Five Pillars of Islam
The first Pillar of Islam is Shahadah or Eman or Belief, the declaration with full conviction of mind and heart that Allah is the one and only diety and the Prophet Muhammed(PBUH) is His Messenger. Belief in Allah does not require approval or acceptance from anyone but Allah. The person who utters this testimony with sincerely and whole heartly and conviction immediately comes into the fold of the Religion of Islam and the person known as Muslim or Momin. However, it is quite comman for new reverts to Islam to declare Shahadah in the company of two Muslim witnesses.
What is Salah?
Salah is the name for the obligatory prayers which are performed five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God with no earthly intermediaries.
What no Priests?
An Audience with God
When and where
Ritual prayer and worship
In prayer, every muscle of the body joins the soul and the mind in the worship and glory of Allah. Prayer is an act of worship. It is a matchless and unprecedented formula of intellectual meditation and spiritual devotion, of moral elevation and physical exercise, all combined.
Congregational prayer and Mosques
Who is it applicable to?
How is it performed?
Remebering the Creator
In addition to the prescribed prayer, a Muslim expresses gratitude to God and appreciation of His favours and asks for His mercy all the time. Especially at times of, for example, childbirth, marriage, going to or rising from bed, leaving and returning to his home, starting a journey or entering a city, riding or driving, before or after eating or drinking, harvesting, visiting graveyards and at time of distress and sickness.
What is Sawm?
It is the duty of all healthy muslims to observe the fast for this whole month. It is done so that we will know what humility really is. Fasting is also an exercise in self-control whereby one's sensitivity is heightened to the sufferings of the poor.
Who is it prescribed upon?
Abstention and self control
It is not a month of starvation since nutrition and hydration are ensured at night although it is recommended to be taken in a mood of asceticism. As one conquers the daily habits and endures hunger and thirst, Ramadan furnishes a first class drill in self-restraint and will power (and what would humanity be if the faculty of self restraint is gone?)
Eating and Drinking
Improving physical and mental health
It is not difficult to do so and this is only for one month. Is it too much to ask? The poor are forced to do it for the 24 hours a day all year round. When we know how lucky we are to live a comfortable live and our duty next is to help the poor.
When does it occur?
What happens at the End of Ramadan
What is Zakat?
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 means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
Zakah does not only purifies the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed. It also purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness and it fosters instead good-will and warm wishes for the contributors.
As Muslims pay the Zakat they have the genuine feeling that it is an investment and not a debit helping to establish economic balance and social justice in the society.
In general terms, what remains over and above the meeting of needs and expenses, and is hoarded for the full span of one year, is liable to Zakat. Zakat is the right of the poor in the wealth of the rich and is neither optional charity nor philanthropy.
Zakah has a deep humanitarian and social-political value; for example, it frees society from class welfare, from ill feelings and distrust and from corruption. Although Islam does not hinder private enterprise or condemn private possession, it does not tolerate selfish and greedy capitalism. Islam adopts a moderate but positive and effective course between individual and society, between the citizen and the state, between capitalism and socialism, between materialism and spiritualism.
How is it Calculated?
Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. Zakah is paid on the net balance after paying personal expenses, family expenses, due credits, taxes, etc. Every Muslim male or female who at the end of the year is in possession of the equivalent of 85 grams of gold (approx. $1400 in 1990) or more in cash or articles of trade, must give Zakah at the minimum rate of 2.5%. Taxes paid to government do not substitute for this religious duty. The contributor should not seek pride or fame but if disclosing his name and his contribution is likely to encourage others, it is acceptable to do so.
Other gains and profits have their respective formulae, such as proceeds from industry, agriculture and animal husbandry, real estate, etc. as thoroughly detailed in specialized references.
Note the obligatory nature of Zakah; it is required. Muslims can also go above and beyond what they pay as Zakah, in which case the offering is a strictly voluntary charity (sadaqa). Sadaqa is given preferably in secret. Although this word can be translated as 'voluntary charity' it has a wider meaning. The Prophet said 'even meeting your brother with a cheerful face is charity'.
The Prophet 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.' The Companions further asked 'What is he cannot 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 charity.'
What does it mean
Who is it applicable to?
Worlds largest display of Unity
The actual rites and prayers take place at the sacred Ka'ba in Mecca and at nearby locations. Muslims associate the origin of the Hajj and the founding of the Ka'ba with the prophet Abraham.
Peace is the dominant theme. Peace with Allah, with one's soul, with one another, with all living creatures. To disturb the peace of anyone or any creature in any shape or form is strictly prohibited.
Muslims from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe assemble in in response to the call of Allah. There is no royalty, but there is loyalty of all to Allah, the Creator. It is to commemorate the Divine rituals observed by the Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael, who were the first pilgrims to the house of Allah on earth: the Ka'bah. It is also to remember the great assembly of the Day of Judgement when people will stand equal before Allah.
When is it?
What does it relate to?
