The Five Pillars Of Islam
Islam has five primary obligations, or pillars of faith, that each Muslim must fulfill in his or her lifetime. They are as follows:
Profession of faith, is the first pillar of Islam. Muslims bear witness to the oneness of God by reciting the creed “There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” This simple yet profound statement expresses a Muslim’s complete acceptance of and total commitment to Islam.
Prayer, is the second pillar. The Islamic faith is based on the belief that individuals have a direct relationship with God. The world’s Muslims turn individually and collectively to Makkah, Islam’s holiest city, to offer five daily prayers at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening. In addition, Friday congregational service is also required. Although salah can he performed alone, it is meritorious to perform it with another or with a group. It is permissible to pray at home, at work, or even outdoors; however it is recommended that Muslims perform salah in a mosque.
Almsgiving, is the third pillar. Social responsibility is considered part of one’s service to God; the obligatory act of zakat enshrines this duty. Zakat prescribes payment of fixed proportions of a Muslim’s possessions for the welfare of the entire community and in particular for its neediest members. It is equal to 2.5 percent of an individual’s total net worth, excluding obligations and family expenses.
Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, is the fourth pillar of Islam. Ordained in the Holy Qur’an, the fast is an act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a richer perception of God. Fasting is also an exercise in self-control whereby one’s sensitivity is heightened to the sufferings of the poor. Ramadan, the month during which the Holy Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, begins with the sighting of the new moon, after which abstention from eating, drinking and other sensual pleasures is obligatory from dawn to sunset.
Ramadan is also a joyful month. Muslims break their fast at sunset with a special meal, iftar, perform additional nocturnal worship, tarawih, after evening prayer; and throng the streets in moods that are festive and communal. The end of Ramadan is observed by three days of celebration called Eid Al-Fitr, the feast of the breaking of the fast. Customarily, it is a time for family reunion and the favored holiday for children who receive new clothing and gifts.
The pilgrimage to Makkah, is the fifth pillar and the most significant manifestation of Islamic faith and unity in the world. For those Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the journey to Makkah, the Hajj is a once in a lifetime duty that is the peak of their religious life. The Hajj is a remarkable spiritual gathering of over two million Muslims from all over the world to the holy city. In performing the Hajj, a pilgrim follows the order of ritual that the Prophet Muhammad performed during his last pilgrimage.
The five pillars of Islam define the basic identity of Muslims – their faith, beliefs and practices – and bind together a worldwide community of believers into a fellowship of shared values and concerns.
The Five Pillars of Islam (arkān-al-Islām أركان الإسلام; also arkān ad-dīn أركان الدين “pillars of the religion”) are five basic acts in Sunni Islam, considered obligatory by believers. These are summarized in the famous Hadith of Gabriel.
The Qur’an presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith. They are:
- The Shahada (Islamic creed),
- Daily Prayers (salah),
- Almsgiving (zakāt),
- Fasting during Ramadan (sawm), and
- The Pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime.
The minority Shi’a and majority Sunni both agree on the essential details for the performance of these acts, but the Shi’a do not refer to them by the same name (see Ancillaries of the Faith, for the Twelvers, and Seven pillars of Ismailism).
The Shahadah the declaration of faith, i.e. the professing that there is only one God (Allah) (monotheism) and that Muhammad is God’s messenger. The shahadah is a set statement normally recited in Arabic: ash’hadu an lā ilāha illà-llâh, wa-ash’hadu anna muḥammadan rasûlu-llâh “I testify that there is no god except Allah and I testify that Muhammad is a messenger of Allah.” Reciting this statement is obligatory in daily prayer (salâh) as well as on other occasions; it is also a key part in a person’s conversion to Islam.
