The Five Pillars of Islam

Five Pillars of Islam

In Islam, the term ‘worship’ covers any action that one does in accordance with the will of Allah. It can be mental, physical, spoken or otherwise. All such actions will be rewarded. There are five acts of worship that are so fundamental that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) grouped them together as the Five Pillars of Islam. Every muslim is expected to fulfill these obligations. They are:

The first pillar of Islam, the Shahadah

The first pillar of Islam, the Shahadah, written in Arabic script in the shape of a man praying.

1. Shahadah

Recognising and acknowledging the monotheistic nature of Allah stands at the core of Islam. This is to firmly believe in the heart and declare:

“Ashhadu allaa ilahha, wa ashhadu anna Muhammadar-rasulullah.”

{” I bear witness that there is no God except Allah, and I bear witness that Mohammad is Allah’s Messenger.”}

This is known as the Shahadah. Once a person declares it, he becomes a Muslim.

The Shahadah has two parts. Firstly, its a declaration that Allah is the only Lord and Ruler, and He Alone is worthy of worship. He has no partner, and He cannot be compared with any other thing. Everything which is in this universe is under His control and wors according to His Command. Mankkind is also required to live according to the C ommands of Allah. Allah loves those who follow His command and He dislikes those who disobey Him.

The second part of the Shahadah is the declaration that Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah. He was the one who b, and ask Allah to give him brought the Qur’an to us. Muslims are required to obey the Prophet (PBHUH) and follow his example without hesitation. Muslims are also required to honour and respect him blessings and salutations. Whenever his name is mentioned we must say: Sallallaahu ulayhi wa sallum meaning “Allah’s peace and blessings upon him.”

2. Salah – Prayer

The second pillar of Islam, the salat or prayer

The word "salat" or prayer, written in Arabic calligraphic script

Prayer or Salah is obliguitary on every muslim and they must pray five times a day. “Verily, the prayer is enjoined on the belivers at fixed hours.” [The Holy Qur'an 4:103] It is the distinguishing feature of Islam and the most obvious act which a muslim does to shows his obedience to Allah. A person abandons prayer at the risk of going out of Islam.

When Allah made us, He made us for a purpose and that was to Worship Him and Him alone. “I have only created jinns and men, that they may worship Me.” [The Holy Qur'an 51:56] Praying regularly reminds us of this prupose and bring us closer to Allah thereby preventing us from straying off the right path. “O all you who believe, bow down and prostrate yourselves and worship your Lord, and do good deeds, so that you may be successful.” [The Holy Qur'an 22:77] Theoretical recognition of Allah and saying you believe in your heart is not sufficient. Many people say that they worship God in their ‘own way’ but by taking this view we make ourselves gods and decide how Allah should be worshipped, rather than follow His command.

The five daily prayers have a physical and spiritual nature. They consist of a series of bowings and prostrations together with recitations of the Holy Qur’an and praises of Allah, complemented by personal requests. They are a fusion of body, soul and mind. We start the day with Fajr which is prayed at morning twilight before sunrise; the second prayer is Zuhr, prayed after the sun has passed its zenith or highest point at noon; then at mid-afternoon Asr is payed; Maghrib is prayedafter sunset, and the final prayer of the day is Isha, which is prayer after the onset of night. The five daily prayers reaffirm again and again that we are in the service of Allah. “Verily, in the rememberance of Allah do hearts find rest.” [The Holy Qur'an 13:28]

The Zakat, third pillar of Islam

The word Zakat or charity, one of the pillars of Islam, in Arabic script

3. Zakat – Alms giving

Zakat means purification and growth. Once a year every Muslim above the poverty threshold must give 2.5 % of all his belongings which are not in regular use and wealth which has been allowed to accumulate for a whole year to set categories of recipients, those who are needy or without support. It is way of doing our duty to other Muslims less fortunate to us. Giving zakat reminds a person that his wealth is not his own, but its real owner is Allah. This should make a person ready to spend in accordance with Allah’s Command. “Truly, those who belive and do deeds of righteousness, and perform Salat, and give Zakat, they will have their reward with their Lord, On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” [The Holy qur'an 2:277]

