The five pillars of Islam refer to the five duties that every Muslim must perform. The first of these five pillars is the declaration of faith and the other four are religious acts that are performed either daily, once a year or at least once in a lifetime.
These acts are woven into the lives of Muslims and take precedence over all worldly matters.
The five pillars of Islam are:
- Declaration of Faith (Shahadah)
- Prayer (Salah)
- Charity (Zakah)
- Fasting (Sawm)
- Pilgrimage (Hajj)
1. Declaration of Faith (Shahadah)
The most basic requirement of being a Muslim is to publicly state the words “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger”, in arabic, with sincerity and without any reservations. This testament is the foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. To become a Muslim, a non-Muslim must repeat the Shahadah three times in the presence of witnesses.
The statement of Shahada in arabic is: "Ash-hadu al laa ilaaha illallah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammad ur rasulullah"
The statement of faith must be a genuine belief that includes the following articles of faith.
Belief in One God (Allah) – Allah is one and has no partners or equals.
Belief in the Prophets – Allah sent prophets to every nation (Qur’an, An-Nahl, 16:36) to provide mankind with guidance, so that they could walk the straight path of Allah, live happily in this world and be prepared for life after death. Their fundamental message was identical, reminding mankind of Allah’s oneness, the reward of a good life, the day of judgment and the terrible punishment for disbelievers.
Belief in the Holy Books – Allah sent messages to humanity through His prophets. These messages are contained in the Holy Books of Allah:
- The Suhuf (Scrolls), revealed to the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), and now lost
- The Taurut (Torah), revealed to the Prophet Musa (Moses)
- The Zabur (Psalms), revealed to the Prophet Daud (David)
- The Injil (Gospels), revealed to the Prophet Isa (Jesus)
- The Qur’an, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam)
Belief in Angels – In addition to the physical world we know, Allah created a world invisible to us in which angels exist. The angels are sinless. They require no food, drink or sleep. They have neither physical desires nor material needs. The chief responsibility of the angels is to praise Allah and to do his will. The most important of the angels is Jibr’il (Gabriel). On behalf of Allah, Jibr’il (Gabriel) revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) his mission and the perfect verses of the Holy Qur’an. Each human being is assigned angels who serve as guardians and recorders of the individual’s deeds, both good and bad.
Belief in the Day of Judgement – The belief of life after death and in the resurrection of the dead on the Day of Judgement is an essential part of Islamic faith. It gives meaning to life and sets the joys and troubles of this life into a much wider context. Any person who believes in life after death will be afraid of acting against the will of Allah. He will be conscious of the fact that Allah is watching all his actions and the angels are recording them.
Belief in Fate – Everything that happens is the will of Allah and is preordained. Acceptance of fate is an essential element in submitting to the will of Allah.
2. Prayer (Salah)
Every Muslim is required to pray five times a day. The five prayers are
- Salat al-Fajr
- Salat al-Zuhr
- Salat al-Asr
- Salat al-Maghrib
- Salat al-Isha
These five prayers are said at dawn, mid day, late afternoon, sunset and nightfall. The Prophet Muhammad (Sal Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said, “The first act that the slave (of Allah) will be accountable for on the day of judgement will be the prayer. If it is good, then the rest of his acts will be good. And if it is evil, then the rest of his acts will be evil.”
3. Charity (Zakah)
Every Muslim is obligated to pay a portion of his or her wealth for the benefit of the poor and needy. Zakat means purification and growth. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a portion for those in need. This also increases social welfare and encourages economic growth.
A Muslim may also donate more as an act of Sadaqah (voluntary charity), in order to achieve additional reward from Allah.
4. Fasting (Sawm)
Every year in the month of Ramadan Muslims are required to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk. In addition, Muslims are expected to refrain from anger, envy, greed, lust, gossip, violence, bad language and other inappropriate thoughts and actions. Fasting is meant to encourage Muslims to seek nearness to Allah, be patient, and learn the hardships faced by the less fortunate.
Hajj is a pilgrimage to the Holy City of Makkah (Mecca). Hajj occurs every year during the month of Dhu’l-Hijjah. Every Muslim who is physically and financially able, is obligated to perform Hajj at least once in his or her lifetime.