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The Five Pillars

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The Profession of Faith (shahada)

The total focus of Islamic faith devoutness is Allah, the utmost, all-powerful, all knowing, and gracious God (Tripod). The word Allah is an Arabic word meaning God, and this God is believed to be the one who brought the entire creation into existence and upholds it by his power (Islamic Encyclopedia). By obeying the commands of God, humans express their recognition of His supremacy and articulate their appreciation for the astuteness of creation.

The witness to faith, or profession of faith, is thus the requirement for all members of the Muslim community. A Muslim recites the profession of faith occasionally during a typical day or in the utterance of daily prayers in a phrase "I bear witness that there is no other god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet." These words can be repeated for as many times and at any place (Islamic Encyclopedia). Every Muslim community member must confess and act upon this profession of God’s oneness and that Muhammad is his prophet. A true profession of faith has got to express genuine verbal utterance that represents a connection between the person making the profession and God through a sincere belief as well as knowledge of its meaning (Tripod). While personal conduct and deeds can be scrutinized and criticized by other members of Muslim community, individual’s declaration of the profession of faith is adequate confirmation that he or she is a Muslim community members and this cannot be challenged by anybody else (Tripod).

The Five Daily Prayers

The second pillar is the religious obligation to make five daily prayers as prescribed in Islam. These prayers are known as salat. All grown-up Muslims of sound mind are required to pray five times a day (Tripod). These prayers are preceded by ritual purification or cleansing of the body at given intervals during the day. The Qur'an also mentions how these prayers are to be conducted, and the acts of prostrating- standing and bowing and the direction to face (qibla) during prayers (Islamic Encyclopedia). Initially, the Muslims were required to face Jerusalem during salat, but Muhammad commanded them to face an ancient shrine in Mecca called Kaaba. The Qur'an also requires recitation of parts of scriptures as a way of prayer. Nevertheless, even with its many references to prayers, the Qur'an does not give strict guidelines for this ritual prayer (Islamic Encyclopedia).

The most comprehensive descriptions of the prayer rituals are derived from the model set by the Muhammad and are preserved Islamic customs of later days (Farah 122). Some of these prayer rituals details vary, however all members of Muslims community are in agreement that there are five obligatory daily prayers to be carry out at certain day times: morning (fajr or subh), midday (zuhr), mid-afternoon (asr), dusk (maghrib), and evening (isha). The morning, noon, and day's end prayers are not performed exactly at sunrise, noon, and sunset; instead, they are performed just after, in order to make a distinction between the Islamic practice from ancient pagan rituals of worshiping the rising of the sun and the going down of the same.

A prayer is done in a series of units of bowings called rak'as. During each of these sequences, a person bows, kneels, stands, and prostrates while uttering phrases from the Holy Qur'an, in addition to other prayer modalities. These sequences are replicated four times; at midday, afternoon, and evening, while they are repeated three times during the sunset prayer and twice at dawn- although there are some deviations among diverse Muslim sects (Islamic Encyclopedia). The opening chapter (al-Fatiha) of the Qur'an is recited in each unit of the prayer order. Each prayer sequence concludes with the utterance of the profession of faith followed by the phrase "may peace, mercy, and blessings of God be with you."

Wherever there are a substantial number of Muslim members worldwide, the call to prayer (adhan) is done calling Muslims to prayer five times a day by a crier (muezzin) from Muslim place of worship. Members are encouraged to gather in mosques and pray together, although the group prayer for the Friday noon prayer remains a religious obligation. Women, travelers, the sick and those attending to the sick are allowed not to attend the congregational prayer on Friday afternoon, though they can attend if they so wish (Islamic Encyclopedia).

The Friday noon congregational prayer is led by a prayer leader or a priest (imam). This prayer is done in a different manner from the usual week days noon prayers of the week. As a requisite to the ritual at this congregational worship service, two sermons precede this prayer. On other days, members can pray either in groups or individually and anywhere as they wish. They must follow the prayer rituals when praying at each time, watching the proper prayers order, facing Mecca, and observing a through figurative cleansing (Tripod).

Depending on the state of affairs, the ritual of sanctification requires either total cleansing of the whole body when possible or a less elaborate habitual washing of the face, mouth, hands, and feet.

Besides, to the five requisite daily devotions, a Muslim can make non-obligatory devotions after or before each of the five obligatory daily prayers, some of which may have fixed ritual formats (Islamic Encyclopedia). These non-obligatory prayers may also be perform at night, both individually or in a group of members. These formal or informal bonus prayers are performed with the intentional Islam primary prayer function, which is communication with God and for the purpose of upholding the enduring divine presence of His being, in the lives of Muslims. The formal prayer aspect also serves to present a structured controlled rhythm the prayer and also promote a sense of unanimity and communal identity among Muslim believers.

