Chapter 3: What is Islam by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



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What is Islam

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry


Fundamental Articles of Faith

I- Belief (Iman)

II- Prayer

III- Zakat


IV- Fasting (Saum)


V- Pilgrimage (Hajj)

As mentioned earlier, Islam is founded on five pillars or five fundamental articles of faith. These five articles or columns of Islamic faith have been derived from a saying (Hadith) of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which has been recorded by Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Ibn Omar. The Prophet is reported to have said: “Islam is built on five things – to bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (PBUH) is His messenger and servant, to keep up prayer, to pay Zakat, to make Pilgrimage and to keep fast in Ramadhan”.

Thus following are the five pillars upon which the edifice of Islam is founded according to the above-mentioned tradition of the Propher:

1.    Iman (profession of belief).

2.    Salat (to establish prayer).

3.    Zakat (to pay poor-due or compulsory charity).

4.    Saum (to keep fast during the month of Ramadhan).

5.    Hajj (to perform pilgrimage to Makkah).

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I-  Belief (Iman)

Belief is the first and the foremost article of Islamic faith. The revealed book of Islam says: “…. But righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels, and the Scripture and the Prophets ……” (al-Qur’an 2:177). At another place the Holy Book says …… “whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His Angels and His Scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray…. (al-Qur’an 4:136). Thus the Qur’an has prescribed for the followers of Islam to believe in Allah, His Messenger, His Angels, His Scriptures and the Hereafter. To these five elements of belief, Prophet Muhammad has added another element and that is belief in destiny (Taqdir).

Iman or belief, in short, is to expressed by proclaiming the following Kalima (formula) with the tongue and affirm its truth with the heart:

“There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah.”

Furthermore one has to testify the truth of the above mentioned Kalima with the following words (which are called second Kalima):

“I testify that there is no god but Allah who is One and has no partner. And I also testify that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger”.

As stated above, there are six elements or constituents of belief which have been prescribed by the Qur’an and the Sunnah. These are: Belief in Allah, belief in messengers, belief in Scriptures or books, belief in Angels, belief in the Hereafter or the Last Day, and belief in Predestination or Taqdir. All these constituents of belief are briefly discussed as under:

1. Belief in Allah: Allah is the Almighty and only one God of the whole cosmos. He is the Creator of each and everything in the universe. He is Eternal and Ever-Living. He has no partner, no children, no parents, no spouses. He is All-Powerful, Unique in Essence and Attributes, All-Perfect, Sovereign Lord, Omnipresent, Omniscient, All-Knowing, All-Seeing, All-Wise, Just, the Beneficent, the Merciful and the Forgiving. The heavens and earth are full of His signs and blessings. He gives life and death and revives the dead. He sent Prophets and revealed Scriptures for the guidance of man. He is the Master of the Day of Judgment. He is only to be worshipped. Followers of Islam have been enjoined by the Qur’an and by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to believe in Allah and serve Him alone.

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2. Belief in Messengers: For guidance of man Allah sent messengers called Prophets or Apostles of Allah who conveyed to mankind Divine message and also acted upon the message themselves setting pattern for their followers. The Prophets were human beings and they did not claim any share in Godhead. The Muslims have to believe in all the Prophets without making any distinction between them and without rejecting anyone of them. Belief is to be expressed in all the Prophets, whether mentioned in the Qur’an or not, from Adam to Muhammad. Prophets whose names have been mentioned in the Qur’an are Adam, Idris (Enoch), Nuh (Noah), Hud, Salih, Ibrahim (Abraham), Ismael (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Lut (Lot), Yusuf (Joseph), Shuaib, Ayyub (Job), Musa (Moses), Harun (Aaron), Dhu.l.Kifl, Uzair, Dawud (David), Sulaiman (Solomon), Ilias (Elias), Al-Yasa (Elisha), Yunus (Jonah), Zakariyya (Zechariah), Yahya (John), Isa (Jesus), and Muhammad. Life and teachings of some of these Prophets along with stories of their tribes or nations have been described in detail by the Qur’an such as that of Nuh, Hud, Salih, Abraham, Lut, shoaib, Moses, Jesus.

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3. Belief in Scriptures: Allah revealed books or scriptures and gave them to the Prophets for guidance and education of mankind. The famous of them are: Scrols (Sahifahs) given to Abraham; the Torah given to Moses; the Psalms given to David; the Gospel given to Jesus Christ, and the Qur’an given to Muhammad. Followers of Islam are required to believe in all these Holy Scriptures.

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4. Belief in Angels: Allah created Angels from light. They are invisible to human eye, have no sex and are appointed to carry out Allah’s commands and glorify Him. They are not daughters of Allah as the pagan Arabs held. Most famous of them are: Gabriel charged with the duty of bringing revelations and messages of Allah to the Prophets; Israfil who will blow the Trumpet on the Day of Resurrection; Mickael appointed for arranging rainfall, Izrael charged to take souls. Some other angels mentioned in the Qur’an and Hadith are: Harut and Marut (sent by God to test the belief of some nation of the old), Kiraman Katibin (the respected recorders who record the deeds of human beings); Munkir and Nakeer who would question the dead in graves; angel who brought good tidings of birth of a son to Mary the mother of Jesus; angels who brought good news about birth of Isaac to Abraham; angels who destroyed the people of Lut; angels in charge of Hell and Angels who would welcome the righteous in Paradise, etc. Muslims are required to believe in all angels of God.

