Islamic Month

Five Pillars of Islam

The Five Pillars of Islam (Arabic: أركان الإسلام) is the term given to the five duties incumbent on every Muslim. These duties are Shahadah (confession of faith), Salat (ritual prayer), Zakat (alms giving), Sawm (fasting during Ramadan), and Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah). These five practices are essential to Sunni Islam. Shi'a Muslims subscribe to eight ritual practices which substantially overlap with the Five Pillars. Twelvers have five fundamental beliefs which relates to Aqidah.

The concept of five pillars is taken from the Hadith collections, notably those of Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. The Qur'an does not speak of five pillars, although one can find in it scattered references to their associated practices.

The five pillars to becoming a good Muslim


The Shahada (Arabic: ) is the basic creed or tenet of Islam (Submission): "", or "I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is fully submitted[abduho] and messenger of Allah". As the most important pillar, this testament is a foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. Ideally, it is the first words a newborn will hear, and children are taught as soon as they are able to understand it and it will be recited when they die. Muslims repeat the shahadah in prayers in the part called 'Al Tashahud, after the second kneeling and before the end of the prayer , non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed. Technically the Shi'a do not consider the Shahadah to be a separate pillar.


The second pillar of Islam is Salah, the requirement to pray five times a day at fixed times. The time of day to pray are at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night fall. Each salah is performed facing towards the Kaaba in Makkah. Salat is intended to focus the mind on Allah; it is seen as a personal communication with Allah, expressing gratitude and worship. According to the Qur'an, the benefit of prayer "restrains [one] from shameful and evil deeds".

Salah is compulsory but some flexibility in the specifics is allowed depending on the circumstances. For example, in the case of sickness or a lack of space, a worshipper can offer salah while sitting, or even lying down, and the prayer can be shortened when travelling. The salah must be performed in the Arabic language to the best of each worshipper's ability. If they cannot speak Arabic, then their native language can't be used. The lines of prayer are to be recited by heart (although beginners may use written aids), and the worshipper's body and clothing, as well as the place of prayer, must be cleansed. All prayers should be conducted within the prescribed time period (waqt) and with the appropriate number of units (raka'ah). While the prayers may be made at any point within the waqt, it is considered best to begin them as soon as possible after the call to prayer is heard.


Zakat, or alms-giving, is the practice of charitable giving by Muslims based on accumulated wealth, and is obligatory for all who are able to do so. It is considered to be a personal responsibility for Muslims to ease economic hardship for others and eliminate inequality. Zakah consists of spending a fixed portion of one's wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy, including slaves, debtors and travellers. A Muslim may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah), in order to achieve additional divine reward.

There are two main types of zakah. First, there is the zakah on traffic, which is a fixed amount based on the cost of food that is paid during the month of Ramadan by the head of a family for himself and his dependents. Second, there is the zakah on wealth, which covers money made in business, savings, income, and so on. In current usage zakah is treated as a 2.5% levy on most valuables and savings held for a full lunar year, as long as the total value is more than a basic minimum known as nisab (three ounces or 87.48g of gold). As of 20 September 2008, nisab is approximately US$2,640 or an equivalent amount in any other currency. Many Shi'ites are expected to pay an additional amount in the form of a khums tax, which they consider to be a separate ritual practice.

Sawm (during month of Ramadan)

Three types of fasting (Sawm) are recognized by the Qur'an: Ritual fasting, fasting as compensation or repentance, and ascetic fasting.

Ritual fasting is an obligatory act during the month of Ramadan Muslims must abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk during this month, and are to be especially mindful of other sins. The fast is meant to allow Muslims to seek nearness to Allah, to express their gratitude to and dependence on him, to atone for their past sins, and to remind them of the needy. During Ramadan, Muslims are also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam by refraining from violence, anger, envy, greed, lust, harsh language, gossip and to try to get along with each other better than normal. In addition, all obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided.

Fasting during Ramadan is not obligatory, and even forbidden in some cases, for several groups for whom it would be dangerous or excessively problematic. These include pre-pubescent children, those with a medical condition such as diabetes, elderly people, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Observing fasts is not permitted for menstruating women. Other individuals for whom it is considered acceptable not to fast are those who are ill or on a travel. Missing fasts usually must be made up soon afterwards, although the exact requirements vary according to circumstance.

Many Muslims break their fast with a date because it is claimed Muhammed broke his fast with a date.


