Saturday, September 3, 2011

What are the "Five Pillars" of Islam?

These are the foundation of Muslim life: declaration of faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad; establishment of the daily ritual prayers; concern for and almsgiving to the needy; self-purification through fasting; and the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are physically and financially able.

Shahadah or Declaration of Faith
"There is none worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is the messenger of God." This declaration of faith is called the shahadah, a simple formula that all the faithful pronounce. The significance of this declaration is the belief that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God, and this is achieved through the teachings and practices of the Last Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Salah or Prayer
Salah is the name for the obligatory prayers that are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. These five ritual prayers contain verses from the Qur'an, and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation. Personal supplications however, can be offered in one's own language and at any time.

Zakah or Almsgiving
An important principle of Islam is that everything belongs to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakah means both "purification" and "growth." Setting aside a proportion for those in need purifies our possessions, and like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.

Sawm or Fasting
Every year in the month of Ramadan, all able Muslims fast from dawn until sundown - abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations with their spouses.
Although fasting is beneficial to health, it is mainly a method of self-purification. By cutting oneself from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person focuses on his or her purpose in life by constantly being aware of the presence of God.

Hajj or Pilgrimage
The pilgrimage to Makkah - the hajj - is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able. Nevertheless, over two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another.
The annual hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar year. Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments that strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
The rites of the hajj originate from the time of the Prophet and Patriarch, Abraham (peace be upon him). These rites include going around the Ka'bah seven times, and going seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar (Abraham's wife) during her search for water. The pilgrims later stand together on the wide plains of 'Arafat (a large expanse of desert outside Makkah) and join in prayer for God's forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Day of Judgment.
The close of the hajj is marked by a festival, the 'Id al Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This and the 'Id al Fitr, a festive day celebrating the end of Ramadan, are the two holidays of the Islamic calendar.

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