Salat (ṣalâh) is the Islamic prayer. Salat consists of five daily prayers according to the Sunna; the names are arcording to the prayer times: Fajr (morning dawn), Zuhr (noon), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (after-sunset), and ‘Isha’ (late evening, night). The Fajr prayer is performed before sunrise, Zuhr is performed in the midday after the sun has surpassed its highest above you, Asar is the evening prayer before sunset,
Maghrib is the evening prayer after sunset and Isha is the night prayer. All of these prayers are recited while facing the Ka’bah in Mecca. Muslims must wash themselves before prayer, this washing is called wudû’ (“purification”). The prayer is accompanied by a series of set positions including; bowing with hands on knees, standing, prostrating and sitting in a special position (not on the heels, nor on the buttocks). Salat is the second of the five pillars of Islam.
Zakat or alms-giving is the practice of charitable giving by Muslims based on accumulated wealth, and is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy, including slaves, debtors and travelers. A Muslim may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah), rather than to achieve additional divine reward. There are two main types of Zakat. First, there is the kajj, which is a fixed amount There are five principles that should be followed when giving the Zakat:
- The giver must declare to Allah his intention to give the Zakat.
- The Zakat must be paid on the day that it is due.
- After the Offering, the payer must not exaggerate on spending his money more than usual means.
- Payment must be in kind. This means if one is wealthy then he or she needs to pay 2.5% of their income. If a person does not have much money, then they should compensate for it in different ways, such as good deeds and good behavior toward others.
- The Zakat must be distributed in the community from which it was taken.
As-Sawm of Ramadan | Fasting
Three types of fasting (Sawm) are recognized by the Qur’an: Ritual fasting, fasting as compensation for repentance (both from sura Al-Baqara), and ascetic fasting (from Al-Ahzab).
Ritual fasting is an obligatory act during the month of Ramadan. Muslims must abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk during this month, and are to be especially mindful of other sins. Fasting is necessary for every Muslim that has reached puberty (unless he/she suffers from a medical condition which prevents him/her from doing so.)
The fast is meant to allow Muslims to seek nearness to Allah, to express their gratitude to and dependence on him, atone for their past sins, and to remind them of the needy. During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, profane language, gossip and to try to get along with fellow Muslims better. In addition, all obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided.
Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory, but is forbidden for several groups for whom it would be very dangerous and excessively problematic. These include pre-pubescent children, those with a medical condition such as diabetes, elderly people, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Observing fasts is not permitted for menstruating women. Other individuals for whom it is considered acceptable not to fast are those who are ill or traveling. Missing fasts usually must be made up for soon afterward, although the exact requirements vary according to circumstance.
Al-Hajj | Pilgrimage to Mecca
The Hajj is a pilgrimage that occurs during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah to the holy city of Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime . When the pilgrim is around 10 km (6.2 mi) from Mecca, he must dress in Ihram clothing, which consists of two white sheets. Both men and women are required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. After a Muslim makes the trip to Mecca, he/she is known as a hajj/hajja (one who made the pilgrimage to Mecca). The main rituals of the Hajj include walking seven times around the Kaaba, touching the Black Stone, traveling seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah, and symbolically stoning the Devil in Mina.
The pilgrim, or the haji, is honoured in the Muslim community. Islamic teachers say that the Hajj should be an expression of devotion to Allah, not a means to gain social standing. The believer should be self-aware and examine their intentions in performing the pilgrimage. This should lead to constant striving for self-improvement. A pilgrimage made at any time other than the Hajj season is called an Umrah, and while not mandatory is strongly recommended. Also, they make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem in their alms giving feast.
Pillars of Shia Islam
Shia Islam is like a tree whose roots are its beliefs and whose branches are its practices. If the roots are not firm and healthy, the tree will not survive – but the roots only form the foundation of the tree.
Shia Faith is based on the following:
1. Monotheism: The Oneness of Allah (tawhid):
Allah, or God, is the center of Muslim belief. Whereas certain religions focus on individuals, like Christianity focuses on Jesus, Islam focuses solely on Allah. Although Muslims respect the divine prophets, the prophets – including Muhammad – are still only servants of Allah.
