The Five Pillars of Islam
Obligatory to all believers is the five pillars of Islam, namely (1) shahadah, (2) salat, (3) zakat, (4) sawm, and (5) hajj.
Shahadah is a declaration of faith. In other words, professing that there is only one God and that Muhammad is his messenger. The shahadah is a set statement, usually recited in Arabic, and obligatory in daily prayer:
ash’hadu an ll ilaha illa-llah, wa-ash’hadu anna muhammadan ralulu-llah
“I testify that there is no god except Allah and I testify that Muhammad is a messenger of Allah.”
Salat is the Islamic prayer and consists of five daily prayers, which are recited facing the Ka’bah in Mecca:
(1) Fajr (at dawn)
(2) Dhuhr (at noon)
(3) Asr (afternoon)
(4) Maghrib (after sunset)
(5) Isha’ (evening)
Before Muslims pray they must first purify themselves through a ritual washing. Each prayer is accompanied by a series of set positions that include bowing hands on knees, standing, prostrating and sitting in a special position.
Zakat, or compulsory charity is obligatory for all those who are able to help ease the economic hardships of others, while eliminating economic inequality. Not only must the giver declare his/her intention in giving zakat to Allah, but he/she should make sure that it is paid on the due date. If one has nisab (minimum requirement for property or wealth) he/she needs to pay 2.5% of his/her income each lunar year. If one does not have nisab, giving should be compensated for in other ways such as good deeds and behaviour towards others. The giver should not boast about his/her zakat, as charity in the name of God is rewarded, but not charity when done for selfish reasons. Zakat should be distributed in the community from which it was taken, but if there is not enough need within that specific community, it should be given to other Muslim communities in need.
There are three types of fasting (sawm) that are recognised by the Qu’ran, namely (1) ritual fasting, (2) fasting as compensation for repentance, and (3) ascetic fasting. Ritual fasting is compulsory during the holy month of Ramadan.
The Hajj is the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. All able-bodied Muslims are required to make this pilgrimage at least once in their lives if they have the means to do so. When a pilgrimage is made in any other time than the Hajj season, it is called Umrah.