The Fourth Pillar of Islam: Fasting

The fourth Pillar of Islam is saum, or fasting. In the ninth month of the lunar calendar of Islam, the faithful fast from dawn to dusk.

During the fast, Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, lying, and sensual contact. The fast is meant to help Muslims overcome personal gluttony and the habit of always desiring more.

According to Islam, people struggle to master their bodies and emotions. Fasting helps them with this.

When you want something, is it hard to deny it to yourself? Do you think that practice at denying ourselves things we want would be good for us? Explain.

The Fifth Pillar of Islam: The Hajj

The fifth Pillar of Islam is the hajj, or pilgrimage. This consists of a journey to mecca in Saudi Arabia and circling the Ka’bah, a small building made of bricks and covered with a heavy black cloth. The Ka’bah is believed to be the centre of monotheism. Abraham himself built the shrine in the Ka’bah, and Muhammad restored it to a place for worshipping Allah alone (no idols)

During the pilgrimage, Muslims recall the success of Hagar and Ishmael, the prophet Abraham’s concubine and their son. Hagar and Ishmael were aided by Allah after they were abandoned by Abraham in the Arabian desert. Pilgrims visit the barren Plain of Arafah to be reminded of the Day of Judgment and throw rocks at stone pillars representing Shaytan, the spirit of evil. They also pray regularly. Every year, millions of Muslims perform the hajj.

Most of us have had some experience of being part of a large group of people focused on the same thing, such as at a sporting event or a concert. Think about an experience like this that you have had. Did the energy of the group affect you in any way? Describe the experience.

Visual Representations

Muslims do not believe that Allah or the prophets should be visually represented. According to Islam, representations are misleading and even disrespectful. If Muhammad is shown in a painting, his face is hidden by a veil. Usually a flame is shown burning around his head; this is the flame of prophethood.

Why might representations of Allah and the prophets actually lead people away from Allah?

The Noble Writers

According to the Qur’an, we are followed throughout our lives by Kiraman Katibeen, the Noble Writers. These two angels sit on our shoulders and record our good and bad actions in a book of deeds.

If you knew that everything you did would be recorded, would you act differently? In what way?

Sufi Stories: the Drum

Sufis are Muslim mystics. They help people to escape worldly interests by becoming aware of spiritual things. Sufis often use stories as part of their teaching.

There was once a small boy who banged a drum all day long. His parents and neighbours were at their wits end; no matter what they said, the boy would not be quiet.

Various experts came to help. The first told the boy that he would perforate his eardrums. The second told the boy that beating a drum was a sacred activity and should only be done on special occasions. Other experts offered the neighbours earplugs, gave the boy a book to distract him, gave the neighbours books on how to control their anger, and gave the boy meditation exercises to calm him. The boy kept beating his drum.

Finally a Sufi came along. He looked at the boy and the drum, then pointed to a hammer and chisel lying nearby and said, “I wonder what is inside the drum?”

Why do the solutions of the “experts” fail? What do you think happens after the Sufi makes his comment?

Sufi Stories: The Ring

Sufis are Muslim mystics. They help people to escape worldly interest by becoming aware of spiritual things. Sufis often use stories as part of their teaching.

A powerful king presented a challenge to the wise men of his kingdom.

He said, “I had a dream in which I possessed a ring. The ring helped me bring peace to my state. If I looked upon it when I was unhappy, it made me joyful. If I looked upon it when I was happy, I became sad. Can you find me such a ring?”

The wise men consulted with one another. Finally they found a solution. They had a jeweler make a ring, which they presented to the king. On the ring were engraved the words, “This too will pass.”

Explain the message of this story in your own words.