Video #10 (Prayers)
Shahada and prayer are two of the five pillars of Islam. Shahada is the principal affirmation of Islam and testimony that all Muslims pronounce. It states that “there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger” (Khan, 2012a). It should be emphasized that this affirmation is intended to be a state of mind of Muslims. It signifies a person’s devotion to Islamic beliefs and inner worship of God.
The Shahada implies that only God is divine, and no one is worthy of worship except Him. Earlier, many European Christians believed that Muhammad has the same position in Islam as Christ in Christianity. However, Muhammad is considered the last prophet and messenger of Allah, but not His son or a divine being. That is why the name of the Muslim religion does not bear the name of Muhammad, and the word “Islam” means submission to the only God. Moreover, Islam emphasizes that Muhammad is God’s last messenger, and there will be no more prophets after him.
Muslims pray five times a day: early morning, afternoon, late afternoon, before sunset and in the evening. Accordingly, the time of prayer will be different for Muslims living in various locations. Muslims pray in the direction of the sacred Kaaba in Mecca, which is the heart of Islam. The principle of such frequent prayers is to keep in constant contact with God and “seek His help, blessing and forgiveness” (Khan, 2012a). Moreover, prayers allow keeping close contact with the community, as people often meet in mosques during prayers.
Muslims should wash their bodies before prayer, and this process of ritual purification is called ablution. Muslims can wash some parts of their bodies, but in special cases, such as after sexual activity, they must wash the body thoroughly. Quran states that “Allah loves those who keep themselves clean and pure” (Khan, 2012a). Besides, praying Muslims should be dressed in clean clothes, and the place of worship should also be clean. Congregational prayers are preferable and are held in mosques, which are present in almost every city or village in Muslim states. Women are not required to pray in congregations, but they can if they want. In any case, men and women should pray separately in mosque congregations. It should be noted that Imams can be female, but then they can only play this role for a group of praying women.
Muslims financially support mosques both in Islamic countries and elsewhere. Their architectural style may be historical or modern, but the mosque should always be built in the direction of the Kaaba. There are many mosques that maintain madrassas, religious schools for Muslim children. Some mosques have a unique history, such as the Mosque of Paris, built in gratitude to Muslims who fought on the side of France in World War I. At the same time, Muslims can pray in other clean places as the primary condition of prayer is not the presence of a mosque but the community.
Video #11 (Fasting)
Ramadan is a month of obligatory fasting for Muslims and is one of the five pillars of Islam. This is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, where each month begins with a new moon. The Quran was first revealed to Muhammad during Ramadan, and therefore fasting at this time is thankfulness to God for His Word. Furthermore, Ramadan is followed because there is a direct commandment of God indicated in the Quran in this regard. This month, all Muslims can feel what it means to be hungry and poor.
Fasting begins at dawn, ends at dusk and implies a number of limitations. Eating and drinking during the daytime are prohibited, along with the sexual activity. Muslims pay special attention to preventing harmful talks and acts, such as gossiping and fighting. According to Khan (2012b), this is the perfect time to improve patience and self-control. It should be noted that there are exemptions from mandatory fasting. For example, children, the elderly, sick people, pregnant and nursing women can eat and drink during Ramadan. There is no religious control authority in Islam, and faithful compliance with the commandments remains on the conscience of every Muslim.
During Ramadan, Muslims should read more Koran and pray additionally as well as give more charity to the poor. One of the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan is called the Night of Power or Lailatul Qadr. The reward for the worship and prayers that were done on that one night is more than the reward for a thousand months of worship (Khan, 2012b). Breaking the fasting is called Iftar and happens at sunset. Muslims traditionally eat dates and drink water or milk in the evening meal after daytime fasting. It is essential not to overeat during Iftar and after Ramadan. Mosques are often full during Ramadan, as this month is considered especially spiritual, and people often pray or have Iftar together.
Ramadan ends with the advent of the new moon of Shawwal. Eid al-Fitr is an Islamic celebration of the end of Ramadan fasting. Muslims congratulate each other, send Eid greeting cards, and perform special prayers. They give Zakah charity, present gifts to children, especially orphans, and visit relatives and friends. Muslim women at this time often decorate certain parts of the body with henna and prepare special celebratory meals. There are many similarities between Eid al-Fitr and Christian Christmas. The end of Ramadan is celebrated by Muslims around the world. In some countries, this celebration was even used as a form of political statement, as in Yemen, where it was a protest against the president.
Shahada is the first and most significant provision of the Islamic faith. It contains the essential tenets that every Muslim must accept. Frequent prayers make it possible to experience the ideas of the Shahada in practice and demonstrate devotion and gratitude to God. It is especially valuable that prayers bring people together in communities through mosque congregations. Besides, all Muslims pray towards the Kaaba, which is also called the House of God, and this consolidates people around a central religious symbol. The unity of Muslims and the values of devotion and obedience to God that are adopted in Islam may have influenced this religion to become one of the most global and widespread.
Another factor of Islam’s great unifying power is its attention to poor and disadvantaged people. Ramadan, among other things, is an opportunity to experience poverty and hardship. Even wealthy Muslims can sense themselves in the position of the poor and feel sympathy for them. Moreover, the rules of Islam require Muslims to feed one person for every day they miss a fast. Muslims support each other in challenging times and enjoy common celebrations, such as Eid al-Fitr. Thus, the values of solidarity and mutual assistance are accepted in this religion, and ordinary people especially appreciate this.
- Khan, A. K. (2012a). Islamic Civilization-10-Islamic Practices [Video file]. Web.
- Khan, A. K. (2012b). Islamic Civilization-Part11-Islamic Practices [Video file]. Web.