Five Pillars of IslamThe Five Pillars of Islam (Arabic: أركان الإسلام) is the term given to "the five duties incumbent on every Muslim". These duties are Shahadah (profession of faith), Salah (ritual prayer), Zakah (alms tax), Sawm (fasting during Ramadan), and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). These five practices are essential to Sunni Islam.
The Shahadah (Arabic: transliteration: Šahādah) is the basic creed or tenet of Islam: "'ašhadu 'al-lā ilāha illā-llāhu wa 'ašhadu 'anna muħammadan rasūlu-llāh", or "I testify that there is no god (ilah) but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah". As the most important pillar, this testament is a foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. Ideally, it is the first words a newborn will hear, and children are taught as soon as they are able to understand it and it will also be recited when they die. Muslims must repeat the shahadah in prayer, and non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed.
The second pillar of Islam is Salah, the requirement to pray five times a day at fixed times. Each salah is performed facing towards the Kaaba in
The salah must be performed in the Arabic language to the best of each worshipper's ability. If he or she cannot speak Arabic, then their native language can be used. The lines of prayer are to be recited by heart (although beginners may use written aids), and the worshipper's body and clothing, as well as the place of prayer, must be cleansed. All prayers should be conducted within the prescribed time period (waqt) and with the appropriate number of units (raka'ah). While the prayers may be made at any point within the waqt, it is considered best to begin them as soon as possible after the call to prayer is heard.
Zakah, or alms-giving, is the practice of charitable giving by Muslims based on accumulated wealth, and is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakah consists of spending a fixed portion of one's wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy, including slaves, debtors and travellers. A muslim may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah), in order to achieve additional divine reward.
There are two main types of zakah. First, there is the zakah on traffic, which is a fixed amount based on the cost of food that is paid during the month of Ramadan by the head of a family for himself and his dependents. Second, there is the zakah on wealth, which covers money made in business, savings, income, and so on. In current usage zakah is treated as a 2.5 percent levy on most valuables and savings held for a full lunar year, as long as the total value is more than a basic minimum known as nisab (three ounces or 87.48g of gold). As of 16 October 2006, nisab is approximately US$1,750 or an equivalent amount in any other currency.
Ritual fasting is an obligatory act during the month of Ramadan. Muslims must abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk during this month, and are to be especially mindful of other sins. The fast is meant to allow Muslims to seek nearness to Allah, to express their gratitude to and dependence on him, to atone for their past sins, and to remind them of the needy. During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, harsh language, gossip and to try to get along with each other better than normal. In addition, all obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided.
Fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory for several groups for whom it would be excessively problematic. These include pre-pubescent children, those with a medical condition such as diabetes, elderly people, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Observing fasts is not permitted for menstruating women. Other individuals for whom it is considered acceptable not to fast are those in combat and travellers who intended to spend fewer than five days away from home. Missing fasts usually must be made up soon afterwards, although the exact requirements vary according to circumstance.
The Hajj is a pilgrimage that occurs during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the city of Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so is obliged to make the pilgrimage to
The pilgrim, or the haji, is honoured in his or her community. For some, this is an incentive to perform the Hajj. Islamic teachers say that the Hajj should be an expression of devotion to Allah, not a means to gain social standing. The believer should be self-aware and examine his or her intentions in performing the pilgrimage. This should lead to constant striving for self-improvement.