Islam has five pillars that are the foundation to the religion. These pillars are at the core of Islam and are obligatory upon every able bodied Muslim. As with any building, the pillars of Islam need to be observed to ensure an ideal relationship with God. The pillars of Islam therefore provide a starting point for all good deeds performed by a Muslim to please the creator.
The pillars of Islam are:
- The Kalima – Faith in the oneness of God and the finality of prophet Muhammad (SAW).
- Salah – The 5 daily prayers.
- Zakat – Mandatory alms giving.
- Saum – Fasting in the month of Ramadhan.
- Hajj – This is the pilgrimage to Makkah.
Faith in the oneness of God is a critical pillar of Islam and usually a starting point for the formal reversion of a Muslim. It is the declaration of faith with the pronouncement that : “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”. The Shahada is taken in the presence of witnesses and is conducted first in Arabic and then in the native tongue of the revert. The Shahada can always be declared by a Muslim at any time serving to ‘renew’ faith. The Arabic text can be found thus:
Salah is the term to denote the 5 daily prayers that are obligatory on every Muslim. The prayers are divided into units known as rakaat. The prayers are performed at specific intervals throughout the day and serve the worshiper a direct link to the creator. In Islam, there is no intercessor between the Muslim and his Lord, all prayers must be directed towards the creator. Doing otherwise is paramount to blasphemy.
There are certain conditions that have to be met before the commencement of prayer such as ablution, having clean clothes ensuring proper modestly, a clean place of prayer and in the direction of Makaa towards the Kaaba. They can be said in congregation or alone. The prayer is recited exclusively in Arabic ; the worshiper may however make Dua in their native language. An image of Muslims in congregation prayers can be seen below:
Zakah is the mandated charity that is given by a Muslim to the poor. It is a percentage of the person’s wealth and/or assets. Zakah is paid annually and is 2.5% of one’s capital. The obligatory act serves as a way to purify one’s wealth ; wealth like any other blessing is something is that is bestowed upon by Allah. The word Zakah means both ‘purification’ and ‘growth’.
It should be noted that a Muslim is free to give as much as he wants; on the contrary it is encouraged to do so. However, those alms are known as Sadaqa. There is no limit on Sadaqa and there is no minimum; indeed the Messenger of Allah (SAW) stated “Even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is an act of charity”. A verse from the Qur’an referencing Zakah can be found below:
And establish prayer and give zakah and bow with those who bow [in worship and obedience].
Surah Baqarah 2:43
Saum is the abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations with spouses from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadhan. Fasting is an important component of the faith as it increases God consciousness, self-purification as well as self-restraint. The act of worship is mandatory on all Muslims who are able and healthy to complete it. There are exceptions to this such as children who have not yet attained puberty, the sick, the elderly, on a journey or women who are menstruating, pregnant, or nursing. These would make up an equal number of days later in the year. Children are often encouraged to start fasting when they are young, for smaller periods of time.
Surah Baqarah 2:183
The Hajj is the pilgrimage that is made to Islam’s holiest site in Makkah. The Hajj should be performed at least once in a lifetime ; however it is only obligated if one has the physical and financial means to accomplish the pilgrimage. The annual pilgrimage begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar; the pilgrim adorns special clothes : a simple white garment that does away with divisions of race, wealth or status, such that ALL stand equal before the creator.
The rites of the pilgrimage are Abrahamic in origin, which include going in between the two hills of Safwa and Marwa as Hajira (Abraham’s wife) during her search for water, stoning of the jamaraat (3 pillars that represent the devil) and culminating in the pilgrims gathering together on the wide plains of Arafat seeking God’s forgiveness.
To get a more detailed description to the pillars of Islam, the following links may be used: