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HY200 Topics in History Search for Islamic Order: Background

Five Pillars of Islam

1. Declaration of Faith (Shahada)

"There is no god but God [Allah] and Muhammad is the messenger of God."

- affirms Islam's absolute belief in the unity of God
- asserts that Muhammad is both prophet and messenger of God recieving the last, final revelation begun with Adam
- emphasizes practice and action outlined in the remaining Pillars

2. Prayer (Salat)

- facing the holy city of Mecca 5 times a day
- keeps believers mindful of their total dependence on God framing worldly concerns around death, judgment, and afterlife
- recitations from the Quran and accompanying movements express submission, humility, and adoration of God

3. Purification (Zakat)

- shows thanksgiving to God by supporting the poor
- annual contribution of 2.5% of one's wealth and assets
- wealth as a trust from God, so zakat is not "charity" but an obligation to the needs of the community

4. Fast of Ramadan

- abstaining dawn to sunset from food, drink, and sexual activity for a month every year
- reflecting on dependence upon God, spiritual goals and values, and the less fortunate
- ending with Eid al-Fitr feast of joyfulness, special celebrations, and gift giving

5. Pilgrimage (Haij)

- to Mecca in Saudi Arabia
- at least once if physically and financially able
- as a pilgrim totally at God's service

Political Division

Differences of opinion about political and religious leadership after the death of Muhammad led to the division of Muslims into two major branches - Sunnis (85%) and Shiis (15%) along with a a small but significant radical minority known as the Kharijites.


God is both transcendent (tanzih) and immanent (tashbih).
God has many qualities and name:

    - Allah signifying God's comprehensiveness
    - al-Khaliq - the creator

Muslims believe that Muhammad, the last of the prophets, recieved wisdom revealed to him as the Qur'an to enable humans
1. to devote themselves to God and
2. to lead lives and create societies deadicated to Allah.


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