FLEXIBILITY AND REFORM
has been practised has varied tremendously
at different times and in different places. In some parts of the continent Islamic
rules became modified, tolerating and accommodating traditional customs and
practices. In other places, Holy Wars have been launched by Muslims against
other Muslim communities, perceived as practicing the faith imperfectly. The
most noted example of this being the Holy War of Usman dan Fodio in the early
19th century in West Africa.
Islam is a very practical religion, offering
guidance on all aspects of everyday life, even the correct way to urinate.
It is not an obscure religion to follow, with less divisions and heresies
than Christianity. There is no complicated hierarchy of priests. As in
Christianity, there is much emphasis on charity and simplicity of life
style. It is not an exclusive religion, but acknowledges some Judaic and
Christian traditions - both Abraham and Jesus are cited as prophets in
the Koran. Like
it welcomes all converts.
Islam is very clear about what it demands of its followers. This can be summed up in five essential requirements - The Five Pillars of Islam. They are:
to an Islamic Mosque Call to Prayer, Cairo
- Faith: the declaration of faith is called the Shahada, and is expressed in the following words: There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger.
- Prayer: Muslims perform obligatory prayers, or Salat, five times a day.
- The Zakat: every Muslim sets aside a percentage of his/her capital, for those in need.
- The Fast: all Muslims fast once a year in the month of Ramadan, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations.
- Pilgrimage (Hajj): every Muslim must make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once a year.
important aspect of the Islamic faith was that it allowed a man to take
more than one wife. Christianity did not. So conversion to Islam did not
force a man to choose one of several wives, risking pride, anger and humiliation
on all sides. If a man is traveling and can't take his wife, he is also
allowed to take a temporary wife through a contract drawn up by the Imam.
BATTUTA'S PRAISE FOR THE GOOD MUSLIMS OF MALI, 1352
"They do not interfere with the property
of the white man who dies in their country even though it may consist
of great wealth, but rather, they entrust it to the hand of someone
dependable among the white men, until it is taken by the rightful
"...they meticulously observe the times
of prayer…When it is Friday, if a man does not come early to the Mosque
he will not find a place to pray because of the numbers of the crowd."
"... putting on of good white clothes on Friday. If a man among them has nothing except a tattered shirt he washes and cleans it and attends the Friday prayer in it."