Islamic Ritual

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 9-1-2020


This chapter begins by introducing readers to the five “pillars of Islam” (arkan al-Islam), as well as to other essential aspects of Islamic ritual (section 1). By so doing, it recognizes the enduring power of these rituals, in particular, to provide all Muslims—despite their differences in historical, socio-cultural and political realities—with a shared sense of religious identity. The following section (2) nuances this presentation of Islamic ritual as intrinsically a cohesive force, which necessarily relies heavily on canonical Sunni legal sources and authorities, by exploring five alternative strategies to ritual: Shi’i, esoteric, folk, rationalist, and reformist. Thereafter, it briefly discusses the potential of Islamic ritual in a variety of sources and contexts to both reflect and generate social hierarchies (section 3). It concludes by reflecting on Western scholarly approaches to Islamic ritual and by suggesting future directions for its study (section 4)