Embracing the Five Pillars of Islam

Ethan Castro ’24

Ramadan ended early this may, and the pressing question arising since then is “how do Muslims express their faithfulness to Allah throughout the year?” To answer that question, among a variety of others, it is important to look closely at the foundation of the Muslim faith: the Five Pillars of Islam. Considered to be the core parts of Muslim life, regardless of differences in cultural disparity,  the Five Pillars of Islam are a set of religious guidelines that one must practice and respect. In this article, we will look at each of these Pillars and explain what they mean when it comes to this unique and widespread faith.

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To start, we will look at the Pillar of Shahada.This pillar consists of the two shahadas, or assertions of faith. The first, “There is no god but God,” is the enforcement of the monotheistic nature Islam harbors and how there is nothing more important than Allah. The second, “Muhammad is the messenger of God,” is the reminder that God made Muhammad the last prophet and used him as an example of Muslim excellence. These two statements are to be said during each of the five daily prayers a Muslim must say. Additionally, these phrases are the first and last things a Muslim will hear in their life. For those who convert to Islam, the saying of these phrases marks their official conversion in the eyes of Allah.

Following the Pillar of Shahada, we have the Pillar of Salah, meaning Prayer. In Islam, prayer is a cherished part of daily life. Thus, they go to great lengths to keep prayers sacred. Prior to their prayers, a Muslim must wash their hands, faces, and feet in the name of purification, a practice calledwudu. Their prayers are strict, and must be done with energy and vigor. In order to maintain a schedule, they perform each prayer at a specified time. Fair is performed at dawn, Dhuhr is performed at noon, Asr is performed in the afternoon, Maghrib is performed in the evening, and Isha is performed at night. Prayer is one of the most important parts of Islam, and is treated as such through the many rigid practices that govern how it’s done..

Third, we have the Pillar of Zakat. Islam is largely focused on the act of almsgiving, and so, Muslims are expected to follow this pillar by giving back to the Muslim community. Usually, around 2.5% of one’s family’s income is to be donated in order to maintain the Mosques, Holy Places, and give to the poor. These donations and contributions are expected to be done with thought and care. There is an established set of guidelines which Muslims are expected to follow. You must make it known to God that you intend to give the zakat, you must give the zakat on the day it is being collected, you must be humble about giving your zakat, you must pay in accordance with your income(if you do not have money to give, you can instead pay in helpfulness and voluntary work), and those collecting the zakat must use it in the community from which the zakat was collected. This pillar emphasized the importance of giving back in the name of Allah, and taking care of your fellow man.

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Moving on, we have the Pillar of Sawm. This pillar focuses on fasting in the name of Allah’s forgiveness. To establish a closer relationship with Allah and do penance for one’s past sins, one must refrain from indulging themselves in the spoils of a feast. While normally done during the holy month of Ramadan, it is not unusual for one to fast on normal days as well. As long as a Muslim is not fasting on Eid, the three day feast subsequent to Ramadan, there is no limitation on what days you can and cannot fast. Outside of seeking forgiveness, Muslims also use fasting as a means of building one’s hasanat, or good deeds. Hasanat is used at a Muslim’s judgement after death, and is weighed against their bad deeds. 

After Sawm, we have the fifth and final pillar: the Pillar of Hajj. This pillar’s core is pilgrimage. Visiting Mecca on the 12th month of the lunar calender is one of the most significant moments of a Muslim’s life, and is a required journey that heightens the ideas of peace, purity, forgiveness, and enlightenment of the soul. All who go to Mecca must wear white cloth so to extinguish the idea of class difference.Everyone who travels to Mecca is not considered elite or impoverished, of higher or lower class, but rather they are all children of Allah, there to express their love and respect for him. During a trip,  one will throw seven stones at stone pillars. This is representative of their hatred for Satan, as they stone these pillars to scorn and reject him. While pilgrimages to Mecca are one of the most important factors in Muslim life, it is to be done with humility and subtlety. To act humble when you return from your pilgrimage is to continue living out the truth that Allah has given you,  the truth of the opportunity for greatness as you continue your journey in his name.

Combined, these pillars are the foundation of the teachings of Allah, and are the leading factors in a Muslim’s daily life. To carry out these pillars successfully is to carry out Allah’s mission for you. These pillars are  focused on actions that are enhanced during Ramadan, but they are still able to be performed daily. To neglect the pillars is to neglect Allah himself and to fail in following in the footsteps of Muhmamad. You must look to Allah for everything, and He will help you achieve what is meant for you in life, for He rewards those who profess their faith with devotion.