Supporting Pillars for the Faithful
B.The Prophet Muhammad and the Hadith
A.The Statement of Faith (Shahadah)
B.The Establishment of Prayers (Salah)
III.The Effect of the Five Pillars on the Islamic Life
Supporting Pillars for the Faithful
Islam is, debatably, the fastest growing religion in the world today. At a level of 1.2 billion, they represent approximately 22% of the worlds population. Moslems make up the second largest religion in the world, surpassed only to Christianity at 33%. This is according to the 1999 World Almanac and Book of Facts (724). What is Islam? Who is a Moslem? What do they believe? How does one become a Moslem?
In 1964, Philip K. Hitti addressed the rapid emergence of Islam throughout the world in his writing History of the Arabs. In his book, he stated that every eighth person in our world today is a follower of Muhammad. He continues to say The Moslem call to prayer rings out through most of the twenty-four hours of the day, encircling the large portion of the globe in its warm belt (Hitti 3). Today, some thirty-six years later, Islam has become the place of comfort, peace, and faith for over one billion people. To have this type of growth there must be an underlying foundation to the movement.
As any builder can attest, in order for a structure to maintain its integrity the support for that structure must be stabilized and strengthened. Within the holy writings of Islam the support and structure of the faithful is proclaimed. The concept of no deity except God is always alive within the heart of a Moslem. They recognize that he alone is the Creator, the Provider and Sustainer, and the true Reality; the source of all things of all benefits and harm. This belief requires that He be worshipped and obeyed.
In the Holy Koran, God has made obedience to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad incumbent upon the all believers. The teachings of Prophet Muhammad are available today in the form of Hadith. Although Islamic faith and beliefs are vast, the establishing doctrine, i.e., foundation, for Islam remains to be the five pillars of faith. The first is a statement of faith, the subsequent four are major exercises of faith of which some are daily, some weekly, some monthly, some annually, and some are required as a minimum once in a lifetime.
These Five Pillars are the frameworks of a Muslims life. At one time, when the Prophet Muhammad was asked to give a definition of Islam, he named the Five Pillars. In the Hadith, the collection of sayings of Muhammed, these exercises of faith are stated to serve mans spiritual purposes, satisfy his human needs, and to mark his whole life with a Divine touch (Hadith Shih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 7). The writings comprising the Hadith, while regarded as an excellent guide to living, are not regarded as having the same status as the Holy Koran (Quran). The major duties, nevertheless, in the life of a Moslem are to fulfill these Five Pillars. They are:
1.The Statement of Faith (Shahadah)
2.The Establishment of Prayers (Salah)
As distinct as the Ten Commandments are to members of the Christian and Judaic faiths, each of the Five Pillars are direct commands from Allah for his children. The first of these Pillars is:
Shahadah is the bearing of witness to Allah. This is a declaration of faith. In his declaration, a Muslim proclaims ASH-HADU ANLA ELAHA ILLA-ALLAH WA ASH-HADU ANNA MOHAMMADAN RASUL-ALLAH. The English translation is I bear witness that there is no deity (none truly to be worshipped) but, Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. The Shahadah is repeated at least on a daily basis. Having acknowledged this within his heart, the second Pillar of Islam is instituted:
The Establishment of Prayers (Salah).
Ordered time for prayers is essential for maximum benefit to both the faith and to the believer. The Shahadah is to be performed five times a day: morning, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset and just before sleeping. Ones body is to be toward the holy city of Mecca, or toward the east, where the Prophet Muhammad was born. No other form of worship can be compared to the prayer (Salah), for it is the basis of religion, without which there would be no religion or faith. The earlier prophets (e.g., Abraham, David, and Jesus) and their followers practiced prayer in some form as an essential part of the religion of God. Islam, which is considered the final stage, completion, and confirmation of a monotheistic religion, considers prayer essential. Its denial removes one from the ranks of Islam.
Obligatory prayers are performed the aforementioned five times a day, and are a direct link between the worshiper and God. As stated by Sayyid Abu Al-Ala Maududi in Islam: Its Meaning and Message, There is no hierarchical authority or priesthood in Islam, so a person learned in the Quran leads group prayers. These prayers contain verses from the Quran, and they are said in Arabic, the language of the revelation itself (Al-Ala Maududi 12). Personal prayers, on the other hand, may be offered in ones own language.
