“On the authority of Abu Abdul Rahmaan Abdullah (r), the son of Umar ibn al-Kattaab (r) who 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.’” (Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
I want to begin the discussion of this hadith with a little bit of background about the narrator. The companions who narrated hadith played such an important role in the first community of believers, and yet we often know very little about them.
Abdullah ibn Umar al-Khattab was the eldest son of Umar ibn al-Kattab, who was one of the most famous companions of the Prophet (s) and one of the Rightly Guided Caliphs (rulers) of the early Muslim community. Abdullah (r) himself was one of the most outstanding younger companions. He (r) was pious, righteous, and was known for his strict imitation of the Prophetic example. He (r) distinguished himself as a narrator of hadith, and was second only to Abu Hurairah (r) in the number of hadith he narrated from the Prophet (s). He was known for having tears in his eyes as he narrated hadith.
“Islam is based upon five [pillars]“
We can see from the parable that the Messenger of Allah (s) has given that Islam is like a structure, we could imagine it like a house or tent. The pillars of the structure are five, and these parts are complimentary and integral to the whole. The testimony of faith, or belief in Allah (swt) and His Messenger (s), forms the central pillar. The remaining four pillars, which put belief into action, give support to the overall structure. If one part is missing, then the analogy is that the structure will not be sound. As long as the middle pillar is there and standing, the structure is considered to be standing, but if falls, there will be nothing left.
The strength of our conviction in the first pillar of Islam, the testimony of faith, will determine the strength of our practice of the other pillars of Islam. Imagine yourself like a structure, with your belief in Allah (swt) and His Messenger (s), as the centre of everything you do. Your practice of the other pillars of Islam is based on the strength of this central pillar. What does your structure look like? Are any of the pillars unstable, or are they firm and sound?
“… testifying that there is none worthy of worship except Allah…”
Continuing with the hadith ‘Islam is based on five pillars’, which you can find posted in full here, we see that the first pillar of Islam is to testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah (swt) and that Muhammad (s) is the Messenger of Allah (swt). This post will deal with the first part of the shahadah or testimony of faith which is that there is none worthy of worship except Allah (swt). The second part, belief in His Messenger (s), will be dealt with in the following post, InshaAllah.
Many Muslims know the hadith,
“Whoever dies knowing that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah shall enter Paradise” (Recorded in Muslim)
Some believe that if they were born Muslim, or have stated their belief in Allah, that this is enough to save them from punishment. As we will see, this is not in fact be the case. Part of the problem is that people have a tendency to take one hadith or verse of the Qur’an, and then make a general conclusion based solely on that one text. So someone might take the above mentioned hadith and say, ‘All I need to do is say I believe in Allah and that will be enough for me.’ But even the hypocrites used to say, ‘I testify that none is worthy of worship except Allah and…’ and Allah (swt) describes them as liars who shall abide in the lowest Hellfire. So how can we be sure that we will be one of those who is entered into Paradise and not the Fire?
In order to understand this hadith properly we need to look at all the examples listed in the Qur’an and Sunnah that explain this concept of La illaaha illa-llaah, there is no God but Allah, and see what the true Islamic position on the issue is. What we find is that there are conditions of the shahadah that must be met in order for the promise of Paradise to be fulfilled.
The first condition of shahadah is knowledge or al-ilm. One must have the necessary basic understanding of what is meant by saying the shahadah including what it affirms, and what it denies. So one must understand that Allah (swt) is the only one worthy of worship, that all other gods are false gods, and that people are not worthy of worship even if they were Prophets or were very pious people.
The second condition is certainty or al-yaqeen. Certainty is the opposite of doubt. One must be absolutely certain of the truth of the shahadah and not have any wavering in their heart. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“The (true) believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Messenger and afterward doubt not..” (Surah al-Hujuraat:15)
Many scholars have stated that doubts are a disease of the heart that can be more harmful that lust. This is because lusts may be satisfied but one still knows them to be wrong, but doubts in the heart may linger until they cause a person to leave Islam. One of the greatest cures for doubt is knowledge. The more you study the more certain you become and the firmer your faith will be.
