Chapter 17: What is Islam by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



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What is Islam

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry


Daily Life of a Muslim

Birth and Early Life: When a child is born in a Muslim family, the Azan (ritual call to prayer) is pronounced in the right ear of the child and the Iqamah (ritual call to initiate congregational prayer) in the left ear. Thus the first thing a Muslim child, after coming into this world, hears is the attestation of the belief and call to the worship of the Creator. Then the name to the child is given. The name to the male child is generally given after the attributes of God, after the names of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), after the names of other Prophets of God, or after the names of the companions of the Prophet and other heroes of Islamic history; while a female child is named after the names of the mother and wives and daughters of the Prophet of Islam, after the names of the pious Muslim women of the days of the Prophet, or after the names of the famous Muslim women of the history of Islam.

When the hairs of the child are cut for the first time some charity is given to the poor generally equal to the weight of the hairs in silver or in its equivalent in local currency. If the family can afford, a goat or a sheep is also slaughtered to entertain the poor, the kin and the friends. This celebration is called Aqeeqah. The male child is circumcised at an early age.

When a child attains the age of 4 or 5, his studies commence. As a first lesson, the child is made to repeat after the tutor first five verses of chapter 96 of the Holy Qur’an which consist of first revelation to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). A feast is arranged to celebrate the occasion. When the child starts going to school, he is also supposed to start learning the Qur’an.

Normally at the age of seven, the child is taught how to pray and from the age of ten parents are supposed to apply sanctions so that the child gets accustomed to prayer. Fast is obligatory, even as prayer, from the age of puberty. However, the parents make the child familiar with fast gradually, starting with one or two in first year and increasing the number in each year till by the age of maturity the child gets accustomed to bear the strain of fast.

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Adult Life and Marriage: As adult a Muslim is obliged to pay Zakat himself out of his wealth provided it reaches the level which attracts this levy. He is also obliged to perform Hajj once in his life but if earlier the better.

Marriage is the Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet and it is obligatory to get married unless there is some valid excuse. So when a child reaches puberty (in case of girls the age is 15 while in case of boys the age is 16 or 18), the parents should arrange for his or her marriage. Marriage of son or daughter is considered a great function in which friends and relatives participate. Bridegroom comes to the house of the bride with party of his relatives and friends. Marriage contract is signed by the bridegroom and the bride in the presence of witnesses. A cleric or a priest recites formula of marriage (nikah) to which bridegroom and bride express their consent. Dower gift (Mahr) is generally prescribed as a part of marriage contract and the bridegroom undertakes to pay it to the bride immediately or on demand. When the groom takes his bride to his house, he hosts a feast (Waleema) and entertains relatives and friends in order to celebrate his marriage.

A Muslim can marry a Jew or a Christian woman even if she is not converted to Islam. But he cannot marry another non-Muslim woman if she does not embrace Islam. However, a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim, not even a Jew or Christian, if he does not embrace Islam.

As an adult person, a Muslim man and a woman, is expected, rather is duty — bound to fulfill all his or her obligations towards God and towards fellow humans and lead life strictly in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

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Death: At the time of death a Muslim is required to pronounce at least the first Kalima (formula of belief): “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is messenger of Allah”. If he fails to remember it, the Muslims sitting around the patient are required to help the patient by repeating it to him. The eyes of the deceased are closed, body is placed straight with face toward heaven and hands on the chest crossed on each other or on sides as if in the service of prayer.

The body of the dead person is washed and cleaned before burial, and if not possible then dry ablution (tayammum) is sufficient. After enshrouding the dead body in three simple sheets of white cloth, a funeral prayer or service is convened. The grave is dug parallel to Makkah, if possible, and after lowering the body in the grave, the head of the dead is turned slightly to the right side so that it faces the Kaabah. After burial, certain verses of the Holy Qur’an or certain prayers recommended for the occasion are recited. The graves should be simple as lavish spending on graves is forbidden.

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Life-routine: Besides five daily prayers, annual fasting and other compulsory religious duties, one must make it his life routine to devote some time daily to learn the Holy Qur’an and recite it. He should also study Hadith and other Islamic literature to understand Islam or at least its basic teachings. If he does not know Arabic, he should try to learn it. If not possible, then he should try to understand the Qur’an with the help of a good translation and commentary.

