The five pillars of Islam are basically the tenets which Muslims all over the world follow in order to fortify the foundation on which their faith rests. They are followed throughout a Muslim’s lifetime to remind him of his faith and to help him remain steadfast to it while carrying on with day to day life. These principles have stood firm throughout Islam’s history and have made Muslims a most God aware and God fearing faith.
The first pillar is Shahadah or the affirmation of the oneness of Allah and of accepting Mohammed as one of his prophets. The utterance of this sentence is powerful in its simplicity because once accepted it means that a Muslim cannot worship or bow down in worship to any other human being or object. It gives a human being strength to survive in this world because he accepts the presence of his Maker throughout his life. The sentence also confirms acceptance of Mohammed as a prophet sent to us like many prophets before him with a reminder that there is only one God and also to show us how to be good human beings.
The second pillar is praying 5 times a day to Allah while facing the East and in a manner that was taught to us by Prophet Mohammed and to him by the angel Gabriel. The prayers are the ultimate form of meditation and begin with ablution to mentally and physically prepare the Muslim. This is followed by prayers affirming the oneness of Allah and for guidance to help keep the person on the straight path. Once the ritual prayer is completed, prayers can be done for yourself, your family, friends and those who have departed from this world. During prayer time a Muslim has the chance to spend some time away from the normal hustle and bustle of life and focus on his Maker to remind himself of his mortality in the grand scheme of things. In addition to keeping you spiritually focused prayers keep your body well exercised and your limbs supple.
The third pillar is Saum or Fasting for one month every year. The fast begins at dawn and ends at dusk and no food or drink is taken until the opening time of the fast. This practice teaches the Muslim self discipline and how to abstain from indulgence and also reminds us of how to give to those who are hungry and deprived in this world. Charitable acts are encouraged in this month in addition to keeping the mind, body and spirit in a state of purity and cleanliness. Prayers and readings of the Koran are intensified and in Islamic countries everything revolves around fasting with businesses opening and closing at times to coincide with the opening and closing times of the fast.
The fourth pillar is the Hajj or Pilgrimage which every Muslim should endeavour to undertake at least once in his lifetime. By so doing you get an opportunity to visit the Kaaba which is the holiest shrine for Muslims in Mecca whose foundation was laid by Abraham himself. There are rites that are observed during Hajj which have been taught by Prophet Mohammed and while performing Hajj you become part of the historical background that is so entrenched in that soil. In addition you learn that there are no special privileges for those who are more affluent than you are, everyone has to perform the same rites whether you are a king or an ordinary human being.
The fifth pillar of Islam is Zakat and every Muslim should pay 2.5% of his wealth to charity. The wealth can comprise of gold, property and any other income that has been earned annually. The aim of Zakat is to ensure that poverty is alleviated and no person goes without the necessities of life. It is the way the collected Zakat money is distributed among those in need that will determine the success of the principle behind it.
These five pillars form the basis of Islam, to believe, to practise purity of mind body and soul and to give in charity. There are many other aspects that teach a Muslim how to behave to become respectable and morally sound. All these work in conjunction with the five pillars to give a human being the chance to become the best human being you possbily can. For a religion that exists with the thought of Allah ever watchful over everything he does and say, a Muslim has a responsibility to cultivate exemplary attributes in his character not just for himself but to all those he comes in contact with in his life.