The third condition is acceptance or al-qabool. When a person has knowledge and certainty in the shahadah, this must be followed by acceptance with the tongue and the heart, of whatever the shahadah implies. This means that one must also accept what is stated in the Qur’an or stated by the Prophet (s) even if it goes against our own desires. We cannot choose to believe in some parts and not others. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have any opinion in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has indeed strayed in plain error.” (Surah al-Ahzaab:36)
The fourth condition is submission and compliance or al-inqiyad. This implies carrying out the physical deeds that follow from the shahadah. This is one of the main meanings of the word Islam itself, ‘the submission to the will and commands of Allah’. As we saw in the discussion of Imaan, belief must be implemented in the heart, on the tongue and through action.
The fifth condition is truthfulness or al-sidq. This is the opposite of hypocrisy and implies that we must mean what we say. We should not be saying the shahadah just for some worldly gain, or Allah (swt) will not accept it from us.
The sixth condition is pure sincerity or al-ikhlaas. When one declares theshahadah they must do it solely for the sake of Allah (swt) alone. One becomes a Muslim solely to serve Allah, to avoid His (swt) anger and punishment and to gain His mercy and reward. This is something that all Muslims should think about, but especially those who were born into a Muslim family. Everyone should be clear that they are a Muslim for the sake of Allah (swt) and not for their family or community.
The seventh condition is love or al-mahabbah. This means firstly that the believer loves their shahadah; secondly that they love in accordance with their shahadah (love what Allah loves); thirdly that they love the implications of their shahadah (the actions that must follow); and finally that they also love others who act in accordance with theshahahdah (loving one another for the sake of Allah). The true believer puts no-one as equal to Allah in their love. Allah says in Surah al-Baqarah:165,
“Yet of mankind are some who take unto themselves [object of worship which they set as] rivals to Allah, loving them with a love like [that which is due to] Allah only. However those who believe are stauncher in their love of Allah.”
Some scholars add further conditions of shahadah including denying that any other object is worthy of worship. While this may seem obvious from the statement itself, people often do not put this understanding into practice. You can still find Muslims in many parts of the world who perform acts of worship at graves, or carry out worship of ’saints’ (auliya). Remember that making dua is an act of worship, so if you make duato a saint or teacher to help you then you are making partners with Allah in worship, which is shirk, the only unforgivable sin.
The last condition mentioned by the scholars is that one must adhere to theshahadah until they die. This is essential if our shahadah is to mean anything to us in the Hereafter. Allah (swt) says:
“O believers, observe your duty to Allah with right observance, and die not save as Muslims.” (Surah ali-Imraan:102)
SubhanAllah. This small statement, the shahadah, is so comprehensive, and it’s implications are so wide-reaching. It is not an understatement to say that our understanding and enactment of these conditions of the shahadah is of eternal significance.
Do we really love for the sake of Allah (swt) and love what He (swt) had ordered us to do? Do we accept with certainty that Islam is the best model for how to live our lives and does this acceptance show through in our actions? Are we striving to please Allah (swt) with all that we do, carrying out our actions for His (swt) sake alone? Is any part of our love or worship directed to other than Allah? Our Hereafter depends upon our answers to these types of questions.
“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”
Continuing with the explanation of the hadith ‘Islam is based on five pillars’, we will now look at the second part of the testimony of faith or shahadah, ‘Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah‘.
While most people know that to enter into Islam, one must believe that the Prophet Muhammad (s) is the Messenger of Allah, some people may not be aware of the meaning and implications of this second part of the shahadah.
When one testifies that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah they are stating their belief that he (s) was chosen by Allah (swt) as His Messenger to convey His Message. Further, they must understand that they are testifying that the Prophet (s) is the Last of the Prophets, who has been sent for all of mankind until the Day of Judgement. The Prophet (s) said a hadith recorded in Bukhari and Muslim:
“I have been given five aspects that were not given to any prophet before me… [One of which is] every prophet was sent only to his people, while I have been sent to all of mankind.”
