Pillars of Islam: Hajj

The Kaba during Hajj

In previous posts, I wrote about the first four pillars of Islam: shahadah (the proclamation of faith), salah (prayer), saum Ramadan (fasting during the month of Ramadan), and zakat (almsgiving). Hajj, the fifth and final pillar of Islam, is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who is financially ready is required to perform the pilgrimage.

The pilgrimage to Mecca predates Islam. Mecca was on a major trade route and also home to Kaba, the holy sanctuary in the middle of the city that many people would visit for pilgrimage. For Muslims, the Kaba is the center of the Islamic worldview. During prayer, Muslims face the Kaba. Muslims also believe that Abraham and his son Ishmael built the Kaba for the worship of one God and by the time of the Prophet Muhammad it had been filled with idols. Many of the rituals of the hajj stem from the Abrahamic story. Continue reading

Pillars of Islam: Giving Zakat

I have written in previous posts about the first three pillars of Islam: shahadah (the proclamation of faith), salah (prayer), and saum Ramadan (fasting the month of Ramadan). In this post, I will focus on giving zakat, or almsgiving. The word zakat comes from the Arabic root “to purify.” Muslims purify their wealth by giving around 2.5% of standing wealth, wealth that they have not needed to use during the year, to those in need. Zakat is different from voluntary charity called sadaqah because it is required of all able Muslims. Continue reading

Pillars of Islam: Fasting Ramadan

Ramadan Greetings

In recent posts, I have written about the first two pillars of Islam, shahadah and salah. The third pillar of Islam is fasting the month of Ramadan, in Arabic saum Ramadan. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims who are physically able are required to fast from dawn to sunset. Fasting means refraining from food, drink, smoking, and sexual intercourse. Basically, they do not take anything into their system during daylight hours. The month lasts either 29 or 30 days, at the end of which is a feast called Eid ul-Fitr. Continue reading

Pillars of Islam: The Proclamation of Faith

Proclamation of Faith

Islam is founded on the five pillars. These pillars anchor a Muslim’s belief and establish the rituals that they must perform to demonstrate that belief. The first pillar of Islam is the shahadah, the proclamation of faith. The proclamation of faith comprises two statements, shahadatan, which encompass the core ideas of Islam. In Arabic, the proclamation of faith is ashhadu an laa illaha illa Allah wa ashhadu anna Muhammad rasul Allah. This translates as “I bear witness that there is no god but God and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Prophet of God.” Continue reading