Opinion Columns & Blogs

On religion's highway, Muslims and non-Muslims alike sometimes coast

Muslims have to abide by the five pillars of Islam - five rituals that define our commitment to our faith.

As a Muslim, I have to pray five times a day, fast in the month of Ramadan, give to charity, go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and declare my belief in one God and in Mohammed as his prophet.

As I begin to write this column, I need to let readers know I don’t adhere to the pillars of my faith as well as I should. I can improve. And, in that, I might have something in common with most other Muslims and non-Muslims.

Let’s get right to it. I don’t pray five times a day. I know that if I brought God into my thoughts as often as others do, I would find more spiritual growth and fulfillment. I can give the standard “life gets in the way” excuses — working long hours, driving kids to soccer, and so forth. But, in truth, I’ve never found an obstacle to spending five minutes in prayer at the office or at home.

Still, I do pray when my heart is heavy and when there is stress in my life, and I always feel that God welcomes my return to him.

I start my fast during the month of Ramadan with determination, eating and drinking nothing between sunrise and sunset each day.

Fasting teaches spiritual strength, patience and resolve. It also teaches compassion for the less fortunate as most of us get to eat at sundown, but not everyone.

But, two weeks into the fast, my resolve sometimes wanes. There are times when the stress of the workday seems so much more manageable with a grande coffee with milk. And when I skip a day, getting back on track is not always easy.

Charity might not be the right word to describe the next pillar. In Western culture, charity suggests discretionary giving. In Islam, it is an obligation, a bill that comes due. In fact, it’s considered an essential part of maintaining social welfare. It’s also an act that Muslims do quietly. They don’t advertise their giving; showing it off diminishes the act.

The saying goes, “Give with your right hand so your left hand never finds out the transaction took place.” Based on that, I don’t have to share how well I’ve adhered to this pillar — thank God.

I am yet to perform my pilgrimage to Mecca. Admittedly, I am slow to get there. When I do, I think I know what I’ll find. From what friends tell me, the place is spiritually vibrant and alive. It awakens emotions in the hearts of many Muslims, bringing them closer to their faith than perhaps at any other time in their lives.

They find a kinship with other Muslims that transcends culture, race and social standing. It’s a unifying place like no other.

Testifying that there is only one God and that Mohammed is his prophet is foundational. In fact, Muslims make this declaration 17 times per day in the course of their prayers. But behind that declaration is every Muslim’s belief in God’s word.

While we read from the same book, we don’t always agree in our interpretations.

Some have said there are as many interpretations as there are Muslims.

The best of us continue to pursue the true meaning and intent of Islamic scripture.

On religion’s highway, I tend to coast. But, I try not to miss the signs.

I know I’m not alone; Muslims and non-Muslims travel the same road. Our destination is clear, but each of us gets there at his own pace.

Dean Hosni, an underwriting professional in the insurance industry, is a member of The Olympian’s Diversity Panel. He can be reached at dean.hosni@comcast.net.