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5. Belief in the Hereafter: This world would end on the Last Day called the Doomsday when every living soul would die. The Hereafter would start after the death. On the Doomsday (also called the Day of Judgment and Day of Resurrection), every dead person would be revived by Allah. Allah would judge between mankind on that day and would reward the pious with Paradise and punish the wicked with Hell. The life in the Hereafter would be real and eternal life. Muslims are required to believe in the Last Day and in the Hereafter, in life after death and in Paradise and Hell.

6. Belief in Destiny (Taqdir): This belief is virtually integral part of belief in Allah and so it is not regarded as an independent element. This belief implies that all good and evil is from Allah and is in the knowledge of Allah.

The formula of comprehensive belief (Al-Imanul Mufassal) which attests belief in all the above mentioned is as follows:

“I believe in Allah, in His angels, in His books, in His messengers, in the Last Day and in the fact that everything good or bad is decided by Allah the Almighty, and in the life after death.”  

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II- Prayer

Prayer in one form or the other has always been an integral part of devotional service in every religion. Every Prophet of Allah from Adam to Muhammad (may Allah’s peace be upon them) has not only been offering prayer himself but has also been enjoining his followers to establish it regularly. All the contemporary revealed religions of the world – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – recognize the efficacy of prayer.

The prayer is the second important pillar or fundamental article of Islamic faith after belief (Iman). Just as belief in Allah is the essence of faith, so is the prayer the essence of all Islamic devotions and pious actions. The Qur’an uses the term ‘Salat’ for prayer which stands for serving or worshipping Allah or praying to or seeking nearness to Him. The Qur’an has laid a great stress upon prayer and has repeated the commandments about prayer many times. The object of prayer in Islam is the Almighty God Who is One and Who alone is to be worshipped.

Islam has prescribed performance of prayers five time a day as an obligatory duty of every Muslim, whether he is a male or a female, free or slave, rich or poor, healthy or sick, at home or on journey. It is not excused even in the battlefield and has to be performed in the way prescribed by the Qur’an. In leisure or in business, in town or in village, in peace or in war, in sea or in land, a believer has to offer prayer on the prescribed times. Thus the prayer is universal in nature unlike other articles of faith such as Zakat and Haji which are obligatory for the rich believers only and unlike fast which is obligatory only for one month and that too for the adult healthy Muslims.

The prayer, besides being discharge of very important obligation to the Creator, bestows upon its observers many spiritual, social and individual benefits. It helps the purification of soul. It promotes unity, brotherhood and friendship among the believers as the male Muslims observe it in the mosque in congregation. It helps the Muslims to meet each other and confer with each other to solve their common problems, be they economic, political or social. It teaches punctuality and regularity and disciplines one’s daily life. The prayer helps even the physical health of one as all his bodily limbs come into action, even the toes and fingers. The prayer also helps concentration of mind. It promotes cleanliness of the body as it is preceded by ablution or bath. The Qur’an advises the believers to seek help from the prayer and patience in grief and hardship. According to the Qur’an the prayer protects one from lewdness and evil. The prayer, according to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), distinguishes a believer from a non-believer. The prayer will serve its observer as a light on the Day of Judgment and will be a means of his salvation. The prophet told Abu Zarr that when a Muslim observes his prayers with attention and devotion he sheds his sins just like a tree which sheds its leaves in autumn. The five daily prayers wipe off the dirt of sins of the person who offers them regularly like a person who removes his dirt by washing himself in a canal of water flowing in front of his door. Many rewards have been promised especially in the Hereafter by the Qur’an and Ahadith of the Prophet of Islam to those who establish prayer. Those who neglect it have been threatened with painful doom.

The Prophet of Islam not only taught the rules of prayer, its form and procedure, its timings, its rakaats, etc. to his followers but also showed its practical demonstration for their guidance. Detailed rules and regulations have been laid down by the jurists and scholars of Islam regarding prayer in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet which can be understood by referring to Fiqh (jurisprudence) books.

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Call to Prayer (Azan) 

‘Azan’ is the call for prayer which is proclaimed at least five-times a day from the minarets of the mosques throughout the world in the loud and sweet melodious voice calling the Muslims of the vicinity to join the congregational prayer. This prayer-call is proclaimed in the prescribed words at the advent of the time of each prayer. Decision about proclaiming ‘Azan’ was made by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) after his migration to Madinah in consultation with the companions.

Azan is proclaimed by a man standing in a lofty or prominent place in the mosque (generally the mosques have minarets for this purpose) in as loud a voice as possible. The caller is called Muazzin. He stands facing the Holy Ka’aba with his both hands raised to the ears and says: “Allah is greatest (repeated four times); I bear witness that there is no god but Allah (repeated twice); I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah (repeated twice); come to prayer (repeated twice); come to success (repeated twice); Allah is greatest (repeated twice); There is no god but Allah (once only)”. In the call for morning prayer, the words ─- prayer is better than sleep ─ are added (repeated twice) after the words, “Come to success”.

