The Five Pillars of Islam: Definition and Detailed Explanation


عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: سَمِعْت رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم يَقُولُ: ” بُنِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ: شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لَا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ، وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ، وَحَجِّ الْبَيْتِ، وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ”.

[رَوَاهُ الْبُخَارِيُّ] ، [وَمُسْلِمٌ].

On the authority of Abdullah, the son of Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra), who said:

I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say, “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 Ramadhan.”
[Bukhari & Muslim]
The Five Pillars of Islam are called as اركان الاسلام in Arabic

Explanation of The Five Pillars in Islam in Order

First Pillar of Islam: The Shahadah

The First Pillar of Islam

The first part of the Shahadah is testifying that there is none worthy of worship except Allah.

Conditions of the Shahadah:

There are seven conditions of the Shahadah:

  1. Knowledge – to understand what it means.
  2.  Certainty – to have no doubt about anything confirmed in the Quran or Sunnah.
  3. Acceptance – by the tongue and the heart of whatever the Shahadah implies.
  4. Submission/Compliance – the actual physical enactment by deeds.
  5. Truthfulness – to say the Shahadah sincerely, with honesty, to actually mean it.
  6. Sincerity – to do it solely for the sake of Allah.
  7. Love – to love the Shahadah and to love its implications and requirements and what it
    stands for.

What does Shahdah mean?

The Shahadah is not simply saying it with our tongue. We need to adhere to these conditions. If we say the Shahadah sincerely and with honesty, we will not do anything which contradicts with or violates the Shahadah.

Conditions of the Second part of Shahadah:

The second part of the Shahadah carries the following conditions:

  1. To believe in the Prophet  and in whatever he told us and conveyed to us.
  2. To obey him in whatever he commanded us to do.
  3. To stay away from or avoid whatever he commanded us not to do.
  4. To follow or emulate him in our Ibaa’dah, Akhlaq and way of life.
  5. To love him more than we love ourselves, our family and anything else in this world.
  6. To understand, practice and promote his Sunnah in the best way possible, without creating any chaos, enmity or harm.

It is a primary aspect of faith to believe that Allah has ordained upon His slaves the five pillars of Islam.

The Messenger of Allah صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ said that Islam is based on Five Pillars.

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Words of the Shadah 

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله  صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ

La Ilaha IllAllah Muhammadur Rasulullah
Meaning: None has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Prophet Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah

Second Pillar of Islam: Establishing the Prayers (Salah)

It is compulsary for every muslim men and woman to pray five obligatory prayers every time. Some interpretations of this hadith translate “Iqamatus Salah” as ‘performing’ the salah. “Iqamatus salah” is a broader concept than what the term ‘performing’ means.

The Scholars say “Iqamatus salah” means:

  • Doing the wudu in the proper way 
  • To do the salah in its time
  • To do it in congregation (jama’ah) – where the reward is 27 times than praying alone
  • To fulfill the six conditions of salah
  • To observe the proper manners (adab) of doing it such as submission and humility
  • To follow preferable actions (sunnan) in our salah

It is important that we follow these conditions and not violate them if we want to truly fulfill the second pillar of Islam i.e. “iqamatus salah”. We should remember that Allah initially commanded us to pray fifty times a day and it was eventually reduced to five times (with the reward of fifty) – the prayer times are very reasonably spread out throughout the day – it can even help us to manage our time – it can help us to manage our affairs, allowing the Muslim community to meet
during congregation and care for and help each other which will lead in turn to solidarity. Thus, the prayers should not be seen as a burden as some Muslims might regard them today.

Third Pillar of Islam: Zakah

The giving of Zakat has been pointed out by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, for certain things and in certain ways or percentages and under certain conditions. The Scholars say that knowing the details of Zakat only becomes an obligation when a person owns the type of property or thing which requires him to give Zakat.

E.g. Farmers or traders or property owners need to know the conditions and percentages of Zakat that they are obligated to give.

