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The Five Pillars of Islam

Lesson Four


Victor M. Eskew




A.   The five pillars of Islam are the foundation of Muslim life.

1.     They are “the minimum of what’s involved in being a believing and practicing Muslim” (Dummies, 138).

2.    “Each pillar is a gateway into deeper understanding and greater spirituality as one grows in the faith” (Ibid.)


B.   The five pillars are known by the names:

1.     The Pillars of Islam

2.    The Pillars of Religion

3.     NOTE:  These are not the same as the Five Pillars of Faith.


C.   Before a Muslim can engage in some of the Pillars of Islam, he must perform acts of purification.

1.     Muslim collections of traditions (hadiths) include a separate section on purification as part of the material concerning worship and ritual.

2.    Two types:

a.    Wudu’ – minor ritual cleansing

b.    Ghusl – ritual bath

3.     Wudu’

a.    Has a prescribed sequence of actions and words

b.    Running water is poured on parts of the body:  forearms, mouth, and ears.  (Sand can be substituted for water).


I.          THE SHAHADA


A.   The Statement

1.     English:  “I testify that there is no God but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

2.    Arabic:  ashhadu al-la ilaha illa-Llahwa ashhadu anna Muhammadar-rasul Allah


B.   By speaking this statement with the intention to become a Muslim, a person does indeed become a Muslim.


C.   The shahada is one of the methods used by the Muslims to bear witness of his submission to Allah and “witness” to others.


D.   “The significance of this declaration is the belief that the only purpose of life is to serve and obey God, and this is achieved through teachings and practices of the Last Prophet Muhammad” (islam101.com, “The Five Pillars of Islam”).


II.        SALAT


A.   The ritual, daily prayers in Islam that are performed five times each day.

1.     The prayers follow a prescribed sequence of words with accompanying bodily positions.

2.    The Muslim is constantly reminded to put Allah before all other concerns.

3.     Before praying, a Muslim must perform the ceremonial washings that are pre-scribed in Sura 5:6:  “O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, Allah doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, that ye may be grateful” (http://www.muslimaccess.com/quraan/arabic/005.asp). 


B.   Each time of prayer is announced with a call to prayer (adhan).

1.     The call to prayer starts about 15 minutes before the designated time of prayer.

2.    The call itself:


God is Great.            (takbir)

God is Great.

God is Great.

God is Great.

I testify that there is none worthy of worship except God.

I testify that there is none worthy of worship 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 great!

God is great!

There is none worthy of worship except God.


C.   The times of the five prayers:

1.     Fajr:  early morning prayers right before dawn (2 prayer cycles)

2.    Dhuhr:  noon prayer (4 prayer cycles)

3.     Asr:  mid-afternoon prayer (four prayer cycles)

4.    Maghrib:  sunset prayer (three prayer cycles)

5.    Isha’a:  evening prayer, between an hour after sunset and midnight (four prayer cycles)


D.   “Remember that each of the five daily prayers involves two to four rak’as.  Before the second and any subsequent rak’as, the worshipper stands up, pronounces a takbir, and begins the next cycle.  At the end of the second and final rak’as, a formulaic greeting (the tahiyya) asks God’s blessings on Muham-mad.  At the end of all the cycles of the salat, the worshipper sits back and recites the witnessing (tashahhud), followed by invocation of blessings on Muhammad and Abraham.  After a final prayer for peace, he turns his head to the right and then to the left, saying ‘peace be upon you’ (al-salamu ‘alaykum)” (Dummies, 146).


E.   Additional information:

1.     Missed salats can be made up privately.

2.    It was during Muhammad’s journey to heaven that the five prayers were determined.

3.     Salats are performed facing Mecca.

4.    Salats can be performed almost anywhere.

5.    If not in a mosque, a Muslim must pray on a prayer rug or on a newspaper.

6.    Prayer can be prayed privately, but most of the time they are prayed in the presence of other Muslims.

7.    Each prayer consists of two or four cycles of bowings (rak’as) – a sequence of prescribed movements and accompanying words (17 rak’as per day).




A.   An obligatory tax that every Muslim pays annually.


B.   The word means “purification” or “growth.”  One’s 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” (islam101.com)


C.   The basic rate is 2.5% of all liquid assets and income producing property.


D.   Local mosques and various Islamic organizations may act as conduits to receive and distribute the proceeds of zakat.


E.   The zakat is used to:

1.     Help the poor and sick

2.    Spread the Islamic faith

3.     Ransom captives

4.    Aid travelers, especially to help fellow Muslims perform the Hajj.

5.    Free Muslim slaves

6.    Help debtors

7.    Defend Islam, including jihad


IV.       SAUM


A.   Fasting takes place in the month of Ramadan from dawn until sunset.  Sura 2:183-185 says:  “O you who believe!  Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may learn self-restraint – (fasting) for a fixed number of days…Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind.”


B.   Fasting includes:  no eating, no drinking, no sexual intercourse, and no smoking.


C.   Purposes of fasting:

1.     Fasting allows the Muslim to experience “the deprivation that the poor suffer throughout the year, becoming more sensitive and responsive to their plight” (Dummies, 153).

2.    “Although fasting is beneficial to health, it is mainly a method of self-purification and self-restraint.  By cutting oneself from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person focuses on his or her purpose in life by constantly being aware of the presence of God” (islam101.com).


D.   The evening of the 29th of Ramadan ends the fast and begins one of the two great festivals of Islam:  id al-fitr.  This time of rejoicing lasts 3 days.


V.        HAJJ


A.   The pilgrimage to Mecca.


B.   Date 8th to the 12th during the 12th month of the Muslim calendar, Duhl Hijjah.


C.   “The requirement is that each Muslim makes the pilgrimage once in his or her life, if able to do so.  Muslims don’t go into debt or sacrifice the material well being of their families in order to undertake the trip” (Dummies, 154).


D.   Some 2 million Muslims make the pilgrimage each year.  “The pilgrims dress in unsown white robes.  They cannot cut their hair or nails, use cosmetics, or have sexual relations during the hajj” (A Study of Islam, anonymous, p. 21).


E.   “The rites of hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include going around the Ka’bah seven times, and going seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar (Hajir, Abraham’s wife) during her search for water.  The pilgrims later stand together on the wide plains of ‘Arafat (a large expanse of desert outside of Makkah) and join in prayer for God’s forgiveness, in what is often thought as a preview of the Day of Judgment” (islam101.com).


F.    “On another day, they travel to Mina where they believe Abraham sacrificed Ishmael, instead of Isaac.  They then throw stones at three stone pillars.  This commemorates Ishmael resisting Satan’s temptation to rebel against Abraham by throwing stones at him.  They throw seven stones at each pillar.  This day ends with the Feast of Sacrifice or the Great Feast” (A Study of Islam, Anon., p. 21).

G.   Eid ul-adha

1.     The festival of sacrifice which marks the end of hajj.

2.    A literal animal sacrifice is performed commemorating the ram that God provided Abraham and sacrificed in place of his son.


H.   Many will make a side trip to Medina in order to visit the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad.  The graves of Abu Bakr, Umar, and Fatima are also in Medina.  They are the first and second caliphs, and Muhammad’s daughter.




A.   Most Muslims are very serious about the practice of their faith. 


B.   The prayer life of a Muslim will have the most profound impact on our society as the Muslim faith infiltrates our society.


C.   There are some Muslims who are more faithful than others.  Some are not faithful at all.