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Sacred places and days

Sacred places and days


The most sacred place for Muslims is the Ka'bah sanctuary at Mecca, the object of the annual pilgrimage. It is much more than a mosque; it is believed to be the place where the heavenly bliss and power touches the earth directly. According to Muslim tradition, the Ka'bah was built by Abraham.

The Prophet's mosque in Medina is the next in sanctity. Jerusalem follows in third place in sanctity as the first qiblah (i.e., direction in which the Muslims offered prayers at first, before the qiblah was changed to the Ka'bah) and as the place from where Muhammad, according to tradition, made his ascent (mi'raj) to heaven. For the Shi'ah, Karbala' in Iraq (the place of martyrdom of 'Ali's son, Husayn) and Meshed in Iran (where Imam 'Ali ar-Rida is buried) constitute places of special veneration where the Shi'ah make pilgrimages.

Shrines of Sufi saints

For the Muslim masses in general, shrines of Sufi saints are particular objects of reverence and even veneration. In Baghdad the tomb of the greatest saint of all, 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, is visited every year by large numbers of pilgrims from all over the Muslim world.

The Sufi shrines, which were managed privately in earlier periods, are almost entirely owned by governments in the late 20th century and are managed by departments of awqaf (plural of waqf, a religious endowment). The official appointed to care for a shrine is usually called a mutawalli. In Turkey, where such endowments formerly constituted a very considerable portion of the national wealth, all were confiscated by the regime of Atat?resident, 1928-38).

The Mosque

The general religious life of the Muslims is centred around the mosque, and in the days of the Prophet and early caliphs the mosque was, indeed, the centre of all community life. Small mosques are usually supervised by the imam (one who administers the prayer service) himself, although sometimes also a muezzin is appointed. In larger mosques, where Friday prayers are offered, a khatib (one who gives the khutbah, or sermon) is appointed for Friday service. Many large mosques also function as religious schools and colleges. Mosque officials are appointed by the government in most countries. In some countries--e.g., Pakistan--most mosques are private and are run by the local community, although some of the larger ones are being increasingly taken over by the government departments of awqaf.

Islamic Prophecies

The Final Signs of Qiyaamah (Islam)

The ground will cave in:
one in the east,
one in the west,
and one in Hejaz, Saudi Arabia.

Fog or smoke will cover the skies for forty days.
The nonbelievers will fall unconscious,
while Muslims will be ill (develop colds).

The skies will then clear up.

A night three nights long will follow the fog.
It will occur in the month of Zil-Hajj after Eidul-Adha,
and cause much restlessness among the people.

After the night of three nights,
the following morning the sun will rise in the west.

People's repentance will not be accepted after this incident.

One day later, the Beast from the earth will miraculously
emerge from Mount Safaa in Makkah, causing a split in the ground.

The beast will be able to talk to people
and mark the faces of people,
making the believers' faces glitter,
and the nonbelievers' faces darkened.

A breeze from the south causes sores in the armpits of Muslims,
which they will die of as a result.

The Ka'aba will be destroyed by non-Muslim African group.
Kufr will be rampant.
Haj will be discontinued.
The Qur'an will be lifted from the heart of the people,
30 years after the ruler Muquad's death.

The fire will follow people to Syria, after which it will stop.
Some years after the fire,
Qiyaamah begins with the Soor (trumpet) being blown.
The year is not known to any person.
Qiyaamah will come upon the worst of creation.

From The Encyclopedia Britannica

Prophets are men specially elected by God to be his messengers. Prophethood is indivisible, and the Qur'an requires recognition of all prophets as such without discrimination. Yet they are not all equal, some of them being particularly outstanding in qualities of steadfastness and patience under trial.

Abraham, Noah, Moses, and Jesus were such great prophets. As vindication of the truth of their mission, God often vests them with miracles: Abraham was saved from fire, Noah from the deluge, and Moses from the Pharaoh. Not only was Jesus born from the Virgin Mary, but God also saved him from crucifixion at the hands of the Jews. The conviction that God's messengers are ultimately vindicated and saved is an integral part of the Qur'anic doctrine.

All prophets are human and never part of divinity: they are simply recipients of revelation from God. God never speaks directly to a human: he either sends an angel messenger to him or makes him hear a voice or inspires him. Muhammad is accepted as the last prophet in this series and its greatest member, for in him all the messages of earlier prophets were consummated.

He had no miracles except the Qur'an, the like of which no human can produce. (Soon after the Prophet's death, however, a plethora of miracles was attributed to him by Muslims.) The angel Gabriel brought the Qur'an down to the Prophet's "heart." Gabriel is represented by the Qur'an as a spirit, but the Prophet could sometimes see and hear him.

According to early traditions, the Prophet's revelations occurred in a state of trance when his normal consciousness was in abeyance. This state was accompanied by heavy sweating. The Qur'an itself makes it clear that the revelations brought with them a sense of extraordinary weight: "If we were to send this Qur'an down on a mountain, you would see it split asunder out of fear of God."

This phenomenon at the same time was accompanied by an unshakable conviction that the message was from God, and the Qur'an describes itself as the transcript of a heavenly "Mother Book" written on a "Preserved Tablet." The conviction was of such an intensity that the Qur'an categorically denies that it is from any earthly source, for in that case it would be liable to "manifold doubts and oscillations."

Eschatology

In Islamic doctrine, on the Last Day, when the world will come to an end, the dead will be resurrected and a judgment will be pronounced on every person in accordance with his deeds. Although the Qur'an in the main speaks of a personal judgment, there are several verses that speak of the resurrection of distinct communities that will be judged according to "their own book." In conformity with this, the Qur'an also speaks in several passages of the "death of communities," each one of which has a definite term of life.