  ‘Aqamat’ is the announcement which is issued just before the Imam (leader of prayer) starts the prayer. It is just like Azan but in a less loud voice and with the difference that the words ─- prayer is ready ─- are repeated twice after the words, “Come to success”.

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Ablution and Dry Ablution (Wadu and Tayammum)

It is obligatory for a believer to purify and clean himself before offering prayer. If he is unclean he should perform ‘Ghusal’ (bath i.e. washing of the whole body). Otherwise he should make ‘Wadu” (ablution) which is the washing of the hands, face and feet in the prescribed way with water. But if the water is not available or the use of water is harmful to health or the water available is not pure then the believer is allowed to perform ‘Tayammum’ (dry ablution) with pure dust in the prescribed way. Very clear injunctions regarding Ghusal, Wadu and Tayammum are given in the Qur’an and the Ahadith (traditions) of the prophet of Islam. The method and procedure of performing these acts has also been laid down by the Qur’an and the Sunnah which needs no explanation or further comments. Only the following verse of the Qur’an and tradition of the Prophet would suffice:

·         O ye who believe! When ye rise up for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and lightly rub yours heads and (wash) your feet up to the ankles. And if ye are unclean, purify yourselves. And if ye are sick or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye have had contact with women, and ye find not water, then go to clean, high ground and rub your faces and your hands with some of it. (Al – Maidah 5:6)

·         Usman reported that he performed ablution and that he thrice poured (water) over his hands. Then he gurgled and snuffed up water. Then he washed his face and then he washed thrice his right arm up to the elbow. Afterwards he washed thrice his left arm up to the elbow and then he wiped his head. Afterwards he washed his right foot thrice and then the left foot thrice. Afterwards he said: I have seen the Messenger of Allah performing ablution similar to this ablution of mine.  (Bukhari, Muslim)

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Qiblah (Direction)

Qiblah is the direction in which the Muslims turn their faces in prayers from all over the world. This direction is towards the Ka’aba (the House of God) at Makkah in Arabia which was built by the great Prophet Ibrahim about 1800 B.C. Ka’aba is also the centre of devotional rites and acts attached with pilgrimage.

For some period at Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) observed Jerusalem as Qiblah and, therefore, he and his followers used to pray in the direction of that holy city. However, in his heart of hearts the Prophet wished that Ka’aba should be the Qiblah of Islam and so he often turned his face to heaven praying for the fulfillment of his desire. It was in the year 2 A.H. that Allah’s commandment came directing the Prophet to turn his face from Jerusalem to Ka’aba when he was leading Zuhr prayer at the house of Bishr-bin-Bara-bin-Ma’arur. Since then Ka’aba is the Qiblah of the followers of Islam.

It has been aptly observed that the change of Qiblah from Jerusalem to Ka’aba marked the end of religious leadership of the House of Israel and Jerusalem also ceased to be the religious center of the world. Now the religious leadership had come to be vested in Islam with the result that Ka’aba became the religious center for mankind.

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Mosque (Place of Worship)

Although the whole earth is mosque for a Muslim whereupon he can offer his prayer except unclean places, yet the Muslims construct and reserve for prayers special places and buildings called mosques. Mosque means a place of prostration. Thus the mosque is a place of worship where the followers of Islam converge at least five times a day to join congregational prayers.

Besides being a place of Divine worship, mosque has been traditionally a centre of many other social activities of the Muslim community. The Muslims are advised to discuss and solve the common problems faced by their community in socio-economic field particularly relating to common welfare, eradication of poverty, sickness, ignorance, illiteracy and promotion of missionary activities in consultation with each other. Thus the cause of helping the poor and the sick, promotion of education and learning and other issues of concern have always received prior attention of the believers in the mosque next after divine service. Politics, governmental matters, elections and foreign affairs, though not prohibited are not discussed these days in the mosque due to expediency.

Offering prayer in the mosque in congregation is obligatory for a Muslim male except in case of a valid excuse, but for a Muslim female prayer in the house is better. The mosque is the dearest place to Allah and His messenger and prayer in it carries merit much higher than the prayer at home. The mosque of Quba near Madinah is the first mosque built by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during his migration to Madinah and soon after arriving at Madinah the Prophet built the famous mosque named after him called the Mosque of the Prophet in the Year 1 A.H. i.e. 622 A.D.

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The Qur’an says: “. . . . . Prayer at fixed hours hath been enjoined on the believers” (4:103). Thus there are fixed times for the five daily prayers of the Muslims. There are very meaningful hints about the times of prayers in the Holy Qur’an. The names of the prayers and their scheduled times as prescribed and practiced by the Prophet of Islam are: Fajr (the early morning prayer) - from the appearance of dawn upto rising of the sun; Zuhr (the early afternoon prayer) - from the declining of the sun at noon till the beginning of the time of next prayer; Asr (the late afternoon prayer) - from the time when a man’s shade becomes double to the setting of the sun; Magrib (the sun-set prayer) - from just after the sun-set to the disappearance of red colour in horizon; I’sha (the night prayer) - begins after the time of Magrib prayer till midnight.

