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Five Pillars of Islam

The five pillars of Islam are essentially acts of remembrance:

1) The shahada, “witnessing”, is the declaration that God is One: “there is no god but God”. It is that by which Muslims identify themselves first and foremost above all else. The only proper object of human worship and service is God, Allah. To perform the act of witnessing completely, honestly and deeply from the heart, constitutes a pivotal moment of orienting oneself in the tradition of Islam, of submission to God.

Shahada is remembering the primary focus of life, the one true thing for every person – that God is the only supreme good, the only supreme truth, the only supreme. It is remembering the compassion and mercy of God to send the perfect one, Muhammad to reveal again God’s truth

2) Salat, prayer, is the act of remembering God so important the practice is spelled out in great detail. It is the model of how humans should pray and remember God. Prayer is a discipline of remembrance that is practiced at least five times a day at particular times. Prayers are recitations from the Qur’an, passages to be remembered.

One must pray in a state of purity; it is very important never to approach God in an impure state, physically or mentally. The cleansing of the body becomes the concrete means to completely focus the mind with the proper intention to remember God. The heart must be carefully prepared by entering fully into the state of loving surrender. Life is a series of daily moments of repentance and remembrance rather than one pivotal moment of repentance.

3) Zakat, charity, is giving to the poor, to schools, to support religious institutions. It is the practice of human responsibility, remembering to act in faithfulness to God’s placing his trust in humans to act as his agents on earth. Our primary responsibility in life is not to satisfy our own desires, to achieve our own goals, to make our own life pleasant. Our primary duty is to make sure that God’s purposes are accomplished. Our work in life is to insure that all people, all beings, all creatures and the earth itself are cared for with as much love and devotion as God himself invests in his care of creation.

4) Sawm, fasting for Ramadan, is the response to God’s great reminder of the Qur’an sent by the Prophet. It is an act of remembrance of God’s great mercy and compassion in sending again a pure revelation through the perfect Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan is a month-long intense act of remembrance and celebration of God’s goodness.

5) Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, was asked by God. God has asked us to make a pilgrimage to this place. It is therefore an act of obedience, of submission, of acknowledging that God is God for us in our lives. It is a renewal of our commitment to God, a re-connection with places associated with the Prophet that brings to life the teachings of the Qur’an and hadith. It is a journey of remembrace that incorporates all the other pillars of witnessing, of prayer, of charity, and of fasting.

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