Daily Life of a Muslim
Daily Life of a Muslim
Muslims have some very simple rites for welcoming a child.
The Muslim call to prayer or adhaan ("God is great, there is no God but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Come to prayer.") are the first words a newborn Muslim baby should hear. They are whispered into the right ear of the child by his or her father.
The baby's first taste should be something sweet, so parents may chew a piece of date and rub the juice along the baby's gums. It was a practice carried out by the Prophet Muhammad and is believed to help tiny digestive systems to kick in.
There are a number of events that take place on or after the seventh day.
After seven days the baby's head is shaved (a tradition also carried out by Hindus). This is to show that the child is the servant of Allah. Although Hindus may take the baby's hair to India and scatter it in the holy river Ganges, Muslims weigh it and give the equivalent weight in silver to charity.
Ideally, Muslim baby boys are circumcised when they are seven days old although it can take place any time before puberty. It is also tradition to choose a name for the baby on the seventh day.
The aqeeqah is also traditionally carried out on the seventh day. This is a celebration which involves the slaughter of sheep. Sheep are sacrificed (in Britain the meat is ordered at the butchers) and the meat is distributed to relatives and neighbors and also given to the poor.
Islam sets out no rites for puberty per se. But there is a series of actions beginning around age seven that lead children towards their gender-based, adult roles in Moslem society. Boys, for example, will begin to attend public prayers with the men and girls will start to focus their activities more on the home and the family. This division of roles is traditional, and in the modern era is undergoing transformation in different countries around the world.
During the month of Ramadan, both boys and girls will begin to undertake some days of fasting. As they get older, the number of days will gradually increase. When they arrive at full adulthood, they will be expected to participate in the entire month of the fast.
Halal and Haram
Muslims are allowed to eat what is "good" (Qur'an 2:168) - that is, what is pure, clean, wholesome, nourishing, and pleasing to the taste. In general, everything is allowed (halal) except what has been specifically forbidden (haram).
The following foods and drinks are strictly prohibited (haram):
* dead meat (i.e. carcass of an already-dead animal)
* flesh of swine (pork)
* intoxicating drinks
* meat of an animal that has been sacrificed to idols
* meat of an animal that died from strangulation or blunt force
* meat from which wild animals have already eaten
Muslims are enjoined to slaughter their livestock by slitting the animal's throat in a swift and merciful manner, reciting God’s name with the words, "In the name of God, God is Most Great" (Qur'an 6:118-121). This is in acknowledgement that life is sacred, and that one must kill only with God's permission, to meet one's lawful need for food. The animal is then bled completely before consumption. Meat prepared in this manner is called zabihah, or simply, halal meat.
Some Muslims will abstain from eating meat if they are uncertain of how it was slaughtered. They place importance on the animal having been slaughtered in a humane fashion with the remembrance of God and gratefulness for this sacrifice of the animal's life. They also place importance on the animal having been bled properly, as otherwise it would not be considered healthy to eat.
Some Muslims living in predominantly-Christian countries hold the opinion that one may eat commercial meat (apart from pork, of course), and pronounce God’s name at the time of eating it. This opinion is based on the Qur'anic verse (5:5) that the food of Christians and Jews is lawful for Muslims.
Muslims worship in a building called a mosque. An alternative word for mosque, from the original Arabic, is masjid, meaning place of prostration.
Outside every mosque, or just inside the entrance, is a place where worshippers can remove and leave their shoes. There is also a place where they can carry out the ritual washing required before prayer.
The main hall of a mosque is a bare room largely devoid of furniture. There are no pictures or statues. Muslims believe these are blasphemous, since there can be no image of Allah, who is wholly spirit.
Everyone sits on the floor and everywhere in the mosque is equal in status.
A niche in one of the walls, called a mihrab, shows the direction that the worshippers should face in order to face Mecca.
Many mosques have a minaret which is a tall thin tower. A muezzin stands at the top of the tower and calls Muslims to prayer at the five ritual times of the day.
