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The Testimony of Faith

The Testimony of Faith

The Shahada is the Muslim profession of faith and the first of the ‘Five Pillars’ of Islam. The word shahada in Arabic means ‘testimony.’ It must be recited by every Muslim at least once in a lifetime with a full understanding of its meaning and with an assent of the heart.

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The Second Pillar of Islam: Prayer

The Second Pillar of Islam: Prayer

The Second Pillar of Islam: The Prayer

 

Salah is the daily ritual prayer enjoined upon all Muslims as one of the five Pillars of Islam.  It is performed five times a day by all Muslims.  Salah is a precise worship, different from praying on the inspiration of the moment.  Muslims pray or, perhaps more correctly, worship five times throughout the day:

  • Between first light and sunrise.
  • After the sun has passed the middle of the sky.
  • Between mid-afternoon and sunset.
  • Between sunset and the last light of the day.
  • Between darkness and midnight.

Abdullahi Haji-Mohamed kneels during evening prayers while waiting for fares at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, May 4, 2005. (AP Photo/The Plain Dealer, Gus Chan)

Each prayer may take at least 5 minutes, but it may be lengthened as a person wishes.  Muslims can pray in any clean environment, alone or together, in a mosque or at home, at work or on the road, indoors or out.  Under special circumstances, such as illness, journey, or war, certain allowances in the prayers are given to make their offering easy.

Having specific times each day to be close to God helps Muslims remain aware of the importance of their faith, and the role it plays in every part of life.  Muslims start their day by cleaning themselves and then standing before their Lord in prayer.  The prayers consist of recitations from the Quran in Arabic and a sequence of movements: standing, bowing, prostrating, and sitting.  All recitations and movements express submission, humility, and homage to God.  The various postures Muslims assume during their prayers capture the spirit of submission; the words remind them of their commitments to God.  The prayer also reminds one of belief in the Day of Judgment and of the fact that one has to appear before his or her Creator and give an account of their entire life.  This is how a Muslim starts their day.  In the course of the day, Muslims dissociate themselves form their worldly engagements for a few moments and stand before God.  This brings to mind once again the real purpose of life.

These prayers serve as a constant reminder throughout the day to help keep believers mindful of God in the daily stress of work, family, and distractions of life.  Prayer strengthens faith, dependence on God, and puts daily life within the perspective of life to come after death and the last judgment.  As they prepare to pray, Muslims face Mecca, the holy city that houses the Kaaba (the ancient place of worship built by Abraham and his son Ishmael).  At the end of the prayer, the shahada (testimony of faith) is recited, and the greeting of peace, “Peace be upon all of you and the mercy and blessings of God,” is repeated twice.

Though individual performance of salah is permissible, collective worship in the mosque has special merit and Muslims are encouraged to perform certain salah with others.  With their faces turned in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, the worshipers align themselves in parallel rows behind the imam, or prayer leader, who directs them as they execute the physical postures coupled with Quran recitations.  In many Muslim countries, the “call to prayer,” or ‘Adhan,’ echo out across the rooftops.  Aided by a megaphone the muezzin calls out:

Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),

Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),

Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),

Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),

 

Ash-hadu an-laa ilaaha ill-Allah (I witness that none deserves worship except God).

Ash-hadu an-laa ilaaha ill-Allah (I witness that none deserves worship except God).

 

Ash-hadu anna Muhammad-ar-Rasool-ullah (I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God).

Ash-hadu anna Muhammad-ar-Rasool-ullah (I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God).

 

Hayya ‘alas-Salah (Come to prayer!)

Hayya ‘alas-Salah (Come to prayer!)

 

Hayya ‘alal-Falah (Come to prosperity!)

Hayya ‘alal-Falah (Come to prosperity!)

 

Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),

Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest),

 

La ilaaha ill-Allah (None deserves worship except God).

