The Pillars of Islam

The types of worship which are performed physically and verbally are called the Pillars of Islam. They are the foundations upon which the Religion is built and by which a person is regarded a Muslim. These pillars are as follows:

  • The two Testimonies of Faith, which is a verbal pillar of Islam.
  • The second and fourth pillars of Islam are prayer and fasting, which are both physical pillars of Islam.
  • The third is Zakaah (compulsory charity), which is a physical act of worship wherein one gives out the obligatory charity.
  • The fifth pillar of Islam is Hajj (the Pilgrimage to Mecca), which combines, physical, verbal and calls upon one to expend from his wealth.

Islam does not call upon the Muslims to merely perform these acts of worship; rather; it wants of them to purify their souls. Allah says regarding Prayer: (Indeed the prayer prevents from licentiousness and [other] sins.)

Allah says about the Obligatory Charity (Zakaah): (Take alms from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it.)

Allah says about fasting: (O you who believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become of the pious.)

Fasting teaches and trains the individual self-restrain and discipline, and not to indulge in one’s wants and desires. This is what the Prophet( s) meant when he said: “Whoever does not refrain from false speech and deeds, Allah has no need for him to leave his food and drink.”

Allah says about Hajj Pilgrimage: (The Hajj is (in) the well-known months(1). So whosoever intends to perform Hajj, then he should not have sexual relations, nor commit sin, nor dispute unjustly during the Hajj.)

In Islam, worship plays a great role in developing and refining praiseworthy manners, as well as safeguarding the unity of Muslims. The Pillars of Islam are as follows:

  • The First Pillar: The Two Testimonies of Faith

    These are the testimonies that no one has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and that Muhammad is His slave and mes senger. This is a verbal pillar of Islam, but one must also follow it with belief and action. This is the key to enter Islam.

    The Meaning of the First Testimony:

    This is the phrase of Tawheed. For this concept, Allah brought the creation into being, and for this concept He created Paradise and Hellfire. Allah says: (And I have created neither the Jinn nor mankind except to worship Me.)

    This is the belief to which all Prophets and Messengers called their peoples from Adam to the last of them, Muhammad, may Allah praise them and keep them safe from all evil. Allah says: (And we have not sent before you any messenger except that We have revealed to him that there is no god that is worshipped in truth except Me, so worship and obey Me.)

    The first testimony, that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, includes the following meanings:

    • Allah is the Creator of all that exists. Allah says: (Such is Allah, your Lord! None has the right to be worshipped but He, the Creator of all things. So worship and obey Him (Alone), and He is the Guardian over all things.)

    • Allah is the Proprietor of all that exists, and the Disposer of all affairs(3). Allah says: (Surely, His is the Creation and Commandment. Blessed be Allah, the Lord of all that exists]!)

    • Allah is the One Who deserves to be worshipped. Allah says: (Unquestionably, to Allah belongs whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth. And those who invoke other than Allah do not [actually] follow [His] “partners.” They follow not except assumption, and they only invent lies.)

    • To Him belong the beautiful names and perfect attributes. Far removed is He from every imperfection. Allah says: (And all the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allah, so call on Him by them, and leave the company of those who belie or deny His Names. They will be requited for what they used to do.)

    The Conditions of the Testimony:

    It is not enough to merely utter this testimony for it to be accepted by Allah. It is a key to the gates of Paradise, but in order for the key to work, it needs to have the right ridges. This Testimony must meet the following conditions for it to be accepted by Allah:

    • Knowledge:This comprises knowing that all things worshipped besides Allah are false. There is no god worshipped in truth except Allah, even if it be a prophet, a messenger or an angel. Allah is the only One Who deserves all types of worship, such as prayer, supplication, hope, sacrificial slaughtering, making oaths, etc.

      Whoever assigns any act of worship to other than Allah while that person intends to worship or aggrandize the one who he assigned it to, has committed an act of disbelief, even if he uttered the two testimonies.

    • Certainty:The heart must be firmly certain of the meaning of the two testimonies. Certainty is the opposite of doubt, so there is no room for a person to doubt or hesitate in his belief. Allah says: (The believers are only those who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not, and strive with their wealth and their lives for the Cause of Allah. Those are the truthful.)
    • Acceptance:One should accept the testimony fully, and not reject it.Allah says: (Truly, when it was said to them, “There is no true deity worshipped except Allah,” they puff themselves up with pride (i.e. deny it).)
    • Submission: obedience and acting upon all what the testimonies necessitate. A person must do what Allah ordered and abstain from what He prohibited. Allah says: (And whosoever submits his face to Allah, while he is a Muhsin (doer of good) then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold. And to Allah return all matters for decision.)
    • Truthfulness:One must be truthful in professing the testimonies. Allah says: (They say with their tongues what is not in their hearts.)
    • Sincerity of worship: One must sincerely dedicate all acts of worship to Allah alone. Allah says: (And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, following the religion purely and sincerely for Him, turning away from other religions.)
    • Love: One must love the testimonies and all that they necessitates. He must love Allah, His Messenger, and His righteous slaves. He must hate and show enmity towards all who show enmity to Allah and His Messenger. He must prefer what Allah and His Messenger love, even if it is differs from his desires. Allah says: (Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allah brings about His Decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who are rebellious and disobedient to Allah.)

