The Five Pillars of Islam (arkān al-Islām أركان الإسلام; also arkān al-dīn أركان الدين “pillars of the religion“) are five basic acts in Islam, considered mandatory by believers and are the foundation of Muslim life. They are summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel.
They make up Muslim life, prayer, concern for the needy, self purification and the pilgrimage. They are:
- Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God’s Messenger
- Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
- Sawm: fasting and self-control during the blessed month of Ramadan
- Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
- Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if he/she is able to do
The Shia and Sunni both agree on the essential details for the performance and practice of these acts, but the Shia do not refer to them by the same name (see Ancillaries of the Faith, for the Twelvers, and Seven pillars of Ismailism).
The word Shahada has other meanings. From Wikipedia:
The word shahādah (شَهادة) is a noun stemming from the verb shahida (شَهِدَ), meaning “he observed, witnessed, or testified”; when used in legal terms, shahādah is a testimony to the occurrence of events, such as debt, adultery, or divorce. The shahādah can also be expressed in the dual form shahādatān (شَهادَتانْ, lit. “two testimonials”), which refers to the dual act of observing or seeing and then the declaration of the observation. The person giving the testimony is called a shāhid (شاهِد), with the stress on the first syllable. The two acts in Islam are observing or perceiving that there is no god but God and testifying or witnessing that Muhammad is the messenger of God. In a third meaning, shahādah or more commonly istishhād (إسْتِشْهادْ), means “martyrdom”, the shahīd (شَهيد) pronounced with stress on the last syllable (“martyr”) demonstrating the ultimate expression of faith. Shahīd can also be used in a non-Islamic religious context. Long before the advent of Islam, Christian Arabs of the Middle East used the word shahīd referencing to someone that was wrongly killed or someone that died for his family, his Christian faith or his country. The two words shāhid (شاهِد, “witness”) and shahīd (شَهيد, “martyr”) are pre-Islamic. Both are paradigms of the root verb (شَهَدَ, shahada, “he observed”).
This declaration, or statement of faith, is called the kalimah (كَلِمة, lit. “word”). Recitation of the shahādah, the “oath” or “testimony”, is the most important article of faith for Muslims. Non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam do so by a public recitation of this creed. Most Muslims count it as the first of the Five Pillars of Islam, while the Twelver and Ismaili Shi’a connect it to their respective lists of pillars of the faith. The complete shahādah cannot be found in the Quran, but comes from hadiths.