says: Pray to Me, I will answer you." (40:60)
"Surely prayer keeps
(one) away from indecency and evil." (29:45)
"And seek assistance
through patience and prayer, and this is hard except for the
humble ones." (2:45)
Links present on
or Pilgrimage to Makka
57. What is
It is to put ourselves in
touch with God, remind ourselves of His greatness, goodness
and beauty, think over how we can develop the qualities He
has placed in us, remember the goal He has put before us,
and ask for His help in enabling us to do good and refrain
from evil. Prayer also makes us see our lives, with all the
successes and disappointments, in their true perspective,
and makes us pause for a moment to see what we are doing in
the light of what God wants us to do.
58. Is prayer
Just as the body requires
food, cleansing, and exercise to make it fit for everyday
living, the spirit or soul has spiritual needs for its
development, so that one's character and conduct remains
good and healthy. The needs of the spirit are provided by
acts of worship and devotion, the most important and
frequent of which is prayer. Not supplying these needs
weakens the highest part of man, damaging his ability to do
good and refrain from evil, just as not having enough food
makes his body unfit to work and prone to
59. What are the
most important points Islam teaches about prayer?
Among many other important
points about prayer, the first is that a person should say
his prayers "as if he is seeing God", or at least be
conscious that he is in God's presence. This means that
prayer should be said with full attention, concentration of
mind, and feeling of heart, just as if we were talking to
someone in front of us. Another very important point Islam
teaches is that a main purpose of prayer is to lead one to
do good, to refrain from evil, and to behave better towards
others. If prayer does not have this effect on a person's
daily life and conduct, it means that he or she is not
performing prayers properly, in the way required by Islam.
60. How does one
pray in Islam?
Prayer, of course, is a
general turning towards God. Islam has prescribed a
particular form of prayer in order to make it systematic and
to enable the whole community to pray together. The details
of the Islamic prayer are available separately in many
books. Briefly, certain bodily postures are adopted
(standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting on the ground)
in each of which some prescribed prayers and other words
extolling and praising God are said. This is the regular
prayer known as Salaat, and is said in congregation (if
possible) at five fixed times of the day. Apart from Salaat,
one can just address a prayer to God at any time, in any
situation, using any words one chooses.
61. What is the
significance of the various postures during Salaat?
It is to give greater force
and feeling to the words of prayer that are being said, and
in fact to address God with the whole of oneself and not
just the tongue. This is just as when people talk to each
other they move their hands, head, etc. to stress what they
are saying. The standing posture is as if to say to God that
we are ready and keen to obey Him. Bowing down and
prostrating is to express the inner feeling that we want to
bow to God's commands in our daily lives and submit to Him
completely, with humility. The words that are said in these
two positions mean that "God is flawless and the Most High",
i.e. we, who are imperfect, humble ourselves before the
Perfect Being so that, through contact with Him, our defects
may be removed.
62. What prayers
does one say during the Salaat?
First of all, there are a few
short prayers and expressions that must be said in
particular positions during the Salaat in Arabic. The main
such prayer is the Fatiha, the first chapter of the Holy
Quran consisting of seven short verses, which is really the
heart of the whole Salaat. In addition to the compulsory
words of prayer, we may say any prayer we like, in any
language we prefer, at any stage in the Salaat. The Holy
Quran and the Holy Prophet Muhammad's Sayings contain a
large number of apt and beautiful prayers for various
situations. We must, of course, know the full meaning of any
prayer we say, Arabic or otherwise, and it must be said with
the full presence of mind and sincerity of heart.
63. Please explain
briefly the meanings of the Fatiha?
This is the fundamental Muslim
prayer, which illustrates the basic aim of the worshipper:
1. All praise is due to
Allah, the Lord of the worlds,
2. The Beneficent, the Merciful,
3. Master of the Day of Judgment.
4. You (O Allah) are the one we
worship, and You are the One Whose help we seek.
5. Guide us on the right path,
6. The path of those upon whom You
have bestowed favours,
7. Not those who incur wrath or
those who go astray.
64. What are the
important points to be noted about this prayer?
We pray to be guided on the
right path all the time, so that we progress along it
constantly and develop the good qualities that God has
placed in every person. This "right path" is that on which
the righteous persons of all times have walked, whose lives
show that God graced them with His spiritual favours. While
praying for this, we recall that we are weak, and so we also
pray that we may avoid wrongdoing as well as wrong
beliefs (no. 7). This makes one feel humble while walking on
the right path, and prevents arrogance,
selfrighteousness, and complacency.
