Islam has five obligatory duties that are recognized as the pillars of Islam. Every muslim must complete or attempt to complete them within their lifetime. The five pillars are:
The Shahadah, otherwise known as the profession of faith, is the first pillar of Islam. It is upon reciting the Shahadah that a person enters the fold of Islam. It is recited in Arabic as “Ash-hadhu anla ilaha illallah, wa ash-hadhu anna muhammadur rasoolullah” which is translated into English as “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and I also bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”.
Only those are Believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and have never since doubted… (Quran 49:15)
This simple statement expresses the faith of Islam succinctly. It encompasses a broad meaning that is a Muslim worships Allah alone, associating no partners with him, and believing that he is the self sufficient master whom all creatures need. Muslims also believe that he begot no sons and that he is nothing like human beings.
The belief in Muhammad is not just only believing he is the messenger of Allah but it is to emulate the Prophet in all aspects of human and social behaviour. It is also to give preference to the teachings of the prophet above all others because muslims believe that everything he did was by the guidance of Allah.
Salah is the obligatory offering of five daily prayers. Since Islam is based on the belief that God is all knowing and all powerful and there is no need of intermediaries between worshipper and the worshipped, the prayer is directed to Allah alone.
“Verily, I am Allah. There is no god but I. So serve Me and establish worship for My remembrance.” (Quran 20:14)
As mentioned in the Quran, the purpose of prayer is to remember our creator. Each day muslims from all over the world turn to face the Qiblah (direction of the Kaaba in Makkah) collectively and individually at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening.
Although prayers can be offered alone, prayer in congregation is rewarded many times over and is highly encouraged because it instills a sense of brotherhood among the muslims and brings communities closer together. On Fridays, the noon prayers are a compulsory congregation for muslim men, and women can attend if they wish to. Salah can be offered in any place that fulfills the requirement of cleanliness, hence praying in graveyards and toilets is prohibited.
Zakat is the compulsory alms giving in Islam. A yearly Zakat figure is determined, but it can be given annually, monthly, or in other periods according to what suits the individual. Zakah cannot be given to just anybody we wish to, but has to be given to specific groups of people as clarified by the Quran and Sunnah as needy and deserving.
The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarer… (Quran 9:60)
Zakat becomes compulsory when a muslim’s excess wealth reaches the nisab value, which is a value ensuring that poor population are exempt from giving Zakat and its responsibility rests with the wealthy and middle-class. Due to the implementation of the nisab value, Zakat can be viewed as a tax on ones ‘excess wealth’.
The Quran strongly admonishes those who hoard their wealth and don’t pay their Zakat. In reality, Zakat is a form of worship performed to seek the blessings of Allah. It is also a beautiful way of spreading the wealth among society and curbs the desire in individuals to hoard wealth.
Sawm is the arabic word for fasting, and holds a special place during the month of Ramadhan. Muslims begin fasting when the new moon is sighted marking the beginning of Ramadhan. They start their fast with a pre-dawn meal called Suhur, and keep their fast from the Fajr athan before sunrise till the athan for Maghrib just after sunset.
The fast not only consists of abstaining from food and drink during the day, but also includes the avoidance of sexual activities. It is also highly advised to avoid deeds such as swearing, lying, backbiting, etc, but performing one of these actions does not invalidate the fast.
One of the purposes of fasting is to make the muslims more sensitive to the needs of the poor who go hungry all year round, and increase their desire to share with his those less fortunate. There are also exemptions from fasting for people who can not complete the fast, such as those who are sick or travelling. They can instead choose to feed the poor, or make up their fasts at a later date.
Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur´an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting… (Quran 2:185)
Throughout the month of Ramadhan, muslims congregate for the special evening prayers of Tarawih, and many spend the nights in worship. Ramadhan concludes with the sighting of the new moon of shawwal. On the first of shawwal muslims celebrate the Eid-ul-fitr the festival of breaking-fast. Relations and friends are visited and gifts exchanged, especially enjoyed by the children who get gifts, new clothes and money.
Hajj is the pilgrimage to Makkah, and is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is obligatory upon those who are physically and financially capable of performing it, and should be performed at least once in their lifetime.
And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for those who can afford the journey… (Quran 3:97)
Hajj consists of a series of rituals as demonstrated by the Prophet Muhammad in his final pilgrimage. Many of the rituals are related to the struggles of Prophet Ibrahim and his family on their path to paradise. Hajj starts on the 8th of month of Dulhijjah and ends on the 12th. On the 10th of Dulhijjah the Eid-ul-adha (The Festival of Sacrifice) is celebrated, and muslims all over the world including those on Hajj sacrifice an animal in commemoration of the twin sacrifice of Ibrahim and Ismail.