The Qur’an speaks of the oneness of God: “Allah has borne witness that there is no God but Him – and the angels, and those with knowledge also witness this. He is always standing firm on justice. There is no God but Him, the Mighty, the Wise.” (3:18).
Describing God (Allah):
One of the shortest chapters of the Qur’an, “The Oneness of God”, summarizes the nature of God in five verses:
- In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the Most Merciful
- Say, He is Allah, the One
- Allah, the Eternal
- He begets not, nor was He begotten
- And there is nothing at all comparable to Him.
2. Divine Justice (‘adl):
Anyone who believes in Islamic monotheism must believe in the Almighty’s justice. Because Allah is just, He never wrongs His creatures, for injustice is an evil deed while He is far from doing evil. Because He is omniscient, He does not neglect anything, and because He is self-sufficient, He has no cause to wrong others. Since He owns everything, He does not need the actions of anyone. His wisdom also transcends the universe.
Thus, unlike some human beings, He has no cause for injustice: “He is always standing firm on justice.
- There is no God but Him, the Mighty, the Wise.” (3:18)
- “And your Lord does not deal unjustly with anyone.” (18:49)
- “We did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves.” (16:118)
Just as Allah encourages human beings to emulate some of His attributes, such as being patient and forgiving, He also tells us to follow the way of justice. “Say: ‘My Lord has enjoined upon me justice.'” (7:29) Although common people may falter in this area, none of the prophets of God or their successors ever committed any act of injustice.
3. Prophethood (nubuwwa):
The prophets were the people who received divine revelation. Allah has sent numerous prophets and messengers to humankind since the dawn of history. These prophets were of two types: “local” and “universal.” While the local prophets were sent with specific messages to specific groups of people, the universal prophets were sent with messages and books for all of humankind. There were only five universal prophets, and their names were Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (may the peace of Allah be upon all of them).
A unique characteristic of all the prophets and messengers is that they were infallible – that is, they never committed any sin. The easiest way to see this is to consider that these people were the examples sent for humanity to follow, and so if they committed errors, people would be obliged to follow their errors, thereby making the prophets and messengers untrustable. Infallibility means protection, and, in Islamic terminology, means the spiritual grace of Allah enabling a person to abstain from sins by his own free will. This power of infallibility and sinlessness does not make a person incapable of committing sins; rather, he refrains from sins and mistakes by his own power and will.
4. Succession to Muhammad (imama):
All of the prophets and messengers of God had successors, and just as Allah appointed His prophets and messengers for the guidance of mankind, He also appointed successors to the prophets and messengers as a matter of necessity. Abraham was succeeded by two of his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, while Moses was succeeded by his brother Aaron and Jesus by two prophets whom the Qur’an mentions in the chapter called “Ya Sin”. (36:13-14) Likewise, Muhammad was succeeded by twelve distinguished successors, one after another.
These successors were called imams and were appointed by Allah, not by humankind. The right to ordain imams belongs only to Almighty Allah, and the Qur’an speaks about this in many verses:
- “And remember when your Lord said to the angels, ‘Verily I am going to place a successor (khalifa).” (2:30)
- Allah addressed David as such: “O David! Verily We have placed you as a successor on earth.” (38:26)
- “And remember when the Lord of Abraham tried him with certain commands which he fulfilled; Allah said to him, ‘Verily I am going to make you a leader (imam) of mankind.'” (2:124)
- Allah also attributes the right of appointing leaders to Himself: “We made from among them leaders, giving guidance under Our command.” (32:24)
5. The Day of Judgement and the Resurrection (qiyama):
Approximately 1,200 verses of the Qur’an speak of life after death and the Day of Resurrection, as do a vast number of sayings related from Muhammad and his successors. This number reveals the importance and significance of life after death and emphasizes that the life of the human being does not end at death but in fact continues afterwards towards a new life – indeed, its true life.