Fourth Pillar of Islam: Fasting

Ramadhan is a training program for all Muslims to go through, performing good deeds to become better Muslims. However, we should continue with these good deeds outside of Ramadhan – praying in the mosque, Tahajjud, Qiamu lae’el, reciting the Qur’an, helping and caring for others etc.

The Prophet when asked what the best way is to finish reading the whole Qur’an, said to do it in one month, i.e. one Juzuk per day. This is something we should
practice all the time and not have to wait for Ramadhan to do it. If we cannot achieve this, at least try to read one or two pages a day (a quarter of a hizb).

Similarly we should try to do the night prayers (tahajjud), be it only two raka’at and not everyday, outside of Ramadhan.

We should not make personal commitments in performing these preferable actions where the Shariah has not made this itself. This might lead us to giving up on our commitment and hence, the good deed. The best way is to do it on ease and convenience aiming at the continuity of these good deeds.

Fifth Pillar of Islam: Hajj

Pilgrimage (Hajj) to the House (Kaabah) is an obligation that we need to do only once in our lifetime – only if we meet certain conditions, e.g. if we have the financial means, a way of travelling peacefully, etc. If we meet these conditions then we should perform the Hajj as soon as possible and not to delay it.

Some Scholars say that if we have the means to perform the Hajj several times, then it is better to use this money to help others to fulfill their obligations – we will be rewarded for their pilgrimage or to use the money for the betterment of the community.

For each of these Pillars there are conditions, sunnan, ethics (adab), etc., which should be observed when we perform these ibadahs. Why do we always hear that every year hundreds of Muslims lose their lives or get injured during Hajj? Most of these incidents are due to the negligence of the adab or violation of the sunnan. For example, the throwing of stones at the Jamrat:

  • Even though we are supposed to use small stones, people tend to use big ones and throw recklessly from a far distance, causing injuries to others.
  • People do not follow the specified directions when they move, causing many to get crushed by the ‘human waves’ moving in different directions.
  • People insist on going to throw at the peak times, i.e. the busiest part of the day. The elderly, women and handicapped should be reminded to go when it is less crowded

Thus, it is important that we observe the adab.

FAQ

How many pillars are there in Islam?

There are five pillars in Islam and they are:

  1. The Shahadah
  2. Prayers (Salah)
  3. Zakah
  4. Fasting
  5. Hajj

Note: Islam is the only religion having Five Pillars 

Where are the Five Pillars of Islam located?

The Five Pillars of Islam are located in the heart of a true believer. They are not the physical entities that you can touch.

Conclusion

All the Pillars of Islam have rulings, conditions and mannerisms (ahkam wa adab) applied to them. It is important that we know these ahkam and adab and regularly remind ourselves, especially before Ramadan or before performing the Hajj, so that we perform the Pillars properly and according to the Shariah.

The most important of these pillars is to testify that there is no deity worthy of being worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger, which necessitates dedicating all acts of worship to Allah alone without devoting thereof to anybody (or anything) besides Him.

This is the Meaning of “La ilaha illAllah” It means that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah alone.

Therefore, all that is worshipped beside Him such as man, angel or jinn are false deities. Allah is the only One who has the right to be worshipped. He says,

Belief in Allah also includes believing that Allah is the Creator of the universe and the Controller of its affairs in a way that He deems fit.

Allah is the Owner of this world and the hereafter, and the Lord of all that exists. There is no creator except Him and there is no sustainer besides Him.

He sent the Messengers and revealed Books for the benefit of mankind and to invite them to salvation and wellbeing in this world and the hereafter.

As stated before, belief in Allah necessitates believing in His beautiful Names and sublime Attributes, as mentioned in the glorious Qur’an and as authentically reported from His trustworthy Messenger, without altering their meaning, denying them, explaining them away or likening them to the attributes of His creation.

His Names and Attributes must be accepted and interpreted as they are, and their great meanings must be maintained and believed in.

A Muslim must consider the Attributes of Allah in a manner that befits His majesty. Allah does not resemble any of His creation in any of His attributes, saying,

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