The five “pillars” of Islam make up the framework of a Muslim’s life, they are:

  1. The ‘Shahadah’ or Declaration of Faith

To be a Muslim, one must believe in and pronounce words that mean, “There is no deity worthy of being worshipped except Allah (Allah) and Muhammad is His slave and messenger.”[1] This declaration testifies that Allah exists, that He is unlike and superior to His creation and that none is worthy of worship but Him. It also testifies that He is the Creator and Proprietor of all that exists and Disposer of all affairs. Allah says in the Qur’an:

(No doubt! Verily, to Allah belongs whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth. And those that worship and invoke others besides Allah, in fact follow not these associated-Allahs; they follow only a conjecture and they invent only lies.) [10:66]

The ‘Shahadah’ testifies that Muhammad is among the prophets who conveyed Allah’s revelation to humankind. Allah (SWT) says:

(And We have not sent you (O Muhammad (SA)) except to all of humankind, as a giver of glad tidings and a Warner, but most people know not.) [34:28]

In fact, it is stated in the Qur’an that Muhammad (SA) is the last of Allah’s messengers. Allah (SWT) says:

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(Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last of the Prophets.) [33:40]

The Qur’an also confirms that Muhammad’s teachings are infallible and conveyed from Allah. Allah (SWT) says:

(Nor does he speak of (his own) desire. It is only an Inspiration that is inspired.) [53:3-4]

Thus, the Qur’an, and Sunnah of the final prophet, are the basis of the religion, and they define every aspect of the Islamic way of life.

  1. The ‘Salah’, or Formal Obligatory Prayer

Prayer was practiced in some form throughout history by all prophets and their followers as an indispensable part of Allah’s religion. Islam, the final message to humanity, considers prayer essential. A Muslim is required to pray five times daily within specified intervals, as taught by the Prophet (SA). These prayers are obligatory and form a direct bond between the worshipper and his Creator. Islam does not call upon Muslims to merely perform this act of worship; rather; it wants of them to purify their souls. Allah (SWT) says, regarding Prayer:

(Indeed the prayer prevents [you] from licentiousness and [other] sins.) [29:45]

  1. ‘Zakah’ or Obligatory Annual Charity

The word “Zakah” means purification and growth. An important principle of Islam is that all things belong to Allah. Muslims are enjoined to earn and spend their wealth in ways that are acceptable to Allah. The divinely ordained system of Zakah is the right of Allah within His dominion. It is neither a charity nor a tax, but an obligation due from Muslims who possess wealth in excess of their basic needs. Thus, the difference between Zakah and tax is that a Muslim pays Zakah willfully and on their own accord; they are the ones who supervise its payment. Zakah is only due when a person has the minimum required amount, which varies with the type of wealth.

Zakah cleanses a Muslim of greed, selfishness, base covetousness, and the love of this temporal world. Allah (SWT) says:

(And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful.) [59:9]

It is the ideal way to meet the needs of the poorer sections of society without causing hardship to the wealthy.

  1. ‘Siyam’ or Fasting

Allah has enjoined fasting upon the Muslims as He enjoined it upon previous nations. He, the Exalted, says:

(O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become the pious.) [2:183]

Islamic fasting, which involves abstinence from eating, drinking, sexual intercourse and all prohibited habits such as smoking, is observed throughout the daylight hours of the lunar month of Ramadhan. When done in obedience to Allah’s command, fasting teaches believers patience and self-control, as well as reminding them of their responsibility toward the millions of human beings who lack provisions or are victims of their unjust distribution. The month of fasting is accompanied by increased efforts toward good manners and righteous deeds, along with additional worship at night. Fasting is not a retreat from life; rather, it is a supplement to the Muslim’s ordinary activities.

  1. ‘Hajj’ or Pilgrimage

Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah (in Saudi Arabia), is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Allah (SWT) says:

(Pilgrimage to the House (i.e. the Ka’bah) is incumbent upon men for the sake of Allah, (upon) everyone who is able to undertake the journey to it.) [3:97]

Nevertheless, millions of Muslims journey to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe, providing a unique opportunity for people of various nations to meet one another as guests of Allah. Hajj is an expression of pure faith and total submission to His command, and the pilgrim performs rites of unqualified obedience, seeking nothing but the acceptance of their efforts and forgiveness of their past sins. A person who has completed the Hajj returns with a fresh outlook on life, a purified soul and blessings from Allah.

[1] The Arabic wording is: ‘Laa ilaahah il’lal-laah Muhammad Rasool Allah.’

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