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3.1 The Five Pillars of Islam

Specialist term


















1. Shahadah (The 1st pillar)

The Shahadah is the first pillar of Islam. Shahadah is the declaration, There is no god but Allah and Prophet Muhammad, is the (final) Messenger of Allah. Shia add these words into their declaration (Ali is the friend of Allah and the successor of Prophet Muhammad). All the rest pillars are simply an outward expression of its meaning which is why the other four pillars are signs of Ibadah (worship).This is the central pillar even though it is the only non-action pillar. Iman (faith) provides the central pillar that sustains the whole structure. A person joins the fold of Islam by honestly believing in and professing faith in the unity of God and the Prophet-hood of Muhammad.(Khurshid Ahmed)

The 1st part of Shahadah - Tawhid

It attests the Oneness of Allah and it rejects both Polytheism and all sorts of shirk. The Shahadah reminds Muslims that there is no way that Muhammad can be regarded on a par with God.

The words of Shahadah are repeated many times a day in the prayer ritual, announced five times a day in Adhan (call for prayer). Muslim fathers whisper the words into the ears of their new-born child.

In the first surah of the Qur'an it says, "You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for help." Surah 112: "Say, He is Allah, the One. The eternally besought by all. He begetteth not, nor was He begotten. And there is no one comparable to Him." [S:112]

"Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgives anything else to whom He pleases; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most evil indeed." [S4:48]

The Holy Prophet, is reported to have said: "Shirk is the greatest of all sins."

The word Allah, according to the several lexicons, means the Being who comprises all the attributes of perfection. Thus the word denotes perfection and knowledge and the best qualities. This meaning is supported by the Quran when It says, His are the best (most beautiful) names. (S17:110). (Mona Siddiqui- 50 Islam Ideas Really Need To Know, p4 &5)

For Muslims, belief in an Omniscient Creator and Merciful God is the fundamental tenet of ones faith. The Quran, the primary religious text of Islam is God-cantered; the I or We in the Quran is God speaking. God is the Creator, God is Judge and God is Mercy. The Oneness of God is the essence of Islamic monotheism or Tawhid. (Mona Siddiqui; 50 Islam Ideas Really Need To Know, p4 &5)

Shia Muslims add to the Shahadah and I bear witness that Ali was the friend of God.

2nd part of Shahadah (Risalah; Prophet-hood):

The next basic requirement is to believe in all the Prophets of Allah. The Qur'an says: "He who obeys the messengers obeys Allah." [S4:80] Allah sent prophets in different periods of time to communicate His guidance with human beings. They were raised from the nation in which they were sent to preach for.

Prophet Muhammad, is the final Messenger of God. No prophet shall come after him. He was sent for all mankind as he said: Every prophet before me was sent for his own people but I am sent for all mankind. (Hadith)

Islams central character is Muhammad. With a number of descriptions, including Messenger of God, the blessed Prophet and Gods beloved, Muhammad is not just any prophet in a long line of historical prophets, rather He is the Prophet, the last chosen prophet to be the recipient of the last divine revelation. (Mona Siddiqui- 50 Islam Ideas Really Need To Know p8)

Further independent research: Read the book Islam by V.W. Watson pages 31-33 on the first pillar of Islam. Explore the significance of Shahadah in Islam.

1. Explore the significance of Shahadah in Islam. [8]

2. There is no god but God. Assess the claim. [12]

Salah (The 2nd pillar)

Write definitions of the specialist terms:






Juma prayer











Eid prayer

Janazah paryer

Tarawih prayer


The Quran says, Set up Regular Prayers; for such prayers are enjoined on believers at stated times. (s4 v103)

One of the pillars which shows clearly relationship between Quran and Sunna. The Quran says that you must pray at fixed times;

Establish regular prayers - at the sun's decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony. And pray in the small watches of the morning: (it would be) an additional prayer. (Quran: s17 v78)

The ritual prayer is based on a mixture of what Quran says and how Prophet Muhammad actually carried out the ritual.

