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The Prophet Muhammad said, "Islam has been built upon five things..."
Hadith on the Five Pillars of Islam | 40 Hadith an-Nawawi [Hadith 3]
On the authority of Abu 'Abd al-Rahman 'Abdullah bin 'Umar bin al-Khattab, radiyallahu 'anhuma, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, say:
“Islam has been built upon five things - on testifying that there is no god save Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger; on performing salah; on giving the zakah; on Hajj to the House; and on fasting during Ramadhan.”
Source: Bukhari & Muslim
by Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi, Associate Professor, Department of General Studies, International Islamic University, Malaysia
This hadith is part of the previous Hadith (2). Most Scholars say that the reason why al-Imam al-Nawawi included this hadith in his collection, even though it seems that it repeats some portions of Hadith 2, is because of the importance of the 5 pillars of Islam.
This Hadith stresses the fundamental aspects of the outward submission to Allah. This submission is based on some pillars, similar to a structure. If a person fulfills these aspects, he has laid a solid foundation for his deen as a 'home'.
The other acts of Islam, which are not mentioned in this hadith, can be taken as fine touches to complete this structure.
If a person fails to fulfill these obligations (building the pillars), then the entire structure of his deen/iman may be threatened. This depends on how much is being violated - e.g. violation of the shahadah is the most dangerous.
The use of metaphors and similes
This hadith uses a metaphor (i.e. the image of the structure of a building) to affirm certain
important meanings. This use of metaphors and similes can be found in many Surahs in the
Quran and in many other hadiths. For example:
In Surah At-Taubah (9): ayat 109, a similar metaphor is used - the structure of the Mua'min's deen/iman is based on a sound foundation, whereas the structure of the deen of the Munafiq is based on weak ground which may lead to the collapse of the structure, resulting in the Munafik entering the Hellfire.
Surah An-Nur (24): ayat 35, uses the metaphor of light as the light of guidance in the heart of the Mua'min.
A metaphor used to condemn those who fail to fulfill the amanah (i.e. religious obligations) can be found in Surah Al-Jumu'ah (62): ayat 5. The Bani Israel, having failed to obey Allah's commandments in the Taurah, are described as a donkey which is burdened with heavy books on its back but doesn't understand anything from them.
Scholars have said that this metaphor also applies to other nations, which fail to fulfill their amanah.
In one hadith the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, divided the status of his ummah into three categories: those who benefit from the Message, those who benefit partially and those who fail to benefit at all. He, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, used the metaphor of rain (as the Message) falling down on different types of land, producing different results.
Using metaphors to convey the Message is a very important 'tool' and it is the methodology used in the Quran and by the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam. There are many modes of expression used in the Quran and Hadith and they are used for different purposes. E.g. Dealing with the misconceptions and false assumptions of the disbelievers, the Quran and Hadith use rational thinking. When describing Jannah and the Hellfire, the style used by the Quran and Hadith is the visual mode of expression - they are described in such detail that it is like we can actually visualize Jannah or the Hellfire in front of us.
One of the Sahabahs said that he had already seen Jannah and the Hellfire. The other Sahabahs were puzzled and asked him how this could be so as nobody is able to see them until the Hereafter. He replied, "I saw them through the eyes of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam. If I were to be given the chance to see Jannah and the Hellfire with my own eyes, I would not trust my sight. I trust the eyes of the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, more than I trust my own eyes." Here we can conclude that if we read and understand the Quran and the Hadiths we too can visualize the paradise and the Hellfire.
These modes of expression (thinking styles) used by the Quran and Hadith should be well understood and used by Muslims today to convey the Message of Islam when doing da'wah as it is the most effective way. Different styles should be used to reach/convince different people - some people are more emotional, some are more rational, etc.
First Pillar: The Shahadah
The first part of the Shahadah is testifying that there is none worthy of worship except Allah. There are seven conditions of the Shahadah:
Knowledge - to understand what it means
Certainty - to have no doubt about anything confirmed in the Quran or Sunnah
Acceptance - by the tongue and the heart of whatever the Shahadah implies
Submission/compliance - the actual physical enactment by deeds
Truthfulness - to say the Shahadah sincerely, with honesty, to actually mean it
Sincerity - to do it solely for the sake of Allah
Love - to love the Shahadah and to love its implications and requirements and what it stands for
The Shahadah is not simply saying it with our tongue. We need to adhere to these conditions. If we say the Shahadah sincerely and with honesty, we will not do anything which contradicts with or violates the Shahadah.
