The Five Pillars of Islam (Sunni and Shi’a Islam)

Visualisation of the Five Pillars of Islam.

The Five Pillars of Islam are five duties that Muslims of all branches of Islam must follow.

Sunni Muslims specifically set the duties out clearly and see them as pillars holding up the religion. The pillars keep faith strong, so Sunni Muslims try to keep all five to make them better Muslims and support the religion fully.

Shi’a Muslims, on the other hand, add further duties. These, along with four of the Five Pillars, are known as the Ten Obligatory Acts.

  1. Shahadah is the Muslim declaration of faith. All Muslims know the words of the Shahadah and it is repeated multiple times during the day.
  2. Salah is prayer. It is compulsory for Muslims to pray five times a day.
  3. Zakah, or charitable giving, encourages generosity and compassion.
  4. Sawm is the obligation to fast during Ramadan, which teaches Muslims self-discipline. This self-discipline brings them closer to Allah.
  5. Hajj is the pilgrimage to Makkah. It is compulsory for Muslims to make the trip at least once in their lifetime, as long as they are fit and healthy and can afford to go.


The Shahadah is the declaration of faith, or the key statement of belief of Muslims. All Muslims know the declaration of faith and it is repeated multiple times during the day.

For Sunni Muslims, the Shahadah is: There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah. Shi’a Muslims add an extra phrase to the Shahadah: And Ali is the friend of God. This shows their belief that Ali, Muhammad’s cousin, was the true successor to Muhammad.

The Shahadah is usually said a few times each day. It is always whispered into a baby’s ear at birth, as the first words the baby hears. Muslims also aim for the Shahadah to be the last words they say or hear before death. The Shahadah forms the foundation of the other four pillars. A person can convert to Islam by saying the Shahadah out loud and meaning it sincerely.


Zakah refers to a Muslim giving 2.5 per cent of their earnings to charity, after they have paid for what is necessary to support themselves and their family. This means that people who are too poor are not required to suffer hardship in order to give Zakah. Muslims see wealth as ultimately belonging to Allah, and giving Zakah helps to make people more equal. Helping one another is also seen as helping Allah. Zakah donations help Muslims to purify their souls by not being greedy. It is said that the giver of the money will receive a ‘hundred-fold’ back in the afterlife. This means that the giver of the money will receive back a hundred times what they gave as Zakah during their life.

Some Muslims perform Zakah by giving directly to a charity. Others contribute to donations in the mosque, which then distributes the money to people in need.

Sadaqah is voluntary giving in addition to Zakah. Muslims are encouraged to give their money and time to good causes whenever possible.