To understand how Islam answers some of the fundamental questions that make every religion unique, one has to look no further than the Five Pillars of Islam. Islam tends to get a bad perception, especially from the Western world, mainly due to the actions from some of their radical groups. However, these groups do not represent what the majority of Islam’s believe in. Houston Smith goes above and beyond for the reader to make this distinction and early in the chapter he elaborates on the origin and meaning of the word Islam as well as the general purpose of Muslims.
Firstly, he states that Islam comes from the root words ‘peace’ and ‘surrender’, which in turn lead to the purpose of a Muslim which is “the peace that comes when one’s life is surrendered to God.”
Once Smith establishes this distinction, he moves to answering some deeper questions ofthe religion. The first answer is the main teaching point of the religion.
It is a general answer, however Smith describes it as Islam teaching Muslims “to walk the straight path”, This means that a Muslim shall live a life that is neither “crooked nor corrupt” He goes even further to say that the straight path is direct and explicit, a path that has speciﬁc directions and details. Furthermore, the religion has a way of keeping Muslims in line, This proc characterized by the cla siﬁcation of actions as being forbidden, indifferent or obligatory. By clearly identifying these different groups, a Muslim gains a clear understanding of how they should approach their lives.
The next question that Smith presents is the first of the Five Pillars of Islam.
It relates directly to the questions pertaining to Muslims belief in God and their belief in monotheism. Islam declares the answer to such questions as “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet” (p.244). This is one of the many characteristics that make Islam its unique religion. Another issue that Smith attempts to tackle is one that the Western world has been so curious about for years; prayer. According to Smith, Muslims pray five times per day with the main objective of “[keeping] their life in perspective — to see it objectively, which involves acknowledging human creatureliness before its creator. In practice this comes down to submitting ones will to God’s as its rightful sovereign”.
This should come as no surprise since we have already discussed the purpose and objective of Muslims in the opening paragraph, Additionally, Muslims keep certain themes in their mind when praying, with three of the main ones being praise, gratitude, and supplicationt The next topic that is presented is Muslims’ participation in charity. Muslims believe heavily in everyone being given equal opportunity. They are a religion that believes in taxes for the riches and giving those who are less fortunate an opportunity that they would not otherwise have The last major component that is extremely important to the Islamic religion is Ramadan. This month is characterized by fasting for the entirety of it.
Muslims strongly believe that this particular event teaches them some invaluable lessons that can be applied to their everyday lives. The ﬁrst being self-discipline. During the month. the mind of the participants stretched to its extreme and one can only endure such constraints through self-dis ‘pline. They can then turn around and use this newly developed attribute in their daily lives. The second lesson that Muslims strongly believe is learned through fasting is compassion. When going through this grueling process. a person now knows what it is like to be starving‘ They can then understand the struggles of those who cannot afford the amounts of food that they are accustomed to because they have been in their shoes.