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By Hamid Barra, PhD


(Dr. Hamid Barra is former dean of the King Faisal Center for Islam, Asian and Arabic Studies (KFCIAS) of the Mindanao State Univesity in Marawi City . He is a lawyer, Islamic scholar, aleem (religious authority) and teacher and has produced a rich body of work on gender, Islam, democracy, Shar’ah and law. He heads the Empowering the Ulama Project funded by the British Embassy through the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy as Project Director.)

To a Muslim, Islam is not only a religious belief but a complete way of life. It is also an expression of his relationship with the Divine. Islam permeates all aspects of one’s existence and does not distinguish between the legal and the moral; neither between the spiritual and the mundane nor the religious and the secular. Islam connotes a mode of conduct, a political system, a code of law, an economic system, and an aesthetic value. Islam governs one’s worldly life as an individual, as a member of the family, society, and humanity.

Islam is taken from the Arabic word salam which means: 1) release, freedom and redemption from inner and outer evil; 2) peace and security; 3) order and harmony; and 4) obedience, surrender and submission to Almighty Allah. A person, then, finds peace and tranquility when he enters into the fold of Islam. By accepting Islam, a person frees himself from the servitude of any other deity and sets a constructive relationship between him and Allah, between him and other people, and between him and other creatures. Likewise, he realizes his worth as a human being and understands his role in human life.

Islam is built on three levels: 1) Imaan or faith and belief; 2) Islaam or performing the required acts of worship and submission to Allah Almighty; and 3) Ihsaan or exercising righteousness and benevolence in one’s relationship with Allah and with Allah’s creations.


Articles of Faith


Muslims believe in six Articles of Faith: 1) faith and belief in Allah Almighty as the only deity worthy of worship Who has no partner in Godhead and Who sustains and cherishes His creations; 2) belief in the angels of Allah; 3) belief in the revealed Books of Allah (which include the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the Qur’an); 4) belief in the prophets and messengers who were sent by Allah Almighty from time to time to deliver Allah’s message to humanity (among whom were Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, John the Baptist, Jesus and Mohammad); 5) belief in life after death; and 6) belief that good and evil are predetermined and man is given the choice to take either of the two.

A Muslim believes that he is created purposely to worship and serve Allah’s Will. He believes that all other creations are created for his constructive use so that he can establish Allah’s Kingdom on earth. As Allah’s viceregent and trustee, man ranks high in the hierarchy of Allah’s creations. He is endowed with rational faculties and spiritual aspirations as an instrument to achieve the task of making Allah’s Will reign supreme in the face of the earth.

A Muslim believes that every person born is a Muslim, that every person born is free from sin and it is when he comes of age that he will be responsible for his own actions. He also believes that a person can attain salvation by combining true faith and good deeds (belief and practice). To attain Allah’s pleasure, a person must translate his belief into action. 

A Muslim believes that Allah will not make a person responsible until he is shown the right path. This is the reason why Allah sent Messengers with Divine guidance through the ages to humanity. And the last of the chain of Messengers sent by Allah to mankind was the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the final message is the Glorious Qur’an which a Muslim must believe as the word of Allah that has been preserved in its pristine purity. It cannot be divorced from the sunnah or lifestyle of the Holy Prophet as the latter is the authentic human interpretation of Islamic principles and beliefs contained in the Glorious Qur’an.

A Muslim believes that faith must be founded upon well-grounded convictions based on reason and intellectual search for the truth. In Islam, blind imitation is not countenanced.


Pillars of Islam


The second level in the structure of Islam pertains to the performance of certain required worship or religious obligations that a Muslim of age must do. These are: 1) the euphonious utterance of the shahaadah or testimony of faith: ASH’HADU AN LAA ILAAHA ILLALLAAH WA ASH’HADU ANNA MUHAMMADAR-RASUULULLAAH (I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah); 2) performance of salaat or the five daily prayers; 3) payment of zakat or the required charity or poor-due; 4) sawm or fasting during the month of Ramadhan; and 5) performance of the hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah once in a lifetime for those who have the strength and means to do so.

The first pillar of Islam lays down the principles of tawhid and risaalah, which are expressed in the testimony of faith - LAA ILAAHA ILLALLAAH, MUHAMMADU RASUULULLAAH.

When such shahaadah is recited formalizing membership in the Islamic community, a person enters a contract with his community for him to defend his membership in the community and for the community to defend the believer from harm.

The bedrock of Islam is the concept of tawhid. This is the faith and belief in the oneness of Allah, in His Godhead, in His creative power, in His Lordship over all creations and in His uniqueness in His Names and Attributes.

The concept of tawhid is expressed in the phrase: LAA ILAAHA ILLALLAAH, which forms the first part of the attestation of faith of a Muslim. It literally means THERE IS NO DEITY WORTHY OF WORSHIP EXCEPT ALLAH. The phrase is composed of two parts: LAA ILAAHA (THERE IS NO DEITY WORTHY OF WORSHIP) and ILLALLAAH (EXCEPT ALLAH). The first part states that a Muslim must negate all deities that man worships, be they idols, men, gods, nature, or even one’s inner desire and love for the world. After negating all of these imaginary sources of power and strength, a Muslim affirms that it is only Allah Who is the sole source of Godhead and Lordship, Who is Creator, Designer and Fashioner of all creations, and their Sustainer, Cherisher and Guardian-Lord. Tawhid is also a process of negating any source of power and authority and establishing in one’s heart and soul the ultimate faith and belief that it is Allah alone Who is the source of Sovereign Authority, upon Whose power a Muslim rests his fate, and in Whose worship, submission and obedience a Muslim surrenders and dedicates his prayers, sacrifices, life and death.

