Islamic Worship

Every action we commit, as long as it is good, has the potential of being an act of worship according to the Islamic faith. And every evil action that we abstain from committing can also be considered as an act of worship and obedience to the One and Only God. In Islam, all humans are judged by their actions and their intentions during their lifetime and no one can bear the deeds of another soul.

God Almighty says in the Holy Quran: 

"I created the jinn and humankind only that they might serve Me."(Qur'an 51:56)

In one single verse, God explicitly tells us the whole reason for our being alive and that is to worship and serve Him. It's not to attain great wealth and social status or to roam the Earth puffed up with pride for the sake of mankind. It really is a very simple concept. Humans were created that they may come to know and truly serve their Creator.

The spiritual and tangible Worlds are interconnected. One cannot exist without the other. This is a sharp contrast to the popular secular ideology in the West that is slowly marginalize worship and pushing God further away. Muslims believe that every part of our lives is lived, not for country or man, but for God alone. This will then properly serve the benefits of man and country thus fostering an atmosphere of peace and tolerance. God Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

"Say: 'Truly my Prayers, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for God, Lord of the Universe" (Quran 6:162)

God does not simply accept blind or rote actions from His Creation. It's not simply a matter of black and white where the deeds are classified as good or evil. It is, however, a matter of the intention of each deed that carries the most weight. For example, if someone donates a large sum of money to charity only God can see whether he is doing it to truly help the less fortunate or merely to show off in front of others. The deed itself is judged by the intention first, before the undertaking. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

"Deeds are judged solely by their intentions and everyone will be rewarded as such."(Agreed Upon)

Islam is a comprehensive system of life. The guidance for everything we do is contained in the example of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who is the subject of the most recorded biography in the history of mankind. From the way we pray, fast, eat, sleep, dress, make business, and even use the bathroom Islam gives us the opportunity to make our every thought and movement part of our relationship with God.

The Foundation of Muslim Spirituality

The mortar and bricks of a Muslim can be found in the Five Pillars of Islam that, literally, hold man up just like the pillars of a house which makes the foundation strong. These five pillars are:

1. The Testimony of Faith
2. The Prayer
3. Zakat - Obligatory almsgiving to the needy
4. Fasting the month of Ramadan
5. Pilgrimage to Makkah

The Testimony of Faith

Known as the Shahada, in Arabic, the testimony of faith is a Muslim's declaration that God is the One and Only Creator of the Universe and that Muhammad (pbuh) is His Final Messenger. Anyone converting to Islam says these words in front of a witness to become a Muslim:

"I bear witness that there is no deity except God Almighty and Muhammad (pbuh) is His servant and Messenger." 

All Muslims, whether lifelong or converts, recite the testimony of faith regularly to renew their intentions and revive their faith in God Almighty. The significance of this declaration is the acknowledgment that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God. This is achieved through learning the meaning of the Holy Quran and the practices of the Last Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh).

The Prayer

The word for formal prayer in Arabic is Salah. There are five obligatory formal prayers that are prescribed for all Muslims each day. There are also optional prayers, which are prayers that Muhammad (pbuh) used to perform before and after some obligatory prayers as well as the night vigil prayer (Qiyam). The prayers act as a direct link between the worshipper and God. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam and there is no priesthood. The purpose of the prayer is to wipe out the minor sins as well as preventing one from indulging in the major sins. It also provides a great opportunity to repent for any major sins. God Almighty says in the Holy Quran:
"Recite what has been revealed to you of the book and establish prayers. Indeed, the prayer prevents one from immorality and evil. Surely the remembrance of God is the greatest (of all actions). And God knows everything that you do."(Quran 29:45)

The obligatory prayers are performed at fixed times. Prayers are performed at dawn, mid-day, late-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. All the prayers must contain the recitation of the first seven verses from the Quran followed by an additional verse that is the choice of the imam or the one praying alone. It also consists of praising and thanking God for all His blessings upon us. It also includes glorifying the perfection of God and supplicating for forgiveness, guidance, good health, sustenance, and Mercy as well as any general supplications.

All sane and able Muslim males are highly recommended if not obliged to pray the obligatory prayers in congregation at the Mosque. However, women have the choice to pray at home or the mosque. In the event that a male cannot pray in the mosque, for whatever reason, the whole Earth can be used as a place of prayer however the area chosen should be clean and free from filth.

To signify the prayer times throughout the day, the call to prayer known as the adhan in Arabic can be heard billowing from mosques around the World calling the faithful to pray. The call to prayer is performed in Arabic and the translation into English is as follows:

God is Greater than all.
God is Greater than all.
God is Greater than all. 
God is Greater than all.
I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God Almighty
I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God Almighty.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Come to the prayer!
Come to the prayer!
Come to true success!
Come to true success!
God is Great!
God is Great!
There is none worthy of worship except God Almighty.

