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The Five Pillars of Islam’s Obligation

Islam requires Muslims to live a life that prioritizes their beliefs. They demonstrate this devotion through five key practices called the Pillars: Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, Sawm, and Hajj.

Shahadah

The Five Pillars of Islam – Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, Sawm and Hajj – are essential obligations that every committed Muslim must fulfil. They are based on belief, worship and the teachings of the Quran. These pillars are shared by all Muslims worldwide regardless of whether they belong to Sunni, Shi’a or Sufi branches of Islam.

The first pillar, shahadah, is the profession of faith that every Muslim must make. It consists of reciting the phrase “La-ilaha illallah” (there is no god but Allah), and “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” This declaration affirms belief in one God and acceptance of His message as conveyed through Muhammad. It also confirms a Muslim’s entry into the broader community of Muslims.

Another pillar is salat, which refers to the ritual prayer that Muslims are required to perform five times each day, facing a set direction called qibla. These prayers include standing, bowing and prostrating while reciting verses from the Quran, as well as performing ritual cleansing and supplications.

Salat is a form of worship and an expression of gratitude to God for His blessings. It is a fundamental part of a Muslim’s daily routine and provides the opportunity to connect with God on a spiritual level. It also teaches the importance of charity and demonstrates how the practice of Islam combines the glorification of God with service to those in need.

One of the most important duties of a Muslim is zakat, an alms tax that is collected from wealthier Muslims and distributed to those in need. It is a requirement that must be fulfilled by all Muslims who meet certain financial criteria, and it is an integral part of the Five Pillars.

The final pillar of Islam is hajj, the pilgrimage that all Muslims who are physically and financially capable must perform at least once in their lifetimes. This is an important religious experience that focuses on visiting Mecca and its surrounding holy sites. It occurs during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, and it includes a series of complex rituals that are performed over several days.

Salat

The second of the Five Pillars of Islam is prayer, also known as salat. Muslims are required to perform five daily ritual prayers, preceded by ritual cleansing called ablution (wudu). Salat includes standing, bowing, prostration, and recitation of the Qur’an, and it is performed facing a set direction called the qibla, often indicated in mosques by a mihrab.

While many Muslims differ on how to interpret salat, all agree that it is an essential part of the faith. Some believe that it is primarily a ritual act of worship, while others argue that it embodies the submission of body and soul to Allah. Still others view it as both a spiritual and legal obligation that encompasses all aspects of Muslim life.

Whether it is an act of worship or obedience to God, the Five Pillars of Islam unify hundreds of millions of people around the world in a fellowship of shared values and concerns. Increasing awareness of the Five Pillars will help to dispel misconceptions and prejudices about Muslims. For example, knowing that Muslims may request breaks and space to pray or need annual leave for the Hajj pilgrimage is important for workplace relations.

The Five Pillars of Islam are shahadah (the declaration of faith in one God and Muhammad as His messenger), zakat (almsgiving), sawm (fasting during Ramadan), and hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime). All branches of Islam accept the five fundamental pillars, but some traditions have additional ones. For example, the Shi’ah have added pillars such as wilayah. The pillars are central to the Islamic belief system and must be observed at all times. Those who do not obey them are considered sinners and will be judged by God on the Day of Judgment. For this reason, the pillars are described as the most fundamental tenets of Islam. The other tenets are adab (moderate behavior) and tawhm (respect for others). This PBS FRONTLINE Teacher Center Web page gives a clear description of the basic beliefs of Muslims and the Five Pillars of Islam. It also offers a variety of resources that are helpful for learning more about the religion.

Zakat

Islam is based on five essential obligations: shahadah, the profession of faith; salat, ritual prayers performed in a specific manner at prescribed intervals each day; zakat, an obligatory charity given to the needy based on a percentage of one’s wealth; sawm, fasting during the month of Ramadan; and hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, if able. While many of these practices have roots in Jewish, Christian and other Middle Eastern religious traditions, taken together they distinguish Islamic religion from other world beliefs and bind believers into a worldwide community of care and concern.

The shahadah, a declaration of belief in a single God and the prophet Muhammad as his messenger, is the first pillar of Islam. It affirms a singular God and rejection of idolatry, and it requires new converts to Islam to make the statement publicly. It is also a formal entry into the Muslim community (ummah), and it requires all Muslims to recite from the Qur’an the words of the shahadah, known as the Shahadah.

Salat, the five daily ritual prayers that are a central tenet of Islam, focus the mind on God and help to create a sense of spiritual well-being. They consist of standing, bowing and prostrating while facing a set direction, or qibla, believed to be the original location of the Kaaba shrine in Mecca. Although the five prayers have a clear structure, flexibility is allowed based on individual circumstances.

Zakat, which translates as ‘purification’ in Arabic, is an obligatory form of tax that is collected by Muslims from their excess wealth once per year. It is a key pillar of Islam because it is believed to purify the earning of a person and free him or her from greed and selfishness. It is only due if the person meets certain criteria, including being above the minimum amount of wealth called the nisaab, being completely in possession and ownership of the wealth, and being free from debt.

Muslims are required to give zakat to those who qualify, such as orphans, the poor, and those in need of a loan. It is also recommended that Muslims give zakat to those fighting for a just cause and working to spread the word of Islam.

Sawm

Islam is a faith that teaches that a spiritual life cannot exist without a healthy relationship with the material world and that morals should guide all actions. The five pillars of Islam, shahadah, prayer (salat), zakat, sawm and hajj, define Muslim beliefs and practices and unite Muslims worldwide irrespective of ethnic, regional or sectarian differences.

Shahadah, the profession of faith, is the first pillar and involves affirming the belief that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. This simple creed is the foundation of all other religious obligations and serves as a means to build a direct connection with God.

The second pillar is salat, or prayer, which is offered five times a day and provides a way for believers to communicate directly with God. It also reminds Muslims that they are a part of the human family and that all people were created by God. It is recommended that believers pray in congregation with other worshippers at their local mosque.

Zakat is the third pillar of Islam and requires that all Muslims donate 2.5 percent of their wealth to those in need. This monetary contribution is not just a religious obligation, but a social one as well. This charity is designed to help the poor, encourage conversions, ransom captives, support travelers, relieve debtors and defend the faith.

Sawm, the fourth pillar of Islam, is the practice of fasting during the month of Ramadan. This is a difficult but highly rewarding act that demonstrates devotion to Allah. During this time, Muslims abstain from food, drink and sexual activity from dawn until sunset.

The last pillar of Islam is the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are required to perform if financially and physically able. The pilgrimage is a powerful demonstration of unity and solidarity with Muslims worldwide. In addition, it is a reminder of the obligations that all Muslims have to fulfill.