The Five Pillars of Islam
- Declaration of Faith
- Five Daily Prayers
- Fasting During the Month of Ramadan
- Pilgrimage to the Kabba in Makkah (HAJJ)
1. DECLARATION OF FAITH
There is no god but God and Muhammad is His messenger and servant.
2. PRAYERS (SALAAT)
The Angel Gabriel taught Muhammad (peace be upon him) how to pray. The Angel lead the prayers, he was the imam and the Prophet stood behind the Angel and followed him. This whole process is well documented in the actions and sayings of the Prophet, which we call the Hadith in Arabic. This is how we learnt our prayers from the Prophet.
Prayer is prescribed in the Qur’an. Muslims are required to pray five times a day. The Arabic word for prayer is "Salaat." The practice of regular prayer is the most fundamental requirement in Islam. Without which a Muslim is not fulfilling his/her most basic obligation to Allah and may well have lost the most precious thing in his/her life, the sense of relatedness to the Creator. No matter how faithful or conscientious we may be, it is easy to lose sight of our relationship with Allah because of our everyday involvement and schedules. Five times a day works as a reminder for us to make our relationship stronger with Allah. It is a constant reminder of Allah and His Greatness. It is the demonstration of our obedience and love to Him. It serves as a training program designed to control our evil desires and passions. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: "Salaat restrains from shameful and unjust deeds." ( 29:45)
Prayers consist of recitations from the Qur’an, glorification of Allah, accompanied by various bodily postures, such as sitting, standing, bowing and prostrating repeatedly. Muslims express their submission, humility and adoration to Allah, the Most High, with their entire being, verbally as well as physically. Salaat is truly the complete expression of the human being’s voluntary submission to Allah and Islam means submission to the Will of Allah.
There is a lot of emphasis in Islam on community building. If there are two or more worshippers, it is preferable to pray congregational prayer, because of its obvious aspects of brotherhood and solidarity. Often in many Muslim countries people go to the mosque five times a day and offer congregational prayers and mosques have a full-time imam. In the U.S., there are quite a few mosques where prayers are performed five times a day and have full-time imams.
Islamic prayers are universal. The beauty of our prayers is that every Muslim on this planet prays exactly the same. All over the world, there are 1.2 billion Muslims. They all pray in the same manner, as did the Prophet fourteen hundred years ago. There is a deep sense of comfort in this. We can walk in any mosque in the world and be part of the congregation. There is no difference in men, women, children or youth prayer. This is the ritual for all Muslims, taught by Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), to make a direct link to Allah.
All Muslims, no matter where they live, face the direction of the Kaaba in Makkah, while praying. Abraham and his son Ishmael built the Kaaba about 4,000 years ago, as the first sanctuary on earth dedicated to the worship of the One God. The Kaaba is situated in the center of the Grand Mosque, in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Because of its unique significance as the first house of worship, Islam prescribes that Muslims face the direction of the Kaaba. This direction of the Kaaba from any place on earth is known as the Qiblah. The Arabic word Qiblah means direction of prayer. Because Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), was sent to unite all of humanity in the worship of the One True God, the Qiblah was set to stand as a symbol of complete unity. The Kaaba is the center of universal worship and the symbol of Allah’s universal message, Islam. Since at all times some people in some parts of the world are engaged in Salaat (prayer), the cycle of worship with its focus toward the Sacred House continues uninterrupted.
There is no hierarchy in Islam. Our prayers break down all the human-made barriers. Everyone is equal in front of Allah. Whether they are black or white, rich or poor, presidents or janitors, we all come together and stand shoulder to shoulder while praying. It is a proof of true equality, solid unity and universal brotherhood and sisterhood. Among the measures introduced by Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) to level the difference of rank and of race among his steadily growing community prayer perhaps ought to be mentioned in particular. Five times a day Muslims meet together for prayer. Among the first Muslims were members of the noblest Arab families as well as a good number of African slaves. At prayers they all stood shoulder to shoulder before Allah, and when, in the further course of prayer, they prostrated before their Lord, it might well have been that the head of a noble man praying in a row behind a slave rested at the latter’s feet. In prayer and in the company of the Prophet no difference of status was recognized between the two. He said in His last sermon: "All men and women are equal in Islam. No one has superiority over another human being. You are all one brotherhood." Allah says in the Qur’an: "O humankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another. Truly, the most honored of you in Allah’s sight is the greatest of you in piety. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware." (49:13)
The call to prayer (adhan):
To call Muslims to prayer, Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) introduced the system of Adhan. The caller faces the direction of the Kaaba and calls out the Adhan. Muslims face the direction of the Kaaba whenever they pray. The Kaaba was originally built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, as the first sanctuary on earth dedicated to the worship of the One God. It is situated in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Allahu Akbar (4 times)
(ALLAH IS THE GREATEST)
Ashhadu an lailaha illallah (2 Ttimes)
(I BEAR WITNESS THAT THERE IS NO god BUT ALLAH)
Ashhadu anna Muhammadar Rasullullah (2 times)
(I BEAR WITNESS THAT MUHAMMAD IS ALLAH’S MESSENGER)
Hayya ‘alas sala (2 times)
(RUSH TO PRAYER)
Hayya ‘alal fallah (2 times)
(RUSH TO SUCCESS)
Allahu Akbar (2 times)
(ALLAH IS THE GREATEST)
La ilaha illal lah
(THERE IS NO god BUT GOD)
How to perform prayer (salaat)
The Salutation to Allah:
All prayer is for Allah and worship and goodness
Peace be on you, O Prophet and the Mercy of Allah and His Blessings
Peace be on us and on the righteous servants of Allah
I bear witness that there is no god but Allah
and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.
