Explore Islam - The Pillars

The Pillars of Faith

Islam is a complete way of life; and one who accepts it has to commit himself totally to God. He should be ready to bring the entire spectrum of his attitudes, aspirations and activities into harmony with the Will of the Creator.

By Pillars of Faith are meant the fundamental beliefs a Muslim holds as part of his submission to God. These are distinguished from the Pillars of Islam, which are ritualistic actions based on the beliefs.

The articles of faith are six, and they are:
Believe in Allah as the One God, the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Sovereign Law-Giver of the Universe.

Believe in God's angels who are God's agents of Divine providence and action.

Believe in the Books of God; such as the Holy Qur'an, the Last and the Complete Book of God revealed to Muhammad (peace be on him), and in the other Holy Books, like the Torah, (revealed to Moses), the Psalms (revealed to David), and the Gospel (revealed to Jesus).

Believe in God's Messengers, who include among others, Adam the first man, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad, the Last of the Prophets. "There never was a people to whom a prophet was not sent." (Holy Qur'an).

Believe in the Last Day, the Resurrection of the dead, the Day of Judgment, and the Eternal Life Hereafter.

Believe in Divine Pre-ordainment. Every thing that happens here, whether good or bad, can happen only with the knowledge of God.

The Pillars of Islam

Islam is a comprehensive way of life, touching every aspect of human existence. The "Pillars" of Islam are actions, which serve as the foundations of the faith and cover aspects of both belief and ritual worship.

The first of these "Pillars" is the belief in the oneness of God, which in Islam is called Tawhid. It means that God is a Unity that is Eternal and Absolute; that He is the All-Powerful Creator, the Sovereign Ruler and Sustainer of the whole universe; and that there is none like Him. The universe runs on His Natural Laws; and in the sphere of His moral laws, which are applicable to the human beings who have limited freedom, one has to be consciously and willfully obedient to Him. This belief in God is central to the Muslim's faith and actions. A Muslim is one who subjects all the concerns of his life to the commands of the One and Only God. God's laws take precedence over all other considerations and so a Muslim lives in accordance with the Holy Qur'an, and the Prophet's example (the Sunnah).

The second Pillar of Islam is Salah or the ritual prayer of Islam.

Five times a day, Muslims turn towards the Ka'bah in Makkah (Mecca) and perform ritual prayers. The method and manner of this ritualistic prayer is modeled on the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) given during his lifetime. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to lead the congregation of Muslims in Makkah and Madinah in prayer, thus demonstrating to them the way in which prayer should be performed. The prayer consists of reciting the first Surah (chapter) of the Qur'an, Al-Fatihah, referred to as "the seven oft-repeated verses," followed by the recitation of a chosen verse or verses of the Qur'an, and various praises to God. For each segment of the prayer, a Muslim adopts a distinguishing bodily position, beginning with standing and placing hands across the heart, and then bowing and kneeling. Muslims repeat these positions a prescribed number of times depending on which prayer is being performed. The five daily prayers are the morning prayer (Fajr), the noon prayer (Dhuhar), the afternoon prayer (Asr), the evening prayer (Maghrib), and the night prayer (Ishaa). To pray five times a day is a duty incumbent on every Muslim.

The third Pillar of Islam is Zakah, or mandatory charity, which is like a tax levied annually upon the Muslim's savings and investments. The money collected thus is distributed to the most deserving, according to the norms given in the Qur'an. The Zakah provides a source of revenue for the Muslim State in the form of a combination of income tax and wealth tax. It is seen as an act of worship where the rich provide for the poor and the needy.

The fourth Pillar is the fast of Ramadan (a month of the Hijra calendar). This obligatory fast commemorates the revelation of the Holy Qur'an. Muslims fast approximately 29 to 30 days of Ramadan. From dawn to dusk Muslims abstain from food and drink, sexual intercourse and all actions that blemish righteousness. People who are ill or on a journey and women who are in childbirth and in their monthly courses are exempted from fasting; they should compensate when they are free from those constraints.

The fifth Pillar of Islam is the pilgrimage, or Hajj. This is a duty binding only on those who are physically able and who can afford it. The Hajj is a pilgrimage undertaken to the holy places in and around the city of Makkah. The most important site is the Ka'bah (the house of God) which is in the heart of the city. The pilgrims have to perform certain religious rituals and prayers in the same way as they were performed by Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) and his Companions, and long before them by Abraham and his wife Hagar.