Salah and Sawm - How They are Celebrated in Islam and Why.

Explain how and why Salah and Sawm are celebrated in Islam.

Salah is the name for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. Salah strengthens the foundations of our faith, prepares a person to live the life of goodness and obedience to Allah, and it builds courage and determination. Every time we perform Salah, we renew our commitments to Allah and we rid ourselves from worldly pressures five times a day. One significant point being is that by doing it daily Salah reminds Muslims that everything comes from God so that they can thank him and seek his blessings.

Salah is regarded by Muslim scholars as the most important of the practical pillars, according to the hadith Muhammad (saw) said ‘Salah is the pillar of Islamic religion and whoever abandons it, demolishes the very pillar of religion. This is a clear statement that shows the importance of prayer as prayer is the most sacred moment of life. By performing Salah you are proving that you can practise the physical acts of worship as well as saying them. It brings you closer to Allah and gives you a sense of personal fulfilment.

Muslims wash before prayer as a symbol that they are cleansing their minds in order to pray to Allah. Prophet Muhammad (saw) said "The person that observes prayer properly, the prayer itself, blesses him with good wishes.” The Qiblah determines the direction of the daily Muslim prayers, the position towards which a Muslim should stand during prayer. Muslims always face Mecca, Saudi Arabia during prayer and is imposed by God to maintain unity and regularity among worshippers. Salah may be performed privately, but it carries special merit when done with other Muslims so there can be even more reward if you pray communally. Muslims observe five formal prayers each day. The timings of these prayers are spaced fairly evenly throughout the day. The Fajr prayer starts off the day and its performed before sunrise. The Zuhr prayer follows Fajr. Asr is performed in the late afternoon. Maghrib is performed at sunset.

Lastly Isha is performed in the evening as Muslims take time to remember God’s presence, guidance, mercy, and forgiveness. If a prayer is offered regularly, at the correct time, with genuineness of intention and concentration of what is being recited, it will strengthen the persons’ faith and provide comfort and strength in times of trouble. Also the fact that you’re instilling your beliefs as an integral part of your life will show your dedication to your faith. A hadith says ‘prayer not only stimulates a person to do good deeds, but it takes away his minor sins. Verily, the good deeds remove the evil deeds’.

Sawm is intended to teach believers patience and self-control in their personal conduct, to help control passions and temper, to provide time for meditation and to strengthen one's faith. Fasting also serves the purpose of cleansing the inner soul. It also promotes restraint which any Muslim must have. Muslims believe their good actions bring greater reward during these thirty days because the month has been blessed by Allah. Fasting reminds Muslims of the suffering of the poor who often don't get to eat well. By getting rid of your worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry as well as growth in one's spiritual life. This can also be a time of realisation from people as they contwemplate

There are many positive reasons for fasting, including Learning self-discipline, becoming spiritually stronger, sharing the sufferings of the poor, developing sympathy for them, realising the value of charity and giving thanks for the Holy Qur'an, which was first revealed in the month of Ramadan. During Ramadan most Muslims will tend to wake up just before sunrise to eat a meal or some food and this is known as Sehri. They will then not be able to eat or drink again until sunset when it is traditional to open the fast with a date and then eat and this meal is known as Iftari. The evening meals during Ramadan are occasions for family and community to get together. The month of Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid ul-Fitr. This is marked by dressing up and visiting the mosque for prayer, and with visits to family and friends for festive meals.

How far do you agree that carrying out the five pillars makes someone a perfect Muslim?

Just as pillars don’t make a perfect building, following the five pillars of Islam doesn’t necessarily make you the perfect Muslim. The five pillars of Islam are the frameworks of a Muslims life: faith, prayer, charity, fasting and Hajj. These duties help form the foundation of an observant Muslim's daily life. The main pillars are actions rather than beliefs; this is to show the impetus on physical worship. The Shahadah also implies a Muslim's belief in Islam's other articles of faith, including belief in the angels, belief in the scriptures, belief in all the prophets, and belief in the afterlife. The first and perhaps the most important of the Five Pillars is Shahadah. Shahadah is the Muslim profession of faith, expressing the two simple, fundamental beliefs that make one a Muslim: ‘There is no god but Allah and Muhammad (saw) is the prophet of Allah’. Muslims believe that the Shahadah is without value unless it is said with sincerity and a person is considered to be a Muslim if they make that declaration. A person may carry out these five pillars flawlessly but if their heart isn’t in the right place than they aren’t the perfect Muslim. However others may argue that by not following the five pillars of Islam, your chances of making it to paradise are slim. It’s mainly finding the balance of following the pillars and having good intentions in life which can ensure your position of being a good Muslim.

Putting faith into action is integral to an Islamic way of life, and the means by which a Muslim hopes to earn the reward of Paradise in the afterlife. The five pillars of faith provide a strong foundation for this, but Muslims should strive to stay mindful and obedient to God in all that they do which includes being a good moral human being. So although you may follow the five pillars to the book you still aren’t guaranteed a place in paradise. Some Muslims say that intention plays a huge part in whether your loyalty to Allah remains sufficient and that if you’re good natured you’re likely to get your just rewards in life.