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The Five Pillars of Islam

The Islamic faith gives importance in the Five Pillars, which consist of witnessing, prayer, fasting, alms-giving, and pilgrimage. These are what guide Muslims in their daily living and set them apart from other religions. Witnessing (also referred to as belief) is the first Islamic pillar. It is divided into parts. The first one claims that a divinity created the universe. The other claims that Muhammad is sent by God as a prophet (Firestone 157). This pillar is based on the phrase that says “There is no god but God and that Muhammad is His messenger” (Public Broadcasting Service).

In Arabic, this phrase is more popularly known as shahada or shahadatayn, meaning profession of faith. It has become the foundation of Islam. Further, shahada is “the formula for conversion. ” By stating the phrase freely and willingly in the presence of witnesses is required for someone to be a Muslim (Firestone 157). In line with the first pillar, shahada is evident in different ways. In some instances, the phrase is proclaimed in prayers or inscribed in coins. Furthermore, Muslims always call on God, whatever the situation may be.

They may say bismillah before the start of an activity or al-hamdu lillah in admiration of something (Public Broadcasting Service. Prayer, or salat, is the second pillar. Muslims are required to worship or pray five times a day (Public Broadcasting Service). Prayers are highly regulated and are recited at designated times while Muslims are bowing and kneeling in the direction of Mecca. The required prayers are easier to remember because they are usually repeated short phrases. Those who lead the prayers must be pious members who are familiar with the rules to be able to lead the congregation to prayer.

The prayers are recited in the Arabic language, and are usually done in communal rather than in individual setting. Although praying can be done in any clean space, the mosque is the most conducive place for this activity (Firestone 158). The third pillar is fasting or sawm in Arabic. A required fast among Muslims is called ashura. However, fasting during Ramadan is the best known. Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, engaging in marital relations, smoking, taking of medicines, and even chewing gum from dawn to sunset. Muslims can be forgiven if they unintentionally eat or drink.

However, it is considered violation if they intentionally disrupt the fast (Firestone 167). There are some Muslim who are excluded from partaking in fasting. These include pregnant women and menstruating women. Mothers who recently give birth and those who are sick, old, and minor children are forbidden from fasting. Furthermore, during the duration of Ramadan, Muslims should observe the reciting of the Qur’an (Firestone 168). Charity or almsgiving is the fourth pillar. This is called zakat in Islam. The giving of alms to the poor is an important part of being a Muslim.

In fact, every Muslim sees to it that they give a fixed amount of their properties to charities. Alms can be in the form of soup kitchens or other establishments such as hospitals, mosques, and schools. These are usually spearheaded by pious Muslims (Public Broadcasting Service). The last of the five pillars is pilgrimage, called hajj in Islam. It refers to Muslims’ pilgrimage to Mecca and following the rituals that accompany it. While on pilgrimage, Muslims are forbidden to shave or cut their hair ang fingernails, wash, or wear jewelries and perfumes.

Muslims typically wear a simple garment, and this symbolizes the equality between Muslims despite the differences in education, social status, or class. They are also to follow the parts of the ritual at specific times. Additionally, women are required to cover their head whereas men are obliged to keep their heads uncovered (Firestone 172). Works Cited Public Broadcasting Service. n. d. “Five Pillars. ” 16 June 2009 <http://www. pbs. org/empires/islam/faithbelief. html>. Firestone, Reuven. An Introduction to Islam for Jews. United States: Jewish Publication Society, 2008.

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