The pilgrimage therefore started with Abraham and Ismail and continued unbroken ever since. Unfortunately, however, the people after many generations slipped again into paganism, and transformed the House of God into a house for idols. Each tribe of those pagan Arabs took an idol, gave it a name, and placed it in the Kaaba. The pilgrimage season remained in observance, but instead of worshipping God it became a season of merriment and festivities, booze and vice, and new rituals were improvised like encircling the Kaaba in the nude while clapping, singing and whistling. It was a great financial bonanza for the people of Makkah, whose economy was based on the season and on two annual caravan journeys for transit trade between East (Africa and Asia) and West (Syria and beyond to the Byzantian Empire). A clergy arose to speak on behalf of the god's and accept offerings and pledges.
For thousands of years that state of affairs continued on this (Ismail's) side of the seed of Abraham. Out of the distant progeny of Ismail, from the powerful tribe of Qureish, Mohammad was born in the year 570 C.E. His father died before he was borne, and his mother in his early childhood. Mohammad was raised by his grandfather, and when the latter died, by one of his uncles. As he grew up he became the focus of respect and admiration of all the community, and at quite an early age he was nicknamed "the honest." At the age of twenty five he married a wealthy widow, Khadija, whom he had worked for as caravan trade manager and who valued his character. She was fifteen years his elder, but they lived happily in monogamous marriage for the next twenty eight years until she died. He never shared with his people the worship of the idols or the various wrongs or ineptitudes that were the very life of those pre-Islamic (jahiliyya ie. taken to ignorance) Arabs.
He habitually visited a cave at the top of a mountain near Makkah to reflect and meditate, and during one of those visits the Angel Gabriel appeared to him and conveyed the divine assignment of prophethood, and gave him the first revelation ever from the Quran that read: "Read! In the name of thy Lord who created.. created man out of a leech-like clot. Read; and thy Lord is the Most Bountiful. He who taught with (the use of ) the Pen. Taught man what man knew-not." (96:1-5) The month was Ramadan, and the night was the Night of Power (Qadr). Mohammad was over-awed, and hurried home shivering and trembling, where his wife comforted and tranquilled him saying: "By Him who dominates Khadija's soul, I pray that you will be the prophet of this nation. You are kind to your kin, generous to the guest, helpful to the needy and truthful in your speech, so God will not let you down."
The angel visited again, and again until Mohammad went about his ministry. Although it was the truth and the turning from polytheistic idolatry back to the pure monotheism of Abraham, nothing could be more threatening to the alliance between the rich and powerful and the clergy, whose very existence depended on the status quo. For thirteen years Mohammad and his followers were persecuted, until they emigrated to their base in Madinah and permitted (by the Quran) to hit back. Eventually Mohammad's army conquered Makkah, declaring general amnesty, but they destroyed the idols, purifying the shrine of Abraham from paganism and restoring the religion to its pure source. Pilgrimage went on at its specified season, and the fifth pillar of Islam was decreed upon every Muslim man and woman once in a life time for those who are physically and financially able to afford it. After this lengthy explanation, is it not reason enough for a heart to ache on reading some of those specialists, experts and scholars (clergy and orientalist) who described pilgrimage simply as "a pagan ritual incorporated by Islam"? The pilgrimage season comes with the twelfth month of the lunar calendar, which is called the month of the hajj (Zul Hijja), already known when Islam came, since it was an Abrahamic event. Men have to wear a pair of white unsewn body garbs, without any other (under) clothing except perhaps sandals and a (pocketed) belt. It is a universal dress and they all look alike without any class distinctions and mingle together in full brotherhood and prompt eagerness to offer help to one another whenever possible, transcending all differences in colour, language, race, ethnicity, degree of education.. .. only the goodness of humanity shows and the purity of the belief that humanity is ONE family worshipping ONE GOD. The women wear ordinary clothes that cover the whole body except the face and hands. There is no segregation, and families and other groupings try to stick together so none would drift and be lost amongst the millions.
Rituals include worship at the Mosque of Abraham and circumambulating the Kaaba, several to-and-fro walks between the hills of Safa and Marwat where Hagar had frantically ran in search of water for her son, the pligrims stand together on the wide plain of Mount Arafat and join in prayers for God's forgiveness, stopping at the three sites where the devil tried to tempt Abraham against slaying his son and throwing pebbles at them symbolic of conquering the temptation. The highlight is the collective prayer and sermon of the Eid (of sacrifice) followed by sacrificial slaughter of a ram (donated to the poor but part goes to family and friends) following upon the tradition of Abraham. Muslims who are not in hajj also celebrate the Eid by the collective prayer (and sermon) and the sacrificial offering of a sheep, and the Eid lunch is a happy occasion to rejoice in. In view of the large number of animals sacrificed at the hajj near Makkah, that cannot be possibly consumed there and then, the authorities established a meat packaging plant to preserve and can the meet for leisurely shipment to the poor and needy in the Islamic world.
What happens at the close of Hajj