Shaz Anwar The Five Pillars of Islam “La ilaha ila Allah; Muhammadur-rasul Allah,” There is no god but Allah; Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah. This essential phrase in Islam is termed “Shahadah” which literally means “to witness” and is the first pillar of Islam. Any Muslim or any individual that wants to convert to Islam must recite and more importantly, must truly believe this statement. It is the first words that are heard through the ears of a newborn, and is stressed from thereon as soon as an individual is capable of rationale. It is stressed in prayer everyday, five times.
The first part clearly illustrates the oneness of Allah, acknowledging His absolute superiority and power. By reciting this, one truly believes that only Allah is worthy of worship. The second part of the Shahadah involves the belief in Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the final messenger of Allah. When reciting this, one has faith in the guidance of Muhammad and his life (Sunnah). It is interesting then to examine why Islam, a religion that emphasizes the worship of Allah alone, places so much significance on the last messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The second of the five pillars of Islam is Salah.
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Salah refers to the physical act of praying towards the Kaaba in Mecca. It is an obligatory duty for Muslims to perform five times a day, with the proper cleansing and mentality. Salah is the physical transgression of God. When one performs this daily action, they are intended to stay focused, as if they were physically in front of God conveying their worship and gratefulness towards Allah (SWT). It is only God’s mercy that a Muslim prays five times a day. When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ascended into the heavens, according to islamic tradition, through his Isra and Miraj journey, he was in the presence of Allah (SWT).
Allah tells him he wants the Muslims to pray fifty times a day. Knowing that this would be too much for the human race, Muhammad consults with Moses and eventually Allah (SWT) reduces fifty to five. In order to perform Salah, one must be in a clean state. A Muslim will perform ablution, termed “wudhu” in arabic, prior to prayer. The Salah is achieved through a term called rakah. The rakah refers to the physical prostration of the individual, and this is how the numerical count is kept. Salah diverges into different classifications. There is fard, sunnah, and nafl.
The fard salah is compulsory. The sunnah salah is voluntary, yet was executed through tradition by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and therefore remains almost involuntary amongst most Muslims. The nafl salah is an optional extra prayer that brings about more reward for the individual due to its unnecessity. The five daily prayers are to be completed during their given time periods that are based on the lunar calendar. They can be delineated by their relative timings: morning prayer, afternoon prayer, mid-afternoon prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer.
These times vary, once again, due to the respective lunar calendar. While the salah is compulsory amongst individuals of reason, there is flexibility to certain circumstances. An individual is excused of prayer during its timing if one is unable to do so, and is able to make it up later??? this is called qada. Also, if someone is traveling a certain distance, they are able to shorten their prayers. This practice is called qasr. The five daily prayers are considered to be of utmost importance for a Muslim. Without the practice or belief in its obligation, one deters from the tenet of Islam.
Zakah is a stipend that every adult, mentally stable, free, and financially able Muslim, male and female, has to pay to support specific categories of people. It comprises the third pillar of Islam. This category of people is defined in surah at-Taubah (9) verse 60: The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise. The Quran clearly distinguishes the groups of people that receive zakah. It is a 2. 5% tax that is imposed on the wealth of individuals that exceed a certain limit (nisaab). It is declared on livestock, currency, trade goods, and agriculture, or findings of the earth that may include any of these. Zakah is a gesture to promote the purification and growth of one’s soul as a Muslim. When one reaches the understanding of Zakah, and pays its yearly amount on one’s possessions and wealth, they have established their Islam to fulfillment.
It’s basic symbolism is parallel to the golden rule. “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. ” Therefore, possessing what you want yourself, yet also expanding that to your brothers is indicative of a person’s faith, and their aim to please the will of Allah (SWT). The fourth pillar of Islam is fasting. Referred to as Sawm in arabic, the culmination of which is reached during the month of Ramadan, it is an obligatory practice for Muslims. Fasting is executed in tradition as it was amongst the people before us, and most importantly, by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
In verse 183 of Surah Al-Baqarah of the Quran it is stated “O ye who believe Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off (evil);” During this holy month, muslims observe abstinence from food, drink, sexual intercourse, slander, gossip, and anything that radiates malevolence. Muslims try to perfect their souls in order to please the will of Allah (SWT). They do this by exemplifying gratefulness through obedience of Allah (SWT).
The spiritual cleansing that one experiences during this month brings them closer to Allah (SWT), establishing a relationship that one strives to achieve in the months after Ramadan. The fast extends from sunrise to sunset, more specifically, from the morning prayer to the evening prayer. Traditionally, the fast is opened with a date, just as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would do. A special night prayer called taraweeh is offered every night during the month and includes the recitation of the Quran. The goal during this night prayer is to complete the Quran by the end of Ramadan.
