The five pillars of Islam

Rickshaw puller with a muslim newly-wed couple. Taraï region, Nepal.

Rickshaw puller with a muslim newly-wed couple. Taraï region, Nepal.

There are five practices (“akran”), known as the five pillars of Islam, which are generally accepted as being obligatory to Muslims.
“Shahada” : the profession of faith ( “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”) which also forms the basis of the call to prayer made by the “muezzin” of the mosque.
“Salat” : the ritual of prayers, carried out five times a day at prescribed times, in the early morning before the sun has risen above the horizon, in the early afternoon when the sun has passed its zenith, later when the sun is halfway towards setting, immediately after sunset and in the evening before retiring to bed. Prayers can be carried out anywhere, whether it be in a mosque or by the roadside, and involves facing towards the “ka’ba” in Mecca and prostrating before Allah while reciting verses of the Koran.
“Zakat” : the compulsory payment of alms. In early times, this was collected by officials of the islamic state, and was devoted to the relief of the poor, debtors, aid to travellers and other charitable purposes. In many Muslim communities, the fulfilment of this religious obligation is nowadays left to the conscience of the individual.
“Sawm” : the 30 days of fasting during the month of “ramadam”, the ninth month of the muslim lunar calendar. It is observed as a fast ( which includes not drinking and smoking) from sunrise to sunset each day by all muslims, although there are provisions for special circumstances. The sick ( or very elderly), pregnant women, travellers and young children are exempted from fasting.
“Hajj” : the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every muslim, circumstances permitting, is obliged to perform this pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime and having accomplished it, may assume the title of “hajji”.
Moreover, there are six articles of faith : the oneness of Allah; the existence of angels; the faith in the revelations of God through the Torah, the Bible and the Koran; the belief in the prophets ( they are responsible of bringing Allah’s revelations to humans), the main ones being Moses, Jesus and Muhammad; the resurrection and the day of judgment are crucial to Islam; the belief in predestination ( Allah knows and controls everything that exist, has existed and will exist).

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