What are the Pillars of Islamic Worship?
Whenever you do good or avoid evil for fear of God, in whatever sphere of life and field of activity, you are discharging your Islamic obligations. This is the true significance of Ibadah, namely total submission to the pleasure of Allah. Thus, our goal should be molding into the patterns of Islam in our entire life, leaving out not even the most insignificant part. To help achieve this aim, a set of formal ibadat (acts of worship) has been constituted, which serves as a course of training. These ibadat are thus the pillars on which the edifice of Islam rests.
There are five indispensable tenets known as the ‘Five Pillars of Islam’ that all practicing Muslims accept and follow.
1) The ‘Declaration of Faith’ – The Shahada
The “Shahada” or “testimony of faith” is the greatest pillar of Islam. It consists of the speaking of the words, ‘None deserves worship but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.’ A Muslim believes that cantillating these words with a true belief at least once in his or her life is a legitimate declaration of his or her faith. The importance of this testimony is conveyed in two parts. The first part of the proclamation affirms Islam’s absolute belief in the oneness of God (Allah) and underscores the goal of the life of a Muslim to serve and obey Allah, as well as the doctrine that associating anything else with Him is an unforgivable sin. The second part of the testimony is achieved through following the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad, the messenger of Allah who serves as the follower’s role model through his exemplary life.
2) The Prayer – Salah
The Salah (prayer) is held to be an act of communication between the worshipper and God and forms an important part of daily Muslim life. Muslims are expected to pray five times a day: at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening. The Salah includes recitations from the Quran, praises of God, verses seeking forgiveness and various other invocations. Prayers can be offered in any clean place, alone or together, in a mosque or at home. The faithful pray by bowing several times while standing and then kneeling and touching the ground or prayer mat with their foreheads, as a symbol of their reverence and submission to Allah; however, they are meant to pray towards Mecca, the holy city centred around the Kaaba.
3) The Compulsory Charity – Zakah
In Islam, everything belongs to God and adherents are only bestowed upon wealth as a trust from God. Zakah is not merely a compulsory charity but an obligation on the wealthy to sustain the destitute members of the community. By giving part of his or her possessions and money to the needy, in the form of an annual contribution of 2.5 per cent of an individual’s riches and assets, the wealth of a Muslim is “purified” and also believed to increase. In Medieval times, every Muslim capable of donating had to set aside a certain amount of earnings as Zakah to rescue those in debt and to free slaves.
4) The Fast of Ramadan – Sawm
In Islamic tradition, much importance is attached to the ritual of Sawm whereby healthy Muslims refrain from food, drink and sexual activity. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is a time when Muslims fast during the entire daytime, eating only after sundown and in the hours before dawn. The purpose of Sawm is to cultivate spirituality, dependence upon God, and harmonize with the underprivileged as evenings are marked by special prayers in the mosques with Quranic recitations. Ramadan ends with the merriment of the Feast of Breaking of the Fast – Eid al-Fitr – accompanied by family visits and exchanging of gifts.
5) Pilgrimage to Mecca – Hajj
All adult, physically and financially able Muslims are required to undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca and the surrounding holy sites at least once in their lives. One of the capitals of Saudi Arabia, Mecca is located in the western part of the country. Regarded as the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad, it is considered to be the holiest city for the followers of Islam. Pilgrimage focuses on visiting the Kaaba and walking around it seven times. Hajj pilgrimage occurs in the 12th month of the Islamic Calendar, Dhu al-Hijjah.
(Written by Shamim Ahmed)