Units of Prayers (Rak’at)

 Each prayer generally comprises three parts __ Fard (compulsory), sunat (observed by the Prophet of Islam in addition to compulsory part), and Nafl (recommended by the Prophet of Islam as optional). Furthermore, each prayer consists of certain number of fixed rak’ats, each rak’at being a single unit comprising standing, bowing, prostrations and sitting. Fard prayer in the mosque is offered in congregation. Numbers of rak’ats of each prayer are: Fajr__ Sunnat 2, Fard 2, total 4; Zuhr__Sunnat 4, Fard 4, Sunnat 2, Nafl 2,total 12; Asr__ Sunnat 4, Fard 4, total 8; Magrib─ Fard 3, Sunnat 2, Nafl 2, total 7; I’sha__ Sunnat 4, Fard 4, Sunnat 2, Nafl 2, Witr 3, and Nafl 2, total 17;

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Friday Prayer (Jumu’ah)

The Jews have Saturday and the Christians have Sunday as the day in a week exclusively meant for devotion and divine service with closed holiday for worldly work. The Muslims, on the contrary, have no such day in a week exclusively dedicated to worship with total leave from worldly work. They have Friday and it is obligatory for them to offer Jumu’ah prayer in congregation in the mosque in lieu of Zuhr prayer and its time is almost that of the Zuhr prayer. The Muslims are allowed to work on the day except during the time of prayer.

The Jumu’ah prayer is held in rather a bigger mosque of the locality which attracts and accommodates larger gathering of the believers. The women are allowed to participate only at their option while the slaves, children, physically incapacitated are not compulsorily required to attend. The actual prayer is preceded by the khutbah (sermon) called Friday Sermon in which the Imam or Khateeb (the person who reads sermon) recites verses of the Qur’an invokes blessings on Prophet Muhammad and emphasizes the duties of the believers to Allah and to each other. He also tells about the rewards for the pious and the punishment for the wicked in the Hereafter, and may shed light on the socio-economic problems faced by the Muslims Ummah (community). Number of Rak’ats of the Jumu’ah prayer is traditionally 14 which is: Sunnat 4, Fard in congregation 2, Sunnat 4, Sunnat 2 and Nafl 2. One cannot offer Friday prayer alone or at home. If he misses the Jumu’ah prayer, he will offer Zhur prayer instead.

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Tahajjud Prayer

The Holy Qur’an made Tahajjud prayer compulsory for the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Verse 79 of chapter 17 of the Qur’an reads: “Besides this, offer Tahajjud prayer: This is an additional prayer for you. That time is not far when your Lord may exalt you to a laudable position”.

Although this prayer is not compulsory for the followers of Muhammad (PBUH), but acting upon the Sunnah of their beloved teacher, the most God-fearing among the Muslims offer this prayer in order to attain spiritual elevation. Tahajjud prayer is an effective way of self- purification and of developing virtues of steadfastness and fortitude. The Qur’an says: indeed, breaking the sleep at night is an affective way to subdue the self and is suitable for reciting the Qur’an” (73:6).

Tahajjud literally means “to break the sleep and get up”. This prayer is offered every night, a little after midnight, say between 1.00 Am to 3.00 A.m. The number of Rak’at varies between 2 to 8 according to some scholars or between 4 to 12 according to some other.

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III- Zakat

The word ‘Zakat’ literally means ‘growth’ or ‘increase’ or ‘nourishment’. Thus Zakat means ‘to grow’, ‘to increase’ or ‘to purify’. Zakat helps the purification of human soul from miserliness, selfishness, lust and greed of wealth and thus it paves the way for its growth and development. The spending of wealth for the sake of Allah purifies the heart of man from the love of materialism and instead inculcates in his heart love of God and love of humanity. Apart from its moral and spiritual effects, Zakat has also many economic and social repercussions. It establishes brotherhood, friendship and fraternity among the rich and the poor. Zakat prevents the concentration of wealth in few hands and ensures its distribution in the hands of many. It also discourages hoarding and brings about the circulation of capital into the national economy. In this way, Zakat ensures the growth of national wealth and promotes national integration and social bonds.

Zakat is not only a tax but also an act of worship. It is one of the fundamental articles of faith for a Muslim. Zakat is one of the five columns or pillars upon which the whole edifice of Islam is built. Next to Salat (prayer), Zakat is the most important of the religious obligations enjoined on the followers of Islam.

