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Five Pillars of Islam

Basics of Islam: What are the Five Pillars of Islam?

Every religion has its followers and outsiders who think of some basics in it, such as the Wheel of Dharma in Buddhism and the Ten Commandments in Judaism and Christianity. A similar list of basics, called the Five Pillars, exists in Islam. Like the structure of a modern building, pillars in large or ancient buildings give structural support. In the same way, the Five Pillars of Islam provide the foundations. These pillars are a ready-made formula for you and your kids to become a believer, and they make transitioning to the faith very accessible.

Why Five Pillars of Islam?

Think of the five pillars of Islam as the minimum of what’s involved in being a believing and practicing Muslim. Imagine your kids know nothing about Islam. They ask themselves: How do they start to live life as Muslims? What must they believe and do? And where do they begin?

The Five Pillars provide a simple blueprint for a beginning and a framework for life ahead. They are a checklist to help your kids start on the straight path. Each pillar is straightforward, and all Muslims can answer for themselves whether or to what degree they have fulfilled each requirement. Of course, these pillars are only a beginning. Each serves as a gateway into more understanding and greater spirituality as your kid grows in the faith.

First Pillar: Creed (or Shahada)

Many religions condense the essence of their faith in a short statement that’s simple. At the same time, such testaments have great depths of meaning. Such is the testimony of faith in Islam. This statement – “I testify that there is no God but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad (PBUH) is the messenger of God” – sums up what it means to be a Muslim.

A Muslim must make a public declaration of the faith. By saying it, a person accepts the tenets of Islam, including beliefs in angels, the Quran, the Bible, the prophets, and a Day of Judgment.

Second Pillar: Prayer (Salat)

Muslims must pray five times a day – at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall. As the most important of five pillars, prayers provide a direct link between God and the worshiper.

Salat follows a prescribed sequence of words with accompanying bodily positions. And it is the most important means of worshiping God in Islam. Daily salat is central to Islam. Other worship rituals are vital but occur at much less frequent intervals – once a year or even once in a life. But because Muslims stop whatever they are doing to pray five times a day, they’re constantly reminded to put God before all their other concerns.

Third Pillar: Purifying Tax (Zakat)

Every religion urges charity by its members to support religious, social service, and educational needs. Islam has established such giving as the zakat, a required tax every Muslim must pay every year. Although the details can get complex, the rate is 2.5% of all liquid assets and income-producing property. If one’s property is below a certain minimum (called the nisab), a person does not pay it.

Many passages from the Quran and the hadith extol charitable acts. In al-Baqarah, Allah says:

Third pillar of Islam: Zakat

Fourth Pillar: Fasting (Sawm)

The fourth pillar of Islam is sawm. Muslims fast between dawn and dusk during Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Every Muslim must abstain from food, liquid, and intimate contact during those hours of the day.

Islam doesn’t recommend extreme asceticism or self-denial. God created the world and the human body for enjoyment. Salvation doesn’t come by denying one’s physical needs, such as food. However, Muslims should enjoy the world in moderation.

Fifth Pillar: Hajj (Making the Pilgrimage to Mecca)

One of the most important of the five pillars of Islam for Muslims is the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It lasts for five days, from the 8th to the 12th of Dhul-Hija, the 12th and last month of the Muslim year. Attending the hajj is mandatory for Muslims. But because it can be expensive, one can still be a Muslim without performing the hajj.

 Because the hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, literally millions of Muslims make the voyage to Saudi Arabia to participate in it every year. It’s uncommon to have at least 5 million hajjaj in Mecca and Medina during the hajj.

The Five Pillars Are Your Way to Divine Love and Service to Humanity

Believers who obey the five pillars of Islam receive rewards both in this life and the afterlife. But have your kids learned about them? If not, we’ve covered it in depth in our series The Basics of Islam, from stopping five times a day to join with other Muslims in praying to God to fasting during Ramadan to making the hajj – the spiritual high point of a Muslim’s life.

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