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Five pillars of Islam
These five pillars, commonly referred to as Arkan ad-din, are the foundation of Islam and are mandatory for every practising Muslim, both male and female. They offer a guideline of the worshipping of Allah and exhibiting commitment to the religion when adhered to. They govern the Muslims’ way of lifestyle. They encompass the belief that there is one God and that Muhammad (SAW) is the finality of the prophethood. They establish five daily prayers which explain the following aspects of life: relation to the poor in showing concern and also giving alms to them, purification by observing fast, and pilgrimage in Makkah for those that have the financial ability.
The first pillar is the Shahadah. This is a declaration of faith where the believers profess to the oneness of Allah and the fact that Muhammad (SAW) is His messenger. The confession is a statement referred to as the Kalima which is in Arabic: “Ashhadu Alla Ilaha Illa Allah Wa Ashhadu Anna Muhammad Rasulu Allah". It is translated as “I testify that there is none deity except Allah and Muhammad (SAW) is His Servant and Messenger.” This statement is vital during one’s conversion to Islam (Khwaja). When a reverted person recites the statement, he/she is educated how to live in its accordance. It has to be incorporated in the five daily prayers and also in the Adhan, call to prayer. As simple as the statement appears, it has to be recited with devotion and sincerity in the sense that one has to solely conform, worship, and depend on Allah (Esposito).
The second pillar is Salat, the prayer. The Salat is done five times daily and is obligatory to every Muslim above seven years old of sound mind. The prayers are given names based on the time of the day they are performed, namely: Fajr (in the dawn just before sunrise), Dhuhr (at midday when the sun exceeds its highness), Asr (early evening just before the sunset), Maghrib (after the sunset), and Ishai (late evening).
When it is time for prayers, the believers are called to the mosque by the Adhan, which is a universal call to pray. For one to perform the prayers, they have to be clean and wudhu, purification, has to be performed before each prayer (Esposito). The prayers are normally led by any educated individual who can recite a few chapters from the Quran and may be the congregation’s choice. The prayers are performed in a mosque although if one cannot make it to the mosque, they can pray alone in a clean place free from contamination (Teece).
Prophet Muhammad was given the directions on the five daily prayers by Allah on the night of Isra wal Mi’ raj, the Prophet’s ascension to heaven. The first Adhan was called by Bilal Ibn Rabbah, a Muslim convert in the times of the Prophet. The prayer is performed in sets, two for Fajr, four during Dhuhr, four during Asr, three during Maghrib, and four during Ishai. It also has a series of positions, standing, prostrating, and sitting in a way that is neither on the heels nor buttocks bowing with hands on knees (Esposito).
Zakat is the third pillar and it means purification and growth. This is the practice of giving alms, which is charitable. In the principle that everything belongs to Allah and human’s possessions are only held in trust, there comes a financial obligation, in which those that are in need in the society benefit from others with the ability to give (Khwaja). By putting aside a share for the needy, one cleanses their possessions and gives room for growth. They also narrow the inequality gap.
Zakat is individually calculated and it encompasses giving 2.5% of one’s wealth. When giving Zakat, the following principles are observed: the giver declares his intentions to Allah; Zakat needs to be paid on the due date; the payee must spend within the usual means after the offering; the payment must be in kind; and the beneficiaries must be from the community in which the wealth comes from. Over the centuries, it was paid in gold and silver. When in currency, it is estimated to 85 grams of pure gold. Prophet Muhammad insisted on paying Zakat for those lacking the financial ability. They should urge others to do good deeds, which passes as charity (Esposito). A legal Zakat system was instigated by the caliph Abu Bakr Swiddik.
The fourth pillar is Sawm, observing fast during the holy month of Ramadan. At this time, Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sin from dawn to dusk. One must desist from greed, coitus, obscenities, gossip, anger, foul language and ensure that they are at peace with others (Teece). It is compulsory for all sane Muslims that have reached puberty and are healthy. At this time, Muslims approach to Allah, express appreciation, and seek forgiveness (Khwaja). It enforces self-restraint and reminds the Muslims of the needy. For the sick or people on medication, those on a journey, pregnant, breastfeeding, and menstruating women Sawm fasts on other days. The elderly pay fidyah, the iftaar, dinner, and suhur to a needy fasting person. One has to make an intention before commencing at dawn for the fast to be valid. Breaking of the fast is traditionally done by eating that dates at dusk just before Maghrib prayers.
The last pillar is Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca in the month of Dhul-Hijjah. The pilgrimage is done in Mecca, the holy city. It is obligatory for every able bodied Muslim who is financially stable (Teece,). The pilgrim must dress in Ihram, white clothing that fosters solidarity. After the pilgrimage one is known as Hajj, male, and Hajja, female. The chief rituals comprise Tawaf, walking seven times round the Ka’aba; Istilam, which is touching the black stone; Saee, which is travelling between Mount Safa and Marwah seven times; and Ramee, which is stoning the devil in Mina (Esposito). This is one of the ultimate expressions of piety to Allah. It comprises many historical events of different Prophets of Allah. It is based on a 7th century pilgrimage tracing back to 2000 BCE.
In conclusion, the five pillars, when incorporated in one’s daily activities, offer a pious lifestyle and guidance for an individual. Most Muslims use this and the Qur’an as their way of life and teach it to their children at an early age.
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