This implies that the Prophet’s (s) teachings and Sunnah, his prophetic example, are valid and obligatory on all of mankind until the Day of Judgement. They were not simply for the people of Arabia at the time the Prophet (s) lived. They were the best example for everyone, wherever they live and whenever they live. They are just as relevant now for the person in Arabia as they are for the person in America or Australia.
Some people try to resist the idea that they have to follow the example of the Prophet (s) and his Sunnah. They think that it is somehow separate from the believing in the revelation of the Qur’an. How do we know how do pray if we do not follow the example of the Prophet’s (s) Sunnah? Allah’s revelation is completed by the example of His Prophet (s) who showed us the best example for how to live a life that is pleasing to Allah (swt). Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example to follow for him who hopes in (a good meeting with) Allah and the Last Day” (Surah al-Ahzaab)
To deny the need to follow the Prophet Muhammad’s (s) example is to go against what one has testified to in the shahadah. Indeed the Prophet (s) himself said in a hadith recorded in Bukhari:
“I swear by Allah that I am the most fearful of Allah and most conscious of Him than all of you. But I also fast and break my fast, pray and sleep, and I marry women. Whoever turns away from my sunnah is not from me [one of the true followers].”
We must also believe that the Prophet (s) did his job completely and perfectly, and that he conveyed the message correctly. No part of the religion was left incomplete. We are therefore not in need of any other guidance other than what is contained in the Qur’an and Sunnah. We do not need to look to other books or turn to other philosophies or spiritual teachings, because everything we need is before us, in a pure and simple form, accessible to each and every person.
It is also our obligation to love the Prophet Muhammad (s). Indeed complete Imaan, requires that we love the Prophet (s) and what he (s) loved, more than we love our own selves and our own desires. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His cause, then wait until Allah brings about His Decision (torment). Allah guides not the people who are disobedient.” (Surah al-Taubah)
Let’s ask ourselves, do we strive to follow the Prophet’s (s) example in our daily lives? Or are we more concerned about wealth, family, entertainment and impressing others than we are about following the teachings of the Deen of Al-Islaam? Are we in danger of negating the second part of the shahadah by not following the example set by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s)?
“establishing the prayers”
After stating that Islam is built on five pillars, and that the first pillar of Islam is the testimony of faith, or shahadah, the Prophet Muhammad (s) then mentioned ‘establishing the prayers’ as the next pillar of Islam.
The first thing we notice here is that Prophet (s) said ‘establish’ not merely ‘perform’ the prayer. What is the difference between establishing the prayer and performing it?Interestingly, the only time that the ‘performer of prayer’ is mentioned in the Qur’an is as follows:
“So woe unto those performers of prayers who delay their prayer from its stated fixed time.” (Surah al-Maa’oon: 4-5)
These ‘performers of prayers’ obviously stand up to pray, but Allah (swt) says, ‘Woe unto them’. What are they doing wrong, and more importantly what can we learn from that?
This example shows us firstly that prayers must be established at their fixed times. Those who delay their prayer are merely performers of prayers and not establishers. There is a distinction to be made between the one who performs the prayer in form only, and the one who prays with their heart and soul present and committed to the actions. Those who pray as if they see Allah (swt) or knowing that Allah (swt) sees them are different from those who perform the actions of the body, but not the actions of the heart. The established prayer therefore, incorporates both inner and outer aspects.
So how can we ‘establish the prayers’?
1) One must be in a state of purity for the prayer. Learn how the Prophet (s) madewudhu and follow his (s) example. Learn what breaks wudhu and what doesn’t. If you don’t feel certain of this already, I recommend reading Fiqh us-Sunnah by Al Sayyid Sabiq, for a detailed description of the Prophet’s (s) wudhu with accompanying hadith evidences.
