Meanings of Hajj, Zakat, Ramadan, and Salah
Fatwa No: 87552

  • Fatwa Date:2-6-2004 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 14, 1425
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What are the meanings of Hajj, Zakah, Ramadan, and Salah? Why do Muslims have to observe them?


All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

‘Abdullah ibn Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him narrated that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said: “Islam is founded on 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 (Zakat), to make pilgrimage to Makkah, and to fast the month of Ramadan.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

The prayer linguistically means supplication, but in the Sharee’ah, it means words and actions that start with Takbeer (saying Allahu Akbar) (Allah is the Greatest) and end with Tasleem (saying Assalaamu Alaykum) (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 prayer is a name for these known actions of Takbeer and standing up (in prayer).

Zakat (alms) linguistically means an increase, excess or build up, and in the Sharee’ah, 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 Zakat has to be paid 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 pass after harvesting.

Sawm (fasting) linguistically means to refrain, and in the Sharee’ah, 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 the Sharee’ah, it means to go to a particular place (which is the Mosque of Makkah and ‘Arafah, and at a particular time (which is the month of Hajj) in order to carry out specific actions (which is to stand at the area of ‘Arafah, and to make Tawaf and Sa’y 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 Jinn for a wisdom and a purpose.

This wisdom is to worship Him Alone; Allah Says (what means): {And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. I do not want from them any provision, nor do I want them to feed Me.} [Quran 51:56-57]

Ibn Katheer said regarding the interpretation of the above verse [verse no 56]: “I created them to ordain them to worship Me, not because I needed them.” [End of quote]

Allah knows best.

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