The actual evaluation, however, will be for every individual, whatever the terms of reference of his performance. In order to prove that the resurrection will occur, the Qur'an uses a moral and a physical argument. Because not all requital is meted out in this life, a final judgment is necessary to bring it to completion.

Physically, God, who is all-powerful, has the ability to destroy and bring back to life all creatures, who are limited and are, therefore, subject to God's limitless power.

According to strict Qur'anic doctrine, there is no intercession, although God himself, in his mercy, may forgive certain sinners. Those condemned will burn in hellfire, and those who are saved will enjoy the abiding pleasures of paradise. Hell and heaven are both spiritual and physical.

Besides suffering in physical fire, the damned will also experience fire "in their hearts"; similarly, the blessed, besides physical enjoyment, will experience the greatest happiness of divine pleasure.

Quite early, however, Islamic tradition developed the notion of intercession, probably in answer to the Christian doctrine of redemption.


HOLY DAYS

The Muslim calendar (based on the lunar year) dates from the emigration (hijrah) of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina in AD 622. The two festive days in the year are the 'ids, 'Id al-Fitr celebrating the end of the month of Ramadan and the other, 'Id al-Adha (the feast of sacrifice), marking the end of the pilgrimage.

Because of the crowds, 'id prayers are offered either in very large mosques or on specially consecrated grounds. Other sacred times include the "night of determination" (believed to be the night in which God makes decisions about the destiny of individuals and the world as a whole) and the night of the ascension of the Prophet to heaven. The Shi'ah celebrate the 10th of Muharram (the first month of the Muslim year) to mark the day of the martyrdom of Husayn. The Muslim masses also celebrate the death anniversaries of various saints in a ceremony called 'urs (literally, "nuptial ceremony"). The saints, far from dying, are believed to reach the zenith of their spiritual life on this occasion.

MIKAL

Mikal, also spelled MIKA'IL, in Islam, the archangel who was so shocked at the sight of hell when it was created that he never laughed again. In biblical literature Michael is the counterpart of Mikal. In Muslim legend, Mikal and Jibril were the first angels to obey God's order to worship Adam. The two are further credited with purifying Muhammad's heart before his night journey (isra') from Mecca to Jerusalem and subsequent ascension (mi'raj) to heaven. He also is remembered as aiding the Muslims to their first significant military victory in Arabia in 624.

The single allusion to Mikal in the Qur'an (2:98) states: "Whoever is an enemy of God or his angels or his apostles or Jibril or Mikal, verily God is an enemy of the unbelievers." This has generated several explanatory legends that revolve around the Jews, who hold Michael in particular esteem as "the lord of Israel." In one story Muhammad is questioned by Jews about his prophetic mission and answers them quite satisfactorily. But when he says that Jibril is the bearer of his revelations, the Jews attack the archangel as the spirit of destruction and the foe of Michael, the angel of fertility. On another occasion the caliph 'Umar is reported to have asked the Jews of the synagogue of Medina how Mikal and Jibril were regarded by God. The Jews replied that Michael sat at God's left and Gabriel at his right but that the two were enemies. Whereupon 'Umar revealed the falseness of their position and said that an enemy of either angel was immediately an enemy of God.


LIFE AFTER DEATH

Muslims believe that individuals are accountable to God for their actions. Muslims also believe in the Day of Judgment, when all human beings will be called upon to render a complete account of their acts of commission and omission on earth.

The judgment will rest on one question: Did man conduct himself, in submission to God, in strict conformity with the truth revealed to the Prophets, and with the conviction that he will be held responsible for his conduct in life on the Day of Judgment? If the answer is yes, the reward will be Paradise. If not, Hell will be the punishment.

Belief in the hereafter divides people into three distinct categories.

First, there are those who do not believe in the hereafter and regard life on this earth as the only life.

Second, those people who do not deny the hereafter, but who depend on the intercession or atonement of some one to absolve them of their sins.

Third, are those people who believe in the hereafter in the form in which Islam presents it. They do not delude themselves that they have any special relationship with God, or that anyone can intercede on their behalf.

They know that they alone are responsible for their actions.

For them the belief in the hereafter becomes a great moral force.

A person who has the conviction that he is fully accountable for all his actions finds a permanent guard, stationed within himself, who cautions him and admonishes him whenever he deviates from the right path.

There may be no court to summon him, no policemen to apprehend him, no witnesses to accuse him, and no public opinion to press him, but the guard within him is ever on the alert, ready to seize him whenever he transgresses.

The consciousness of this inner presence makes man fear God even when he is all by himself.

He discharges his duties honestly, and refrains from doing anything which is prohibited.

Should he succumb to temptation, and violate the law of God, he is ever ready to offer sincere regrets, and enter into a firm contract... that he will not repeat the mistake.

There can be no greater instrument of moral reformation nor any better method to help man develop a sound and stable character.


THE ROLE OF WOMEN

The role of women in Islam has been misunderstood in the West because of general ignorance of the Islamic system and way of life as a whole, and because of the distortions of the media.

The Muslim woman is accorded full spiritual and intellectual equality with man, and is encouraged to practice her religion and develop her intellectual faculties throughout her life. In her relations with men both are to observe modesty of behavior and dress and a strict code of morality which discourages unnecessary mixing of the sexes.

Her relations with her husband should be based on mutual love and compassion.

He is responsible for the maintenance of the wife and children, and she is to give him the respect due to the head of the family.

She is responsible for the care of home and the children's early training.

She may own her own property, run her own business and inherit in her own right.

She may not be married without being consulted and is able to obtain divorce. The system of limited polygamy can be seen to have its uses which may be in the interests of women as well as men.

Finally she can look forward to an old age in which she is respected and shown every care by her children and by the society as a whole.

It would appear therefore that the Islamic system has achieved the right mixture of freedom and security that women seek and that is in the interest of the society as a whole.




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