, etc. This means not to be traveling on a journey of about fifty miles or more;
4. To be fairly certain that the Fasting is unlikely to cause you any harm, physical or mental, other than the normal reactions to hunger, thirst, etc.
Exemption From Fasting
These said qualifications exclude the following categories:
1. Children under the age of puberty and discretion;
2. The insane people who are unaccountable for their deeds. People of these two categories are exempted from the duty of fast, and no compensation or any other substitute is enjoined on them;
3. Men and women who are too old and fee6le to undertake the obligation of fast and bear its hardships. Such people are exempted from this duty, but they must offer, at least, one needy poor Muslim an average full meal or its value per person per day. This compensation indicates that whenever they can fast even for one day of the month, they should do so, and compensate for the rest. Otherwise they are accountable for their negligence;
4. Sick people whose health is likely to be severely affected by the observance of fast. They may postpone the fast, as long as they are sick, to a later date and make up for it, a day for a day;
5. People in the course of traveling of distances about fifty miles or more. In this case such people may break the fast temporarily during their travel only and make up for it in later days, a day for a day. But it is better for them, the Qur’an tells, to keep the fast if they can without causing extraordinary hardships,
6. Expectant women and women nursing their children may also break the fast, if its observance is likely to endanger their own health or that of their infants. But they must make up, for the fast at a delayed time, a day for a day;
7. Women in the period of menstruation (of a maximum of ten days) or of confinement (of a maximum of forty days). These are not allowed to fast even if they can and want to. They must postpone the fast till recovery and then make up for it, a day for a day.
It should be understood that here, like in all other Islamic undertakings, the intention must be made clear that this action is undertaken in obedience to God, in response to His command and out of love for Him.
The fast of any day of Ramadan becomes void by intentional eating or drinking or smoking or indulgence in any intimate intercourse’s, and by allowing anything to enter through the mouth into the interior parts of the body. And if this is done deliberately with- out any lawful reason, the penalty is to observe the fast of sixty consecutive days or, as a second alternative, feed sixty poor persons sufficiently, besides observing the fast of one day against the day whose fast was made void.
When the fast of days other than those of Ramadan is broken for a lawful reason like those classified under the heading "Exemption" above, the person involved must make up for that fast later, a day for a day.
If anyone, by mistake, does something that would ordinarily break the fast, his observance is not nullified, and his fast stands valid, provided he stops doing that thing the moment he realizes what he is doing.
On completion of the fast of Ramadan, the special charity known as Sadqatu-1-Fitr (Charity of Fast-breaking) must be distributed.
It is strongly recommended by Prophet Muhammad to observe these practices especially during Ramadan:
1. To have a light meal before the break of the dawn, known as Suhoor;
2. To eat three dates and have a drink of water right after sunset, saying this prayer: Al-lahumma laka sumna, wa 'ala rizqika aftarna. (O God! for Your sake we have fasted and now we break the fast with the food You have given us);
3. To make your meals as light as possible because, as the Prophet put it, the worst thing man can fill is his stomach;
4. To observe the supererogatory prayer known as Taraweeh;
5. To exchange social visits and intensify humanitarian services;
6. To increase study and recitation of the Qur’an;
7. To exert the utmost in patience and humbleness;
8. To be extraordinarily cautious in using the senses, the mind and, especially, the tongue; to abstain from careless and gossipy chats and avoid all suspicious motions.
4- Zakaat / Charity
Another exceptionally remarkable institution and major pillar of Islam is the Zakah. To the Qur’anic word Zakah and the meaning it conveys, there is no equivalent in any other language as far as we know. It is not just a form of charity or alms-giving or tax or tithe. Nor is it simply an expression of kindness; it is all of these combined and much more. It is not merely a deduction of a certain percentage from one's property, but an abundant enrichment and spiritual investment. It is not simply a voluntary contribution to someone or some cause, nor a government tax that a shrewd clever person can get away with. Rather, it is a duty enjoined by God and undertaken by Muslims in the interest of society as a whole. The Qur’anic word Zakah not only includes charity, alms, tithe, kindness, official tax, voluntary contributions, etc., but it also combines with all these God-mindedness and spiritual as well as moral motives. That is why there can be no equivalent to the word Zakah because of the supreme originality of the Qur’an, the Divine Book of God.
