The five pillars of Islam
They are the frameworks for any Muslim's life. There are five pillars that one can build his house (of faith) on. The foundation of that house is submission to God. One must start with the foundation then continue upward, by submitting and accepting the oneness of Allah, His Messengers and His true commands, then start building up. One step at the time, one must continue upward or forward not downward or backward.
1. The Testimony of faith (Shahada)
'There is no God worthy of worship except One God (Allah) and Muhammad is His Messenger'.
This declaration of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula that all the faithful pronounce. In Arabic, the first part is la ilaha illa'Llah - 'there is no god except God'; Ilaha (god) can refer to anything, which we may be tempted to put in place of God - wealth, power, and the like. Then comes illa'Llah:' except God, the source of all Creation. The second part of the Shahada is Muhammadun rasulu'Llah: 'Muhammad is the Messenger of God'. This is the first step one takes in Islam, then should try to improve and advance.
2. Prayer (Salah)
'Salah' -link in English- is the name for the daily prayers, which are performed five times a day, this way, Muslims are given a chance to be more God conscious. In standing, bowing and prostrating like others in the daily prayer, one recognizes both physically and spiritually that we are all the same before the one God. Doing the same thing other Messengers -such as; Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammmad peace be upon them- did to worship or to pray to God. It also teaches Muslims that they need to pray to God daily not only when they have to or need to. One can perform extra prayers, however 'Salah' are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset and at nightfall, and the weekly congregation formal prayer on Friday noon. The choice of the weekly prayer to be on Friday was determined by God in chapter 62 of the Quran entitled Al-Jumu’a, which is Arabic for "Friday".
There is no hierarchical authority in Islam, and no priests, so any learned person, who knows the Quran and the prayers well, is accepted by the congregation to lead the prayers.
These prayers 'Salah' contain verses from the Quran, personal supplication can be offered as well. Although congregational ‘Salah’ is preferable in a Mosque (the Muslims worshipping place), a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in the daily life.
3. The 'Zakat' (Poor due)
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. The word zakat literally means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Setting aside a proportion for those in need purifies our possessions. Like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth
Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually and it does not have to go through specific channels, but one can give directly to the poor, even in his family to strengthen family ties.
For most purposes this involves the payment each year of 2.5 %. Not of one's income, but of his saved money. A pious person may also give as much as he pleases as sadaqa (donation), and does so preferably in secret.
Although the word sadaqa can be translated as 'voluntary charity' or 'donation', in Islam it has a wider meaning. The Prophet said: 'Even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity'. The Prophet also said;
"Charity is a necessity for every Muslim'. He was asked: 'What if a person has nothing?' The Prophet replied: 'He should work with his own hands for his benefit and then give something out of such earnings in charity'. The Companions asked: 'What if he is not able to work?' The Prophet said: 'He should help poor and needy persons (physically)’, They further asked 'What if he can not do even that?' The Prophet said 'He should urge others to do good'. The Companions said 'What if he lacks that also?' The Prophet said 'He should check himself from doing evil. That is also a charity".
Every year in the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Although many start earlier as a practice, Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty. Although fasting is most beneficial to the health physically, it is regarded principally as a method of self-purification. By cutting oneself off from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who go -involuntarily- hungry, as well as growth in one's spiritual life.
In observing the month of Ramadan, Muslims follow the lunar calendar, which was the way God taught man how to count time -months and years- from the beginning<. That's why many civilizations -ancient and modern- associate counting ttime with the moon. The word "Month"; in chronology, is the conventional period of lunation, i.e. the passage of the moon through all of its phases. In many other references of religion and history, we find that all the messengers of God had taught their followers nothing -about time and calendars- except observing the "lunar calendar".
5. Pilgrimage (Hajj)
The annual pilgrimage to Makkah -The Hajj- is an obligation only for those who are able physically and financially to perform it. Nevertheless, about two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year, which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes: for men it is simple white garments that strip away distinctions of class, color, national origin and culture, so that all stand equal before God, no royalty, just loyalty to the one God and His command. Such a trip is never forgotten by Muslim's mind and is often thought of as a preview of the Day of Judgment. All are the same before The One Judge.
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