Five Pillars of Islamic Religion

The Five Pillars of Islam are fundamental practices that form the foundation of a Muslim’s faith and actions. These pillars are considered obligatory acts of worship and are essential to a Muslim’s spiritual life. They are universally accepted by Muslims around the world, regardless of ethnic, regional, or sectarian differences. Each pillar represents a unique aspect of devotion and commitment to Allah and the teachings of Islam.

Key Takeaways

  • The Five Pillars of Islam are Shahada, Salah, Zakat, Sawm, and Hajj.
  • Shahada is the declaration of faith, affirming the oneness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad.
  • Salah involves performing ritual prayers five times a day, which are a direct link between the worshipper and Allah.
  • Zakat is the practice of charitable giving, aimed at redistributing wealth and aiding those in need.
  • Sawm is the fasting during the month of Ramadan, which serves as a time for self-reflection, devotion, and spiritual growth.

1. Shahada

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The Shahada, or profession of faith, is the most fundamental expression of Islamic beliefs. It simply states that “There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet.” This declaration underscores the monotheistic nature of Islam and distinguishes Muslims from those of other faiths.

The Shahada is recited in Arabic as: lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāhu muḥammadun rasūlu-llāh (لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا الله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ الله). It is essential to utter it to become a Muslim and to convert to Islam. Reciting the Shahada three times in front of witnesses is a requirement for anyone wishing to embrace Islam.

The Shahada is the first thing said to a newborn and the last thing to a person on their death-bed, showing how the Muslim prayer and the pillars are instrumental from the day a person is born until the day they die.

Importance in Daily Life

The Shahada is said five times a day during prayer. It is a constant reminder of the core beliefs of Islam and serves as a guide for the daily lives of Muslims.

Role in Conversion

Reciting the Shahada is a fundamental step in converting to Islam. It must be recited with conviction in front of witnesses to affirm one’s faith and commitment to the Islamic religion.

Symbolism and Usage

The Shahada is an extremely popular phrase in Arabic calligraphy and appears in numerous manuscripts and religious buildings. It is a symbol of faith and devotion, often seen in various forms of Islamic art and architecture.

2. Salah

man in black jacket sitting on brown concrete floor

Salah, also known as prayer, is the second pillar of Islam. It is the principal form of worship in Islam, performed five times a day. Salah offers five different opportunities for remembrance of Allah SWT and our purpose in this life to worship Him. Muslims turn individually and collectively to Makkah, Islam’s holiest city, to offer these prayers at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening. While it is permissible to pray at home, at work, or even alone, it is meritorious to perform it with another or with a group.

The Five Daily Prayers

  1. Fajr (Dawn)
  2. Dhuhr (Noon)
  3. Asr (Mid-Afternoon)
  4. Maghrib (Sunset)
  5. Isha (Evening)

Congregational Prayer

Friday is set aside as the day for congregational prayer, known as Jum’a. This weekly gathering is an important aspect of Islamic communal life.

Salah is the ritual prayer of Islam through which all Muslims conform to the will of Allah.

3. Zakat

grayscale photo of man wearing headscarf

The Third Pillar of Islam is Zakat, or almsgiving. Zakat means purification, indicating that a payment makes the rest of one’s wealth legally and religiously pure. By following this pillar, Muslims have to deduct a certain amount of their wealth to support the Islamic community—usually about 2.5% of their wealth. This practice is not found in the Quran but rather in the hadith.

Social Responsibility

Social responsibility is considered part of one’s service to God; the obligatory act of zakat enshrines this duty. Zakat prescribes payment of fixed proportions of a Muslim’s possessions for the welfare of the entire community and in particular for its neediest members.

Obligatory Act

Zakat is obligatory for all Muslims who are able to do so. It is the personal responsibility of each Muslim to ease the economic hardship of others and to strive towards eliminating inequality. Zakat consists of spending a portion of one’s wealth for the benefit of the poor or needy, such as debtors or travelers.

Zakat shows how the Islam faith impacts the financial situation of a believer, drawing into all aspects of life.

Voluntary Charity

A Muslim may also donate more as an act of voluntary charity (sadaqah), rather than to achieve additional divine reward. Muslims are required to give back to the poor, specifically through financial support, on the streets in addition to the Zakat.

4. Sawm

Sawm, or fasting, is the fourth pillar of Islam. It takes place during the daylight hours in Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Using a lunar calendar means the month of Ramadan shifts 11 days earlier each year. Sawm is directly mentioned in the Quran: “eat and drink until the whiteness of the day becomes distinct from the blackness of the night at dawn, then complete the fast till night…”.

Significance of Sawm

Fasting during Ramadan is an act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a richer perception of God. It is also an exercise in self-control, heightening one’s sensitivity to the sufferings of the poor.

Rules and Exemptions

During daylight hours, Muslims abstain from food, drink, sexual activity, and smoking. The fast is broken with a meal after sunset. Those who are elderly, ill, pregnant, or breast-feeding are exempt, and children are not required to participate.

Spiritual and Social Aspects

Through this temporary deprivation, Muslims renew their awareness of and gratitude for everything God has provided in their lives—including the Qur’an, which was first revealed during this month. They share the hunger and thirst of the needy as a reminder of the religious duty to help those less fortunate.

Ramadan, the month during which the Holy Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, begins with the sighting of the new moon, after which abstention from eating, drinking, and other sensual pleasures begins.

5. Hajj

the inside of a large building with chandeliers

Hajj, the pilgrimage to Makkah, is the fifth pillar and the most significant manifestation of Islamic faith and unity in the world. For those Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the journey to Makkah, the Hajj is a once in a lifetime duty that is the peak of their religious life.

Significance of Hajj

Hajj is a remarkable spiritual gathering of over two million Muslims from all over the world to the holy city. It is a duty that every Muslim whose health and finances permit must undertake at least once in their lifetime.

Rituals of Hajj

  • Ihram: The state of spiritual purity and the special garments worn by pilgrims.
  • Tawaf: Walking around the Kaaba seven times in a counterclockwise direction.
  • Sa’i: Walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah.
  • Standing at Arafat: Spending the afternoon at the plain of Arafat in prayer and reflection.
  • Muzdalifah: Collecting pebbles for the ritual of stoning the devil.
  • Ramy al-Jamarat: Throwing pebbles at three pillars representing the devil.
  • Eid al-Adha: The festival of sacrifice, marking the end of Hajj.

Timing of Hajj

Hajj occurs in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, known as Dhu al-Hijjah. The specific dates vary each year based on the lunar calendar.

The pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia is a profound expression of faith and devotion, bringing together Muslims from diverse backgrounds in a unified act of worship.


The Five Pillars of Islam form the foundation of a Muslim’s faith and practices, serving as the core principles that guide their daily lives. These pillars—Shahada (faith), Salah (prayer), Zakat (almsgiving), Sawm (fasting), and Hajj (pilgrimage)—are not merely rituals but are profound expressions of devotion, discipline, and community. They encapsulate the essence of Islam, emphasizing the importance of faith in one God, the significance of regular worship, the duty of supporting those in need, the spiritual benefits of fasting, and the unity and equality experienced during the pilgrimage to Mecca. By adhering to these pillars, Muslims around the world reinforce their commitment to their faith, fostering a sense of belonging and purpose within the global Islamic community.