The Five Pillars of Islam
by Musa Bukhari
Imagine you are on a journey deep within the desert. You awake in the middle of the night. You have no idea how you came to be here. Your initial reaction is to panic and make sense of where you are going. As you look up, you see the beautiful night sky filled with a utopia of stars. You pause and ask yourself, why am I here and what am I supposed to do here?
We have all asked ourselves that question at one point in our lives. Questioning our existence, our purpose. For Muslims, we believe that Allah created us for one sole purpose - to worship Him. Everything that we do in our lives should always connect us back to our purpose. Our jobs. Our families. Our friends. Our travels. If you root your intention back to Allah, it connects you back to your purpose. But, what do we do once we understand our purpose? How are we supposed to live our lives as Muslims? What does it mean to be Muslim? In a beautiful Hadith we find our answers:
Abdullah ibn Umar (ra) said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (s) say: ‘Islam is built upon five [pillars]: testifying that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the prayers, giving zakat, making pilgrimage to the House and fasting the month of Ramadan.’” (Bukhari and Muslim).
First Pillar: Shahadah (Declaration of faith)
The world can sometimes feel like a desert, vast, expansive and endless. But, in the same stroke, it leaves us with many questions. The hadith in essence shows us the actions we are supposed to adhere to if we fulfil the most crucial pillar of all; the Shahadah.
“ašhadu ʾanla ilāha illal-Lāh, wa ʾašhadu ʾanna muḥammadan rasūlul-Lāh”
(There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”
If your conviction in this pillar is strong, then the other pillars can thus be practiced with excellence, as this pillar is the foundation of your faith. Without it, the building falls. Your belief is crucial in this because it focuses on the Tawheed (Oneness of God) and the belief in Muhammad (saw) as the Messenger of God. To believe in the Message of Islam works in unison with the belief in the one (Muhammad, saw) bringing the Message to Mankind and the Unseen.
There are 7 conditions of the Shahadah according to the consensus of scholars:
1. Knowledge - to understand what it means.
2. Certainty - having no doubt about anything in the Quran and authentic sunnah
3. Acceptance - by the tongue and the heart of what the shahadah implies
4. Submission and compliance- actual physical enactments by deeds.
5. Truthfulness - to say the shahadah sincerely, with honesty.
6. Sincerity - to do so solely for the sake of Allah
7. Love - to love the shahadah and to love its implications and requirements and what it stands for.
Second pillar: Salah (Establishing the prayer)
Salah is crucial to the spiritual health of a Muslim. We are reminded to pray in the direction of the Kabah to the One True God, Allah. We have been assigned the five daily prayers: Fajr (dawn prayer), Dhuhr (Midday Prayer), Asr (Afteroon prayer), Maghreb (Sunset Prayer) and Isha (Night Prayer). In the Quran, Allah says:
“Truly, those who believe and do righteous deeds, and perform Salah, and give Zakah, they will have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” [Quran 2:277)
Third Pillar: Zakah
This refers to the obligatory sadaqah given yearly for those whose wealth and income surpasses a certain minimum level. Zakah means purification of money.
"Be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity. And whatever good you send forth, for your souls before you, you shall find it with Allah." [Qur'an 2:110]
Fourth pillar: Hajj (pilgrimage)
"And proclaim that the people shall observe Hajj pilgrimage. They will come to you walking or riding on various exhausted (means of transportation). They will come from the farthest locations." [Quran 22:27]
Hajj is often referred to as the journey of a lifetime. It is the pilgrimage to the House of God (Kabah). Hajj is a religious obligation every Muslim must endeavour to undertake provided certain requirements are met. For example, if one is financially capable and there is no hindrance in the way of travel, then they should not delay to perform this action and go as soon as possible.
Due to the strenuous nature of Hajj, Muslims are advised to be more cognizant of their manners and be as patient as possible due to the large number of worshippers that perform the Hajj. It is imperative to take this into consideration and remember that the huge religious responsibility that is being practised should not be overlooked.
The Hajj was a revived tradition of the Prophet Ibrahim (as) who built the Kabah with his son Ismail (as). Allah says:
“We have rendered the shrine (the Kaba) a focal point for the people, and a safe sanctuary. You may use Abraham's shrine as a prayer house. We commissioned Abraham and Ismail: "You shall purify My house for those who visit, those who live there, and those who bow and prostrate." [Quran 2:125]
Fifth pillar: Sawm (Fasting)
“O you who believe, Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwa." (Quran 2:183).
This is referring to fasting in the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims are obligated to fast for 29 or 30 days from sunrise to sunset. During this time, we abstain from the consumption of food and drink. Ramadan is also known as the month of the Quran. Muslims are advised to complete the recitation of the Quran in one month. Ramadan is the training ground for the Muslim to attain Taqwa and increase in eeman. It is a month in which good deeds are multiplied and Muslims make extra effort in their religious duties. It is also the month in which Muslims offer the Taraweeh prayer after the Isha prayer. This is performed in congregation at the Masajids (mosques). It can be long and tiring, but the rewards are tremendous.
Sometimes, we can feel lost and overwhelmed in this world, like the expansive terrain of the desert, but if we make the best effort in adhering to these pillars of faith we can seek the pleasure of Allah and attain the ultimate victory, residing in our final abode of Jannah (Paradise), Insha’Allah.
“As for those who believe and do good works, the Gardens of Paradise shall be there to welcome them”. (Quran 18:107).
May we all strive to seek the pleasure of Allah subhan wa tala, and attain the highest levels of paradise, with ease and Mercy always, Aameen.