Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 2: The Five Pillars of Islam

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Handout 1, Pillars
  • Scissors
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 1, Pillars for all participants and facilitators; set these copies aside.
  • Make enough additional copies of Handout 1 so you can cut apart the five Pillar statements on each handout, and have enough to distribute the five statements evenly among the participants, when you ask each youth to choose one.
  • Cut the extra handouts apart, one entire Pillar statement on each piece. Mix the pieces and place them in a pile face-down.
  • Optional: If the group includes fewer than five youth, make just one extra copy of Handout 1, Pillars. Cut the handout into five slips. Plan to invite youth to take turns presenting the pillars and give each youth a complete handout when they are done.

Description of Activity

Participants become familiar with the Five Pillars of Islam.

Share with participants that there are two main branches of Islam, called Sunni (SOO-nee) and Shia (SHEE-ah). There are many more Sunni than Shiite (SHEE-ite) Muslims; for every ten Sunnis, there are somewhere between one and two Shiites. However, some nations are majority Shiite, including Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan. Differences exist between the branches, and they do not always coexist peacefully, but all call themselves Muslim and agree on the basics. Both Sunnis and Shiites take the Qur'an as their most sacred text and consider Muhammad the final messenger of Allah.

Explain that all Muslims affirm the Five Pillars of Islam. The Five Pillars concern both beliefs and behavior, actions that demonstrate one's devotion to God and loyalty to the Islamic faith.

Distribute the slips, giving a single Pillar to each participant. Ask that they group themselves by Pillar so all who have Pillar 1 will be together, all who have Pillar 2 will be together, and so on. Instruct each group to read and understand their assigned Pillar, then present it to the large group, indicating reasons why their Pillar would be an important contribution to living a good life as a Muslim. Help each group find a place where they can talk without distracting others or being overheard.

After five minutes, re-gather the large group and ask if a group wants to go first. The Pillars can be presented in any order. Allow each group to make its presentation. Questions seeking clarification can be answered, but let comments and discussion wait until all Pillars have been presented.

After all presentations, ask for comments. During discussion, ask the groups to write the Pillars on newsprint where everyone can see them while facilitators distribute Handout 1 to all participants. After general comments, ask:

  • Does one Pillar seem more important than the others? If so, why?
  • If someone followed the Five Pillars diligently, could a day go by when they did not think about their faith many times a day?
  • Would following the Five Pillars give Muslims a feeling of solidarity with other Muslims?
  • How would it feel to be a Muslim if everyone around you was not? How would it feel to find a private place to pray five times a day when no one else does? What about not eating all day, only at night, for a month? Would you feel embarrassed? Feel good about your loyalty?
  • How do you feel about making visible signs of faith, such as praying five times a day? Is that good for a person? Is it good for a community? Good for a religion? Why or why not? What about being required to make visible signs of faith-does that make a difference in whether it is good or not?
  • Islam is not the only religion with regular rituals. Remind participants that religiously observant Jews and practicing Catholics also have a number of significant rituals. Does dutifully taking part in a religious ritual mean you are faithful? Is it possible that daily prayers could become a rote ritual without real meaning? Does not participating in the ritual mean someone is not faithful?
  • What do you see as the benefits of having both daily actions and a lifetime goal as requirements of a faith?
  • The entire rhythm of a Muslim's day revolves around their faith. What would that be like? Do you feel that your faith is powerful enough to sustain that level of attention?