Islam is a monotheistic faith followed by many and is ever-increasing in popularity. It is based on five main pillars, the first and foremost of which or the essence and foundation of the faith is belief in the One True God, who is called Allah in Arabic. This belief is what makes a Muslim a Muslim, as it is mentioned in the declaration of faith or shahadah and is the first pillar of Islam.
The belief in one God means that it is only Allah that should be worshipped since He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He has no partners, associates and has no sons or daughters or a mother or father like His creation. He is described as being The First and The Last. All supplication and worship should be directed to God Alone, without going through any intercessor or intermediary.
One chapter of the Quran that expresses this oneness well is the chapter called ‘The Purity’ or Surah Al-Ikhlas or At-Tauhid. Here are the translated words of this short chapter which expresses Allah’s oneness beautifully.
“In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”
Say (O Muhammad): “He is Allah, (the) One. “Allah-us-Samad [Allah the Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, (He neither eats nor drinks)]. “He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him.”
The second part of the declaration of faith or the first pillar of Islam is to believe in the Last and Final Messenger and Prophet to humankind Muhammad. The whole translated testimony of faith is: I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
Since Islam came to complete Judaism and Christianity, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to be the last and final Messenger to humankind, and the belief in his prophethood is an essential foundation of Islam.
The second pillar or main topic of Islam is the prayer or ‘Salat’. Muslims are instructed to pray to Allah five times each and every day, and some are excused for various circumstances. The prayer helps Muslims to be reminded of their purpose on this earth and to glorify the praises of their Lord.
The third pillar or fundamental topic in Islam is the giving of alms or charity, and is known as ‘Zakat’, which comprises 2.5 per cent of a person’s wealth that has remained the same for a year. It isn’t applied to every Muslim, since some people are poor, but this Zakat ensures that charity is paid every year to those in need and constitutes a right to people who don’t have much. This charity is obligatory on every Muslim that meets the requirements, although acts of voluntary charity are encouraged and rewarded greatly since Muslims believe that the wealth is a trust from God.
The fourth main topic happens every year during the Islamic month of Ramadan, which requires that all able Muslims and those not excused fast from dawn until dusk, abstaining from food, drink, sexual relations, obscene talk and lying while doing so. It is a method of self-purification and allows one to gain sympathy for those who go hungry for longer periods of time. It is often a spiritually-uplifting time and many Muslims look forward to its arrival and try to better themselves.
The last pillar is the pilgrimage or ‘Hajj’ to Makkah, which is a once in a lifetime obligation for Muslims who are physically and financially able to go. It is also a very spiritual time and male pilgrims wear very simple pieces of cloth or towel to take away any differences in class or wealth, and offer the reminder that all are equal and will be judged before God. Women also perform the pilgrimage, but wear modest simple attire of their choice.