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The Five Pillars of Islam (Arabic: أركان الإسلام) is the term given to the five duties incumbent on every Sunni Muslim. These duties are Shahada (profession of faith), Salah (prayers), Zakah (giving of alms), Sawm (fasting, specifically during Ramadan) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Meccamarker). These five practices are essential to Sunni Muslims; 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 of Islam are not accepted by all the Muslims such as Alevi community in Turkeymarker.

The Five Pillars of Islam


Shahadah is a statement professing monotheism and accepting Muhammad as God's messenger. The shahadah is a set statement normally recited in Arabic, translated as: "[I profess that] There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet."


The second pillar of Islam is Salat, the requirement to pray five times a day at fixed times during the day. The times of day to pray are at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. Each salat is performed facing towards the Kaabamarker in Meccamarker. 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”.Salat is compulsory but there is some flexibility in body and clothing. Nonetheless, the place of prayer must be cleaned.

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 (that comes from a muezzin on minarets) is heard. The prayers are essentially expressions of adoration of God, but the worshipper may add his own personal request. The most commonly repeated prayer is the First Sura of the Qur'an, beginning, 'Praise be to Allah, Lord of Creation, the compassionate, the merciful'.

Salah was the most important practice for followers of Muhammed. Muhammed considered the following deeds, in order of goodness:

  1. To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times.
  2. To be good and dutiful to their parents.
  3. To participate in Jihad, in God's cause

The hadith states that when asked "O Allah's Apostle! What is the best deed?" he replied, "To offer the prayers at their stated times". When asked, "What is next in goodness?" he replied, "To be good and dutiful to your parents" and when further asked "What is next in goodness?" he replied, "To participate in Jihad in Allah's Cause."


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. Zakat consists of spending 2.5% 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 kajj, 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% collections 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 $2,640 or an equivalent amount in any other currency. Many Shi'ites are expectedto pay an additional amount in the form of a khums tax, which they consider to be a separate ritual practice.There are four principles that should be followed when giving the Zakah:
  1. The giver must declare to Allah his intention to give the Zakah.
  2. The Zakah must be paid on the day that it is due. If one fails to pay the Zakat, people think he is refusing to fulfill God's wishes.
  3. Payment must be in kind. This means if one has a lot of money then he needs to pay 2.5% of his income. If he does not have much money, he needs to pay in a different way. For example, if he has a lot of cattle, then he pays in cattle instead of money.
  4. The Zakah must be distributed in the community from which it was taken.


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 people better than normal. 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. When the pilgrim is around 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Mecca, he 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 Kaabamarker, touching the Black Stonemarker, travelling seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah, and symbolically stoning the Devil in Minamarker.

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.

See also


  1. See: * Mumen (1987), p.178 *
  3. Kobeisy (2004), p.22-34
  4. Hedáyetullah (2006), p.53-55
  5. Islam, Encyclopedia of Christianity (2001)
  6. Cavendish, Richard. The Great Religions. New York: Arco Pub. 1980
  7. name="Jihad as 3rd best deed">
  9. Ridgeon (2003), p.258
  10. Zakat, Encyclopaedia of Islam Online
  11. Brockopp (2000), p.140; Levy (1957) p.150; Jonsson (2006), p.244
  12. Momen (1987), p.179
  13. [1] Zakah Alms-giving
  14. Fasting, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an (2005)
  15. Farah (1994), p.144-145
  16. Esposito (1998), p.90,91
  17. Tabatabaei (2002), p. 211,213
  18. Khan (2006), p. 54
  19. Islam, The New Encyclopedia Britannica (2005)
  20. Farah (1994), p.145-147
  21. Hoiberg (2000), p.237–238
  22. Goldschmidt (2005), p.48

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