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Islam and Muslims

The Five Pillars of Islam

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This entry provides a brief look at Islam and Muslims. For in-depth information we refer you to our collection of research resources.

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The Five Pillars of Islam

Islam has five basic duties which Muslims must perform. They are known as the five pillars of Islam: (Note 1).


Shahada is the Muslim profession of faith:

"I witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the prophet of Allah"
Muslims say this when they wake up in the morning, and just before they go to sleep at night.


A prayer ritual performed 5 times a day by all Muslims over the age of 10.

Salat is very different from praying on the inspiration of the moment. A precise ritual is followed at 5 separate times of day which are set aside for devotion:
  • Between first light and sunrise
  • After the sun has passed the middle of the sky
  • Between mid-afternoon and sunset
  • Between sunset and the last light of the day
  • Between darkness and dawn
While an individual can pray on their own, Muslims prefer to perform Salat with others, as this demonstrates the unity of all Muslims.

Having specific times each day to be close to Allah helps Muslims remain aware of the importance of their faith, and the role it plays in every part of life.


Abstaining each day during Ramadan, the 9th Muslim month.
Sawm is usually described as fasting, but it actually involves abstaining from all bodily pleasures between dawn and sunset. Not only is food forbidden, but also things like smoking, chewing gum, and any sexual activity.

Muslims must also make sure that they do not do or think, anything evil.

Sawm helps Muslims develop self-control, gain a better understanding of God's gifts and greater compassion towards the deprived.


Giving alms to the poor.
This is a compulsory gift of 2.5 % of one's savings each year in addition to any charitable gifts a Muslim makes.

Giving in this way is intended to free Muslims from the love of money. It reminds them that everything they have really belongs to God.

Money given as Zakat can only be used for certain specific things.


The pilgrimage to Mecca that all physically able Muslims should make at least once in their life. Mecca is the most holy place for Muslims
Source: Your Guide to the Religions of the World BBC. Last accessed: Nov. 11, 2004

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  1. Some movements notably - but not exclusively - outside of mainstream Islam include a sixth or even a seventh pillar of Islam [back]

About This Page:

• Subject: Islam and Muslims
• First posted: Nov. 20, 1996
• Last Updated: Nov. 23, 2004
• Editors: Anton and Janet Hein
• Copyright: Apologetics Index

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