The Zakah 

An important principle of Islam is that everything belongs to God, and that wealth is a trust held by human beings. The word Zakah means both "purification" and "growth." By paying the Zakah, our remaining possessions become purified simply by setting aside a portion for those in need. Each Muslim is responsible for calculating the Zakah individually. The amount to be paid is calculated based on the amount of money one has saved (not spent from) over a period of one year. If it was over the value of 85 grams of gold then that person then owes 2.5% of that amount. For example, if he had $2000 he would owe $50 or if he had $5000 he would owe $125 and so on. If a person had less than the value of 85 grams of gold which they didn't use after a year, then they are exempt from Zakah on the basis of not holding an amount considered as surplus.

Fasting the Month of Ramadan (Sawm) 

All Muslims fast from dawn until dusk every year in the month of Ramadan. The fasting consists of giving up world pleasures by abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations with their spouses.

Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are menstruating, pregnant or nursing, are not obligated to fast and can choose to make up the missed days later in the year if they are healthy and able. However, many Muslims will still fast in Ramadan, despite the fact they are exempted, out of sheer love for their Creator. Children begin to fast (and to observe prayers) from age 10. They are not fully accountable for these prayers and fasting until 15 years which is the agreed upon age of clear pubescence, although if they have clear physical signs of pubescence then they become fully accountable for their worship and religious duties.

Although fasting is beneficial to health, it is mainly a method of self-purification and self-restraint. By cutting oneself from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person focuses on his or her purpose in life by constantly being aware of the presence of God.

Fasting is truly an act between God and His servant because anyone can claim to fast. However, there is no way of knowing if perhaps they cheated a little by drinking or snacking during the fast. However, a true believer knows that it is God who sees them at all times and throughout the day when one feels the urge for food and drink. They will remember that they are fasting, therefore remembering the one who enjoined fasting upon them.

God Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may learn self-restraint and become God-Conscious." (Quran 2:183)

However, it is not enough simply to fast. One must also refrain from sins of the tongue, which would make the fast void of its true meaning and purpose.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
"God is not comcerned with the fasting of one who does not give up lying, cheating people and acting foolishly" (Bukhari 6057)

Ramadan ends with a celebration known as 'Eid al-Fitr or the festival of breaking the fast. This holiday begins with Muslims going to the mosque after sunrise to pray the Eid prayer and listen to a sermon. Then Muslims spend the next few days visiting each other and enjoying the holiday.

Pilgrimage to Makkah

The pilgrimage to Makkah (the Hajj) is an obligation for all those who are physically and financially able to do so. Nevertheless, over two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another.

The annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments that strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God and each other. The Hajj is a gathering of the Faithful to remember the great Prophet Abraham (pbuh), his wife Hagar, and his son Ishmael (pbuh). They were the ones who God ordered to establish in Makkah the first house of worship of the One and only God. They were commanded to build the Ka'bah and establish a city around it. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was sent to return this mosque known as the Ka'bah to pure monotheism after the Pagan Arabs had turned it into a place of idolatrous worship.

The closing festivities of the Hajj season are marked by a four day festival, called Eid al Adha, which is celebrated by all Muslims across the globe. This Holiday ('Eid) starts with attending a prayer and sermon at the local mosque an hour after sunrise, which is followed by the slaughtering of sheep and other animals. The act of killing the animal is not a sort of animal sacrifice meant to please God, as those with enmity toward Islam have purported for years. Rather, it commemorates the dream that Abraham had to slaughter his own son by God's command. Both Abraham and his son Ishmael were willing to go through with the sacrifice- a father beheading his own beloved son - for the sake of obedience to God Almighty. However, right when Abraham was ready to place the blade against his son's throat, the Angel Gabriel (Jibreel) appeared and offered a Ram to sacrifice instead stating that God Almighty had accepted the obedience even though not a drop of Ishmaels' blood was shed. This is the most perfect example of what it means to submit wholly to the Will of God in Islam. The meat of the slaughter of each Muslim is divided in thirds between the poor, close friends, and one's own family. This is followed by three days of visiting close friends and family.

The five pillars of Islam are meant to build a foundation in one's life elevating him or her to a spiritual level of God-Consciousness and good manners. They are the base for the path by which mankind may return to their beloved Creator. Anyone who follows them explicitly can rest assured that they are on the Straight Path that will lead him or her through life filled with humility, discipline, compassion, and sincerity.

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