The five pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam; also arkan al-din, “pillars of religion”) comprise five official acts considered obligatory for all Muslims. The Quran presents them as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to faith. In Islam, faith and good works go hand-in-hand. A mere verbal declaration of faith is not enough, for belief in Allah makes obedience to Him a duty. Only when your practice is consistent with your profession will you be a true Muslim. Faith in Allah will be your strength, and the Qur’an your guide. Allah says:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
“O humankind, We have created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye shall recognize one another, and not that you shall despise one another.” (Surah Hujurah, 49:13)
The Muslim concept of worship is very broad. Muslims consider everything they do in this life according to Allah’s will, an act of worship. Speaking the truth, refraining from gossip, dealing honestly in commercial affairs, treating one’s parents with respect and honour, helping the poor and needy, dealing lovingly and fairly with family members – whatever is done for the sake of Allah is called worship. Allah says:
وَلَا تَسُبُّوا الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ فَيَسُبُّوا اللَّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ كَذَٰلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
“Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end, will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did.” (Surah Anam, 6:108)
Worship of Allah is foremost in a Muslim’s mind all the time. There are also five formal acts of worship that help strengthen a Muslim’s faith and obedience. They are often called the “Five Pillars of Islam.”
The Five Pillars of Islam are the five obligations that every Muslim must satisfy in order to live a good and responsible life according to Islam.
The Five Pillars consist of:
- Shahadah: The testimony of faith, namely no one has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger
- Prayer (Salah): It is the central worship of Islam. It consists of certain acts, sayings, and supplications.
- Zakah (Charity): It is a kind of charity obligated to those who have properties that reach the nisab.
- Hajj: Pilgrimage means to leave to the House of Allah (i.e. the Kabah).
- Fasting (Sawm): The abstention from eating, drinking and sex from the break of dawn to the sunset with the intention of worshipping Allah, the Almighty.
These five pillars are a cornerstone of a Muslim’s life.
1. Declaration of Faith – SHAHADAH
Shahada is an announcement of faith and belief that maintains that there is just one Allah and that Muhammad is God’s messenger. It is a set statement normally recited in Arabic:
lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāhu muḥammadun rasūlu-llāh (لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا الله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ الله)
“There is no God but God (and) Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
It is fundamental to absolute it to end up noticeably a Muslim and change over to Islam. The Profession of Faith, the Shahada, is the most fundamental expression of Islamic convictions. It basically expresses that “There is no God and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah.” It underscores the monotheistic idea of Islam.
The declaration of faith is bearing witness (testifying) that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah (God), and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His Servant and Messenger. It must be based on a sincere and firm belief in the heart, as well as being uttered verbally.
The first part of the declaration implies that:
- Allah alone has perfect attributes and is free from all deficiencies
- That Allah is the only God, and that Muhammad is his prophet
- Allah has no partner, equal, father, mother or son
- That they personally accept this as true
- That they will obey all the commitments of Islam in their life
- No person, object or being has the right to be worshipped except Allah alone
- Allah alone is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, and He has power over all things
- The Arabic name “Allah” refers to the One True God of all mankind and everything that exists
The second part of the declaration is that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is Allah’s Servant and final Messenger. He is the final Prophet in a long chain of Prophets sent to call the people to the obedience and worship of Allah alone. Some of these Prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus (peace be upon them all). Allah says:
إِنِّي أَنَا رَبُّكَ فَاخْلَعْ نَعْلَيْكَ إِنَّكَ بِالْوَادِ الْمُقَدَّسِ طُوًى
“Indeed, [I] I Am your Lord, so remove your shoes. Indeed, you (are) in the valley the sacred (of) Tuwa.” (Surah Taha, 20:12)
A Muslim is expected to recite this statement out loud, with total sincerity, fully understanding what it means. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent with the Qur’an (the final revelation), in order to teach the people Allah’s message, and serve as an example for all to follow.
Some benefits of the Declaration of Faith:
- Complete surrender to the will of Allah and become His true servant and subject.
- Produces a high degree of self-respect and confidence, while also remaining humble and modest.
- Produces strong determination, patience, and perseverance, making a person brave and courageous, as well as dutiful and upright.
- Makes a person obey and observe Allah’s commands.
2. The Prayer – SALAH
Prayer (Namaz) is the Second Pillar of Islam. In Arabic Prayer is called Salat. According to the Sunna Salat consists of five daily prayers; Here are the names and Prayer times:
- Fajr (dawn): The Fajr prayer is performed before sunrise.
- Dhuhr (noon): Dhuhr is performed in the midday after the sun has surpassed its highest point.
- Aṣr (afternoon): Asr is the evening prayer before sunset.