    These testimonies also necessitate that Allah is the only One Who has the right to legislate, whether it be in matters concerning worship or those concerning human relations, in both individual and public matters.

    The act of making something prohibited or lawful is for Allah alone. His Messenger( s) merely explained and clarified Allah’s commandments. Allah says: (And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, refrain (from it).) [59:7]

    The Meaning of the second Testimony, that ‘Muhammad is His Messenger’

    To bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah necessitates the following:

    • To believe that he is a Messenger, and that he is the best and last of the Messengers; no Messenger will come after him. Allah says: (Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last of the Prophets.)

    • To believe that he is infallible in the teachings he conveyed from Allah. Allah, the Exalted, says: (Nor does he speak of [his own] desire. It is only an Inspiration that is inspired.)

      As for the affairs of this world, he was a human, and he had his own opinions. The Prophet ( s) said: “Indeed I am only a human. It may be that a claimant comes to me with a dispute, and due to one of them being more coercive in speech than the other, I may rule in his favor. Whoever was ruled in his favor while he is wrong, [what he is receiving without right] is only a portion of the Hellfire, so let him take it or leave it.” [Muslim]

    • To believe that he is a Messenger to all creation; to Jinn and to humans until the Final Hour. Allah says: (And We have not sent you [O Muhammad]except to all of mankind, as a giver of glad tidings and a warner, but most people know not.) [34:28]

    • To obey the Prophet( s) in what he ordered, to believe in everything he said, and to refrain from what he forbade and warned against. Allah says: (And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it).) [59:7]

    • To follow and adhere to the Prophet’s( s) Sunnah, without innovating matters in it. Allah, the Exalted, says: (Say [O Muhammad to mankind]: If you truly love Allah then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) [3:31]

  • The Second Pillar: Salaah (Prayer)

    It is obligatory upon you to establish the prayer [Salaah] for it is the backbone of the Religion; without it, one’s Islam would not be complete. Striking an example between the Religion and a camel, the Prophet( s)said : “As for the head of the Religion, it is Islam (the Shahadataan); as for its backbone, it is the Salaah, and as for the highest part of its hump, it is Jihad.” [at-Tirmidhi]

    Salaah is a term which denotes a group of words and actions which starts with Takbeer [saying ‘Allahu Akbar’, meaning: ‘Allah is the Greatest’] and ends with tasleem [saying ‘As-Salaamu ‘alaykum wa Rahmatullaah].

    A Muslim performs it out of obedience to Allah, magnifying and glorifying Him in it. Through it, one maintains a continual relationship with His Creator. Whenever a person becomes absorbed in the entertainments of this life and his faith weakens, he hears the call to prayer [Adhaan] which would admonish him.

    There are five prayers which must be performed in the day and night. Men must observe them in the Masjid in congregation, except for those who have a valid excuse. Through this, Muslims come to know one another, and the bonds of love and unity which hold them together are built, maintained and strengthened. They come to know of the condition of their fellow Muslims on a daily basis. If someone is not present and thought to be sick, they visit him, and if it seems that he is falling short in some of his obligations, they advise him. All social differences, such as class, race, and lineage are disregarded, for Muslims line up side by side in straight rows, all facing one direction [Makkah (Mecca)] all at the same time. All are rendered equal in regards to their subservience to Allah and standing before Him.

  • The Third Pillar: Obligatory Charity (Zakaah)

    It is a certain percentage of money which a rich Muslim gives to the poor and needy to save them from the humility of begging. It is compulsory upon every Muslim who possesses the Nisaab (minimum amount upon which Zakaah is due). Allah says: (And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, and worship none but Him Alone (abstaining from ascribing partners to Him), and to establish the Salaah and give the Zakaah: and that is the correct and upright Religion.) [98:5]

    Whoever rejects its obligation would have fallen into disbelief, and transgressed against the weak, poor, and needy. It is not a tax levied by the Islamic State from its subjects, as the ignorant believe; for were it so, it would have been levied from Muslims and non-Muslims alike! Among the conditions of Zakaah is that a person be Muslim, and is not to be taken from non-Muslims.

    The following are some of its conditions:

    • Possession of the minimum required amount: A person’s wealth must reach the limit which has been set by the Religion of Islam.
    • The completion of one year. If the wealth is not in the person’s possession for this period, there is no Zakaah due upon it.