The importance of Zakat in Islam can be judged from this very fact that the Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, mentions Zakat for more than eighty times, while for twenty seven times commandments regarding Zakat are found in close connection with obligatory Salat (prayer). M.A. Mannan in his book “Islamic Economics: Theory and Practice”, remarks: “Salat (prayer) rouses the feeling of equality and brotherhood between the rich and the poor, the high and the low, and Zakat puts the feeling of brotherhood on a firm footing by making the rich and the capitalists responsible for the maintenance of the poor and the needy. The spiritual and moral values of Islam inculcated by Salat would lose their significance if men did nothing to eradicate poverty for bringing about social justice.” Another eminent scholar writes: “The spiritual discipline inculcated by prayer would lose its practical significance if men did nothing to organize themselves to root out poverty and social injustice. The brotherhood of man is not realized only by bowing together of the ruler and the subject, the lord and the peasant, the factory-owner and the wage-earner shoulder to shoulder before one God, but is established on a firm foundation even outside a mosque where the king and the lord and the factory-owner are made jointly responsible for the elementary necessities of life of the subject and the peasant and the wage-earner.”

The prophet of Islam (PBUH) instructed Mu’az, when the latter was sent to Yemen as Governor: “Teach them that Allah has made obligatory over them Zakat which will be taken from the rich and will be given to the poor among them.” This Hadith of Prophet (PBUH) explains the nature and purpose of Zakat.

The rules and regulations of Zakat as laid down by the Muslim jurists in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah are:

1.      Zakat is imposed on the wealth of a person who is (a) Muslim (b) adult (c) sane (d) free and (e) solvent. However, Zakat is also payable on the wealth of a minor as well as on the wealth of an insane person but it is paid by the guardian. As it is a religious duty, it is obligatory on a Muslim only and no non-Muslim is obliged to pay it. A slave and insolvent debtor is also not liable to its payment.

2.      Nisab of Zakat or the minimum limit of wealth which attracts liability of Zakat has also been fixed at various levels in case of different categories of wealth. Nisab in case of gold is 20 Misqal or 7.5 tolas or 3 ounces. In case of silver, it is 200 Dirhams or 52.5 tolas or 21 ounces. In case of camels, it is 5 in number. In case of cows, it is 30 and in case of goats and sheep, it is 40 in number. Articles of trade and general merchandise qualify for Zakat when their value is equal to Nisab of silver.

3.      Rate of Zakat in case of gold and silver is 2.5%, in case of cattle wealth it varies between 1% to 2.5%, while in case of articles of trade it has been fixed at 2.5%. Assets of modern times like shares and stocks, cash and coins, deposits in banks, investments and debentures, etc. are also charged to Zakat at the rate of 2.5%.

4.      No Zakat is due on property before a year elapses. Ibn Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever acquires wealth, there is no Zakat therein till a year passed over it” (Tirmizi). For the purpose of Zakat, the Muslim financial year begins with the month of Ramadhan. Advance payment of Zakat is also permitted like the advance payment of Income Tax these days.

5.      Properties which were subjected to Zakat in the early Islamic State included gold and silver, animal wealth, articles of trade, etc. During the reign of Umar, horses were also subjected to Zakat when they were bred and traded on a larger scale.

Industrial revolution and technological development have brought in their wake certain properties and assets which were not known in the early days of Islam such as: industrial machinery, bank or currency notes, bank deposits, bonds, securities, shares, stocks, debentures, certificates of credit, bills of exchange, insurance policies, provident funds, certificates of investments, etc. Modern jurists and scholars of Islam are almost unanimous that these assets are chargeable to Zakat in an Islamic State.

6.      The following properties and assets have been exempted from the levy of Zakat:

  1. Personal effects like clothes, articles or furniture, household goods except ornaments and utensils of gold and silver.

  2. Horses and asses for conveyance or Jihad.

  3. Arms or weapons for personal use.

  4. Cattle employed in farming or transportation of goods.

  5. Tools of a professional for his personal use.

  6. Residential house.

  7. Slaves and servants.

  8. Books.

  9. Food for the owner and his family.

  10. Agricultural land and factory building and machinery etc.

7.      Zakat cannot be lawfully paid to members of the tribe of Hashim who was the great grand- father of the prophet of Islam. It cannot be paid to Non-Muslims. Servants and slaves are also not eligible for Zakat when it is paid to them in consideration of their services. A person possessing Nisab property is also not eligible for it. One’s ascendants and descendants are also not eligible for Zakat. Wife and husband cannot pay Zakat to each other. Similarly, according to some jurists Zakat cannot be spent on the construction of a mosque.

8.      Zakat is levied only on what remains after satisfaction of one’s basic necessities. Wealth for Zakat is computed after deducting the amount of debt which the assessee owes to others. All the wealth and assets owned by an assessee are not clubbed together for the purpose of Zakat because every category of wealth has its own Nisab and its own rate. In case of joint ownership of wealth, the share of each partner is considered separately. Zakat can be collected or paid in kind or cash, whichever method is convenient. Zakat on visible or apparent wealth is assessed and collected by the Islamic State but in case of invisible or non-apparent assests, Zakat can be assessed and determined by the Zakat payer himself. However, in this case also Zakat should be paid to the State.

9.      Zakat or Sadaqa levied on the agricultural produce is called Ushr. It is levied at the rate of 10% of the produce in case of rain-irrigated land and at 5% in case of land irrigated by artificial means of irrigation such as wells. Nisab or minimum amount of produce which attracts Ushr is 5 vasqa or 948 kg.