Allah placed human beings on the earth to test them, and so different people live for different lengths of time before they die and their souls are separated from their bodies. Their souls then live on, facing the grave and the questioning therein. After that, the souls return to their bodies which will be resurrected on the Day of Judgement, on which day they will receive whatever they deserve according to their beliefs and deeds in life.
Some people will go to Heaven, also called the Garden, or the Paradise. Others will go to Hell, oftentimes called the Fire. And a select few will be brought into a state of nearness to God.
Both Heaven and Hell have different levels; the worst of people will be in the lowest depths of Hell, while the best of them will be in the highest parts of Heaven.
Shia Practice of Islam is based on the following:
- Prayers (salaat) – 5 times a day
- Fasting (sawm) during Ramadan
- 3-4 Almsgiving (zakaat and khums)
- Pilgrimage to the city of Makkah (hajj)
- 5-6 Jihad The literal meaning of jihad is “to strive hard” to progress in all aspects of life. Although this word, in English, has taken on purely military connotations, in reality it covers the vast range of human enterprise – family life, work, spiritual development, and, at the end of all this, justified defensive warfare.
The most important jihad is the struggle to purify the soul, and this jihad far outweighs any military jihad. Once, Muhammad met a group of soldiers returning from a defensive battle and addressed them: “Welcome to the people who have concluded the minor jihad (struggle).” Astonished, the soldiers asked, “Was this the minor jihad? Then what is the major jihad?” Muhammad replied: “The major jihad is the jihad to purify one’s self.”
The beginning of the jihad to purify the soul is to restrain the self from committing sins and thereby corrupting the soul. The next step is to control material desires and ambitions and free the self from the things that distract it from Allah. All of the forms of worship in Islam – prayers, fasting, charity, and so on – exist to purify and perfect the soul.
Only in the upward development of the soul do human beings find happiness in this life and the next, for if the soul is unhappy, a person will be miserable regardless of how materially wealthy he or she may be. “And by the soul and Him Who perfected it, then showed it what is right and what is wrong for it – indeed, he succeeds who purifies his soul, and, indeed, he fails who corrupts his soul.” (91:7) The soul is the essence of man; it is the part which will outlast this life and be judged in the next, and one of the main reasons human beings were placed in this world is to test and develop their souls.
Jihad does also refer to the legitimate struggle to defend human rights, such as personal and religious freedom as well as the defense of land, property, and families. Those who are being attacked have the right to defend themselves in jihad.
7-8. Enjoining good (amr bil-ma’rouf) and forbidding evil (nahiy an al-munkar):
“Let there arise from you a group of people inviting to what is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong; these are the ones who will be successful.” (3:104)
In order for religion to progress and society to flourish, people must take the initiative and attempt to guide each other towards the right and away from the wrong. This kind of advising is mandatory on those who believe in Allah and the Day of Judgement. Giving sincere advice is not, as some may argue, meddling in someone else’s business, but is in fact a valuable favor and one of the best forms of charity.
09. Supporting those who walk in the path of Allah (tawalli li awliyaa’ Allah):
This entire phrase means to be a friend and a helper of the righteous, pious people who are on the side of Allah and religion. Specifically, it includes the prophets and imams (successors to the prophets) as well as those who work to establish order, justice, and religion on earth:
“And whoever takes Allah, His messenger, and those who have belief as protectors and guardians, then the party of Allah will be victorious.” (5:56)
10. Turning away from the enemies of Allah (tabarri min a’daa Allah):
This phrase refers to the opposite of tawalli li awliyaa’ Allah. Those who sincerely believe in Allah must dissociate themselves from those people who obstruct truth and justice and prevent the light of Allah from reaching others:
“Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity. It is regarding those who fought against you on account of religion and have driven you out of your homes and helped to drive you out that Allah forbids you to befriend them, and whoever will befriend them, then such are the wrongdoers.” (60:8-9).