The Islamic faith is based on five pillars and is considered mandatory to practice if financially and physically able. The Five Pillars are as follows:
1. Confessing that there is only one God, Allah and Muhammed (peace be upon him) is His messenger (shahada).
Muslims believe in all prophets who preceded Muhammed and believers in their messages. To Muslims, these represent a series of messages in the universal religion of Islam. The Quran (the Holy book of Islam) mentioned twenty-five prophets by name and indicated that many other prophets were not identified by name.
2. Praying five times a day
All Muslims are required to pray five times every single day. Prayer in Islam consists of standing up, bowing, prostrating, and sitting down. With everyone these actions, Muslims recite passages glorifying Allah. These prayers are spread throughout the day to keep Muslims connected to Allah all the time. The prayers are offered from the morning before sunrise (Fajr), mid-day (Dhuhr), the afternoon (Asr), at sunset (Maghrib), and in the late evening (Isha). These daily prayers can be performed anywhere, individually or in the congregation. The only obligatory congregation prayer is the Friday mid-day prayer, performed in a group at the Masjid.
3. Giving Zakat
Abolishing poverty and establishing an obligatory system of welfare based on the inner belief, Islam imposes upon Muslims to pay two and a half percent of their annual savings to the poor and the needy or in the cause of Allah. This religious tax is to be paid voluntarily by the believers.
4. Fasting during the month of Ramadan
- Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar (which is briefly explained below). Muslims, males, and females observe the fast abstaining from food, water, smoking, and worldly desires from dawn (two hours before sunrise) until sunset each day of the month. The obligation of fasting is supposed to achieve the following:
- As humans, it is in our nature to sin and transgression out of the boundaries established by Islam. Fasting teaching us to be devoted and restrain ourselves from worldly and materialistic pleasures. The concept is to ensure we are not led astray by worldly desires and to be able to control urges that can cloud judgment. Hence, this requires a fixed training period where Muslims have enough time to understand and learn how to end vices, learn virtues and obtain Allah’s (SWT) blessing. It teaches us self-control. For example, someone who smokes a cigarette every few minutes has to substantiate from smoking himself for about seventeen hours a day in obedience to Allah.
- It makes one experience the sensation of hunger and thirst, reminding us of those who are less fortunate to reinforce the need to be thankful.
- Islam preaches equality and Allah made fasting during Ramadan to encourage equality between the rich and the poor in asking for forgiveness for their past sins. Ramadan is a month when many prayers are listened to and answered by Allah.
- Laylat Al-Qadr, also known as the Night of Power, is carefully concealed within the month of Ramadan as special blessings are associated with this night. Laylat Al-Qadr is the most sacred night within the Islamic faith. It is said that any deed is carried within this night brings more reward than the deeds of 1000 months combined. Laylat Al-Qadr lies in the last ten days of Ramadan; however, no specific date is known. Therefore, Muslims perform Itikaf over the last ten days, usually at a mosque, spend the night praying, and reciting the Quran.
5. Visiting Makkah
Pilgrimage to Makkah, the holiest Masjid, is mandatory to perform for Muslims at least once in one’s lifetime, provided one can afford the trip, physically and financially. Visiting Makkah symbolizes an annual; conference where Muslims from all aspects of the world meet in one place at a specific time. This gathering displays the equality of man irrespective of his color, nationality, creed, or language. People from every corner of the earth, attired in similar clothes, are gathered in one place, directing their prayer to one Allah and facing the same direction (Kabba in the hold masjid). In pilgrimage, one observes a beautiful example of equality of all men and women before Allah.
The Grand Masjid, Mecca in Saudi Arabia.