The Five Pillars of Islam
“La ilaha ila Allah; Muhammadur-rasul Allah,” There is no god but Allah; Muhammad (PBUH) is the Messenger of Allah. This essential phrase in Islam is termed “Shahadah” which literally means “to witness” and is the first pillar of Islam. Any Muslim or any individual that wants to convert to Islam must recite and more importantly, must truly believe this statement. It is the first words that are heard through the ears of a newborn, and is stressed from thereon as soon as an individual is capable of rationale. It is stressed in prayer everyday, five times. The first part clearly illustrates the oneness of Allah, acknowledging His absolute superiority and power. By reciting this, one truly believes that only Allah is worthy of worship. The second part of the Shahadah involves the belief in Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the final messenger of Allah. When reciting this, one has faith in the guidance of Muhammad and his life (Sunnah). It is interesting then to examine why Islam, a religion that emphasizes the worship of Allah alone, places so much significance on the last messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The second of the five pillars of Islam is Salah. Salah refers to the physical act of praying towards the Kaaba in Mecca. It is an obligatory duty for Muslims to perform five times a day, with the proper cleansing and mentality. Salah is the physical transgression of God. When one performs this daily action, they are intended to stay focused, as if they were physically in front of God conveying their worship and gratefulness towards Allah (SWT). It is only God’s mercy that a Muslim prays five times a day. When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ascended into the heavens, according to islamic tradition, through his Isra and Miraj journey, he was in the presence of Allah (SWT). Allah tells him he wants the Muslims to pray fifty times a day. Knowing that this would be too much for the human race, Muhammad consults with Moses and eventually Allah (SWT) reduces fifty to five. In order to perform Salah, one must be in a clean state. A Muslim will perform ablution, termed “wudhu” in arabic, prior to prayer. The Salah is achieved through a term called rakah. The rakah refers to the physical prostration of the individual, and this is how the numerical count is kept. Salah diverges into different classifications. There is fard, sunnah, and nafl. The fard salah is compulsory. The sunnah salah is voluntary, yet was executed through tradition by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and therefore remains almost involuntary amongst most Muslims. The nafl salah is an optional extra prayer that brings about more reward for the individual due to its unnecessity. The five daily prayers are to be completed during their given time periods that are based on the lunar calendar. They can be delineated by their relative timings: morning prayer, afternoon prayer, mid-afternoon prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer. These times vary, once again, due to the respective lunar calendar. While the salah is compulsory amongst individuals of reason, there is flexibility to certain circumstances. An individual is excused of prayer during its timing if one is unable to do so, and is able to make it up later– this is called qada. Also, if someone is traveling a certain distance, they are able to shorten their prayers. This practice is called qasr. The five daily prayers are considered to be of utmost importance for a Muslim. Without the practice or belief in its obligation, one deters from the tenet of Islam.
Zakah is a stipend that every adult, mentally stable, free, and financially able Muslim, male and female, has to pay to support specific categories of people. It comprises the third pillar of Islam. This category of people is defined in surah at-Taubah (9) verse 60: The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to...