What Are The Five Pillars of Islam?


The five pillars of Islam are the basis of Muslim life and are the foundation upon which the faith itself stands. The Prophet Muhammad said:

“Islam is founded on five pillars; to testify that ‘there is no deity except God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God;’ to establish the ritual prayers; to give charity (to the needy); to fast during the month of Ramadan and to perform the pilgrimage to the House (in Makkah).”

A practicing Muslim’s life is centered upon these five pillars, the first and foremost of which is the testimony:

“There is no deity except God; Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

This simple declaration of faith is required of all those who wish to accept Islam as their chosen way of life. These words are to be uttered with sincerity and out of personal conviction, as there is no coercion in Islam. The significance of this testimony is that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God, such being achieved through following the beautiful and noble example of the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace).

Muslims believe that God sent messengers, at different points in history. The foundation of their message was always the testimony, “There is no deity except God”. The first commandment found in the Bible is: “I am the Lord, thy God; thou shalt not have other gods before Me.” This belief in the Oneness of God is central to Islam and permeates all of Muslim life.

2. PRAYER (Salah)

Another key element of Muslim life is the daily ritual prayers, or Salah. These prayers are performed five times a day, everyday, and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. This very personal relationship with the Creator allows one to fully depend upon, trust in, and love God; and to truly achieve inner peace and harmony, regardless of the trials of life that one faces.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Indeed, when one of you prays, he communes privately with his Lord.”

The prayers are performed at dawn, mid-day, late-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall; reminding one of God throughout the day. Regular prayer helps prevent destructive deeds and gives one the opportunity to seek God’s pardon for any misgivings that occur in the course of one’s daily activities.

The Prophet once asked his companions: “Think of a river by one’s door and bathing in it five times a day; would there remain any dirt on such a person?” The Prophet¹s companions answered in the negative. The Prophet, peace be upon him, then said: “Such it is with the five (daily) prayers; through them God washes away your sins.”

Friday is the main day of the week in which Muslims congregate. The mid-day prayer on Friday is different from all other prayers in that it includes a sermon. Prayers at other times are relatively simple; they include the recitation of verses from the Quran, specific movements and invocations, and they take only a few minutes to complete.

Muslims are greatly encouraged to perform their five daily prayers in a group–in the mosque if possible. A mosque, in its most basic form, is simply a clean area designated for the daily prayers. Mosques throughout the world take on various architectural forms, typically reflecting local cultures and their aesthetic tastes. They range from detached pavilions in China to elaborate courtyards in India; from massive domes in Turkey to glass and steel structures in the United States.

The Call to Prayer:

God is Greatest, God is Greatest

God is Greatest, God is Greatest

I testify that there is no deity except God

I testify that there is no deity except God

I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God

I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God

Come to prayer! Come to prayer!

Come to success! Come to success!

God is Greatest, God is Greatest

There is no deity except God


3. CHARITY (Zakah)

An important principle of Islam is that everything belongs to God; wealth is therefore held by the human being as a trust. Zakah, or obligatory charity, is a word that linguistically signifies both purification and growth. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need and for the society in general. Like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth.

Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakah individually. This involves an annual payment calculated at 2.5% of one’s assets, excluding such items as primary residence, car, and professional tools, to be given to those in need. Zakah is a unique concept, compared to other forms of giving, in that it redistributes the wealth of society, and when applied correctly, it could effectively eliminate abject poverty and world hunger all together.

God places great emphasis on taking care of the needy; He says in the Quran:

Those who spend of their wealth (in charity) by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord; on them there shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Quran 2:274)

Giving beyond the obligatory charity is expected of every Muslim and may take many forms. The Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, “Even meeting your brother with a warm smile is an act of charity.” The Prophet further said that, when one has nothing to give, staying away from evil is considered a form of charity as well.

4. FASTING (Siyam)

Fasting in the month of Ramadan is an essential part of being a Muslim. Muslims fast from dawn until sunset–abstaining from food and drink, as well as from marital relations. During this blessed month, the Muslim should be even more vigilant about the destructive qualities of character, speech, and behavior.

Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, as well as women who are pregnant or nursing, are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year (unless chronically ill). Children must begin fasting and the performance of ritual prayers at the age of puberty, although most children start much earlier on their own.

