Islam: Meaning of the Five Pillars of Islam

the Five Pillars of Islam

The Word Islam

Islam is an Arabic term which literally means ‘surrender or submission’. The religion sent down by Allah and brought into this world by His Prophets is called al-Islam (Islam, for short). It is called as such for the simple reason that a Muslim surrenders himself completely and unconditionally to the power and will of the Lord of all the worlds. He obeys Him wholeheartedly, and obedience becomes the cardinal principle of his life.

Islam is built on Five Pillars:

Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) once said, “Islam is built upon five [pillars]: ‘Testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establishing the [obligatory] prayers, giving the zakaat, making the Pilgrimage to the House, and fasting in Ramadhaan”

(al-Bukhaaree and Muslim)

Importance of this Hadeeth

This hadeeth is of great significance. It lays down the fundamental aspects of outward surrender to Allah. This surrender is based on certain foundations, which are in a way similar to the foundations of a building. If a person carries out these outward obligations, he actually lays down a solid foundation for his religion as a whole. If any of these f pillars’ is missing, then the entire building will be exposed to danger.

In this hadeeth, the Prophet (pbuh) likens Islam to a building. The foundations or pillars of this ‘edifice’ of Islam are five. If this building lacks all these five pillars, then it does not exist at all. If any of the pillars is missing, the building will stand but it will have a deficiency. It is significant to realize that the main pillar is the testimony of faith. The first pillar leads to the fulfilment of the remaining pillars. The firmer the first pillar, the stronger the remaining pillars!

The Testimony of Faith

The testimony of faith, or the shahaadah, means: There is none worthy of worship except Allah. This belief in Allah is the cornerstone of Islamic faith. All of the other Islamic beliefs revolve round belief in Allah. It is, therefore, essential that a Muslim’s beliefs about Allah are correct. If a person’s beliefs about Allah are incorrect, then his entire faith may be ruined.

The Conditions of “Laa llaaha lllallaah

The key to Paradise is the statement ‘Laa llaaha lllallaah‘ (There is none worthy of worship except Allah). This testimony has some conditions. Every key has teeth. If you come with the key that has the right teeth, the door will open for you.

  1. Knowledge: This means knowledge that Allah is the only God who deserves to be worshipped and that to worship other than Him is sheer falsehood. The Quran says, “So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah” (Quran, 47:19)
  2. Certainty: This means that one must not only say this statement but must also believe with certainty that what he is saying is true: that Allah is the only true God who alone deserves to be worshipped. The Quran says, “And who believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith].” (Quran, 2:4)

Allah describes the true believers as those who have belief in Allah and then their hearts do not waver . Allah says, “The believers are only the ones who have believed in Allah and His Messenger and then doubt not but strive with their properties and their lives in the cause of Allah. It is those who are the truthful.” (Quran, 49: 15)

  1. Sincerity: This means one must perform all actions sincerely and purely for Allah, seeking His pleasure. As the Quran says, “And they were not commanded except to worship Allah , [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah. And that is the correct religion.” (Quran, 98:5).

The Prophet (pbuh) once said, “Truly, Allah has forbidden for the Hellfire anyone who says Laa ilaaha illallaaln, seeking Allah’s pleasure alone.” (AI-Bukhaaree)

  1. Love: This means one must love Allah and His Messenger (pbuh), giving preference to loving them over everyone and everything. It also means to love this statement and its implications and its adherents who act upon its dictates. The Quran says, “And [yet], among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals [to Him]. They love them as they [should] love Allah . But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah” (Quran, 2:165)
  2. Truthfulness: This means one must be truthful in his belief in Allah, in his words and deeds as well as in the way one carries the message of Islam. The Quran says, “O you who have believed, fear Allah and be with those who are true.” (Quran, 9:119)
  3. Submission: This means one must submit completely to the dictates of this statement. Submission here compliance with Allah’s commands. The Quran says, “And return [in repentance] to your Lord and submit to Him before the punishment comes upon you; then you will not be helped.” (Quran, 39:54)
  4. Acceptance: This means one must accept all the implications of this statement. The Quran says, “Say, [O believers], “We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us” (Quran, 2:136)

A Muslim must make certain that he is Muslim only for the sake of Allah. A Muslim cannot be a Muslim for the sake of his parents, friends, family, community or any worldly gains.