 

 

Men are joined by some of the students from the Noor-ul-Iman School for afternoon prayer at the Islamic Society of New Jersey, a mosque in suburban South Brunswick, N.J., Tuesday, May 13, 2003.  Many Muslims communities across the United States are spreading out from the cities to the suburbs. (AP Photo/Daniel Hulshizer)

Friday is the weekly day of communal worship in Islam.  The weekly convened Friday Prayer is the most important service.  The Friday Prayer is marked by the following features:

  • It falls in the same time as the noon prayer which it replaces.
  • It must be performed in a congregation led by a prayer leader, an ‘Imam.’ It can not be offered individually.  Muslims in the West try to arrange their schedules to allow them time to attend the prayer.
  • Rather than  a day of rest like the Sabbath, Friday is a day of devotion and extra worship.  A Muslim is allowed normal work on Friday as on any other day of the week.  They may proceed with their usual activities, but they must break for the Friday prayer.  After the worship is over, they can resume their mundane activities.
  • Typically, the Friday Prayer is performed in a mosque, if available.  Sometimes, due to unavailability of a mosque, it may be offered at a rented facility, park, etc.
  • When the time for prayer comes, the Adhan is pronounced  The Imam then stands facing the audience and delivers his sermon (known as khutba in Arabic), an essential part of the service of which its attendance is required.  While the Imam is talking, everyone present listens to the sermon quietly till the end.  Most Imams in the West will deliver the sermon in English, but some deliver it in Arabic.  Those who deliver it in Arabic usually deliver a short speech in the local language before the service.
  • There are two sermons delivered, one distinguished from the other by a brief sitting of the Imam.  The sermon is commenced with words of praise of God and prayers of blessing for Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.
  • After the sermon, the prayer is offered under the leadership of the Imam who recites the Fatiha and the other Quranic passage in an audible voice.  When this is done, the prayer is completed.

Special, large congregational prayers, which include a sermon, are also offered at late morning on the two days of festivity.  One of them is immediately following the month of fasting, Ramadan, and the other after the pilgrimage, or hajj.

Although not religiously mandated, individual devotional prayers, especially during the night, are emphasized and are a common practice among pious Muslims.

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The First Pillar of Islam: Testimony of Faith

The First Pillar of Islam: Testimony of Faith

All practicing Muslims accept belief in the ‘Six Articles of Faith’ and are obliged to follow the ‘Five Pillars.’  They are:

1.    Muslim profession of faith or shahada.

2.    Ritual Prayer or salah.

3.    Obligatory Charity or zakah.

4.    Fasting or sawm.

5.    Pilgrimage or hajj.

The First Pillar

Muslim Profession of Faith

The Shahada is the Muslim profession of faith and the first of the ‘Five Pillars’ of Islam.  The word shahada in Arabic means ‘testimony.’  The shahada is to testify to two things:

(a)   Nothing deserves worship except God (Allah).

(b)  Muhammad is the Messenger of God (Allah).

A Muslim is simply one who bears witness and testifies that “nothing deserves worship except God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” One becomes a Muslim by making this simple declaration.


It must be recited by every Muslim at least once in a lifetime with a full understanding of its meaning and with an assent of the heart.  Muslims say this when they wake up in the morning, and before they go to sleep at night.  It is repeated five times in the call to prayer in every mosque.  A person who utters the shahada as their last words in this life has been promised Paradise.

Many people ignorant of Islam have misconceived notions about the Allah, used by Muslims to denote God. Allah is the proper name for God in Arabic, just as “Elah”, or often “Elohim”, is the proper name for God in Aramaic mentioned in the Old Testament.  Allah is also His personal name in Islam, as “YHWH” is His personal name in Judaism. However, rather than the specific Hebrew denotation of “YHWH” as “He Who Is“, in Arabic Allah denotes the aspect of being “The One True Deity worthy of all worship”.  Arabic speaking Jews and Christians also refer to the Supreme Being as Allah.

 

(a)   Nothing deserves worship except God (Allah).

