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Time to self-introspect

Etikaf (going into seclusion), the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan (the holy month of fasting) is on. It is a period of meditative self-introspection and self-improvement. Sumit Dhanraj writes.

columns Updated: Jul 29, 2013 01:34 IST

Etikaf (going into seclusion), the last 10 days of the month of Ramadan (the holy month of fasting) is on. It is a period of meditative self-introspection and self-improvement. The faithful come closer to Allah through the Quran (the Book of God) and spend their time in prayer.

A true Muslim needs to follow the five pillars of Islam which bind people in communion with Allah. The five pillars are the basis and the fundamental creeds of the Islamic faith, which extends to include not only the acts of worship but also the whole way of life to perform holy deeds (philanthropic charity).

These five pillars are the most distinguishing marks of Muslims who practise them very dearly. One can say that there is a broad cultural diversity in the Muslim world and that Islam is a house built on the rock of submission and supported by these five pillars. Prophet Muhammad said, “Faith is that which resides firmly in the heart and which is proved by deed.”

The five pillars are: Profession of faith (Shahada) that consists in Kalima (There is no god but God and Mohammad is the prophet of God); Ritual Prayer (Salat)--five times of prayer daily, almsgiving (Zakat), fasting (Sawm or Roza) and pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca.

Every Muslim has to fast from dawn to sunset. This is a time to repent and come back to Allah in total submission.

It means a total abstinence from food and drink, especially refraining from all types of undesirable work. After sunset he/she breaks fast with a very light meal (Ifftar). Ifftar meals are considered as divine bliss upon all those who share together.

Fasting or abstinence has many advantages both at the personal and at the social level. It gives rest to the various organs of the body; secondly, it enables people to experience what hunger is like and understand the value of food. At a social level, it stimulates sympathy and solidarity with the poor and bears fruit in the form of charitable deeds.