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The Five Pillars of Islam

The Declaration of Faith - Shahadah

The Declaration of Faith is the phrase one utters to become a Muslim. It is the expression of one's firm belief in the oneness of Allah and willingness to totally submit to His Will.

When one pronounces the declaration of faith one says: "Ash -hadu an laa ilaha ilia Allah, wa ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasuulu Allah", which in English means, "I bear witness that there is no deity except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the last Messenger of Allah."

The impact of the declaration of faith on one's behavior is quite significant. A person who bears witness that all authority and power is with Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger will naturally desire to learn and obey all commandments of Allah's Holy Book, the Qur’an, and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Such belief leads to the development of a just and merciful society, as both ruler and ruled obey Allah. All are servants of Allah, and Allah is recognized as Master of all, regardless of race, wealth or lineage.

Ritual Prayer: Salat

Prayer serves as a direct link between the individual and his or her Creator. There are no formal clergy or intermediaries in Islam. Congregational prayers are led by those who are most learned. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "The person most suited to lead the prayers is the one who is best versed in the recitation of the Holy Qur’an..." (Muslim)

Prayer in a group is a collective act of worship, emphasizing unity and brotherhood in Islam, as well as equality. All worshippers stand shoulder-to-shoulder and prostrate in submission to God together, regardless of race, nationality, or social status.

The frequency and regularity of the five required daily prayers helps the Muslim maintain a level of God-consciousness that governs all actions. Prayers are not a "Friday, Saturday or Sunday thing”.

Prayer can be performed in almost any clean place. Prayer includes prescribed movements (such as standing, bowing, and prostrating) and the simultaneous recitation of the Qur'an , along with various supplications and praises to Allah. Islamic prayer is a balanced act of worship that combines the physical, intellectual and spiritual realms. 

Purification of Wealth: Zakat

Wealth is viewed by Muslims as something entrusted to them by Allah. Muslims must manage this trust according to His directions as outlined in the Qur'an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Islam instructs Muslims who have accumulated wealth and goods beyond a certain annual threshold of basic needs to give 2.5% of this excess income to the needy once a year.

Zakat is one aspect of Islamic social justice. Zakat stimulates the flow of money through the economy at all levels rather than allowing it to concentrate in the hands of the wealthy few.

Zakat is not a tax, but an obligatory act of worship, which will reap rewards in the Hereafter. It is also a social instrument that cleanses the wealthy from greed and reduces feelings of resentment among the poor.

Muslims are encouraged to give optional charity throughout the year. It may take many forms, such as money, food, clothing, or even a kind word or smile.

Fasting: Sawm

Fasting is required of all mature, able-bodied Muslims from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar).

Fasting requires individuals to abstain from food, drink, and sexual relations from dawn until sunset. In addition, Muslims are exhorted to be especially careful to avoid any bad behavior normally prohibited to them, such as backbiting, arguing or lying.

Fasting is an exercise in self-restraint. Ideally, if one can practice the discipline of fasting, one will have the self-restraint to resist temptations in daily life.

Fasting serves as a reminder of the hunger and suffering endured day after day by the poor and oppressed. As such, fasting encourages sympathy and sensitivity among Muslims.

In this month, Muslims are encouraged to spend the evening offering prayers and reciting the Qur'an.

The end of Ramadan is marked by a celebration of one of the two Muslim holidays, called Eid al-Fitr. This is a festive day marked by a special morning prayer, and then followed by visiting and exchanging gifts with friends and family.

Pilgrimage to Makkah: Hajj

Hajj is a once in a lifetime obligation for all physically and financially able Muslims.

Hajj is comprised of a series of religious rites and prayers, held annually in commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his eldest son, Ishmael, in obedience to Allah.

In the last month of the Muslim lunar year, pilgrims from all over the world from as far away as Indonesia, Russia, the U.S. and India congregate in Makkah to perform religious rites of Hajj. Pilgrims are required to wear simple clothing, which prevent noticeable distinctions based on wealth and status.

Hajj is a wonderful display of the unity and equality of mankind under one God.

More than 2 million Muslims attend Hajj each year.

The end of Hajj is marked with the second Muslim holiday, called 'Eid al-Adha. It is celebrated with a special prayer, followed by the distribution of freshly slaughtered meat to those in need.

 

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