Islam consists of five basic pillars which is obligatory for every Muslim to follow. The Prophet said: Islam is based on five things declaring there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of Allah, the establishment of Salah, the payment of Zakah, the Haj and sawm in the month of Ramadan. (Bukhari)

The five pillars as mentioned in the Hadith are; Shahadah (declaration of Faith), Salah (Five compulsory daily prayers, Zakah (welfare contribution), Haj (pilgrimage to Makkah), Sawm (fasting during Ramadan).

A Muslim declares his faith by reciting La ilaha il-Allah Muhammad Ar-RasulAllah.

These Arabic words mean, There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. This is the Shahadah, after pronouncing it the person enters the fold of Islam and submits himself to the other beliefs and practices of Islam.

After pronouncing this Kalima Tayebba we submit ourselves to the Almighty Lord without question which brings us so much peace and tranquility, because we feel that we are dependent on a higher entity who cares and looks after our affairs. A big load is lifted off our shoulders when we know that we have a higher entity to depend upon. In times of trouble, we invoke upon Him and we feel less anxious than ordinary humans who have no one to depend upon. We feel peace and tranquility that is not found in ordinary humans and we leave our affairs on Allah since He is the best source of help. In times of joy, we thank Him for the bounties He has showered upon us for which He increases. When we know the truth, we start feeling an unseen presence always with us, ready to guide, comfort, and help us. We know that we belong to Allah and He is our Master. And we should obey and please Him and must practice the other four pillars of Islam, Salah, Zakah, Sawm, and Haj.

Salah is the second pillar of Islam. It refers to the five compulsory daily prayers. Salah is offered five times a day individually or in the congregation. It helps to organize and discipline our lives. We have to be aware, alert, and ready at the time it is offered and schedule ourselves accordingly which helps us to be organized in our day-to-day living. It makes us more conscious of our time and we tend not to lax our time but complete our work and keep ourselves free at the time of offering salah which disciplines us. We offer salah to remember Allah. It brings us closer to Him. The Quran says, Establish salah to remember Me. Salah is the practical proof of our faith in Allah and Islam. It has fixed timings. Allah says in the Quran Salah at fixed times has been enjoined on the believers. (4:103) Fajr (from dawn until just before sunrise) Zuhr (after mid-day until the afternoon) Asr (from late afternoon until just before sunset) Maghrib (after sunset until daylight ends) Isha (after night until midnight ends or dawn)

Salah protects us from many evils; we learn to keep ourselves pure and clean to be ready for salah because for offering salah we must be clean and pure. The Quran says Surely Allah loves those who turn to Him and those who care for cleanliness. The cleanliness of the body and clothes is called Taharah or purification. It is important to remove all traces of urine or excrement from the clothes worn for salah. We have to fully wash the whole body with pure water or we can have a part wash. The full wash is called ghusl and part wash is wudu.

When we feel tired or lax if we perform wudu we freshen up and feel more alert and energetic.

While performing salah our concentrative and meditative powers increase. Performing salah submits us completely to Allah. We bow down before Him in ruku and sujood and come to know of our place in this vast universe. We feel humbled by submitting to Allah and do not feel arrogant like the shaytan. We feel a spiritual uplift in performing salah which is not found when we are engaged in our worldly affairs. Salah refines us. All the Prophets and their Ummah were commanded by Allah to offer salah. It is the last relic of a lost civilization.

Salatul Juma ah: (Friday Prayer) is offered in the congregation. It is obligatory for all adult male Muslims. It is offered at Zuhar time on Friday. It is not obligatory for women, however, they can join if it does not upset their household duties. Friday prayer is an occasion for the assembly of all Muslims in an area. It gives them an opportunity to meet, discuss, and solve their community problems. It develops unity and co-operation.

Zakah (welfare contribution) is the third pillar of Islam. The Arabic word zakah means to purify or cleanse. Zakah is paid once a year on savings at the rate of two and a half percent. This rate applies to cash, bank savings, and gold and silver jewelry. The rate for cattle and agricultural produce is different. Zakah helps us to protect us from greed and selfishness. Zakah has to be given to the poor, the needy, payment of salaries to its collectors, to free prisoners and debtors, to the wayfarer, and to win hearts for the cause of Allah. Most economists believe that zakah is the only solution to improving the economy of the world and erasing poverty. Zakah when given properly and with good intention multiplies our wealth and property and we seldom experience loss in our wealth and property. The needy kith and kin have their first right over it. The Prophet said, if you want long life and wealth you should be kind to your relatives. Moreover, spending on needy kith and kin improves our health too. We are enjoined by Allah to give charity to help the poor and needy, this voluntary charity is called sadqa. All our fard or obligatory ibadah should be to obvious to the eyes of the world, whereas nawafil or voluntary acts of Ibadah should be best performed hidden from the eyes of the world to get greater benefits from Allah. It is better to give hidden sadqa every day just for Allah to solve many of our problems of this life and the Hereafter.

Sawm: (fasting) is the fourth pillar of Islam. AII adult Muslims fast from dawn to sunset daily in Ramadan. They have to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and conjugal relations during the hours of fasting. Travelers and sick can make up later on.

Sawm develops taqwa, self-control, self-restraint, and helps us to overcome selfishness, greed, laziness and other faults. We feel closer to Allah during Ramadan fasting and praying at night, Taraweeh. We experience hunger and thirst during fasting and we realize the feelings of the poor and hungry people.

During fasting a Muslim has to avoid all kinds of sins like lieing, breaking promises, or doing any other deceitful act. Hunger should also be controlled. Fasting disciplines us and we learn patience and self-control, it improves our health and our obesity is also restrained.

Haj: Haj is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is a visit to the Holy Ka aba, the house of Makkah, once in a lifetime by those Muslims who can afford it. It is performed from 8th to 13th Dhul Hijjah.

Ka’aba is the (House of Allah), a cube-like one-story building that was built by Adam (peace be upon him) and later rebuilt by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail (peace be upon them both). It is the first house ever built for the sole purpose of worship of Allah. Allah has blessed the Holy Ka’aba.

Muslims who are able and fit come here from all corners of the world. During Haj, Islamic brotherhood can be seen and experienced by the pilgrims. Barriers of language, country, color, and race disappear and the supremacy of faith is evident. Everyone has the same status in the House of Allah i.e. his servant. During Haj we have to perform these important rituals.
1. Putting on Ihram.
2. Going round the Holy Ka aba seven times.
3. A fast walk between As-Safa and Al-Marwah near the Ka’aba.
4. Throwing pebbles at three fixed places at Mina.
5. Shaving or trimming hair.
6. Sacrifice of an animal (sheep, goat, cow, or camel).

At the time of Haj while approaching Makkah, a pilgrim must put on his Ihram before reaching a point called miqat. The Ihram for men consists of two unsewn white cloth, for a woman, lhram is her ordinary dress but she should be well covered except for her face and hands. This reminds man of his place before Allah. He is a humble servant of his Creator, and it reminds him of death when he will wrap in white sheets without his expensive or favorite clothes.

In the state of Ihram the pilgrim has to abstain from using perfume, killing or harming animals even insects, breaking or uprooting plants, hunting, marrying or taking part in a wedding, doing anything dishonest or arrogant, carrying arms, cover the head for males and cover the face for females, wearing shoes, covering ankles, cutting hair, clipping nails, having conjugal relations.

All these restrictions make a pilgrim think of Allah and his eventual abode the Hereafter. Haj teaches us all the lessons of salah, zakah, and sawm. We do all this for Allah and it teaches us self-control and patience.
And from all these five pillars of Islam, we learn that we belong to Allah, and we will return to Him and we must do His as He commands.