Blessings on the Prophet:
O Allah, greet Muhammad and the family of Muhammad
As You greeted Abraham and the family of Abraham.
Truly You are the Praiseworthy and Glorious.
O Allah, bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad
As You blessed Abraham and the family of Abraham.
Truly You are the Praiseworthy and Glorious.
O our Lord, grant us good in this world and good in the hereafter and save us from the punishment of the Hell-fire.
After that turn your face to the right and then to the left each time saying: Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah (Peace and the Mercy of Allah be upon you.)
This completes the two rakaah (unit) Salaat.
"O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you in order that you may be conscious of God ... Ramadan is the (month) in which the Qur’an was revealed as a guide to mankind and as a clear evidence for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So whoever among you witnesses this month, let him spend it in fasting; but if anyone is ill or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. God intends ease for you and He does not intend hardship and (He desires) that you should complete the prescribed period, and that you may glorify God for guiding you and that You May be thankful." (2:183, 185)
Ramadan is a very special month for over 1.2 billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God and self-control. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar.
All adult Muslims must fast every day of Ramadan from dawn to sunset. This means abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and conjugal relations during the hours of fasting. Travelers and the sick can defer fasting during Ramadan and make up for it later. This is one of the Pillars of Islam.
Fasting develops self-control and helps us to overcome selfishness, greed, laziness and other faults. It is an annual training program to refresh us for carrying out our duties towards Allah (Allah is an Arabic word for God), the Creator. Fasting also enables the Muslim to feel with the poor who daily experiences hunger and to be active in compassion and charity toward them.
A Muslim is expected to keep away from all bad actions during his fast. The primary objective of fasting stated in the Qur’an is the attainment of piety and moral excellence. There are many good things that come about fasting. For example, during a fast, a Muslim might decide to change his or her life in different ways - perhaps decide to become more spiritual, resolve grievances or help poor people. In this way, Ramadan is a time of new beginnings, and also a time of peace.
The month of Ramadan is a month of forgiveness and mercy. The last ten days are a time of special spiritual power as everyone tries to come closer to God through devotions and good deeds. The night on which The One Almighty God revealed the first verses of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) through Angel Gabriel, is known as the Night of Power. It was revealed 1,421 years ago in 610 C.E. and it took 23 years for the whole Qur’anic revelations to be completed. Many Muslims spend the entire or part of the night in prayer. During this month Muslims take extra time out to read the Qur’an and perform extra prayers to praise God and thank Him.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world celebrate the Festival of Fastbreaking (Eid al-Fitr). In Arabic, the word "Eid" means "happiness." It is a great achievement to fast for a month and the Eid celebrates that achievement. It represents a personal victory of the spiritual man over his blind, unrestrained appetites (desires and sensual urges). The Eid celebrates the fact that God gave Muslims the Qur’an to help them to live good lives. On this day, Muslims offer special prayers in congregation and thank God for His blessings and mercy.
Also, on this very special day, it is obligatory for every Muslim to feed one person or give away money in charity. So the less fortunate would have enough food on the day of the Eid.
4. CHARITY (SADAQAH AND ZAKAAT)
Zakaat is the fourth pillar of Islam and a financial obligation required of every able Muslim. It is the uncompromising enemy of hoarding. The following simple study will help shed light about the Muslims’ responsibility toward what is obligatory and what is optional.
In Islam there are three (3) types of financial responsibility:
Sadaqah: This is the optional charity that a Muslim may give out of kindness to whomever he/she wishes. It is not limited to a certain amount or time and left to the ability and generosity of the donor. Although this word mean voluntary charity, it has a wider meaning. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that Sadaqah is a necessity for every Muslim. When asked what a person with nothing should do, the Prophet replied; "He/she should work with he/her own hands for his/her benefit and then give something out of such earnings in Sadaqah." His Companions asked: "What if he/she is not able to work?" The Prophet said: "He/she should help poor and needy persons." The Companions further asked: "What if he/she cannot do even that?" The Prophet replied: "He/she should urge others to do good." The Companions pressed: "What if he/she lacks that also?" The Prophet said: "He/she should check him/herself from doing evil. That is also Sadaqah."
