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Guide to Islam

March 11, 2015 by Homestay for Life

Guide to Islam

There is currently an influx of Islamic students coming to New York as international students. The following is a more comprehensive guide to the Islamic faith to assist hosts.

Islamic Beliefs

Muslims have the following beliefs: one incomparable God – Allah. Allah is the Arabic word for God. Islam rejects characterizing Allah in any human form or depicting him as favoring certain individuals or nations on the basis of wealth, power or race.

History of the Islamic faith

Although Islam began in the Middle East, not all Arabs are Muslims. Only 15 per cent of the world’s Muslims are Arabs. There are Arabs who are Christian and atheist. Islam is the religion followed by Muslims throughout the world. Islam is not only a religion but a complete way of life. Its origin is the same as that of Christianity and Judaism. The prophets of all three religions are direct descendants from the prophet and patriarch Abraham. When Muslims speak of Allah, they refer to the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed.

Muslims, Christians and Jews share a common religious heritage that includes the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. All three faiths believe in prophets and angels and worship the same God.

Islamic Dress Code (Awrah)

In every society there is a dress code to suit each gender, place etc. The Islamic dress code for males and females is prescribed to be modest. Muslims can wear any national or chosen dress code if it covers certain parts of the body.

The Awrah for a male is the part of the body from the navel to the knee. This he can only show to his wife.

The Awrah for a female is the whole body with the exception of the face and hands. She may only show her body to her husband. However, among Muslim males whom she cannot marry (such as her father, brother, son, uncle or nephews) and all other Muslim women, only her body from the chest down to her knees excluding her arms may not be shown.

Five Islamic Requirements

As part of the religion, Muslims have five main duties they must perform:

Declaration of Faith – that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah (God) and that Mohammed is the messenger of God.

Prayer – The duty to worship God in prayer, five times a day. Prayers consist of prescribed verses recited in Arabic at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall.

Cleanliness – To pray a person must be clean. Cleanliness of the body and the clothes worn is especially important. Muslims can pray anywhere if the environment is clean. During prayers they cannot talk to anyone, walk or carry out any action that is not a part of the prayer.

Almsgiving – The duty to give alms and to help the needy; for most purposes this involves a payment of 2.5% of one’s annual savings, which can be distributed to eight groups of people.

Pilgrimage (Hajj) -Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, is the duty of each Muslim at least once in a lifetime if financially and physically able.

Fasting – For the month of Ramadan all Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from bad behavior such as foul language and other bad habits as well as food, drink and sexual relations. Certain people are exempt from fasting. These include travelers, people who are ill and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating.

Hosts will need to understand that during Ramadan:
• a family must not offer food during fasting hours, which are from sunrise to sunset
• a family cannot take the Student to a restaurant or dining area
• asking students to join them at mealtimes should be avoided
• activities during the day through Ramadan must be kept to a minimum

Halal Food

We all have heard of the word “Halal,” do we know what goes in to the process of Halal? There is a need to open people’s eyes about this issue. Halal is the Arabic word for “lawful” or “permitted”. Halal is the word that is used in reference to foods and drinks that are permissible for Muslims to eat or drink under Islamic Shariah law.

What is Haram food?

In regard to halal, there is also a term ‘haram’ that signifies the food that can not be eaten by Muslims. This food is pork meat, so other than pork Muslims are allowed to eat any animal. The food that is haram for Muslims includes blood, pork, alcoholic drinks, and most importantly the animals which are not killed by the process of Halal. Halal also forbids consumption of some carcass parts including the testicles and bladder.

What is Halal food?

Muslims eat only that food which comes from a supplier that uses halal practices. Specifically, the slaughter must be performed by a Muslim, who must do the slaughter by invoking the name of Allah and then saying three times “Allahu akbar” (God is the greatest). Animals must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter and all blood should be drained from the carcass. The animal being slaughtered must face Mecca. During the process, a Muslim will recite a dedication, known as tasmiya or shahada. Then, the animal must be slaughtered with a sharp knife by cutting the throat, windpipe and the blood vessels in the neck, causing the animal’s death without cutting the spinal cord. Lastly, the blood from the veins must be drained.  This is such inhumane and painful process that the animal dies slow and painful death.

Halal meat requires that the animal should be alive and conscious at the moment its throat is cut. In the Quran, it is provided that the animal should listen to the prayers of Allah. If it’s unconscious, then it won’t be able to do that. In the halal process animal is not killed in one go rather the animal slides on the ground, gets onto its knees, regains its feet with its throat gushing out the blood. To stop the animal from getting up again, the slaughter man slashes the tendon of its rear leg. The tongue of the animal comes out and the poor animal is so distressed. On particular festivals, animal after animal is sliced openly while they are fully conscious. They make pitiful bleating and gurgling sounds as they choke in their own blood. It is a chilling sound that, once heard, stays with you for days. The ritual involves binding the animal, typically around the muzzle or legs, and slitting the throat. The animal will eventually bleed out in a painful and gruesome display. Many times the animal is beaten, sometimes to death, before the blood is drained. Halal slaughter during the month of Eid is performed as a public ritual, often in the open streets of Muslim communities. Blood from the countless sacrifices pools in the public squares and is tracked around by spectators.

Support for Halal in Quran and Hadith:

Isn’t it shameful and inhumane? Killing the animals is so much painful way? Which religion or which God allows killing living beings in such horrendous way? Quranic verses regarding halal foods include: 2:173, 5:5, and 6:118-119, 121. I don’t think any other religion describes topics like the method of killing of animals, that too in so ghastly manner. The requirement to invoke Allah’s name is a must for slaughter of any animal in halal. Kosher meats, which are consumed by Jews, are permitted to be eaten by Muslims because there is a similarity between their method of slaughter and halal meat.

Some investigators on the other hand claim that nowhere in the Quran does it say that animals have to be slaughtered in this way. No Muslim is bound by his or her religion to eat halal meat. It also says that while the blood must be drained from the body it doesn’t have to happen while the animal is alive.

Such a painful process of halal is demanded by fundamentalists and its source is Hadith – teachings written 300 years after the Prophet died. These teachings are used to justify hard-line views. The confusion about these teachings is exploited to mislead both Muslims and non-Muslims. In India, the killing of animal is done in a swift blow called “Jhatka” in which there is an instant beheading with one single strike. This process reduces the pain for the animal.