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Central to the Islamic teachings and way of life are various obligatory acts of worship (ibadat) which are often referred to as the “Five Pillars of Islam.” These consist of (1) the declaration of faith, “I bear witness that there is no deity except God and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God;” (2) the prescribed prayers; (3) fasting during the month of Ramadan; (4) the poor-due; and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca.

While the aim of each of these acts of worship is the remembrance and glorification of God Most High, it must be emphasized that God’s majesty and glory do not depend in the slightest degree upon the praise or even acknowledgment of His creatures, for He is absolutely independent of His creation and free of all needs. Rather it is the human being who needs these recurrent forms of worship to keep his contact with his Lord and his vision of the true Reality clear and strong. The purpose of Islamic acts of worship or practices is, therefore, to strengthen the individual’s faith and sense of submission to God, to solidify his character, to discipline him for his role as God’s faithful servant and steward on earth, to make it possible and easy for him to live in the manner ordained by God, and to reinforce the ties of brotherhood and affection among Muslims.

As will he seen in the following sections, these acts of worship require the participation of all aspects of human nature – his soul, his mind, his feelings and his body with its various needs and appetites, and his time, energies and possessions as Welland thus they are the worship by the total human individual of God Most High.

It will also be seen that the various forms of worship are prescribed at various time intervals. For example, the declaration of faith is to be always present in the mind and heart of the Muslim and to be uttered again and again with the tongue during his daily prescribed prayers. The daily prayers are to be performed five times every day of one’s life after attaining puberty and even more often if one desires to strengthen his relationship with God further and grow nearer to Him. Fasting is for a full month every year, while the poor-due is to be calculated and paid once yearly, and the pilgrimage is to be performed once in a lifetime if possible
(the latter two are obligations only on those Muslims who meet certain required conditions, as will be seen presently). These two aspects of the Islamic worship —the involvement in them of the total human being and the prescription of them at different recurring intervals —make them extremely unique and complete expressions of the human being’s total dependence upon God and submission to His will, his utter humility and creatureliness before the greatness of the Creator, and his desire to serve and obey Him alone.

These acts of worship are obligatory upon all Muslims no matter where they may happen to live, whether they are part of a larger Muslim society or one happens to be a single Muslim living far away from any Muslim community. It is the collective obligation of Muslims to provide the means and facilities for carrying out these duties faithfully. Each of these acts of worship is prescribed in the Holy Quran, and each is performed in the manner in which the Prophet (peace be on him), who is the example for all Muslims of every time and place, himself performed them.

In this section we will discuss the concepts and significance of the various acts of worship. The details of how they are carried out have been left for a later section in the context of the daily life of Muslims, with the exception of the pilgrimage which, for the sake of coherence and continuity, has been presented in entirety in the present section.

Author : Suzanne Haneef (What Everyone Should Know About Islam and Muslims)

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