The first part of this testimony states that God has the exclusive right to be worshipped inwardly and outwardly, by one’s heart and limbs.  In Islamic doctrine, not only can no one be worshipped apart from Him, absolutely no one else can be worshipped along with Him.  He has no partners or associates in worship.  Worship, in its comprehensive sense and all its aspects, is for Him alone.  God’s right to be worshipped is the essential meaning of Islam’s testimony of faith: Lā ‘ilāha ‘illā llāh.  A person becomes Muslim by testifying to the divine right to worship.  It is the crux of Islamic belief in God, even all of Islam.  It is considered the central message of all prophets and messengers sent by God – the message of Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon them.  For instance, Moses declared:

“Hear, O Israel The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

Jesus repeated the same message 1500 years later when he said:

“The first of all the commandments is, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Mark 12:29)

…and reminded Satan:

“Away from me, Satan!  For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10)

Finally, the call of Muhammad, some 600 years after Jesus, reverberated across the hills of Mecca,

‘And your God is OneGod: there is no god but He.’ (Quran 2:163).

They all declared clearly:

“Worship God!  You have no other god but Him.” (Quran 7:59, 7:73; 11:50, 11:84; 23:32)

But by a mere verbal profession alone, one does not become a complete Muslim.  To become a complete Muslim one has to fully carry out in practice the instruction given by Prophet Muhammad as ordained by God.  This brings us to the second part of the testimony.


(b)  Muhammad is the Messenger of God (Allah).

Muhammad was born in Mecca in Arabia in the year 570 CE.  His ancestry goes back to Ishmael, a son of Prophet Abraham.  The second part of the confession of faith asserts that he is not only a prophet but also a messenger of God, a higher role also played by Moses and Jesus before him.  Like all prophets before him, he was a human being, but chosen by God to convey His message to all humanity rather than one tribe or nation from among the many that exist.  For Muslims, Muhammad brought the last and final revelation.  In accepting Muhammad as the “last of the prophets,” they believe that his prophecy confirms and completes all of the revealed messages, beginning with that of Adam.  In addition, Muhammad serves as the preeminent role model through his life example.  The believer’s effort to follow Muhammad’s example reflects the emphasis of Islam on practice and action.

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The Third Pillar of Islam: Compulsory Charity (Zakah)

The Third Pillar of Islam: Compulsory Charity (Zakah)

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The true owner of things is not man, but God.

Charity is not just recommended by Islam, it is required of every financially stable Muslim. Giving charity to those who deserve it is part of Muslim character and one of the Five Pillars of Islamic practice. Zakah is viewed as “compulsory charity”; it is an obligation for those who have received their wealth from God to respond to those members of the community in need.

Devoid of sentiments of universal love, some people know only to hoard wealth and to add to it by lending it out on interest. Islam’s teachings are the very antithesis of this attitude. Islam encourages the sharing of wealth with others and helps people to stand on their own and become productive members of the society.

In Arabic it is known as Zakah which literally means “purification”, because Zakah is considered to purify one’s heart of greed. Love of wealth is natural and it takes firm belief in God for a person to part with some of his wealth. Zakah must be paid on different categories of property — gold, silver, money; livestock; agricultural produce; and business commodities — and is payable each year after one year’s possession. It requires an annual contribution of 2.5 percent of an individual’s wealth and assets.

Like Prayer, which is both an individual and communal responsibility, Zakah expresses a Muslim’s worship of and thanksgiving to God by supporting those in need. In Islam, the true owner of things is not man, but God. Acquisition of wealth for its own sake, or so that it may increase a man’s worth, is condemned.

Mere acquisition of wealth counts for nothing in the sight of God. It does not give man any merit in this life or in the Hereafter. Islam teaches that people should acquire wealth with the intention of spending it on their own needs and the needs of others.

“‘Man’, said the Prophet, ‘says: My wealth! My wealth!’ Have you not any wealth except that which you give as alms and thus preserve, wear and tatter, eat and use up?”