Salah is the pillar of the Islamic religion and whenever abandons it, demolishes the very pillar of religion. (hadith)

Muslim scholars regarded Salah as the most important of practical pillars, The prayers and all other prescribed forms of worship for that matter, serve to distinguish those who really have faith and wish sincerely to serve God from those who are content with lip-service. (Mustafa Ahmed alZarqa)

The features of Salah

1. Times for the 5 daily prayers are:

1. Fajr (between dawn and sunrise)

2. Zohr (After mid-day until afternoon)

3. Asr (Between late afternoon and sunset)

4. Maghrib (Evening prayer is when the sun sets.

5. Isha (Between sunset and dawn)

All mosques have a board with six clocks showing times of prayers including Juma (Friday) prayer.

The prayers involve a series of standing up, bowing and prostrating. Men should pray at mosques whenever possible. Women do not have to go to mosques they are encouraged to pray at home. Once a Muslim reaches 10 years of age they must start to pray.

2. Adhan

The time of congregational prayer is announced by a Muezzin who calls out adhan;

Allah is the Greatest- (4 times). I bear witness that there is no god but God- (twice). I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God-(twice). Rush to prayer-(twice). Rush to success-(twice) + For Fajr prayer Salah is better than sleep- (twice). Allah is the Greatest-(twice). There is no god but God- (once)

3. Wudu- Ritual washing

Prayer is the most sacred moment of life when a Muslim comes into direct contact with God. So a Muslim must perform Wudu (ritual washing) in order to pray their Salah, otherwise it will not be accepted by God. Ghusl is a form of major ablution (complete bath), which is compulsory after having acts of sexual nature and it is Sunnah to perform before Friday prayer.

A Muslim preferably should go to mosque for congregational prayer, Bow down your heads with those who bow down in worship. (s2 v43) but prayer can be performed anywhere on a clean surface.

4. Kabah - Qiblah

All Muslims face the Kabah in Makkah when they pray. They use a compass on it showing the direction of Makkah (South East from UK). There is a mihrab (niche) in every mosque showing the direction of Kabah.

5. Various Positions



Niyyah (intention), Standing (Qiyam) raising hands to ears saying takbir (Allah is the greatest) and folded, reciting surah 1, Bow down on knees (Ruku) glorify Allah, Prostrate (Sujud) on the floor and touch forehead on ground and glorify Allah and Sitting (Julus)to recite specific prayers and turning face right and left by saying peace be upon you.




Juma-Friday prayer

In Sura 62:10, it is commanded in the Quran to have a big congregational weekly prayer on Friday that replaces Zuhr. It is performed in cities with at least 40 adults and Imam delivers a sermon on various teachings of Islam. In a Muslim state Head of state should lead this prayer. Men and women both can prayer by separate arrangements.

Other types of Salah - Prayers

Janaza-funeral prayer, Eid al Fitr prayer and Eid al Adha prayer- two annual festivals, 1) At the end of the month of Ramadhan and 2) after Hajj , Tarawih prayer extra Night prayer in the ,month of Ramadhan. There are Supplications- Duas to ask for help/forgiveness and other voluntary, extra prayers are called Nafl.

The image of God through prayers:

God is Holy and Exalted; (O Allah glory and praise are for You and blessed is Your Name and exalted is Your Majesty). God is the All-Powerful; bow down/prostrate to show submission-repeated in Salah,Allah is the Greatest. The Real Guide to Muslims 20 times repeated in daily prayers. I seek refuge in Allah from the rejected Satan. Allah is Only One - 15 times in Adhan, and repeated many times in Salah. God is the Great and Wonderful, Compassionate, (Surah 1 must be recited) and it is the direct communication between God and servant.

Shias prayer differs from Sunnis as they prostrate onto dust or earth or preferably a block of baked mud from Karbala.


The Salah makes possible the integration of the worshipers whole being in the state of perfect servitude to God.. The Salah is the spiritual ascent of the faithful (believers). (S H Nasr; Islam Religion History and Civilization)

The relationship between faith and rituals is a paradox. To the outsider, ritual is the most obvious sign of the character of a religion and the identity o