65. Why are parts
of the prayer said in Arabic?
The main reason is that, when
the Salaat is performed in congregation, some words and
passages are recited aloud by the man leading it, so that
the assembly is praying in concert and harmony, as a single
body. Since Islam is an international religion and Muslims
praying in a congregation may well come from different
countries (as often happens in prayer-meetings in the West),
using Arabic, the original language of the Holy Quran, means
that they can pray together. The Arabic prayers and
expressions necessary for a Muslim to learn are very short
and easy, and can be learnt by a child in a few days. Using
Arabic also enables the people gathered for Hajj (in Makka,
Arabia), from every part of the world, to worship together
66. Does this mean
that a purpose of Salaat is to bring people closer
Yes. Besides taking man closer
to God, the other main purpose of Salaat is to bring people
together and teach them equality and brotherhood. The
worshippers stand in rows, shoulder to shoulder, without any
distinction of race, nation, colour, wealth, family, status,
etc., and all pray together as one body. They feel humble
before God and brotherly among themselves. The Salaat ends
with the worshippers turning their faces to the right, and
then left, and in each direction wishing peace and God's
mercy upon those in that direction. They are really wishing
peace and the mercy of God upon the whole world. The purpose
of the prayer, therefore, is to train people to acquire such
qualities and character that they bring peace to the world.
"O you who
believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed
for those before you (in earlier religions), so that you may
guard against evil.. . . And when My servants ask thee (O
Muhammad) about Me, surely I am near. I answer the call of
the supplicant when he calls on Me." (The Holy Quran
67. What is fasting
as prescribed by Islam?
Fasting is a form of training
to refrain from all wrong-doing by learning to control one's
desires. It consists of giving up, for a fixed period of
time, the most basic urges which human beings have, i.e. the
urge to satisfy hunger, thirst and sexual desire, and
devoting oneself to serving and helping others while
disregarding one's own needs.
68. How is fasting
done in Islam?
During the month known as
Ramadaan in the Islamic calendar, every day from the start
of daylight in the early morning till sunset, one must not
eat or drink (or have sexual relations). You take a meal
while it is still dark just before dawn breaks, and then do
not eat or drink anything at all until sunset when the fast
ends. During the hours of fasting, extra effort must be made
to be kind, generous and helping to others, and to avoid
doing anything bad or harmful to other people.
69. Does every
Muslim have to fast in Ramadaan?
Every healthy adult Muslim man
or woman must fast during Ramadaan. Those who happen to fall
ill or be on a journey during any part of this month do not
have to fast on those days and should complete the missed
fasts after Ramadaan. People who are permanently unable to
fast, or those whose reasons for not fasting are prolonged,
such as the very old, the longterm ill, and women who
are pregnant or feeding babies, etc., can give in charity
instead of fasting. This charity consists, at the least, of
giving a day's food to one poor person for every fast
70. How does
fasting enable us to give up the bad desires which lead to
During the fast, a person
feels the urge to have something to eat or drink, but he
withstands this strongest of all desires, in obedience to
God. This daily training, for a month, exercises and
strengthens his ability to control bad desires in everyday
life which lead to wrong-doing. This is just as physical
exercise strengthens the body, and enables it to fight off
illness more easily.
71. Are there any
other moral benefits of fasting?
Yes. Firstly, man is drawn
closer to God because when he feels hungry or thirsty during
the fast it is the thought of the nearness of God which
stops him from satisfying his desires. This makes him feel
that God is always near at hand. Secondly, fasting teaches
one to be patient and resolute in difficulties, for that is
what one does during the fast. Thirdly, it makes us realize
the great blessings of food and drink which are so easily
available, but which we normally take for granted. Fourthly,
it curbs the feelings of greed that develop in people when
they have all that they need, and even more.
72. And what does
fasting teach us about how to treat other people?
It makes us realize the
suffering and the feelings of those who are deprived and
destitute. A very important purpose of fasting is to learn
to care about the needs of other people by being less
concerned with oneself. This is why charitable acts of all
kinds are especially encouraged during the month of fasting.
