Fundamentals of Islam
Prof. Mehboob Desai
Gandhiji has explained the meaning of Islam by saying,
“The meaning of Islam is Peace. It is not related to Muslims only, but to all communities and to Universal Peace.”
Now, Islam is spread in every nook and corner of human world. The followers of Islam are called Muslims. They are supposed to live nonviolently. Islam is very necessary for the maintenance of peace in the world, now and in the future. It is true that the peace prevails due to nonviolence. For the practice of nonviolence in daily life, one must know the fundamentals of Islam. They are five in numbers. The speciality of these fundamentals is none of them preaches violence. Moreover, all of them recommend the Muslims for following the nonviolence in thinking, in preaching and in practicing the daily livelihood actions. These five fundamentals of Islam are necessary for injecting the nonviolence in practical life.
The five fundamentals of Islam are Shahada or Creed , Salat or Prayer, Saum or Fasting, Zakat or Purifying Annual Tax and Hajj or Pilgrimage to Makkah as observed by Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him.
Shahada or Creed means belief in oneness of God. This concept is known as Tauhid in Islamic thought. Tauhid means to believe in that, ‘God is One.” Hence, the alleged divine power shared by any other deemed Divinity, either physical or theosophical is completely rejected. So, it is said in Islam, “La Ilaha Illallah.” As far as Mohammad, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, is concerned, all Muslims believe in that “Mohammad is the Messenger of God.” So, it is declared, “Mohammadur Rasoolullah.” Then, Mohammad, peace be upon him, was chosen by God only to deliver the Word and Warning of Allah, the Cherisher of the worlds. The Shahada or Tauhid has been clarified as ‘to believe only in Oneness of God.’ As the Mohammad, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, would not held responsible for the wrong doings of any human being, so, he had no compulsion to take the course of sword to compel any Arab or non-Arab to accept the Islam.
Salat or Namaaz is a form of prayer. No doubt, a Prayer is dedicated to God, but it purifies the thoughts and body of a Muslim. The Book of God, Holy Quran ordains a Muslim to pray five times daily in normal conditions. When a Muslim child comes to certain age of understanding, then the prayer becomes obligatory on that child. The physical actions during the prayer are adopted from the Traditions of Mohammad, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him. In fact, the procedure of prayer is very simple and pliable even for a child. The Traditions shows us so many ways as to adjust ourselves in prayer according to our present conditions, positions and dress codes. Hence, there would be no violence of any kind in performing the physical actions of prayer or in reciting the sentences in prayer.
Now we come to the topic of Saum, Roza or Fasting. In every Creed of the current world, some kind of Fasting is religiously practiced. Many think the Fasting gives health for the physical body, as well as some purity for one’s mental form. Islam does not intend to keep a Muslim fasting only for tolerating the pangs of hunger, thirst and of desires. Islam is intending to teach a Muslim to keep himself in Self-Restraint. During the Fasting, a Muslim is ordained to follow the three saintly monkeys that are “Never See Bad Thing,” “Never Hear Bad Thing” and “Never Tell Bad Thing.” In addition, they have to follow the fourth monkey that “Never Do a Bad Thing.” Almost, in a way, the four jewel of Jain Dharma, namely Samyagdrusti, Samyaggyan, Samyagvani and Samyagcharitra are followed by a Muslim during the period of Fasting. Our Lord ordains the Muslims to maintain the Fasting during the month of Ramadan. He says in Holy Quran,
“O Ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may learn self-restraint. Fasting for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill or on a journey the prescribed number should be made up from days later. For those who can do it with hardship is a ransom the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more of his own free will it is better for him and it is better for you that ye fast if ye only knew. Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur'an as a guide to mankind also clear Signs for guidance and judgment between right and wrong. So every one of you who is present at his home during that month should spend it in fasting but if anyone is ill or on a journey the prescribed period should be made up by days later. Allah intends every facility for you He does not want to put you to difficulties. Allah wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.”
During the Fasting, one should learn to keep himself in self-restraint, should learn to feed the hungry of one’s own free will, to clarify the difference the right doings from wrong doings, to be grateful of his Lord and to perform his duties as though they are not a burden on him. We have observed in the Sentences of Holy Quran that as Allah intends every facility for a Muslim, He does not want to put a Muslim to difficulty, no Muslim is expected to cause difficulty or violence to his body or on mind. If one is not able to bear the pains of Fasting, he may feed another hungry man. Without learning the much-sought self-restraint and righteousness, if one goes on Fasting, he will suffer only the pangs of hunger, thirst and desires. If one observes the Saum in a right manner, the deemed violence of hunger, thirst and desire is eliminated.
