Basics in Islam - Pillars of Islam
There are 5 Pillars in Islam. These are:
- Shahadah - Declaration of Faith
- Salat - Five compulsory daily prayers
- Zakah -Walfare Contribution
- Sawm - Fasting during Ramadan
- Hajj - Pilgrimage to Makkah
A muslim declares his/her faith by reciting The Arabic Words:
Meaning: "There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah"
Transliteration: "La ilaha illal lahu muhammadur rasulul lah"
This declaration is called Kalimah Tayyibah. It summarises the whole of Islamic Belief. The first part (la ilaha illal lah) is about the Oneness of Allah (Tawheed in Arabic) while the second part (Muhammadur rasulul lah) concerns the prophethood of Muhammad (SAW).
Salah is the second pillar of Islam. It refers to the five compulsory daily prayers. Salah is offered five times a day individually or in congregation. We offer Salah to remember Allah. It brings us closer to him.
The Quran Says:
"Establish Salah to remember me (Allah)" (Surah 20: Verse 24)
Salah is the Practical proof of our faith in Allah and Islam. It has been made compulsory at certain fixed times.
The Five daily prayers are:
- Fajr - From dawn until just before sunrise
- Zuhr - After midday until afternoon
- Asr - From late afternoon until just before sunset
- Maghrib - After sunset until daylight ends
- Isha - Night until midnight or dawn
Zakah (welfare contribution) is the third pillar of Islam. The Arabic word Zakah means to purify or cleanse. Zakah is to be paid once a year on savings at the rate of two and a half percent. This rate applies to cash, bank savings and gold & silver jewellery. The rate for cattle and agricultural produce is different. Payment of Zakah is a means of keeping our wealth clear of greed and selfishness. It also encourages us to be honest in our earnings and expenditure.
Zakah is a compulsory payment and is neither charity nor a tax. Charity is optional and taxes can be used by the state for any purpose, but Zakah has to be spent under fixed headings like helping the poor, the needy, payment of salaries to its collectors, to free captives and debtors, for travellers in need, to win over hearts and for the cause of Allah (See Surah 9: Verse 59 )
Zakah is an act of Ibadah. Ibadah is an Arabic term which means worship and obedience. It includes all activities of life, if we do them to please Allah. We pay Zakah to gain Allah's favour.
Zakah provides us with the opportunity of sharing our excess wealth with those less fortunate than ourselves. In fact we and our wealth belong to Allah. He is the real owner and we are mearly the trustees of His wealth. We do our duty as trustees if we pay Zakah as an obligatory part of Ibadah.
We learned earlier that Islam is a complete code of life which includes among other things, the economic side of life. Islam has its own economic principles. Zakah is one of the basic principles of the Islamic economy, based on social welfare and fair distribution of wealth. In addition to the compulsory payment of Zakah, Muslims are encouraged in the Qur'an to make voluntary contributions to help the poor and needy, and for other social welfare purposes. This voluntary contribution is called Sadaqah (Charity).
Through the payment of Zakah, the rich share their wealth with the poor and thus the process of concentration of wealth is checked and fair distribution ensured.
Sawm (Fasting), the fourth pillar of Islam, is another act of Ibadah. All adult Muslims must fast from dawn to sunset every day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This means abstaining from eating, drinking, smoking and conjugal relations during the hours of fasting. Travellers and the sick can defer fasting during Ramadan and make up for it later.
Sawm develops self-control and helps us to overcome selfishness, greed, laziness and other faults. It is an annual training programme to refresh us for carrying out our duties towards Allah, the Creator and Sustainer. Sawm gives us the feeling of hunger and thirst. We experience for ourselves what it is like to have an empty stomach. This develops our feeling for the poor and hungry people. Fasting teaches us to control the love of comfort. It also helps us to keep our sexual desires within control. Hunger, comfort and sex are three factors which must be kept under control to behave as Allahs servants.
It helps us to remain truly obedient to Allah's commands. That is why the Qur'an says:
"O you who believe; Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you are expected to be truly obedient".
(Surah 2: Verse 183)
A truly obedient Muslim is called a Muttaqi and his true obedience or piety - developed through Sawm - is known as Taqwa in Islam. Taqwa keeps a person away from sin. The month of Ramadan is a month of forgiveness, mercy and means of avoiding that punishment of Hell. The duty of fasting is only for Allah's sake and there is a very pleasing and attractive reward for this in the life after death.
The following acts will break the fast:
- Deliberate eating or drinking during fasting hours. If anything enters the body through the nose or mouth; this includes smoking or sniffing any powdered substance, Having any conjugal relations during fasting hours. An injection in the muscle is allowed during fasting but not an intravenous nutritional injection. Unintentional eating or drinking due to forgetfulness or rinsing out the mouth or bathing and putting drops in the eye do not make the fast invalid.
- A Muslim is expected to remain away from all bad actions during his/her fast. He should not tell a lie, break a promise or do any deceitful act. The very purpose of fasting is to make a Muslim able to control his/her passions, so that he becomes a person of good deeds and intentions. Anger – a common human weakness–can also be brought under control by fasting.
In addition to the compulsory fasting in Ramadan, a Muslim may fast during other times of the year. These facts will be treated as Sunnah. Fasting is not allowed during menstruation of women. They are required to make up the days lost during this period at some other time.
A Muslim must not fast:
The Qur'an was revealed in the month of Ramadan. There is a night in the month which is ...
"better than a thousand months" (97:3)
This night is called Lailatul Qadr (Night of Power). According to Hadith, this night occurs during the last ten days of Ramadan (most probably the odd numbered nights). It is a night of great importance; we should worship as much as we can on this night.
An additional prayer known as Tarawih (20 rakah or 8 rakah) is offered during Ramadan after Isha. This is a sunnah prayer in which efforts are made to recite as much of the Qur'an as possible. In many mosques, the whole Qur'an is recited in Tarawih prayer. This prayer is generally offered in congregation. Those who cannot join a congregation should offer Tarawih at home. A pre-dawn meal known as Suhur is taken in Ramadan.
At the end of Ramadan Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, a day of thanksgiving and happiness. It is one of the great occasions for the Muslim community. On this day, Muslims offer special prayers in congregation and thank Allah
for His blessings and mercy.
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is a visit to Al-Ka'bah, the house of Allah in Makkah, once in a lifetime by those Muslims who can afford to make the journey. It is performed during the period from the 8th to 13th Dhu'l Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.
Al-Ka'bah, known as Baitullah (House of Allah), is a cube-like one storey building which was built originally by Adam and later rebuilt by Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael). It is the first house ever built for the sole purpose of the worship of Allah. Allah has blessed this Al-Ka'bah. Muslims who can afford to make the journey and are physically fit come here every year from all over the world.
The occasion may rightly be called the Annual International Muslim Assembly. During Hajj, the Islamic brotherhood becomes particularly evident and can be experienced in a special way by everyone who takes part. Barriers of language, territory, colour and race disappear and the bond of faith is uppermost. Everyone has the same status in the house of Allah – the status of His servant.