There are exemptions to conditions that may permit one to not fast. If an individual is sick or traveling, they are excused and can make up the fast on a later date. Women enduring menstruation are prohibited to fast, and pre-pubescent children normally do not fast due to their immaturity. The end of Ramadan is celebrated on Eid-ul-Fitr in which Muslims unite for a special prayer, then rejoice thereafter. Foods, festivities, and family usually encompass this day, only to release a catharsis of happiness from the holy month. One must participate in the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.
This event, called Hajj, constitutes the fifth and final pillar of Islam. The ritual for the pilgrimage dates back to the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and even beyond that to the time of Abraham. The annual pilgrimage occurs during the month of Dhu-al-Hijjah, known as the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims prepare mentally, and physically for the pilgrimage. Once in Mecca, the men change into dress called “ihram”. The ihram is two white, unhemmed sheets that are to be wrapped around the upper and lower body. The symbolic meaning of this dress signifies the equality amongst the muslim brothers.
No one person is considered better than the other. The women are required to maintain their hijab, and have moderate dress. There are a series of ritual acts that are done within the 4 day time period of Hajj (8th-12th of Dhu-al-Hijjah). The first day consists of Tawaf. Muslims must circle counterclockwise around the Kaaba seven times. On one corner of the Kaaba there exists a black stone that people are encouraged to kiss each time they make a revolution. Yet it is permissible to point at the stone due to the massive amounts of people that encircle the Kaaba.
In fact, it may be even safer, due to the stampedes that have taken lives of many. After the tawaf, muslims will run seven times between the hills of Safa and Marva. This tradition dates back to the story of Hajar, Abraham’s wife. While she was deserted in a barren land with her child Ishmail with nothing but some dates and a little water, she frantically was searching the area for water until she came upon the Zamzam well that God had sent to her through an Angel. The running between these hills mimics this story. The next day, Muslims head to Mount Arafat, where they will stay in deep religious though and contemplation.
This is located near a hill that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) delivered his last sermon from. There is no physical action that one must complete, Muslims will spend time praying and remembering Allah (SWT). After the sun sets at Arafat, Muslims will head to Muzdalifah to gather pebbles for the next day’s ritual. The next ritual occurs at Mina, where they throw the pebbles at three columns. The importance of this act, called Ramy-al-jamarat, delineates the story of Abraham being asked by Allah (SWT) to sacrifice his son. He was confronted by the devil three times, and each time Abraham defied the devil.
The three columns symbolize that, and each muslims must hit each pillar at least seven times. After this, Muslims will slaughter an animal, usually a goat, sheep, or lamb, in remembrance of Allah (SWT) replacing Abraham’s son with a ram right before the sacrifice. By now, it is the 10th day nearing the 11th. Muslims return to Mecca to perform another obligatory Tawaf, while returning back to Mecca to spend the night. On the day of the 11th, Muslims repeat the stoning of the Devil at Mina. On the 12th, Muslims return to Mecca to perform one final Tawaf, and the Hajj is traditionally over at this time.
Prayer is one of the most important obligations of Islam, being one of the five pillars of Islam. A Muslim should not miss any prayer; and all prayers should be performed in their appointed times. Allah says in the Qur’an: Indeed the prayers are enjoined on Believers at stated times. (An-Nisa’: 103) In a hadith the Prophet (PBUH) said, Allah has made five prayers obligatory upon His servants. So whosoever will perform them and will not miss any of them out of negligence, he has the pledge of Allah that He will enter him in Paradise.
And whosoever will not perform them, Allah has no pledge with him. If He wills He may punish him, and if He wills He may forgive him. (Reported by An-Nasa’i, Abu Dawud and Ahmad). Salah is the most important pillar of Islam. It is in fact the first religious duty prescribed on every single prophet from Adam to Muhammad, second only to testifying the Oneness of Allah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) further narrates in a hadith Qudsi: Allah said: “The covenant between Us and them is Salah; so whoever establishes it establishes religion; whoever undermines it undermines religion. When the Prophet (PBUH) says “them” in the comparative analogy above, he is referring to the non-believers. Salah establishes one’s din (faith) in Allah (SWT), and I consider it to be the most important of the five pillars. Granted, you must establish your Shahadah to be a Muslim, yet without the the practice of daily prayers, you do not express your Shahadah, and instill a relationship with Allah (SWT). It is therefore imperative that a Muslim never become slack in performing salah; if they miss any salah for whatever reason, they must pray it immediately without further delay.