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The Messenger of Allah, peace be on him, said: Islam is built on five pillars:



1. ash-Shahaadah (the profession of faith) which must be recited by anyone embracing Islam. (La ilaha illallah, Muhammad Rasoolullah) meaning: <There is no true god except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah>. This means that there is no god worthy of being worshipped but Allah, and that He must be worshipped only according to the teaching of His Messenger Muhammad, peace be on him.



2. Salat (prayer), which must be performed five times a day. The first is Fajr prayer, [two rak'aat (units)]; which may be performed between dawn and sunrise. The second, Dhuhr, just afternoon, [four rak'aat]. The third Asr, in the later afternoon, [four rak'aat]. The fourth, Maghrib, [three rak'aat] immediately after sunset. The fifth, Isha', [four rak'aat], after the sun's redness disappears from the horizon. Prayer, however, must be preceded by ablution which is washing hands, face, wiping over the head, washing the forearms and the feet.



Prayer is one of the greatest pillars of Islam. It is the first act of worship about which man shall be asked on the Day of Reckoning. If it is accepted by Allah, then the rest of man's good deeds are accepted too. (Man shall be held accountable for every minute and thing he does, and shall stand all by himself on the Day of Judgment or Reckoning to be questioned by the Almighty Allah. Every one shall be held accountable for his own deeds. The life in the Hereafter is either everlasting happiness or everlasting torment).



3. Zakat (the poor-due) is one of the greatest financial institutions of Islam, literally meaning 'purification', indicating that such a payment makes the rest of the Muslim's wealth pure. Zakat is levied annually on certain types of food grain, cattle and cash possessed for one lunar calendar year to be given out to the poor, the needy and other specified classes of people.



 4. Sawm (fasting) to be observed during the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar). It begins at daybreak (dawn), and ends at sunset. Eating, drinking (drinking, refers to water, fruit juices and other non-alcholic and soft drinks; liquour and smoking are prohibited in Islam) and sexual activities with one's wife are forbidden.



Besides health benefits which one gains through fasting, it is an act of worship which helps one who observes it attain piety, humbleness and share the feelings of the beret and hungry in the community. Fasting also allows one to be more benevolent and charitable.



5. Hajj (pilgrimage) to Makkah, prescribed for those Muslims who can afford the trip financially (this means that one must have enough provisions for his journey and for his family during his absence) and health wise, once in a lifetime. The Hajj rites take place during the Islamic or lunar months of Shawwal, Dthul-Qi'dah, and the first ten days of Dthu-Hijjah only. It is a precondition for the pilgrim to enter the state of Ihram (Ihram is the intention to perform Hajj or Umrah by wrapping a piece of cloth covering his body from the chest down. Another piece of cloth covers the upper body; excluding the head. Ihram makes it unlawful for the pilgrim to wear sewed garments, to have sexual activities with his wife, to hunt and the like. Under normal circumstances, once a Muslim enters the state of Ihram, he may not break it until he has completing all Hajj or Umrah rituals. But if one is held back from completing Hajj or Umrah, for health reason, fear of enemy or great danger, he may then quit his Ihram and sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow or camel as an expiation) at a certain point before entering the boundaries of Makkah.       



Taken from Islam In Brief


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