The Pillars of Islam

The Pillars of Islam
The five pillars are probably the most well known Islamic concepts, and are also the foundation of a Muslim’s life.  They are the testimony of faith, prayer, fasting during the month of Ramadan, giving in charity and performing Hajj.

The Prophet Mohammed said, “Islam is founded on five pillars: to testify that ‘there is no deity except God, and Mohammed is the messenger of God;’ to establish the ritual prayers; to give charity (to the needy); to perform the pilgrimage to the House (of worship in Mecca); and to fast during the month of Ramadan.”

The first pillar of Islam is the testimony of faith, which proclaims that “there is no deity except God, and Mohammed is the messenger of God.”

The shahadah is repeated frequently throughout a Muslim’s life and contains the core principle of Islam: that there is only one God, He has no partners, and should be obeyed through the example of the Prophet Mohammed.

The Prophet Mohammed once said, “If a person had a stream outside his door and he bathed in it five times a day, do you think he would have any dirt left on him?” The people said, “No dirt would remain on him whatsoever.” Mohammed then said, “That is like the five daily prayers: God wipes away the sins by them.”

As the second pillar of Islam, prayer is an integral factor of every Muslim’s daily life and is the bare minimum amount of time a Muslim stands before God alone. Praying five times throughout different periods of the day serves as a constant reminder of God’s presence and inherently encourages a Muslim to do that which is good and avoid wrong. Constant prayer throughout the day also provides set opportunities to ask for forgiveness and guidance..
This direct conversation with the Creator allows people to wind down and focus on what matters the most: their relationship with God.

Performed at dawn, mid-day, late-afternoon, sunset and night, the scheduled prayers are done in the same manner and generally take a few minutes depending on the individual. They consist of reading a few verses from the Quran and reciting various supplications to God.

Listen to the adhaan (call to prayer)

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Fasting in Islam is unlike fasting in any other spiritual path, because it means that Muslims cannot eat, drink, or have sexual relations with their spouse between sunrise and sunset. Fasting is a practice that was done and encouraged by the Prophet Mohammed several different days throughout the year, such as on Mondays and Thursday,, but was only made mandatory for Muslims throughout Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

Fasting during Ramadan is only obligatory on those who are able and healthy. For those who are sick, pregnant or nursing, on a journey, or who are elderly and need to take medication, fasting is either made optional or can be made up when one has the ability to fast again. Children generally begin to fast from puberty, although some parents may encourage their children to start earlier as practice.

God states in the Quran: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may achieve greater awareness (of God)” (Quran 2:183).

Fasting is not only scientifically proven to be beneficial to one’s physical well-being, but also allows a person to focus on his or her self-discipline and remember the struggles of those who are less fortunate. Above all, it’s a constant reminder of God’s presence and helps in increasing a person’s connection and level of spirituality with God.

The pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj, is an obligation upon all Muslims once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so.  The period of Hajj begins in the first ten days of the last month of the Islamic calendar and has been a tradition in Islam since the time that Abraham built the Kaaba <click here for a picture> with his son, Prophet Ishmael, who was the brother of the prophet Isaac.

Presently, Hajj is performed yearly by over two million people from various nations, ethnicities, social classes, and economic statuses. Throughout the acts of Hajj, pilgrims pray for God’s forgiveness and the betterment of themselves, their families, and their respective communities.

The end of Hajj is marked by Eid ul-Adha, known as the Celebration of the Sacrifice, where Muslims all over the world sacrifice a sheep or a goat commemorating Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his own son (though after Abraham proved his devotion to God, he was not required to actually sacrifice his son). The meat is separated into thirds, where one third is distributed to the needy, one third is for friends and neighbors, and one-third is for family. Eid ul-Adha also happens to be the second celebration in Islam and is a time where families are encouraged to be merry and give gifts to one another.

Zakat is an annual payment made by Muslims from 2.5% of their fluid assets which is then distributed to the poor as needed throughout their area.

Not only is charity an honorable and respectable deed, but it’s also a deed which is absolutely necessary for the betterment of mankind. God repeatedly places great emphasis in the Quran on taking care of the needy and connecting it with praying, the second pillar of Islam, by saying, “<insert ayat on zakat here>”.
Muslims pay zakat by the end of Ramadan only when they are able to provide for themselves and if they are not in need of financial assistance.

Zakat is a system which is built into Islam to ensure the well being of those who are unable to financially support themselves. At its best and highest level, it can eliminate poverty in society and maintain dignity and respect for all.
Giving to the poor in communities, charitable foundations, and other places where financial support is needed is encouraged throughout a Muslims life, even outside of zakat. In the Quran, God says, “Those who spend of their wealth (in charity) by night and by day, and in secret and in public have their reward with their Lord; on them there shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Quran 2:274)
No amount given in charity is considered insignificant, but even so, charity is not restricted to just a monetary amount. Voluntary labor, love, and words of encouragement are all considered charitably act, and the Prophet famoulsy said that “even a smile is a form of charity.”

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