There are many different religions in the world, each with its own set of beliefs, foundation and rituals. Many of these religious groups wear special clothing, eat certain foods and have special funeral proceedings after death. Islam, which loosely translates to “voluntary submission to God”, is one of the largest religions in the world. It has approximately 1.5 billion followers, which is almost 25% of the population, and makes it the second largest religion in the world. It is also considered to be the fastest growing religion in the world with new followers joining every day. Islam has a specific way of life that differs from most other religions and members of Islam, known as Muslims, must astringently follow the rules given in its holy book, the Qur’an.
The most important parts of this religion, in the eyes of its followers, are its foundation and its beliefs. This is a monotheistic religion, which means that followers believe the concept of one God, called tawhid. They view Christianity and other religions that are Trinitarian as polytheistic because believers worship a trinity such as the father, the son and the holy spirit in Christianity. It is a core principle of Islam that there is only one God and Muslims only serve one God. Muslims must adhere to the five pillars of Islam, which are the five basic concepts and obligations of worship. They are mentioned in the Qur’an as creed (shahadah in Arabic), which is an oath that states “I testify that there is no God, but God and that Muhammad is the messenger of God.” The second of the five pillars is daily prayers, or salat, which is a ritual of prayers that are done five times a day. The third is almsgiving, or zakat, which is giving a portion of your money to help the needy. The fourth is fasting at Rhamadan, which is a month long celebration and the fifth is making a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy land in Islam, at some point in the Muslim’s life.
There are many rituals performed by members of Islam. One is the fasting ritual of Rhamadan. During this month long fast, Muslims can only eat from dusk to dawn. They are not allowed to eat at all during the day. This ritual is to become nearer to God and show compassion for those less fortunate or those who have fallen victim to poor circumstance. At the end of this month of fasting, there is a ritual religious holiday called Eid Al-Fitr. This holiday is a huge feast and a special prayer, or salat, is done on this day as well to celebrate how great God is. Another ritual practiced by Muslims is daily prayer. These prayers are done five times a day and in the direction of kaaba, the most sacred of mosques in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The rituals are celebrated and practiced by Muslims all around the world regardless of where they live. This says much about the bond and togetherness that Muslims have for one another.
Muslims often wear special clothing as a symbol of their Islamic beliefs. Women traditionally are required to wear a hijab, which literally translates to “veil”. This is a symbol of a separation of public and private life. The Qur’an calls for women to be modest, which is interpreted as a veil, and a full burqua over their bodies. Women dress in this manner because they reserve their bodies for their husbands and do not want to be seen as a sex object by anyone else in the community. Some women wear niqabs, which are headdresses that only expose the eyes. Religious leaders and other high ranking men in Muslim communities may wear bishts, which are dressier full length cloaks. Both men and women of Islam do utilize special clothing, especially for religious ceremonies and other traditional events.
In Islam, there are certain foods that must be avoided. The Qur’an has specific regulations on food and lists foods that are lawful as halal and foods that are not allowed as haram in its commandments. Animals that die on their own, blood, swine and animals dedicated in sacrifice to Allah, or God. Wine or ethanol are also prohibited. Animals must be slaughtered in a certain way with a sharpened blade and cannot suffer. There are many restrictions when it comes to preparation of the meat. For instance, it is preferred that meat is butchered by a Muslim. These days, there is even a Muslim Consumer Group that certifies foods as halal.
In the case of medical care, Muslims accept Western medicine but integrate it with religious aspects as they do not separate science from religion. Although some traditional Muslims reject modern medicine, more Westernized Muslims do not share this sentiment. For instance, a Muslim with an illness may combine prayer and recitation of verses of the Qur’an with medical treatment. It is important that medical treatment does not go against the word of the Qur’an. Life and death are given only by Allah in the eyes of the Muslim. For this reason, many Muslims believe that by living a life that pleases God, they will be given good health and fortune. As far as breastfeeding, the Qur’an suggests moms to breastfeed their young for the first two years of their child’s life.
When the time comes for death, there are special needs that must be attended to according to religious beliefs. A funeral, called Janazah in Arabic, must obey sharia, or Islamic religious law. There are certain steps that must be followed in order for a Muslim to receive a proper burial. First, he or she must be bathed by family members. Commonly, the dead person is washed by immediate family of the same gender as the deceased. After the washing process, the dead person is wrapped in a white linen or cotton cloth. The family then conducts a funeral prayer to send the deceased into the afterlife properly. The body is then buried in the ground with the head of the deceased facing Mecca and never cremated. There are regional differences that occur that vary a little in their funeral rituals, but this is the general practice. This is Islamic law, or sharia, introduced by the prophet Mohammad and is a very important ritual when a Muslim dies. Organ donation is acceptable, but embalming or autopsies are not allowed.
Grief is a sentiment expressed by all humans. With this being said, Muslims are permitted to express grief at a funeral. Crying, weeping and other common sentiments of grief are acceptable, but extreme grieving such as violent outbursts or screaming show lack of faith in Allah and are prohibited. The mourning period lasts for 40 days and widows are expected to grieve longer, four months and 10 days to be exact. Depending upon the level of religiousness of the deceased and his or her family, the mourning period may be shorter.
Islam is the second largest religion in the world. There are two types of Muslims, Sunni and Shia. Sunni make up about 85% of the population and are the dominant sect in the Islam religion. Many rules and laws that govern Islam come from the prophet Muhammad as sharia, or religious law. These cultural and religious traditions and rituals are specific to Islam, which provide guidance in all aspects of Muslim life, and have remained in place for many years. These customs are in place to promote complete faith and trust in Allah, who is the one God worshipped by followers of Islam. This religion continues to grow in the number of followers each day and one day may surpass Christianity as the most practiced religion on the planet.