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Islamic Basics: The 5 Pillars of Islam
March 26, 2018

The 5 Pillars of Islam are the foundation of the religion and it is the basis for any Muslim to follow. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) once explained what the five pillars are:

(The superstructure of) al-Islam is raised on five (pillars), testifying (the fact) that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is His bondsman and messenger, and the establishment of prayer, payment of Zakat, Pilgrimage to the House (Ka'ba) and the fast of Ramadan. (Muslim 16c)

The term Shahadah translates to “declaration of faith” and is the first pillar and foundation of Islam. Declaring one’s faith to Islam means a number of things:

  • - Belief that there is only one God. He has no partners, children or equals.
  • - Belief in the Prophets of Islam. Not only Muhammad (pbuh), but all those that preceded him, including Isa (Jesus) and Musa (Moses) (pbut) among others.
  • - Belief in the Judgement Day and afterlife

- Belief and acceptance of every part of Islam as it is

The statement of Shahadah is as follows:
لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا ٱلله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ ٱلله
laa ilaaha illallah Muhammad ur rasulullah
This translates to:
There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.

One must be able to recite this with no reservations in their heart in order to truly be a Muslim. When a person chooses to revert to Islam they must recite the Shahadah in Arabic and a language they understand, ideally in front of witnesses. This is not necessary for those who are born into Islam and continue to follow the religion into adulthood, as it is whispered in their ear by their father when they born. What’s more, Muslims will always perform the Shahadah whilst praying salah. The Shahadah is such a huge part of Islam that it is also whispered in the ear of a dying person and every Muslim hopes for it to be there last words.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: "There is no soul that died bearing witness to La ilaha illallah, and that I am the Messenger of Allah, from the heart with certainty, but Allah will forgive it." (Sunan Ibn Majah 3796)

It is obligatory for every Muslim to pray five times a day, unless there are reasons to be exempt, such a woman being on her menstrual cycle. There are prescribed times for each of these prayers, which changes every day, but are essentially around the same time. These prayers are:

- Fajr - dawn
- Zuhr - midday
- Asr - afternoon
- Maghrib - sunset
- Isha - nighttime

In order for these prayers to be accepted, one must perform Wudu (ablution) and pray in the direction of the Kaaba. Praying is the perfect act for Muslims to show their faith to Allah, as they are taking time out of their busy schedules just to dedicate to their religion. It is the time to directly speak to Allah, not only to show gratitude, but to ask for forgiveness, patience, and guidance for any problems you are facing too. There are also special prayers, such as Jummah, Eid prayer and Taraweeh.

Zakat, meaning purification, is the act of giving part of one’s earnings away for the sake of Allah. This pillar is not carried out on a voluntary basis, but one that is mandatory for Muslims who earn enough money to be self sufficient. These earnings include savings, gold (jewellery) and land. There is a threshold set for when someone is eligible to start paying zakat, which called the Nisab. Working out the nisab can be difficult as it changes every year, so it best to talk to someone at your local mosque. Alternatively you can use a zakat calculator, which we have explained how to use. Once they reach the threshold, Muslims must pay 2.5% of their earnings once every lunar year.

This money can be used for a range of things, as explained in the Quran:

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler - an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise. (Surat At-Tawbah 9:60)

Essentially this means the money can be given to:

  • - The poor
  • - The needy
  • - Zakat collectors
  • - New reverts of Islam
  • - Slaves (in order to free them)
  • - People in debt
  • - A traveller

- Something for the cause of Allah

  • Hajj

Hajj is the pilgrimage to Holy City of Makkah (Mecca), which occurs during the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah. It takes between 5 and 6 days to perform and when Hajj ends, Eid al-Adha is celebrated. Because travelling to Saudi Arabia and completing Hajj is such an expensive and strenuous task, only those that are physically able and financially capable will have to go once in their lifetime. Approximately 2 million Muslims perform Hajj every year.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between Hajj and Umrah. Umrah is not compulsory upon any Muslim and can be performed at any time of the year.

Sawm is the Arabic word for fasting, the final pillar of Islam. When a Muslim hits puberty, it becomes obligatory for them to fast. This means abstaining from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse before Fajr prayer (dawn) until Maghrib (sunset). Foul language, music and other negative/inappropriate actions should also be abstained from. The time to fast is during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar, which lasts 29 or 30 days. The celebration Eid al-Fitr follows this month.

While this is an important part of Islam, not everyone has to observe the holy month. For example, the elderly, ill, travelling or a menstruating woman will not have to fast. When the travelling ends, or the person is no longer sick, they will have make up every fast they missed. On the other hand, if the problem is a persistent one with no end if sight (for example, becoming weak and fragile due to old age), the person is expected to feed one poor person for every fast they miss. Unintentionally breaking a fast will not invalidate it and a person can continue fasting for the rest of the day.

  • There are many benefits to fasting:
  • - Feeling closer to Allah
  • - Exercising patience in trying times
  • - Understanding the hardships that those less fortunate have to face on a daily basis
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