Islam is an ancient and highly notorious religion that began in the Middle East and has spread rapidly around the world. It has attracted a following of 1.9 billion and is the second largest religion in the entire world.
What do Muslims believe?
The term “Islam” literally translates to “surrender” in Arabic and exhibits Muslim belief that humans are to surrender to Allah. They believe that Allah is the one true God and his will is made known through the sacred scriptures promulgated by Mahammad, his messenger.
What must Muslims do to achieve a good life?
The Qurʾān (the sacred scriptures that present Allah’s will) describes the Five Pillars of Islam, the most important Muslim practices.
The Five Pillars of Islam are five obligatory rituals that every Muslim must satisfy in order to live a good and responsible life. They are a sign of your commitment to the faith and your continual devotion to Allah.
The Five Pillars consist of:
Shahadah: sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith
To become a Muslim, one must recite the following phrase.
“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”
This must be done sincerely and wholeheartedly and is done in front of witnesses. It is a proclamation of one’s belief in Allah and their willingness to commit to Islam. If you do not perform this, you cannot be a Muslim.
This Pillar is not really part of your good life but instead your commitment to it.
Salat: performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day
Salat is the daily five prayers that is performed by all Muslims at set times of the day. You must pray before sunrise, at midday, during late afternoon, after sunset and before midnight. In many Islamic countries, mosques will publicly call to prayer and this sets the rhythm of the day.
Salat is public and physical reaffirmation of one’s belief in Allah. You must be pure while performing this prayer (through washing oneself). The prayer has a strict code of hand and body movements, and you are to recite chapters from the Qurʾān.
All prayer should be made in the direction of Mecca.
Since Muslims believe a good life is to follow Allah’s will, constant prayer and submission is extremely necessary.
Zakat: paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy
This is the compulsory tax that all Muslims must pay. In the process of giving up a small portion of your wealth, the rest becomes pure. Tax is payed to religious officials and mostly given to the needy and poor.
This levy is key to a good life for Muslims, as in doing it we acknowledge Allah’s supreme ownership and how we do not ever really own anything. To give the tax is freedom from material possession and that is important to Muslim culture.
It also helps the poor, which is pretty neat.
Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan
For Muslims, the month of Ramadan should be one of abstinence, from eating, drinking, smoking or sexual conduct. They are also encouraged to abstain from evil thoughts and deeds. Muslims may not eat during the daylight hours, so they usually have a large meal before sunrise and after sundown.
The purpose of fasting during Ramadan is an act of purification by which you sacrifice your bodily desires. It’s also designed to empathise with the poor and cherish what you do have. The Qurʾān was revealed during Ramadan and fasting during this month is a means of thanks.
Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca
Every year, the most important Islamic ritual is held at Mecca, a city in Saudi Arabia. Millions of Muslims travel here to perform various Islamic rites. The most important of these is the circulation of the Kaaba, where they worship Allah. The Kaaba is a large, granite building that is the metaphorical “House of God” and is the most sacred Islamic site on Earth. In fact, Mecca is so sacred that only Muslims are permitted to enter.
Every Muslim who is physically and financially able must make the pilgrimage at least once in their life. The Hajj instructs us that all are truly equal, signified by the uncompromising nature of this pilgrimage. Every Muslim of every gender, ethnicity, culture or class must attend.
So what defines a Good Life for followers of Islam?
Muslims regard a Good Life as one lived by the sacred teachings of Allah.
To satisfy the 5 Pillars of Islam is to have led a good and responsible life in closeness with God.
In the words of the BBC; “Carrying out the Five Pillars demonstrates that the Muslim is putting their faith first, and not just trying to fit it in around their secular lives.
No matter how sincerely a person may believe, Islam regards it as pointless to live life without putting that faith into action and practice.”
As a side, it was taught in the Qurʾān that when the Angel of Death comes to reap your soul, the pain will depend on how righteous you have been during life. This is only a small consideration, however. But yeah.