The Five Pillars of Islam
The most important Muslim practices are the Five Pillars of Islam.
The Five Pillars of Islam are the five obligations that every Muslim must satisfy in order to live a good and responsible life according to Islam.
The Five Pillars consist of:
- Shahadah: sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith
"There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger."
This is the basic statement of the Islamic faith: anyone who cannot recite this wholeheartedly is not a Muslim.
When a Muslim recites this they proclaim:
- That Allah is the only God, and that Muhammad is his prophet
- That they personally accept this as true
- That they will obey all the commitments of Islam in their life
The Shahadah is the first of the Five Pillars of Islam.
- Salat: performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day
Salat is the obligatory Muslim prayers, performed five times each day by Muslims. It is the second Pillar of Islam.
God ordered Muslims to pray at five set times of day:
- Salat al-fajr: dawn, before sunrise
- Salat al-zuhr: midday, after the sun passes its highest
- Salat al-'asr: the late part of the afternoon
- Salat al-maghrib: just after sunset
- Salat al-'isha: between sunset and midnight
All Muslims try to do this. Muslim children as young as seven are encouraged to pray.
- Zakat: paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy
Zakat is the compulsory giving of a set proportion of one's wealth to charity. It is regarded as a type of worship and of self-purification. Zakat is the third Pillar of Islam.
Zakat does not refer to charitable gifts given out of kindness or generosity, but to the systematic giving of 2.5% of one's wealth each year to benefit the poor.
The benefits of Zakat, apart from helping the poor, are as follows:
- Obeying God
- Helping a person acknowledge that everything comes from Godon loan and that we do not really own anything ourselves
- And since we cannot take anything with us when we die we need not cling to it
- Acknowledging that whether we are rich or poor is God's choice
- So we should help those he has chosen to make poor
- Learning self-discipline
- Freeing oneself from the love of possessions and greed
- Freeing oneself from the love of money
- Freeing oneself from love of oneself
- Behaving honestly
- Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan
Sawm is fasting. It's the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
- During the 29/30 days of Ramadan all adult Muslims must give up the following things during the hours of daylight:
- Food or drink of any sort
- Smoking, including passive smoking
- Sexual activity
- Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca
Once a year, Muslims of every ethnic group, colour, social status, and culture gather together in Mecca and stand before the Kaaba praising Allah together.
It is a ritual that is designed to promote the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood by showing that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah.
The Hajj makes Muslims feel real importance of life here on earth, and the afterlife, by stripping away all markers of social status, wealth, and pride. In the Hajj all are truly equal.
The Hajjis or pilgrims wear simple white clothes called Ihram. During the Hajj the Pilgrims perform acts of worship and they renew their sense of purpose in the world.
Mecca is a place that is holy to all Muslims. It is so holy that no non-Muslim is allowed to enter.
For Muslims, the Hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam. It occurs in the month of Dhul Hijjah which is the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It is the journey that every sane adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives if they can afford it and are physically able.
Why are they important?
Carrying out these obligations provides the framework of a Muslim's life, and weaves their everyday activities and their beliefs into a single cloth of religious devotion.
No matter how sincerely a person may believe, Islam regards it as pointless to live life without putting that faith into action and practice.
Carrying out the Five Pillars demonstrates that the Muslim is putting their faith first, and not just trying to fit it in around their secular lives.