    Allah has specified those who are eligible to receive Zakaah. Allah says: (The Sadaqaat [Zakaah] is only for the fuqaraa´ and masaakeen [the poor] and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free the captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah’s Cause, and for the wayfarer [a traveler who is cut off from everything]; a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise. [9:60]

    The amount which is to be paid is 2.5 % of the amount collected over a period of a year. Through it, Islam seeks to uproot poverty from the Muslim society and alleviate the dangers which result from it, like theft, murder, and acts of transgression against people’s honor. It revitalizes the spirit of mutual dependence and brotherhood in the Muslim society by fulfilling the requirements of the poor and needy

    The difference between Zakaah and tax is that a Muslim pays it willfully and on his own accord; he is the one who supervises its payment. Furthermore, its name indicates its goal, which is purification of the soul of rich Muslims. It also cleanses a Muslim of greed, selfishness, base covetousness, and the love of this temporal world and drowning in its desires, all of which make him forget his brothers from the poor and needy. Allah says: (And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful.) [59:9]

    also purifies the poor from hatred and jealousy which they may have against the rich. They see them giving from their wealth as Allah has ordered, and continuously caring for them, by giving them money and treating them well.

    slam sternly warns those who refuse to pay Zakaah. Allah says: (And let not those who covetously withhold of that which Allah has bestowed on them of His Bounty [Wealth] think that it is good for them (and so they do not pay the obligatory Zakaah). Nay, it will be worse for them; the things which they covetously withheld shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection.) [3:180]

    The Prophet( s) said: “If any owner of gold or silver does not pay what is due from him, when the Day of Resurrection comes, plates of fire will be beaten out for him. These will then be heated in the fire of Hell and his sides, his forehead and his back will be cauterized with them. Whenever these cool down, (the process is) repeated for a day the extent of which will be fifty thousand years, until judgment is pronounced upon the slaves, and he sees whether his path is to take him to Paradise or to Hell.” [Muslim]

  • The Fourth Pillar: The Fast of Ramadan

    A Muslim must fast one month in the year, which is the month of Ramadan. From the first break of dawn until the sun sets, Muslims must abstain from anything that breaks the fast, whether it be food, drink, or sexual intercourse. Fasting is not an act of worship introduced by Islam; rather it was an obligation legislated in the previous religions as well. Allah says: (O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.) [2:183]

    The objective of fasting is not that one merely abstains from those material and physical things which break one’s fast. Rather, one must also refrain from those intangible things which reduce the reward of one’s fast, such as lying, backbiting, tale-bearing, cheating, deception, false talk, and other offensive behavior. He should keep in mind that it is obligatory upon him to abstain from these offensive acts outside of Ramadan, but more so in this month, due to the saying of the Prophet ( s): “Whoever does not refrain from false speech and deeds, Allah had no need for him to leave his food and drink.” [al-Bukhari]

    The Fasting is a struggle between one’s soul and its cravings and desires. It has many social benefits which the Prophet( s) explained in his saying: “All the actions of the children of Adam are for him except fasting, for it is for Me and I will reward for it. Fasting is a shield; When one of you is fasting, he should not speak evil, nor should he yell and shout, and if someone were to curse or fight him, let him say, ‘Indeed I am a fasting person.’ By Him in Whose Hands is the soul of Muhammad, the smell which issues from the mouth of a fasting person is more dearer to Allah than the fragrance of musk. One who fasts will have two occasions of joy: upon breaking his fast and when he meets his Lord.” [al-Bukhari and Muslim]

    Through fasting, one realizes how his needy brothers feel who do not find sufficient food, clothing, and shelter, and this would entice him to fulfill his rights and ask about their conditions and what they need.

  • The Fifth Pillar: Hajj

    Hajj is the pilgrimage one makes to the Sacred House of Allah (the Ka’bah) in order to perform certain rites at specific places at specific times. This pillar of Islam is obligatory upon every Muslim, male or female, who is sane and has reached the age of puberty once in a lifetime, if they have the physical and financial capability.

    If a person has an incurable disease which prevents him from performing Hajj but has enough money, he must deputize someone to perform Hajj for him. If a person does not have more money than what he needs to fulfill his daily requirements or those whom he supports, Hajj is not an obligation upon him. Allah says: (And the performing of Hajj to the House [Kaaba] is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who have the ability; and whoever disbelieves, then Allah stands not in need of any of the ‘aalameen [Mankind, Jinns and all that exists].) [3:97]

    Hajj is the largest Islamic gathering. Muslims from all over the world come together at one place and one time; they all call upon the same Lord, wear the same clothes, perform the same rituals, and recite the same call:
    Lab’baik al’laahum’ma lab’baik, lab’baika laa shareeka laka lab’baik. In’nal hamda wun’nimata laka wal-mulk laa shareeka lak.


    Here am I, O, Allah; here am I. There is no partner with You. Here am I. Surely, all praise and graces are Yours, and so is the dominion! There is no partner with You.

    No difference is made between rich and poor, noble and ignoble, white and black, Arab and non-Arab; all are the same in front of Allah. There is no difference between them except in piety (taqwaa). The Hajj is an event which emphasizes the brotherhood of all Muslims and the unity of their hopes and feelings.