This archived article was written by: Nathaniel Woodward
Ahlan and as-salaam’alaykum. One of the coolest parts of living today is the interconnectedness of the world’s cultures. From food to music and from language to love, it is inexcusable to live in the modern world and not cross paths with a culture your ancestors had no idea existed. Islam, a major world religion continues to be a topic of taboo and mystery to Americans even though that religion is founded on principles that may seem very familiar.
The Prophet of Islam, Muhammed, was born in the late 6th century in the Arabian metropolis of Mecca which resides in present day Saudi Arabia. Arabian life was centered around family, the most important concept to an Arab was preserving the honor of the tribe and any of its many Gods. In adulthood, Muhammed, although illiterate, was already known for his exceptional skill as a mediator and as a fair trader. Through his extraordinary life and with the support of Khadija, his wife whom he loved dearly, Muhammed received visions from the Angel Gabriel dealing how the one true God, or Allah, was to be worshipped and how Allah wished his children to live their lives.
While the revealing of the Qur’an or “Recitation” began, the religion of Islam was established. Islam means, “to submit” meaning to the will of Allah. What specifically did the Prophet Muhammed reveal was Allah’s will? This is where those of my readers, who belong to any other major religion, find common ground. The will of Allah was presented as the Five Pillars of Islam, each explaining how one should go about life in order to ensure a place in the next one.
The first Pillar or “Shahada” means faith, or faith in the one true God, Allah and his Prophet Muhammed.
The second is Salat, or prayer. A Muslim is asked to pray five-times daily while facing the most holy of all sites in Islam, the Kaaba in Mecca. On a side note, there are three holy cities in Islam; Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. In one vision the Prophet Muhammed was taken to Jerusalem and ascended the levels of heaven where he received instructions from the former prophets of Allah, Moses, Jesus and John the Baptist. Cool, right?
The third Pillar is Zakat, or charity. Supporting those in need is one of the central tenants of Muslims, it is a duty taken very seriously to devoted followers. Muhammed taught that it was the duty of all Muslims to lighten the burden of those around them, whether Muslim or not. Muhammed held strong alliances and friendships with Rabbi’s and Christians all his life.
The fourth is Sawm, or fasting. The act of ritualistic fasting is to bring one closer to Allah by reminding them of their dependence on his mercy. The holy month of Ramadan is dedicated specifically to this principle.
The fifth and final Pillar of Islam is the Hajj, or pilgrimage. The highest act of one’s faith in Islam is (if they are economically able) to travel to Mecca and circle the Kaaba, or Cube; it is contemporary to The Holy of Holies in Judaism. Muslims circle the Kaaba to represent keeping Allah at the center of their lives.
Muhammed revealed these pillars to support his lifelong devotion to principles he held dear, such as peace and forgiveness. There are countless examples where Muhammed exemplified the greatest attributes of humanity through his actions and teachings. Muhammed will always be one of the greatest people of all time, the Prophet of Peace.