2) We must perform the prayer in the proper manner as described in the Qur’an and Sunnah.The Prophet Muhammad (s) said,
“Pray as you have seen me praying.” (Recorded in Bukhari).
Do we know how the Prophet (s) performed his salah? Have we read in detail, with evidence, about each of the actions he (s) performed and do we feel certain that we are performing them correctly? If not, I recommend reading The Prophet’s Prayer Describedby Shaikh Naasir-ud-Deen Al-Albaani for a detailed account of the Prophet’s (s) prayer with accompanying hadith evidences.
3) We must pay attention to both the inward and the outward aspects of the prayer. Once you have established the correctness of the physical actions, work on the inward actions. Remind yourself that Allah (s) is watching your every time you stand to pray.
4) Perform the prayer at it’s earliest time. Stick the prayer timetable on the fridge. Set the alarm clock. Get an adhan clock. When the alarm goes, the most important and rewardable thing you can do is get ready to pray. Arrange your life around the prayer, not your prayer around your life.
5) For men, the best place to pray is in congregation in the mosque, for women the best place to pray is in the home.
6) Develop kushoo‘ in the prayer. This means to have an attentive heart that is focussed only on Allah (swt). This feeling in the heart should be reflected in the body and you should be still and calm with the gaze lowered. Even the voice can become affected by this feeling in the heart.
We should remind ourselves that the Prophet (s) said:
“The first matter that the slave [of Allah] will be called to account about on the Day of Judgement is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.” (Recorded in al-Tabaraani)
No matter what deeds we perform in our life, the most important aspect is our relationship to Allah (swt). This relationship with Allah (swt) is demonstrated and put into practice, as well as improved and increased, by the prayer. If we perform the prayer properly, with an attentive heart, it will have a lasting effect on our lives in this world and in the Hereafter.
“giving the zakat”
Linguistically, ‘zakat‘ implies purification, blessing and growth. The Prophet Muhammad (s) mentioned the giving of zakat, a portion of one’s wealth in charity, as the third pillar of Islam, in the hadith relating that Islam has been built on five pillars, which you can find listed in full here.
There is no question that among the pillars of Islam, zakat ranks very close to that of prayer. They are mentioned together in the Qur’an on more than eighty occasions, like in the following example:
“But if they repent, offer prayer and give zakat, then they are your bretheren in religion. And We expound the signs for a people who know.” (Surah al-Taubah:11)
We can see here that zakat is ranked with prayer as distinguishing a believer from the disbelievers. The payment of zakat is a sign that a person has submitted themselves to Allah (swt) and He (swt) tells us that paying zakat is one of the keys to receiving His Mercy in the Hereafter:
“The believers, men and women, are helpers and supporters of one another, they enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, they give the zakat and they obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow His mercy on them. Surely, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (Surah al-Taubah:71)
The payment of zakat should purify us by cleansing us of the diseases of stinginess and miserliness, and it should purify our wealth by removing any evil effects from it. It is also one of the keys to establishing the Muslim community and the Muslim State. Zakat plays an important role in the wider society by helping the poor and strengthening the ties of brotherhood and sisterhood. It also shows the believers that all that they have comes from Allah (swt) and they will not suffer if they give wealth for His (swt) sake. In fact, Allah promises to increase them in reward:
“The likeness of those who spend in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain], which grows seven spikes, in each spike is a hundred grains, and Allah multiples [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is All Encompassing, All Knowing.” (Surah al-Baqarah:261)
Allah makes it clear in the Qur’an that withholding the payment of zakat is displeasing to Him (swt):
“And let not those who covetously withhold of that which Allah has bestowed on them of His Bounty (wealth) think that it is good for them. Nay, it will be worse for them. The things which they covetously withheld shall be tied to their necks like a collar on the Day of Resurrection. And to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is Well-Aquainted with all that you do.” (Surah ali-Imraan:180)
“[There are] those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah – announce to them a painful torment. On the Day when that wealth will be heated in the fire of hell and it will brand their foreheads, flanks and backs. [It will be said to them], ‘This is the treasure which you hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what you used to hoard.’” (Surah al-Taubah:34-35)
What can we learn from this? We are just as obligated to pay zakat as we are to pray. We should ensure that we understand how to calculate how much zakat we need to pay, and that we pay it once every lunar year. Many people use Ramadan as the reminder and pay it in this time in the hope of seeking extra reward, but it can be paid at any time. It is important to give it with the intention of pleasing Allah and to seek to use it as a means to purify ourselves of the ills of greed and miserliness. And with Allah (swt) lies the highest reward.
