07. Central & West Asia, Art & Humanities

Student Series! Islam & The Five Pillars

Student Series! Islam & The Five Pillars


Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with about 1.5 billion followers worldwide. Islam, meaning “submission,” reflects its total absolute devotion to the acceptance of Allah (God) to be the one and only almighty creator who sent Muhammad to be the final prophet to explain previous beliefs and redirect people to the one true religion. Muhammad, around forty years of age, was enlightened through the angel Gabriel and set on this journey to do to share and recite his word of God. The Quran, the holy scripture of Islam, is believed to be the exact words of God himself, from Muhammad’s written revelations, rather than the interpretation of Muhammad.

Like most religions, such as Christianity, Islam is split into denominations that differ in how they chose to practice the religion with the same major fundamental concepts. Sunni and Shiites are the two major denominations in Islam. Both Sunnis and Shiites agree on the essential details for carrying out the five pillars, but differ on focused practices and ways of believing and pursuing how to be a Muslim. The foundations of what makes a Muslim a Muslim are the obedience of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.



The first pillar indicates submission to Islam by reciting the declaration “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet.” Thus accepting Muhammad to be the messenger of God and to devote oneself completely to this one and only almighty true monotheistic God.




Is the ritual of praying 5 times a day early just before dawn, at noon, in mid-afternoon, just after sunset, and in the evening, between an hour after sunset and midnight towards the direction of Mecca, in the most ultimate state of purity of the mind, heart, and soul. This is the behavior aspect of Shahadah being put into practice.

Specific movements done during this prayer represent the submission of faith while reciting the opening of the Quran, the Surah al-Fatihah, with their hands raised to their ears symbolizing that they have heard and received the message, now accepting and following Allah through this demonstrated devotion of prayer. Followed by bowing and kneeling movements with repeating other verses from the Quran for each specific movement. This constant reaffirmation and engaging of prayer ends with a personal prayer of calling upon Muhammad and Allah to answer their requested blessings. This cycle is repeated 3 times to complete the cycle.



The third pillar is all about giving back to the less fortunate as a reminder of the need of giving back to community. One fourteenth of a person’s income, 2.5%, should be given to to a religious official or representative of the Islamic state or to a representative of a local mosque.



The fourth pillar is the fasting month known as Ramadan, from sunrise to sunset. Restrictions of refraining from food, drinking, and sexual activities during day time represent the pain and hunger of hunger as well as what one is willing to go through for God and is a reminder of their awareness of this purifying act.



The fifth pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca to perform the nine rites required if one is financially and physically capable. These nine rites are:

  • Putting on of the ihram
  • Circumambulation of the Kaaba
  • Standing at the plain of Arafat
  • Spending the night at Muzdalifah
  • Throwing stones at three symbols of Satan
  • Sacrifice of an animal at Mina
  • Repetition of the circumambulation of the Kaaba
  • Drinking of water from the well of Zamzam
  • Performance of two cycles of prayer at the Station of Abraham

Read more: Pilgrimage in Art History

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