Five Pillars Of Islam
In order to enable man to successfully carry out this life-long, life-giving duty, the Qur’an and Hadith have designed a preparatory action plan known as the Five Pillars of Islam.
After belief in God and the Prophet, four practices enjoy the status of pillars of Islam—fasting, prayers, zakah (almsgiving) and the hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah).
Abdullah ibn Umar said that the Messenger of Allah said:
“The foundation of Islam has been laid on five principles: to bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad, may peace be upon him, is His Prophet; to offer prayers (salah); to give alms (zakah); to perform the Hajj and to keep the fast during Ramadan.”
These five principles form the pillars of Islam. Just as a house stands on pillars, so does Islamic faith on these tenets. However, the performance of these rituals is not all that is desired. What is much more important is the true spirit in which these are performed. Without the spirit the form is meaningless. All these different observances–faith, prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage – are not mere rituals, but are the source of receiving the choicest divine blessings. Faith, the most important of all is, in essence, belief in the truth of divine realities.
Prayer is an exercise in physical and mental prostration before God, aimed at banishing all notions of personal greatness. Fasting teaches one to be steadfast in one’s trust of God. Charity entails the recognition of others’ claims upon one, so that one shall not forfeit one’s own share in God’s bounty. The Pilgrimage serves to unite God’s servants around their Maker.
The Spirit Of Faith
One is required to testify to one’s faith, in the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad. But its spirit lies in its acceptance. Through this article of faith a man accepts God and all His attributes. He also accepts that God sent Muhammad, may peace be upon him, to this world as the eternal guide for all mankind. If this reality reaches one’s heart, it becomes a part of one’s being. One’s heart opens to the truth and reality.
There are seven things, which are essential for a Muslim to believe in. These come under the heading of Iman Mufassal, a detailed declaration of faith. They are to believe in one God, in His angels, in His revealed Books, in all of His messengers, in the Last Day (the Day of Judgement), in Taqdir (the doctrine of predestination which means that everything good or bad is decided by God) and in the Life after Death.
A true believer is required not only to testify to his faith by word of mouth (Shahadah bil Lisan) but also to accept it with all his heart and soul.
The Spirit Of Salah
The spirit of these daily five prayers is humility. One who bows before his Creator in the true spirit will be devoid of pride and ego. The prayers are prescribed for five times throughout the day—at daybreak, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening. The prayers consist of recitations from the Qur’an and glorification of God. These are accompanied by a sequence of movements: standing, bowing, kneeling, touching the ground with one’s forehead, and sitting. Worshippers face the Ka’bah while offering the prayers.
Muslims have been advised in the Qur’an to be steadfast in their prayer (Surah Al-Ankabut, 29:45) for prayer keeps away indecency and evil. One who performs his prayer in its true spirit cannot become forgetful of God after his prayer is over. The actions of prayer are a manifestation of the fact that one’s heart is full of fear and love for God. Therefore, if prayers are said in their true spirit, one’s prayer will surely fend off indecency and evil and, by purifying the worshipper’s soul, serve to bring him closer to God.
The Spirit Of Fasting
The Arabic term for fasting is ‘Sawm’ which means to abstain. It is aimed at detaching oneself from the world and devoting one’s life entirely to God (Surah Al-Muzzammil, 73:8). The outer sign of fasting is the abstention from food from morning till evening. But in its essence it is to withdraw from all worldly attachments, and reduce all mundane necessities to a minimum.
This fasting aims at weakening the material aspect of man and strengthening the spirituality in him. Man is made up of body and soul. Just as the body requires physical nourishment, so must the soul be nourished spiritually. To be sure, fasting results in physical discomfort. But God has nothing to gain from causing human beings unnecessary trouble and man has to satisfy his material needs; but if he wants to discover the truth it is essential, at least for a few fixed days, to retire from the material world in order to develop the spiritual part in him, so that he will be able to attain spirituality.
The Spirit Of Zakah
Zakah, in reality, is a form of sacrifice meant to underlie those ethical values, which are known in Islam as Huququl Ibad, that is, fulfillment of one’s responsibilities towards others. Thus the spirit of Zakah is the service of mankind.
It requires an annual contribution of 2.5 percent of an individual’s wealth and assets, not merely a percentage of his annual income. In Islam, the true owner of things is not man but God. People are given their wealth as a trust from God. Therefore, Zakah, far from being viewed as “charity,” is an obligation—for those who have received their wealth from God—to help the less weaker members of the community:
“...the poor, orphans, and widows, to free slaves and debtors, and to support those working for the cause of God.” (Surah At-Tawbah, 9:60).
The Spirit Of Hajj
The root meaning of the word, “Hajj” is to set out or to make a pilgrimage. Canonically it has come to refer to the act of worship performed annually in the month of Dhul Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.
At least once in his or her lifetime, every adult Muslim who is physically and financially able is required to make the sacrifice of time, money, comforts, becoming a pilgrim totally at God’s service.
The pilgrims wear simple garments, two seamless white clothes for men and a dress that entirely covers the body, except the face and hands, for women. These coverings symbolise purity as well as the unity and equality of all believers.
Some important rituals to be performed during the Hajj are as follows:
• Tawaf (circumambulation), i.e. going round the Kabah seven times.
• Saee: the pilgrims undertake a brisk walk between Safa and Marwah, two hillocks near the Kabah.
• Standing on Arafat: the pilgrims gather at Arafat and pray to God throughout the day, reciting the Talbiyah. This standing on the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah is very important. According to tradition, standing at Arafat is the culmination of the pilgrimage.
It was at Arafat that the Prophet delivered his farewell sermon to his people from the Mount of Mercy, a hill in the middle of the plane.
Among all Muslim acts of worship, Hajj holds a pre-eminent position. In one Hadith, the Prophet called it “the supreme act of worship.” But it is not just the rites of pilgrimage that constitute this importance; it is the spirit in which Hajj is performed. Hajj has been prescribed so that it may inspire us with a new religious fervour. To return from Hajj with one’s faith in God strengthened and rekindled – that is the hallmark of a true pilgrim. Hajj reigns supreme among all acts of devotion. Just as the Sacred Mosque in Makkah has a station above all other mosques, so the worship that is performed there as part of the pilgrimage stands head and shoulders above all other acts of devotion.
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