Jordan’s state religion is Islam, although people are free to practise whatever religion they choose, just as in Syria. Over 90% of the Muslims are Sunnis and 3% Shiites. A small Christian minority lives in Jordan.
The word ‘Islam’ means ‘submission to God’. The core belief is the one indivisible god Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet. Allah revealed his word to Mohammed in the 7th century via the angel Gabriel. The revelations were written down to form the Muslim holy book, the Koran. For centuries the sharia, the holy Islamic laws based on the Koran, dictated justice and education in Islamic countries. There are five sacred duties which all Muslims must fulfil, the so-called five pillars of Islam. These are:
- Shahada: The declaration of the religion’s core principle; ‘There is no god other than Allah and Mohammed is his prophet’.
- Salat: Prayer, which every Muslim must say five times a day in the direction of Mecca. Face, hands and feet must be washed before prayer. The prayers and movements are specifically fixed, and prayer in a mosque is compulsory for men on Friday afternoon. People are called to prayer from towers everyday, and these towers are everywhere in the landscape.
- Zakat: The giving of alms to the poor. These days, this is not done as commonly as in earlier times.
- Sawm: Fasting throughout the month of Ramadan. People are not permitted to eat, drink, smoke or have sex from sunrise to sunset.
- Hijrah: Pilgrimage from Mecca to Medina. Every Muslim must do this once in their lives, as long as finances and health allow it.
The consumption of pork or alcohol is not permitted by Islam. The religion also has a tendency to separate the sexes. In some restaurants it seems as if only men are allowed to dine, but if you ask the proprietor then he will take you to the ‘family room’, where women are also allowed.