God states in the Quran:

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you, in hopes that you may achieve greater awareness (of God). (Quran 2:183)

Fasting is not only beneficial to one’s health, but it also engenders empathy for those less fortunate. However, fasting is mainly a method of self-purification, spiritual discipline, and self-restraint. By withholding oneself from certain worldly comforts, even if for only a short time, the fasting person is able to focus on his or her purpose in this life by constantly being aware of God, thereby becoming more cognizant of the meaning of what occurs to them in this earthly abode and realizing the great importance of their final destination after life.

Ramadan is a special time for Muslims everywhere; a time for clearer reflection and heightened spirituality. The end of Ramadan is ushered in by a holiday called Eid al-Fitr. On this day Muslims all over the world celebrate with prayers, friendly and family gatherings, and in many cases, a joyous exchange of gifts and the giving of sweets to children.


The pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Makkah is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who are physically and financially able. Over two million people, from all corners of the globe, go for Hajj each year making it the largest gathering for peace, worship, and unity known to humankind. Hajj also provides a unique opportunity for people of different nations and cultures to meet one another.

The annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year. The Islamic year is lunar; consequently Hajj occurs throughout all the seasons of the year during one’s lifetime.

Pilgrims enter a state of sacredness where arguing, fighting, and even cutting a plant or harming a fly is prohibited. They are required to wear simple and similar garments, thereby stripping away any cultural distinctions and class considerations; all stand equal before God.

The rites of the Hajj go back to Prophet Abraham and his family. They include visiting the Ka’bah and standing together on the vast plain of ‘Arafat (a desert expanse just outside of Makkah). It is here that pilgrims pray for God’s forgiveness and put forth all of their needs, in what is often considered a preview of the Day of Judgment. The Hajj provides an ideal occasion for the Muslim to reflect on his or her life, to refocus on God, and to return to their homes and their families spiritually rejuvenated.

The close of the Hajj is marked by the second major Muslim holiday, the Festival of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha. Pilgrims, if able, sacrifice a sheep or goat, commemorating Prophet Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his own son, a story that is known to both Jews and Christians as well. This sacrificial meat is then distributed to the needy and is not to be squandered in any way. Muslims around the world celebrate this day with prayers, ritual sacrifice, and an exchange of gifts.

Are There Any Other Sacred Sources in Islam?

Yes. The sunnah is the practice and example of the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) and is the second source of inspiration and guidance for Muslims. The Prophet’s sayings and actions were meticulously documented, both orally and textually, by his contemporaries and are known as hadith.

Here are a few examples of hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace):

“None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

“He who eats his fill, while his neighbor goes without food, is not a true believer.”

“God does not judge you according to your physical bodies and outward appearances, but He looks into your hearts and observes your deeds.”

“Whoever does not express his gratitude to people shall never be truly grateful to God.”

“Show mercy to those on earth, and the One in Heaven will show mercy to you.”

“God is gentle and He loves gentleness.”

‘The world is green and beautiful and God has appointed you as His guardians over it.”

“Forgive him who wrongs you; join him who cuts you off; be good to him who does you evil; and speak the truth even if it be against yourself.”

“A man traveling along a path fell thirsty. Reaching a well he descended into it, drank his fill and came up. Upon this he saw a dog with its tongue hanging out, licking up the mud to quench its thirst. Realizing that the dog was feeling the same thirst that he had just felt, he went down into the well again and filled his shoe with water and gave the dog a drink. God forgave this man’s sins for this one action.” The Prophet was asked: “Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness shown toward animals?” He said, “There is a reward for kindness to every living being.”

What is the Quran?

Muslims believe that the Quran is a complete record of the exact words revealed by God through the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace). It was memorized in its entirety by many of his followers, and throughout his prophetic mission it was continuously dictated to his companions and was written down by scribes who also cross-checked it during his very lifetime. Not one word of its 114 surahs (chapters) has been changed over the centuries. In summary, the Quran is in every detail the same unique and miraculous text that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) over fourteen centuries ago.

The Quran is the principle source of every Muslim’s faith and practice. It deals with everything that may be of concern to the human being, including profound spiritual wisdom; religious doctrine and ethics; and worship and law; but its basic theme is the intimate relationship between God and His creatures and the lessons that can be learned from this relationship throughout history. At the same time, the Quran provides guidelines for a just and good society, proper human conduct, and equitable economic practices.