Thus, tawhid sets the methodology upon which a person undergoes a process of change in his life from a state of disbelief, of assigning partners to God, of believing in other sources of power, to a state of faithfulness, of accepting no other deity but Allah, of dedicating his prayers and sacrifices, his life and death to Allah Alone.

Through the process of tawhid, a Muslim finds total liberation and freedom from any source of slavery or obedience to any other being. When a Muslim enters into the total sovereignty of Allah by the process of tawhid, he becomes a totally free individual, free from servitude to any other being. He only worships, serves and obeys Allah and only submits to His will.

MUHAMMADUR-RASUULULLAAH means MUHAMMAD IS THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH. This statement makes a Muslim a member of the Community of the Holy Prophet who believes in his message, upholds his leadership, obeys his teachings, attunes his lifestyle with the way of the Holy Prophet, and takes him as a model and exemplar.

When a Muslim accepts the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), he is thus required two basic things: 1) saliimul-aqiidah (purity of faith) which means that a Muslim gives assurance that he has full and sincere faith and belief in the message of the Holy Prophet, and 2) sahiihul-ibadah (righteous way of performing worship) which means that a Muslim binds himself to perform his duties as a Muslim in accordance with the sunnah or lifestyle of the Holy Prophet.

A Muslim further believes in the universality of the message of the Holy Prophet. He believes that the Prophet not only was sent to a particular nation, tribe or group but is a Messenger to the whole of humanity. Moreover, a Muslim affirms that the Holy Prophet is a guide, a warner and a mercy to all creations.

Prayer, the second pillar of Islam, is a religious duty required of every Muslim who is sane, responsible, of age, and free from impurities or serious illness. It is performed five times everyday: at dawn, at noontime, in mid-afternoon, at sunset, and during the evening. Before a Muslim performs any of the daily prayers, he is required to be pure and clean in his intention, in his heart and mind, in his body, in his clothes, and in the place where he is going to perform the prayer. Before his prayer, he should perform ablution to free himself from any impurity. A Muslim is advised to perform his prayers preferably in congregation. All Muslims performing prayer have to face the qiblah or the direction facing Makkah, signifying the unity of the Muslims and their oneness in worshipping Allah.

The performance of prayer is closely related to the establishment and shaping of a Muslim society. There are lessons in the performance of prayer that need to be realized and actualized in the Muslim community. For example, in the congregational prayer, Muslims are made to stand side by side regardless of educational attainment, social status, economic standing, or political position. This, if translated into the social life of the Muslims, means that there is brotherhood, equality and justice in the community. No person is deemed above or superior to another except by reason of righteousness or nobility of character. Thus, among the lessons that a Muslim learns in the performance of prayer are: ikhlas or sincerity; nadzafah or sanitation and cleanliness; tawaadhu’ or humility; tahfiidhul-waqt or knowing the value of time; nashaat wa juhd or exertion of efforts and being always active; ukhwah or brotherhood; ittihaad or unity; musaawah or equality; nidzaam or order and harmony; and qiyaadah or leadership.

The third pillar of Islam is the payment of zakat, a required payment levied from every Muslim who is earning more than his needs in the amount of 2.5 percent. The wealth from which zakat must be taken should have reached a required amount (nisaab). It should also be a saving for a year (hawl). The purpose of zakat is to cleanse one’s wealth so that one’s self can be purified by not taking anything that is not pure or clean.

is intended to free the Muslim society from poverty. It is a means of not only alleviating the people from poverty but of eradicating such social ill. Hence, when the zakat is distributed, the recipient need not only be given what he really needs but should lead to a good livelihood so that in the following year he will not be recipient anymore but one among those who can pay zakat. Through this process, the poor are alleviated from their poverty and gradually the Muslim community is able to free itself from the menace of this social ill.

or fasting during the month of Ramadhan, the fourth pillar of Islam, refers to complete abstinence from food, drink and sexual knowledge with one’s spouse from early dawn to sunset. The daytime of Ramadhan is spent in fasting while its nighttime is spent in prayers, constant remembrance of Allah, reading and studying the Glorious Qur’an and sharing ones blessings with others. Muslims are required to learn self-restraint during this blessed month.

Ramadhan is significant not only because it is during this month that Muslims are required to fast but also because it was during this month that the Glorious Qur’an was revealed. Thus, Ramadhan is a month of fasting, of revelation of the Glorious Qur’an, and hence, of Divine revelations.  It is the month when a Muslim is trained to learn patience and perseverance, to practice sharing, caring and being compassionate to others. It is also the month of triumph and victory for Muslims as all major battles fought between the Muslims in pursuance of the truth and their enemies who tried to block that struggle happened during this holy month.  It is the month of worship and remembrance of Allah, of learning attitudinal change. It is a training institute for self-restraint and Allah-consciousness.

The last pillar of Islam is hajj or the performance of pilgrimage to the Holy City of Makkah in the Arabian Peninsula . This pillar of Islam is only required upon those Muslims who are physically and mentally capable to perform the journey and who have the means to do so. The hajj is done during the month of Dhul-Hijjah.

Copyright 2011 Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication