The Five Pillars of Islam are the framework of the Muslim life. They are the testimony of faith, prayer, giving zakat (support of the needy), fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Makkah once in a lifetime for those who are able.
1. The Testimony of Faith:
The testimony of faith is saying with conviction, “La ilaha illallah, Muhammadun rasoolullah.” The meaning of the testimony is “There is no god except Allah (the God Almighty), and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God.” The first part of the testimony means that none has the right to be worshipped except God, and that God has neither partner nor son. This testimony of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which should be said with conviction in order to convert to Islam. The testimony of faith is the most important pillar of Islam
Muslims perform five prayers a day. Each prayer does not take more than a few minutes to perform. Prayer in Islam is a direct link between the worshipper and God. There are no intermediaries between God and the worshipper. Each of the five prayers are preceded by a call for prayer (called Adhan)
Prayers are performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and at night. A Muslim may pray anywhere where the place of prayer is without any impurities. A Muslim prays by turning towards Ka’bah in Makkah.
3. Giving Zakat (Support of the Needy):
The original meaning of the word Zakat is both ‘purification’ and ‘growth.’ Giving Zakat means ‘giving a specified percentage on certain properties to certain classes of needy people.’ The percentage which is due on gold, silver, and cash funds that have reached the amount of about 85 grams of gold and held in possession for one lunar year is ‘two and half percentage.’ Our possessions are purified by setting aside a small portion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.
A person may also give as much as he or she pleases as voluntary alms or charity.
4. Fasting the Month of Ramadan:
Every year in the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of Islamic Calendar which is lunar, not solar), all Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations.
Although the fast is beneficial to health, it is regarded principally as a method of spiritual self-purification. By cutting oneself away from worldly comforts, though for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy for those who go hungry, as well as growth in his or her spiritual life.
5. The Pilgrimage to Makkah:
The annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah is an obligation once in a lifetime for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj is performed in the twelfth month of the Islamic Calendar which has a union of two to three million people from around the globe. Male pilgrims wear special simple clothes which strip away distinctions of class and culture so that all stand equal before God.
The end of the Hajj is marked by a festival, Eid Al-Adhah, which is celebrated with prayers. This, and Eid Al-Fitr, a feast day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the two annual festivals of the Muslim calendar.