He (God) has sent down to you the Book (the Quran) with truth, confirming what was revealed aforetime; and He sent down the Torah (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this as a guide to humankind; and He sent down the Criterion (the Quran). (Quran 3:3-4)

How Did the Spread of Islam Affect the World?

The Muslim community continued to grow after Prophet Muhammad’s passing (may God bless him and grant him peace). Within a few decades, vast numbers of people across three continents-Africa, Asia, and Europe-had already chosen Islam as their way of life.

One of the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the beauty and simplicity of its doctrine-Islam calls to faith in only one God and to belief and acceptance of all God’s messengers. This, coupled with the Islamic concepts of equality, justice, and freedom, resulted in the formation of a united and tranquil community. People were free to travel from Spain to China without fear, and without crossing any manmade borders.

As millions of people embraced Islam, they brought with them the heritage of ancient civilizations from lands such as Egypt, Greece, India, Persia, and Rome. Muslims cherished these cultures, their sciences, and the collective knowledge that they had to offer, and they took great pains to preserve their libraries and to honor the scholars residing in their cities.

Many Muslim scholars traveled to these cities seeking knowledge. They translated volumes upon volumes of philosophical and scientific works into Arabic from Greek and Syriac languages (the languages of Eastern Christian scholars), from Pahlavi (the scholarly language of Pre-Islamic Persia), and from Sanskrit (an ancient Indian language). As a result, Arabic soon became the world language of scholarship, and people from all over the world migrated to study in Muslim universities. For centuries to come, Arabic remained the most important scientific language and was the repository of much of the wisdom and sciences of antiquity.

The achievement of scholars working in the Islamic tradition went far beyond mere translation and the preservation of ancient learning. These Muslim scholars built upon the knowledge of the ancients, all the while forwarding their own scientific endeavors. These very advancements were a direct cause of the European Renaissance.

Muslims excelled in art, architecture, astronomy, geography, history, language, literature, medicine, mathematics, and physics. Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numeral system, and the very concept of the zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics itself), were formulated by Muslim scholars and thereafter shared with medieval Europe. Muslims invented sophisticated instruments that made the European voyages of discovery possible, including the astrolabe and the quadrant, as well as detailed navigational maps and charts.

How Did He Become a Prophet and Messenger of God?

At the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad received his first revelation from God through the Archangel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued to descend over a period of twenty-three years, is known as the Quran.

Muhammad began to share the revelations he received from God with the people of Makkah. Being idol worshippers, the general populace rejected Muhammad’s call to worship only one God. They opposed him and his small group of followers in every way possible, some suffering bitter forms of persecution and even torture.

In 622 CE, God gave the community of believers the command to emigrate. This event, known as the hijrah, or migration, in which they left Makkah for the blessed city of Madinah (some 260 miles to the north), marks the beginning of the official Muslim calendar.

The city of Madinah provided the new community of Muslims a safe and nurturing abode in which they could practice their faith without the spite of persecution. After several years, the Prophet and his followers returned to Makkah, peacefully claiming the city and forgiving their enemies. Then, turning their attention to the Ka’bah (the sanctuary that Prophet Abraham had previously built), they removed the idols and rededicated the sanctuary to the worship of the One God. By the time of the Prophet’s passing, at the age of 63 (may God bless him and grant him peace), most of the people of Arabia had embraced the Prophet’s message, and in less than a century thereafter, Islam rapidly spread to Spain in the west, and as far as China in the east.

Who is Muhammad?

Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) was born in Makkah in the year 570 CE, during the period of history that was known in Europe as the Middle Ages, a time in which Christianity had yet to be fully established there. Muhammad was the son of Amenah and ‘Abdullah, and was from the respected and noble Makkan tribe of Quraysh. He was a direct descendant of Ishmael, the eldest son of Prophet Abraham. Muhammad’s father died just before he was born, and his mother passed away when he was only six. He was raised as an orphan by his grandfather, who was the chief of Makkah, and upon his grandfather’s death, Muhammad came under the care of his paternal uncle, Abu Talib.

