Buniyal Islamu Ala Khamsin: A brief introduction to the pillars of Islam
On the authority of Abdullah, the son of Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra), who said:
عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ بْنِ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: سَمِعْت رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم يَقُولُ: ” بُنِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ: شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لَا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ، وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ، وَحَجِّ الْبَيْتِ، وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ”. [رَوَاهُ الْبُخَارِيُّ] ، [وَمُسْلِمٌ].
I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say, “Islam has been built on five [pillars]: testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the salah (prayer), paying the zakat (obligatory charity), making the hajj (pilgrimage) to the House, and fasting in Ramadhan.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
The completion of the religion of Islam is achieved through these five pillars, which are mentioned in the said Hadith. If even one of these pillars is missing, the structure of the religion remains incomplete. Although by confessing to Tawhid (the oneness of God) and Risalat (Prophethood), a person enters Islam and becomes entitled to be called a Muslim, his religion is completed when he also practices the other pillars.
Denying the obligation of any one of these pillars of Islam and abandoning it renders a person an unbeliever. However, neglecting them out of laziness or carelessness makes one guilty of a grave sin and a transgressor, but does not expel them from the fold of Islam.
These are the pillars and fundamental columns upon which the structure of Islam is established. Now, an explanation of all these is being given.
The first pillar of Islam: Acknowledgment of Tawhid and Risalat
The first pillar of Islam consists of two parts. The first part is called ‘Tawhid,’ meaning acknowledging with heart and tongue that there is no true deity except Allah. He is the fulfiller of needs and the solver of problems. He is the master of life and death. He is the giver of children, the provider of sustenance, and the master of benefit and harm. He alone is the Supreme Authority; all others are his powerless servants. No prophet, saint, angel, or elder is his partner or equal in His being, attributes, rights, and actions. He is unique in His attributes as He is in His being. The belief contrary to Tawhid is known as Shirk (associating partners with Allah).
The second part of Islam’s first pillar is ‘Risalat’ (Prophethood). It means that Allah Almighty sent prophets and messengers in every era for the guidance of humanity. This series began with Adam and ends with Muhammad (ﷺ), who is the last in this chain. He has come as a prophet and messenger for all humans until the Day of Judgment. After him, no prophet or messenger will come. Anyone claiming prophethood or messengership is a liar, and believing in such a person is apostasy and disbelief.
The Second Pillar of Islam: The Establishment of Prayer
After reciting the Shahada (the declaration of faith), the first duty imposed on a Muslim is to perform Salah (prayer). The significance of Salah in Islam has been emphasized greatly. The Quran repeatedly commands the performance of prayers hundreds of times, and in many places, Salah is described as a sign of the faithful. On the Day of Judgment, the first account to be settled will be that of Salah. If a person succeeds in this, they will succeed in all other accounts. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) has defined the boundary between Islam and disbelief as Salah. He emphasized its importance to the extent of saying: “When a child reaches seven years, teach them to pray. If they reach ten and are negligent in their prayers, discipline them.” [Abu Dawood: 494] The Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “A person who does not perform Salah has no connection with Islam.” [Muwatta: 45] In the Quran and the Hadiths, the word ‘Iqamat’ (establishment) is used for Salah. The meaning of Iqamat is not just to perform prayers but to do so with commitment, observing all conditions and etiquettes, consistently, and in the congregation following the Sunnah. May Allah grant us all the ability to act accordingly.
The Third Pillar of Islam: Zakat
The literal meaning of Zakat is growth and purification. Those who are financially capable are commanded by Allah to spend a specific portion of their wealth in His way. This is to ensure the circulation of wealth, so that love for wealth does not dominate the hearts of the wealthy, and to assist those in the community who are destitute, poor, and needy. A person who possesses the Nisab (the minimum amount of wealth liable for Zakat) is required by Sharia to distribute a fixed portion to specified beneficiaries, such as a person owning seven and a half Tolas of gold or fifty-two and a half Tolas of silver. After a year passes, it is obligatory to pay one-fortieth of this wealth as Zakat. Similarly, if someone owns forty goats for a year, it is obligatory to give one goat as Zakat after a year. There are separate Nisabs for other assets like cows, camels, etc. Ushr (a form of Zakat on agricultural produce) and Sadaqat al-Fitr are also types of Zakat.
The Fourth Pillar of Islam: Hajj
It is obligatory for a person who is financially capable, meaning able to afford the journey to the House of Allah after fulfilling all the needs of his dependents, to perform Hajj during the designated days. The rituals of Hajj include wearing Ihram, performing Tawaf around the Kaaba, Sa’i between Safa and Marwah, cutting hair, presenting oneself in Mina, standing at Arafat, and staying at Muzdalifah, among others. Hajj has great rewards. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: ‘The reward for an accepted Hajj is Paradise.’ [متفق علیہ]
In another Hadith, the Prophet (ﷺ) said: ‘After performing Hajj, a person becomes as sin-free as if he was born anew.’ [متفق علیہ] Hazrat Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) stated: ‘A person who does not perform Hajj despite having the means to do so, might as well die a Jew or a Christian, as there is no sign of Islam in him.’ Hazrat Umar Farooq (May Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘I plan to send my workers around the country to find those who, despite having the means, do not perform Hajj, so that I may impose Jizya on them, for they are not Muslims.’
The Fifth Pillar of Islam: Fasting in Ramadan
It is obligatory for Muslims to fast during the month of Ramadan once a year. Fasting is mandatory for every sane, adult, healthy Muslim man and woman. Fasting involves refraining from eating, drinking, and fulfilling carnal desires from dawn to sunset. Fasting makes a person pious and God-fearing. Travelers and the ill are permitted to break their fast but must make up for it after Ramadan. Fasting has great virtue and reward. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: ‘Whoever fasts with faith, seeking reward from Allah, his past sins will be forgiven.’ [Bukhari, Muslim] Fasting develops endurance, patience, and empathy for the poor, and has numerous health benefits.
These five pillars have fundamental importance in the religion of Islam. Just as the depth and strength of foundations are essential for the stability of a building, similarly, the solidity of Islam also depends on deep and strong faith. And just as decoration materials are necessary for the beautification of a building, the beautification of the edifice of Islam is achieved through righteous actions. In fact, some scholars argue that faith without actions is incomplete. Hence, the Prophet (ﷺ) said in this Hadith: ‘The foundation of Islam is based on these five things.’ This means that without them, the very structure would cease to exist.
Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) has set these pillars as the standard for friendship and enmity. Those who adhere to them are guaranteed the protection of their life and property, otherwise, in the eyes of Islam, their life and property are not secure.