- Maghrib (evening): Maghrib is the evening prayer after sunset and
- Ishāʾ (night): Isha is the night prayer.
These prayers are performed while looking towards the Kaaba in Makkah and form an imperative part of the Muslim Ummah. A Muslim may perform their prayers anyplace, for example, in workplaces, colleges, and Universities. But, the mosque is the more ideal place for prayers because the Mosque is the house of Allah.
The five daily prayers form the most important ritual of worship in a Muslim’s life; one each at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Prayer is a pillar of the religion (Islam). Whoever establishes it, establishes religion; and whoever destroys it (e.g. neglects it), destroys religion.”
Prayer establishes a personal and spiritual connection between the Muslim and his Creator, based on faith, love, hope, and reverence. When prayer is performed correctly with complete concentration, humility, and sincerity, it will have an enduring effect on the person, filling his heart with contentment, peace, and closeness with Allah. Repeatedly humbling oneself before Allah prevents a person from falling into sin, and is a type of purification for one’s soul, as mentioned in the Qur’an: Allah says:
اتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ إِنَّ الصَّلَاةَ تَنْهَىٰ عَنِ الْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ وَلَذِكْرُ اللَّهِ أَكْبَرُ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُونَ
“Recite what has been revealed to you of the Book, and establish the prayer. Indeed, the prayer prevents immorality and evil deeds, and surely (the) remembrance (of) Allah (is) greatest. And Allah knows what you do.” (Surah Al-`Ankabut 29:45)
Prayer is the centre of a Muslim’s life and the best way to achieve submission to Allah. It can be offered almost anywhere clean: such as in fields, offices, factories or universities; and takes only a few minutes to perform. It consists of recitation from the Holy Qur’an, supplicating to and praising Allah, with various body postures such as standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting. Through prayer, the Muslim remembers the greatness of his Creator and supplicates to Him for his needs and wishes.
إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي
“Indeed, I am Allah! There is none worthy of worship but I, so worship Me and offer the prayer for My remembrance.” (Surah Ta Ha 20:14)
Prayer is also an opportunity for repentance and seeking forgiveness from Allah. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) asked his companions, “If one of you had a river by his door in which he bathed five times a day, would any filth remain on him?” They replied, “No.” Then the Prophet added, “Likewise, Allah wipes away sins with the five daily prayers.”
3. The Prescribed Zakat (Charity)
Zakat (Charity) is the act of Charitable giving based on enough wealth. The word zakat can be characterized as “Cleaning and Growth” since it enables a person to accomplish adjust and encourage new growth. The guideline of realizing that everything has a place of God is fundamental to purification and development.
There are five rules that should be taken after when giving the zakat:
- The supplier must proclaim to God his expectation to give the zakat.
- The Zakat must be paid on the day that it is expected.
- After the offering, the payer must not overstate spending his cash more than expected means.
- The Zakat must be dispersed in the group from which it was taken.
- The payment must be in kind. This means that if one person is well off then he or she needs to pay a segment of their pay. If a man does not have much wealth, at that point they should make up for it in various routes, for example, great deeds and great conduct toward others.
All things belong to Allah, including wealth, which is considered as a trust. The prescribed charity (zakah) is an obligation on every Muslim who meets certain criteria (e.g. attained maturity, is sane, has wealth above a certain threshold). A small portion of wealth (includes 2.5% monetary and may include other assets) must be paid annually to those who are eligible, as prescribed in the Qur’an (e.g. the poor and needy).
The Prophet (peace be on him) said: “Allah has made zakah obligatory simply to purify your remaining wealth.”
The meaning of the word “zakah”, is both ‘purification and ‘growth’. This is similar to the pruning of plants, whereby regularly trimming provides balance and encourages growth. By fulfilling this obligation, Muslims purify their remaining wealth, as well as ensure both financial and spiritual growth.
Some benefits of zakah:
- Purifies one from selfishness, arrogance and a greedy heart.
- Trains one to be sympathetic and compassionate towards the poor and needy.
- Reminds one of the blessings from Allah and encourages one to be grateful.
- Bridges the gap between different socio-economic classes and groups, and is a form of social security.
- Reduces poverty and ensures equality by making it obligatory upon the rich to share some of their wealth with the less fortunate.
A person may also give as much as they please as an additional voluntary charity.
4. Fasting – SAWM
The fast (Sawm) is intended to enable Muslims to look for closeness and to search for pardoning from God, to offer their thanks to and reliance on him, make up for their past sins, and to help them to remember the penniless. During Ramadan, Muslims are also anticipated that would put more effort into following the lessons of Islam by shunning brutality, outrage, begrudge, covetousness, and endeavour to coexist with kindred Muslims better. Furthermore, all vulgar and sceptical sights and sounds are to stay away from.
