Ashley Belohlavek: Significant Muslim Values and Thoughts on Ethics

When analyzing the main values and perceptions of the world that Muslims hold dear, one of the most important aspects of the religion to consider are the Five Pillars of Islam. These pillars are shahada, or the confession of faith that Allah is the only god and Muhammad was the Prophet, salat, or daily prayer to practice one’s piety frequently each day, zakat, or an annual donation to charity, fasting at Ramadan, and lastly, participation in the Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca that one must make at least once in their lifetime.[1] Engaging in these pillars is essential to being a Muslim and each pillar focuses closely on giving back to one’s community, living with much consideration to others and constantly keeping one’s spirituality and place in the world in check.

It is important to note that Islam is considered to be an orthopraxy or a religion that places the most emphasis on what one does in the name of their faith, rather than what one believes in the name of their faith.[2] This is different from a religion such as Christianity, which is an orthodoxy and focuses more on one’s religious beliefs and values. This can be seen in the third Pillar of Islam, zakat, which requires Muslims to give to charity every year rather than just encouraging charitable behavior. Another example of Islam’s focus on action is its beliefs surrounding Judgment Day. It is said that throughout one’s life, everything that they do will be recorded in one of two books: one kept by an angel on your right shoulder who records good deeds and one kept by an angel on your left shoulder who records your sins.[3] You can only go to paradise on Judgment Day if your good deeds book is heavier than your book of sins, and this is a clear indication that at the end of the day (life, that is), it matters more what you did than what you may have claimed to believe. The fact that Muslim majority countries preside under Shari’a (Islamic Law) also shows how integral it is to Islamic tradition that a Muslim not only believes but also acts according to their faith. While interpretation of scripture varies amongst each sect of Islam and this is a crucial part of Shari’a, the whole idea of living by God’s plan in every aspect of life is still very clear in Islamic society.

Another common theme within Islamic belief and practice is the sanctity of one’s body. It is important for a Muslim to remember that everything belongs to God, including one’s body, so they must treat their body with extreme care and consideration. The worst thing one can do is to destroy anyone’s body, as well as their own.[4] Along this line, the only excuse one has for not taking part in religious ritual such as daily prayer or fasting is if they have any kind of medical condition restricting them from participating in their religious practices, as one’s health should be their number one priority, in order to preserve their body for God.[5]

Community is extremely important to Muslims. While a Muslim is allowed to complete their daily prayer by themself, they earn far more spiritual credit by praying with others at mosque. By praying together, they are showing greater devotion to God and creating a greater atmosphere to promote piety and togetherness. Similarly, community is a huge part of why participating in the Hajj is so important for every Muslim. The area outside of the Ka’ba in Mecca can hold thousands and thousands of people, and attending this ritual counts towards an incredible amount of spiritual credit just by being surrounded by so many other people devoted to their love for God and their fellow Muslims.

The two main sects of Islam, Sunni and Shi’i, also have their own set of principles of faith, which overlap but are not identical. Sunni Muslims consider their principles of faith to be monotheism, prophecy and eternality, which are the belief in one god, acceptance of Muhammad serving as God’s representative on Earth, and the idea that at the end of your life, you will be expected to face everything you have done during your time on Earth. Shi’i Muslims consider these to be their principles as well, but they also include universal justice and imama, or “custodians of faith” who lead prayer in mosque and guide fellow Muslims, to be principles too. Both sects, however, believe that everything in the world belongs to God and that every living thing invokes God day and night. This perpetual closeness with God further shows that regardless of species or beliefs, God is with everyone and will always be there for guidance.

Perhaps the most important part of the Islamic Worldview is the basis of their dependence on and relationship with God. While other religions stress the importance of asking God for forgiveness, Muslims primarily ask God for guidance. As it has been said multiple times, it is not enough for a Muslim to believe, they must also act according to those beliefs. While there are various schools of thought within the larger Muslim community, a general belief seems to be that God is merciful and forgiving. The clearest example of this is directly in the Qur’an. At the beginning of every sura, or chapter in the Qur’an, it states, “In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy.”[6] Another example of God’s mercy is that whenever one commits a sin, the angel who presides over that person’s book of sins gives them a short period of time to repent and redeem themself. While one’s actions matter, it also matters what one’s intentions are, and if a mistake is made, that person has the chance to make things right. God’s mercy and willingness to negotiate and be understanding shows that Islam does not expect perfection and isn’t a means of punishment. It is the guiding light towards love, compassion and community.

 

Works Cited:

Chittick, William C. and Murata, Sachiko. The Vision of Islam. St Paul, MN. Paragon House. 1994. Print

Mahallati, M. Jafar. Week 4b Lecture. 9-21-16

Mahallati, M. Jafar. Week 5a Lecture. 9-26-16

Mahallati, M. Jafar. Week 5b Lecture. 9-28-16

Haleem, M.A.S. Abdel. The Qur’an. New York. Oxford University Press Inc. 2016. Print

 

[1] Chittick, pg 9-20

[2] Mahallati, week 5a lecture

[3] Mahallati, week 5b lecture

[4] Mahallati, week 4b lecture

[5] Mahallati, week 5b lecture

[6] Qur’an, any sura