Five Pillars

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Five Pillars Associates Pte Ltd

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Updated 22 January, 2008

What Is Five Pillars?

The Five Pillars of Islamic faiths are considered the cornerstones of Islam. These are obligations which are required of every Muslim.

More on the Five Pillars of Islamic faith…
The Five Pillars of Islamic faith are:

  1. Faith / Intention (Shahadah)
  2. Prayers (Salat)
  3. Tithe / Alms (Zakat)
  4. Fasting (Sawm)
  5. Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

Faith / Intention (Shahadah)

The first and perhaps most important of the Five Pillars is shahadah, the faith in the Oneness of God and that Muhammad received and delivered God’s final revelation to humanity. Every Muslim is expected to say the shahadah at least once in his or her life, but most say it every day:

“There is none worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

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Prayers (Salat)

The second of the Five Pillars is salat, the prayers which each Muslim must recite five times each day. Of course, they cannot be said all at the same time. Instead, they establish a sort of frequency which structures the day:

  1. Fajr (morning prayer); After dawn but before sunrise;
  2. Duhr (early afternoon or noon prayer); early afternoon till late afternoon;
  3. ‘Asr (late afternoon prayer) late afternoon prayer till sunset;
  4. Maghrib (sunset prayer); just after sunset;
  5. Isha (late evening prayer); late evening till late at night.

When saying their prayers, a Muslim is required to be facing in the direction of Mecca, the city where Muhammad was born. Prayers make use of verses from the Qur’an and are said in Arabic.

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Tithe / Alms (Zakat)

The third of the Five Pillars is zakat, the financial obligations which every Muslim has to the ummah, or community of believers. In Islam, everything essentially belongs to Allah, which means we humans only hold it in trust. But we must use our possessions wisely, which includes sharing with the less fortunate.

In practice, what it comes down to is a contribution to the community’s general welfare. Each Muslim calculates their contribution individually, but it is supposed to amount to one-fortieth of their total capital. They can give more if they want, but preferably in secret.

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Fasting (Sawm)

The fourth of the Five Pillars is sawm, which refers to self-purification through fasting. Traditionally every Muslim fasts from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar. Fasting means abstaining from all food, drink and sexual relations from sunrise to sunset. Muslims do observe obligatory fasting on other days which is not compulsory.

Some are exempt from the fast, including people who are sick, the elderly, and those on a journey. Women who are pregnant or nursing are also exempt. But in each case, it is preferred if they try and make up the days at other times when they are able. Children do not usually start fasting until they reach puberty.

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Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

The fifth of the Five Pillars is the hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca which each Muslim is supposed to make at least once in his or her life, if they are physically and financially able. Many, however, do it more than once in their lives.

Pilgrims are supposed to wear simple clothing which is supposed to eliminate national, cultural, and class differences between those attending. Islam is, after all, a religion which is supposed to create a community of believers within which there are no such divisions. The hajj, then, serves as a reminder of this despite the great distances which separate Muslims around the world.

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