Five Pillars of Islam

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Five Pillars of Islam

Islam is based on five fundamental pillars; these are the five obligations that every Muslim must satisfy in order to live a good and responsible life according to Islam.

The Five Pillars are:

Shahadah – sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”. Repeating this statement three times in front of witnesses is all you need do to become a Muslim. The Shahadah is written in Arabic on the flag of Saudi Arabia – the location of Islam’s holiest places Mecca and Medina.

Flag of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Salat – performing ritual prayers in the five times a day. The times for prayer are set by the sun and alter during the year. Prayer times are published in the daily paper, on line and mosques call aloud when it is time for prayer – you may hear this when you are out and about. The times are:

  • Salat al-fajr: dawn, before sunrise
  • Salat al-zuhr: midday, after the sun passes its highest
  • Salat al-'asr: the late part of the afternoon
  • Salat al-maghrib: just after sunset
  • Salat al-'isha: between sunset and midnight

The prayer ritual is over 1400 years old and as well as the words, there are a series of set movements that form part of the ritual


Muslims pray directly to God – as if standing in the presence of Allah. The imam in a mosque is simply a person who knows a great deal about Islam. Although Muslims can pray anywhere, there is a preference for praying with others in a mosque. You will notice a large number of mosques in Dubai – enough so that there is a mosque in easy reach wherever you are. There are also prayer rooms in malls and most large buildings.  Although, men and women pray separately, there is no differentiation according to rank - the Sheikh lines up next to his subjects - all are equal in the eyes of God.

Before praying, Muslims must be clean, and they do this by performing ritual washing called wudhu. All mosques have washing facilities for this. Muslims start by washing the right and then the left hand and arm up to the elbow three times. The mouth is then cleaned three times followed by breathing water gently through the nose three times. The face must be washed at least once, though it is usually washed three times. Water from the wet hands are passed over the hair once and using damp hands the back and inside of the ears are wiped. The right and then the left foot are washed up to the ankle – usually three times each. Where water is scare – such as for desert nomads, then the same washing actions take place but using sand.




Zakat : paying alms (or charity tax) to benefit the poor and needy. It is a set proportion of one’s wealth, usually 2.5%. The 2.5% rate only applies to cash, gold, silver and commercial items. There are other rates for farm and mining produce and for animals. Large companies are often very generous – construction companies giving away houses to the poor. Gifts are often given to their workers at the end of Ramadan - sacks of rice are a popular gift

Sawm : fasting during the month of Ramadan – the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During the month of Ramadan adult Muslims must give up the following things during the hours of daylight:

  • Food or drink of any sort, including water
  • Smoking, including passive smoking
  • Sexual activity

There are some categories of people who may be excused the fast; those who are physically or mentally ill, children under twelve, the aged, pregnant, breast-feeding and menstruating women and those who are travelling.  If an adult cannot fast for these reasons, then they should try and make up the fast at a later date.

Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca. Mecca is a holy place to all Muslims and is so holy that non-Muslims are not allowed to enter. The Hajj is a journey that every sane Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives, if they can afford it and are physically able to do so. The pilgrims wear simple white clothes called Ihram and during the Hajj they perform acts of worship.

You can see a informative display on the Hajj and get a sense of the size of the crowds by visiting the Islamic Museum in Sharjah – they also have a section of the covering of the Kaaba. This black covering embellished with gold embroidery is made fresh each year and the old is shared out to places around the world.


Carrying out these Five Pillars provides the framework of a Muslim’s life and brings their religion into they everyday lives.

Jumeirah Mosque