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Five Pillars of Islam

Linda Sarhan has taken several college level courses in Islamic studies and is an experienced Islamic studies writer.

Learn why these five pillars of faith are obligatory to all Muslims.

Learn why these five pillars of faith are obligatory to all Muslims.

Islam is not just a religion, it is a way of life. It is not intended to be a part-time religion or practice. In fact, Islam has five basic obligations to fulfill. These five obligations are called the five pillars of Islam. It is required that every Muslim complete each of these in his or her lifetime. Some of these, such as the five daily prayer and the shahada, are implemented into the daily life of a Muslim. The shahada is repeated several times daily right before pray and during prayer.

Fasting is required at least once a year during the month of Ramadan. Some Muslims fast other times of the year, voluntarily, for a variety of reasons. Although zakat is paid out once a year toward the end of Ramadan, other charitable acts are practiced in daily life. Muslims are also required to go on Hajj to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if they are financially and physically able to.

Now, let's look at a little more detail on what the five pillars of Islam are and how they are categorized. This will help give a better understanding of why the five pillars are so important to each and every Muslim across the globe.

"O Mankind, the Messenger has come to you with the truth from your Lord, so believe; it is better for you. But if you disbelieve - then indeed, to Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and earth. And ever is Allah Knowing and Wise."

— [Surat An-Nisa' 4:170]

First Pillar: Testament of Faith (Shahada)

The first pillar of Islam is the testament of faith, known as the shahada. First, let's look at what the shahada says and entails.

Ashadu anla illaha ila Allah wa ashadu Muhammadun rasoolollah.

So let's break this down. The shahada has two parts. The first part says Ashadu anla illaha ila Allah. This means "I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah." You are basically agreeing that there is only one God worthy of worship and he has no partners. This is evident in several verses of the Qu'ran:

And say, "Praise to Allah, who has not taken a son and has had no partner in [His] dominion and has no [need of a] protector out of weakness; and glorify Him with [great] glorification." [Surat Al-'Isra 17:111]

And Allah has said, "Do not take for yourselves two deities. He is but one God, so fear only Me." [Surat An-Nahl 16:51]

The second part of the shahada states ashadu Muhammadun rasoolollah. This means that you believe that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the messenger of Allah. By believing that Muhammad (pbuh) is the messenger of Allah, this means that you believe in the message he was given (the Qur'an) and follow the examples he set for us as narrated in the Hadiths.

The Second Pillar - Salah (Prayer)

"...Indeed, prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times."

— [Surat An-Nisa' 4:103]

Second Pillar: Prayer (Salah)

As a Muslim, we are required to pray five obligatory, or wajib, prayers. Jabir b. 'Abdullah reported that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: The similitude of five prayers is like an overflowing river passing by the gate of one of you in which he washes five times daily Hasan said: No filthiness can remain on him.[Sahih Muslim 668]

The five obligatory prayers allow Muslims to take a few minutes to take a break from daily life and be mindful of Allah. Prayer helps Muslims remain aware of how important their faith is by taking the time to remind them how important it is to obey Allah in our daily routines. Prayers are performed right before dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, right before sunset, and at night. A Muslim may pray almost anywhere, but there is more reward to pray in the congregation, such as at the masjid. Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri: The Prophet (pbuh) said, "The prayer in congregation is twenty-five times superior to the prayer offered by person alone." [Sahih al-Bukhari 646]

How to Perfect Your Prayers

Sunni Prayer

Scroll to Continue

Shia Prayer Times

Shia pray Fajr at the time of Fajr. Shia then combine Dhuhr and Asr prayers at the time of Dhuhr. Shia also combine Maghrib and Isha prayer at the time of Maghrib.

"Establish regular prayers - at the sun's decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony." [Surat Al-'Isra' 17:78]

Why Shia Combine Prayers

Shia Prayer

"He who spends his wealth for increase in self-purification, and have in his mind no favor from anyone for which a reward is expected in return, except only the desire to seek the countenance of his Lord, the Most High."

— [Surat Al-Layl 92:18-20]

Third Pillar: Charity (Zakat)

Being kind to others and helping out those in need is not just recommended in Islam; it is required. There are many types of charity but with zakat, it is one type of charity that is compulsory in Islam. Zakat is looked at as a way to cleanse and purify our hearts from greed. (Surat Al-Layl 92:18) Although the amount of zakat is not specified in the Qur'an, most Muslims agree that zakat is paid once a year based on a savings rate of 2.5%.

"Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler - an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise." [Surat At-Tawbah 9:60]

Some Hadiths Regarding Zakat

Sahih Muslim: The Book of Zakat

Sunan an-Nasa'i: The Book of Zakah

Sunan Abi Dawud: Zakat (Kitab Al-Zakat)

Jami` at-Tirmidhi: The Book of Zakat

Sunan Ibn Majah: The Chapters Regarding Zakat

Sharia (Islamic Law)

Zakat Rulings Part 1

Zakat Rulings Part 2

"O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous (mindful of God)."

— [Surat Al-Baraqah 2:183]

Fourth Pillar: Fasting (Sawm)

Although there are various voluntary fasts throughout the year, it is required of every able Muslim to fast during the month of Ramadan. (Click here to see who is exempt from fasting.) There are many benefits to fasting for the month of Ramadan. Spiritually, a person becomes aware of himself and his relationship with Allah. Physically, fasting helps to cleanse the body. Mentally, it teaches to be more conscious of our actions, exhibits more self-control, and be more aware of restraining from acts that are displeasing to Allah.

Some Hadiths on Fasting

Sahih al-Bukhari: The Book on Fasting

Sahih Muslim: The Book of Fasting

Sunan an-Nasa'i: The Book of Fasting

Sunan Abi Dawud: Fasting (Kitab al-Siyam)

Jami` at-Tirmidhi: The Book on Fasting

Sunan Ibn Majah: Fasting

Sharia (Islamic Law)

Fasting Rules Part 1

Fasting Rules Part 2

Spiritual Benefits of Fasting

Narrated Abu Huraira:The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Whoever performs Hajj for Allah's pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife, and does not do evil or sins then he will return (after Hajj free from all sins) as if he were born anew."

— [Sahih al-Bukhari 1521]

Fifth Pillar: Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

Over 2 million Muslims from all over the world travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj each year. The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th Dhu al-Hijjah. Dhu al-Hijjah is the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Hajj is required for all Muslims who are physically and financially able. Hajj must be performed at least once in your lifetime.

The ritual of Hajj is considered by Muslims to date back thousands of years to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham). There are several tasks that are accomplished during Hajj. Of these include, walking seven times, counter-clockwise, around the Ka'aba, running back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drink from the Zamzam Well, going to the plains of Mount Arafat where Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) delivered his final sermon and throwing stones in a ritual that represents Stoning of the Devil. Once the pilgrims on Hajj complete these things, the men then shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice, and everyone celebrates the three-day-long global festival of Eid al-Adha.

The five pillars are at the core foundation of Islam that helps strengthen the Muslims faith in Allah. It is a sign that they take their faith seriously in full commitment and submission to Allah.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Linda Sarhan


Talha Hamid on May 08, 2020:

You write very well and good.

Epa Mustopa from Indonesia on September 08, 2018:

Good article. Five pillar is the basic, foundation, of meaningful islam

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on January 07, 2018:

Great to write about Al Islam because lots of people do not know the meaning of Al Islam, very interesting article to read, thank you.

Bellied on November 19, 2017:

Good reading!

Lillie on June 24, 2017:


paarsurrey on June 07, 2017:

It is very nice and useful. Please


John Evans on November 12, 2015:

Superior work you have done here with the five pillars of Islam. I studied this in my last Religious Studies class at the University level. All of Islam is fascinating. With regard to Islam, as well as other faiths, as I study Sufism daily, and as a poet I sense the relationship one may have with God (Allah), that practiced daily, there lies within a divine secret only the lover shall find! I do not speak an Arab dialect but if I could I would salute you with a "Blessed be God (Allah), forever! Thanks for all you do!

Snakesmum on July 06, 2015:

Found this very interesting. Currently, I am reading the Koran, and this helped to clarify some points. (I am not a Muslim) Different religions seem to have some points of similarity.

Jacqui from New Zealand on August 17, 2014:

Interesting hub. Thank you for sharing this. Setting it out as the Five Pillars made it easier to understand. I am not Muslim, but I wish to learn more about all religions, and will be looking into your hubs to do so in regards to Islam. Thank you.

Tijani Achamlal from Morocco on August 09, 2014:

Great job ! Well done !May Allah Bless you! Voted up.

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