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17. Understanding Islam
SECTION TWO: UNDERSTANDING ISLAMIC BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

CHAPTER FOUR: THE PILLARS OF ISLAM


Beside the Islamic belief in the six axioms, Muslims also believe in what is called the five pillars of Islam. These are practices outlined in the Hadith (in the collections of Bukhari and Muslim) required of every Muslim with a few specific exceptions, and agreed on by most Sunni Muslims. They are: the shahada (creed), salat (ritual prayer), sawm (fasting), zakat (almsgiving) and hajj (pilgrimage). Some Sunni sources add jihad (struggle) as a sixth; other sources count jihad as the fifth instead of hajj. Note that these pillars are not given in the Qur’an, and Shi‘a Muslims have a completely different list. For Sunni Muslim scholars, however, anyone who claims to be a Muslim or is from a Muslim family but doesn’t believe in one of these isn’t a Muslim but should be considered an infidel (apostate). Some scholars believe that such a person should be put to death for this, though others disagree that this warrants death.

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