Pillars of Islam

Pillars of Islam

Arabic Arkan Al-Islam, the five duties incumbent on every Muslim: shahadah, the Muslim profession of faith; salat, or ritual prayer, performed in a prescribed manner five times each day; zakat, the alms tax levied to benefit the poor and the needy; sawm, fasting during the month of Ramadan; and hajj, the major pilgrimage to Mecca.

Shahadah:

The testimony of faith is saying with conviction, “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadur rasoolu Allah.” This saying means “There is no true god (deity) but God (Allah),1 and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God.” The first part, “There is no true god but God,” means that none has the right to be worshipped but God alone, and that God has neither partner nor son. This testimony of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which should be said with conviction in order to convert to Islam (as explained previously on this page). The testimony of faith is the most important pillar of Islam.

Salat:

Muslims perform five prayers a day. Each prayer does not take more than a few minutes to perform. Prayer in Islam is a direct link between the worshipper and God. There are no intermediaries between God and the worshipper. In prayer, a person feels inner happiness, peace, and comfort, and that God is pleased with him or her. The Prophet Muhammad said: {Bilal, call (the people) to prayer, let us be comforted by it.} Bilal was one of Muhammad’s companions who was charged to call the people to prayers. Prayers are performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. A Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories, or universities.

Zakat:

Zakat, Arabic zakāt, an obligatory tax required of Muslims, one of the five Pillars of Islam. The zakat is levied on five categories of property—food grains; fruit; camels, cattle, sheep, and goats; gold and silver; and movable goods—and is payable each year after one year’s possession.

The tax levy required by religious law varies with the category. Recipients of the zakat include the poor and needy, the collectors themselves, and “those whose hearts it is necessary to conciliate”—e.g., discordant tribesmen, debtors, volunteers in jihad (holy war), and pilgrims. Under the caliphates, the collection and expenditure of zakat was a function of the state.

In the contemporary Muslim world it has been left up to the individual, except in such countries as Saudi Arabia, where the Sharīʿah (Islamic law) is strictly maintained. Among the Ithnā ʿAsharīyah (Twelver Shīʿites), it is collected and disbursed by the scholars (ʿulamāʾ), who act as representatives for Muḥammad al-Mahdī al-Hujjah (the Hidden Imam).

The Qurʾān and Hadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad) also stress ṣadaqah, or voluntary almsgiving, which, like zakat, is intended for the needy. Twelver Shīʿites, moreover, require payment of an additional one-fifth tax, the khums, to the Hidden Imam and his deputies. It is intended to be spent for the benefit of the imams in addition to orphans, the poor, and travelers.

Fasting:

Ṣawm, (Arabic: “fasting”), in Islām, any religious fast, but particularly the fast of the month of Ramaḍān. Every year in the month of Ramadan,4 all Muslims fast from dawn until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Although the fast is beneficial to health, it is regarded principally as a method of spiritual self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go hungry, as well as growth in his or her spiritual life.

Hajj:

Hajj, also spelled ḥadjdj or hadj, in Islam, the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which every adult Muslim must make at least once in his or her lifetime. The hajj is the fifth of the fundamental Muslim practices and institutions known as the Five Pillars of Islam. The pilgrimage rite begins on the 7th day of Dhū al-Ḥijjah (the last month of the Islamic year) and ends on the 12th day.