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IV- Fasting (Saum)

Fasting is known to man since time immemorial and it has existed as an institution through ages in almost all religions and philosophies of life. The prophets, philosophers, sages, saints, religious leaders and thinkers adopted fasting as a means of controlling passions and attaining spiritual and moral elevation. Not only the revealed religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam have prescribed fasting for their followers but even the followers of other religions like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism have been practicing fasting. Thus institution of fasting is universal among mankind. The Holy Qur’an in its very first verse on fasting (2:183) emphasizes this fact that fasting was also prescribed by God for those religious communities who lived before the Muslims.

Fasting was made obligatory for Muslims in 2 A.H. before the Battle of Badar. It is compulsory for the month of Ramadhan which is the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar and has 29 or 30 days. The Ramadhan is also the month in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed. Fasting starts from dawn and closes at sunset on everyday and during fasting total abstention from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse is essential. It is obligatory for every Muslim, male or female, rich or poor, slave or free, to fast during the month of Ramadhan. However, sick and those who are on a journey are allowed exemption from fasting but they are required to fast the same number of other days when they recover health or their journey terminates. But those who are permanently sick or are too old to keep fast are allowed the option to feed one poor person in lieu of one day’s fast. During the night of fast, the fast observer is allowed to eat, drink and have sexual intercourse. However, when a fasting person is engaged in I’tikaf (Secluded devotion), he is not permitted to sexual intercourse even during nights of fast. During month of Ramadhan, special prayers called “Taraweeh” are offered after night prayer (Isha). In these prayers a memorizer (Hafiz) of the Holy Qur’an recites the Qur’an in portions to complete its recitation in the month. These prayers are quite lengthy and comprise twenty “Rakat” each.

Besides being a fulfillment of a religious obligation, fasting has many benefits. It helps in controlling the passions. It is useful in attaining spiritual advancement and purification of the soul. It sharpens intellect and promotes the thinking faculty of the man. Fasting contributes in maintaining health as it reduces weight of the body and removes unnecessary fat and cholesterol deposits in the body. Fasting teaches sympathy for the poor as it makes everyone realize, through his or her own experience, how it feels to be hungry and thirsty. Thus the fasting person gains true appreciation of the needs of the poor and when he helps the poor his act promotes cause of unity and brotherhood. Fasting teaches regularity, punctuality and self-discipline. And above all, fasting brings nearness to Allah because He likes the act of fasting and because fasting makes the man pious and God-fearing. The excellence and merits of fasting have been highlighted by the Qur’an and the Prophet of Islam, and many rewards have been promised to those who regularly fulfill the obligation of fasting.

Besides compulsory fasting of the month of Ramadhan, optional fasting is also encouraged by Islam for earning reward from Allah. Fasting has also been prescribed for atonement of certain offences and sins. Muslims are encouraged during Ramadhan especially to do acts of devotion, charity and piety as the reward of each such act during Ramadhan is increased manifold. Offering of morning meal (Sehri) and evening meal (Iftari) to the poor fasters is considered to carry great merit in terms of reward. At the completion of the month of fasting, the followers of Islam celebrate the Eid-Ul-Fitr (a festival in the nature of thanks-giving to God) and give special alms (Sadaqat-ul-Fitr) to the poor.

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Itikaf (Seclusion)

Itikaf means to isolate oneself and stay in a place. In Islam, it signifies the practice of the followers of Islam in the tradition of their beloved Prophet to seclude themselves from worldly duties and stay in a mosque for the last nine or ten days of the Holy month of Ramadhan for whole-time devotion. In these days they are not allowed to have sexual relation with their wives even during nights of fast and to leave their palace (mosque) except for a very short period and that too for very urgent necessity like call of nature or to join a funeral. Besides fasting and usual five daily prayers, they devote their full time to worship of Allah and recitation of the Holy Qur’an.

Itikaf is Sunnat Kefayah i.e., not compulsory but it must be performed at least by few believers of the locality in the mosque.

The women are directed to perform this act of devotion in their homes. Itikaf begins from the Magrib prayer of the 20th of Ramadhan and terminates with the sighting of new moon of the month of Shawal and thus it may comprise a period of nine or ten days.

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V- Pilgrimage (Hajj)

Hajj or the pilgrimage is the fifth pillar of Islam which has got a historical background. Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), the spiritual leader of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (and forefather of Prophet Moses, Jesus and Muhammad) built Ka’aba (House of God) at Makkah, with assistance of his elder son Prophet Ismael some eighteen hundred years before Christ. He was commanded by Allah to purify the House and proclaim Pilgrimage unto mankind that “they will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel ….. from every deep ravine.” Thus the people started visiting the Holy Ka’aba for performing the pilgrimage. However, with the passage of time the rituals and practices connected with pilgrimage were corrupted. Ka’aba became the place filled with so many idols and people started circumambulating it in a naked state. The Prophet of Islam conquered Makkah in the year 8 A.H. (corresponding to 630 A.D.), cleansed Ka’aba of the idols and restored its original position as the old shrine devoted to worship of one God. The original spirit of the pilgrimage (Hajj) was also restored and the Pilgrimage became compulsory for a Muslim as a fundamental article of faith in the year 9 A.H. (631 A.D.). The Prophet performed Pilgrimage himself in the year 10 A.H. that is some months before his death. This is known as the Farewell Pilgrimage. The sermon delivered by the Prophet in the plain of Arafat is known as the Sermon on the Mount. It presents gist of the teachings of Islam and is rightly regarded Islam’s charter of fundamental rights and civil liberties. The Farewell Pilgrimage performed by the Prophet and the rules and procedure of Hajj laid down by him is a goodly pattern for his followers all over the world for all times.