The whole concept of wealth is considered in Islam as a gift from God. God, who provided it to the person, made a portion of it for the poor, so the poor have a right over one’s wealth. Zakah reminds Muslims that everything they have belongs to God. People are given their wealth as a trust from God, and Zakah is intended to free Muslims from the love of money. The money paid in Zakah is not something God needs or receives. He is above any type of dependency. God, in His boundless mercy, promises rewards for helping those in need with one basic condition that Zakah be paid in the name of God; one should not expect or demand any worldly gains from the beneficiaries nor aim at making one’s names as a philanthropist. The feelings of a beneficiary should not be hurt by making him feel inferior or reminding him of the assistance.

Money given as Zakah can only be used for certain specific things. Islamic Law stipulates that alms are to be used to support the poor and the needy, to free slaves and debtors, as specifically mentioned in the Qur’an (9:60). Zakah, which developed fourteen hundred years ago, functions as a form of social security in a Muslim society.

Neither Jewish nor Christian scriptures praise slave manumission by raising it to worship. Indeed, Islam is unique in world religions in requiring the faithful to financially help slaves win their freedom and has raised the manumission of a slave to an act of worship – if it is done to please God.

Under the caliphates, the collection and expenditure of Zakah was a function of the state. In the contemporary Muslim world, it has been left up to the individual, except in some countries in which the state fulfills that role to some degree. Most Muslims in the West disperse Zakah through Islamic charities, mosques, or directly giving to the poor. Money is not collected during religious services or via collection plates, but some mosques keep a drop box for those who wish it to distribute Zakah on their behalf. Unlike the Zakah, Giving other forms of charity in private, even in secret, is considered better, in order to keep one’s intention purely for God.

Apart from Zakah, the Qur’an and Hadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him) also stress Sadaqah, or voluntary almsgiving, which is intended for the needy. The Qur’an emphasizes feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, helping those who are in need, and the more one helps, the more God helps the person, and the more one gives, the more God gives the person. One feels he is taking care of others and God is taking care of him.

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Taken with slight modifications from: Islamreligion.com.

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Worship in Islam: Its Meaning and Necessity

Worship in Islam: Its Meaning and Necessity

By Dr. Hatem Al-Haj

Quran_prayer mat

`Ibadah can also be defined as a comprehensive name for all the sayings, actions, and abstinences that Allah loves.

It is the greatest loss for any one of us humans to have lived our entire lives without knowing what we were created for, and that is the worship of God (Allah).

Here I will attempt to address the different issues pertaining to `ibadah (worship) and will rely on the revelation (Quran & Sunnah) for guidance.

The Meaning of `Ibadah in Islam

It is a comprehensive word that means a state of complete subservience, humility, submission, and subjugation, combined with absolute love, and adoration. Such a combination of feelings should only be directed to One Being (God); and would be contradictory with regards to anyone other than Him.

`Ibadah can also be defined as a comprehensive name for all the sayings, actions, and abstinences that Allah loves.

`Ibadah: The Purpose of Our Creation

Allah says:

And We have not created the Jinn and Mankind except to worship Me. (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

He who does not fulfill the mission he was created for has wasted his life! It is quite sad to see people work hard for a future about which they have no assurance they will live to have, while neglecting to work for the certain future of all human beings, which starts from the day we depart from this world.

Types of `Ibadah

There are four types of `ibadah:

1- The sayings of the heart

2- The actions of the heart

3- The sayings of the body (tongue)

4- The actions of the body

Now, to have the baseline of faith below which you are not considered a believer, you have to have the baseline of each one of the aforementioned types and, the more you have the higher you transcend in the ranks of faith.

Here we will focus on the sayings and actions of the body including the tongue as a means for strengthening the attachment between the servant and his Lord.

First let us refute a blasphemous argument concerning the acts of worship.

Some deviant people claimed that the ritual acts of worship are not very important and, they can be dispensed with and, the purity of the heart, goodness of intention, and soundness of conduct are the basis of true faith.