Three types of fasting are recognized by the Quran:
- Ritual fasting,
- Fasting as compensation for repentance (both from Surah Al-Baqarah),
- Ascetic fasting (from Al-Ahzab).
Custom fasting is a mandatory demonstration during the long month of Ramadan. Muslims must refrain from nourishment and drink from daybreak to sunset during this month, and are to be particularly aware of different sins. Fasting is fundamental for each Muslim that has achieved pubescence (unless he/she experiences a medicinal condition that prevents him/her from doing as such). Allah says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
”O you who believe[d]! Is prescribed for you [the] fasting as was prescribed to those from before you, so that you may (become) righteous.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:183)
As with any act of worship, fasting requires obedience and submission to Allah’s commands through the highest degree of commitment and sincerity. Every year during the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the lunar calendar), Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from three key human needs – food, drink, and sexual relations. One should also abstain from all sinful actions.
Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory on every physically and mentally capable adult Muslim. Children, the sick, the mentally unfit, the elderly, menstruating women, and travellers are exempt.
Some benefits of fasting:
- Promotes spiritual self-purification and growth.
- Scientifically proven health benefits.
- Sympathy for those less fortunate, prompting more charity.
- A means of learning self-restraint and patience.
- It creates an increased feeling of unity and collective identity amongst those fasting.
- It creates an increased awareness about the state of affairs across the globe and the hardships endured.
- Purifies the soul and helps it acquire the habit of obeying Allah by restraining desires, and promoting steadfastness.
- Forgiveness of sins. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “He who fasts Ramadan, with faith and hoping for reward (from Allah), then his past sins are forgiven.”
5. Pilgrimage – HAJJ
Pilgrimage to the Holy city of Makkah (in Saudi Arabia) and other sacred sites must be performed at least once in a person’s life if they are physically and financially capable. Performing the pilgrimage is a temporary suspension of all worldly activities, and is a time for one to reflect, worship, seek the forgiveness of Allah and attain His closeness. The Hajj is a journey that happens during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah to the sacred city of Makkah. Each physically fit Muslim is obliged to make the journey to Makkah in any event once in their life. Allah says:
فِيهِ آيَاتٌ بَيِّنَاتٌ مَّقَامُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمَن دَخَلَهُ كَانَ آمِنًا وَلِلَّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلًا وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ
“And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Kaaba) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, for those who can afford the expenses (for one’s transportation, provision, and residence).” (Surah Al-Imran 3:97)
The Pilgrimage is an annual event in the 12th month of the lunar calendar (Dhul-Hijjah in Arabic), which unifies people of every colour, race, status, and age, as they join in the worship of the One True God. All pilgrims wear simple and similar clothing, which strips away distinctions of class and culture so that all stand equal before Allah.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever performs Hajj and does not utter obscenities or commit sin, will come back just like the day when his mother bore him (i.e. pure of sins).”
Hajj involves following in the footsteps of Prophet Abraham, as taught to us by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them). This great act of worship consists of many components including sacrificing an animal, supplicating, visiting and praying at various sites, circling the Kaaba, walking between two mountains, as well as many other rituals, all of which are performed over a period of 6 continuous days. Allah says:
مَّا أَفَاءَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْقُرَىٰ فَلِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاءِ مِنكُمْ وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ
“What Allah restored to His Messenger from (the) people (of) the towns, (it is) for Allah and His Messenger and for the kindred and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, that not it becomes a (perpetual) circulation between the rich among you. And whatever gives you the Messenger, take it and whatever he forbids you from it, refrain. And consciously revere Allah. Indeed, Allah (is) severe (in) penalty.” (Surah Al-Hashr 59:7)
Such an experience is life-altering and humbles a person, making them more patient and thankful to Allah. Brotherhood is increased, as is the sense that all Muslims, regardless of their differences, are one nation. Allah says:
ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ نَزَّلَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُوا فِي الْكِتَابِ لَفِي شِقَاقٍ بَعِيدٍ
“That (is) because Allah revealed the Book with [the] Truth. And indeed, those who differed in the Book (are) surely in a schism far.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:176)
The five pillars of Islam have been prescribed by Allah, and a Muslim is required to believe and act according to them. They are practical as well as easy, and the blessings and wisdom behind them are manifold. When put into perspective, they contribute to the well being of both the individual and the society, enhancing the character and manners of the individual, and making both society and individuals accountable and closer to Allah.
These noble pillars of Islam are purely for the benefit of His creation, as Allah (Glory be to Him!) is free of all needs. These five pillars provide a solid structure and a ‘training program’ for the betterment and success of all humanity.