“making pilgrimage to the House”
The Prophet (s) stated that Islam is built on five pillars, and Hajj or pilgrimage to the House of Allah (swt) in Makkah, is listed as the fourth pillar of Islam in this hadith, which you can find listed in full here. The performance of Hajj is an obligation on every Muslim who has the means to perform it. This has been clearly established in the Qur’an andSunnah, and as we can see from this hadith, it is of such importance that it forms one of the foundation or pillars of the religion of Islam.
The ritual of pilgrimage to Makkah stretches back thousands of years to the time of the Prophet Abraham or, in Arabic, Ibrahim. Prophet Ibrahim (as) was ordered by Allah to leave his wife Hajar, and his infant son Ismail alone in the desert, in the valley where Makkah now stands. While Ibrahim (as) was gone, the baby became thirsty, and Hajar ran back and forth between two hills, now known as Safa and Marwah, seven times searching for water for her son. The baby cried and hit the ground with his foot (some narrations say that the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) scraped his foot or the tip of his wing along the ground), and water miraculously sprang forth. This source of water is called the Well of Zamzam and is now located next to the Kabbah. The Kabbah, or House of Allah, was built later by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail, as a place for the worship of Allah alone.
Muslims emulate this journey in their annual Hajj pilgrimage, which occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and last month of the Islamic calendar. When the Prophet Muhammad (s) led his followers from Medina to Makkah to make this pilgrimage, it was the first Hajj to be performed by Muslims alone, and the only Hajjever performed by the Prophet (s). He cleansed the Kabbah, destroyed all the idols that had been worshipped there, and re-ordained the building as the house of Allah.
The Hajj pilgrimage, now performed by more than 3 million Muslims every year, sees people from all over the world come together to worship Allah. The rich and the poor have their differences removed as they dress in the same manner and perform the same rituals. People must undertake a long journey and suffer hardship in the search of their ultimate goal. It is a physical as well as spiritual pilgrimage and believers must practice sincerity, and patience and love for their fellow Muslims. They must forget their material comforts and the lure of the material world and concentrate on only Allah (swt) and His worship and their relationship with Him (swt). Spiritually, the Hajj can provide an individual with a complete cleansing of the soul, as the Prophet (s) said,
“Whoever performs the Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not commit any lewdness or sins returns like the day in which his mother gave birth to him [without any sins].”(Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
Successfully completed with the right intention, the Hajj can also provide the ultimate reward, as the Prophet (s) stated,
“And the Hajj that is accepted by Allah and performed properly has no reward other than Paradise.” (Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
We can see the reward, so why aren’t more of us rushing to perform the Hajj? A culture has grown in which people delay the performance of Hajj until their old age, hoping to be purified of their sins close to the time of their death. Yet, we don’t know when the angel of death will come. We can see that Hajj is obligatory upon us if we ’have the means’, so what does this entail? And if we ‘have the means’ but we delay performing Hajj, does this make us sinful?
In general ‘the means’ are considered to include physical health, financial well-being and the provisions needed to undertake the journey. In addition, women should have amahram [male relative or husband] to travel with them as they are not allowed to travel alone, although some scholars allow for the lone woman to travel in a ‘trustworthy’ group made up of men and women. If one does not meet these conditions, one is not obliged to perform Hajj.
