The Five Pillars of Islam

Many of us with religious or spiritual beliefs, in California, want to believe that we live a life that is consistent with our beliefs, and we try to express much of what we believe through our lives, actions and our relationships with others.

But of the three major Abrahamic religions, it can be argued that Islam and its religious tenets and principles are more readily apparent than those of Judaism and Christianity. While all three may have prayer as part of their daily worship rites to their one God, Muslims’ practices of religion are more public and obvious and are a central part of their lives on a daily basis.

They are called the Five Pillars of Islam. The hint comes in the word islam, which is translated to “submission.” They are what makes Islam more of a way of life than a simple belief system. Muslims are taught to put God and Islam first in their lives, and all “securlat” pursuits are pushed aside, rather than the “other way around.” Here we will take a quick look at each of the Five Pillars of Islam and their application to daily lives.

Faith Testimony (Shahada)

As part of conversion to Islam as well as daily professions, the testimony of faith, or shahada, is a statement that all Muslims must recite (with sincerity and conviction) to enforce their devotion to the Islamic faith in practice.

Translated to English (though recited in Arabic), the statement of faith is, “There is no true god but God, and Mohammed is the Messenger of God.” This statement proves a person’s faith and devotion to Islam both as a practicing adherent and especially for those seeking to convert to the faith.

Prayer (Salat)

This is likely the most visible of the Five Pillars of Islam, as it is about praying five times a day. There are five specific times of the day in which Muslims are required to pray, and they can pray anywhere they are located, though may choose to attend a mosque for this ritual.  Muslims pray at sunrise, noon, mid-afternoon, at sundown and at night. All prayers are conducted while facing in the direction of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Charity (Zakat)

Muslims are taught to look out ffor the poor and to encourage equality among all people, so charity is considered an obligation to give a portio of accrued wealth to the poor. A percentage is declared of a persons’ wealth to be given to the poor in a community, and it is considered necessary to “purification” and growth spiritually. It is seen as similar to pruning of a tree to encourage new growth; the same principle applies with the obligatory giving of charity by those with the financial means. Those who are not wealthy or have much income are encouraged to give through good deeds to others or treating others with good behavior.

Fasting (Sawm)

During the Islamic month of Ramadan, Muslims are expected to fast, or refuse drink, food and sex during the daytime hours. This is considered spiritually healthy and purifying and is designed to bring Muslims closer to God and seek His forgiveness of sins and express gratitude to Him for all blessings while providing a reminder to those with less (the poor and needy).

Pilgrimage (Hajj)

Other than prayer, this is probably the most visible Pillar of the Islamic faith on a public scale – all Muslims, when physically and financially able, are obliged to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their human lives.  The hajj is to be done during a specific Islamic month called Dhu al-Hijjah, though some Muslims will make a second pilgrimage at any other time of year.

The rituals of the hajj include walking seven times around the Kaaba (a black building inside the Haram mosque in Mecca, a building supposedly built by Abraham and his son, Ishmael, upon God’s order) and walking seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah (signifying the travels of Hagar in support of her son, Ishmael, the “father of the Arabs”).