The Hajj is a pilgrimage that occurs during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah to the holy city of Makkah, and derives from an ancient Arab practice. Every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to make the pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in their lifetime if they can afford it. When the pilgrim is around ten kilometers from Mecca, he must dress in Ihram clothing, which consists of two white sheets. Females are not required to make the pilgrimage to makkah, as the Hajj is only mandatory for the men. After a Muslim male makes the trip to makkah, he is known as a hajji(one who made the pilgrimage to Mecca). The main rituals of the Hajj include walking seven times around the Kaaba, touching the Black Stone, traveling seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah, and symbolically stoning the Devil in Mina.

The pilgrim, or the haji, is honoured in their community. For some, this is an incentive to perform the Hajj. Islamic teachers say that the Hajj should be an expression of devotion to Allah, not a means to gain social standing. The believer should be self-aware and examine their intentions in performing the pilgrimage. This should lead to constant striving for self-improvement

A pilgrimage made at any time other than the Hajj season is called an Umrah, and while not mandatory is strongly encouraged.

Shia viewpoint

According to Shia Twelvers doctrine, what is referred to as pillars by Sunni Islam are called the practices or secondary principles(Firoo e Din). There are three additional practices. The first is jihad, which is also important to the Sunni, but not considered a pillar. The second is Amr-Bil-Ma'rūf, the "Enjoining to Do Good", which calls for every Muslim to live a virtuous life and to encourage others to do the same. The third is Nahi-Anil-Munkar, the "Exhortation to Desist from Evil", which tells Muslims to refrain from vice and from evil actions and to encourage others to do the same.

Shi'a Ismaili Seven Pillars of Islam, including the Nizari, Druze, and Mustaali have three doctrines that are not included in the Sunni Five Pillars of Islam: Walayah, Taharah and Jihad. This would raise the total to eight, but the Bohra Ismailis do not include Shahadah, lowering it to seven. The Shahadah is a prominent part of other Ismaili traditions, with the added inclusion of " Alīyun Ameerul Mo'min wali Allah (علي ولي الله("Ali, the Master of Believers, is the friend of God")", at the end of the standard shahadah as recited by the rest of the Muslim Ummah. .

See also



Books and journals

Quran, Hadith, and Islam (online book)

  • Brockopp, Jonathan; Tamara Sonn, Jacob Neusner (2000). Judaism and Islam in Practice: A Sourcebook. Routledge. ISBN 0415216737.
  • Esposito, John (1998). Islam: The Straight Path. 3rd, Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195112344.
  • Farah, Caesar (1994). Islam: Beliefs and Observances. 5th, Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 978-0812018530.
  • Goldschmidt, Jr., Arthur; Lawrence Davidson (2005). A Concise History of the Middle East. 8th, Westview Press. ISBN 978-0813342757.
  • Hedayetullah, Muhammad (2006). Dynamics of Islam: An Exposition. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1553698425.
  • Hoiberg, Dale; Indu Ramchandani (2000). Students' Britannica India. Encyclopaedia Britannica (UK) Ltd. ISBN 978-0852297605.
  • Jonsson, David J. (2006). Islamic Economics And the Final Jihad. Xulon Press. ISBN 1597819808.
  • Khan, Arshad (2006). Islam 101: Principles and Practice. Khan Consulting and Publishing, LLC. ISBN 0977283836.
  • Kobeisy, Ahmed Nezar (2004). Counseling American Muslims: Understanding the Faith and Helping the People. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-0313324727.
  • Momen, Moojan (1987). An Introduction to Shi`i Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shi`ism. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300035315.
  • Levy, Reuben (1957). The Social Structure of Islam. UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521091824.
  • Ridgeon, Lloyd (2003). Major World Religions. 1st, RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 978-0415297967.
  • Tabatabae, Sayyid Mohammad Hosayn; R. Campbell (translator) (2002). Islamic teachings: An Overview and a Glance at the Life of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Green Gold. ISBN 0-922817-00-6.


  • In Encyclopaedia Britannica Online (2007). Encyclopaedia Britannica. ISBN 978-1593392932. .
  • In Encyclopedia of Christianity (2001). Eerdmans Publishing Company, and Brill. ISBN 0-8028-2414-5. .
  • In Encyclopaedia of Islam Online Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912. .
  • In Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals, and Festivals (2004). Routledge. ISBN 978-0415941808. .
  • In The New Encyclopedia Britannica (2005). Encyclopedia Britannica, Incorporated; Rev Ed edition. ISBN 978-1593392369. .

External links

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