If we have the means, is there any excuse not to be making immediate plans to perform the Hajj? Can it be delayed?
Some scholars including Imam Malik, Abu Hanifah, Ahmad and some Shafi’ees state that one must perform Hajj at its first feasible opportunity. As soon as you have the means and ability you should make arrangements to go and you are sinful if you do not. The evidence for this position includes the hadith:
“If anyone breaks [a bone] or becomes lame, he comes out of the sacred state and he must perform Hajj the following year.” (Recorded in Ahmad)
The deduction here being that the Prophet (s) didn’t say they could perform Hajj at any time in the future, but rather the next time they were able.
One of the strongest pieces of evidence to indicate that it is permissible to delay theHajj is that Hajj was made obligatory on the 6th year after Hijrah to Madinah, but the Prophet (s) didn’t perform his Hajj until the 10th year, four years later. Some scholars have stated that the reason for his (s) delay could have been because the Kabbah was still filled with idols and frequented by polytheists who would worship while naked, so the Prophet (s) waited until Allah (swt) purified the House of these people before performingHajj. Therefore the delay was due to an acceptable excuse and may not provide evidence for those who have no acceptable excuse.
I have laid out these evidences in detail because I imagine that there are many of us who actually have ‘the means’ both physically and financially, but are choosing not to perform this obligatory act at this time in our lives. We should look into the state of our own affairs and ask ourselves whether we should be striving to make an arrangement to perform the Hajj if we have not already done so. And Allah knows best.
“fasting the month of Ramadan”
Now we come to fasting the month of Ramadan, the last of the five pillars of Islam mentioned in this hadith, which you can find posted in full here. We often think of fasting as abstaining from food, but fasting in the Islamic sense has a much wider application and includes abstaining from speaking bad words, as well as marital relations, and food and drink. Fasting was prescribed by Allah for the Prophets before the Prophet Muhammad (s), and its goal is to develop self-restraint, piety and God-consciousness, known in Arabic as taqwa. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“O believers! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwa.” (Surah al-Baqarah:183)
It is also, by the grace of Allah (swt), a source for the forgiveness of sins, and a protection from the Fire. The Prophet (s) said:
“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan with faith and hoping for its reward shall have all of his previous sins forgiven for him.” (Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
“Fasting is a shield from the Hell-fire like one of your shields shielding you while fighting.” (Recorded in Ahmad)
Further, our fasting will intercede for us on the Day of Judgement. The Prophet (s) said:
“The fast and the Qur’an shall come as intercessors on the Day of Resurrection. The fast shall say, ’O Lord, I prevented him from his food and drink during the day, so let me intercede for him’. The Qur’an will say, ‘I kept him from sleep during the night, so let me intercede for him.’ Then they will be allowed to intercede.” (Recorded in Ahmad)
Fasting serves to demonstrate our sincerity to Allah (swt) and draws us closer to Him (swt). Only He (swt) knows if a person has truly fasted or not, and He (swt) has a special reward for those who are sincere enough to do it. He (swt) says in a hadith qudsi (the words of Allah narrated by the Prophet (s) but not included in the Qur’an):
“He leaves his food, drink and desires because of Me. Fasting is for My sake and I shall reward it. And every good deed shall be rewarded ten-fold.” (Recorded in Bukhari)
SubhanAllah the rewards for fasting are so great. Many times we have a sense of fear when Ramadan comes in the summer months because we think ‘The days are so long!’, but Allah (swt) in His infinite mercy, always bestows His blessings and makes it easy. What you will note from the ahadith and Qur’anic ayat that have been quoted, is that the blessings of the fast are not limited only to Ramadan. Fasting Ramadan is an obligation upon us and we must ensure that we fast sincerely with the intention of pleasing Allah (swt), and that we make up any missed fasts. But any extra fasting that we choose to do on top of that, promises an even greater reward. The companions of the Prophet (s) used to love the short days of winter because they could get the reward of fasting during the day and pray longer in the night.