Every act or activity in daily life should be commenced by reciting Bismillah (with the name of God) and should be ended with Alhamdulillah (Thank God). The conduct and manners of the Prophet should be followed in eating, drinking, dressing, sleeping, walking, sitting and other daily routines.

One must make it a life routine to remember and glorify Allah especially when going to sleep and when rising up. He should also invoke mercy of Allah on Prophet Muhammad and recite darood (peace and blessings) on him. Piety demands that in addition to five daily prayers one must offer more prayers particularly Tahajjud (mid-night) prayer. Besides paying Zakat which is compulsory tax, one must spend as much as one can for the sake of the poor and in the cause of God. In addition to compulsory fasting of Ramadan one must keep optional fasts if physically he can. A Muslim is expected to devote some of his time, energy and wealth for common causes of Muslim Ummah and contribute towards the happiness and progress of his Muslim brethren.

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Dress: Islam does not prescribe any particular or specific code of dress. It has left the matter to be decided by the individuals and society according to weather conditions, customs, needs and environments. However, certain fundamental rules have been laid down for all times for the guidance of the Muslims. The dress should not be too short or too thin but it should be proper in order to cover private parts from nakedness. Let not the Satan seduce the believer as he seduced Adam and Eve and tore off from them their robe to make them see their shame. The dress should be decent and should not display nudity, obscenity or vulgarity. The dress should be modest and simple. It should not be very expensive so as to give impression of extravagance and pride. The men are discouraged to wear silk or clothes of red colour. Lengthening of trousers beyond ankles was forbidden as it was a custom of the Arabs of the age of Ignorance to give an air of vanity. The dress should be very clean. The Prophet preferred clothes of white colour or of green colour. Perfume was liked by the Prophet and he recommended its use to the believers, men and women. Shoes must be used and if possible socks should also be used. The dress should be such that it should protect one from cold and heat. One should be decently and beautifully dressed when one goes to mosques or on religious and other public festivals.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) discouraged his followers to imitate other people in matter of dress. He also forbad the men to put on dress of women and the women to put on the dress of men. The Prophet grew a beard and recommended the men to have it. To keep moustaches is, however, discouraged as it was a custom of the pagans of pre-Islamic Arabia.

All religions prescribe that fornication and adultery are crimes but Islam goes a little further and takes measures to diminish the temptations. Therefore, women are required to fulfill certain additional responsibilities in matters of dress and adornment (make-up), particularly when they come in the presence of men or when they come out of their homes.

The Qur’an says:

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and not to display their adornment except that which appears of itself, and to draw their veils over their bosoms…. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment…..” (24:31). The Qur’an further says: “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed (or molested)……” (33:59). According to a tradition, when Asma’a (Prophet’s sister in law) came with thin clothes on her, the Prophet said to her: “O Asma’a! when a girl attains puberty, it is not proper that any thing on her should remain exposed except her face and hands.” Thus these are the instructions which have been issued by the Qur’an and the Prophet to Muslim women regarding their dress and make-up when they come in the public.

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Food: We have already studied food or dietary laws of Islam. Distinction is made by Islam between halal (lawful and hence permitted) food items and haram (unlawful and hence forbidden) food items.

All pure and wholesome food lawfully earned such as sea food, fruits, vegetables, pulses, corn, meat of permitted (halal) animals slaughtered in the name of God, is permitted (Halal) to a Muslim except those items which have been specially declared as forbidden (Haram) by the Qur’an and the Sunnah such as dead animals, blood, pork, meat of animals which are not slaughtered in the name of Allah or which are slaughtered in name of other than Allah, wine and other intoxicants, etc. etc.

A true and practicing Muslim strictly follows food laws of Islam. He avoids forbidden items of food like pork and wine and takes only those items which are allowed by Islamic code of dietary laws.

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Social and moral Life: A true follower of Muhammad (PBUH) acts upon all the injunctions of Islam and follows moral and social code of conduct prescribed by Islam in his private as well as public life. Islam does not make any difference between private life and public life of a Muslim and, therefore, life of a Muslim is transparent and clean in its all dimensions.

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