The literal and simple meaning of Zakah is purity. The technical meaning of the word designates the annual amount in kind or coin which a Muslim with means must distribute among the rightful beneficiaries. But the religious and spiritual significance of Zakah is much deeper and more lively. So is its humanitarian and sociopolitical value. Here is an explanation of the far-reaching effects of Zakah:
1. Zakah purifies the property of the people with means and clears it from the shares which do not belong to it anymore, the shares which must be distributed among the due beneficiaries. When Zakah is payable, a certain percentage of the wealth should be distributed immediately in the right manner, because the owner no longer has moral or legal possession of that percentage. If he fails to do so, he is obviously retaining something which does not belong to him. This is corruption and plain usurpation from every point of view, moral and spiritual, legal and commercial. It means that the unlawfully retained percentage makes the whole lot impure and endangered. But, on the other hand, if the poor’s dividends are assorted and distributed among due beneficiaries, the remaining portions of the lot will be pure and decent. Pure capital and decent possessions are the first requisites of permanent prosperity and honest transactions.
2. Zakah does not only purify the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed for wealth. In return, it purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness; and it fosters in his heart, instead, good will and warm wishes for the contributor. As a result, the society at large; will purify and free itself from class warfare and suspicion, from ill feelings and distrust, from corruption and disintegration, and from all such evils.
3. Zakah mitigates to a minimum the sufferings of the needy and poor members of society. It is a most comforting consolation to the less fortunate people, yet it is a loud appeal to everybody to roll up his sleeves and improve his lot. To the needy it means that it is by nature an emergency measure and that he should not depend on it completely but must do something for himself as well as for others. To the contributor it is a warm invitation to earn more so that he can benefit more. To all parties concerned, it is, directly as well as indirectly, an open treasure for spiritual investment that compensates abundantly.
4. Zakah is a healthy form of internal security against selfish greed and social dissension, against the intrusion and penetration of subversive ideologies. It is an effective instrument in cultivating the spirit of social responsibility on the part of the contributor, and the feeling of security and belonging on the part of the recipient.
5. Zakah is a vivid manifestation of the spiritual and humanitarian spirit of responsive interactions between the individual and society. It is a sound illustration of the fact that though Islam does not hinder private enterprise or condemn private possessions, yet it does not tolerate selfish and greedy Capitalism. It is an expression of the general philosophy of Islam which adopts a moderate and middle but positive and effective course between the Individual and the Society, between the Citizen and the State, between Capitalism and Socialism, between Materialism and Spirituality.
The Rate of Zakah
Every Muslim, male or female, who, at the end of the year, is in possession of approximately fifteen dollars or more, in cash or articles of trade, must give Zakah at the minimum rate of two and one-half percent. In the case of having the amount in cash the matter is easy. But when a person has wealth in business stocks or trade articles, he must evaluate his wealth at the end of every year according to the current value and give Zakah at the same rate of two and one-half percent of the total value of the wealth. If his investment is in immovable property like revenue buildings and industries, the rate of Zakah should go by the total net of the income, and not of the total value of the whole property. But if he puts up buildings and houses for trade or selling, Zakah rate should go by the total value of the entire property. Also if someone is a creditor and the indebted person is reliable one should pay Zakah for the amount he has lent because it is still a portion of his guaranteed wealth.
In all cases it should be remembered that one pays only for his net balance. His personal expenses, his family allowances, his necessary expenditures, his due credits-all are, paid first, and Zakah is for the net balance.
