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6. Islamic Practices

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The Ten Obligatory Acts
The most important duties for Shi'a Muslims - branches that grow from the 5 roots - Jihad, Khums, Zakah, Hajj, Sawm, Salah, Amr bil-Ma'ruf, Nagy anil-Munkar, Tawalla, Tabarra (they also crossover with Sunni practice).
The Five Pillars of Islam
The basic acts that form the foundation of Muslim life and belief in the Sunni tradition - Shahadah, Salah, Sawm, Zakah, Hajj.
Jihad
Striving (for Allah) to achieve peace in the world. Greater (internal within oneself) and Lesser (outer response to physical threat).
Greater jihad
Striving for Allah internally within oneself - heart, tongue, hand.
Lesser jihad
Striving for Allah externally in response to physical threat - e.g. persecution in the worst circumstances. Most Muslims disagree with the way extremists apply this.
Conditions for Lesser jihad
Extreme level of suffering, recognised leader declares it, innocent civilians (women, children, elderly) remain unharmed, crops and water supplies left alone.
Khums
Means 'fifth'. An additional tax (Shi'a only). Consists of the payment of 20% of an individual's surplus income. Imams spend it on various causes - including the poor, orphans, schools, clergy and mosques.
Zakah
Means 'purification'. Payment of 2.5% of a Muslim's wealth to the poor. Paid at the end of Ramadan. It 'purifies' their income.
Alms
Food or money given to the poor.
Hajj
Pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Muslims are literally following in the footsteps of Ibrahim, Isma'il and Muhammad. Once in a lifetime if physically/financially possible. By doing it Muslims believe that your sins can be forgiven.
Hajj requirements
A Muslim must be physically able, financially able, safe to get there.
Hajj 1: Tawaf
Walking seven times anti-clockwise around the Ka'bah and trying to kiss or touch the black stone.
Hajj 2: Sa'ee
Jogging or walking between two hills seven times in memory of Ibrahim's wife Hagar, who was left in the desert with their son Isma'il.
Hajj 3: Wuquf
Day of repentance and prayer at Arafat, where Muhammad gave his final sermon.
Hajj 4: Rama al-Jamar
Symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at three wide walls, in memory of Ibrahim.
Hajj 5: Id-ul-Adha
The Festival of sacrifice marking the annual completion of Hajj. All Muslims participate in this to remember dedication of Ibrahim and Isma'il as they devoted themselves to making a costly sacrifice for Allah.
Hajj 6: Halak
Man shave their heads to symbolise a new beginning. Women cut the ends of their hair.
Benefits of Hajj
Stronger relationship to Allah, unity among Muslims, inspires to lead a better life.
Challenges of Hajj
Physically demanding, expensive especially if you are travelling from other countries, a huge number of people doing it means there are occasional fatalities.
Ka'bah
A sanctuary rebuilt by Ibrahim and Isma'il in Makkah, the centre of Muslim pilgrimage.
Sawm
Keeping away from something, abstaining or fasting. Takes place during the month of Ramadan. Sunrise to sunset no food or drink, 29-30 days. Some exceptions are given. Assists: self-control, devotion to Allah, understanding of the poor. Ends with Laylat al-Qadr, then celebration of Id-ul-fitr.
Laylat al-Qadr
The Night of Power. When the Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from Allah through the Angel Jibril. 610 CE at cave of Hira in Makkah.
Exceptions to fasting during Ramadan
If you are: very old, pregnant, sick or a young child. Missed days to be made up at another time or money paid towards the feeding of poor families.
Ramadan
The ninth month of the Muslim (lunar) year, during which Muslims will fast from sunrise to sunset for 29 - 30 days. This is a holy month because it was when the first revelation of the Qur'an took place.
Salah
Praying five times daily. (Shi'a Muslims can combine these into three). Ablution ('wudu). Set prayers and movements. Jummah prayer is every friday in the Mosque.
'Wudu or ablution
Ritual washing in preparation for prayer. Wash/wipe various parts of the face including hands, mouth, elbows and feet. Shi'as wipe front of the head, Sunnis wipe the whole of the head.
Fajr, Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib, Isha
The 5 daily prayers.
Qiblah
The direction of Muslim prayer - towards Makkah - to be unified with all other Muslims.
Makkah
The
Jummah
The prayer that takes place in the Mosque every friday, the most important day of the week for Muslims. (Male and female segregation means either that women pray at home or in a different part of the Mosque)
Rak'ah
The sequence Muslim prayer positions - standing, bowing, kneeling and prostrating.
Amr bil-Ma-ruf
Encouraging others to do good - helps progress towards paradise.
Nagy anil-Munkar
Discouraging others from doing bad - helps progress towards paradise.
Tawalla
Expressing love for Allah or good. (Shi'as believe they should only associate with just and good people).
Tabarra
Ignoring the enemies of Allah or evil.
The Shahadah
The declaration of faith - this is how you convert to Islam. You declare in good faith that "I bear witness that there is no God except Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." (Shi'a muslims have an extra 3rd line: 'Ali is the friend of God.').
Occasions that the Shahadah is recited
Into the ears of newborn babies, when someone converts to Islam, when someone is buried.
What happens during Id-ul-Adha
New clothes are worn. Animals are sacrificed. Meat is shared with the poor. Families go to the mosque and listen to the Imam's sermon. The day is spent together sharing food.
Id-ul-Fitr
Festival at the end of Ramadan. All Muslims participate in this.
What happens during Id-ul-Fitr
New clothes are worn. Gifts are exchanged. Money is given to the poor (Zakah). Families go to the mosque and listen to the Imam's sermon. The day is spent together sharing food.
Id-ul-Ghadeer
Shi'a festival to celebrate the appointment of Ali as successor to the Prophet Muhammad (originally at a place called Ghadir Khumm).
What happens during Id-ul-Ghadeer
Shi'a Muslims fast during this day. Gatherings at Mosques are held where poetry and is recited and scholars give speeches.
Ashura
A solemn day of remembrance for Shi'a Muslims where they remember the day that Muhammad's grandson (Imam Husayn) was martyred along with his family and companions in Karbala, Iraq. It is a reminder to oppose injustice and remain loyal to the Imams.
Martyr
A person who dies for having particular beliefs.
What happens during the Ashura festival
Gatherings are held in Shi'a mosques - people wear black to symbolise mourning. Millions make a pilgrimage to Karbala to visit the shrine of Imam Husayn. Some beat their chests and wail.
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