My first experience of Islam: From an Indian Christian’s perspective

By Justin Jos

Since the existence of humans questions have been raised about the idea of religion. The orientation of individuals towards a particular religion is mainly because of a resort to a super natural entity in order to achieve certain ends of human soul. When I peep through my so called “spiritual mind” to seek answers to such questions I find chaos everywhere. There exists no fixed pattern of thought process in my mind regarding this issue. To accept a particular religious philosophy on account of being born into that community or group is devoid of not only merit but also reason. It is to be noted that certain words or verses are recited during the Namaz but their meaning is unknown to the general masses as they are in Arabic. Arabic is said to be the first and the only language of Islam. It is believed by Muslims that Allah gave the word i.e. Quran through Prophet Mohammed. Their existed four prophets including ProphetMohammed upon whom the word of Allah was revealed through certain scriptures. These scriptures comprised of Bible, Torah, Quran and Zabur. Even Adam knew of the arrival of ProphetMohammed according to Islamic history. Jesus is also one of the prophets and he is named as “Isa alas salaam”. Therefore, I have observed a convergence of Christianity with Islam which leads me to the unity of the two religions in an epistemological perspective.

To understand and experience the flow and vitality of Islamic principles I went to the nearby mosque. My first observation was absence of women in and around the mosque. This patriarchal bent is visible as well as evident but not absent in reasoning. Maybe, during earlier times, to keep the women safe from the continuing ravaging wars in the deserts any form of adventure was disallowed however this is just a presumption on my part. After removing my slippers, I was supposed to cleanse my exposed portions through application of water thorough out my body. This ritual is called as Wudu and the underlying rationale is that there should be Pak-Safi i.e. a clean body and mind before entering the mosque. And the mandate of cloth being above the ankle also symbolizes the idea of cleanliness. Wearing of a Topi is not a directive to read Namaz but since it is a Sunnath people generally prefer to wear the Topi. The first inscription as seen on the wall of the mosque was “. أشهدُ أنْ لا إلهَ إلاَّ الله. وأشهدُ أنَّ محمّدًا رسولُ الله”which translates intoLailahaillallahMuhammadurRasulullah. The meaning of the phrase is “Allah is the greatest and Prophet Mohammed is his messenger”. These verses are the first Kalma of Quran where Kalma refers to the introduction to the principles of Islam.

To start off with the Namaz, there is a specific posture of sitting during the Namaz which derives its authority from the practice of prophet himself(Sunnah).After the attainment of the above said posture, a bayaan is given by the Imam who is selected through board meetings of Ulema Council which is basically an Arabic to Hindi or Urdu translation of teachings of Koran. Bayaan on this Friday reflected upon the principle of defamation. It was told that without evidence any act of defamation is an act worse than eating the meat of a dead donkey. A Muslim brother in no case shall defame another Muslim brother without evidence. The character/Imaan should be kept clean and any deviation from such path of righteousness is not only formidable but also punishable by eight lashes/whips.  The primary objective of Bayaan is to spread the knowledge of Islam. On this question we ask ourselves the idea regarding forced conversion in Islam. The answer is said to be in the negative and any such thought is a false interpretation of the text which is furthered by few corrupted individuals for malafide intentions. After the bayaan an azaan is delivered by Muazzin (a qualified or well versed Momin). Azaan is the calling of Allah for the gathering of its believers. Thereafter, the Qutba is read out which seeks for unity of Muslims and pleads for a gathering to praise Allah. These essential practices are comprised of Farz (must) and Nafl (not must) and any breach of the five essential practices of Haj, Namaz, Roza, Zakat and Hadith leads to addition of Gunaah. After the Qutba Niyat is done which are alternatively standing and sitting facing the Kabbah and continuously chanting “Allah Hu Akbar”. The Niyat embodies two rakat (for Jumaah). There is also a specific hand posture which is to be maintained with eyes gazing at the floor. The Imam recites the Ayat which is called Kirat and subsequently we have to look down. The posture of hand on knees is called Ruku and this posture is performed in reverence of Allah. During this posture, the words recited are “subhana rabbiyal azeem” which meansAllah is the Honorable one. After this sajda is performed which is basically an act of touching your forehead to the ground with hands and knees on the floor. The command is that a Muslim should only bow down before Allah and none other. After the repetition of this process the devotee sits down and recites the pre-determined three ayath and after that he is obligated to turn his head firstly on the right hand side and then on the left. The Namaz is considered to be complete and ended in its full entirety only after this process is completed. The last words being “Assalamualaikum warahmatullah” (May Allahkeeps you safe) and a subsequent Dua may be done which are not a mandate and a personal imposition.

The above ritual is sacrosanct and is never to be deviated from. My experience of this Jumah Namaz was an ecstatic one. I found out that even though Islam being highly commanding and prohibitive in nature it truly associates a person with his way of life. The ritual is a kind of purification which absolves one of the sins he commits during the conscious mind.

The emergence of widespread terrorism and prejudiced opinion about Muslims leads me to the question of whether killing of people is justified in the name of terrorism. Islam forbids such acts and any such act cannot be against a begunaah (innocent). In a modernized and highly industrial world, sustenance of Islamic principles reflects the attachment of a Muslim with Allah through adherence to Quran and other Islamic dictates. Horizons of human behavior have expanded and touched upon the periphery of obscenity, vulgarity and indecency which was predicted during the enunciation of Islam thereby making Islam a pioneer in the domain of religious foreseeability. The rules regulating the conduct of a Muslim are not only rigid but also virtuous in nature. Certain ideas like proscription of photography, women to not attend mosque prayers along with men and extensive streamlining is to be understood in light of conditions prevailing during medieval ages. However, I found the experience enlightening and delving into this realm allowed me to appreciate the principles and versatility present in Islam.

PS:- I would like to acknowledge Arbaaz Hussain without whom this write-up would not have been possible.

My first experience of Islam: From an Indian Christian’s perspective

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