It should also be remembered that the rate of 2.5% is only a minimum. In times of emergency or arising needs there is no rate limit; the more one gives, the better it is for all concerned. The distribution of Zakah serves all purposes for which numerous fundraising campaigns are launched. The Zakah fund substitutes for all the other funds. It is authentically reported that there were times in the history of the Islamic administration when there was no person eligible to receive Zakah; every subject-Muslim, Christian, and Jew- of the vast Islamic empire had enough to satisfy his needs, and the rulers had to deposit the Zakah collections in the Public Treasury. This shows that when the Zakah law is enacted properly it minimizes the needs of the citizens and enriches the Public Treasury to such an extent that there may be no needy or poor, and that enormous amounts of surplus are available.
The unfailing power of this effective measure of public interest stems from the fact that it is a Divine injunction, an ordinance from God Himself. It is not a personal matter or a voluntary contribution; rather, it is an obligation, for the fulfillment of which one will be responsible to God directly. Because Zakah is the legislation of God Himself to be enforced in the common interest, no Muslim is allowed to neglect it. When it is not observed properly, the rightful authorities of the State must interfere on behalf of the public to establish the institution and see to it that it is enforced.
The Due Recipients of Zakah
The Holy Qur’an classifies the due recipients of Zakah as follows:
1. The poor Muslims, to relieve their distress;
2. The needy Muslims to supply them with means whereby they can cam their livelihood;
3. The new Muslim converts, to enable them to settle down and meet their unusual needs;
4. The Muslim prisoners of war, to liberate them by payment of ransom money;
5. The Muslims in debt; to free them from their liabilities incurred under
1. The Muslim employees appointed by a Muslim governor for the collection of Zakah to pay their wages;
2. The Muslims in service of the cause of God by means of research or study or propagation of Islam. This share is to cover their expenses and help them to continue their services;
3. The Muslim wayfarers who are stranded in a foreign land and in need of help.
Zakah may be distributed directly to individuals of one or more of the said classes, or to welfare organizations which look after them. It may also be distributed in the form of scholarships to bright and promising MUSLIM students and researchers, or in the form of grants to welfare organizations and public service institutions which patronize such causes.
A disabled or invalid poor Muslim is preferable to one who is able and capable of making some earnings. The contributor should use his best judgment in finding the most deserving beneficiaries.
The taxes we pay to governments nowadays do not substitute for this religious duty; it must be earmarked as a special obligation and paid separately, aside from the government taxes. However, the Muslims of North America may take advantage of the tax laws that allow certain deductions for charity. They should pay their Zakah to the deserving beneficiaries and then claim the sums paid as proper legal deductions.
The contributor should not seek pride or fame by carrying out this duty. He should make it as covert as possible so that he may not be victimized by hypocrisy or passion for vanity which nullifies all good deeds. However, if the disclosure of his name or the announcement of his contribution is likely to encourage others and stimulate them, it is all right to do so.
Zakah is also obligatory on cattle and agricultural products. The shares payable in this regard vary from case to case, and need a detailed discussion. So the reader may be advised to consult the elaborate sources of Law and religion.
5- Hajj (Pilgrimage)
The final pillar and one of the finest institutions of Islam is the pilgrimage to Mecca. The performance of the Hajj is obligatory, at least once in a lifetime, upon every Muslim, male or female, who is mentally, financially and physically fit. The Muslim who is of responsible age, in fairly good health, and is financially capable and secure must make the Hajj at least once in his or her lifetime. The financial security here means that he should have enough to cover his own expenses and those of his dependents, and to pay his debts, if he is in debt, until he completes the course of Hajj.
The, course of Hajj is another unique characteristic of Islam. It is enjoined by God to serve many purposes among which are the following:
It is the largest annual convention of Faith where Muslims meet to know one another, study their common affairs and promote their general welfare. It is also the greatest regular conference of peace known in the history of mankind. In the course of Hajj peace is the dominant theme; peace with God and one’s soul, peace with one another and with animals, peace with birds and even with insects. To disturb the peace of anyone or any creatures in any shape or form is strictly prohibited.
