The Five Pillars of Islam are the expression of many of the important foundations of the faith, which are expressed during Muslim prayer services and other practices. The Five Pillars of Islam are considered to be commandments and it is the responsibility of all Muslims to follow them. Many of the core beliefs of Islam can be summed up by the Five Pillars, including the idea that God and humanity are interlinked and form a whole family through belief, the belief in the word of prophets, an understanding of God’s divine purpose, the idea that we cannot see most of what exists around us or is given to us by our senses, and a belief in judgment day and a life after death. All of these core beliefs are reflected in the Five Pillars.
The first of the Five Pillars involves simply believing in God and offering “witness” to these beliefs through expressions of faith, such as telling people they meet about the religion and their beliefs. The second of the Pillars stresses the importance of daily prayers. These prayers involve some of the core ideas in the First Pillar about the importance of belief and this daily act of prayer makes Muslims interact with their beliefs on a daily basis. The prayer at the same time of the day unites Muslims around the world and is part of the idea of the oneness of the faith—that through faith in one God all of humanity is connected.
The Third Pillar of Islam is zakat, which involves spiritual giving of alms, although their money goes not to a central church figure or institution, it goes to help needy Muslims and is equivalent to 2.5% of a Muslim’s income (or more). This idea also emphasizes the idea of oneness and decreases personal ambition. Another one of the Five Pillars of Islam is fasting, which means that a Muslim will not partake of food, drink, sex, smoking or anything else for the entire month of Ramadan (assuming the person is in good enough health and over a certain age). While there are other fasts common in the religion, Ramadan is the only required fast. This fasting allows purification of the soul and helps develop self-control. The final of the Five Pillars of Islam is hajj, which is a religious pilgrimage to Mecca. This is a trip comprised of many rituals that are supposed to bring the travelers closer to God. One part of the ritual is that all of the men wear exactly the same clothes so that there are no class divisions among them, thus re-emphasizing the oneness of humanity in God’s eyes. It is a time of prayer and ritual and embodies through all of its rituals all of the core beliefs of the faith.
The most difficult of the Five Pillars to follow would be the fasting for an entire month. It is difficult enough to go without eating for one day and would take an enormous amount of self-control and willpower to get through this period. However, if one was looking at the fasting process as an expression of religious commitment and undertook it as a spiritual quest it might be significantly easier and far more meaningful. It is easy to see how it would become a process of purification and might develop greater self-control for future fasts. With all of the Five Pillars in mind though, it is conceivable to see how all of them might come with some of challenges as they are very present in everyday life. While fasting is the most challenging of the Pillars, stopping each day to pray, making a long trip with many rituals, and giving away a part of one’s income—even if you poor your own self—might seem like a challenge. However, when one has faith in something these acts do not seem so much like hurdles to jump over to attain God’s favor or a pure spirit, but as acts of worship and belief.