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ISLAM & PRACTICE
To learn more about the foundations of Islam,
"The Arabs say: We believe! Say rather: We have submitted!
For the faith hath not yet entered your hearts'
"Islam" is derived from the Arabic root word "salaama" meaning peace, submission or surrender. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God and obedience to His laws. And as the Quran tells us, there is nothing that does not submit, 'willingly or unwillingly,' at every moment - as also in its origin and in its end - to the God other than whom there is nothing. Everything and every phenomenon in the world is obedient to God and submissive to His laws, and is said to be in the state of Islam, yet man, in possessing the quality of intelligence and choice, is invited to submit to the good will of God and obey His law, that is to become a Muslim, which, is the best safeguard for man's peace and harmony. Thus the follower of Islam is called a Muslim ('one who submits') not a Mumin ('one who believes'), such that even one who is born a Muslim has to become a Muslim, that is, enter into a state of Islam.
"Islam has been built on five [pillars]:
testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammed is the messenger
of Allah, performing the prayers, paying the zakat, making the pilgrimage to
the House, and fasting in Ramadan."
That we have been given a set of devotional practices highlights that, although we may find many ways of worship which afford us some satisfaction, the finest and most devotional forms cannot be dreamed up by man, and are best granted directly by God. As however strong the motivation behind it maybe, it is hard for us to express ourselves in a manner worthy of addressing God. Just as when an ordinary man addresses an aristocrat, he expresses his respect most fully by using certain protocol, so when we turn to God, we must find some way of presenting what we feel in a way befitting the presence of the Lord of creation, who has given us all we possess. This protocol we call "worship." Worship is a complex and subtle activity, relying heavily on symbolism; a complete science, in fact, involving not only a profound understanding of the human mind, but also a direct knowledge of the kingdom of God. The Quran provides a complete and deeply satisfying system of worship: simple, dignified, yet profoundly moving and transformative. But although in the Islamic vision all human activity should be a form of worship, four specific forms of devotion are laid down and particularly emphasised. Thus, in order to affirm our realisation of the testimony 'There is no deity save God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God' in our lives, a set of devotional practices have been laid down, the most important of which are known as the "pillars of Islam," which constitute the ideal and most simple means of approaching God. The "pillars of Islam" are all tools for spiritual transformation and although they do not define the religion, as such, they are, however, regarded as its foundations and give Muslim societies their unmistakeable rhythm and texture. Chief among these is the regular Prayer, followed by the month of Fasting, the similarly purifying experiences of systematic Almsgiving, and the great Pilgrimage to the sacred precincts at Mecca.
(Source:Abdul Wadod Shalabi, Islam: Religion of Life; http://www.islamworld.net/nawawi.html; http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/pillars/intropillars.html)