The pilgrimage comprises performance of certain acts and rites of devotion at the Holy Ka’aba and in the valleys of Mina and Arafat near Makkah. It is an all-embracing worship which combines in itself all the virtues of physical devotions such as prayer and fasting and monetary devotions such as Zakat and Sadaqat.

Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet have stressed the importance of Pilgrimage, its place in religion, its merits and excellence, and its virtues and rewards. The performance of Hajj once in life is obligatory for a believer who has attained maturity, is sane, is free, and is physically able to undertake the journey and financially able to afford its expenses. Those who fulfill these conditions and on whom Hajj becomes obligatory but they do not perform it, are great sinners.

The Pilgrimage gathers the Muslims at Makkah once in a year from all over the world irrespective of their race, colour, blood, language, place of birth, social and economic status and thus fosters brotherly love and affection among them. It is a world congress of the Muslims, a universal assemblage of the brethren-in-faith, at the House of Allah whom they love and in whose direction they have been offering their prayer since their very childhood. Thus in the social realm, the Hajj is the highest manifestation of Islamic fraternity and equality, while in the spiritual realm it contributes to the growth of soul and purifies the pilgrim of all the sins making him as he was on the day his mother gave him birth.

Rites of Hajj which are imperative in nature (fard) are three, namely: wearing of Ihram (Pilgrim’s garment); halting at Arafat, and performing Tawaf-e-Ziarah (visiting of Ka’aba for making seven circuits around it). If any of this is missed or ignored, pilgrimage would be invalid. Less imperative (wajib) rites include stay for night at Muzdalifah, throwing stones at Jamrahs (statues of satan), to shave or cut the hairs of the head, to offer animal sacrifice, to make Tawaf at the time of leaving Makkah, to run between Safa and Marwa.

The procedure of Hajj as prescribed by the jurists in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah is briefly stated as under:

“The pilgrims should put on the pilgrim’ garment (Ihram) as soon as they reach a miqat, one of the fixed points on all the roads to Makkah. After this they should abide by the code prescribed for Hajj. If on reaching Makkah, a pilgrim whished to perform ‘Umrah, he might then put off Ihram and release himself from restrictions imposed by it up to the 7th of Zill-Hajjah. On the 8th , he should again put on Ihram at Makkah and go to Mina, a valley six miles from there. On the 9th he should proceed to the valley of ‘Arafat which is about five miles further from Mina and stay there to the evening. Then he should return to Mash’ar-i-Haram (Muzdalifah) which is midway between ‘Arafat and Mina and pass the night between 9th and the 10th, there in prayer, meditation and devotion. On the morning of the 10th, he should come back to Mina and should throw stones at the statues of Satan and then offer sacrifice there. After this he should cut the hairs of his head and put off the Ihram and go to Makkah and perform Tawwaf-i-Ziarat (going round the Ka’aba). Then he should return to Mina and stay there for two or three days. The three days (from the 11th to the 13th of Zul-Hijjah) are called the days of “Tashriq.” During the days of Tashriq he should twice throw stones at Jamrahs.

Subjects connected with Hajj such as Tawaf, Umrah, sacrifice, Ka’aba shall be discussed in the subsequent paras.

Festival of Eid-ul-Azha is celebrated by the followers of Islam on 10th of Zil-Hijjah every year and those who cannot join their brothers at Mina, Makkah, offer their animal-sacrifices wherever they live in the world.

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Umrah means a visit to Ka’aba. It is shorter Hajj and unlike Hajj it is not compulsory even once in life. Although performance of Umrah is optional but still it attracts countless believers from all over the world throughout the year (except during the months of hajj) because of the fact that it brings many rewards and blessings to the pilgrims. According to the Prophet of Islam, Umrah is an expiation for the sins committed between it and another Umrah, while Umrah performed during Ramadhan is equal to one pilgrimage in reward.

The person intending to perform Umrah is required to put on Ihram (pilgrim’s garment) from the Miqat after taking purification bath. When he reaches Ka’aba he shall make Tawaf of the house. After completing Tawaf he would offer two rak’ats of prayer at Maqam-e-Ibrahim and take water of Zamzam. Then he would make Sa’ai between the hillocks of al-Safa and al-Marwah. After completing Sa’ai he would cut or shave the hairs of his head and then put off Ihram. Thus his Umrah is complete.

