Islam is built on the foundation of five pillars.
The first is belief; a simple declaration forms the core of the Islamic faith: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” This affirms the Oneness of God, and the belief that Muhammad is the final messenger, after thousands of messengers and prophets before him, like Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
The second is prayer; the daily ritual prayer is performed in Arabic five times a day at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, serving as a constant connection between God. The actions of standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting combine the physical aspect of prayer with mindful and spiritual focus.
Muslims all over the world pray facing the Kaba in Mecca, the first place of worship to One God.
The third pillar is a specific form of alms called ‘zakah’, which means to purify one’s wealth, as well as encouraging humility and discipline. Zakah is not a charity, but a minimum obligation for every adult Muslim who contributes 2.5% of their surplus wealth (not income) each year to the poor and needy. Once the zakah has been fulfilled, Muslims also give charity, which is highly encouraged in Islam.
The fourth pillar is fasting, which takes place during the month of Ramadan and is a spiritual as well as physical experience. Food, drink, sexual relations and bad language are off limits from dawn to sunset, and there is a focus on more prayer, reflection, and improving one’s character. Fasting is regarded as a form of self-discipline, a way to know oneself better, and to become closer to God.
The fifth and final pillar is pilgrimage. Every Muslim is required to undertake the pilgrimage — or Hajj — if they are able to, at least once in their lifetime, to Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia. Each year, around three million pilgrims perform rituals that include circling the Kaaba, walking in the footsteps of Hagar (Abraham’s wife) and offering prayers on the Mount of Arafa. The pilgrims dress in simple white garments to symbolise the unity and equality of humanity.