Pillars are solid structures that hold up the roof of a building. Each pillar needs to be equally strong to do the job effectively. If some pillars are weak, the whole building becomes unstable and may fall apart. Similarly, the five pillars of Islam are the framework of a Muslim’s life. Practicing the five pillars of Islam upholds the Iman (faith) of the believer and gives structure to their life. The five pillars of Islam describe the most essential forms of worship to Allah (s.w.t). The five pillars are: the testimony of faith (Shahadah), prayer (Salah), fasting during the month of Ramadan (Sawm), giving support to the needy (Zakat), and the pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj) once in a lifetime if they are able to. If a person does not take care to uphold these five pillars, their Iman will weaken, and they will become distanced from Allah (s.w.t). In such a vulnerable state, they may easily be led astray by the Shaitan and lose all happiness in this world and in the hereafter. If a Muslim observes the five pillars of Islam sincerely, Allah (s.w.t.) will reward them by guiding them to the right path and strengthening their Iman.
The testimony of faith is saying with conviction, “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadur rasoolu Allah.” This saying means “There is no true god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” The first part, “There is no true god but God,” means none has the right to be worshipped but God (Allah) alone, and that God (Allah) has neither partner nor son. This testimony of faith is called the Shahadah, a simple formula which should be said with conviction in order to convert to Islam.
Muslims perform five prayers a day. Each prayer does not take more than a few minutes to perform. Prayer in Islam is a direct link between the worshipper and Allah (s.w.t). There are no intermediaries between Allah (s.w.t) and the worshipper. In prayer, a person feels a sense of happiness, peace, and comfort, and that Allah (s.w.t) is pleased with him or her. Prayers are performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and night. A Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories, and universities.
All things belong to Allah (s.w.t), and wealth is therefore held by human beings as a trust. The original meaning of the word zakat is both purification and growth. Giving zakat means giving a specified percentage on certain properties to certain classes of needy people. The percentage which is due on gold, silver, and cash funds that have reached the amount of 85 grams of gold and held in possession for one lunar year is two and a half percent. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a small portion for those in need, and like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth. A person may also give as much as he or she pleases as voluntary alms or charity.
Every year in the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations. Although the fast is beneficial to health, it is regarded principally as a method of spiritual self-purification. By depriving oneself of worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person gains true sympathy with those who are starving, as well as growth in his or her spiritual life.
The annual pilgrimage, Hajj, to Makkah is an obligation once in a lifetime for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. About two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe. Although Makkah is always filled with visitors, the annual Hajj is performed in the twelfth month of Islamic calendar. Male pilgrims wear special simple clothes which strip away distinction of class and culture so that all stand equal before Allah (s.w.t). The rites of the Hajj include circling the Kaaba seven times and going seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa, as Hajar the wife of Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) did during her search for water for her infant son. Then the pilgrims stand together in Arafa and ask Allah (s.w.t) for what they wish and for His forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Day of the Judgment. The end of the Hajj is marked by a festival, Eid al Adha, which is celebrated with prayers. This, and Eid al Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the two annual festivals of the Islamic Calendar.
Source: A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam by I.A Ibrahim; Islamic Aqidah and Fiqh by Aisha Lemu