By giving up your right to consume your own food and drink
during the fast, you train yourself to be able to give up
something that is rightfully yours, voluntarily and
cheerfully, in order to help and serve others.
Hajj or Pilgrimage to Makka:
first house (of worship) appointed for mankind is the one at
Bakka (Makka), blessed and a guidance for the nations. . . .
whoever enters it is safe; and pilgrimage to the House is a
duty which people owe to Allah, whoever is able to find a
way to it." (The Holy Quran
73. What is
Every year, in the beginning
of the month of ZilHijja in the Muslim calendar, a
great international gathering of Muslims is held at Makka in
Arabia, where they pledge that there is only One God for the
whole of humanity and that all persons are equal, regardless
of race, nation, wealth or status. This occasion is known as
the Hajj (pronounced rather like the word judge, with h
being read in place of j) or the Pilgrimage to Makka. The
pilgrim goes to Makka at great personal sacrifice, and gives
up many comforts of life while there. From his hardship, he
learns the lesson that man has to sacrifice his desires if
he is to attain nearness to God and to establish a
worldwide brotherhood of equality and love.
74. Please outline
the chief features of Hajj?
All pilgrims, at the
commencement of the three days of the Pilgrimage, put on the
same simple dress of two sheets of cloth. Thus all
distinctions of wealth, position and family are removed
during the Hajj by making every person appear the same
outwardly. The Hajj itself consists of a number of acts of
worship and remembrance of God, which are performed by the
individual in the company of the vast congregation. Two of
the most important of these devotions are the tawaaf (making
circuits around the Ka`ba, the simple fourwalled
building which Muslims all over the world face in prayer),
and the gathering of the pilgrims in a plain called Arafa to
75. What is the
significance of these acts?
These acts of worship are the
highest spiritual experience. By going around the Ka`ba, the
pilgrim expresses the greatest love for the One God because
this building is the greatest and oldest memorial to the
purest form of belief in One God. Going around the Ka`ba is
as if to say that one's life should revolve around belief in
One God. In the gathering at Arafa, there is a vast ocean of
humanity, people of all colours, races, nations, languages,
walks of life, the rich and the poor, the 'high' and the
'low', but all are exactly alike, wearing the same simple
clothes, remembering God in the same way. From this, the
pilgrims carry back home the lesson of the equality and
brotherhood of mankind, which can only come through belief
in One God.
76. Do Muslims
worship the Ka`ba, or believe that God lives there?
No, definitely not. How can
they worship the Ka`ba when, in fact, they go there to
remember that God is One? And, according to Muslim belief,
God is everywhere in this universe of ours, so He cannot
live in any one place or building. The Ka`ba is an ancient
memorial to the belief in One God, being associated with the
Prophets Abraham and Muhammad (peace be upon them) who
taught this belief most vigorously. It is a venue for the
gathering of all nations, at which they come together and
remember that only this belief can unite them. Though God is
everywhere, yet when hundreds of thousands of people make
the greatest sacrifice to gather in one place just to
worship Him, that place rightly deserves the title of the
'House of God', as the Ka`ba is called.
attain to righteousness unless you spend (in charity) out of
what you love." (The Holy Quran
77. What is meant
by charity in Islam?
Charity, for which the
expression used in the Holy Quran is "spending out of what
God has given you", means using your energy, talent,
resources, money, possessions, or whatever else, to help and
do good to those in need. In Islam charity is very often
mentioned alongside prayer because just as the latter is
man's relation with God, or man's duty towards God, the
former (charity) represents his relation with his
fellow-beings, and indeed with all the creation of God.
Prayer expresses love for God, submission to Him, and a
desire to bring out the Divine qualities that lie hidden in
every person. Charity is an expression of sympathy and
benevolence towards God's creation, putting into actual
practice the lessons you learn in prayer.
78. Please give
some examples of what are acts of charity in Islam.
Innumerable examples can be
given because doing any kind of good to anyone, even to
yourself to make you more capable of benefitting others, by
using what God has given you, is an act of charity. Feeding
the hungry, helping the poor, taking care of the destitute
such as orphans, lending a hand to the disabled, helping an
unemployed person to find a job, etc., are the more obvious
examples of charity taught by Islam. But it also teaches
that there are other, smaller acts of charity which one has
the opportunity to do everyday. Helping someone in any way,
showing the way to a stranger, speaking a kind word to cheer
someone up, giving useful advice or imparting knowledge to
someone, removing from the road something that could cause
an accident, even simply refraining from hurting anyone, are
all acts of charity in Islam.
