The 5 Pillars of Islam

The Pillars help strengthen a Muslim’s faith, show their obedience to God and will be brought into every part of their life - from morals and manners to food and dress.

There are 5 Pillars of Islam, which are acts of worship that are woven in to every Muslim’s daily life.

Professing your faith, or Shahadah: To sincerely recite the Muslim statement, ‘There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger of Allah’.
Prayer, or Salat: To pray in the proper way, five times each day
Giving to charity, or Zakat: To give money to charity to benefit the poor and needy
Fasting, or Sawm: To fast during the month of Ramadan
Pilgrimage, or Hajj: To make a pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their life

The 5 Pillars help strengthen a Muslim’s faith, show their obedience to God are brought into every part of their life - from morals and manners to food and dress.

Professing your faith, Shahadah

This is the basic statement of the Islamic faith and is recited out loud by every Muslim, in Arabic with total sincerity.

Its literal translation is ‘There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.’ By reciting this passage, Muslims are accepting that this is true and that they will obey all the commitments of Islam. The Shahadah is written in Arabic on Saudi Arabian flag.

Prayer, Salat

The second Pillar of Islam is prayer, or Salat. Allah has commanded Muslims to obligatory prayer, 5 times a day. The act of praying is a spiritual moment for Muslims to worship and give thanks to God for what he has provided for them. It’s a time for them to focus the mind and have a personal communication with him, as if standing directly in front of him. The prayers include verses from the Qur’an and are recited in Arabic.

There are 5 formal times of prayer during the day, although Muslims may pray more than this if they choose. Any praying on top of the required sessions will help Muslims attain even more reward from Allah, in both this life and the afterlife.

Salat al-fajr: At dawn, before sunrise
Salat al-zuhr: At midday, after the sun passes its highest point
Salat al-'asr: During the late part of the afternoon
Salat al-maghrib: Just after sunset
Salat al-'isha: Between sunset and midnight

Most Muslims will go to a Mosque to carry out these prayers, especially in Islamic countries. However, a believer can pray anywhere as long as they are totally present in both mind and spirit. If a Muslim prays without the right attitude of mind, it’s as if they hadn't prayed at all. The set of rhythmic and repetitive body movements helps further concentrate the mind.

Giving to charity, Zakat

Zakat, the third Pillar of Islam, is the compulsory giving of 2.5% of the money one has kept in their possession for one whole year. It doesn’t include any gifts given out of kindness or generosity.

It teaches generosity and self-discipline and helps remind worshippers that God owns everything, not us. And since money can’t be taken with you when you die, those whom God has chosen to be poor should be helped instead.

Fasting during Ramadan, Sawm

The fourth Pillar of Islam is fasting, or Sawm.

Sawm takes place during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and begins with the sighting of the new moon. Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, Ramadan comes around 11 days earlier each year than in a western calendar.

All adult Muslims must fast for 29 to 30 days during daylight hours. Fasting covers abstinence from food and drink of any sort, smoking and sexual activity. Muslims should also avoid bad habits, bad deeds and evil thoughts. Many Muslims will take this time to try to become better Muslims by praying more or reading the Qur'an.

Fasting helps train worshippers in patience and self-discipline and is an opportunity for them to express their gratefulness to God.

Since fasting takes place during daylight hours, many Muslims will eat a meal, called Suhur, just before sunrise and eat Iftar (breakfast) after sunset. Friends and family often join each other for the evening meal.

Ramadan is important for several reasons. First, that it was the month when the Qur’an was first revealed. And second, because it is a period in the Islamic calendar when the gates of heaven are open and the gates of hell shut. During this time, Muslims believe their good deeds bring greater reward than during any other month because Allah has blessed Ramadan.

Pilgrimage to Mecca, Hajj

The fifth and final Pillar of Islam is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Hundreds of thousands of Islamic worshippers from all over the world set out on a journey to simultaneously converge at the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca, the birthplace of Islam. It takes place during the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is a journey which all able-bodied adults must undertake at least one in their life, if they can afford it.

The pilgrimage is founded on the Hadith of the Prophet Abraham and his wife, Hagar, and their son Is’mail.
Allah told him to bring his family to Arabia. He was then instructed to leave them on their own so he could return to Palestine.
While he was away Hagar and Is’mail became very hungry and dehydrated in the desert, so Hagar went looking for help running between SAFA and MARWA. However, in her desperation she collapsed and prayed to Allah. At that moment, out of frustration, Is’mail kicked his foot into the ground and a fresh spring of water appeared. The pair used this source of water to trade with passing nomads for food and water. When Abraham returned from Palestine, Allah instructed him to build a shrine, the Kaaba, in his honour for the wealth he had provided. The spring became a well-known, reliable source of clean water called Zam Zam and was a place where people could strengthen their belief in Allah. This, in turn, created the thriving city of Mecca.

During the pilgrimage to Mecca, there are certain rituals which must be performed. They symbolise the unity of Muslims worldwide and help bring them closer to Allah.

  • All pilgrims enter a state of Ihram, to show they have the intention of performing the Hajj. Male pilgrims drape two white sheets of fabric over their body, tied with a sash. With so many making the pilgrimage, it’s a strong visual display which brings everyone, from paupers to Princes, to an equal level in the eyes of God.
  • On the day of their arrival, pilgrims may walk back and forth between Mount Al-Safa and Mount Al-Marwah seven times. This signifies the search for water by Abraham’s wife in the traditional Hadith.
  • They must also take part in the circling of the Kaaba, the granite cube-shaped building in the centre of the Masjid al-Haram mosque’s large courtyard. This is called Tawaaf and involves seven anti-clockwise circuits of the Kaaba. During this time, pilgrims is to kiss, touch, or point towards, the Black Stone, which was described by Prophet Muhammad as a stone from the heavens. Millions of people may perform the circling on just this one day.
  • Pilgrims must spend time until sunset on Mount Arafat. Many pilgrims simply spend this time in discussion with other Muslims, contemplating their futures, praying and reciting the Qur’an. This particular ritual must be carried out in order for the pilgrimage to be complete. If not, the pilgrim must return the following year.
  • Each pilgrim should make their way to Mina to perform a ritual stone-throwing ceremony, casting seven stones towards three pillars. This ceremony must also incorporate animal sacrifices after which male pilgrims shave their heads.
  • On the final day of the pilgrimage, further prayers are recited, and water from the Zam Zam spring is drunk.
  • The pilgrimage climaxes in a three-day worldwide festival called Eid al-Adha.