Regardless of which Muslim sect one belongs to, all Muslims include these five practices of their faith:
- The SHAHADAH is a one-sentence statement that is important to them. “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.” If one says these words with sincerity, they are defined as a Muslim. The SHAHADAH affirms the identity of one god and is an expression which opposes polytheism. Christians do not believe in three Gods; we believe in ONE God who reveals Himself to us as there persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Both Muslims and Jews often teach their own that we believe in three Gods. The SHAHADA reminds the Muslim that Muhammad is the final and greatest prophet who received the words of the Quran, their holy book.
- Muslims recite memorized prayers in Arabic to Allah five times a day. This is called SALAT. They have a prayer rug upon which they bow towards Mecca. Muslims are required to attend prayer services every Friday at the mosque, a physical building in which they gather. Ceremonial washings are taken before they recite prayers at the mosque. All are expected to learn to say these prayers in Arabic.
- The Quran has charity as one of its main teachings. One is required to give 2.5% of one’s income to others. This is called ZAKAT. Muhammad was generous with his wealth.
- Muslims practice a fast called SAWM in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Ramadan. The daily fast goes from sunrise to sunset. Fasting is defined as no food, drink, or sex during these hours. From sunset to sunrise one may eat. This is the month Muhammad is believed to have received his revelations of the Quran.
- Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime, assuming they can afford it. This pilgrimage is called the HAJJ. They are in Mecca for about seven days and all participate in rituals involving their dress, prayer, ablution, and animal sacrifice. Some of these rituals date back to the time of Muhammad. Mecca is special as it is the birthplace of Muhammad and the city he returned to after being exiled in Medina. Muslims also believe Abraham built a temple in Mecca called the Ka’ba after Allah provided a ram to take the place of his son Ishmael as a sacrifice. Compared to the account of Abraham, Isaac, and a ram in Genesis 22:1-19, the account in the Quran 37:100-107 gives the different account of Ishmael (Abraham’s firstborn son) as the Arab tribes come from Ishmael. The Genesis account of Isaac taught by both Jews and Christians causes Muslims to teach our Bible has been corrupted and their Quran is correct.
- The sixth pillar shows a darker side of Islam today! Muslims wrestle with the concept of JIHAD. It is unfair to dismiss all Muslims as bloodthirsty terrorists. To most Muslims, a JIHAD is a war against selfishness, a war of the heart to be holy, a fight against temptations.
Yet today a minority of Imams (religious leaders) have a tendency to promote Islam through terror. Islam means “submission.” To the terrorist, all must submit to Allah or die. JIHAD is one of the most loaded words in Islam. We Christians understand we are to be militant in our war against sin and the devil. “The weapons of OUR WARFARE are NOT CARNAL but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds…” (2 Cor. 10:4-6). Among some Muslims, JIHAD conjures up thoughts of human carnage and death, wanton acts of destruction, and death for those who write or speak against Islam or Muhammad. Sha’ria, Islamic law, has been applied in numerous ways. Acid was poured on the face of a Muslim girl for allowing one wisp of hair to show under her veil. In Pakistan, the punishment for drinking alcohol is eight stripes of the whip. Iran persecutes the faith of 300,000 Bahais. We are aware of the recent beheadings and other gruesome acts by ISIS. Many African Muslims force female circumcision. Afghani females are not permitted an education. And of course, we well remember how Muslim extremists blew up the World Trade Center in New York.
Some Muslims declare religious wars on each other. In the past Iran’s Shi’ite Muslims have declared holy war on Iraq’s Sunni Muslims.
These and many other examples of how Islam can be interpreted makes all be filled with uncertainty and the fear that maybe they are doing something wrong. Islam is a works system of faith; even then, one is uncertain as to how Allah will ultimately judge them. There is no certainty of Allah’s mercy except for those who die in a JIHAD.