Creating understanding and harmony

The Muslim Association of Guam was founded in 1990 to meet the needs of the growing Muslim community on Guam, although membership has varied over the years from a high of more than 100 to the current total of about fifty. The association also serves as a unified body to provide Islamic information to the general public and has a stated goal of creating understanding and harmony between the different religions on Guam.

Muslims in the association worship at Masjid Al-noor, the only Muslim place of worship on Guam. The center is located near Ladera Towers in the central village of Mangilao. It was built over the period of three years, due to budgetary constraints, and was opened in 2000. The center offers five daily prayer services, Friday congregation prayers and sermon, Friday night classes for children, and family gatherings on alternate Sundays. The sermons are done in English with quoted verses from the holy Qur`an in Arabic.

During special times such as Ramadan, community fast breaking and nightly prayers are offered. Members often use the center to celebrate the two Muslim feasts (feast of Ramadan and feast of Al-adha). The association provides religious guidance to Muslims on Guam and ceremonies in case of funerals, marriages, divorce and other occasions.

The traditional leader of the Muslim community is the Imam, who is not elected but is the most knowledgeable person in the community who leads the prayers. The current Imam is Muhammad Asmuni (Muni) Abdullah, an architect with a private practice. In his absence, the next most knowledgeable member of the community takes over his duties. Abdullah’s predecessor was Farouq Abawi a longtime professor at the University of Guam.

Although the membership of the Muslim Association is not large, it varies largely in ethnicity and country of origin. Almost all members are U.S. citizens, but originate from such countries as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sudan, Eritrea, Morocco, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Guam and the United States. Members consider themselves mainstream Muslims and follow the universal message of Islam.

Beliefs

Followers of Islam, known as Muslims, believe that God (or Allah in Arabic) revealed his direct word for mankind to Muhammad (c. 570–632) and other prophets, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last of the Prophets, and assert that the main written record of revelation to humankind is the Qur`an.

Muslims believe that parts of the Gospels, Torah and Jewish prophetic books (though originally divine in their nature) have been forgotten, misinterpreted, incorrectly edited by humans, or distorted by their followers and thus their original message has been corrupted over time, and they view the Qur`an as a correction of Jewish and Christian scriptures, and a final revelation.

The basis of Islamic belief is found in the shahadatan (“two testimonies”):

There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God.

In order to become a Muslim, one needs to recite and believe in these statements.

The other pillars of Islam include:

  • Prayer (called salat): Obligatory prayers are performed five times a day by every Muslim. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam, and no priests, so the prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Qur`an, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Qur`an, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation. Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere.
  • Charity (called zakat): A percentage of each Muslim’s income is given to his fellow man. The percentage is determined by each individual person, although it is customarily two and a half percent.
  • The Fast: Every year in the month of Ramadan (using the twelve-month Islamic lunar calendar), all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.
  • Pilgrimmage (Hajj): The annual pilgrimage to Makkah is a once in a lifetime obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. About two million people travel to Makkah each year. The annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year. Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class, wealth and culture, so that all stand equal before God.

By Leo Babauta

For further reading

Islamicity.com: Islam and the Global Muslim eCommunity (accessed 21 November 2013).