The Five Pillars of Islam
This is the framework of the Muslim life. It is considered obligatory by believers and is the foundation of Muslim life. They are shahadah (Islamic creed), daily prayers (Salah), almsgiving (Zakāt), fasting during the month of Ramadan (Sawm), and the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) at least once in a lifetime.
- Shahadah is the declaration of faith, i.e. the professing that there is only one God (Allah) (monotheism) and that Muhammad is God’s messenger.. Kalima is a set statement normally recited in Arabic: ‘La ‘ilaa-ha ‘il-lal-laa-hu mu-ham-ma-dur ra-soo-lul-laah “I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.” A simple formula which should be said with conviction in order to revert to Islam. The testimony of faith is the most important pillar of Islam.
- Salat (ṣalāh) is the Islamic prayer. Salat consists of five daily prayers according to the Sunnah; the names are according to the prayer times: Fajr (dawn), Dhuhr (noon), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (evening), and Isha’ (night). The Fajr prayer is performed before sunrise, Dhuhr is performed in the midday after the sun has surpassed its highest point, Asr is the evening prayer before sunset, Maghrib is the evening prayer after sunset and Isha is the night prayer.
- Zakat: All things belong to God, and wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The original meaning of the word zakat is both ‘purification’ and ‘growth.’ Giving zakat means ‘giving a specified percentage on certain properties to certain classes of needy people.’ The percentage which is due on gold, silver, and cash funds that have reached the amount of about 85 grams of gold and held in possession for one lunar year is two and a half percent. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a small portion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
- Fasting: Every year in the month of Ramadan all Muslims fast from dawn until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Although the fast is beneficial to health, it is regarded principally as a method of spiritual self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry, as well as growth in his or her spiritual life.
- Hajj: The annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah is an obligation once in a lifetime for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. About two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj is performed in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar. Male pilgrims wear special simple clothes which strip away distinctions of class and culture so that all stand equal before God. The rites of the Hajj include circling the Kaaba seven times and going seven times between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa, as Hagar did during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together in Arafa5 and ask God for what they wish and for His forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Day of Judgment.