The Five Pillars Of Islam

There are five obligatory acts of worship that every Muslim must dutifully carry out. Failure to do so is a grave sin. The edifice of Islam rests upon these five pillars. One cannot be considered a Muslim if he or she denies that any one of these acts is obligatory.

The five obligations of Muslims are as follows:

  1. The declaration of faith, to “Testify that there is no deity except God, and that Muhammad is His Messenger” (Shahadah)
  2. To pray five times a day (Salah)
  3. To pay the yearly alms (Zakah)
  4. To fast during the month of Ramadan (Sawm)
  5. To make the pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj)

The Declaration Of Faith (Shahadah)

It is obligatory for every person intending to enter Islam to believe and to say, “I testify that there is no deity except God, and that Muhammad is His Messenger.” With this simple, important, and powerful declaration, a person is considered a Muslim. There is no initiation into the fold of Islam.

The concepts within the testimony of faith can be explained by analyzing each of three parts within the testimony. The first part “No deity…” is a negation of polytheism. It is a negation of the existence of any deity other than God, or any entity that shares in any of the divine attributes of God. The second part “…except God” is an affirmation of monotheism. God is the only one worthy of worship.

“Muhammad is God’s Messenger” is the third part of the declaration of faith. It is an affirmation of the Prophethood of Muhammadp as the final Prophet and Messenger of God. This requires the unconditional acceptance of the Qur’an and the authentic sayings and traditions of Muhammadp.

By believing and saying the testimony of faith, a person rejects all false objects of worship and asserts that God is the only one to be worshipped. God is without equal or partner. God promises that once a person affirms and sincerely says, “I testify that there is no deity except God, and that Muhammad is His Messenger,” all of his or her previous sins are forgiven. One’s previous good deeds may also be rewarded by God, The Most Forgiving.

Praying Five Times A Day (Salah)

It is required for every Muslim to perform five obligatory prayers a day. A Muslim turns toward Makkah (Mecca) when performing these prayers, facing the first house built for the worship of The One God. This house is called the Ka`bah, an empty cube-like structure which is located in what is now Saudi Arabia. It was erected by Abrahamp and his son Ishmaelp for the worship of The One and Only True God.

One must remember that Islam does not have any sacred relics or symbols. We are not worshipping the Ka`bah; we simply worship God while facing the Ka`bah. Facing the Ka`bah to pray unifies the worshippers in their prayer to The One God. Anyone who worships the Ka`bah or any other created thing would be considered an idol worshipper. To put it plainly, the building materials that make up this house are no more sacred than any other building materials.

These prayers take place throughout the day and night, and are a constant reminder of a person’s duty and surrender to God. The prayers are a direct link between the worshipper and God. It is a chance to turn to God in worship, to give thanks, to ask for forgiveness, and to ask for His guidance and mercy.

A Muslim may voluntarily perform prayers more often. Prayers, in the general sense of supplication, can be offered practically at any time or place.

Paying The Yearly Alms (Zakah)

It is a religious duty for every Muslim who is prosperous enough to accumulate and retain a sufficient amount of savings to give a portion of his or her wealth to the needy each year. These alms are called Zakah in Arabic, which literally means “purification.” All things belong to God, The Most Merciful, and wealth is held in trust by human beings. Paying these alms is a way for people who are financially able to purify the ethically gained wealth that God has bestowed upon them. In addition, it is a means to directly distribute wealth throughout society and help the poor and needy. Zakah (alms) also purifies the soul of the giver, reduces greed, and strengthens compassion and generosity among humanity. The basic rate of these alms is two and a half percent of the wealth that has been held in savings for an entire year. These alms are levied on savings, not income.

Fasting During Ramadan (Sawm)

A physically able adult Muslim must fast during the lunar month of Ramadan. “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn self-restraint.” [Qur’an 2:183] This month is significant because the first revelations of the Qur’an to Muhammadp occurred during this month. Since a year in the lunar calendar is eleven days shorter than the solar calendar, the month of Ramadan gradually passes through all seasons of the year. Just as alms giving is a form of wealth purification, fasting is a form of self-purification. Fasting begins at dawn and ends at sunset, local time. During daylight hours, a fasting person must abstain from food, drink, and marital sexual intercourse. These activities are permissible from sunset to the following dawn. Fasting teaches self-control and patience. Like prayer, fasting is a way of turning to God in sincere worship. The two holidays for Muslims are Eid Al-Fitr which is celebrated at the end of Ramadan, and Eid Al-Adha which is celebrated at the end of hajj. Fasting reminds us of the conditions of the needy and gives us appreciation for the simple blessings we often take for granted, such as drinking a glass of pure water or eating food at will.

Making The Pilgrimage To Makkah (Hajj)

Every Muslim is to make the pilgrimage to the Ka`bah, in Makkah, once in a lifetime if he or she has the ability and means to do so. Muslims from all over the world gather together for the purpose of worshipping and pleasing God alone. Millions of pilgrims visit the Ka`bah and perform hajj annually.

The rite of hajj originated from the Prophet Abrahamp and was restored by Muhammadp. The pilgrimage to Makkah compels the pilgrims to break down the racial, economic, and social barriers that may still plague their societies. It also invites each pilgrim to practice patience, self-restraint, and piety. The pilgrims wear simple garments that strip away the distinctions of class and culture. Each of these obligatory acts of worship keeps the remembrance of God alive and reminds all Muslims that from God we come and to God we will all return.