a collection of notes on areas of personal interest
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There may be a considerable amount of information not given in these notes which would be useful to those with an interest in this subject. It is difficult to know what to add or leave out, but it might be of benefit to set out here some basic information regarding the religious background of the area. In addition there is a small amount of information relating to areas which may not have been covered in the references or glossaries that form some of the pages of these notes.
What is placed here is not intended to be in any way exhaustive. Should further explanation be required, there are many sources which can be looked at either online or in books and elsewhere.
There are five obligations for a Muslim. He or she must
The importance of prayers in the Muslim’s world can not be overestimated. A Muslim must pray five times a day, preferably congregationally, in a local mosque unless he or she has a good reason not to.
The prayers are led by an Imam facing the direction indicated by the qibla – the prescribed direction of the ka’ba at Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Notice of the prayers, adhan, is given from the mosque immediately prior to the time for the prayers and is a familiar sound in Muslim countries.
Prayers, in their formal sense given below, together with more informal expressions to Allah, are common as Muslims go about their daily tasks. For instance, very few initiatives are begun without a quick recitation of ‘In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful’ – the phrase which begins every verse of the Holy Quran but one.
The timing of prayers is governed by the lunar calendar and the movements of the sun. Prayers are:
Friday is the holy day for Muslims. It is the day that there is an increased need if not requirement for communal prayer, and salat al-dthuris the time which seems to be the most important communal event of that day.
As mentioned above there are certain conditions under which a Muslim does not have to pray, generally these are related to sickness, pregnancy and travel when the al-dthur and al-asr as well as the al-maghrib and al-isha which may be taken together.
The purpose of the prayers is to join a Muslim to Allah throughout the day, linking the social and religious aspects of life and asserting the continuity there is in this relationship.
The practice of praying together strengthens the social bonds of the local community. Once a week, on Fridays, all work ceases and the people of the larger community meet together to pray at the central mosque. This draws together the whole town and affords the opportunity for all citizens to come in contact with each other.
At Eid, twice a year, prayers are said outside the town in a large area enabling both the townspeople and those from the neighbouring communities to come together in prayer. It is strongly believed that regular, congregational worship promotes social relations in an atmosphere of equality and love, and is a crucial device for purifying and unifying the human race.
The prayers are performed facing the direction of the qibla in Mecca, and the Muslim goes through a sequence of prayers standing, bowing and kneeling. There is nearly always a prayer mat kept for individuals to use in prayer, and often the direction of Mecca is marked within the area used for prayer.
Prayers are not always given in the mosque and individuals are free to worship at home: in fact, the women of the house normally worship at home where they have the additional responsibility of instructing their children in prayer from an early age. When more than one person prays within a house they generally line up, shoulder to shoulder, in a suitably large space facing the qibla with, sometimes, a single person in front to lead the prayer.
There are a large number of resources on the Internet and elsewhere which I recommend you read to obtain a better understanding of the importance of prayer in the daily life of the Muslim. As you will see in the notes I’ve made in these pages, this relationship is central to the organisation of the Islamic house and planning.
Muslims carry out a ritual ablution, wudhuw’, before praying as required by Sura 9 of the Quran.
When ye rise up to prayer, wash your faces and your hands and arms to the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet to the ankles.
Before praying, whether in private or public, all Muslims wash themselves as they are required to be clean for prayer, this form of prayer being demonstrated to them by Muhammad at Mecca and Medina. First washed are the hands, then the mouth, nose, face, the arms – first the right and then the left – up to the elbow, and then the hair is wetted. When that is finished the feet are washed – again the right and then the left – up to the ankles.
When suitably clean water is not available it is permissible to use dust, sand or stone or a clean, dry material in order to carry out the necessary ritual cleansing procedure. This is known as tayammum and is carried out in a similar manner to that using water, the hands being placed on the sand or stone, rubbed together to remove any loose material, and then the process of moving the hands over the arms and feet followed in a specific manner as noted above.
Muslims fast during the Holy month of Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. Complete abstinence from food and drink during daylight hours is required during this month. The purpose of fasting is to remind Muslims of their sympathy for the needy and the poor, to teach restraint from excesses of food and drink, and to curb the more animal side of man for which additional prayers are prescribed to bring him nearer to God by abstemption from evil deeds and desires.
The practice of alms giving – zakaat – was established as setting apart one fortieth of a Muslim’s annual savings in money or kind. zakaat was then used to benefit the poor and needy, employees, slaves, debtors, those who struggle in the cause of God, strangers stranded on their way and anybody having a claim to charity. It is not considered as a tax but rather as a loan to God which He will repay many times over.
It is the duty of every Muslim to travel to Mecca once in his life – provided that he has the means to do so – and this is preferably accomplished on an important occasion such as one of the Eids. The main Eid – Eid Al Adha or Eid Al Kabir – is that which is preferred for the major pilgrimage, and a minor pilgrimage is performed preferably during the Eid Al Fitr.
The ceremonies are actually carried out between the seventh and tenth days of the month of Dhul Hejja and consist of:
For these activities all Muslims dress in two unsewn white sheets to signify that they are all created equal in the eyes of God, and must abstain from luxuries and gratification of the senses. During this period they are required to indulge in prayer, the praise of God, and self-examination. It can be noticed that, in the periods immediately before and after the Eids, the practical outlook of Muslims towards Islam are reinforced, and this is particularly so with those who make the pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Muslim calendar comprises twelve, lunar months:
The 1st Muharram 1 AH corresponds with the 16th July 622 AD and is the date of the Prophet’s hijra from Mecca to Yathrib which, later, became known as Medina.
At the end of the holy month of Ramadhan there is the holiday of Eid Al Fitr which falls on the 1st Shawwal, and this is followed approximately seventy days later by the Eid Al Adha which is celebrated on the 10th Dhul hajja.
Because the months are lunar, the Islamic year is approximately eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar used in the West. The significance of this is that the seasons enjoyed in the West are not reflected in the Islamic year – each of the Islamic months will fall within a Gregorian season approximately once every thirty-three years. All the months and, notably, Ramadthan – the month of fasting during daylight hours – will fall within the long, hot summer months between two and three times during the average person’s lifetime, and a similar number during the shorter, cold winter months.
The beginning of the Islamic month is not properly understood by some Western observers. Although Arabic astronomy was expert long before the West, and the calculations for lunar risings can be accurately calculated, in accordance with fiqh tradition, the beginning of a lunar month depends essentially on physical factors, particularly the actual sighting of the moon. Hence the difficulty in establishing an Islamic calendar which is accurate around the Islamic world.
There are a number of resources on the Internet such as this and this which enable dates to be converted between Gregorian and Islamic calendars. Be aware that these are usually approximations and that there may be a day’s discrepancy between them due to the manner in which they are programmed to make the calculations.
I should like to add a note on measurements. Today measurements in the Gulf are made using the Imperial or Metric systems. Where countries have a strong north American influence it is still common for measuring to be in feet and inches, however many countries have adopted the Metric system, influenced by their links with Europe which uses the Metric system. The use of Letter or A4 paper sizes is where the system chosen can usually first be spotted on a site, but specification of materials can be quite complex with inconsistencies between items created by the coexistence of both systems.
Feet and inches was used as measurement in Qatar for some time. The qadm and busa were the customary method of measuring until the European standards based on metric systems were introduced. However the old Imperial system continued and, to some extent, still does with the older generations reinforced by the new north American influences in the region.
Historically, the common unit of measurement was the cubit, a unit which has been in use for thousands of years. The reason for mentioning the cubit here is that it was specified by the Prophet and it is, therefore, important to know it’s size in relation to historical building.
The length of the cubit varies slightly due to a number of factors, mostly to do with the accuracy of standardisation and the large area within which the cubit was used. At it’s simplest, and depending upon which source you take, the cubit can be said to vary from approximately 450mm to 543mm. The lower figure of 450mm is given by Hakim and, perhaps, relates only to measurement in Tunisia. In Mesepotamia the cubit varied between 522mm and 532mm and, in Persia, between 520mm and 543mm.
