Every religion has its own sacred routines in terms of methods of prayer, worship, and a place for those individuals to practice their religion. Islam is no different. Wikipedia (2019) defines Islam as, “an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah), and that Muhammad is the messenger of God.” While there are various denominations of Muslims, like Sunni, Shia, Sufism, devout Muslims generally believe in and follow the Five Pillars of Islam, which are faith, prayer, giving, fasting, and hajj/pilgrimage.
Faith is the first Pillar of Islam. Corbett-Hemeyer (2016) states that this is “shown in the repetition of the creed (Shahadah): “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah” (p. 207). Reciting this creed demonstrates faith and loyalty towards Allah. This is also said most often at the birth of a newborn Muslim baby, as well as the last prayer that is heard by a person who is close to passing away.
The second Pillar of Islam is prayer, five times a day.
According to Corbett-Hemeyer (2016), “Prayers are said at dawn, at midday, midafternoon, dusk, and night” (p. 208). Saying a prayer as frequent as Islam requires its followers, the purpose of this is for Muslims to keep their God in mind for majority of the day. There does not seem to be a requirement as to the location of where Muslims are to say their prayers, but just like other religions that have their designated places of worship, it is encouraged for Muslims to congregate at a mosque and pray.
Mosques, just like other places of worship, are seen as safe spaces to be closest to their respective God. However, an outstanding difference between Islam and other prominent religions, such as Christianity and Judaism, is that, like Corbett-Hemeyer (2016) states, “Islam does not have a weekly Sabbath, but the community of faith gathers at midday on Friday to pray these prayers together and usually to hear the Qur’an read and explained in a talk by the imam, or prayer leader” (p. 208). This could possibly be a reason as to why Muslims are encouraged to pray five times a day. As Sunday is seen as the day of rest by Christians, Muslims do not have one specific day to dedicate to their God. It is easier for Muslims to pray throughout the day in Islamic countries, than it would be in other countries, such as in the United States. In the U.S., setting aside time each day to pray at five designated times may not be as easy due to work hours, school hours, and other personal and professional commitments.
Giving is the third Pillar of Islam. Charity, generous donations, and selfless acts of aiding the needy is not an uncommon practice that is encouraged among most, if not all, religions, if you are able. Corbett-Hemeyer (2016) mentions that, “Muslims do not look down on wealth, as long as it is gotten honestly; the honest earning of money and wise management of it is a tribute to Allah. But Allah must also be worshipped through one’s wealth, and this is the point of almsgiving” (p. 209). Making a donation does not require a specific amount for Muslims to give, as it takes into consideration a person’s income level. If a Muslim has an above average level of income, it would be expected for them to donate more than what would be expected from someone who does not earn as much as they do. Regardless of how big or small one’s net worth is, it would appear that Muslims ought to express their gratitude to their God, Allah, should they become wealthy.
The fourth Pillar of Islam is fasting, specifically in the month of Ramadan. This could also be seen as a somewhat of a similarity to Lent for Christians. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, lasts forty days, and asks all Christians to give up certain indulgences, refrain from eating meat on Fridays, in an effort to replicate the suffering that Jesus Christ experienced. For Muslims, as Corbett-Hemeyer (2016) states, “Fasting, in this instance, means complete abstention from eating, drinking, smoking, the use of tobacco, and sexual activity during daylight hours” (p. 209). Abstinence from these common luxuries is a method for Muslims to stand in solidarity with their fellow Muslims in different parts of the world, to empathize with people who are hungry, needy, and less fortunate. Participating in this fasting period, however, does allow some exceptions. Corbett-Hemeyer (2016) also writes that, “Fasting is not required of young children, women who are pregnant or menstruating, travelers, the elderly, and those who are ill or frail, as well as others on whom it would impose an unreasonable burden” (p. 209). This fast would solely apply to Muslims that are in good health. It is understandable as to why there are exceptions in regards to who fasts during Ramadan as not every Muslim may be able to go a few hours without consumption of water and food.
At the end of the fast, it is soon followed by Eid Al-Fitr. Per Corbett-Hemeyer (2016), “This is a joyous time in which families and friends gather together to rejoice in the end of this strenuous time and to celebrate the spiritual benefits gained from it” (p. 209). Not only is Eid Al-Fitr exclusively celebrated by Muslims, but they are encouraged to invite their friends, that are not Muslim, to join them and share their culture. Because fasting is mentally and physically draining, celebrating with family and friends once it ends is a great way to adjust back.
The last and fifth Pillar of Islam is hajj/pilgrimage. “Hajj,” according to Corbett-Hemeyer (2016), “brings Muslims from around the world together for a series of religious rituals in and around Mecca” (p. 209). The Mecca attracts millions of Muslims from various parts of the world to join each other, celebrate, pray, and be one with each another. Along with this last Pillar, it is reinforced for Muslims to at least make a trip to the Mecca at some point in their lives.
In regards to the video of America’s New Religious Landscape, it is said that the United States has become the most religiously diverse nation on Earth. Dianna Eck, a Harvard professor, believes that knowing only one religion, you know no religion. Eck noticed that after the 1965 Immigration Act, the students that were showing up to her class were those of a mixture of religious backgrounds other than Christians. Buddhist teachings preach that all life involves suffering, and the cause is self-centered desire. Hinduism is said to be going ongoing change, that it is also adapting to the American society. During the hajj/pilgrimage in Islam, millions gather at the Mecca, for one common goal, which is to worship Allah. The underlying in Judaism, as per Sara Kanevsky, is because God said something, that’s how Jewish people do it. Los Angeles is seen as the most religiously complex city in the world, especially given the large population of immigrants that have fled their economically challenged home countries.