Almsgiving

The third pillar of Islam is almsgiving or zakat. Almsgiving is a religious obligation that is considered an expression of personal devotion to God. The pillar represents an endeavor to provide for the poor and the less fortunate in the society. It also offers a means of purification of a Muslim’s wealth and achieving salvation. Together with other traditions of Islam, the Qur'an strongly upholds charity and makes it a moral obligation for all Muslims to provide for the orphans, widows, and the poor. The Qur’an however make a distinction between zakat and general charity (sadaqa), the former being a mandatory levy on the produce or money of Muslims (Islamic Encyclopedia). While the interpretation of these two terms has given different meanings, the Qur'an frequently refers to zakat, specifiying the different ways in which this charity can be applied. Specifically, Zakat can be used on the needy and the poor, on those who are in charge of zakat, on those whom endeavor to convert non Muslims to Islam, pilgrims, to buy the freedom of those who are indebted, to pay a ransom for the captives, and to develop the course of Islam (Tripod).

The Qur'an does not provide detailed information about the precise fraction of property or income should be paid or the kinds of things that are subject to the zakat. These interpretations have been left to the traditions and the practices of Prophet Muhammad.  Muslim legal experts and jurists and have been trying to elaborate on those traditions and practices as they applied to early practices among the Islam fore fathers. For instance, 2.5 percent (one-fortieth) of the wealth accumulated during the year (including monetary and material possessions) is payable at the year end, while a tenth of the crop or tree harvest is to be paid at harvest time. Farm animals, camels, and horses are subject to a more complex system of taxation depending on the animals being considered, their number age, and conditions. Although the traditional zakat statements do not cover trade, various Muslim governments have been imposing commercial taxes by throughout history.

Fasting

Fasting- also known as sawm is the fourth pillar of Islam. The Qur'anic clearly refers to fasting account in its early introduction the Islam ritual practices. It stipulates fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the twelfth month Islamic lunar year. This month is sacred because the Qur'an is said to have been revealed during this month of Ramadan (Islamic Encyclopedia). Traditionally, the month of Ramadan starts with the sighting of the appearance of new moon. During this month, all Muslims are mandated to fast from daybreak till sundown by abstaining from eating, drinking, and sex. Sick people, travelers and menstruating women, are free from from the fasting but should make up for those days they have missed at a later date.

Traditional interpretations points out that the fast introduces spiritual and physical discipline, serves to remind the prospered of the adversity of the deprived, and promotes a sense of mutual care and solidarity among members through this thorough act of worship (Tripod). Muslims typically slot in in additional acts of worship during Ramadan other than the ordinary prayer and fasting, such as personal night prayers, reading of the Qur'an, and voluntary giving to the less privileged. One may even choose not to eat a meal before daybreak until sunset (Islamic Encyclopedia).

The fasting ends with a holiday of breaking the fast called ‘id al-fitr. The holiday lasts for three days after breaking of the fast. Fasting is also required at any time of year as a reimbursement for various transgressions and contraventions of the law. Many Muslims also carry out voluntary fasts as acts of spiritual discipline and devotion at various times of the year. However, such additional voluntary fasting is not requisite by Islamic law (Tripod).

Pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj)

The fifth pillar of I slam requires that any member who have the financial and physical capability should perform the pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime to Mecca (Tripod). This ritual was traditionally carried out by Arabs even before Islam religion came into being and continued from the dawn period of Islam and continues to be practiced up to today. The Pilgrimage to Mecca is meant to be distinct from all other pilgrimages. It takes place during the twelfth month of the lunar year (Dhu al-Hijja), and it entails a set and comprehensive series of rituals that are performed over the duration of a number of days (Tripod). All of the event rituals take place within the city of Mecca and its environs, as the focus is on the famous cubical structure known as the Kaaba-also referred to as the House of God (Tripod)

The fifth pillar of I slam requires that any member who have the financial and physical capability should perform the pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime to Mecca. This ritual was traditionally carried out by Arabs even before Islam religion came into being and continued from the dawn period of Islam and continues to be practiced up to today. The Pilgrimage to Mecca is meant to be distinct from all other pilgrimages. It takes place during the twelfth month of the lunar year (Dhu al-Hijja), and it entails a set and comprehensive series of rituals that are performed over the duration of a number of days. All of the event rituals take place within the city of Mecca and its environs, as the focus is on the famous cubical structure known as the Kaaba-also referred to as the House of God(Tripod)

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