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In the name of Allah, the most Gracious, the most Merciful

The Pillars of Islam are Five:

1. Ash-Shahaadah (Two Testimonies)
2. As-Salat (Prayer)
3. Az-Zakat (Almsgiving)
4. As-Sawm (Abstainance)
5. Al-Hajj (Pilgrimage)

1. First Pillar (Ash-Shahaadah) [Two Testimonies]

The First Pillar, and the most fundamental, is called the "Two Testimonies" (shahadatayn). These function as a sort of miniature creed. Every Muslim is required to affirm that "there is no god but God". and that "Muhammad is the messenger of God".

The first assertion, announcing that Islam is strictly monotheistic, might be compared to the Old Testament's: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One." The second of the Two Testimonies tells the believer that this One God wishes to make his preferences known to his erring creatures, and has chosen a prophet like Moses in the Bible - to do this.

Muslim theology claims that God has sent prophets to every people, and that Muhammad was the last of them. After him, according to orthodox Muslim doctrine, the believers are to expect not another prophet, but the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

In Essence the first Pillar of Islam is the acceptance of the testimony that there is no deity but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.

2. Second Pillar (As-Salat) [Prayer]

The Second Pillar of Islam is the duty to pray five times daily. It is seen as more meritorious for a Muslim to pray in a mosque and with a congregation, but quite acceptable to pray alone. All men and women are required to participate in the rite, which happens at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset, and at The prayer is virtually identical everywhere, and has not altered in its form since the earliest days of Islam. Muslims often proudly claim that they are the only people who pray exactly as the founder of the religion prayed.

The Muslim form of prayer involves a series of solemn bowings and prostrations, evoking the Islamic notion of the close bonding of body and spirit.

There is no priest to conduct the ceremony, because there is no concept of a sacrament, in the sense of a visible sign of God's saving intervention that needs to be administered by a hierarchy. Every believer is alone before God, even when worshipping shoulder to shoulder with others.

3. Third Pillar (Az-Zakat) [Almsgiving]

Hardly less important is the Third Pillar - the practice of regular almsgiving, known in Arabic as Zakaat. The Prophet was concerned that believers should show solidarity with the poor, and since his time, every Muslim has been expected to donate a minimum of one-fortieth of his wealth in charity every year. Traditionally an informal practice involving discreet handouts to indigent neighbours, the zakat is often administered through charities nowadays. The largest Muslim charities, such as Islamic Relief, have become important international aid agencies.

4. Fourth Pillar (As-Sawm) [Abstainance]

The fast of Ramadan is Islam's Fourth Pillar. Between first light and sundown, adult Muslims in good health abstain from food, drink, cigarettes, and sex. Vices, such as lying and backbiting, are regarded as particularly abhorrent during Ramadan, which is also a traditional time for charity and visiting the sick and the poor. The fast lasts for an entire lunar month of between 28 and 30 days, and ends with one of the religion's major festivals, Eid al-Fitr.

5. Fifth Pillar (Al-Hajj) [Pilgrimage]

The Final Pillar is the hajj, the pilgrimage to Makka (Mecca). Every believer who is physically and financially able is required to make it at least once. The rites begin and end at the Kabah the square shrine built as Muslims believe, by Abraham and his elder son Ishmael. However, the culminating moment unfolds eight miles away, where Muslims stand and pray near the Mount of Mercy, a desert place where the Prophet is believed to have preached.

A spectacular annual assembly of several million people, the hajj is seen
as a symbolic journey to God. But it is also thought to represent the equality of believers, and their sense of distinctive identity as a community. The hajj ends with the second of the great festivals, the Eid al-Adha, which last three days.

These religious duties are fairly simple, but also fairly demanding, and it is far from clear how many Muslims observe them. In many villages, observance - at least in public - can appear to be total. In Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, the duties are enforced by law. In the cities of very secularised countries, such as Turkey, the percentage of who pray at the approved times is probably as low as 10 per cent The Ramadan fast is more commonly observed than prayer, and although the hajj is undertaken only by the minority who can afford it it is not unusual for quite secular individuals to make the journey to Makka towards the end of their fives, in the hope that the pilgrimage will atone for past misdeeds.

The meaning of the Five Pillars varies in the souls of different believers. For the mystically inclined, they are all methods of spiritual transformation. As the Koran says, "Remembering God is what makes hearts find peace".

Recently, however, some Muslim thinkers have focused on the rites as symbols and guarantors of Muslim identity and unity. While the spiritual life is not denied, religion is used by the minority of believers who favour the radical agenda as a badge of Muslim difference against the West's global culture.

Most believers regard that transformation with suspicion. For them, the Five Pillars have only one purpose, which is to help the notoriously absentminded human race to remember its Maker - and they remind us that the word "Islam" means "surrender to God".

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Duaa at end of gathering

‘How perfect You are O Allah, and I praise You. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except You. I seek Your forgiveness and turn to You in repentance.’