The turn of the seventh century introduced the rise of Islamic mysticism, or Sufism, which is more of an aesthetic movement than a dogmatic sect. Sufis are Muslims who seek a personal relationship with God. Techniques such as chanting, drumming, and dancing allow an intense experience with God. The Sufi’s ecstatic dancing, which earned them the name of “whirling dervishes,” helps them forget themselves and all worldly things and thereby raises their awareness of God.
Foundations of Life: Beliefs and Ritual Practices of Islam
The belief structure of Islam can be viewed as a building. A building has a foundation, a roof, walls, pillars, and other components. The foundation is comparable to the beliefs of Islam because they remain invisible. The structure built from the foundation is like the ritual practices because they are visible and are supported by the foundation. Therefore, the five essential practices of a Muslim are referred to as the Five Pillars of Islam:
Shahadah: Islam’s creed or profession of faith, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His Prophet.”
Salat: a ritual prayer recited five times daily at sunrise, mid-day, midafternoon, sunset, and before sleep. All prayers are in the direction of Mecca, the Holy City.
Zakat: paying a charity tax to the poor and needy based on annual earnings.
Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan, the Islamic Holy Month. Muslims who are physically able abstain from dawn to dusk from food, drink, and sexual activity. This allows time for reflection, promotes self-discipline, and brings appreciation of everyday gifts while fostering compassion for those who are actually starving.