As we approach the start of Ramadan 2023, it is important to once again remind ourselves of all five pillars of Islam, and why each one is important in terms of marking the passing of the year. With 1.8 billion Muslims, representing 20 per cent of the global population, understanding how the five pillars influence the lives and economy of so many people is essential in a world where finance and technology run our lives. 

The basic tenet is founded on the obligation to lead a good and responsible life if someone wants to be a good Muslim. The pillars allow an individual to focus on fulfilling those obligations, over the course of a year, integrating them into their everyday activities. The five pillars are:

  • Shahadah: the profession of faith.
  • Salah: the obligation to pray five times a day.
  • Zakat: the encouragement to give to charity.
  • Sawm: the act of fasting during Ramadan.
  • Hajj: the obligation to go on pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during a Muslim’s lifetime.

Shahadah: the Profession of Faith

The Shahada is a commitment and profession of an individual’s faith which is repeated throughout the course of the day. The Shahada simply states: “There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet.” 

Repeating the Shahada with heartfelt belief in its fundamental meaning is evidence of an individual’s commitment to Islam and to being a devout Muslim.

Salat: The obligation to pray five times a day

If you have ever watched a Muslim at prayer, you are witnessing a ritual that has been repeated by billions of Muslins all over the world over the last 1400 years. The knowledge of this gives so many Muslims the deep sense of belief and devotion, grounded in centuries of routine and ritual. 

A Muslim will pray five times a day, giving a rhythm and structure to the day. Those times and prayers are:

  • Salat al-fajr: at dawn before the sun comes up
  • Salat al-zurh: around midday after the sun has passed its highest point
  • Sala al-‘asr: in the late part of the afternoon
  • Sala al-maghrib: just after the sun has gone down
  • Salat al-‘isha: between sundown and midnight

Zakat: giving to charity

While charging or paying interest is considered haram (forbidden) in Islam, to give Zakat is fundamental. This is not a charitable act to encourage compassion, rather to cleanse one’s wealth and acknowledge that any wealth someone does have is God’s choice. 

All Muslims are meant to give 2.5 per cent of their wealth over and above the nisab level (a minimum amount of wealth that someone needs to have before paying Zakat). To give Zakat means to free oneself from the love of money, possessions and greed, instilling a greater sense of self discipline and honesty in all areas relating to wealth and money. 

Sawm: The act of fasting during Ramadan

Sawm, or fasting, is probably one of the most well known aspects of Islam that is known by those of other faiths. Basically, Muslims are expected to refrain from food and drink during the hours of sunrise and sunset during the 30 days of the holy month of Ramadan.

Breaking fast at the end of the day at Iftar is as much about the ritual as it is about sharing appreciation with friends and family, and being grateful.

Hajj: going on pilgrimage

Everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah, and nowhere is this more important than during the Hajj. All pilgrims wear Ihram – simple white clothes which establishes equality across all genders, ethnicities and social statuses, and perform the Hajj ritual together. 

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