It is a wholesome demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of the Muslims. From all walks of life, from all trades and classes, and from every corner of the globe the Muslims assemble at Mecca in response to the call of God. They dress in the same simple way, observe the same regulations, utter the same supplications at the same time in the same way, for the same end. There is no royalty, but loyalty of all to God. There is no aristocracy, but humility and devotion.
It is to confirm the commitment of the Muslims to God and then readiness to forsake the material interests in His service.
It is to acquaint the pilgrims with the spiritual and historical environment of Prophet Muhammad, so that they may derive warm inspirations and strengthen their Faith.
It is to commemorate the Divine rituals observed by Abraham and Ishmael (Ibraheem and Isma’eel), who, are known to have been the first pilgrims to the first house of God on earth, i.e., the Ka’bah at Mecca (Makkah).
It is a reminder of the Grand Assembly on the Day of Judgment when people will stand equal before God, waiting for their Final Destiny, and where no superiority of race or stock can be claimed. It is also a reminder of the fact that Mecca alone, in the whole existing world, was honored by God in being the center of monotheism since the time of Abraham, and that it will continue to be the center of Islam, the religion of pure monotheism, till the end of time.
In the performance of Hajj it can easily be observed that it is a course of spiritual enrichment and moral rearmament, a course of intensified devotion and disciplinary experience, a course of humanitarian interests and inspiring knowledge-all put together in one single institution of Islam.
The description of the rules and steps followed during the Hajj are rather lengthy. They will not be discussed here. For further details the reader may consult the elaborate works on the subject. However, it should be pointed out that during the whole course of Hajj there are informed guides always available to help the pilgrims with right instructions.
It should also be pointed out that the entire course of devotion is to God alone. The Muslims go to Mecca in glory of God, not to kiss a stone or worship a man or a semi-divinity. Kissing or touching the Black Stone at the Ka’bah is an optional action, not an obligation or a prescription. Those who kiss the Black Stone or touch it do not do it because they have faith in the Stone or attribute any superstitious qualities to it. Their Faith is in God only. They kiss or touch or point to the Stone only as a token of respect or a symbol of love for Prophet Muhammad, who laid the Stone at the foundation of the Ka’bah when it was reconstructed. That event has a special significance. It depicts Muhammad as a man designated for peace. When the Ka’bah was under reconstruction, some years before the advent of Islam, the, Black Stone was to be laid at its foundation. The tribal chieftains had a quarrelsome dispute over him who was to have the honor of restoring the Stone. This was a very serious matter and the shadows of civil war hung over the holy place. The Stone was held in especially high reverence by the chieftains, although ii was nothing more than a piece of stone. This reverence -may be attributed to the fact that the Stone was connected with Prophet Abraham, the Great Grandfather of the Arabs, and that it was, perhaps, the only solid stone remaining from the antique structure of the Sacred Edifice. Be that as it may, the Stone as such has no significance whatsoever as far as Islam and, the Muslims are concerned.
When the chieftain failed to settle the dispute among themselves, they agreed to let the first incomer decide the issue. Muhammad was the first incomer. He then decided to wrap up the Stone in a piece of cloth and asked the disputants to hold it together and restore it in such a way that each chieftain would have had a part in the operation. They were happy with his wise decision and put it into effect immediately. Thus the issue died out and peace was maintained. This is the moral of the story of the Black Stone. So when the pilgrims kiss the Stone or point at it with reverence, they do so in remembrance of Muhammad, the wise peace-maker. The point may become clearer by comparison. It is a natural thing for a good patriot returning from exile, or a fighting soldier coming back from the battlefield to do certain things upon reaching the borders of his beloved homeland. For example, he may kiss the ground at the borders, or embrace with deep emotions the first few compatriots he meets, or show admiration for some landmarks. This is considered normal and appreciable, but no one would think that the patriot or the soldier worships the ground or deifies his fellow compatriots or attributes some Divine qualities to the landmarks. The behavior of the pilgrims should be interpreted in a similar way. The Ka’bah at Mecca is the spiritual center of Islam and the spiritual homeland of every Muslim. When the pilgrim reaches Mecca his feelings would be those of a patriot coming home from exile or a triumphant soldier returning from a decisive battle. This is not a figurative interpretation. It corresponds with the facts of history. The early Muslims were expelled out of their home and forced to live in exile for years. They were denied the right to worship in the Ka’bah, the most sacred house of God in existence. When they returned from exile, the Ka’bah was their main destination. They joyfully entered the Sacred Shrine, destroyed all the idols and images that were there, and completed the rites of pilgrimage.