This argument is incorrect in many ways:

• If what they say is true, then all these commands by Allah in the Qur’an are vain, and void of meaning, and, if they claim some were exempted, they need to point out to us where the exceptions are.

• The history of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions testifies to the opposite of this argument for, they are the best of all generations and, had it been true that someone is not in need for the ritual acts, they would have been the most deserving of such a “station” however, they were the most observant of all the acts of Islam.

• Rationally, that argument lets those who are the most deviant claim to be the most devout of all, and there will be no parameter with which people are judged. (Knowing that we only judge the exterior and, use it as an indication of the interior; and absolute knowledge only belongs to Allah.)

• What will filter through a pot is that which is inside; Hudhayfah (one of the Companions) said: “If his heart was humble and tranquil his limbs would have been.”

• Those prayers, fasting, and all other actions are the chief means for strengthening man’s attachment to Allah.

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that, you may attain piety. (Al-Baqarah 2:183)

• The Prophet said:

“The difference between us and them (non-Muslims) is the prayer; he who abandons it had become a disbeliever” (Muslim)

And he didn’t make any exceptions of that rule.

• To say ‘I am pious enough and, I don’t need to do any of these ritual acts to get closer to Allah’ entails praising oneself and, Allah says:

Have you not seen those who claim sanctity for themselves? Nay, but, Allah sanctifies whom He wills; and they will not be treated with injustice even equal to a thread in the long slit of a date-stone. (An-Nisaa’ 4:49)

• The Christians who claim their religion is faith-based (and not action-based) have opened all gates of evil for the followers of the religion. You only need to believe that Jesus died for you, and you are granted salvation. Your past and future sins have been paid for by someone else.

With this open invitation to evil, it is not surprising to see their communities drowning in sin, such as illegal sexual behavior, drinking, family breakdown, and yes excessive use of violence within and without their communities. After all, no followers of any religion killed more people than the followers of Christianity.

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Source: drhatemalhaj.

Dr. Hatem Al-Haj is the Dean of College of Islamic Studies – Mishkah University .

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Belief in the Last Day

Belief in the Last Day

sunrise_nature

Everyone from all parts of the world, from the time of Adam (peace be upon him) until the end of time, will be resurrected.

To have iman (belief) in the Last Day is to believe that the life of this world will one day come to an end. Allah (Exalted be He) says:

Whatsoever is on it (the earth) will perish. (Ar-Rahman 55:26)

When Allah wills this world to come to an end, Allah will order an angel called Israfil to blow a horn. At that point, everything in the heavens and earth will perish, except who Allah wills. Then He will order him to blow it again, and upon that, all people will rise from their graves, alive and in their own bodies. Everyone from all parts of the world, from the time of Adam (peace be upon him) until the end of time, will be resurrected. Allah says:

And the Trumpet will be blown, and all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth will collapse and die, except him whom Allah will. Then it will blow a second time and behold, they will be standing, looking on (waiting). (Az-Zumar 39:68)

To have iman in the Last Day means to have iman in all of what Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) informed us of what will occur after death. From these things is the following:

1- To Believe in the Life of the Barzakh

This life is the time after one’s death until the Last Day. In it the believer will live a life of pleasure while the rejecting disbelievers will be punished. Allah says:

The Fire; they are exposed to it, morning and afternoon, and on the Day when the Hour will be established (it will be said to the angels): ‘Cause Pharaoh people to enter the severest torment!’ (Ghafir 40:46)

2- To Believe in the Resurrection

This is the Day on which Allah will resurrect the whole creation, naked, barefoot, and uncircumcised just as they were born. Allah says:

The disbelievers falsely think that they will never be resurrected (for the Account). Say: ‘Yes! By my Lord, you will certainly be resurrected, then you will be informed of (and recompensed for) what you did, and that is easy for Allah’. (At-Taghabun 64:7)

3- To Believe in the Gathering

Allah will gather all of the creation together and call them to account. Allah says:

