O level Notes : FRS - Islam or Islamic Religion

This  topic  discusses  various  issues  in  Islam. This  topic  focuses  on  the  rituals in  Islam, religious practitioners in Islam and sacred places in Islam. The topic highlights  different Islamic rituals from birth, up to death.

The topic looks at the roles of the religious practitioners in Islam. Sacred places are also important in Islam, so the topic looks at various sacred places in Islam.

RITUALS IN ISLAM

Islamic rituals are a significant part of Islamic beliefs. These beliefs are based on the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad. Rituals in Islam follow a written procedure for every ceremony.

1. Birth rituals

Birth rituals in Islam are so many and they include; adhan, tanheek, Aqiqah and removal of the hair.

(a) The Adhan (call to prayer)

Muslims believe that when a child is born, the child is a Muslim. When a child is born, the father whispers in the right ear of the child the words, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”

 

(b) The Tahneek (putting something sweet on the mouth of the infant)

 

This is a ritual in which the baby’s first taste should be something  sweet. Parents chew a piece of honey and rub the juice along the baby’s gums. This practice is believed to have been carried out by the Prophet Muhammad and is believed to help tiny digestive systems to kick.

(c) Aqiqah (sacrifice of an animal)

This is a ritual which is done when the baby is born and is a celebration which involves the slaughtering  of sheep or goat. The sheep is sacrificed and the meat is distributed to relatives and neighbours and also given

to the poor. On the seventh day, a child is given a name. The baby is named after one of the prophets or one of the great men or women of early Islam.

(d) Shaving ritual

 

This is a ritual ceremony where the removal of hair is done. It symbolises the cleansing  of the baby from impurities and the start of life afresh in the presence of Allah. The shaved hair is weighed and the equivalent weight in silver is given to charity.

(e) Circumcision ritual

Circumcision is done soon after the child is born to allow healing process which is faster when one is young. Once a child is purified by Aqiqah, he or she should try to stay faithful to Allah and the teachings  of the Prophet Muhammad.

(f) Taweez 

This is a ritual when a black piece of string with a pouch of prayers is tied around the wrist of the baby.

(g) Naming ritual

The baby is named on the seventh day by the father. The father decides the name of the child. In most cases the name is chosen by the parents in presence of an Islamic religious practitioner in the community. The name chosen is an Islamic one like Abdullah, Fathima, Ali and Khadijah. The name should have a positive meaning like Karim meaning kind and Jamilah meaning beautiful.

 

Importance of birth ritual

  • To bless and protect the child from evil spirits.
  • To give identity to the child.
  • To welcome the child into the community.

2. Marriage ritual

 

Marriage is the foundation of society and family life. Marriage rituals are done according  to the laws of the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad. These are;

(a) Salatul Ishtikara (Prayer seeking for guidance)

Families arrange marriages for their children. Once the match is finalised, the Imam of the nearby mosque is invited to perform a special prayer where he  seeks  Allah’s  consent  for  the  intended  union and asks Him to bless the future couple. This marks the official announcement  of the marriage  to the community.

(b) Imam Zamin

The groom’s mother will take with her sweets and gifts to the bride’s house. She also carries a gold or silver coin wrapped inside a silk scarf which she ties around her future daughter-in-law’s wrists. This ritual signifies the formal acceptance of the bride into her future family.

(c) Mangni (Engagement)

 

This ritual marks the official engagement  ceremony between the bride and groom  and their respective families. Relatives and close friends gather to witness the bride and groom exchanging rings. Each family

showers the other with gifts  of sweets, fruits, dry fruits, clothes and sometimes cash. In the eyes of the society the two are betrothed.

(d) Manjha (Place of rescue)

A day or two before the actual marriage  (Nikkah) ceremony, the bride is dressed up in yellow finery. The women of the family gather for the occasion. A turmeric paste is applied to the bride after she takes a bath. After this the bride is not to leave the house till her wedding  day. The same event is observed at the groom’s house as well.

(e) Mehendi (Decorating the body)

 

The daybefore the wedding, the womenof the family gather for the ritual involving henna paste known as Mehendi. The most artistic lady in the family applies henna  paste  in  unique, elaborate  designs  on  the bride’s hands  and  feet. It is customary  to include the groom’s initials within the bride’s henna designs which he has to discern on their first night together.

(f) Sanchaq (pre-wedding ritual)

 

Members of the groom family visit the bride’s place with gifts for the bride. These include the bridal outfit to be won at the time of the Nikkah with matching jewellery and other accessories.