This interpretation is enlightened by some unusual experiences of extraordinary people. For example, a famous Hungarian writer fled his invaded country and took with him a handful of earth. Literary annals tell that the writer found his greatest comfort and deepest joy in that handful of earth. It was his source of inspiration and symbol of hope that he would return to a free homeland at last8 Similarly, a documentary called "The Palestinians" was prepared by CBS and televised on Saturday June 15, 1974. In it, a wealthy businessman, who fled the Zionist terror in Palestine, was interviewed at his extremely fashionable home in Beirut. When he was reminded of his good fortune in exile he smiled, pointing to a small bottle half-full of earth. To make his point, he added that he brought it with him from Jerusalem when he fled; that it is more valuable to him than anything he possesses; and that he would give up all his possessions to return to Palestine, his homeland. What is more significant about this interview is that the Man's family was more emphatic and expressed stronger feelings. It will not be at all surprising if it turns out that this man represents many others like him and if that small "earth treasure" becomes a very special, even a sacred, thing in the years to come.
In a more tangible sense, the Associated Press reported on October 14, 1973, that "The last Israeli strongpoints on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal surrendered . . . and 37 tired and bedraggled Israeli troops were paddled in dinghies across the waterway to captivity. ...Some of the Egyptian troops, carried away with the emotion of finally liberating this last stronghold (the Bar-Lev line), grabbed handfuls of sand and put it in their mouths. Others kissed the ground." (Dispatch Observer, p. 2A)
More recently, the same news agency, reporting on the returning Syrian prisoners of war, said that the first man off the plane "sat upright on a stretcher on the stumps of his amputated legs . . . ‘Legs are nothing. We are ready to give our soul . . .’ he shouted. He then insisted on being lifted from his stretcher and placed on the ground so that he could bend down to kiss the soil." (Dispatch Observer, June 2, 1974, p. 3A)
It is in this human perspective that the Black Stone story should be viewed. And it is in the light of such human experiences under extraordinary circumstances that it is best understood.
The visit to the tomb of Prophet Muhammad at Medina (Madeenah) is not an essential obligation in making the Hajj valid and complete. But it is always advisable and strongly recommended that whoever can reach Medina should visit the Prophet’s tomb to pay his respect to the greatest teacher that humanity has ever known.
It should be remembered that the climax of Hajj is marked by offering a sacrifice, an oblation in the way of God, to celebrate the completion of this devotional course and feed the poor so that they may feel the universal joy of the ‘Eed Day. This duty is not undertaken by pilgrims only but by all Muslims with means in every comer of the globe.
Some Muslims have raised the serious question that during the Hajj season so many animals are slaughtered in sacrifice that enormous quantities of meat are wasted. The heat, lack of refrigeration facilities, inadequate transportation, and oversupply of meat over a few days leave most of that meat unused or unusable. This is a new situation with new problems. The conscientious Muslim wants to know what he should do in this case. It is not necessary to engage in legalistic debates over the learned opinions of respectable religious scholars, both classical and contemporary. But we must remember that Islam tolerates no waste of any kind or degree; that it responds first to the greater need and allows resort to the "lesser evil"; that it works with a system of priorities from the most important to the least important and from the least to the most undesirable; and that it is both resourceful and adaptive. Based on these principles, the problem can be solved easily. The solution derives from the spirit of Islam even though it may appear to depart slightly from some literal interpretations. The solution can be implemented in stages and on various levels.
