The Five Pillars of Islam: Definition and Detailed Explanation

Islam is monotheistic and the second-largest religion in the world, with over 1.8 billion followers.

Islam is based on the belief in one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is a messenger of God. It is a religion that emphasizes submission to the will of God and the importance of living a moral and just life.

The Five Pillars of Islam are the five practices that are considered essential to the Islamic faith. These pillars provide a framework for Muslims to live their lives under the teachings of Islam.

The Five Pillars are the Shahada (Declaration of Faith), Salat (Prayer), Zakat (Charitable Giving), Sawm (Fasting), and Hajj (Pilgrimage).

Together, these pillars guide how Muslims should worship, pray, give to those in need, fast, and make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

This article will explore the Five Pillars of Islam, the five practices essential to the faith. These pillars provide a framework for Muslims to live their lives by the teachings of Islam.

We’ll be discussing the history and significance of each pillar and the specific practices and rituals associated with them.

By the end of this post, you should understand the Five Pillars and their importance in the Islamic faith.

Five Pillars of Islam

The five pillars of Islam are the foundation of Muslim life. They are the testimony of faith, prayer, giving zakat (support of the needy), fasting during Ramadan and pilgrimage to Mecca for those who can.

The Shahadah, or declaration of faith, is the first pillar of Islam. It is a simple formula which states:

“No deity is worthy of worship, but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his messenger.”

It affirms that only one God is worthy of worship, and only Muhammad was sent as a prophet to guide mankind.

The second pillar is Salah or prayer, which Muslims pray five times daily while facing Mecca.

The prayers include reciting verses from the Qur’an and specific supplications asking for forgiveness, mercy and guidance.

The third pillar is Zakat, or alms-giving. Zakat refers to obligatory charity through which Muslims give 2.5% of their yearly savings to help those in need.

According to Islamic law, this money should be given to eight categories of people: relatives, orphans, travellers; those who collect it on behalf of poor people, those who fight in defence against oppression; those involved in education processes, those involved in religious activities; and the poor.

The fourth pillar is fasting during the month of Ramadan.

During this time, Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn until dusk.

Fasting during Ramadan is one way Muslims can gain spiritual strength and purification by learning self-discipline and patience.

The fifth pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca, which all able-bodied Muslims are supposed to make at least once in their lifetimes.

This is called “Hajj” during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.

حَدَّثَنَا الْحُمَيْدِيُّ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ الزُّبَيْرِ ، قَالَ : حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ ، قَالَ : حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ سَعِيدٍ الْأَنْصَارِيُّ ، قَالَ : أَخْبَرَنِي مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ التَّيْمِيُّ ، أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ عَلْقَمَةَ بْنَ وَقَّاصٍ اللَّيْثِيَّ ، يَقُولُ : سَمِعْتُ عُمَرَ بْنَ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ عَلَى الْمِنْبَرِ، قَالَ : سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، يَقُولُ : ” إِنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى دُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ إِلَى امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا، “فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِ

[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]

Explanation of The Five Pillars of Islam in Order

First Pillar of Islam: The Shahadah

First Pillar of Islam: The Shahadah

The first part of the Shahadah testifies 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 not doubt 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 mean it.

6. Sincerity – to do it solely for the sake of Allah.

7. Love – to love the Shahadah and its implications, requirements, and what it stands for.

What does Shahadah 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 honestly, we will not do anything which contradicts 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 Prophetand 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.

6. To understand, practice and promote his Sunnah in the best way possible without creating 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 the Five Pillars.

Shahdah has been mentioned in Sahih Al-Bukhari Book of Belief Hadith No 1 

Words of the Shadah

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله  صَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ

La Ilaha illa-Allah Muhammadur Rasulullah

Meaning: None has the right to be worshipped, but Allah and Prophet Muhammad are the Messenger of Allah.

Read the detailed meaning of La ilaha illa-Allah
Read the detailed meaning of Muhammadur Rasulullah

Second Pillar of Islam: Establishing the Prayers (Salah)

Second Pillar of Islam: Establishing the Prayers (Salah)

Every Muslim man and woman must 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 the term ‘performing’.

The Scholars say “Iqamatus salah” means:

Doing the wudu in the proper way 

To do the salah in its time

To do it in a congregation (Jama’ah) – where the reward is 27 times more than praying alone.

To fulfil the six conditions of salah.

Observe the proper manners (Adab) of doing it, such as submission and humility.

To follow preferable actions (Sunnah) in our salah.

We must follow these conditions and not violate them if we want to fulfil the second pillar of Islam, i.e. “Iqamatus salah”.

We should remember that Allah initially commanded us to pray fifty times daily. 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, prayers should not be considered a burden as some Muslims might regard them today.

Third Pillar of Islam: Zakah

The Prophet pointed out the giving of Zakat, Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam, for certain things and in specific ways or percentages 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 that requires him to give Zakat.

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

Fourth Pillar of Islam: Fasting

Ramadhan is a training program for all Muslims to perform good deeds to improve. However, we should continue 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. We should always practice this and not wait for Ramadhan to do it. If we cannot achieve this, at least read one or two pages daily (a quarter of a Hizb).

Similarly, we should try to do the night prayers (Tahajjud), be it only two Raka’at and not every day, outside 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 relinquish our commitment and the good deed. The best way is to do it quickly and conveniently, aiming at the continuity of these good deeds.

Fifth Pillar of Islam: Hajj

Pilgrimage (Hajj) to the House (Kaabah) is an obligation we must 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, we should perform the Hajj immediately and not delay it.

Some Scholars say that if we have the means to perform the Hajj several times. It is better to use this money to help others fulfil their obligations – we will be rewarded for their pilgrimage or to use the funds to improve the community.

For each of these Pillars, there are conditions, Sunnan, ethics (Adab), etc., which should be observed when we perform this ibadah.

Why do we hear hundreds of Muslims lose their lives or get injured during Hajj every year?

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 them 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 throwing at 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, we must observe the Adab.


How many pillars are there in Islam?

There are five pillars of 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 physical entities that you can touch.


All the Pillars of Islam have rulings, conditions and mannerisms (Ahkam Wa Adab) applied to them. We must know these ahkam and Adab and regularly remind ourselves to perform the Pillars correctly and according to the Shariah, especially before Ramadan or before performing the Hajj.

The most important of these pillars is to testify that no deity is worthy of worship 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 worshipped besides 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 He deems fit.

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

He sent the Messengers and revealed Books for the benefit of mankind and to invite them to salvation and well-being 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 by 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 significant 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 creations in any of His attributes, saying,

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