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The Five Pillars of Islam are mandatory duties that are required of each and every Muslim to perform. These duties help to make Muslim religious beliefs concrete reality. Many people across the world confuse Muslim unity with terrorism. People are quick to assume that when Muslims start to unite, that they are planning to attack. This misconception can be dismissed if one takes the time to read and understand the Five Pillars of Islam. Since the Qur’an teaches all Muslims that there is only one God, there is no division among Islam as to a trinity of Gods as in with Christianity (Hanson). Thus the practice of the Five Pillars of Islam helps to create a sense of unity among Muslims.
In order to fully understand how the pillars create this sense of unity, first one must know what each pillar is and what the duty requires. The first pillar is called Shahadah. This pillar is the most practice, but, yet, it is constantly help the Muslim to profess their allegiance to Allah [God]. Shahadah consists of two parts- a negation and an affirmation (Emerick, 2002). In this first pillar, the phrase, “There is no god except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” is recited multiple times a day. This pillar is basically where an individual is ordered to think and speak from a heart and mind that is united with Allah. No one is to have any separate thoughts or remarks that either discredits or is against the teachings of Allah through his prophet Muhammad (Hoffert, 2009). With this pillar, there is unity among Muslims because Islam teaches to lead a moral life and to improve the lives of all living things.
The second pillar, Salat, has the most direct impact on Muslim daily life. Salat in Arabic means prayer (Fluehr-Lobban, 2004) which is performed five times a day. “Around the world, this joint facing of Mecca for prayer unites all Muslims into a single world family” (Hoffert, 2009). These times of prayer helps Muslims to seek for strength and patience so that they can work alongside other Muslims to become one with Allah. Another way that this pillar unites Muslims is when prayer time approaches, many Muslims go to the mosques together to pray as one, since in the religion of Islam, the focus is always on being of one mind and spirit with Allah. This is common in most Arabic countries. However, any clean space dedicated to Muslim prayer can serve as the space in a mosque (Firestone, 2008). Fridays are typically when many practicing Muslims gather in mosques for communal prayer. They are led by the imam of the mosque. Prayers of Muslims whether at their own home or in a mosque, is an additional manner on how the Five Pillars of Islam creates a sense of Muslim unity.
Zakat, the third pillar, is a duty similar to paying tithes in Christian churches. However, there is a great difference. Another name for zakat is alms tax (Trueblood, 2010). With this pillar, the requirement is for each Muslim to give up a portion of their savings in order to help the poor. “An Islamic government even has the task of imposing this tax on its citizens and using the collected funds for welfare and social programs for the less fortunate.” (Emerick, 2002) Zakat is a way to worship Allah and provide service to the Islamic community. As the Qur’an teaches the Muslim people that everyone must give a portion of your earnings in order to help out fellow Muslims who are in need. As with non-Islamic people, this practice is also done, but with some variances. To Muslims, the giving of between 2.5 and 10 percent of his/her earnings provides money to those with less in the Islamic community (Firestone, 2008). This practice is designed to help balance any inequalities in wealth amongst Muslims. What greater way to unify a community than ensuring that all people are able to provide for their family? This has always been the way of life for Muslims.
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The fourth pillar is Saum, or fasting. Fasting for Muslims, especially during Ramadan, is a way to become better enlightened. It is a time to where one gets their body and mind back on track and focused on Allah. Where this pillar could possibly help with Muslim unity is when at night, after the last scheduled prayer, people go to the mosques and pray with a congregation. During this time, the Imam leads all the gathered Muslims through a special prayer for Ramadan called Salah al-Tarawih (Emerick, 2002).
The fifth pillar, called Hajj, is a requirement that every Muslim have to complete at least once in their lifetime. There are many rituals that have to be completed in order to fulfill this pillar. “Every year more than 1.5 million Muslims perform Haj at Kaba. This large gathering of Muslims of all races and cultures promotes the international brotherhood and reflects that all Muslims are alike and equal in the sight of God” (Hussain, 2003). Only Muslims who are financially, physically, and mentally stable to source the journey are required to go. There is no borrowing of funds by anyone. This “pilgrimage”, as it is called, is the true display of obedience to Allah. This act (or pillar) is of extreme importance because during this journey the end result of completing all ritual parts is complete and total cleanse of all sins (Hussain, 2003).
Mecca is the central point of all Islamic relations. This is the place to where the journey of the fifth pillar brings all Muslims who are able to perform the rituals. This was the place, according to the Qur’an, where Abraham was directed by God to go to build the great temple for worship (Fluehr-Lobban, 2004). The temple, to this day, is known as the place to where all Muslims, as mentioned earlier, unite together for the common practice of worshipping Allah and being “made innocent” (Hussain, 2003).
Muslim unity could be compared to a fraternity at one of the colleges. Muslims are in close ties with other Muslims and ensure that everyone is of equal qualities of life. Contrary to the beliefs of those not affiliated with Islam, Muslims are taught not to be of violent nature. Being violent amongst one another or against other living things is not living in the one mind and spirit of Allah. Those that do these things are the ones who have individualistic views and are solely out to disrupt the unity within the Islamic culture. The Qur’an does teach Muslims to unite and protect the Islamic community against threats, but not to intentionally hurt those that do not pose a threat. True Muslims, who are continually practicing these five pillars, are more concerned with uniting all cultures and living things than destroying them.
The goals of the Five Pillars of Islam are unification with Allah in mind, spirit, and body and unification within the Islamic communities with fellow Muslims. If the pillars were never in place, then it would be hard for Muslims to establish peaceful relations among all Islamic communities. There would be great differences in qualities of life of all Muslim families. Because of this, the Five Pillars of Islam is a vital tool in creating and maintaining the unity that Muslims have with one another and with the cultures and communities that are not of Islamic faith. Each pillar, or duty, must be performed completely in order for to truly be obedient to Allah.
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