The five pillars are the main requirements of Islam. Like the pillars of a building, the religion can neither stand nor be completed without them. These requirements are:
The declaration of faith
To be a Muslim, one must believe in and pronounce words which mean, «I testify that there is no deity other than God [Allah], and I testify that Muhammad is His servant and messenger.» It expresses the belief that God exists, that He is unlike and superior to His creation, and that none is worthy to be worshipped but Him. And it confirms that Muhammad is among the prophets who conveyed God›s revelation to mankind. Thus the Qur›an, being the final message revealed by God, and the authentically narrated teachings of His final prophet are the basis of the religion, completing and superseding all that came before it, and they define the Islamic way of life. It is a declaration by the believer of acknowledgement and willing obedience.
The performance of regular prayer
Prayer was practiced in some form throughout history by all the prophets and their followers as an indispensable part of God›s religion. Islam, the final stage of monotheistic religion, considers prayer essential. A Muslim prays five times daily within specified intervals, as taught by the Prophet. These prayers are obligatory and are a direct and continuous bond between the worshipper and his Creator. Most believers are inclined also to pray additional voluntary prayers whenever convenient, as it was the practice of their Prophet.
Zakah (obligatory annual expenditure)
An important principle of Islam is that all things belong to God and that all wealth, possessions and properties are held by human beings in trust. Muslims are commanded to obtain and spend their wealth in lawful ways. The divinely ordained system of zakah is the right of Allah within His dominion. It is neither a charity nor a tax but an obligation due from those Muslims who possess wealth in excess of their basic needs. It is the ideal way to meet the needs of the poorer sections of society without causing hardship to the rich. The word «zakah» means purification and growth. Its regular payment purifies the owner›s remaining wealth and purifies his heart from such ailments as greed and selfishness. Every Muslim calculates his own zakah individually, and in most cases it involves the payment of two and a half percent of his excess capital or savings each year.
Islamic fasting, which involves abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking and marital intercourse, is observed throughout the daylight hours of the lunar month of Ramadhan. Done in obedience to God›s command, it teaches believers patience and self-control, as well as reminding them of their responsibility toward the millions of human beings who lack adequate food and provisions or are victims of their unjust distribution. The month of fasting is accompanied by increased efforts toward good manners and righteous deeds, along with additional worship at night. It is not a retreat from life but rather a supplement to the Muslim›s ordinary activities.
Hajj, the annual pilgrimage, is an obligation once in a lifetime only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. In spite of that, over two million Muslims journey to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe, providing a unique opportunity for people of various nations and cultures to meet one another as guests of God. Hajj is an expression of pure faith and total submission to His command, and the pilgrim performs rites of unqualified obedience, seeking nothing but the Creator›s acceptance of his efforts and forgiveness of his past sins. He returns home with a fresh outlook on life, a purified soul, and I blessings from his Lord.