The Five Pillars of Islam are the fundamental beliefs and practices for people of the Islamic faith. We at the Researcher’s Gateway believe in respect and honor of all faiths comes from education and information. We are excited to bring this very brief introduction to the Five Pillars of Islam.
These beliefs and practices that are part of the Five Pillars are always important for Muslims, but during the month of Ramadan, they are especially important. Ramadan is a time for Muslims to focus on their faith and celebrate with their family, friends, and members of their faith community. Much of that celebration focuses on the Five Pillars of Islam.
Shahada, the Profession of Faith, is the First Pillar of Islam.
The Shahada, or profession of faith, is one of the most important parts of being Muslim. The statement of their faith consists of two core beliefs. The first is that “There is no god but God.” The second is that “Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ ٱللَّٰهِ
“I bear witness that there is no god but God, and I bear Witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
This statement is so important to the Islamic faith that people become Muslim by saying it with convinction. Muslims also frequently use the text in their art. You can often find this saying in the decoration of buildings and objects, including the Qurʾān, the Islamic sacred book.
The second Pillar of Islam, Salat, Ritual Prayer, is a central part of Islamic daily life.
Salat, meaning prayer or worship, is a formal act of prayer. Muslims pray five times every day while facing Mecca. They pray at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset, and after dark. While Muslims often use small prayer rugs for their prayers, the rugs are not required. They are, however, expected to be symbolically pure through washing. Muslims can pray either alone or together at the mosques, though it is preferred to pray the noon prayer at the mosque if possible. On Fridays, they go to the Mosque for the noon prayers and a religious service.
While praying is always important, during Ramadan additional emphasis is put on the daily prayers. They offer additional prayers for the noon and midafternoon prayers during the month. After they break their fast with dinner after dark, normally Muslims go to the mosques for the last prayer of the day. Praying with the community is an important aspect of Ramadan.
Many mosques will have prayer leaders lead the tarawih, which means rest and relaxation in Arabic. The tarawih is a prayer that consists on reading sections of the Qurʾān. This allows the faithful to hear the whole Qurʾān over the course of the month.
Like many other religious buildings, mosques are currently closed because of Covid-19. Instead, Muslims are reciting their prayers at home. Some mosques are providing alternatives, from live streaming to guides for reciting the tarawih at home.
The Third Pillar of Islam is Zakat, donating money to charity.
Zakat, giving alms, is another essential aspect of Islam that is even more important during Ramadan. Islam requires to pay the zakat, which is used to aid the poor. They pay in recognition that they are rich or poor by the will of God.
Generally, for Zakat Muslims owe 2.5% of their income over what they need to pay for essentials like food and shelter. Islam doesn’t require people who earn under a given amount to pay it. Charitable organizations use the funds to aid the poor and needy. These organizations provide assistance such as food, safe water, shelter, medical care, and job training.
During Ramadan, Muslims strive to do good deeds, including donating to charities. Ramadan charity donations are called Zakat al-Fitr. Zakat al-Fitr is a smaller amount than the yearly Zakat, also called Zakat al-Mal. Muslims pay the Zakat al Fitr before they begin celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the celebration and feast that marks the end of Ramadan.
The Fourth Pillar of Islam, Sawm, fasting, is the pillar of Islam most directly associated with Ramadan.
Sawm, fasting, specifically refers to fasting during the month of Ramdan. During that time, Muslims do not eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset. They use the fasting to better connect with God. It also helps them to be more compassionate for those who are hungry because of poverty.
While fasting during Ramadan is one of the requirements of the Islamic faith, there are exceptions for health reasons. For example, pregnant women and people who have chronic health issues that can be harmed by fasting, like diabetics, are excluded.
Hajj, the Pilgrimage, is the Fifth Pillar of Islam
Hajj (“Heading to a place for the sake of visiting”)refers to the Pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims who are physically and financially able to do so are expected to make the pilgrimage at least once in their life. It is possible, if a person is not physically able to go, to send another
Hajj is more than simply traveling to Mecca. Pilgrims enter a state of purity during the Hajj called ihram. They do this by ritually cleansing themselves and dressing in special clothes, called ihram garments. Once purified, the pilgrims recreate the rituals performed by Muhammad during his final pilgrimage.
Hajj begins on the 7th day of Dhū al-Ḥijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar, and ends on the 12th day. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, shorter than the solar calendar, and so the dates for the holidays change from year to year. This year, Hajj begins on 28 July and ends on 2 August. Unfortunately, the Hajj this year is threatened by the Covid-19. Already, Saudia Arabia closed Mecca to Umrah pilgrims in March because of the virus.
Together, these Five Pillars of Islam create the backbone of Islam.
While the Five Pillars of Islam are an important aspect of Islamic life all year long, many of them are particularly important during the holy month of Ramadan.
For those who are celebrating, we wish you Ramadan Mubarak (Have a blessed Ramadan).
And the Researcher’s Gateway Team!