And (remember) the Day We shall cause the mountains to pass away (like clouds of dust), and you will see the earth as a leveled plain, and We shall gather them all together so as to leave not one of them behind. (Al-Kahf 18:47)

4- To believe that People Will be Set before Allah

Allah says:

And they will be set before your Lord in (lines as) rows, (and Allah will say): ‘Now indeed, you have come to Us as We created you the first time’. (Al-Kahf 18:48)

5- To believe that One’s Limbs Will Bear Witness

Allah says:

Till, when they reach it (Hellfire), their hearing (ears) and their eyes, and their skins will testify against them as to what they used to do. And they will say to their skins, ‘Why do you testify against us?’ They will say: ‘Allah has caused us to speak, He causes all things to speak: and He created you the first time, and to Him you are made to return.’ And you have not been hiding yourselves (in the world), lest your ears, and your eyes, and your skins testify against you; but you thought that Allah knew not much of what you were doing. (Fussilat 41:20-22)

scale_justice

On that day Allah will call people to account and pay them their exact dues for their deeds.

6- To Believe in the Questioning

Allah says:

‘But stop them, verily they are to be questioned. What is the matter with you? Why do you not help one another (as you used to do in the world)?’ Nay, but that Day they shall surrender. (As-Saaffaat 37:24-26)

7- To Believe in the Sirat and that everyone must pass over it.

The Sirat is a bridge set over the Hellfire over which all must pass, thinner than a strand of hair and sharper than a sword. Some will cross it as fast as lighting, some like a gust of wind, some like the speed of a fast horse, while others will cross it crawling, each according to his deeds. Allah says:

There is not one of you but will pass over it (Hell); this is with your Lord a decree which must be accomplished. (Maryam 19:71)

8- To Believe in the Weighing of Deeds on the Scale

Allah will call people to account and pay them their exact dues for their deeds.

He will reward those who did well with what they deserve, due to their righteous deeds, their iman, and following the messengers, and He will punish those who did evil, as a payback for what they committed of evil, disbelief, and disobedience to their messengers.

Allah says:

And We shall set up balances of justice on the Day of Resurrection, then none will be dealt with unjustly in anything. And if there be the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it. And Sufficient are We as Reckoners. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:47)

9- To Believe in the Handing out of Scrolls and Books

Allah says:

Then, as for him who will be given his Record in his right hand, he surely will receive an easy reckoning. And he will return to his family in joy! But whosoever is given his Record behind his back. He will invoke (his) destruction. And he shall enter a blazing Fire and made to taste its burning. (Al-Inshiqaq 84:7-12)

10- To Believe that People will be Rewarded with either Jannah (Paradise) or Hellfire in an everlasting and eternal life which will never end. Allah says:

Verily those who disbelieve from among the people of the Book (Jews and Christians) and the pagans will abide in the Fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures. Verily, those who believe and do righteous deeds, they are the best of creatures. Their reward with their Lord is the Paradise of Eden (Gardens of Eternity), underneath which rivers flow. They will abide therein forever, Allah will be pleased with them, and they with Him. That is for him who fears his Lord. (Al-Bayyinah 98:6-8)

11- To believe in the Hawd, Intercession and all other things which the Messenger of Allah informed us.

The Hawd Literally means pool; the pool from which the true followers of Muhammad will drink, after which they will never feel thirst again.

And by intercession (or shafa`ah) Allah will allow certain people to intercede for others, and from those will be the intercession of the Prophet (peace be upon Him).

The Fruits of Iman in the Last Day

Through the belief in Last Day, one benefits in the following ways:

1- In preparing for that Day, by continually performing good deeds and competing in doing so, hoping for its reward, and abstaining from sins and removing oneself from them, fearing Allah’s punishment.

2- In comforting the believers, that whatever they leave from the entertainment of this life will be exchanged with a better reward in the Hereafter.

3- To distinguish the believers truthful in their faith from others.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “How to Become a Muslim”. 

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