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The Five Pillars of Islam

Every follower of Islam has five duties that are compulsory to perform. Read about the significance of each one of them.

The five pillars of Islam refers to the five tasks that every Muslim must carry out in his life. These duties are the Shahadah, Salah, Zakat (or Zakah), Sawm, and the Hajj. These duties are essential for Sunni Muslims. In the case of Shia followers, there are eight practices that must be followed. These rituals are almost the same as the five pillars.


This is the first and most important duty that a Muslim must perform. It is the complete belief in the statement that there is no other God but Allah. The second part of the declaration is the belief that Muhammad is his true messenger. The Shahadah must be recited by all followers of Islam on a daily basis. Also, certain orthodox Muslim elders are of the thought that a person is considered to be a Muslim if he makes this declaration.

The shahadah is considered invalid if the person reciting it does not believe in Allah as God. It is also invalid if the Shahadah is recited under duress or a person is tricked into making the declaration. The national flag of Saudi Arabia has the Shahadah written on it, as white script on a green background. The flag is manufactured with different front and reverse sides. This is so that the inscription can be read from right to left, no matter which side of the flag you are looking at.


Salah is another of the five pillars of Islam that is followed by both Sunni and Shia Muslims. It may also sometimes be referred to as 'Namaz' in Persian, Urdu, Hindi and some other languages. This word is of Indo-European ancestry and literally means 'to bow'. Salah refers to the set of prayers that must be recited five times every day.

Salah is said to be the most important act of worshipping God in Islam. It must be adhered to by every adult Muslim. Its importance is so great that it cannot be omitted or minimised, except under very extreme circumstances. These prayers are supposed to bring an individual closer to God. Doing this daily is to remind Muslims that everything comes from God so that they can thank him and seek his blessings.


Zakat or zakah is the Islamic practice of giving alms or tithing, which is usually done around the month of Ramzan. Every Muslim who has earned money or possesses commodities which have a value greater than the prescribed sum is expected to pay zakat. This amount is calculated as being two and a half percent of the total value of an individual's earnings.

Zakat is said to bring about social equality among Muslims in a society. The practice encourages the generosity of those who are rich and seeks to achieve the equitable distribution of wealth among the members of a community. A muslim can also donate an extra sum of money which is termed as voluntary charity.


Sawm refers to the Islamic practice of fasting. In Asian countries like India and Pakistan, the ritual of fasting is termed as 'Roza'. Every able Muslim is expected to fast from dawn till dusk everyday, during the holy month of Ramzan. The fasting is said to bring a person closer to God. Fasting also teaches discipline and self-restraint as a person learns to control his desires. Fasting is also believed to be a form of atonement.

An individual may also fast at other times during the year. This is usually to make up for the days he missed during Ramzan. Alternatively, fasting can be used as a form of repentance or in order to confess any sins. Fasting is also perceived as a means of achieving a higher level of spirituality.


Hajj is the pilgrimage that every Muslim is expected to make to Mecca, at least once in his lifetime. Although this is compulsory, a person is exempt from making the Hajj due to ill health or if he cannot afford the pilgrimage. This pilgrimage is in order for an individual to publicly express his devotion to God. From the time a person is ten kilometres from Mecca, he should dress only in simple white coloured clothes. An individual who has returned from Mecca is usually honoured in his community and his social standing improves.

What do you think of the five pillars of Islam? Do you know of any other religion that has similar guidelines? To share your views and thoughts, click here.


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