79. Charity is
usually thought to be giving money or alms to the begging
poor, and is said to degrade them and make them feel
inferior. This is not so in Islam, then?
Most certainly not. Firstly,
charity in Islam is much broader than giving money to the
poor, and can be exercised just as well even where there is
no poverty, as shown above. Secondly, giving charity, or the
doing of any good to someone, must be done as a duty, not to
degrade them or to ask for thanks. The Holy Quran tells
"A kind word with forgiveness
is better than charity followed by injury.. . . O you who
believe, make not your charity worthless by reproach and
injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen by
people. . ." (2:263-264)
Thirdly, charity should be given
solely out of love for God, out of the desire to do good to
His creation, as the Quran says about the
"They give food, out of love
for Him (Allah), to the poor, the orphan, and the slave,
saying: We feed you only for Allah's pleasure - we desire
from you neither reward nor thanks." (76:8,9)
80. How important
Being charitable is very
strongly urged upon the Muslims, so much so that the Holy
Prophet Muhammad has said that on every limb of the body,
doing a charitable deed is due every day, whether it is with
the hands, feet, or tongue. There is no person at all who
cannot do a deed of charity to others. According to the Holy
Prophet, if someone has nothing to give, he should work and
earn, and give out of that; if he still does not have
anything to give, he should help someone in distress; and if
he is unable, for some reason, to do even that, he should
try to do any good he can and refrain from doing any harm to
Apart from general charity, Islam has
made compulsory a sort of tax on one's possessions, known as
Zakaat, to be spent on the welfare of the disadvantaged.
This is explained further in no. 83.
81. To whom can a
Muslim give in charity?
Just as acts of charity have
the broadest possible significance in Islam, similarly the
circle of those towards whom charity is to be exercised is
the broadest that can be conceived. Starting with the people
around us - our relations, friends, and neighbours - it
extends to all Muslims, and to followers of other religions.
In fact, a Muslim's charity covers even animals. The Holy
Quran emphasizes that one should keep a special look-out for
those who may be in need but who do not ask for help
82. What kind of
things should be given in charity?
In case of those acts of
charity when we give something away, the Holy Quran teaches
that we should only give good and useful things, not useless
and worthless ones, and they should be the kind of things we
like to have ourselves (2:267). Moreover, things given in
charity must have been earned or acquired lawfully by the
person giving them away.
83. Please explain
what is Zakaat?
Just as Islam has prescribed a
set form for prayer, to enable us to keep it up regularly,
similarly it has given an outward form for charity and made
it compulsory, in order to make it a regular duty. That
outward form of charity is known as Zakaat, and consists of
giving a specified fraction of one's wealth every year into
a fund. This fund is administered by the Muslim community or
Muslim government, and is used to help the poor, the
disabled, the unemployed, and others in need.
84. Is Zakaat just
like a tax?
In the sense of being
collected and spent by the Muslim government Zakaat is like
a tax. However, the great difference is that paying Zakaat
is a religious duty to be done out of obedience to God and
sympathy for people. So giving Zakaat is morally beneficial
to the payer because it develops the spirit of
self-sacrifice in him and curbs feelings of greed. Notice
that the word 'tax' means a burden, but zakaat means
something which purifies you.
85. Why is general
charity and Zakaat a basic duty in Islam?
Because it brings out the best
and highest qualities in a person, which is really the
object of existence according to Islam. God has given to
each person various capabilities and resources, such as
knowledge, money, strength, some talent or skill, etc. Every
individual must use whatever he or she has been given to
benefit other people as well as the rest of God's creation,
and not for selfish ends. If this principle is neglected,
then not only is there no relief for the distress and the
suffering of the needy, but man's increased selfishness
makes him his fellow-man's deadly enemy; and society as well
as mankind become divided into factions and groups all
trying to grab things from one another.
86. What is
Jihad is an Arabic word
meaning "striving hard" or exerting yourself to the best of
your power and ability. The Holy Quran frequently urges
Muslims to strive hard, using the word jihad to mean
87. What kind of
striving does the Holy Quran talk about?
