11. The five pillars
The Hadith literature has condensed Islam into five principles, known as the Five Pillars of Islam. I quote below from Bukhari Vol.1 hadith no 7:
Narrated Ibn Umar: Allah’s Messenger said: Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):
- To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger.
- To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly.
- To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity).
- To perform Hajj (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca).
- To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.
The five principles are also repeated in Bukhari Vol.1, No. 50, Vol. 2, No. 480, Vol. 6, No. 300 and a few others. The foundation of Islam according to the Hadiths comprises of: 1. Belief (Faith); 2. Prayer; 3. Zakat (compulsory charity); 4. Fasting; and 5. Hajj (pilgrimage).
There is a general misconception among Muslims that the Qur’an is a theoretical Book as it does not give the details, and it is the books of Hadiths that tell us the methods of practising Islam in real life. Under this misapprehension, Muslims have isolated themselves from the Qur’an, since it is believed that the Hadiths give everything that is required to perform the five pillars. Muslim children are made to read the Qur’an parrot fashion without understanding the meaning and, therefore, except for a few, the vast majority have no clue as to what is recited in the prayers.
Sadly, the result is that the vast majority of us have no knowledge of the guidance given in the Qur’an. The few who understand dare not say anything openly because of the social pressure to conform, while the political leaders find it easier to control people as long as the majority remain ignorant of the teachings of the Qur’an.
Before analysing the five principles, we must emphasise that these five subdivisions not only do not give a full picture of Islam, but also fundamentally distort its real meaning as far as the Qur’an is concerned. In fact, they have become rituals in the extreme; so much so, that all the practical teachings of the Qur’an are totally ignored. We need look no further for the cause of our downfall in all spheres.