The second part of the Shahadah carries the following conditions:
To believe in the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, and in whatever he told us and
conveyed to us
To obey him in whatever he commanded us to do
To stay away from or avoid whatever he commanded us not to do
To follow or emulate him in our ibadah, akhlaq and way of life
To love him more than we love ourselves, our family and anything else in this world
To understand, practice and promote his Sunnah in the best way possible, without creating any chaos, enmity or harm
Second Pillar: Establishing the Prayers (Salah)
Some interpretations of this hadith translate "iqamatus salah" as 'performing' the salah. "Iqamatus salah" is a broader concept than what the term 'performing' means. The Scholars say "iqamatus salah" implies:
Doing the wudu in the proper way
To do the salah in its time
To do it in congregation (jama'ah) - where the reward is 27 times than praying alone
To fulfill the six conditions of salah
To observe the proper manners (adab) of doing it such as submission and humility
To follow preferable actions (sunnan) in our salah
It is important that we follow these conditions and not violate them if we want to truly fulfill the second pillar of Islam i.e. "iqamatus salah". We should remember that Allah initially commanded us to pray fifty times a day and it was eventually reduced to five times (with the reward of fifty) the prayer times are very reasonably spread out throughout the day - it can even help us to manage our time - it can help us to manage our affairs, allowing the Muslim community to meet during congregation and care for and help each other which will lead in turn to solidarity. Thus, the prayers should not be seen as a burden as some Muslims might regard them today.
Third Pillar: Zakat
The giving of Zakat has been pointed out by the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, for certain things and in certain ways or percentages and under certain conditions. The Scholars say that knowing the details of Zakat only becomes an obligation when a person owns the type of property or thing which requires him to give Zakat for. E.g. Farmers or traders or property owners need to know the conditions and percentages of Zakat that they are obligated to give.
Fourth Pillar: Hajj
Pilgrimage (Hajj) to the House (Kaabah) is an obligation that we need to do only once in our lifetime - only if we meet certain conditions, e.g. if we have the financial means, a way of travelling peacefully, etc. If we meet these conditions then we should perform the Hajj as soon as possible and not to delay it.
Some Scholars say that if we have the means to perform the Hajj several times, then it is better to use this money to help others to fulfill their obligations - we will be rewarded for their pilgrimage or to use the money for the betterment of the community. For each of these Pillars there are conditions, sunnan, ethics (adab), etc., which should be observed when we perform these ibadahs. Why do we always hear that every year hundreds of Muslims lose their lives or get injured during Hajj? Most of these incidents are due to the negligence of the adab or violation of the sunnan. For example, the throwing of stones at the Jamrat:
Even though we are supposed to use small stones, people tend to use big ones and throw recklessly from a far distance, causing injuries to others.
People do not follow the specified directions when they move, causing many to get crushed by the 'human waves' moving in different directions.
People insist on going to throw at the peak times, i.e. the busiest part of the day. The elderly, women and handicapped should be reminded to go when it is less crowded.
Thus, it is important that we observe the adab.
Fifth Pillar: Fasting
Ramadhan is a training program for all Muslims to go through, performing good deeds to become better Muslims. However, we should continue with these good deeds outside of Ramadhan - praying in the mosque, Tahajjud, Qiamu alil, reciting the Qur'an, helping and caring for others etc.
The Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, when asked what the best way is to finish reading the whole Qur'an, said to do it in one month, i.e. one Juzuk per day. This is something we should practice all the time and not have to wait for Ramadhan to do it. If we cannot achieve this, at least try to read one or two pages a day (a quarter of a hizb).
Similarly we should try to do the night prayers (tahajjud), be it only two raka'at and not everyday, outside of Ramadhan.
We should not make personal commitments in performing these preferable actions where the Shariah has not made this itself. This might lead us to giving up on our commitment and hence, the good deed. The best way is to do it on ease and convenience aiming at the continuity of these good deeds.
All the Pillars of Islam have rulings, conditions and mannerisms (ahkam wa adab) applied to them. It is important that we know these ahkam and adab and regularly remind ourselves, especially before Ramadan or before performing the Hajj, so that we perform the Pillars properly and according to the Shariah.