Five Pillars of Islam

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The Five Pillars of Islam (أركان الإسلام الخمسة, arkaan ul-islaam al-khamsa) is the term given to the five duties which are compulsory (Fard) for every Muslim. It is a set of beliefs specific to the Sunnis who belong to the mainstream, orthodox version of the religion.[1] This concept is not found in the Qur'an, but within the sirah and hadith, outside of which the specific formulation of the five pillars is absent.


The Shahadah, which means "testimony", is the name of the Islamic profession of faith. It is the most important of all Five Pillars, and its recitation in Arabic is required for a person to become a Muslim.[2] It reads, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." Shi'ite Muslims add "and Ali is the friend of Allah," but do not consider the additon obligatory.[3]


Salah is the practice of formal prayer in Islam. It is a ritual prayer, having prescribed conditions, procedures, and times. It consists of five daily prayers: Fajr (dawn), Zuhr (noon), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (evening), and Isha'a (night). Muslims must wash before prayer; this washing is called wudu ("purification").

The earliest Muslims, however, did not practice this ritual prayer. Muhammad started his religion in 610 and prayer became obligatory after Isra and Mi'raj[4] around the year 621.


Sawm is the term which refers to Islamic fasting. The observance of sawm during the Islamic month of Ramadan is compulsory.[5] Adherents usually wake up before dawn and eat and drink to prepare for the fast. During the fast, they refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse from dawn (fajr) to sunset (maghrib).

The earliest Muslims, however, did not practice this ritual fast until two years after the Hijra, around the year 624:

Fasting the month of Ramadaan was enjoined in 2 AH


Zakat is an obligatory tax ref name="EBZT">"zakat (Islamic tax)", Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed November 16, 2013 (archived), </ref> required of Muslims, amounting to about 2.5% of one's wealth over the course of a year. Under the caliphates, the collection and expenditure of zakat was a function of the state (this still remains the case in countries such as Saudi Arabia).[6] Slaves and horses owned by Muslims are exempt from this taxation,[7][8] and it is generally agreed that non-Muslims are not to benefit from the alms giving.[9]

Zakat, like Sawm and Salah was not practiced by the earliest Muslims, and was only enjoined second year after hijra, around the year 624.[10]


The Hajj is a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca which every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to make at least once in their life.[11] The pilgrimage takes place on the 12th month of the Islamic calendar (Dhu al-Hijjah). The main rituals include walking seven times around the Ka'aba, touching the Black Stone, traveling seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah, and symbolically stoning the Devil in Mina.[12]

It's not clear when hajj was enjoined, but it was after the hijra according to most scholars.[13]

Jihad and other pillars

Jihad is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam,[14] as it is also a compulsory duty, and Prophet Muhammad referred to it as "better than standing in prayer for sixty years"[15] and second in importance only to the belief in Allah and himself.[16] According to some Shi'ite sects it is the seventh not sixth pillar (the first and second being Walayah with Allah, or having a personal relationship with God, and taharah, or purity).[17]

See Also


  1. "Sunni and Shia Islam", Library of Congress Country Studies, accessed September 4, 2011.
  2. Embracing Islam - The Modern Religion
  3. Shahada - Encyclopedia of the Middle East.
  5. Farah (1994), p.144-145
  6. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named EBZT
  7. "Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "There is no Zakat either on a horse or a slave belonging to a Muslim"" - Sahih Bukhari 2:24:542
  8. "Narrated Abu Huraira :- The Prophet said,"There is no Zakat either on a slave or on a horse belonging to a Muslim." - Sahih Bukhari 2:24:543
  9. Haytham bin Jawwad al-Haddad, "The way of giving Zakat al-Fitr in non-Islamic Lands", IslamicAwakening, Article ID: 984, November 20, 2002 (archived), 
  11. Farah (1994), p.145-147
  12. Hoiberg (2000), p.237–238
  14. Iman al-Khashab, "Why It Is Considered Our Sixth Pillar of Islam – Jihad Is Ordained to Establish the Word of Allah", Moheet (Arabic), March 13, 2010 (English translation).
  15. "Standing for an hour in the ranks of battle is better than standing in prayer for sixty years." - Saheeh related by Ibn Ade and Ibn Asakir from Abu Hurayrah 4/6165. Sahih al Jaami as Sagheer no. 4305
  16. "Allah's Apostle was asked, "What is the best deed?" He replied, "To believe in Allah and His Apostle (Muhammad). The questioner then asked, "What is the next (in goodness)? He replied, "To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah's Cause."" - Sahih Bukhari 1:2:26
  17. "Sixth pillar of Islam", The Fact-Index, accessed November 17, 2013 (archived),