Women can attend the mosque and when they do they sit separately from the men. This is out of modesty and to prevent any distraction. It is more usual for women to pray at home.
Muslim weddings vary enormously according to the culture of the people involved.
Many people in Europe, for example, confuse the celebrations at a Turkish, Moroccan, Pakistani or Bangladeshi wedding with an Islamic wedding, and assume they are the same thing. This is not so, of course, for many of the Muslims who marry are from widely different cultures.
Secondly, it is important to realize that the 'wedding' means different things too. For many Muslims, it is the Islamic ceremony that counts as the actual wedding, and not the confirmation of that wedding in a registry office.
The actual Muslim wedding is known as a nikah. It is a simple ceremony, at which the bride does not have to be present so long as she sends two witnesses to the drawn-up agreement. The ceremony consists of reading from the Qur'an, and the exchange of vows in front of witnesses for both partners. No special religious official is necessary, but often the Imam is present and performs the ceremony. He may give a short sermon.
Wedding customs are a matter of culture and not of Islam. In some Muslim cultures, the bride and groom may sit on 'thrones' on a platform, to be seen by the guests.
The majority of brides favor a traditional white wedding dress, but brides from the Asian subcontinent often favor a shalwar-qameez outfit in scarlet with gold thread, and have their hands and feet patterned with henna. They might also have vast feasts with hundreds of guests, usually with the males in a separate room from the females. Other Muslims have simple celebratory parties with only close friends and relatives.
In some cultures there may be dancing, firing of guns, lots of noise and hilarity. Asian weddings often include pre-nuptial parties and gathering too - the whole process may last several days.
Funeral and mourning
When a Muslim is near death, those around him or her are called upon to give comfort, and reminders of God's mercy and forgiveness. They may recite verses from the Qur'an, give physical comfort, and encourage the dying one to recite words of remembrance and prayer. It is recommended, if at all possible, for a Muslim's last words to be the declaration of faith: "I bear witness that there is no god but Allah."
Upon death, those with the deceased are encouraged to remain calm, pray for the departed, and begin preparations for burial. The eyes of the deceased should be closed, and the body covered temporarily with a clean sheet. Muslims strive to bury the deceased as soon as possible after death, avoiding the need for embalming or otherwise disturbing the body of the deceased.
In preparation for burial, the family or other members of the community will wash and shroud the body. The deceased will be washed respectfully, with clean and scented water, in a manner similar to how Muslims make ablutions for prayer. The body will then be wrapped in sheets of clean, white cloth called kafan.
The deceased is then transported to the site of the funeral prayers (salat-l-janazah). These prayers are commonly held outdoors, in a courtyard or public square, not inside the mosque. The community gathers, and the imam (prayer leader) stands in front of the deceased, facing away from the worshippers. The funeral prayer is similar in structure to the five daily prayers, with a few variations. For example, there is no bowing or prostration, and the entire prayer is said silently but for a few words.
The deceased is then taken to the cemetery for burial (al-dafin). While all members of the community attend the funeral prayers, only the men of the community accompany the body to the gravesite. It is preferred for a Muslim to be buried where he or she died, and not be transported to another location or country (which may cause delays or require embalming the body). If available, a cemetery (or section of one) set aside for Muslims is preferred. The deceased is laid in the grave (without a coffin if permitted by local law) on his or her right side, facing Mecca.
According to the Islamic tradition, Muslims are encouraged to accompany the funeral procession to the grave. It is their duty to offer condolences and comfort to the bereaved. However, while doing this one should be mindful to say things that help the bereaved to accept God's will. Comments to the bereaved should be short and tasteful, being careful not to say anything that would be offensive. Finally, excessive wailing, shrieking and demonstrative mourning is forbidden. The allowed mourning period for a deceased Muslim is three days, except in the case of a widow mourning her husband, in which case she may mourn four months and 10 days.
It is recommended that one leave after offering the family condolences and offers of assistance. However, in practice, some families will hold gatherings offering food and drink to visitors during that three day period.
Family and friends will customarily bring food to the family of the deceased to relieve them of worrying about those details.