While the shahadah is paramount in becoming a true Moslem, and the Salah is necessary in maintaining a close relationship with Allah, a concern for others is stressed within the confines of the third of the Five Pillars of Islam:
Synonymous with the tithe of the Christian faith, Zakah is expected and ordered of the faithful of Islam. It is an act of worship and spiritual investment. The literal meaning of Zakah is purity, and it refers to the annual amount that a Moslem with means must distribute among the rightful needy. Ibrahim Shabaan, a Tyler, Texas business owner and native of Libya, North Africa, commented recently in a conversation that the Zakah is not viewed as an obligation, although it is one. It is, to the Moslem, viewed as an honor in which to help his brother in need. It must be noted, however, that Zakah is intended for ones Moslem brothers in need. The charity given not only purifies the contributor, but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed. Furthermore, it purifies the heart of the needy one from envy, hatred, or jealousy, and replaces these undesirable thoughts with those of good will and wishes of happiness for the contributors. The list of recipients of Zakah is multiple: the Moslem poor and needy, the new Moslem converts, and the Moslem prisoners of war (as a means to free them). It is also intended for Moslems in debt, those appointed to collect the charity and Moslems in service of research or study or propagation of Islam. This is not an exhaustive list. As needs arise within the family of the Islamic faith, the charity is distributed.
In order to increase ones spiritual depth it is necessary at times to purge the needs of the body. In Islam, the needs of the body are considered to complicate closeness to Allah. To become the vessel needed to accept all Allah has to give, the Moslem faithful practice another purging of the soul.
Personal fasting and prayer may be done at the discretion of the individual. Recommended personal fasting times and dates are suggested, but are not viewed as an obligation. Once a year, however, during the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic year), obligatory fasting takes place. Abstinence is ordered in the form of eating, drinking, allowing intimate sexual contacts, and smoking. These restrictions of the daily life are in place from the break of dawn until sunset.
Fasting teaches man the principle of sincere love to God. It brings to an individuals heart the understanding of hope, devotion, patience, and self-control. Willpower, discipline, unity, and brotherhood are also learned.
The obligatory fast is intended for every adult Moslem, whether male or female, if he/she is mentally and physically able. If on a journey, the fast may be postponed, but the exercise is to be made up later. Exceptions to the fast are women during their unclean period (menstruation) or while nursing a child, and in case of travel and sickness for both men and women. Sheikh (sic) Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, in Al-Siyaam 70 Matters Related to Fasting, states:
It is better for a menstruating woman to remain natural and accept what Allaah has decreed for her by not taking any medication to prevent her from bleeding. She should be content with what Allaah accepts from her of breaking her fast during her period and making those days up later. This is how the Mothers of the Believers and the women of the salaf were (Al-Munajjid 66).
The fifth, and final, Pillar of Islam is an obligation to those within the faith that are able physically and financially. Similar to a Christians desire to journey to the Holy Land, the Hajj is the ordered pilgrimage of all able Moslems to the city of Prophet Mohammeds birth, Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Pilgrims who participate in the Hajj wear very simple garments that denote no status or wealth. Without the appearance of wealth, all people stand equal before God. Moslems pray for Allahs forgiveness while they fulfill the once in a lifetime duty that is their pilgrimage to Mecca.
In Islamic history, the Hajj commemorates the Divine rituals observed by Prophet Abraham and his son, Ishmael, who were the first pilgrims to the house of Allah on earth: the Kabah. It is also to remember, and anticipate, the great assembly of the Day of Judgment when people will stand equal before Allah. Moslems go to Mecca to glorify Allah, not to worship a man.
The Five Pillars are the basis of Islamic religion because they structure the spiritual life of an individual Moslem. The spiritual life has a direct effect on the personal and interpersonal life of the faithful. The personal life of the Islamic man or woman is hoped to influence the spiritual life of the non-Moslem. It will bring the non-Moslem to the point of conversion to Islam. The choice, however, is to the individual. There are no pressure tactics used, but only the prayer that example will lead one to Allah.
In essence, the Prophet Muhammad declared of the Five Pillars of Islam to serve mans spiritual purposes, satisfy his human needs and to mark his whole life with Divine touch (Muhammed).
Al-Ala Maududi, Sayyid Abu. Islam: Its Meaning and Message. American Trust Publications. Indianapolis, Indiana. 1984.
Islams history and purpose is evaluated by the author. For the inquisitive, the author offers answers to the most simple as well as the most complex questions.
Al-Munajjid, Sheikh Muhammed Salih. Al-Siyaam: 70 Matters Related to Fasting. http://www.islam-qa.com/Books/seyam/english.shtml.
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid comments on the one area of the Pillars: Fasting. This book is a summary of the rulings, etiquette and Sunnah of fasting. Al-Munajjid is a high ranking official in the Islamic community.
Elmasry, Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim. Islam, An Introduction. Updated. KW Islamic Association publication. Ontario, Canada. 1996.
This is an updated summary of the faith of Islam. Elmasry iterates the importance of what would be called in the Christian church a layman. He emphasizes the importance of the common man.
Hitti, Philip K. History of the Arabs. MacMillan & Co. Ltd. St. Martins Press, New York, 1964.
This book is a historical and statistical account of the Arab peoples. The 1964 edition was the sixth edition published with the only changes made updating numbers and correcting minor errors and misprints.
Hoffman, Editor. The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1998. Pharos Books. New York. 1998.
The World Almanac is a comprehensive general fact book. It is revised every year in order to maintain its accuracy with changes in the world community.
Mohammed. Hadith Shih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 7.