I had read about the five pillars that were expanded on at the Islamic Center, however, our tour guide was much for informative since she was able to share her personal experiences and this gave me more of a real life understanding of what practicing Islam is like. The five pillars consist of daily, yearly and once in a lifetime events because like any other religion, Islam strives to keep it’s followers on the right path and reminded of their faith through different means. The first pillar is Shahädah, or saying faith. This is done by saying, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is the prophet of God”, and when spoken with sincerity it is meant to show commitment and understanding of the religion. The second pillar is Salät, and this is the daily obligation to pray five times at different times of the day. The prayers are done so frequently to keep faith present in the people’s minds and thoughts and this prevents infractions from occurring. To pray, Muslims will take the correct position on their prayer rug, use a compass to direct their prayers to the location of Mecca, and they will usually ensure cleanliness for purity when praying, even though this is not mandated by the religion but a cultural norm. The third pillar is Zakät or alms giving, or giving to the needy. Muslims do not count giving to their Mosque as part of their Zakät because instead the money goes towards those in need. Sawm is the fourth pillar, and it is the Ramadan holiday. Ramadan is an ever changing date based on the lunar cycle, and it involves fasting during daylight hours for all teenagers and adults capable of doing it as a reminder of the suffering and hunger others have had to endure. The festivity occurs after the fasting is over and a huge banquet is held consisting mainly of sweets to celebrate amongst family and friends. Finally, Hajj is the fifth pillar, and it is the biggest, most memorable pillar because it is meant to be done at least once in a lifetime. Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, where the ultimate connection to God can be achieved on earth. Everyone from around the world doing Hajj that year will meet on the perspective week of Hajj dressed only in simple white robes to symbolize likeness amongst the community.
I enjoyed learning about Islam and the community in such detail, and I feel much more knowledgeable about the growing population of Muslims in the U.S and the world.