What are 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:
- Declaration of Faith (Kalimah): 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: “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His messenger.”
- Prayer: Prayer is the basic and most important means by which man communicates with Allah and draws near Him. The Islamic concept of prayer is a direct pouring forth of the soul by the supplicant before the Divine Majesty. There is no need for, nor does Islam tolerate an intermediary between God and man. The most important form of prayer in Islam is the salaat, the ritualistic daily prayer. Salaat has been prescribed five times a day. These prayers should be performed at their appropriate times and preferably in congregation. Salaat when offered properly becomes a tool for stress relief, self analysis and strength in spirituality in the journey of life.
- Fasting: 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. Fasting means 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 Quran was first revealed to the Holy Prophet (pbuh). The Holy Quran allows exemption from fasting to the elderly, the chronically sick and children. They may make up for fasting by feeding the poor. Temporary exemption is permitted to those traveling, the sick, pregnant and nursing women and menstruating women. They are expected to make up the fasts at a later time.
- Tax on unused 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. 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.).
- 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 Ka’aba, Mecca (Arabia) and other special holy sites. The central feature of this pilgrimage is the Ka’aba, which is believed by Muslims to be the first house built for the worship of One God. The Hajj serves as a striking reminder of the Oneness of Allah and it emphasizes the brotherhood and equality of human beings, as well as the importance of man’s willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of his Creator. Another aspect of this pilgrimage is that one follows the footsteps of Prophet Abraham and his family, thus remembering the connection between Islam and Abraham.