Orthopraxy In Islam Essay, Research Paper
Orthopraxy in Islam
RLST 2600 Orthopraxy in Islam Islamic life is centered on the physical practice of prayer (salat). With that the religion of Islam itself is based in the methodical movement through which Muslims show their devotion to Allah. The prayer begins with the devotee standing, bending slowly into a sitting position and ending in full prostration. Bowing fully onto the ground is a practice that shows humility and represents the true devotion of members. Practice-centered religion differentiates itself from “orthodox” religion in that it focuses primarily on ritual practice, rather than theology or doctrine, orthodox meaning “correct opinion”. The most visible orthodox religion of America is Christianity. Christianity centers life around the opinions of the church with less emphasis on purity and behavior. Islamic life is distinctly based on what can be defined as “orthopraxy” or the importance of religious practice. The orthopraxy of Islam can be seen in at least three of the Five Pillars of Islam, salat, Ramadan and the hajj, which are also representative of Muslim faith and duties. Salat, as mentioned earlier, is the performance of prayer five times a day. The prayer, which includes full prostration, is performed facing Mecca. In the The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, (the earliest source of Islamic writing as dictated to Mohammed), it is written, “Whencesoever thou comest forth (for prayer, O Mohammed) turn thy face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship. Lo! it is the Truth from thy Lord. Allah is not unaware of what ye do (Surah 2:149).” Implicit directions for prayer also display the amount of emphasis on practice. Salat must be performed five times daily, at specific times of the day: early morning, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening. Each Friday a congregational service is held at the mosque and every male is required to attend. Before prayer, four ritual aspects are required: ritual purification, proper covering of the body, proper intention, and facing Mecca, or qibla (1). The emphasis on purity is directly associated with prayer, as one must not be impure in any way when one prays. The ritual impurity associated with everyday living is known as najasa or hadath. Najasa is external impurity including but not limited to, urine, blood, pus, feces of animals and humans. Hadath is impurity of the soul from performing certain activities. Hadath is caused by activities ranging from sleeping to seminal emission. The degree of hadath varies depending on the activity. Daily impurities result in a need for cleansing or ablutions. Ablution can be performed outside of mosques, usually the mosque will maintain a small fountain in which people can wash their hands to their elbows, feet to their ankles as well as heads and faces (1). The use of ablution as a form of purification as well as the consistent call to purify oneself follows the orthopraxy within Islam. The Koran states, “The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance…whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month (2:185).” The fasting during the month of Ramadan is an expression of joy; the fasting person recalls their dependence on Allah for sustenance and life. The fast lasts for thirty days, each day from sunrise to sunset. Again, the emphasis is placed on the practice of refraining from food, which challenges the body (1). The lives of Muslims change for a month as they devote themselves to concentration on the past year, and the graciousness of God. Increasing the amount of time spent focusing on religion allows members of the religion to renew their faith and their relationships with others. The journey to Mecca known as the hajj encompasses the practicing element of Islam. The holy pilgrimage to Mecca is required for all Muslims only if they have the means to afford such a trip and the physical ability to do so. Borrowing money is not proper for the trip; in fact one must have all debts settled before they leave on hajj. Travel to the center of religious worship represents the distance one is willing to travel as well as the costs one is willing to endure in order to display their devotion to Allah. The hajj consists of four days of constant practice and ritual. The talbiya, a prayer of announcement is recited constantly while on hajj. The rituals of the pilgrimage begin once the pilgrims enter the gates of Mecca, reciting the talbiya; these serve as checkpoints to guarantee that only Muslims enter the holy site. One of the core ceremonies of the trip is the circumambulation of the Ka’ba (tawaf) seven times counterclockwise by those on hajj. Tradition states that Abraham and Ishmael practiced the same ritual during their lifetimes. On one corner of the Ka’ba rests the “black stone…a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and Ishmael. The Prophet used to touch it when he passed, and pilgrims follow his example, also kissing and meditating near it (1).” Comparing Islam once again to a religion considered an example of orthodoxy-Christianity-the difference appears in the separate religious texts. Christian text, the New Testament, explains the lifestyle that is important concerning the rules of thought, faith, and the doctrine within Christianity. Christianity itself encounters strange practices in the ceremony of Mass, or Sunday worship. During traditional Catholic Mass the priest circles the worshipers with incense, and sprinkles holy water on them. The rituals embedded in Christianity are however, creations of later Christian followers, addition to the foundation of the religion. The ritual of the Eucharist represents another type of practice established in Christian ceremony, one based on direct teachings of Jesus Christ. Mohammed himself set forth the practices of The Five Pillars of Islam, the original and continually practiced rituals of Muslims. The difference also involves the lifestyle of the Christians. In most Christian sects/denominations there is no encounter with personal circumambulation, prostration or ritual covering of the body. These physical aspects of Islam truly separate it from what can be considered orthodoxy. The faith and duties of Islam are inside of the practices performed. The Islamic people practice strict physical rituals that correspond directly with their belief system. The Five Pillars of Islam exemplify the practices of Islam in that they require physical practice including worship, behavior and ritual cleanliness. The practices are followed obediently by Muslims and are seen as enhancing the relationship one has with Allah. As Dr. Denny says, “Islam…on the other hand, view[s] religion as a way of life and a ritual patterning of that life under God’s lordship (1).”
1. See Frederick Denny’s book, An Introduction to Islam pages 112-136. 2. Pickthall, Mohammed Marmaduke, ed. The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. Mentor, NY, NY.