The five pillars of Islam are five acts that are considered essential to Sunni Islamic religious commitment and are regularly practised by Muslims worldwide. Learning about the five pillars of Islam introduces key elements of Muslim life for those learning to practice Islam and for those who want to know more about the lives of Muslims worldwide.
What Are the Five Pillars of Islam?
For Sunni Muslims, the five pillars of Islam are based on a statement made by the Prophet Muhammad, known as a hadith. This hadith was narrated by Abdullah, son of Umar. According to this hadith, the Prophet Muhammad said, "Islam is raised on five pillars: testifying that there is no god but Allah (shahadah), that Muhammad is His servant and messenger, and the establishment of prayer (salah), payment of zakat (tax on wealth, given to the needy), pilgrimage (hajj) to the Ka'ba (in Mecca) and the fast (sawm) of Ramadan." Islamic legal scholars have used other ahdith (plural of hadith) and relevant passages from the Qur'an to determine how these should be performed. Islamic schools of jurisprudence sometimes disagree on certain aspects of performance but accept other interpretations as valid.
Shahadah and Salah
Show the group videos of Muslims in prayer, which are available on New York's WNET website and Islamicity.com. Explain the timings of prayers and present a translation of the call to prayer and the first chapter of the Qur'an, which is recited several times during each prayer. Discuss the testimonies of faith, known as shahadah in Arabic, and compare it to other forms of religious initiation or conversion ceremonies, or other statements of faith that believers make during worship. Have students make posters comparing the shahadah to other religious initiations or conversions, and salah to forms of prayer in other faith traditions.
Sawm, Zakat and Hajj
Videos of the rites of pilgrimage are available on New York's WNET website and Islamicity.com, and diagrams and pictures of the hajj are available at Ummah.com. Use these to explain the significance and stations of the Hajj. Islamic schools often create a small model of the stations of the Hajj, and children re-enact the rites. Have students create posters or dioramas of each stage of the Hajj and arrange them in order of occurrence, then have students walk around them while you explain the scenes portrayed. The amount of zakat is 2.5 per cent of one's wealth -- math lessons can calculate the amount of zakat for a given figure. Math and social studies lessons can be combined to calculate the percentage of zakah that should be drawn from a Muslim-majority country's sovereign wealth fund. Fasting (sawm) is mandatory for all Muslims capable of doing so during Ramadan. Students can make Ramadan lanterns, a traditional decoration.
Relating Activities to Curriculum Standards
The pillars of Islam were established by the Prophet Muhammad, who made these acts obligatory for Muslims and whose performance is the template for how all Muslims should perform these acts. Examining his role in the early Muslim community and the global influence that his example has upon generations of Muslims helps satisfy World History Standard 2A and Historical Thinking Standard Three of the National Standards for History developed by the National Center for History in the Schools. Calculating zakat involves working with percentages, and calculating zakat on a sovereign wealth fund also covers macroeconomics.
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- Crayola: Pillars of Islam
- "Islam: Activity Based Lessons for Upper Elementary Students"; Rachel Brown; 2000 (PDF)
- TeachersDomain: The Five Pillars of Islam
- TeachingIdeas: The Five Pillars of Islam
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- Ummah.com: Hajj in Pictures
- AhmadiyyahMuslimCommunity: Adhan or the Muslim call to Prayer
- UniversityofSouthernCalifornia: Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement: Religious Texts
- CenterforMiddleEastern Studies: Celebrating Ramadan -- A Resource for Educators