Sadaqatul Fitr: This kind of Zakaat is an obligation on every Muslim. It is to be paid by the head of the family on behalf of every dependent member during the month of Ramadan or before the Eid prayer. The amount of Sadaqatul Fitr is estimated approximately for this year at $10 per family member. This is usually enough money to buy one adult’s meals for one day. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: "Ones fast remains suspended between heaven until he/she pays Sadaqatul Fitr." In additon to paying Sadaqatul Fitr, for the sick and the pregnant or the nursing women who cannot fast in the month of Ramadan or during other months of the year, they are to pay a minimum of $10 for every missing day.
Zakaat: Zakaat (welfare contribution) is the fourth pillar of Islam. The Arabic word Zakaat literally means growth and purity. The part of your wealth reserved for its recipients is called Zakaat because it purifies your wealth and your soul. It helps to cleanse your hearts of greed, stinginess and the excessive love of the pleasures of this world. The wealth and soul of one who neglects Zakaat are impure because he/she is selfish, ungrateful and a worshipper of wealth. Zakaat is to be paid once a year on savings at the rate of 2˝%. This form of charity is called Zakaat because the blessings on the remaining wealth are increased by Allah even though the actual quantity of wealth has decreased. Those who neglect this pillar of Islam are promised severe punishment in the hereafter. The Qur’an states: "But that which you lay out as Zakaat, seeking the countenance of Allah; it is these who will get a reward multiplied." The Qur’an also states: "Establish Salaat (prayer) and pay Zakaat and obey the Messenger that you may find mercy." Zakaat is mentioned in the Qur’an thirty-two times, of which twenty-eight times, Zakaat is associated with prayer.
5. PILGRIMAGE (HAJJ) ... The world's largest annual gathering
The Essence of Islam: An embodiment of human equality
By a member of ICB who performed Hajj in 1999
Hajj is the fifth and the last pillar of Islam and an obligatory, a lifetime event for those Muslims who can afford it and have good health.
According to Islamic tradition, Muslims follow in the footsteps of Prophet Abraham, as they were retraced by the Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings be upon him.
The Hajj demonstrates the essence of Islam, the belief in one Creator, God (Allah in Arabic), alone. The rites pilgrims perform and the places through which they go during Hajj remind them of the history of this belief, the Oneness of God.
An inherent part of this history is the story of Prophet Abraham, who built the first House of God, the Kaaba (located in Makkah, Saudi Arabia-See photo below), as the focal point for the worship of God alone. Abraham’s life is a story of great sacrifices and complete submission to God that led to his elevation to the leadership of human kind and be the patriarch of monotheistic faiths.
The Kaaba is the visible symbol of God’s unity, representing in concrete form His centrality in the life of the Muslim, the focal point for Muslims of all times and places to turn toward in their worship as a symbol of their unity as one community submitting to one God, a part of the endless stream of worshipers facing and circling around it unceasingly since remote antiquity in the glorification of God Most High.
The rites of Hajj center on complete submission and devotion to God. At the same time, they commemorate as an example of such total submission and obedience the Prophet Abraham, especially in his willingness to sacrifice what he loved most in the world - his son Ishmael - at God’s command.
For the Muslim, visiting the Kaaba, whether it is for the first or for the tenth time, is a profound, awe-inspiring experience. As I join the host of Muslims circling the House and pouring out their hearts in supplication to God, a sense of timelessness sweeps over me as I realize that I am one atom in an endless ocean of those who have worshiped at the House since nearly the beginning of recorded history.
Moving in that sea of worshippers within the shadow of the Kaaba, a deep sense of my smallness and insignificance comes to me. All the trappings and defenses of my ego fall away as I realize that God alone is great.
The Hajj serves as a training program in virtue and piety. The pilgrim’s mind, pulsating with the desire to visit the House of Allah, learns to retain only the virtuous journey constitutes a complete worship, a journey that continuously keeps purifying a person’s soul. It is like a great course of compulsory reformation experienced by every Muslim who sets out to perform Hajj.
To me, what was most amazing was that the millions of Muslims from all over the world were praying together exactly the same way and saying the same words in Arabic for glorification of God. The Hajj demonstrates the real and practical unity and kinship of humankind.
Pilgrims belonging to hundreds of countries and communities, languages and color converge at one center through a thousand and one routes. They remove their national dress and every male, without exception, puts on two unstitched sheets of cloth and women only need to wear their regular simple clothes. Pride and vanity are given up. Poor and rich, black and white, American and African, rulers and ruled, all are clad in similar dress, moving simultaneously in the same direction, raising one slogan, declaring that they have obeyed God’s Command. In this way, all worldly differences are obliterated and a universal group of God-worshippers is constituted.
The assembling at one place of people drawn from all the nationalities of the world, with remarkable unity of heart and purpose, identity of thought, harmony of feeling, pure sentiments, and chaste deeds is, in fact, such a great blessing has not been granted to humankind by any agency other than Islam.
It was this aspect of Hajj which Malcolm-X commented on so eloquently in his autobiography, describing it as a tremendously moving and almost unbelievable experience to be, for the first time in his life, regarded and respected simply as a human being who was the equal of every other human being without consideration of the usual man-made distinctions and barriers such as race, color, nationality or social status.