Monday, February 15, 2016

The Five Pillars of Islam

The five pillars of Islam represent the principle acts of worship which are required to practice the faith. Observance and practice of these acts is obligatory for all Muslims. They are:

1. Declaration of Faith (Kalimah Shahadah)
This is the first and foremost pillar of Islam and every other belief flows from it. A believer declares his acceptance of Islam by reciting:

"Ash-hado an-la ilaha ilAllaho wa ash-hado anna Muhammadan abdohu wa rasoolohu"I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger.
2. Prayer
Prayer is the basic and most important means by which man communicates with Allah and draws near Him. Its importance cannot be emphasized enough. Prayer brings solace and comfort to the human mind and soul, lifting them up from a lowly state to unsurpassed heights. Islam also assures the believer that his prayers are heard. The Holy Qur'an says:

"When My servants ask thee concerning Me, say: I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and have believe in Me, that they may follow the right way." [2:187]
  • Morning (Fajr). This prayer should be offered in the morning about one hour before sunrise. It is forbidden to pray while the sun is rising, because that may give the appearance of sun worship.
  • Midday (Zuhr). The time for this prayer is early afternoon, starting with the decline of the sun to mid afternoon.
  • Afternoon (Asr). Prayer is said in late afternoon but no later than half an hour before sunset.
  • Sunset (Maghrib). This prayer should be observed shortly after sunset. It must not be said while the sun is setting.
  • Nighttime (Isha). Isha prayer should be offered after nightfall when it is dark. It can be said up to midnight.
3. Fasting during Ramadhan (Saum)
The third act of worship in Islam is the fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadhan by all able adult Muslims. By fasting, a Muslim can purify himself spiritually and physically, elevate his soul and obtain nearness to Allah. To fast is to abstain from food, drink, smoking and conjugal relations from dawn to sunset. Sacrificing of physical needs increases a Muslim's awareness of the suffering of the poor and needy. Ramadhan was appointed by God for this spiritual exercise. It was the month during which the Holy Qur'an was first revealed to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).

“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you,so that you may guard (against evil)” [Al-Quran]

4. Tax on Wealth (Zakaat) 
Zakaat is the fourth pillar of Islam, which can more appropriately be called the purification of wealth. It is a kind of tax which requires a Muslim to give up a certain amount of his possessions (2% rate on a yearly basis) for the upkeep of the poor and those who have no earning capacity; for the destitute; for travelers in need; for those serving in the way of Islam, for those fighting in the way of Allah; for slaves to buy their freedom; and for benevolent works. The amount varies according to the type of property owned. The tax can be levied on land, livestock, and liquid assets (gold, silver, stocks, and bonds etc.).

“Charities(Sadaqaat) shall go to the poor, the needy, the workers who collect them, the new converts, to free the slaves, to those burdened by sudden expenses, in the cause of Allah, and to the traveling alien. Such is GOD's commandment. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise.” [Al-Quran 9:60]
5. Pilgrimage (Hajj) 
Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, is the pilgrimage to Mecca which a Muslim who is able bodied and has the means is required to perform at least once in his lifetime. It is an elaborate series of religious rites which extend over several days for their accomplishment, performed at the Holy Kaabahin Mecca (Arabia) and other special holy sites. The central feature of this pilgrimage is the Kaabah, which is believed by Muslims to be the first house built for the worship of One God. It was rebuilt by the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be on him) and his son Ismail (peace be upon him), and later by the Holy Prophet himself. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) himself performed this pilgrimage. Historical records show that prophets before the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) also performed pilgrimage. 

“Verily! As-Safa and Al-Marwah (two mountains in Makkah) are of the Symbols of Allah. So it is not a sin on him who performs Hajj or Umrah (pilgrimage) of the House (the Kabah at Makkah) to perform the going (Tawaf) between them (As-Safa and Al-Marwah). And whoever does good voluntarily, then verily, Allah is All-Recognizer, All-Knower.”
Quran: 2/158]