(g) Nikkah ceremony

The ceremony  is officiated by a religious  priest or Maulvi. Men and women sit in separate groups  for the ceremony, women around the bride and males around the groom. The bride’s father is appointed the guardian to look after the bride’s interests. The groom’s family presents the bride with Meher which is an amount of money to seek her consent for marrying the groom.

 

The  Maulvi  begins   the  ceremony  with  a  prayer from the Quran. Vows are made and the marriage contract is signed in the presence of two observers from each side. The marriage  contract  outlines  all possible duties and rights of both the bride and the groom as decreed by the Quran. After this, the family members shower their blessings  on the newly wed couple.

 

(h) Rukhast (Departing)

The bride after Nikkah ceremony bids farewell to her family and sets off for her husband’s home. On arrival she is welcomed by her mother-in-law and the Holy Quran is placed on her head to remind her of her duties.

(i) Walimah (Gathering)

This ceremony marks the public declaration of the marriage accompanied by a great feast. The new couple sit on a throne on the top of the stage greeting all members of both families.

 

(j) Chauthi (fourth day from wedding ceremony)

On the fourth day from the wedding  ceremony, the bride accompanied  by her husband visit her parent’s home. There they will be fed with a lavish lunch and given gifts. This ritual marks the end of the Muslim wedding.

Importance of marriage rituals

  • To seek the bride and family’s consent on the marriage as well as announcing the marriage to the community.
  • To seek marriage blessings from Allah.
  • To outline duties and rights of both the bride and groom as decreed by the Quran.
  • To introduce the new couple to both families.
  • The rhukast is the send-off by the girl’s family showering blessings for a new marriage and a happy stay in her new home.
  • The mangni ritual marks the official engagement ceremony between the bride and groom and their respective families.
  • To declare the marriage publicly to the community.
  • To sign the marriage contract.
  • To exchange marriage vows before the people and Allah that would tie the couple forever in their lifetime.

 

3. Death ritual

Death among the Muslims is the end of life on earth but not the end of a person’s existence. When a person dies certain rituals are to be followed showing that they believe in life after death and judgement day. The body has to be buried as soon as possible. When a person is dying, if he or she is able to, he or she should proclaim the Shahadah. The rituals include;

(i) Mourning

 

A three-day mourning  period  is observed  but  for a woman who has lost a husband, she will have a special  mourning  called  the Iddah which  lasts for four months and ten days. Weeping  is acceptable, but  the Islamic  faith discourages  loud  crying  and acting out during the mourning period. It is believed that the person’s spirit can hear these cries and they cause the spirit to anguish.

(ii) Washing of the body of dead

 

The dead body  is bathed by relatives of the same gender  as the deceased  is bathed  three times to seven  times  until  the  body  is clean. The  body  is placed on a table and after saying, “In the name of Allah,” the washers will use cloths to clean the body from top to bottom and left to right till the body is clean.

(iii) Shrouding the body (Kaffin)

 

Shrouding  for a male and female Muslim has different rules. When wrapping a male Muslim corpse, three sheets and four ropes are used. After placing the man’s hands on his chest, right hand on top of left hand, each sheet is wrapped on the right side over the body. Two ropes are tied just above the head and just below the feet and the other two ropes are to secure the sheets around the body.

For women, the wrappings  are much more intricate. The corpse wears a loose-fitting, sleeveless dress, a head veil and a loin cloth. Just like a male Muslim corpse, three sheets and four ropes are used. Each sheet is wrapped right side first over the body. Two ropes are tied just above the head and just below the feet and the other two ropes are to secure the sheets around the body.

 

(iv) Funeral prayer

 

Soon after shrouding is done, a prayer should be done. The body is taken to an outdoor location sometimes near the mosque where Muslims will stand and offer prayers for the forgiveness of the deceased that the deceased may find peace and happiness in the world to come.

 

(v) The funeral

 

Funeral attendees stand in three horizontal lines facing Mecca outside the mosque; men in the front row, children in the second row and women in the third row. Silently, they recite the Fatihah, the first section of the Quran asking for Allah’s mercy and guidance. Four more prayers are done and before each prayer they say “Allahu Akbar” which means “Allah is good.” The four prayers are Tahahood, a prayer to the prophet Muhammad, and the three personal prayers for the deceased. For a child’s funeral, the third personal prayer is often for the child’s parents.

 

(vi) Transporting the body

 

Traditionally, several men carry the body to the cemetery on foot. A procession follows and no discussion, photos or videos at the time of burial are allowed but only prayers for the soul of the departed. There should also be no incense or candles in the funeral procession.

 

(vii) Burial

 

A Muslim body should be buried in a Muslim cemetery,  and no women  or children  are allowed at the  grave  site during  the  burial. Mourners are required to perform ablutions before the procession begins  if prayers are to be said on the grave  site. The body is taken out of the coffin and laid on its side with three moulds of soil under the head, the chin and the shoulder. The head faces towards Mecca, the holy city as an imitation of the direction of prayer. The deceased is buried in a deep grave to avoid any bad smell coming out and to stop animals from digging.

 

(viii) After the funeral

 

Muslims ritually wash themselves after the funeral is over to purify themselves. Bitter coffee is the traditional Islamic mourning drink which is served to mourners who have come to pay their respects to the dead. It’s traditional to reach out to the mourning family with food after the funeral so that they do not have to worry about cooking as they cope with the loss of a loved one.

Importance of the death ritual

  • Death rituals give unity to the family and community as they mourn.
  • Offering prayers for the forgiveness of the deceased and that they may find peace and happiness in the world to come.
  • To prepare the deceased for the judgement day.
  • Saying the declaration of faith just before death enables the dying person to go to Jannah (garden of the righteous) after death.
  • They are done to prepare the body for the funeral.
  • To see to it that the body is buried facing the city of Mecca.
  • To show that there is life after death.
  • The washing done on the corpse before burial is to purify the body of any sins.
  • The wrapping is to be done rightly so that the deceased looks presentable to the angels that escort him or her to heaven.
  • For a child’s funeral a third personal prayer is done for the parents.
  • Washing done after the funeral is to purify them.
  • To mark the end of a period of mourning.

RELIGIOUS PRACTITIONERS IN ISLAM

In Islam just like other religions, there are also various religious practitioners who are important. The religious practitioners in Islam ensure that the traditions in the religion are preserved. They also play an important role in the long life of Islam.

(a) Imam

The term Imam refers to a leader of worship services at a Mosque.  The  term is more  common  among the Sunni Muslims. The imam for Sunni Muslims is the one who leads Islamic formal (Fard) prayers at Mosques and even in locations outside the mosque. Every prayer session which is done in a group of two or more under the leadership of one person known as the imam  and  others imitate the Imam’s ritual actions of worship.  Friday worship services are led by an appointed imam. All mosques have an imamto lead the (congregational) prayers. 

Some Imams are members from the gathered congregation  rather than an officially appointed Imam paid for his job. The position of women as Imams is controversial as they do not occupy that position. An Imam is chosen according to the Hadith and he should be a person who has more knowledge  of the Quran and Sunnah (prophetic tradition) and is of good character and of old age.

Roles of Imams

  • He must preserve the religion  according  to its established  bases  and  that on  which  the salaf (predecessors) of the ummah  was unanimously  agreed. If an innovator, deviant  or one who  is confused about issues in Islam, he has to explain the proof to him and tell him what is correct, and deal with him according  to the set rights and punishments  so that the religion will be protected against being undermined and the ummah will be prevented from deviance.
  • He must judge between disputing parties and put an end to arguments so that justice and fairness prevails, aggressors will not get carried away and no person who is wronged will feel helpless.
  • He must carry out hard punishments so that the sacred limits of Allah will not be transgressed and so that the rights of His slaves will be protected.
  • He must collect zakat (Alms) and charity money in the manner enjoined by the texts and scholarly consensus without causing fear or being unjust.
  • He must appoint people who are honest and sincere to different positions, so that things will be done efficiently and wealth will be kept with trustworthy people.

 

(b) Muezzin

A muezzin  is a person appointed  at a mosque  to lead and recite the call to prayer for every event of prayer and worship in the mosque. The community depends  on him  for an accurate prayer schedule. The first muezzin was Bilal ibn Ribah who walked in the streets to call the believers to come to prayer. Nowadays,  mosques  often  have  loudspeakers  on the top of the minaret and the muezzin  recording is played allowing  the call to prayer to be heard at great distances without climbing the minaret.

(c) Ulama

The  term ulama  literally means  those  who  possess  knowledge  (ilm),  particularly  of Islam. The  ulama emerged  as the first interpreters of the Quran and transmitters of the hadith (words and deeds of the prophet Muhammad). These scholars also became the first to outline and elaborate the basic principles of Islamic law (sharia). The ulama were central to Islamic education in the pre-modern Middle East. They regulated  instruction  at all levels and  were instrumental  in the process  of training  Islamic  scholars  in madrasas (residential colleges), which were established by the eleventh century. These medieval institutions developed a thorough curriculum centered on instruction in the law, training future jurists, theologians, and state functionaries.  Members of the ulama might also participate in Islamic mysticism as members or even leaders of organised Sufi fraternities.

