The pillars of Islam are considered obligatory for all Muslims although Sunni and Shia schools of law have slight variations.
The pillars of Islam play important roles in intellectual and social dimensions of Islamic life. The five pillars of faith and practice are:
1.The Shahada (Witness)
2. The Salat (Prayer)
3. The Zakat (Alms)
4. The Sawm or Siyam (Fasting)
5. The Hajj (Pilgrimage)
SHAHADA: (Witness) The Shahada is:
In Arabic: La ilah ha il Allah, Muhammadan Rasul-Allah
Translation: (There is) No deity but Allah (and) Muhammad is His Messenger or There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Apostle
Islam is one of the three monotheistic religions to arise in the Middle East; along with the other two - Judaism and Christianity- it stresses the oneness and uniqueness of God. The world Allah means The God.
The second phrase of the Shahada declares that Muhammad is God's messenger to humankind. Accepting the Judea-Christian Biblical tradition in large part, Muslims believe that God had sent prophets and messengers to other nations in the past, with the same revealed message Muhammad was to recite to the Arabs. Muhammad's mission brought the final positing of divine Truth, and thus Muhammad is regarded as the Seal of the Prophets.
SALAT: (Payer) Performing daily prayers is an act of communication between humans and God. Five daily prayers are considered a duty for all Muslims, and on these occasions preparations in ritual purity are required. The prayers are Fajr (early morning before the sun rise), Zuhr (afternoon), Asr (later afternoon), Maghrib (after sunset) and Isha (evening). The prayers must be said while facing in the direction of Mecca. The congregational prayer of Friday afternoon is compulsory and must be said in a Masjid (Mosque), Muslims place of worship. There is a sermon and then the prayers in uniform rows.
ZAKAT: (Alms) The Zakat is a form of giving to those who are less fortunate. It is obligatory upon all Muslims to give 2.5 % of wealth and assets each year (in excess of what is required) to the poor. This is done before the beginning of the month of Muharram, the first of new year. Giving the Zakat is considered an act of worship because it is a form of offering thanks to God for the means of material well being one has acquired.
SAWM or SIYAM: (FASTING) Another form of offering thanks to God is fasting. It is duty to all Muslims to fast during the ninth month of Islamic calendar, Ramadan. During this month, Muslims refrain from food, drink during daylight. Except are those ill health, pregnant women & travelers. One is to make up lost days of fasting at a later time. The time of fasting is from just before sunrise to just after sunset. The breaking of fast is joyous occasion. Sawm during Ramadan or any time is recognized as physically demanding but spiritually rewarding.
HAJJ: (Pilgrimage) The pilgrimage season begins in the tenth month, the month following Ramadan, and lasts through the middle of twelfth month, Dhu al-Hijja. This fifth pillar requires all Muslims who are physically and financially capable to make Hajj to Mecca once during their lives. The actual rites and prayers take place at the sacred Kaaba in Mecca and at nearby locations. Muslims associate the origin of the Hajj and the founding of the Kaaba with the prophet Abraham. Nearly two million Muslims perform Hajj each year.
JIHAD: (Striving) Although it is not a pillar of Islam but is a duty in one form or another. The most common media misconception is of calling Jihad a Holy War. The general meaning of the term is striving for moral and religious perfection. The broader meaning of this term encompasses ones life and community. The constant struggle of striving to remain on the path of Islam by observing the above five pillars of Islam is Jihad. One who strives is Mujahid.
Being a Mujahid, a striver for moral and religious perfection, involves numerous forms of public and private devotion that characterizes the practice of Islam. This includes respecting the dietary laws against eating pork and drinking alcohol, respecting parents and elders, helping to provide for close relatives and kins, giving to the poor and disadvantaged. On the other side, theft, murder, fornication, adultery, lying, cheating, wrongly accusing or testifying is strictly forbidden by Sharia (Islamic Law).
In technical sense, Islam means the practice of the religious and social duties outlined above.
IMAN: (Faith) The faith, like Five Pillars, can be divided in six parts.
It means belief in the following:
1. God and His Attributes
4. Sacred Books
5. The Judgment Day