First, the Muslims should do everything possible to provide adequate facilities for refrigeration so that the surplus meat may be conserved and used by the poor in and around the holy places throughout the year. Secondly, efforts should also be made to transport the surplus meat to the needy Muslims wherever they may be. The sacrifice animals can be slaughtered in Mecca and the meat may be canned or frozen and then transported to any part of the world where there are needy Muslims. Thirdly, the surplus meat can be sold and the money used for charitable purposes on a local, regional, national, or international scale. These are practicable measures which the Muslims should enact jointly. In the meantime and until such steps are taken, any Muslim who feels that the surplus meat will go to waste may delay or advance the date of his sacrifice. He may choose the proper time and place to avoid any waste. Or he could pay in charity to a legitimate cause the money value of the animal that was to have been sacrificed at Mecca during the days of Hajj.
One last remark relates to the question of sacrifice and what it actually symbolizes. As already stated in the discussion of the ‘Eeds, it is not the meat or blood that pleases God. It is the expression of thankfulness to Him, the affirmation of faith in Him, that historic event when Prophet Abraham (Ibraheem) was ordered to offer his son in sacrifice, an order which the father and son were ready to obey unquestioningly. But the son’s life was spared and ransomed by a ram. The offering of the sacrifice has become an annual celebration to commemorate the occasion and thank God for His favors. There have been two versions of which one of Abraham’s sons was to have been sacrificed, Ishmael (Ismaeel) or Isaac (ishaq).
The Muslims believe that it was Ishmael (Ismaeel), not Isaac (Ishaq), who was to have been sacrificed in response to God's command. But he was ransomed after he and his father were ready to obey God's ordinance. There are at least twenty arguments in support of this belief. However, none of these is meant to belittle the historical role of the Children of Israel or the light and wisdom delivered to them by Prophet Moses. On the contrary, the Qur’an points that out in numerous statements (e.g. 2:40, 47; 7:137; 17:2: 40:53; 45:16).
Among these arguments are the following:
1. The whole context of the event as recorded in the Qur’an (37:101-113) leaves no doubt that Ismaeel was the son to have been sacrificed by his father in response to God's command.
2. The present Old Testament (Gen. 2 1:5) says that Isaac was born when his father Abraham was 100 years old, while Ismaeel was born when his father was 86 years old (Gen. 21.16). For a span of fourteen years then Ismaeel was the only son of his father. At no time was Isaac in the same position. Yet the Old Testament (Gen. 22:2) states that the order was issued to Abraham to "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac ... and get thee into the land of Moriah and offer him there for a burnt offering." The appearance of lsaac’s name in this context seems an obvious insertion. And it is not clear just where that land of Moriah was unless it was the mount of Marwah at Mecca, which supports the Islamic version.
3. The whole event took place around Mecca. And we know that it was Ismaeel and his mother who accompanied Abraham to Mecca, settled there, and helped him raise the Kabah as a sacred sanctuary (Qur’an, 2:124-130; 14:35-40).
4. Perhaps the most important argument in favor of the Islamic belief is this: the Jewish-Christian version leads to seriously objectionable conclusions: (a) discrimination between brothers just because the mother of one was a slave and that of the other was a free woman, (b) discrimination between people because of race, creed, or color, (c) claiming spiritual superiority in the name of one’s ancestors, and (d) denial of legitimacy to a child whose mother is a slave. All such inferences and conclusions are contrary to the spirit of Islam. Anything that may lead to them must be rejected by the Muslim. The status of one's ancestors, the nobility or humbleness of the mother, and the social origin or color shades have no bearings on the spiritual and human quality of man, at least not in the sight of God.
Text inspected by Sheikh Ramadan./Islam in Focus
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