The Holy Quran mentions the
following purposes for which a Muslim should strive
1. to attain nearness to God,
by struggling to overcome your bad desires;
2. to stick to Islam under
difficult circumstances, such as when facing persecution
and other problems;
3. to take part in the defence of
the Muslim community when it is attacked by an enemy who
wishes to destroy Islam.
4. to take the message of Islam to
others, by devoting your time and money for this
88. Can you quote
passages from the Holy Quran to illustrate this?
Referring to the four points
numbered in the last answer, we give below some verses of
the Quran which mention those kinds of striving. The word
translated as "striving" in all these verses is
1. "Those who strive hard
towards Us, We certainly guide them in Our ways."
In this verse, God says that He
guides to the right ways those who strive hard to reach
Him. This is the jihad to improve yourself by doing good
and restraining bad desires.
2. "To those who flee after they
are persecuted, then strive hard and are patient, surely
your Lord after that is protecting, merciful."
This speaks of Muslims who were
persecuted in Makka, and had to flee their homes. Their
jihad was to remain patient and steadfast while facing
3. "Allah has made those who
strive, with their property and their lives, to excel by
a high degree those who hold back." (4:95)
This verse refers to the war being
fought by the Muslims, and says that those who strived by
giving their wealth and their lives for this cause hold a
higher rank than those who held back.
4. "Strive against them (the
non-believers) a mighty striving with it (i.e. with the
Here Muslims are told to undertake
a "mighty" jihad against the non-believers by taking the
Quran to them so that its evidence, arguments and beauty
may convince them of the truth of Islam.
89. So Jihad then
doesn't mean war waged by Muslims against non-Muslims?
No, most certainly not.
Neither does the word jihad itself mean war, nor is it used
in the Holy Quran to mean war. Even when Muslims were still
living in Makka, during the first half of the Holy Prophet's
mission, before there was a Muslim state or army in
existence, God commanded them to do jihad,
"Strive hard for Allah with
due striving." (22:78)
This could not possibly mean fighting
anyone. It just meant striving to attain nearness to God and
to help the cause of Islam.
90. Why is the word
jihad applied to the battles of the early Muslims?
Because these battles had to
be fought for the very existence of the religion of Islam,
and because the Muslims had to strive hard by risking their
lives and by sacrificing their possessions. Taking part in
these battles was a great struggle, done only to save Islam
from destruction and no other reason.
Before their emigration (hijra) to
Madina, while living in Makka, the converts to Islam had to
face terrible persecution and torture. But they bore it all
with patience. In the Quran this was also called a jihad on
their part. After the Muslims had been forced to emigrate to
Madina, the opponents of Islam in Makka decided to wage war
upon them. So the Muslims then had to fight battles in
self-defence. As they had no proper army or equipment, each
member of the Muslim community had to do, and to give, all
that he or she could. They volunteered to fight in the
battles, and gave their money and possessions for the war.
Therefore this was called a jihad by means of one's life and
91. Does this mean
that Islam only allows Muslims to fight wars for certain
Yes, and the reasons are
clearly laid down in the Holy Quran. It says:
"Permission to fight is given
to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed
. . . those who are driven from their homes without a
just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah."
"Fight in the way of Allah against
those who fight you, but be not aggressive. Surely Allah
loves not the aggressors." (2:190)
It is only for self-defence that
fighting is allowed by Islam, and not to conquer land or
enslave other people. The Holy Prophet Muhammad only fought
battles under these conditions. In fact, Muslims at that
time did not want to fight, as the Quran says addressing
"Fighting is enjoined on you,
though it is disliked by you." (2:216)
92. If jihad does
not mean fighting a war, can every Muslim take part in some
kind of jihad at all times?
Not only can they do so, but
taking part in jihad (or striving hard) is essential, as the
"Only those are believers who
believe in Allah and His Messenger, then doubt not, and
strive hard with their wealth and their lives (or selves)
in the way of Allah." (49:15)
The two kinds of jihad, which can be
undertaken all the time, are: firstly, striving hard for
personal improvement, and secondly, striving to take the
message of Islam to others. The meaning of striving with
your wealth, in case of the first kind of jihad, is to spend
it to help others, and in case of the second jihad to spend
it on the propagation of Islam. The meaning of striving with
your lives, in case of the first kind of jihad, is to
struggle against the lower and wrong desires of one's self,
and in case of the second kind of jihad it means giving your
time, talents, and energies to help in the work of the
propagation of Islam.
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