The Five Pillars of Islam

The Five Pillars of Islam

Last Updated: 13-Jun-2014 11:14 PM

Islam is not just belief; it is also practice. The Five Pillars of Islam are five basic obligatory acts, the five practical foundations which a Muslim must put into practice in order to fulfil the requirements of his or her faith.

A person becomes a Muslim by reciting the Shahada – the first Pillar of Islam – but the journey does not end there. A Muslim also undertakes to perform four additional acts of worship as part of – and to help strengthen – their faith and obedience to the One True Living God.

The Five Pillars of Islam in the Qur'an - These pillars are not mentioned in the Qur'an as one complete list. Instead, they can be found in different verses. The list below is in no way a complete one - merely some quotes of reference to illustrate the fact that the Pillars can be found in the Qur'an as well as in the Hadiths.

  1. Shahada (The testament of faith) – 3:18, 20:14, 6:102 & 3:31-32
  2. Salat (prayer) – 20:14, 21:73, 2:43, 2:110, 2:177, 4:103, 2:277
  3. Sawm (fasting in Ramadan) – 2:183-185
  4. Zakat (charity) – 3:92, 21:73, 2:43, 2:110, 2:177, 2:277
  5. Hajj (Pilgrimage) – 2:196, 22:27, 3:97

Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 7:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar:

Allah's Apostle said: Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):

  1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah's Apostle.
  2. To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly.
  3. To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity).
  4. To perform Hajj. (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca)
  5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.

Shahada (Declaration of Faith)

I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.

This testimony of faith marks a person’s entry into Islam. It is also repeated in the Adhan (the call to prayer), during the daily prayers and on other occasions. This simple statement signifies a person’s belief that their purpose in life is to serve Allah and also follow the teachings and examples of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Of the five Pillars of Islam, the Shahada is often called the most important. It is the Pillar of Islam most performed, proclaimed, renewed and reaffirmed in a dutiful Muslim’s life (recited 10 times a day minimum in the five daily prayers).

Salat (Prayer)

It is the obligation of every Muslim (man, woman and child over the age of seven) to pray five times a day, every day. Salat is the most essential obligatory duty which a Muslim must perform. Prayers are performed at set times and are often complemented by further voluntary prayers.

The five daily obligatory prayers are:

  1. Fajr – at dawn, before the sun rises.
  2. Dhuhr – at noon, when the sun has past it’s meridian.
  3. Asr – mid-afternoon.
  4. Maghrib – shortly after sunset, before darkness.
  5. Isha – after dusk.

Each prayer lasts approximately 5-10 minutes and wherever possible, should be offered in congregation.

Salat consists of facing the Ka’bah (in Mecca) whilst performing a series of bowings and prostrations, recitations from the Qur'an and praises of Allah and usually followed and complimented by personal supplications (du’a).

On Friday, prayer in congregation is compulsory for men and is performed in place of the normal noon prayer. Part of the Friday prayer is a sermon or Khutbah given by the Imam.

Before performing prayer, Muslims must perform an ablution (wudhu). Prayer performed without wudhu is considered invalid.

Zakat (the Charity Tax)

Muslims are obliged to donate a fixed portion (generally, 2.5% of net annual savings) of one's wealth to charity, either in the form of money or goods. The donations are collected communally and distributed to those in need.

A person may also give as much as he or she pleases as voluntary charity, over and above the obligatory 2.5%.

Zakat should not be confused with income tax or the like; it is a tax on surplus wealth only and must only be used as charity on needy recipients. It is Islam’s way of ensuring Muslims perform their duty towards other Muslims.

Islam teaches that one’s material possessions are a blessing from Allah. Zakat means "purification" and "growth" and the only way to purify one’s possessions are to share the excess with those less fortunate.

Sawm (Fasting in Ramadan)

The 9th month of the lunar calendar is Ramadan, a time for Muslims to abstain from food, drink and sexual relations between married couples between dawn and sunset. Fasting during the month of Ramadan is compulsory for every Muslim (children are urged to fast from the age of seven).

Fasting teaches self-restraint and empathy for the poor; it builds will-power and develops a person’s endurance and steadfastness.

During the month of Ramadan, a special night prayer, Tarawih, is offered. The aim is to recite the entire Qur'an during Ramadan in the Tarawih prayer, a few chapters or verses each night. A day of celebration called Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan.

Hajj (the Pilgrimage to Mecca)

The fifth Pillar of Islam is to perform Hajj or pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Mecca during the Hajj season, in the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. It is obligatory only once in a Muslim’s life, and is also only obligatory on those who can afford to do so and those who are physically able to do so.

During Hajj, pilgrims forsake worldly comfort for the sake of Allah and perform certain rituals which date back to the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (pbuh). Hajj serves as a reminder of the struggles and sacrifices made by the Prophets; it reminds Muslims of their equality before Allah and strengthens their bonds, and it prepares Muslims for their remaining life ahead and the journey from this life to the next.

The conclusion of Hajj is celebrated all over the world by Muslims in the festival of Eid al-Adha (the feast of sacrifice), in remembrance of Ibrahim’s (pbuh) ram sacrifice.