He must also make certain to adhere to the dictates of the shahaadtah until he dies. This is essential if the testimony is to mean anything in the afterlife. The shahaadah must be a believer’s banner until he departs this life. The Quran says, “O you who have believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims [in submission to Him].” (Quran, 3:102)

Muhammad (pbuh) is the Messenger of Allah

The second part of the Shahaadtah is to testify that Muhammad (pbuh) is the messenger of Allah. This means to declare that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was chosen by Allah to be His final messenger to all mankind.

Indeed, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) conveyed Allah’s entire message to all mankind. Every prophet and messenger before him was sent to his own people, but Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was sent to a mankind until the Day of Judgment. It is, therefore, obligatory upon everyone from the time of the Prophet (pbuh) until the Day of Judgment to believe in and follow the Prophet (pbuh). If the message of Islam reaches a person and he still arrogantly refuses to believe in and follow the Messenger of Allah, he is a disbeliever and will be in the Hellfire, unless he repents and embraces Islam.

The Prophet’s clear guidance, in its complete form, is present before us. Hence, there is no need for one to turn for guidance to the corrupted books of the Jews and the Christians or indeed to any other man-made laws. When Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) once saw Umar ibn al-Khattaab holding a sheet with some verses from the corrupted version of the Tawraah, he said to him, “Were Prophet Moosaa alive, he would certainly follow me.” (Fath al-Baaree)

Therefore, there is no need for any Muslim to turn to any religious or spiritual teachings of the disbelievers, for he will certainly find anything he needs in the Quran and the Sunnah. A Muslim bears witness that the Prophet (pbuh) conveyed the entire message he received from Allah. When he declares that Muhammad (pbuh) is the Messenger of Allah, he also declares that he is the final prophet and messenger sent by Allah. Thus, there is no Prophet after him. Anyone who claims Prophethood after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a blatant liar and a deceiver. To accept anyone as a prophet after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is to negate one’s declaration of the shahaadtah.

One’s Obligation towards the Prophet (pbuh)

When a person says, “I bear witness that Muhammad (pbuh) is the Messenger of Allah”, it becomes obligatory upon him to love the Prophet (pbuh) and follow his guidance. This love is not just any form of love. Indeed, true faith requires that he must love the Prophet (pbuh) more than anyone or anything else in this world. Allah says in the Quran, “Say, [O Muhammad], “If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.” (Quran, 9: 24)

This verse offers a criterion by which everyone can plumb his faith and find out if he meets the requirements of it or not! This verse clearly rejects the tendency to regard ties of kinship and social affiliations as the decisive factors of behavior. It shows the believers that Almighty Allah, His Messenger (pbuh) and struggle in His cause represent the only valid basis on which their life should rest.

Moreover, when one makes the testimony of faith, he actually accepts the Messenger of Allah as his example of how to live and behave in a way that is pleasing to Allah.

The Quran says, “There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” (Quran, 33: 21)

Hence, it is very essential for one to understand what the shahaadtah affirms and what it rejects. A believer, therefore, must deepen his knowledge of Islam through the authentic sources of his religion. He must be fully prepared to accept whatever implications of the shahaadtah are. He should have a firm belief in whatever is stated in the Quran or stated by the Prophet (pbuh), without any right whatsoever to choose what he wants to take and what he desires to reject.

It is worth mentioning here that when we obey the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) we actually obey Almighty Allah. The Quran says, “Say, [O Muhammad], “If you should love Allah , then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” ( Quran, 3:31)

A true believer must therefore obey Allah and His Messenger. The Quran says, “And whatever the Messenger has given you – take; and what he has forbidden you – refrain from.” (Quran, 59:7)

The Prophet (pbuh) also said, “Whatever I command you to do, do it to the best of your ability; and whatever I forbid you to do, avoid it.”


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