Islamic Studies The Five Pillars of Islam
Natana DeLong-Bas
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 September 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0062


Central to faith and practice in Islam are the five pillars outlined in the Hadith of Gabriel, recorded in Sahih Muslim: witnessing (shahadah), the five daily prayers (salat), almsgiving (zakat), fasting during the month of Ramadan (sawm), and the hajj pilgrimage. The declaration of faith (shahadah) that marks entrance into the Muslim community of believers (ummah) is intended to be expressed through adherence to the other four pillars. Although all of the pillars are required of the individual Muslim, they also have a collective dimension, thus demonstrating Islam’s emphasis on individual responsibility and accountability on the one hand and community building and solidarity on the other. Despite agreement on the importance of the five pillars, there is no absolute consensus on their ritual performance. It should be noted that jihad is not one of the five pillars, although some have given it an unofficial status of being the “sixth” pillar.

General Overviews

There are many basic, introductory texts that incorporate discussions of the five pillars into the big picture of Islamic history, using Muhammad’s lifetime and basic foundational practices as a springboard for broader discussion of the development of faith and practice over time and space, including as a matter of cultural production.

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