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Islamic Ethics and The Five Pillars of Islam

QUESTION: Islamic Ethics – The Five Pillars of Islam


The Five Pillars of Islam encompass the basic moral obligations for Muslims. The first pillar of Islam is the confession of faith: There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.Under this pillar all other obligations are subsumed, for to believe in God and Muhammad as His prophet is to obey their teachings and the example of Muhammad’s life.

The second pillar is prayer: Muslims are expected to engage in prayer five times a day, facing Mecca. Prayer provides a daily rhythm to Muslim life. Muslims hope to please God by remembering him constantly with regulated prayer. Muslims also hope that systematic praying will help them avoid temptations to immorality.

The third pillar is fasting during Ramadan. Fasting involves refraining from such things as food, tobacco, and sexual relations during daylight hours, though they are not prohibited after sundown. These periods of fasting are to encourage and enable Muslims to develop self-control, to squelch bad habits, and to refocus their minds toward personal spiritual progress.

Islamic Ethics – The Five Pillars of Practice
The fourth pillar is almsgiving wherein Muslims are required to give at least 2.5 percent of their annual capital to the poor, either directly or through Muslim charitable organizations. Giving to the poor is intended to achieve a generous lifestyle and a sense of caring for the Muslim community, especially those lacking physical and financial means.

The fifth pillar is pilgrimage. All Muslims are expected to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime, if their finances and health permit. During their pilgrimage, Muslims don white garments and remove all indicators of status or class. This practice is intended to help Muslims recognize that before God they are all equal. Racial, gender, and economic differences are muted as masses of Muslims from many nations bow together to worship Allah.

A sixth pillar, jihad, is sometimes added as an obligation for Muslims. Jihad has two facets: first is the battle against temptation and sin for the sake of self-control and the development of virtue. 5The second is the battle against any and all who oppose Islam. Jihad is seen as the most self-sacrificing action Muslims can undertake. Indeed, Muslims who die in jihad are guaranteed entrance into Paradise, where men have access to scores of perpetual virgins. Women, however, are not told what awaits them.


Rendered with permission from the book,Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews(Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

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