Definition of Islam
The word ISLAM has a two-fold meaning: peace, and submission to Allah (God). This submission requires a fully conscious and willing effort to submit to the one Almighty Allah. One must consciously and conscientiously give oneself to the service of Allah.
This means to act on what Allah enjoins all of us to do (in the Qur’an) and what His beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged us to do in his Sunnah (his lifestyle and sayings).
Once we humble ourselves, rid ourselves of our egoism and submit totally to Allah, and to Him exclusively, in faith and in action, we will surely feel peace in our hearts. Establishing peace in our hearts will bring about peace in our external conduct as well.
Islam is not a religion of customs and rituals; rather it is an all-encompassing way of life. Muslim should practice the five pillars of the religion: the declaration of faith in the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh), prayer, fasting during the month of Ramadan, the giving of alms, and the pilgrimage to Makkah at least in once in a lifetime is physically and financially able; and believe in the six articles of faith: belief in God, the Holy Books, the Prophets, the angels, the Day of Judgment and God’s decree.
There are other injunctions and commandments which concern virtually all facets of one’s personal, family and civic life. These include such matters as diet, clothing, personal hygeine, interpersonal relations, business ethics, responsibilities towards parents, spouse and children, marriage, divorce and inheritance, civil and criminal law, relations with the wider community and so much more.
5 Pillars of Islam
Islam is not just a religion, but a complete way of life. It is the guidance from Allah for all creation. The word Islam is an Arabic word which means submission. Submission is to Allah and true obedience is putting His commands into practice. Submission to Allah, through obedience to Him bring peace, and hence the words Islam and Salam, meaning peace, share the same root in Arabic.
Though this submission to God’s will can be manifested in various ways, it is often summarized in the five pillars of Islam:
1) Shahada or Declaration of Faith The Muslim declaration of faith is: “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” This short phrase encapsulates the most fundamental aspects of Muslim belief, notably belief in God and belief in the prophethood of the final messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him). This first pillar forms the basis for all others, and therefore without it, all other religious acts have little value.
2) Salat or Prayer Prayer is the second pillar of Islam and is prescribed upon Muslims five times a day. These prayers are an invaluable opportunity to practically demonstrate one’s obedience to Allah and gain closeness and proximity to Him. Prayer purifies the heart, develops the mind and comforts the soul. The correctness of the prayer is conditional on the attainment of ritual purity (wudu). Wudu involves the washing of various limbs, and is symbolic in that through prayer sins are also washed away.
3) Sawm or Fasting This fasting is compulsory during the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. Fasting develops self-control and helps overcome greed and selfishness, as well as engendering empathy for those less fortunate. During this month Muslim must fast from dawn to dusk every day, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations. The end of this blessed month is marked by Eid al-Fitr, one of the two major festivals in Islamic calendar.
4) Zakat or Charity Zakat literally means “to purify or cleanse.” Giving a small percentage (2.5%) of one’s accumulated wealth annually in charity means that a believer has to opportunity to help others less fortunate. This monetary form of worship is prescribed upon all Muslims who have reached the threshold which makes Zakat obligatory.
5) Hajj or Pilgrimage Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is a sacred journey, made once in a lifetime by those who can afford to do so. This pilgrimage centres on the visit to the Ka’ba in Makka. This cube-shaped building was originally built by the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) for the sole purpose of the worship of Allah. One of the underlying themes in the Hajj is equality, highlighted in the wearing of two plain white cloths by pilgrims called ihram. Barriers of language, territory, colour and race are insignificant as all are servant before God.