 

Ulama is comprised of lawyers and judges because of their legal skills which are critical to the regulation of Islamic society in social and commercial matters such as wills, marriage, and trade. The ulama also included theologians, prayer leaders, and teachers, many of whom continued to participate in the economy as traders or artisans.

 

(d) Caliphs

The word “caliph” comes from the Arabic “Khalifa,” meaning “substitute” or “successor.” Caliphs are spiritual, civil and political leaders of Islam who claim succession from Muhammad. A caliph is a religious leader in Islam who is believed to be the successor to Prophet Muhammad and leader of Ummar. The holder of the title “caliph” claims temporal and spiritual authority over all Muslims, but is not regarded as a possessor of a prophetic mission. Some of the caliphs include Abur Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali.

Roles of caliphs

Caliphs had various roles in Islam. These roles include:

  • Guiding the Muslims to walk in the straight path.
  • Caliphs represented the ideals that all Muslims, regardless of race, are equal members of a single, global entity, the ummah.
  • They also stood for the integration  of the spiritual with the political,  ensuring  at least in theory harmony between the law of the state and divine law.
  • He ensured that the law was more or less the same throughout the territory of which the caliph is the head.
  • The caliphs promoted unity by creating a single, God-fearing community of all mankind.

 

(e) Mufti

A mufti is an Islamic scholar who interprets and expounds  Islamic law. Muftis are jurists qualified to give authoritative legal opinions known as fatwas. A mufti assists judges in deciding  cases since he deals with the law. His opinions serve as a valuable source of information on the practical application of Islamic law as opposed to its abstract formulation. He is responsible for the body of religious legal scholars and gave rulings  on important  state policies  such  as the dethronement  of rulers. He undertakes  the important responsibilities for the religion and society as a whole. A mufti is someone who is able to solve problems that arise pertaining to the Islamic religion.

(f) Allamah

It is an honorary title carried by scholars of Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) and philosophy. It is used by both Sunni and Shia Islam. The title is carried by only the very highest scholars of Islamic thought, jurisprudence and philosophy. An Allamah is a leader for the Islamic faith. 

SACRED PLACES IN ISLAM

Islamic sacred places are regarded as very important to their faith. This is so because these sacred places are  associated with sacred stories or very important events that have occurred on such places. A place of worship is a sacred place among the Muslims. In Islam, there are sacred places such as;

 

(a) Mosque

All mosques by the virtue that they are worshipping places   are  holy   places.  Muslims  worship,  study and  discuss  Islam in a mosque. Religious  festivals and  gatherings  are held  in  mosques  for example weddings. Mosques shouldappealtothe community theyserve.Facilitiessuchashealthclinics,librariesand sports halls are found in a mosque. Some mosques often  invite  poor  members  of the  community  to meals. Mosques offer special optional prayers done after the last required prayer of the day.

A mosque has a minaret from which the muezzin calls worshippers to prayer. A dome in a mosque help the imam be heard as the sound waves would bounce in and then out of the dome making the voice louder. A prayer hall called musalla has no furniture except for prayer mats or rugs since Islamic prayer is usually done kneeling.

Rules in a mosque

  • No shoes should be worn in the prayer hall.
  • Believers should step inside using their right foot only.
  • Before Muslims pray, they perform wudu, a washing ritual.
  • Believers to wear clothes that show modesty. Men to come to the mosque wearing loose and clean clothes that do not show the shape of the body. Women are expected to wear loose clothing and cover their heads with a hijab.
  • Men and women pray apart; men at the front and women in a separate area either at the back or upstairs so as not to disturb the men.
  • Loud talking or discussion of topics that could be disrespectful is forbidden in areas where people are praying.

  • It is considered rude to walk in front of Muslims in prayer.
  • Visiting a mosque is allowed only between prayers; visitors must wear long trousers and take off their shoes. Women must cover their heads, no photos, no loud talk is allowed.

 

Importance of a mosque

 

  • It is a place of worship. Muslims come together for worship for it is the very purpose of their existence. It makes the prayers of Muslims as perfect as possible so that they worship with a clear conscience and confidence of doing the right thing in prayers.
  • It brings the community together as it acts as many things, a social centre, a community centre and an educational centre.
  • Mosques are study centres for new comers of the faith to come and learn about the teachings of the holy Quran, learn how to read it and pronounce.
  • Islamic prayers learnt in a mosque will strengthen truly human values and sharpen human character so that Muslims can hope to attain perfection.
  • Mosques are centres of Islamic life inculcating values onto Muslims seeking to imbibe Islamic cultural and religious ethos in order to live as genuine Muslims.
  • It is a treasury from which charity work is done. The care of the needy, orphans and the sick is done in a mosque.
  • Mosques can attract non-Muslims to Islam by showing them some of the religious activities of the Muslims such as the prayer, making  them curious about Islam and its beliefs and giving  them an opportunity to find out more.
  • Events during the holiest month of Ramadan are held in a mosque.
  • It is a meeting place for the community where they are informed of important religious events and duties.

