Five Pillars

Five Pillars of Islam

As part of the Five Categories of Human Ethical Conduct, these are guidelines that developed in the early tradition of Islamic law. These laws are divided into different categories: 1) Required, 2) Recommended, 3) Indifferent (or Permissable), 4) Reprehensible, and 5) Forbidden.

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The Al- Haram Mosque in Mecca at the start of Hajj in 2008
Photo source: Flickr

These five pillars fall into the “required” category of the Five Categories:

  • Shahadah – profession of faith
    • As a Muslim, you must utter the Shahadah: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His messenger.”
  • Salat – prayer
    • Prayer is a strict requirement, quoted in the Hadith (Muhammad’s record of life) and the Quran as being essential. The Prophet is quoted as saying, “When each of you performs his prayer, he is in intimate communication with his Lord.” Certain types of prayer are required while others are not considered obligatory. There are also set times for Salat, such as at sunset, early evening, dawn, midday, and mid-afternoon. In predominately Muslim regions, prayer is announced and observed throughout the day.
  • Zakat – almsgiving
    • Required giving of alms is said to be an act of worship and a way that Muslim communities provide for one another, according to the Quran and the Hadith.
  • Sawm – fasting
    • Fasting takes place during Ramadan, the ninth Islamic month. This is significant because it is marks the revelation of Muhammad. During the daytime, Muslims must not eat, drink, smoke, or have sex in the daylight hours.
  • Hajj – pilgrimage
    • This is the pilgrimage to the sacred city of Mecca. All followers are encouraged to complete the journey at least once in his or her lifetime, but it is acceptable if he or she cannot do it due to extenuating circumstances.                 ______________Sources:

      Gordon, Matthew S. Understanding Islam: Origins, Practices, Holy Texts, Sacred Persons, Sacred Places. London: Watkins, 2010. Print.

The Route of Hajj


The Route of Hajj

Photo Source:Waupun Area School District

Hajj occurs during the month of Dhu’l-Hijja.  The pilgrimage begins on the eighth day of the month. The Ka’ba is circled counterclockwise seven times. Next, the pilgrims run seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa. It is meant to symbolize Hagar’s search for water for Ishmael. Once this is completed, pilgrims drink from the Zamzam well and leave Mecca for Mina. On the ninth day of the month, also known as the Day of Standing, the pilgrims visit ‘Arafat. ‘Arafat is where the Mount of Mercy is located. On the Mount of Mercy, pilgrims gather and must stay from noon until after sunset. The pilgrims travel to Muzdalifa which is a valley located between Mina and ‘Arafat. In this valley, stones are gathered that will be used the next day. The Day of Sacrifice is the tenth day of the month. The pebbles collected are thrown at three pillars meant to represent where Abraham threw stones at Satan. Once completed pilgrims return to spend the night at Muzdalifa. On the last day of Hajj,animals are sacrificed. Men shave their heads and women cut off a small piece of hair. By completing this pilgrimage, the title of hajji is earned.


Hillenbrand, Carole. Introduction to Islam: Beliefs and Practices in Historical Perspective. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2015.Print