The Five Pillars of Islam
A Guide To Essential Muslim Beliefs
The majority of Qataris are devout Muslims, and religion is a part of a life in a way it has not been in most of Europe for a very long time. Because of this, the Five Pillars of Islam, five duties which every Muslim should carry out, are of great importance to most Qataris.
Shadada (the profession of faith)
"There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet." (Ashadu allah illaha illauhlah wa ashadu anna mohammedan rasulu-llah). These words are immensely important to Muslims: they are whispered into a new-born child's ears, are spoken upon conversion to Islam and will be recited when people die. They express the concept of Tahwid, or making one: i.e. monotheism, the oneness of God, that is so important to Islam.
Listen to Adhan, the call to prayer.
Salat refers to the ritual prayer performed at set times of the day. Prayer (d'ah) can also refer to other types of prayer, such as those made at special occasions or by an individual. Sunnis should pray five times a day (Shia pray three times a day).
Prayer can be performed individually, but many Muslims prefer to pray together. This is a communal activity which can help bind the Ummah the Muslim community or nation together. One prayer in particular, the Friday Prayer (salat al-jumah), must be performed at the Mosque.
Prayer is made towards the Kabbah in Mecca. Salat means to bow, bend or stretch, and during salat a Muslim will stand, bow, rise, sit, look East and West and then prostrate himself before God. These movement are accompanied by ritual verses from the Qu'ran. However, it is acceptable for the sick and infirm to perform a reduced form of the prayer, for example from a sitting position. Sick people and travellers and anyone else who is unable to pray may be excused from salat, although they may choose to make up the prayers later. Prayer should be made in Arabic if possible.
Zakat (alms tax)
Every Muslim who is financially able should give Zakat to the poor and needy. Zakat means purification, and Muslims believe that giving away a portion of their wealth every year purifies the rest. Zakat consists of one fortieth of a Muslim's wealth although this does not include items essential for carrying out a profession. Donations can be made to the poor or homeless, to tax collectors, slaves, debtors, needy travelers, converts or those close to converting and those carrying out religious war (Jihad). An additional Zakat (Zakat Ul-Fitr) occurs at the end of Ramadan and should be enough to feed a needy person.
Fasting was originally alien to many of Mohammed's followers, and was started by Mohammed after the flight to Medina. In the Qu'ran it says: Fasting is prescribed for you, just as it was prescribed for those before you. Presumably this refers to Jews, and the first Muslim fast took place silmutaneously with the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur. Later the time of the fasting was changed to the month of Ramadan, which celebrates the time in which the Koran was handed down to Muslims.
During Sawm, devout Muslims abstain from food, water, tobacco and sex from sunrise to sunset. The old and infirm can be excused, as can pregnant and menstruating women although they should make up for it at a later date if possible. Devout Muslims also do additional fasting outside the month of Ramadan. Many Muslims believe that fasting is beneficial to health, and also that it leads to an increased empathy with the poor. Those unable to fast who include the infirm and those doing heavy manual labour can make up for it by feeding the poor.
Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca)
Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it should make the trip to Mecca at least one time in their lives. Hajj must be taken in the twelfth (lunar) month of the year. During the Hajj Muslims circle the Kabbah seven times, go seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa, stone walls that represent the devil, and pray together on the plains of Arafat. (These were originally statues, but walls have now been built instead because of the sheer number of pilgrims participating in the ritual). Outside the designated times for Hajj Muslims can perform the Umrah pilgrimage which is non-obligatory but never-the-less highly valued.
A pilgrimage to Mecca can lead to a substantial increase in prestige and status for a Muslim, especially for one from a poorer country. When they leave Mecca, they have become Hajji. The sanctified clothes they wear when they leave will only be worn one more time: when they die.