 

(b) The city of Mecca or Mekkah

The city of Mecca is the most sacred place in Islam located in the western part of Saudi Arabia about 75 miles inland from the port city of Jidda in the Hejaz province. The focal point of Mecca is the Kaaba.

 

The Kaaba is centred in the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.   It  is  the  most  sacred  and  holiest  place in Islam. According  to Islamic tradition, Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael built the Kaaba as a symbol of the house of God. Every year millions of Muslims travel to Mecca to perform the pilgrimage. Once a believer has made the pilgrimage  to Mecca, men may add the title al-Hajji to their name, hajjiyah for females. Many Muslims pray in the direction of the Kaaba five times a day no matter where they are. Mecca is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and the Islamic faith.

Religious significance of Mecca

 

  • The city’s sacredness in Islam derives primarily from the fact that it was the prophet’s birthplace.
  • A pilgrimage to Mecca is required of every Muslim who can afford it as one of the five pillars of faith.
  • Mecca is a worldwide place of pilgrimage. It is a place brimming with spirituality and sacredness.
  • The prophet Muhammad designated  Mecca as the holy city of Islam in which all Muslims should offer their prayers. The direction of prayer is known as the qibla.
  • It was in Mecca that Muhammad began to receive revelations from God via the angel Gabriel.
  • It is in Mecca that Muhammad began to preach his new faith.
  • The Kaaba contains the black stone which is believed to have been given by the Angel Gabriel to Abraham and which pilgrims come to kiss on the Hajj.

 

(c) Medina – The city of the Prophet

Medina is the second holiest city in Islam with significant religious and historical significance to Muslims. It is also known as Madinah An Nabi (The city of the prophet). When prophet Muhammad and his followers faced persecution in Mecca, they were offered refuge  by  the main  tribe of Yathrib.  Here the small and persecuted  Muslim community  was able to become established, administrate their own community  and  implement  elements  of  religious life  that  they  were  unable  to  do  under  Makkan persecution. Medina thrived and became the centre of the growing Islamic nation.

The Prophet’s mosque in Medina is called Masjid Al Nabawi. It is the second in sanctity in Islam. Prophet Muhammad was instructed to build the mosque by Allah. Medina is the first capital in Islam since it is where the first Muslim community flourished. Muhammad was laid to rest in this mosque. Muslims usually visit the mosque during their Hajj journey. It is believed that one prayer at the Prophet’s Mosque is equivalent to one thousand prayers.

Religious significance of Medina

  • It was in Medina where Islam first flourished, allowing Muhammad to gain a large following  and subdue pagan antagonism from Mecca to solidify Islam’s hold across Arabia.
  • The city holds the first mosque in the world, the mosque where Muhammad switched the Muslim direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca.
  • It is believed that one prayer at the Prophet’s Mosque is equivalent to one thousand prayers.
  • The prophet’s mosque became the centre of the city’s religious, political and economic life.
  • Medina remained Muhammad’s home for the rest of his life.
  • The city holds the mosque of the prophet where Muhammad is buried.

 

(d) Mount  Arafat

Mount Arafat or Mount Arafah is a granite hill east of Mecca in the plain of Arafat. Arafat is a plain about 20 km southeast of Mecca. Mount Arafat reaches about 70 m in height. This mount is often referred to as the Hill of Mercy because it was where Adam and Eve reconciled after separation.

 

(e) Zam-zam

Zamzam  is name  derived  from zome-zome  which means stop. The sacred well is found in Mecca. It is the one Ishmael and Hagar  drank from after they were sent off by Abraham (Genesis 21:19-20). Hagar is believed  to have  run seven  times between  the hills of Safa and Marwah looking  for water to give to  Ishmael. That’s  when  Ishmael  started  scraping the land with his feet and water suddenly  gushed out of the ground. Water from this well is regarded as holy. Muslims believe that the well miraculously generated water from Allah.

 

(f) Any other Place of prayer

Prayer is done at designated  times. Any place that one carries out prayer is ritually clean. These places include  the  battlefield  which  can  be  turned  into a  sacred  place.  Salvation  can  be  attained  at  war because in launching a Jihad the place is turned to a sacred space.