The Five Pillars of Islam
The Five Pillars of Islam

While the first of the Five Pillars is a profession of faith,” the remaining Pillars focus on concrete actions that all Muslims are required to perform (insofar as they are able). In order to highlight this close relationship between “faith” and “works” in Islam, I have therefore included a discussion of shari’ah (law) in the following section. As you go through the material on each of the Five Pillars, you should think about the particular ways that “belief,” “practice” and “experience” intersect in the Islamic tradition (i.e. does Islam give equal weight to belief, practice, and experience, or is one valued more than the others).
Laa ilaha ill-Allah Muhammad-un Rasulu-Illah

There is no god but God,
and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.
(Living Religions, 387)
Faith and Works
Shari'ah (Law)The shari’ah is based chiefly on the Qur’an and Sunnah of Muhammad, who was the first to apply the generalizations of the Qur’an to specific life situations. ... Shari’ah pertains to many areas of life. For example, it specifies patterns for worship (instructions pertaining to the Five Pillars of Islam) as well as detailed prescriptions for social conduct, to bring remembrance of God into every aspect of daily life and practical ethics into the fabric of society. These prescriptions include injunctions against drinking intoxicating beverages; eating certain meats; gambling and vain sports; sexual relations outside of marriage; and sexually provocative dress, talk, or actions. They also include positive measures, commanding justice, kindness, and charity. Women are given many legal rights, including the right to own property, to divorce (according to certain schools of law), to inherit, and to make a will. These rights, divinely decreed during the time of the Prophet, 1,400 years ago, were not available to women in the West until the nineteenth century. ... Mullah (Islamic scholar)Different schools of fiqh (jurisprudence) developed as Islam spread beyond Arabia. Within Sunni Islam, there are four major schools of fiqh, and there are several Shi’a schools. The schools, which developed in different geographical regions, have different views on how best to exercise reason and analogy in reaching legal decisions, particularly when a specific issue is not addressed within the Qur’an or Sunnah. Thus in actual practice there may be multiple legal opinions on a particular question, although contemporary media accounts of shari’ah in the West may portray it as monolithic and unchanging. ... Careful study of the Qur’an and Sunnah as the basis for legal opinions is undertaken by the ulama, scholars who devote their lifetimes to developing this knowledge. (Living Religions, 397-8)
  • What is the relationship between “faith” and “works” in Islam? Do you think that Islam is closer to Judaism or Christianity in this regard?
Bismillah (In the name of Allah)
As you watch the following video and read the description of daily prayers in the Islamic tradition, think about the similarities and/or differences between this form of prayer and any other forms of prayer with which you are familiar (if any).

Five times a day, the faithful are to perform ritual ablutions with water (or sand or earth if there is no water), face in the direction of Mecca, and recite a series of prayers and passages from the Qur’an, bowing and kneeling. Around the world, this communal facing of Mecca for prayer unites all Muslims into a single world family. When the prayers are recited by a congregation, all stand and bow shoulder to shoulder, with no social distinctions. In a mosque, women and men usually pray separately, with the women in rows behind the men, or in a separate area. There may be an imam, or prayer leader, but no priest stands between the worshiper and God. On Friday noon, there is usually a special prayer service in the mosque. Remembrance of God is an everyday obligation. (Living Religions, 387-9)
Before Salaat:
Body, clothes and place of prayer must be clean.
Perform wudu (ritual ablution) if needed.
Traditionally, women cover their hair.
Face the Qibla, the direction of Mecca.
Stand erect, head down, hands at sides, feet evenly spaced.
Recite Iqama (private call to prayer):
God is the most great. (4x)
I bear witness that there are no gods but God. (2x)
I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. (2x)
Come to prayer. (2x)
Come to felicity (i.e. salvation) (2x)
[Prayer is better than sleep.] (2x; morning only)
Our prayers are now ready. (2x)
God is the most great. (2x)
There is no deity save God. (1x)
(Modified from An Anthology of Living Religions, 284-5)
Bismillah (In the name of Allah)
Watch the following video and read the description of tithing and almsgiving. How might the practice of giving charity contribute to one’s spiritual development?

The Qur’an links prayer with zakat, charity or almsgiving, the third pillar. One’s prayer is accepted only if one also shares with others. Accordingly, at the end of the year, all Muslims must donate at least two and a half percent of their accumulated wealth to needy Muslims. This provision is designed to help decrease inequalities in wealth and to prevent personal greed. ... Many stories from the life of the Prophet Muhammad teach that one should help others whether or not they are Muslims. For example, the Prophet’s neighbor was a non-Muslim. The Prophet reportedly gave him a gift every day, even though the neighbor daily left garbage at his door. Once the neighbor was sick, and the Prophet visited him. The neighbor asked, “who are you to help me?” The Prophet replied, “You are my brother. I must help you.” (Living Religions, 390)
Bismillah (In the name of Allah)
After watching the following videos and reading about Ramadan, reflect on the religious significance of fasting.