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The Ka’aba at Makkah is the house of God and is held in very high reverence by the followers of Islam. The Qur’an calls it ‘ancient house’ (Baitul Atiq) and tells us that it is the first place of worship built for mankind. From pre-historic days it was a place of pilgrimage visited by many people who came from every corner of Arabia. According to a tradition, Ka’aba is said to exist since Adam (the first human and also the first Prophet of God) lived as a prototype of the ‘Frequented house’ (Baitul Mamur) in Heaven.

Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) built it more than 1800 years before Christ with the assistance of his son Prophet Ismael on the ruins of the old house. Allah directed Abraham and Ismael to sanctify His House for those who circumambulate around it or use it as a retreat or bow or prostrate themselves therein in prayer.

The Ka’aba is the place of worship of One God, Allah. It is also the direction to which the believers all over the world turn their faces during prayer. It is a place of security and peace as war is prohibited within its precincts. It is centre of Hajj and Umrah as Tawaf (circumambulation) around it is an integral part of these devotional acts. Near it are the hillocks of Safa and Marwah, the Sa’ai (running in between) of which is also essential for performing Hajj and Umrah.

The Ka’aba is a small rectangular building of nearly fifty feet in height which stands in the centre of an open space like a parallelogram surrounded now by an all round building known Masjid Al-Haram (sometime all the place including Ka’aba is called as such). Maqam Ibrahim and Ab-e-Zamzam building also lie within the premises of Masjid Al-Haram and near Ka’aba. In one corner of it the Black Stone (Hajr-e-Aswad) is fixed which is to be kissed during Tawaf.

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Tawaf (circumambulation)

Both in Hajj as well as in Umrah, the pilgrims are required to walk seven times around Ka’aba and seven times between hillocks of As-Safa and Al-Marwah. These are called Tawaf and Sa’ai respectively.

Tawaf occupies the most important place in the devotional acts of Hajj as it is the first one which is performed when a pilgrim arrives at Makkah and the last one when he leaves it. The former is called Tawaf-al-Qudum (the Tawaf of arrival) and the latter is called Tawaf-al-Wada (the Tawaf of departure). Tawaf-e-Ziarat is one of the major three essential acts of Hajj and is preformed when the pilgrim is staying at Mina during 10th and 12th of Zil-Hajja. During the first three rounds of Tawaf, the pilgrim runs at mild speed and it is called ‘Rami’, while during the last four rounds he walks in a normal way. Tawaf starts from Hajr-e-Aswad and ends at it and the Hajr-e-Aswad (the Black Stone) is kissed at the end of each round. In case of sick and physically disabled persons, the Tawaf can be performed on conveyance. At the end of Tawaf two Rak’ats Nafl prayer is offered at Maqam-e-Ibrahim and then Ab-e-Zamzam is taken to heart’s full.

Sa'ai (Running)

After Tawaf, a pilgrim shall run seven times between the hillocks of As-Safa and Al-Marwah to perform Sa’ai which starts from the former after prayer and ends at the latter followed by shaving or cutting the hairs of the head to remove Ihram (pilgrim’s garment). Hagra, the wife of Prophet Abraham, when left with her infant child (Ismael) in the desert of Makkah, ran between the two hills in search of water for her thirsty son. To her astonishment, she found a spring near the feet of the child which saved them from death through thirst. This well even exists to date and is known as Zamzam because Hajra asked the water to stop as she feared it may not flood the valley. It is in commemoration of Hagra’s running that Sa’ai between the hillocks of As-Safa and Al-Marwah has been made as an obligatory ritual of Hajj and Umrah.

The women walk in normal pace during all the seven rounds of Tawaf and Sa’ai. They are prohibited to perform Tawaf and Sa’ai during menses.

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Animal Sacrifice

The followers of Islam offer sacrifice every year during the days from 10th to 12th of Al-Hijjah, which is the last month of Lunar Calendar of Hijrah, by slaughtering animals such as camels, cattle, goats and sheep. Those who have gone to Makkah for pilgrimage offer the sacrifice at Mina. It is in the memory of the great sacrifice by Prophet Abraham of his son Prophet Ismael. Though the sacrifice of the son by the father actually did not take place but the way the father and the son surrendered to the will of God was very pleasing to the Almighty who ransomed Ismael with the tremendous sacrifice (of a ram which Abraham subsequently found near Ismael and slaughtered it). According to a scholar, this great event not only fulfilled the vision of Prophet Abraham but also marked the end of human sacrifice by the Simitic race.

The days of sacrifice are celebrated as festival of Eid-ul-azha and special prayer in the morning of 10th of Al-Hijjah is offered before sacrifice which attracts large gatherings of the believers. Sacrifice is obligatory only on those believers who can financially afford it being owner of the assets at the level which makes one liable to pay Zakat. Sacrifice of a goat or sheep is counted one sacrifice whereas sacrifice of a camel or a cow is counted as seven. The age of the camel should not be less than 5 years, cow not less than 2 years, goat not less than one year and sheep not less than 6 months. The animals should be healthy and without any serious defect in ear, leg, horn or in any other limb.

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