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Islam Today

Essay by   •  June 13, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,239 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,221 Views

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Islam is a religion that is both controversial as well as at the height of American interest. Islam is the term used for the religion begun by Mohammed in Arabia in the early 600's. The word Islam translates to mean "Submission" or "to the will of God". The people who practice Islam are called Muslim meaning "one who submits". Muslims adhere to five main practices of Islam, often referred to as the "five pillars of Islam". To many Islam is considered to be not just a religion but a way of life. Islam teaches its followers to live in peace and harmony with the Creator, oneself, other people and the environment. (Islam Today, 2001-2007).

Muslims also believe that Mohammed is the very last Prophet and Messenger of God to mankind. Mohammed is considered to be the summation of all of the prophets before him. His life and history provide examples for which Muslims live their lives by. These sayings, examples and records of Mohammed's life make up the second most important text of Islam and are called the Hadith.

The most important text of Islam is the Quran. The Quran is considered the most holy book because it is considered by Muslims to be the exact word of God transmitted through the angel Gabriel to Mohammed. The main focus of the Quran is monotheism but it also encompasses all aspects of life even ideas that in the West would be considered non religious.

Today Muslims have become established as minorities in places like North America. Due to the stigma that has been unfortunately attached to the Islamic religion after 9/11 Muslims have become persecuted or treated unfairly because of their religion more often than in the past. However, most Muslims in America are educated, peaceful people who seek to live in peace and harmony among themselves and others in their community. Muslims have established success in business as well as in many academic institutions, community centers and organizations, schools and places of worship thus creating social and economical benefits for their communities.

The place of worship in Islam is called a mosque. This is where sermons are performed as well as the place that most come to pray on Friday afternoons. Muslims perform five prayers each day, these prayers are performed facing toward Mecca, where the "great mosque" or "house of God" is located. On Fridays in the afternoon, Muslims are encouraged to pray as a gathered community in congregational mosques and listen to a sermon. The prayers performed are ritualistic in that there is a sequence of physical postures and the prayers are said in Arabic. The performance of the five daily prayers is required of all Muslims who are able.

I visited the Al Huda Athens Islamic Center for a tour and to speak with some of the Muslim college students about their way of life. If not for the small wooden sign placed in the front window the building would have looked like every other two story building on campus, brick with large while columns on the front. Unsure of the proper manner to enter, I rang the door bell and waited for a response. After waiting a few minutes, I knocked on the wooden door, decorated with a sticker of a Quranic verse. It read, "La illaha il Allah, Muhammad rashol Allah." ("There is no God greater than God, and Muhammad is his prophet.") Moments later the door was opened by a girl, probably about Twenty years old. She introduced herself as Nida, it was she that had responded to my email asking for an interview with someone in the Muslim Students Association, she was the secretary and said she would be happy to talk with me. I was shocked that she wasn't wearing the traditional hijab on her head that I had assumed that all Muslim women wore. Once inside I was promptly instructed to remove my shoes by an inscription on the floor. In the entry way were shelves of books, tapes, DVDs and CDs on Islam. Ready in hand was my blue head scarf, I asked timidly if I should put it on. The girl told me that many of the younger generations of Muslim women only wear their scarves inside the Mosque or Center so as not to draw attention to themselves in the outside world, since she had just come from class she didn't have hers on yet but, it was getting close to prayer time so she hurried to go and get it. In a mosque, both men and women are instructed to dress in a manner that is not distracting to those who are praying. As I approached the mirror hung in front of the hall leading to the prayer area I threw the scarf around my head and went into another room to the right where several other Men and Women were preparing to pray. The white walls inside the prayer room were decorated with posters that had the many names of Allah, and mosques in the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. On a bulletin board high on a wall were five paper clocks that reminded me of how my second-grade teacher taught me how to read time. Each clock displayed a different time of the day, indicating the times of the five prayers: 6 a.m. fagr (the morning), 12:30 p.m. dohr (the afternoon), 4:15 p.m. asr (the midday), 8:10 p.m. maghrib (the evening), and 9:25 p.m. isha (the night). I introduced myself to the two men who were sitting on metal folding chairs as Nida returned with a beige head scarf on hiding every bit of her very dark hair. Nida explained that real mosques have a separate area closed off for women's prayer. In the center there isn't anything like this, so women are directed to the back when there are only a few. When there are many women, the men go to the basement and the women remain upstairs. Next Nida explained why we faced northeast, "it is the direction of the Qaaba", (the site all Muslims pray toward because it is believed that it was built by Abraham.) The direction was also indicated by a photo of Mecca on the wall and a green prayer rug on the floor.

The prayers were a series of movements and words that reminded me of a slow dance. After the prayers Nida and I walked into another small room so that I could interview her. She had been concerned about what kinds of questions I would be asking so, I emailed her a list of questions a few days before the interview. She said that she had gone over the questions with her Mother and they had discussed the appropriate ways in which to answer each one.

The most important tradition of Islam is the month of fasting from sun up to sun down, this is called Ramadan. The month of fasting ends with the festival Eid al-Fitr which literally means "the festival of breaking the fast". During Eid al-Fitr everyone dresses in their finest clothes and shares foods with friends and family. Children are given treats and houses are decorated with lights and decorations. During the month of Ramadan and during Eid al-fitr a sense of gratitude for the

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