Frequent fasts are recommended to Muslims, but the only one that is obligatory is the fast during Ramadan, commemorating the first revelations of the Qur’an to Muhammad. For all who are beyond puberty, but not infirm, sick, menstruating, or nursing children, a dawn-to-sunset abstention from food, drink, sexual intercourse, and smoking is required for the whole month of Ramadan. The fasting also extends to abstaining from negative emotions such as anger. … Many people indeed feel that they are spiritually more sensitive and physically more healthy during Ramadan fasting. Fasting liberates a person’s body from the heaviness of food and it is also a lesson for the soul, teaching it not to allow anything into the mind and heart that would distract one from God. It is believed that control of the body’s desires also builds the patience and mastery needed to control the lower emotions, such as anger and jealousy. (Living Religions, 390-2)

Bismillah (In the name of Allah)
Watch the video below and then explore the accompanying material on the pilgrimage to Mecca, reflecting on the intensity of this religious experience and its potential for spiritual growth.

All Muslims who are physically and financially able to do so are expected to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. It involves a series of symbolic rituals designed to bring the faithful as close as possible to God. Male pilgrims wrap themselves in a special garment of unsewn cloths, rendering them all alike, with no class distinctions. The garment is like a burial shroud, for by dying to their earthly life they can devote all their attention to God. Women who perform hajj are not required to wear unsewn cloth, but their dress should be modest. For all pilgrims, it is a time for dhikr, the constant repetition of the Shahadah, the remembrance that there is no god but God. (Living Religions, 392)
Pilgrimage Map
Air-conditioned tents at Mina
After the morning prayer on the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims proceed to Mina where they spend the whole day and offer noon, afternoon, evening, and night prayers. The next morning after morning prayer, they leave Mina to go to Arafat. (Hajj#First_day)
Mount Arafat
Mount Arafat

On 9th Dhu al-Hijjah before noon, pilgrims arrive at Arafat, a barren and plain land some 20 kilometers east of Mecca, where they stand in contemplative vigil: they offer supplications, repent on and atone for their past sins, and seek mercy of God, and listen to sermon from the Islamic scholars who deliver it from near Jabal al-Rahmah (The Mount of Mercy) from where Muhammad is said to have delivered his last sermon. Lasting from noon through sunset, this is known as ’standing before God’ (wuquf), one of the most significant rites of Hajj. At Masjid al-Namirah, pilgrims offer noon and afternoon prayers together at noon time. A pilgrim’s Hajj is considered invalid if they do not spend the afternoon on Arafat. (Hajj#Second_day)

Pilgrims at Muzdalifah
Pilgrims must leave Arafat for Muzdalifah after sunset without praying maghrib (evening) prayer at Arafat. Muzdalifah is an area between Arafat and Mina. Upon reaching there, pilgrims perform Maghrib and Isha prayer jointly, spend the night praying and sleeping on the ground with open sky, and gather pebbles for the next day’s ritual of the stoning of the Devil (Shaitan). (Hajj#Second_day)

One of the main trials of Abraham’s life was to face the command of God to sacrifice his dearest possession, his son. The son is not named in the Quran, but Muslims believe it to be Ishmael, though it is mentioned as Isaac in the Bible. Upon hearing this command, Abraham prepared to submit to will of God. During this preparation, Shaitan (the Devil) tempted Abraham and his family by trying to dissuade them from carrying out God’s commandment, and Abraham drove Satan away by throwing pebbles at him. In commemoration of their rejection of Satan, stones are thrown at symbolic pillars during the Stoning of the Devil during Hajj rites. (Eid_al-Adha)

Sacrifice of Ishmael

After the casting of stones, animals are slaughtered to commemorate the story of Abraham and Ishmael. Traditionally the pilgrims slaughtered the animal themselves, or oversaw the slaughtering. Today many pilgrims buy a sacrifice voucher in Mecca before the greater Hajj begins, which allows an animal to be slaughtered in the name of God (Allah) on the 10th, without the pilgrim being physically present. Modern abattoirs complete the processing of the meat, which is then sent as charity to poor people around the world. (Hajj#Third_day)

Sacrifice of a sheep
Reflection Paper Icon
The Five Pillars may be said to represent a “voluntary submission to God,” which is the literal meaning of the word “Islam”. Choose one of the Five Pillars and explain how that particular form of submission might contribute to one’s spiritual development.