Devotion in pictures:
Muslim popular iconography

The five pillars of Islam

The five pillars of Islam

"The five pillars of Islam" are the basic "duties" to God that every Muslim is obliged to fulfil. This picture illustrates the importance of the five pillars in Islam. Read from right to left, as one does in Arabic, the picture begins with the sentence: "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate", inscribed in the candle-flame. If we then follow the half-moon crescent, this starts with a star where God is addressed: "O Generous One". The titles of the books signify the five pillars, i.e.

1. The Profession of faith - faith in one God, and Muhammad's status as his prophet
2. The daily prayers - five times a day
3. Fasting - from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan
4. Almsgiving - by which one's responsibility for the poor of the community is satisfied
5. The pilgrimage - to Mecca, once in the course of one's life

The books end at the minaret, which can be said to point to God, and the half-moon crescent ends with another address to God, "O Merciful". The half-moon crescent encircles the symbols for God: the Kaba and a minaret, and for the prophet Muhammad: the green cupola raised over his grave in Medina. We also find the names "Allah" and "Muhammad" alternating in the small medallions within the circle round the Kabah, and intertwined beneath the circle. (Indian poster purchased in Zanzibar.)

The Profession of faith

The most basic beliefs of Islamic theology are enshrined in the Profession of faith. This picture is introduced by the words: "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate", which are followed by the Creed: "There is no God but God, Muhammad is His Prophet." Beneath this is a blessing: "O God, bless him and grant him salvation, the prophet of mercy and the intercessor of the umma, Muhammad, God bless him and grant him savation!". "Umma" indicates the society of those of the true faith, i.e. the community of all Muslims. (Purchased in Jerusalem.)

The five daily prayers

The five daily prayers can be said wherever one is at the appropriate time. The central content of the prayer is praise of God.

The Arabic text on the left shows the popular "Throne Verse", which we have already translated. The verse in Turkish in the lower part of the poster can be translated as follows:

He used to get up early to pray
In silence he worshiped his Lord
He was a cameleer
In the Land of Yemen - Veysel Karani

Veysel Karani is said to have lived in the Yemen in the 7th century. According to the story, he converted to Islam without meeting the prophet Muhammad. He wished to travel to Mecca to meet him, but his old mother wanted him to stay at home and look after her. He finally obtained her permission to go, on condition that as soon as he reached the house of the Prophet he would return home without going anywhere else. When he arrived at the Prophet's house, it turned out that Muhammad was away. True to his promise to his old mother, Veysel turned round and went straight back home.

Because of his love of the Prophet and his love and sense of duty to his mother, Veysel Karani is held up as an ideal for Muslims. (Purchased in Turkey.)

How the daily prayers are performed

This educational poster, which is aimed at children, shows how the process of purification is to be performed and the different positions to be adopted during prayer.

Before prayer, a Muslim must go through a purification ritual, which is intended to purify him internally and externally at one and the same time. This is followed by the prayer itself. The worshipper performs a specified number of movements while repeating particular sentences, and quotes some obligatory and some self-chosen verses of the Koran.

The "Opening Prayer" of the Koran is obligatory, and it is recited several times in the course of the ritual. Other frequently quoted Suras are numbers 110 and 112, but the worshipper may also recite other, more and longer extracts from the Koran. (Purchased in Egypt.)

Site map

Back to start