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Five Pillars of Islam

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The Five Pillars of Islam (arkān-al-Islām أركان الإسلام; also arkān ad-dīn أركان الدين "pillars of the religion") are five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory by believers and are the foundation of Muslim life. These are summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel.

The Quran presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith. They make up Muslim life, prayer, concern for the needy, self purification and the pilgrimage. They are:

  1. belief
  2. worship
  3. charitable giving
  4. fasting during the month of Ramadan ( sawm)
  5. the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime.

The minority Shia and majority Sunni both agree on the essential details for the performance and practice of these acts, but the Shia do not refer to them by the same name (see Ancillaries of the Faith, for the Twelvers, and Seven pillars of Ismailism).

The Five Pillars of Islam


Shahada is the declaration of faith and trust, i.e. the professing that there is only one God (Allah) ( monotheism) and that Muhammad is God's messenger. Kalima is a set statement normally recited in Arabic: 'La 'ilea-ha 'IL-all-laa-hu mu-ham-ma-door Ra-soo-lul-laah "I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger." Reciting this statement is obligatory in daily prayer (salāh) as well as on other occasions; it is also a key part in a person's conversion to Islam.

Salat: Prayer

Afghan politicians and foreign diplomats praying (making salat) at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Salat (ṣalāh) is the Islamic prayer. Salat consists of five daily prayers according to the Sunna; the names are according to the prayer times: Fajr (dawn), Dhuhr (noon), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (evening), and Isha' (night). The Fajr prayer is performed before sunrise, Dhuhr is performed in the midday after the sun has surpassed its highest point, Asr is the evening prayer before sunset, Maghrib is the evening prayer after sunset and Isha is the night prayer. All of these prayers are recited while facing the Kaaba in Mecca. Muslims must wash themselves before prayer, this washing is called wudu ("purification"). The prayer is accompanied by a series of set positions including; bowing with hands on knees, standing, prostrating and sitting in a special position (not on the heels, nor on the buttocks).


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. zakāt consists of spending 2.5% of one's wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy,like debtors or travelers. A Muslim may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah), rather than to achieve additional divine reward.

There are five principles that should be followed when giving the zakāt:

  1. The giver must declare to God his intention to give the zakāt.
  2. The zakāt must be paid on the day that it is due.
  3. After the offering, the payer must not exaggerate on spending his money more than usual means.
  4. Payment must be in kind. This means if one is wealthy then he or she needs to pay 2.5% of their income. If a person does not have much money, then they should compensate for it in different ways, such as good deeds and good behaviour toward others.
  5. The zakāt must be distributed in the community from which it was taken.

Sawm: Fasting

Muslims traditionally break their fasts in the month of Ramadan with dates (like those offered by this date seller in Kuwait City), as was the recorded practice ( Sunnah) of Muhammad.

Three types of fasting ( Siyam) are recognized by the Quran: Ritual fasting, fasting as compensation for repentance (both from sura Al-Baqara), and ascetic fasting (from Al-Ahzab).

Ritual fasting is an obligatory act during the month of Ramadan. Muslims must abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk during this month, and are to be especially mindful of other sins. Fasting is necessary for every Muslim that has reached puberty (unless he/she suffers from a medical condition which prevents him/her from doing so).

The fast is meant to allow Muslims to seek nearness and to look for forgiveness from 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.

Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca

The Hajj is a pilgrimage that occurs during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah to the holy city of Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life. When the pilgrim is around 10 km (6.2 mi) from Mecca, he/she 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 termed Tawaf, touching the Black Stone termed Istilam, traveling seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah termed Sa'yee, and symbolically stoning the Devil in Mina termed Ramee.

The pilgrim, or the haji, is honoured in the Muslim community. Islamic teachers say that the Hajj should be an expression of devotion to God, 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 recommended. Also, they make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem in their alms giving feast.

Pillars of Shia Islam


In Twelver Shia Islam, there are ten practices that Shia Muslims must perform, called the Ancillaries of the Faith (Arabic: furūʿ al-dīn).

  1. Salah
  2. Sawm
  3. Zakāt, similar to Sunni Islam, but only applies to cattle, silver, gold, dates, raisins, wheat, and barley but not money.
  4. Khums: an annual taxation of one-fifth(20%) of all gain. Khums is paid to the Imams or to poor and needy people.
  5. Hajj
  6. Jihad
  7. Amr-bil-Maroof
  8. Nahi Anil Munkar.
  9. Tawalla: expressing love towards Good.
  10. Tabarra: expressing disassociation and hatred towards Evil.


Ismailis have their own pillars which are as follows:

  • Walayah (lit. "Guardianship") denotes love and devotion to God, the prophets, the Imamah and the duʻāt ("missionaries").
  • Tawhid, "Oneness of God".
  • Salah: Unlike Sunni and Twelver Muslims, Nizari Ismailis reason that it is up to the current imām to designate the style and form of prayer.
  • Zakāt: with the exception of the Druze, all Ismaili madh'hab have practices resembling that of Sunni and Twelver Muslims with the addition of the characteristic Shia khums.
  • Sawm: Nizari and Mustaali believe in both a metaphorical and literal meaning of fasting.
  • Hajj: For Ismailis, this means visiting the imām or his representative and that this is the greatest and most spiritual of all pilgrimages. The Mustaali maintain also the practice of going to Mecca. The Druze interpret this completely metaphorically as "fleeing from devils and oppressors" and rarely go to Mecca.
  • Jihad or "Struggle": "the Greater Struggle" and the "The Lesser Struggle".
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