Islam requires Muslims to adhere to the tenets established in the Quran, Islam’s holy text, and the hadith, the collected sayings of Muhammad. These tenets serve both a practical and a spiritual purpose for Muslims. Proper conduct and decorum as well as methods of worship are requisites of the faith. As such, a virtuous life, known as the straight path, is of paramount importance for a Muslim's salvation.
The Declaration of Faith
The shahada or declaration of faith in Islam is the foundation of belief for all Muslims. It is also the first of the Five Pillars of Islam. It states, “There is not god but God and Muhammad is His messenger.” This declaration affirms a Muslim’s faith before God. No other requirement is needed to initially become Muslim.
The Five Pillars of Islam
The Five Pillars of Islam define worship and conduct in Islam. These requirements establish guidelines for Muslims to follow. The shahada, the first pillar of Islam, is imperative while the other four retain some flexibility depending on a Muslim’s physical or financial circumstances. The remaining four pillars are praying five times a day, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, giving alms, and completing the pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Hajj.
Muslims follow the Sunnah, the example of Muhammad, to the best of their ability. Sunnah provides an array of guidelines including ethical conduct, relationships, and physical appearance for Muslims and correlates with the tenets of the Quran. Various hadith provide specific examples of Sunnah for Muslims, providing particular accounts of Muhammad's life and sayings. However, unlike the Quran, hadith are subject to scrutiny regarding their authenticity and must be verified through various theological analyses. As such, some are controversial. For example, any hadith that appears to contradict the Quran is questionable and potentially inauthentic according to Muslim scholars. Consequently, Muslims must take the authenticity of an hadith into account when following Muhammad's example.
Hilm, best defined as compassionate forbearance, establishes the requirement of patience and composure for Muslims. Hilm governs all other virtues in Islam. Forbearance plays and integral role for Muslims in surrendering to the will of God, especially during adversity and hardship. Muhammad is considered the embodiment of hilm. As a well-known hadith suggests regarding hilm in the context of anger: “The strong man is not the one who can win a physical fight. The strong person is the one who controls himself when angered.”
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