Paradigms of Islam

Emily Kelkar

Professor Mahallati

Islam

10/13/17

 

Paradigms of Islam

 

Creating a single standard for an entire religion is impractical and will eventually be unsuccessful because of differing beliefs and different practices of showing devotion. However, templates are necessary to give people an outline of what they should be doing and how they should be demonstrating their faith to a deity or to a religion as a whole. When people start to have dissenting opinions of how a religion should work and what they believe, separation into different factions occurs.[1] The Islamic worldview is complicated because the religion took many aspects of Christianity and Judaism and then expanded on them, but at its core, it provides the key basis for ethics and morality. Religion is the code to live by and Islamic countries’ laws often stem from the Qur’an and Sharia instead of lawmakers. Tradition and modernity are deeply connected in Muslim communities because Muslims build on the old, thereby enhancing the underlying paradigms of Islam.[2] The brilliance of Islam as a unifying religion is that its paradigms are straightforward, easy to interpret and follow. It allows different sects to have different views beyond the core beliefs so that it can still unify across sects when confronting outsiders but allows for a degree of variation that does not force a complete break and a new religion. In this paper, I will discuss the core elements and paradigms of the Islamic worldview, ethics and devotional rituals that are common across the sects and are the unifying factors for Muslims around the world.

The Five Pillars of Islam are the most significant element for the Islamic worldview, ethics, and devotional rituals. They create a guide for every devotee’s life.[3] The first pillar is that there is only one God, Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.[4] Simply by saying these words and believing them, a person can become a Muslim because this belief is the foundation of their religion and nothing else matters if a devotee does not believe this statement as fact.[5] Total surrender to God is one of the main elements of Islam from which everything else stems.[6] This pillar has a tremendous impact on Islamic worldview as it sets Muslims apart from all others and therefore the Islamic states start with a unifying force that is different from many other less heterogeneous countries.

The second pillar is salat, ritual prayer, which equates to going through a ritual prayer five times per day.[7] The basic meaning is to bless or pray to God and the actual ritual was taught by Prophet Muhammad and passed down from there.[8] The purpose of the practice is to imitate God and to show devotion to him, but also to be constantly reminded and aware of God so as not to set him aside.[9] This pillar requires devotion and sacrifice, as time must be taken each day from work or family life to focus on God. Just performing the prayer ritual five times a day drives a significant part of what makes up a Muslim’s life.

The third pillar is zakat, or almsgiving, which requires each Muslim to give one fortieth of their earnings to the poor every year in order to give back to the community and remind people of their blessings.[10] Some Muslim countries even treat this as a legal requirement, not simply a religious directive. The only way for a religious society to function is if all its members are devoted to God and accept their social responsibility for their own religious well-being.[11] Almsgiving brings about a sense of community and belonging no matter how fortunate or unfortunate a specific person is, they have a duty to either give or receive.

The fourth pillar is fasting during the month of Ramadan.[12] The rule is not simply to fast during the month, but also pay close attention to your behavior because some acts can ruin your fast, such as lying and slander.[13] Society also changes during Ramadan because no places of eating are open and the nights are celebrations with a large meal after the sun has gone down.[14] Ramadan, and the fasting it requires, leads to a slower pace of life during the month and self-reflection. It impacts all parts of society and business that must accommodate the ritual.

The fifth and final pillar is the Hajj. The Hajj is a journey to Mecca to see the Kaaba and visit other sacred locations. People only need to do the Hajj once in their lifetime and only if they have the means to do so, but it is seen as a right of passage for many because they end up feeling closer to Muhammad and God and Islam as a whole.[15] Millions of Muslims make this journey every year, often saving up for years to be able to participate. The journey itself, and maybe even more importantly the planning and saving that goes in to making the journey, is fundamental to the worldview of Islam as it is a constant reminder of the core value of religion within society.

Beyond the Five Pillars, the concept of Jihad and Mujahada are critical elements to the Islamic worldview. They are often considered the sixth pillar of Islam by some because of their importance to the culture and way of life of the people and the effect they have on the outside world.[16] While jihad has come to mean holy war, it meaning is much broader than that. The word actually means struggle – often the struggle of following the path of God is implied.[17] Mujahada has come to refer to the personal or inner struggle, which people face in regards to their religion or their general life and is used almost exclusively for the greater, inward jihad because fighting against someone else or blaming someone else is easier than trying to correct yourself and admitting you were in the wrong. The Islamic worldview stems from God and whether he leads the people to peace with others or to war with others. The evolution of Jihad has had the most negative connotation to the Islamic worldview over the last fifty years, but at its core, the struggle of both an individual and a society to improve and be closer to God is a struggle worth having.

The final key element that has driven the Islamic rituals is the role of the family in Muslim society. The family was the core of the Muslim tribal beginnings with most decisions made at the local level before modernization. In the not so distant past, Muslims had a different ethical view than the so called modern countries because there was no one person or central government making decisions and the rest of the world was not involved, so they stayed with their traditional beliefs.[18] The role of the family was more important than any other influence in how children learned and developed their ethical beliefs. Ethics continue to evolve due to technological advances and the ability to communicate with others so quickly. However, even with all of the modern inventions, the family is still the key driver of ethics and rituals in Islamic society. Any future evolution in the Islamic worldview will need to start at the family level because then people will grow up with these new ethics and will not need to be forced to conform to the will of the state or the world.[19]

The Five Pillars, along with the role of jihad and family, are the key elements that drive both individual behaviors and the policies of the Islamic states. The Islamic worldview, ethics, and devotional rituals are all directly linked because of the integral role religion has played in politics in all Muslim countries. The rituals create ethics and the ethics create the worldview, but the ethics are ever changing because of the new circumstances of the world.[20] The ability to challenge ethics and rituals set since Mohamed’s journey in 622 AD is a difficult and complicated road because the Qur’an and Sharia law are the doctrines for all Muslims and they need to be followed in order for people to believe they are good Muslims.

 

 

Works Cited

Moosa, Ebrahim. Ethical Landscape: Laws, Norms and Morality

 

Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

 

[1] Moosa, Ebrahim. Ethical Landscape: Laws, Norms and Morality

[2] Moosa, Ebrahim. Ethical Landscape: Laws, Norms and Morality

 

[3] Class Notes

[4] Class Notes

[5] Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

[6] Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

[7] Class Notes

[8] Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

[9] Class Notes

[10] Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

[11] Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

[12] Class Notes

[13] Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

[14] Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

[15] Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

[16] Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

[17] Sachico Murata & William C. Chittick, The Vision of Islam, St. Paul, Minnesota: Program House, 2006

[18] Moosa, Ebrahim. Ethical Landscape: Laws, Norms and Morality

[19] Moosa, Ebrahim. Ethical Landscape: Laws, Norms and Morality

[20] Class Notes