The ‘standard’ cubit was determined in Egypt to be six (hand) palm widths. But there was also a ‘royal’ cubit of seven palm widths and the relationship between them is considered important. For the purposes of my work here, the royal cubit may be ignored.
|aCC||Arab Co-operation Council – Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and North Yemen|
|aGCC||Arabian Gulf Co-operation Council – alternative name for CCASG|
|aGFSC||Arab Gulf States Folklore Centre|
|ashghal||Public Works Authority|
|aTO||Arab Towns Organisation|
|cCASG||Co-operation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf – United Arab Emirates, Bahrein, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia|
|cPGA||Customs and Ports General Authority|
|cSO||Central Statistics Office|
|eEC||European Economic Community|
|ePC||Environmental Protection Committee|
|eSD||Engineering Services Department of the Ministry of Public Works|
|fAO||Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations|
|gCC||Gulf Co-operation Council – alternative name for CCASG|
|iDTC||Industrial Development Technical Centre|
|iMF||International Monetary Fund Centre|
|iSHP||Intermediate Staff Housing Project|
|jICA||Japan International Cooperation Agency|
|lDC||Non-OECD countries excluding the USSR, Cambodia, China, Eastern Europe, Cuba, Laos, Mongolia, North Korea and Vietnam|
|lNG||Liquefied Natural Gas|
|lPG||Liquefied Petroleum Gas|
|mEW||Ministry of Electricity and Water|
|mMA||Ministry of Municipal Affairs|
|mPW||Ministry of Public Works|
|nDOD||New District of Doha|
|nLG||Natural Liquefied Gas|
|nHA||National Health Authority|
|nODCO||National Oil Distribution Company|
|oAPEC||Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries – Algeria, Bahrein, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates|
|oECD||Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and United Kingdom: and United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States.|
|oPEC||Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which is a permanent, intergovernmental organisation, created at the Baghdad Conference on September 10–14, 1960, by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The five Founding Members were later joined by nine other Members: Qatar (1961); Indonesia (1962) – which suspended its membership from January 2009; Socialist Peoples Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (1962); United Arab Emirates (1967); Algeria (1969); Nigeria (1971); Ecuador (1973) – which suspended its membership from December 1992–October 2007; Angola (2007) and Gabon (1975–1994). OPEC had its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland in the first five years of its existence. This was moved to Vienna, Austria, on September 1, 1965.|
|q-Chem||Qatar Chemical Company|
|q-Ship||Qatar Shipping Company|
|qACENCO||Qatar Clean Energy Company|
|qAFAC||Qatar Fuel Additives Company – established 1999|
|qAFCO||Qatar Fertiliser Company – established 1969|
|qAPCO||Qatar Petroleum Company – established 1974|
|qASCO||Qatar Steel Company – established 1974|
|qATARGAS||Qatar Liquified Gas Company – established 1984|
|qCCI||Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry – established 1963|
|qCS||Qatar Construction Specifications|
|qFC||Qatar Financial Centre – established 2005|
|qGPC||Qatar General Petroleum Corporation|
|qGEWC||Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation, formerly the Ministry of Electricity and Water, MEW, now known as Kahramaa|
|qGOSM||Qatar General Organization for Standards and Metrology|
|qHDM||Qatar Highway Design Manual|
|qIDB||Qatar Industrial Development Bank|
|qIMCO||Qatar Industrial Manufacturing Company – established 1990|
|qISC||Qatar Iron and Steel Company|
|qMF||Qatar Monetary Fund|
|qNB||Qatar National Bank|
|qNC||Qatar Nitrogen Company – established 1999|
|qNBS||Qatar National Building Specifications|
|qNCC||Qatar National Cement Company – established 1965|
|qSA||Qatar Statistics Authority|
|qVC||Qatar Vinyl Company – established 2001|
|rASGAS||Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Company Ltd. – established October 1993|
|rLPC||Ras Laffan Power Company Limited|
|sCENR||Supreme Council for the Environment and Natural Reserves|
|sCFA||Supreme Council for Family Affairs|
|sED||State Electricity Department, a part of the Ministry of Electricity and Water|
|sWD||State Water Department, a part of the Ministry of Electricity and Water|
|sSHP||Senior Staff Housing Project|
|uAB||Union of Arab Banks|
|uNESCO||United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation|
|uPDA||Urban Planning and Development Authority|
|wOQOD||Qatar Fuel – established 2002|
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