The 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 Shahada (profession of faith), Salah (prayer), Sawm (fasting) during the month of Ramadhan, Zakat (giving of alms, preferability during Ramadhan) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca, home of Masjidil al-Haram (The Sacred Mosque).

On the authority of Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar bin al-Khattab, radiyallahu ‘anhuma, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, say: “Islam has been built upon five things – on testifying that there is no other god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger; on performing salah; on giving the zakah; on Hajj to the House; and on fasting during Ramadhan.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]


Shahadah is a statement professing monotheism and accepting Muhammad as God’s messenger.   The shahadah is a set statement normally recited in Arabic: (ašhadu an) lā ilāha illá l-Lāhi wa (ashhadu ‘anna) Muḥammadan rasūlu l-Lāhi “(I profess that) there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”


Salah is the daily prayer of Islam. Salah consists of five prayers: Fajr, Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, and Isha’a. Fajr is said at dawn, Dhuhr is a noon prayer, Asr is said in the afternoon, Maghrib is the sunset prayer, and Isha’a is the evening prayer. Each prayer consists of a certain amount of rakaāt. A prayer either consists of two, three, or four rakaāt. All of these prayers are recited while facing Mecca.


Zakāt 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. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy, including slaves, debtors and travelers. A Muslim may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah), rather than to achieve additional divine reward. There are two main types of Zakah. First, there is the fitraa, 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 Zakat on wealth, which covers money made in business, savings, income, and so on. In current usage Zakat is treated as a 2.5% collection 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 (3 ounces (85.05 g  of gold). As of 02 July 2010, nisab is approximately $3,275 or an equivalent amount in any other currency.

Sawm (Siyam)

Three types of fasting (Sawm) are recognized by the Qur’an: Ritual fasting (Q 2:183-187),  fasting as compensation for repentance (both from sura Al-Baqara:196), and ascetic fasting (from Al-Ahzab:35).

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. Fasting is necessary for every Muslim whose age is more than 11.

The fast is meant to allow Muslims to seek nearness to God, to express their gratitude to and dependence on him, 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, profane language, gossip and to try to get along with fellow Muslims better. In addition, all obscene and irreligious sights and sounds are to be avoided.

Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory, but is forbidden for several groups for whom it would be very dangerous and 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 traveling. Missing fasts usually must be made up for soon afterward, although the exact requirements vary according to circumstance.


The hajj to the Kaaba, in Mecca, is an important practice in Islam.

The Hajj is a pilgrimage that occurs during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah to the holy city of Mecca, and derives from an ancient Arab practice. Every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if he or she can afford it. The  pilgrimage  must dress in Ihram clothing, which consists of two white sheets. Both men and women are required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. After a Muslim makes the trip to Mecca, he/she is known as a hajj/hajja (one who made the pilgrimage to Mecca). The main rituals of the Hajj include walking seven times around the Kaaba, touching the Black Stone, travelling seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah, and symbolically stoning the Devil in Mina.

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