The 5 Pillars Of Islam
1) Faith: There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which all the faithful pronounce. In Arabic, the first part is la ilaha illallah – ‘there is no deity except Allah’; ilaha (deity) can refer to anything which we may be tempted to put in place of Allah – wealth, power, and the like. Then comes illallah: ‘except Allah’, the source of all Creation. The second part of the Shahada is Muhammadur rasulullah: ‘Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.’ A message of guidance has come through a man like ourselves.
2) Prayer: Salaat is the name for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and Allah. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam, and no priests, so the prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Quran, chosen by the congregation. These five prayers contain verses from the Quran, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one’s own language. Salaah said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life.
3) Zakaat: One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to Allah, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakaat means both ‘purification’ and ‘growth’. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth. Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakaat individually. For most purposes this involves the payment each year of two and a half percent of one’s capital. A pious person may also give as much as he or she pleases as sadaqah, and does so preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as ‘voluntary charity’ it has a wider meaning. Rasulullah (SAW) said: “even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity.” Rasulullah (SAW) said: “Charity is a necessity for every Muslim.” Rasulullah (SAW) was asked: ‘What if a person has nothing?” Rasulullah (SAW) replied: “He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity.” The Companions asked: “What if he is not able to work?” Rasulullah (SAW) said: “He should help poor and needy persons.” The Companions further asked “What if he cannot do even that?” Rasulullah (SAW) said “He should urge others to do good.” The Companions said “What if he lacks that also?” Rasulullah (SAW) said “He should check himself from doing evil. That is also charity.”
4) Fasting: Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier. Although the fast is most beneficial to the health, it is regarded principally as a method of 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 one’s spiritual life.
5) The Pilgrimage (Hajj): The annual pilgrimage to Makkah – the Hajj – is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Nevertheless, +- two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before Allah. The rites of the Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include circling the Ka’aba seven times, and going seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwah as did Hajrah (Hagar) during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafah and join in prayers for Allah’s forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment. In previous centuries the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, Saudi Arabia provides millions of people with water, modern transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities. The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the main festivals of the Muslim calendar.