Muhammad was a shepherd in his youth. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity, and sincerity; earning the title of al-Amin, literally, the trustworthy one. Muhammad was frequently called upon to arbitrate disputes and counsel his fellow Makkans.

At age 25, Muhammad married Khadijah, an honorable and successful Makkan businesswoman. They were blessed with two sons and four daughters. It was an ideal marriage and they lived a happy family life.

Muhammad was of a contemplative nature and had long detested the decadence of his society. Early on it became his habit to meditate from time to time in the cave of Hira’ near the summit of Jabal an-Nur, the “Mountain of Light”, on the outskirts of Makkah.

Do Islam, Judaism, and Christianity Have Different Origins?

No. Muslims believe that the original, unchanged message given to Muhammad, Jesus, Moses and all other prophets came from the one and same God. This common origin explains their many similarities in aspects of belief, values, and even in some practices.

Say: “We Believe in God and what has been revealed to us; and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes; and what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him (God) do we wholly give ourselves.” (Quran 3:84)

Muslims, Jews, and Christians all consider Abraham as their Patriarch. Abraham is mentioned in the Quran and is one of the greatest prophets ever. He was blessed by God to be the father of many nations. From his second son, Isaac, descended the tribes of Israel, and through them, the noble prophets Moses and Jesus; and from the lineage of his first son, Ishmael, came the final prophet and messenger Muhammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon them all).

Abraham was commanded by God to rebuild the place of worship that Adam had originally established-the Ka’bah, which resides in the holy city of Makkah. The Ka’bah, or Ancient House, is a simple stone structure erected as a sanctuary for the worship of the One God. Muslims do not worship the Ka’bah, rather, the cubical building is a unified direction toward which all Muslims face in their daily prayers to God, the Almighty.

Who is Allah?

Allah is the proper name for God in the Arabic; both a sacred and Semitic language. Jews, Christians and Muslims all aspire to worship the same One God. Allah says in the Quran:

And do not debate with the People of the Book, unless in the best of manners, except those who are unjust, and say: “We believe in the Revelation that has come down to us and in that which has come down to you; Our God and your God is One, and to Him do we wholly give ourselves.” (Quran 29:46)

The word Allah is a unique term in that it has no plural and it does not carry any gender signification. This divine utterance, Allah, even predates the advent of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself and is still used today by both Jewish and Christian Arabs to signify the same one and only God.

He is God, the one whom there is no deity but He; the Knower of the unseen and the apparent; He is the Benevolent, the Merciful.

He is God, the one whom there is no deity but He; the King, the Holy, the Source of All Peace, the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver, the Mighty, the Compeller, the Majestic; Glory be to God, beyond their associations (of partners with Him)!

He is God, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. To Him belong the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Quran 59:22-24)

What Do Muslims Believe?

Muslims believe in the One, Unique, Incomparable, and Merciful God-the Sole Creator, Sustainer, and Cherisher of the Universe; in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to humanity; in the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions; in God’s complete authority over human destiny; and in life after death.

Muslims believe that God sent His prophets and messengers to all people throughout history. Some of the familiar Biblical prophets that are also mentioned in the Quran include: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, Zechariah, John the Baptist, and Jesus; may God’s peace and blessings be upon them all.

God’s final message to humanity was revealed to the last prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him), through the agency of the Archangel Gabriel. This message confirmed and finalized all previous revelations that were sent through God’s messengers and it established the final covenant between the Creator of existence and humanity.

No elaborate or burdensome rituals are required for one to accept the faith of Islam. One becomes a Muslim by simply believing and then proclaiming that, “There is no deity except God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in the One God and in all of God’s messengers, as well as in the original scriptures that were revealed to them.

What is Islam and who are the Muslims?

Islam is not a new faith. It is that same truth which God revealed through all His prophets to every people since the dawn of humanity. Islam is a religion of mercy, tolerance, generosity of spirit, inner peace, and outer tranquility. For a fifth of the world’s current population, Islam is both a personal religion as well as a complete way of life. Muslims come from all walks of life, and comprise all the races, nationalities, and cultures of the globe. They have varied languages, foods, styles of dress, and customs; even the way they actually practice Islam may slightly differ, yet they all consider themselves to be Muslim and all bow to the same God.