While there is more to Islam than the Five Pillars, these represent the most basic of Muslim beliefs, and they are the cornerstones of the faith. Indeed, the Five Pillars of Islam are more than just suggestions; they are obligations that are required of every faithful Muslim.
Shahadah. This is the first of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is sometimes even considered the most important. This is a declaration of faith. In order to become a Muslim, all one needs to do is say the Shahadah. While it only needs to be said once in a lifetime, many Muslims say it every day as a reminder:
“There is none worthy of worship except God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
Salat. Salat is prayer. There are five prayers that should be uttered throughout the day. Many Muslims establish a rhythm around the prayers so that they can remember to get in the requisite number of prayers. Prayers should be said facing Mecca (the city of the Prophet’s – peace be upon him – birth), the sacred location of the Ka’ba. Prayers consist of verses from the Qur’an, and should be said in Arabic.
1.Fajr (morning prayer): after dawn but befor sunrise
2.Duhr (noon prayer): anytime early afternoon until late afternoon
3.’Asr (late afternoon prayer): between late afternoon and sunset
4.Maghrib (sunset prayer): directly after sunset
5.Isha (late evening prayer): between late evening and bedtime
Many mosques hold prayers to coincide within the time confines, and Muslims are encouraged to live this one of the Five Pillars of Islam by going to Mosque to join in prayer with fellows at least once a week, preferably as often as possible.
Zakat. The third of the Five Pillars of Islam is alms giving. This is represented by giving to the poor. Islamic beliefs hold that everything belongs to Allah, and so we are only holding our belongings as stewards. There is an obligation to help the community of believers (the ummah) and to give generously. While each Muslim calculates his or her own contribution, faithful Muslims give what amounts to one-fortieth of their capital. Additional generosity is encouraged, but should be done in secret.
Sawm. Sawm refers to the practice of fasting for self-purification and to increase discipline. During the holy month of Ramadan, it is expected that Muslims fast every day during the hours between sunrise and sunset. Fasting includes abstinence from all food, drink, and sexual relations. Many mosques and families hold special feasts at the end of each day or week of Ramadan and break the day’s fast with others of the faith.
While there are exemptions to fasting (children do not start until they reach puberty), the sick, elderly, pregnant, and journeying are encouraged to make up the days at some other time during the year.
Hajj. This is the last of the Five Pillars of Islam. All Muslims who are financially and physically able should make the journey to Mecca, to pray at the Ka’ba, at least once in their lives. Many make the journey more than once, but extra trips do not better assure one’s place in paradise after this life. All those making the journey should wear simple clothing. This clothing should not indicate race, class, nation, or culture. All attending should look like they belong to the community of believers, in which there should be no divisions. The Hajj is a reminder that all are equal in the sight of Allah, and that all believers truly belong to a community.