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Islamic Religion

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After his arrival in Medina and before his and his death, Prophet Muhammad laid the core for the superlative Islamic faith during his last ten years in AD 632 (Tripod). A committed Muslims establishment was founded as the Islam community life was institutionalized in accordance with the new religion’s requirements (Islamic Encyclopedia). Other than the common moral orders, the new religion’s requirements included a number of institutions. These institutions are synonymous with Islamic religion up to today (Farah 54). Chief among these founding principles are the five pillars of Islam. They are the indispensable religious obligations requisite of every sound adult who professes Islam. The five pillars of Islam are described in the Qur'an and they started being practiced during Prophet Muhammad's generation. They include the prayer (salat), profession of faith (shahada), fasting (sawm), almsgiving (zakat), and pilgrimage (hajj). While some of these requisites can be found in Jewish, some other religious traditions mostly in Middle East, overall they make apparent distinction Islamic rituals from other faiths (Tabatabae 45). The five pillars are therefore the core of Islam practices and make up the central application of the Islamic religion (Islamic Encyclopedia).

According to tradition of Islam, the Kaaba, was built by Ibrahim the prophet (Abraham of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles) as commanded by God and his son Ismail (Ishmael).

The Qur'an gives detailed descriptions of the ritual that are to be performed during this pilgrimage, and portrays most these rituals as a repeat of the rituals carried out by prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail in the course of building the Kaaba (Islamic Encyclopedia). The sacred Black Stone is set in one corner of the Kaaba (Islamic Encyclopedia). This sacred black stone was given to prophet Ibrahim by the angel Gabriel, according to one Islamic tradition while according to another tradition this stone was placed there by Adam- the first man (Tripod).

Ritual sanitization is performed once pilgrims arrive in the city of Mecca. Most men and women put on flawless white gowns, as many men shave their heads (Islamic Encyclopedia). This plain and widespread dress denotes the equality among all Muslims and before God, a status reinforced further by the exclusion of perfumes, jewelry, sex, and hunting (Tripod). After this purification ritual, Muslims goes around the Kaaba seven times in cicle, run between two hills overlooking the Kaaba (al-Safa and al-Marwa) as they perform various prayers and invocations. This Pilgrimage ritual is also a reenactment of Hagar search for water to give her son Ismail.

After these Pilgrimage opening rituals, the Hajj continues from the seventh day for the next three days. It always starts with the ritual sanitization followed by devotion at the Kaaba mosque. People then gather at a hill outside Mecca known as Mina, where they spend the night (Tripod). The following day, they proceed to the nearby plain of Arafat in the morning, where they perform a series of prayers and other rituals while standing from noon to sunset (Tripod). The pilgrimage then proceeds to a location known as Muzdalifa, halfway between Mina and Arafat, where they spend the night. The following morning, they head back to Mina.  On the way to Mina, the Pilgrims stops at stone pillar that symbolizws Satan, at which they cast seven pebbles (Islamic Encyclopedia).

The final Pilgrimage ritual is the slaughter of an animal, either a goat, cow, sheep, or camel. This ritual is a symbolic reaffirmation of the command that God gave to Ibrahim to sacrifice Ismail his son, which Ibrahim duly accepted and was about to implement when God intervened through his Engel and allowed Ibrahim to slaughter a sheep instead (Tripod). (According to the Christian Bibles and Hebrew, Abraham was called to sacrifice his son Isaac.) After the ritual sacrifice, most of the meat from the animals is distributed to poor in the Muslim society (Tripod). The ritual sacrifice ends the Pilgrimage and marks the beginning of the sacrifice festival known as 'id al-adha. The 'id al-adha festivals and the festival of breaking fast ('id al-fitr) at the end of the month of Ramadan are the two major festivals celebrated all over the world (Tripod).

During the Hajj, most pilgrims also visit Medina, where Prophet Mohammed’s tomb is located, before they go back homes (Islamic Encyclopedia). If the Hajj is performed at any time other than the designated time of pilgrimage, the ritual is referred to as umra (Tripod). Although umra is considered an important act, it does not absolve a Muslim from the obligation of Pilgrimage. Most Muslims may perform one or more umras before or after the proper hajj (Tripod).

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