Meanings of Hajj, Zakah, Ramadan, and Salah

Question
What are the meanings of Hajj, Zakah, Ramadan, and Salah? Whydo Muslims have to observe them?
 

 
Answer
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and may His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.

Bukhari and Muslim reported that Abdullah bin Umar (Radiya Allahu Anhu) narrated that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said: Islam has five pillars: To testify that there is none worthy of worship but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, to establish the prayers, to pay alms (Zakah), to make pilgrimage to Makkah, and to fast the month of Ramadan.

Salah (prayer) linguistically means supplication, but in Shariah it means words and actions that start with Takbeer – saying Allahu Akbar - Allah is the Greatest – and end with Tasleem – saying Assalamu Alikum – peace be upon you (at the end of the prayer), accompanied with the intention of some specific conditions (the conditions that must be present and carried out before performing the prayer). It is also said that Salah is a name for these known actions of Takbeer and standing up (in prayer).

Zakah (alms) linguistically means an increase, excess or build up, and in Shariah it means to pay a particular amount which has to be paid on a given number or a given quantity of some particular things, and according to some particular circumstances. This amount has to be paid when the money or other Zakatable things reach the minimum amount on which its Zakah has to be paid and when a whole and complete lunar year passes, except in the case of fruits and crops, it is not a requirement that a whole year should passafter harvesting.

Sawm (fasting) linguistically means to refrain, and in Shariah it means to refrain from what breaks the fast, like food, drinks and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset.

Hajj linguistically means to head towards something or someone, and in Shariah, it means to go to a particular place (which is the Mosque of Makkah and Arafat, and in a particular time (which is the month of Hajj) in order to carry out specific actions (which is to stand at thearea of Arafat, and to make Tawaf and Sai’ according to some specific conditions).

As to why a Muslim has to carry out and perform these actions it is because they are the great pillars of Islam, and a person cannot become a Muslim except if he carries out the above actions unless he/she is unable physically or materially to do so. They are the actions of worship for which Allah, the Most-High, has created us.

Allah did not create us for a foolish purpose, and did not leave us in vain, but He Created the humans and the Jinns (spirits) for a wisdom and a purpose. This wisdom is to worship Him: {And I (Allâh) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone). I seek not any provision from them (i.e. provision for themselves or for My creatures) nor do I ask that they should feed Me (i.e. feed themselves or My creatures).}[51:56-57].

Ibn Kathir said regarding the interpretation of the above verse: I created them to ordain them to worship Me, not because I needed them.

Allah knows best.


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