What are the 5 Pillars?
The religion of Islam stands on five pillars. It is recorded that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon) said:
“Islam has been built on five [pillars]: testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the salah (prayer), paying the zakat (obligatory charity), making the hajj (pilgrimage) to the House, and fasting in Ramadan.” Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
1. Belief in One God and the Testimony of Faith (Tawheed)
Tawheed (pronounced tow-heed) is an Arabic term which refers to the unique belief in the oneness of God. It is Islam’s concept of monotheism in which the religion’s core tenets are built upon.
It refers to the belief that there is only one divine being that is worthy of worship – Allah. When Muslims mention the name of Allah, they are calling out to the one true God of the universe.
Tawheed is the first and the most important pillar of the five pillars of Islam. Believing and acting on this pillar is the key to entering Islam. In order to become a Muslim and enter into the fold of Islam a person must pronounce the testimony of faith, or shahada in Arabic. The testimony of faith is a single statement:
لآ اِلَهَ اِلّا اللّهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُوُل اللّهِ
“Laa ilaha illa Allah Muhammad Rasoolullah”
This sentence means “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.”
It means to admit and to believe that none deserves to be worshipped except Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger. The entirety of the religion and all of its teachings is built upon the foundation of this belief in God.
The testimony of faith (shahada) is the most important thing in the life of a Muslim. The words “La ilaha illAllah” are announced during the call to prayer and in sermons. It is the phrase by which the earth and heavens were raised. Every single creation was created for this phrase. This is the phrase which distinguishes between a Muslim and a person of another faith.
There are two parts of the first half of the testimony of faith. Let’s break it down:
لآ اِلَهَ اِلّا اللّهُ
“Laa ilaha illa Allah”
“Laa ilaha illa Allah” which means “there is no god but Allah” or “none has the right to be worshipped except Allah.” This part of the testimony nullifies all forms of worshipping anyone or anything other than Allah. Worshipping other divine beings is considered to be a grave sin in Islam.
With this phrase, you are affirming that Allah alone is the Creator, Ruler, and Sustainer of all things, and He alone is deserving of our worship.
مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُوُل اللّهِ
The second half of the testimony of faith means “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” To believe in this statement is to bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. It also means to follow what he says, obey him in what he orders us to do, to stay away from what he forbids, and to worship Allah only in ways that were legislated.
You also believe that Allah sent his Messenger (peace be upon him), revealed the Qur’an to him, and commanded him to call the people to Tawheed (belief in the oneness of God).
2. Prayer (Salah)
The prayer is the second most important pillar in Islam, and it is the first thing that a person will be held accountable for on the Day of Judgment.
If the person’s prayer is good, then that person will be successful. But if the person’s prayer is incorrect in some way, then that person will have achieved failure. There are five obligatory prayers that every sane adult Muslim has to observe every day. Allah tells us about these prayers in the Qur’an:
Guard strictly (five obligatory) the prayers especially the middle prayer (i.e. Asr). And stand before Allah with obedience.Qur'an - Chapter 2, Verse 238
The five daily prayers are:
- Fajr (early morning, before dawn)
- Duhr (mid-day, just after noon)
- ‘Asr (mid afternoon)
- Maghrib (just after sunset)
- Isha (at night, after dark has fallen)
The prayer is the link between a person and Allah. It is an intimate relationship a person has with His Creator and it should be performed to the best of one’s ability.
One of the many things that Islam is known for is the brotherhood and sisterhood between Muslims. One of ways this feeling of belonging is achieved is through the prayer in congregation.
3. Giving Wealth to Zakat
Zakat is the third pillar of Islam. It is a specified portion of a Muslim’s wealth that is given to those in need. It is the amount given once a year to support specific categories of people. The amount is about 2.5% of total wealth which includes the following asset classes:
- Gold and silver
- Precious metals
- Stocks and shares
- Real estate
- Agricultural livestock
These are the most common asset classes for which Zakat is paid from.
The linguistic meaning of zakat is “that which purifies.” It is considered to be a way for Muslims to purify their wealth and income. Similar to how the prayer (salah) purifies a person’s soul, zakat purifies your assets and earns you the pleasure of Allah because your wealth is distributed to those in need.
Allah has enjoined upon the Muslims zakat which is taken from those who have wealth and given to those in need.
Zakat is only obligatory for Muslims who have reached puberty (i.e. they are adults), are mentally stable, and are financially capable. Furthermore, the amount of wealth a person has must reach a certain threshold known as the nisaab. The nisaab is a minimum amount of wealth a person must have before zakat becomes due upon them. The wealth should be in their possession for one year.
This pillar of Islam is not required for those who do not meet the criteria above. For example, if you are a university student with plenty of debt, a father who lives paycheck to paycheck, or a person whose wealth has not reached the nisaab (minimum amount) then zakat is not required for you to pay.
We hope to cover the pillar of Zakat in greater detail in a future guide. What we have covered in this chapter so far is only an introduction.
4. Fasting in the month of Ramadan
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam. It refers to the practice of abstaining from eating food, drinking liquids, and having intercourse from the break of dawn until sunset.
Similar to the pillars that have been mentioned already, fasting is obligatory upon every sane, adult Muslim, male and female alike.
Allah has enjoined upon the Muslims to fast for one month of the year in order to strengthen our faith, piety and God consciousness.
This involves avoiding that which Allah has forbidden, practicing patience throughout the day, bringing our desires under control, competing in generosity through charity, and demonstrating co-operation and mutual compassion. Allah says in the Qur’an:
O you who believe! Observing the fast is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become piousQur'an - Chapter 2, Verse 183
The month of Ramadan is a great month as it was the period in which Allah revealed the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The reward for good deeds, acts of charity and acts of worship are multiplied in this month.
5. Hajj – The Pilgrimage to Makkah
The fifth and final pillar of Islam is to perform the hajj, the pilgrimage to Makkah. Every year millions of Muslims make their way to the Kaba, the Sacred House of Allah in Makkah to perform the pilgrimage.
It is one of the most significant forms of worship in Islam and it demonstrates unity among the Muslims.
This action is required from every Muslim to perform at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially capable. It is a deed that requires much time and energy from a person which is why it is required to be done only once in a lifetime.
The reward for performing hajj is great. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said concerning the reward of hajj:
“He who performs Hajj seeking Allah’s pleasure and avoids all lewdness and sins (therein) will return after Hajj free from all sins, just as he was on the day his mother gave birth to him.” Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
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