The fourth fundamental of Islam is Zakat. We may say that Zakat is annual obligatory tax on the rich people. Many modern Economists feel that this Zakat is meant for the benefit of poor people. The Zakat may help the human society in taking out the extra amount from the rich people and to pass on the collected amount to the poor people. Even though, the Zakat cannot eradicate the poverty from the society, in a way, a common cord connects the poor and rich people in the society, at least, in the month of Ramadan. Many Philosophers think that it is a way to provide ‘Roti, Kapada Aur Makaan’ to the poor. As some one is thinking, it may have been fixed at 2.5% per annum on the rich people, to give that amount to the poor people, to eradicate the economic differences in between them. The idea is logical. But, it is not factual. Zakat is not intended for that purpose only. As human beings, we know our wantonness for wealth. Every one of us is greedy of money, even if he is a billionaire. Yet, the Islam teaches a Muslim to spare something out of his wealth for the benefit of his poor brethren, if he is afraid of his Lord, the Cherisher of worlds. While calculating the amount of Zakat, one’s own consciousness guides him to right estimation, more than 2.5%, without any guidance from any other Auditor or Inspector. In a way, Zakat teaches a Muslim to donate to his poor brethren on his own will and might. As there is no outer compulsion of any human official, no one feel any kind of violence in paying the Zakat. Moreover, to some extent, the receiver of Zakat will be relieved from the pangs of economical violence. As the feeding one is carrying for the needy one, the scope of thefts and cheatings is certainly minimized. When such vices are eliminated, the scope of violence is also eliminated. In my view, the basic aim of Islam, the religion of peace, is to generate good relationship in humanity, and fear of God, and thus, to eliminate the root causes of violence.
The final fundamental of Islam is Hajj. Hajj means the pilgrimage to Makkah. The Hajj is the complete pilgrimage, of which the chief rites are during the first ten days of the month of Zul-Hajj. The umra is a less formal pilgrimage at any time of the year. In either case, the intending pilgrim commences by putting on a simple garment of unsewn cloth in two pieces when a Muslim is some distance yet from Makkah. The putting on of the pilgrim garb, called ihram, is symbolic of his renouncing the vanities of the world. When we closely observe a Muslim in ihram, on first sight, he seems to be a Jain Muni. His dress resembles to the dress of Jain Muni. A Muslim temporarily renounces the vanities of the physical world. Until the end of the pilgrimage, a Muslim must not wear other clothes, or ornaments, anoint his hair, use perfumes, hunt, or do other prohibited acts. The completion of the pilgrimage is symbolised by the shaving of the head for men, and the cutting off a few locks of the hair of the head for women, the putting off the ihram and the resumption of the ordinary dress.
Many Islamic scholars of opinion that the Hajj is obligatory on one and all. But, as far as I know, the poor and the needy people, who cannot afford the expenses of Hajj, are freed from this duty. If a rich person is unable to perform a Hajj due to some unavoidable thing, he may assign someone else to perform Hajj on his behalf and at his expense. If one is afraid for one's life or for one's wealth due to something on way, then he is deemed to be as one who cannot afford the journey for Hajj. The person intending to perform Hajj should not sell his clothes, his personal belongings, or his house--even if they were abundant to get money for Hajj. Means of traveling imply that which enables him to go to Hajj and come back, whether it is by land, by sea, or by air.
The great financial burden and the good requirement of physical stamina may have caused some kind of violence on the intendant pilgrim. Allah is not intending to cause unnecessary violence to His believers. So, as per the wish of Allah, our Mohammad, the Messenger of Allah, pease be upon him, had said,
“O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to. You know that every Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. You are all equal. Nobody has superiority over other except by piety and good action.”
This Sermon of Mohammad, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, gives mental peace to the poor, unhealthy and helpless people, who had not performed the Hajj due to some reason. Due to this Sermon, a Muslim who had performed a hajj cannot be proud of it, and a Muslim who had not performed ashamed of non-performance, because, nobody has superiority over other except by piety and good action. Where there is piety and good action, there is no place for violence.