The best way to start loving people is to listen and understand them. This requires a level of acceptance that takes us a bit closer to loving them. After all, you can’t really love someone if you haven’t taken the time or shown the interest to get to know him or her.
Knowing a little bit about Islam will help us understand and accept Muslims. They are people with spiritual needs just like us and they have beliefs that are not entirely different from ours. Learning a little bit about Islam won’t make us experts but it may help us speak intelligently, interact humbly, and pray powerfully.
The Five Pillars of Islam
The Five Pillars of Islam are the practices required of every Muslim. They believe these are the prerequisites to getting into heaven, but even then they can’t be sure of their eternal destiny.
Reciting the Creed (Shahada)
The central proclamation of Islam is “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.” People must recite this creed to be accepted into Islam so it is the first of the five pillars of Islam.
Praying Five Times a Day (Salaat)
The Salaat or Muslim ritual prayers are offered five times a day, first standing, then bowing, then briefly prostrating and touching their foreheads to the ground, and finally rising and sitting on their heels. This consists of one unit of repetition (or Rakat). Muslims are required to pray through seventeen of these repetitions each day and they are encouraged to do thirty-one if possible. Of course these repetitions are spread out over the course of the five daily prayers. Each of the five prayers are referred to by a different name: fajr, zuhr, asr, maghrib, and isha. They occur at sunrise, mid-morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, and sunset. Naturally this prayer schedule becomes the framework for structuring a day.
Friday is the Islamic Sabbath (Jumaa) so all Muslims are expected to attend a service at the mosque at noon. At the mosque they say congregational or jumaa prayer, which can only be done with three or more people.
Fasting during Ramadan (Sawn)
Muslims consider fasting one of the highest forms of Islamic worship. During the month of Ramadan they fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from food, water, and earthly pleasures. After sunset they eat a large meal, usually with guests. They rise early to eat again before sunrise.
Fasting during Ramadan as a worldwide community (Ummah) helps Muslims everywhere feel the bond of brotherhood with other Muslims as well as with Allah.
Giving to the Poor (Zakat)
The obligatory alms-giving known as Zakat is more of a tax than charitable giving. It is paid to zakat collectors and given to poor Muslims, clergy, and those fighting jihad.
Muslims are required to determine the value of their income, savings, and possessions and pay 2.5% of that amount to the zakat collectors.
Making the Pilgrimage to Mecca at Least Once in Their Lifetime (Hajj)
The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, a city in Saudi Arabia. A good Muslim is required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime. Polls show, however, that less than 10% of Muslims ever make the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage occurs during the last month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims can go to Mecca at any time of the year, but the main ceremonies are held annually.
Other Practices of Islam: Jihad
Some sects of Islam add a sixth pillar: jihad. Jihad is the Arabic word for striving. There are two types of Jihad in Islam: the struggle to improving oneself and overcoming one’s inner demons or the physical fighting in the name of Allah. Different sects of Islam will emphasize one over the other.
Islamic Practices in Two Words
Islamic practices can be summed up in two words: Good Works. Islam offers no assurance of salvation so performing good works is their only hope of attaining salvation. Muslims are focused on performing good works such as prayers and acts of charity.
You have to feel sorry for them. They strive to be good Muslims but even then they don’t know if they are “good enough” to get into heaven.
Jesus Christ is the Answer they seek. He can grant them salvation and the assurance of eternal life. Muslims already revere Jesus but their knowledge of Him is incorrect and incomplete. May the light of Christ shine upon their hearts and minds to enlighten them with God’s truth and break down their devotion to the lies they’ve been taught.
How could we not make every effort to offer Muslims hope? The love and compassion of Christ in us compels us to share the hope we have with those who need it. Withholding the true knowledge of Christ from Muslims because we’re afraid of them or blame them for the actions of a few is not just a sin, it’s shameful. Our unforgiveness hinders our spiritual life and the lives of those who need to hear the truth about Jesus Christ.
Five Prayers for Muslims
Muslims pray five times a day so I’m offering five prayers for you to pray with me.
Lord, I ask you to . . .
- Give Muslims a deep dissatisfaction with keeping laws and performing good works to earn your approval. Help them find ways to seek a better path—your path.
- Create a yearning for more than ritual prayers and personal piety so they will seek a relationship with you that goes beyond what they have ever been taught.
- Make them uncomfortable with not knowing whether they have a place in heaven so they will seek answers and find You.
- Prepare their hearts to hear the Good News about Jesus the Christ.
- Open doors for Muslims to be able to hear the truth and give them the courage to go through those doors.
Ask God how He wants you to pray for Muslims and what more He wants you to do.