Zakat is not tax imposed by Islam, but a due fixed by Allah so that the wealth of a person may be purified. It is an act of worship and purifies the heart from selfishness and greed for wealth. In return, it purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness; and it fosters in his heart, instead, good will and warm wishes for the contributor. It is a way of showing sympthay to those who are less fortunate. It is also to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. As a result, the society at large; will purify and free itself from class warfare and suspicion, from ill feelings and distrust, from corruption and disintegration, and from all such evils.

4. Sawm – Fasting

Ramadan kareem, or blessed Ramadan, in Arabic script

Fasting in Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam

Fasting is an obligatory act during the month of Ramadan. “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was for those before you, that you may attain piety.” [The Holy qur'an 2:183] Muslims must abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk, and are to be especially mindful of other sins. Fasting is both a spiritual and physical exersice which allows Muslims to seek nearness to Allah, to express their gratitude to and dependence on him, to atone for their past sins, and to remind them of the needy.

During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, harsh language, gossip and to try to get along with each other better than normal. In addition, all obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided. If he does not control himself and avoid evil deeds, his fast will not bring him any benefit nor reward from Allah. Fastiong throughout ramdan trains one to control their desires and strengthen their will-power.

For those whom fasting is dangerous and excessively problematic, fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory, and is even forbidden in some cases. These include pre-pubescent children, those with a medical condition such as diabetes, elderly people, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Observing fasts is not permitted for menstruating women. Other individuals for whom it is considered acceptable not to fast are those who are ill or on a travel. Missing fasts usually must be made up soon afterwards, although the exact requirements vary according to circumstance.

5. Hajj – Pilgrimage

The Hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah, one of the pillars of Islam

Hajj or pilgrimage is a pillar of Islam that every capable Muslim must perform once in a lifetime

Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah is obligatory in every muslim who is finicially and physically able to, once in a lifetime. “And Hajj to the House (Ka’bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses.” [The Holy Qur'an 3:97] No annual event on the face of the globe, religious or non-religious, compares to Hajj in terms of the sheer number of participants, duration of the event and the breadth of agenda. In spite of this fact, it has always remained equally fascinating and mysterious to not only non-Muslims, who are barred from entering the holy city, but also to millions of Muslims, who had not performed Hajj.

At Hajj a number of rituals are carried out which reflect the efforts of Abraham (Ibrahim), peace be with him, who had left his second wife Hajar and her young son Ishmael (Ismail) there in the arid desert, and Allah rewarded Hajar’s struggle to find water with the well of Zamzam, a spring which made the region prosperous and a religious focal point after Ibrahim and Ismail built the Kaabah. There is also the gathering at the plain of Arafat, reminiscent of the even larger gathering to come on the day of judgment.

Hajj is more than a get together of Muslims from all over the globe; it is akin to a virtual reality training camp. Pilgrims leave behind their busy world, dress in simple white sheets of cloth not unlike the ones they will later be buried in, and concentrate on the concept of sacrifice – recalling Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his only son Ismail for Allah. Properly conducted, this simulated journey from this world to the next prepares the pilgrims for the remaining life ahead of them, assisting them in making the right choices and judging their worldly affairs against the standard of the hereafter.

All over the Muslim world the conclusion of Hajj is celebrated with the festival of Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, where the meat of a sacrificed animal is shared out between family, friends and the needy, celebrating the fact, that Allah only tested Ibrahim’s willingness, but did not demand of him to give up his son, letting him slaughter a ram instead. Islam thereby categorically rejects the concept of human sacrifice but also emphasises that nothing should be so dear to us that we are not willing to give it up for the sake of Allah. “And proclaim unto mankind the Hajj. … That they may witness things that are of benefit to them.” [The Holy Qur'an 22:27-8]

Adapted from Islam A Brief Guide & Basic Principles of Islam

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