The Five Pillars of Islam: Why Named Such?
Mohammad M Rahman
Today most Muslims only utilize a very minimum sets of Islamic texts mainly related to personal
worship such as prayer, fasting and Hajj yet most of these Muslims do not even realize the
reality and totality of these worship and why they are called pillars of Islam. If they really
understood this and embraced the understanding in their hearts the Ummah would be
powerful and prosperous today.
The prophet of Islam has prescribed these five things as the foundation of Islam and they are:
Faith, prayer, fasting, Zakat and Hajj for the Sunnis and prayer, fasting, Zakat, Hajj and Imamate
for Shia. These five things contain the totality of the religion of Islam as we shall see.
The first thing before any action or behavior takes place from a human agent is to utilize the
ideology or worldview on which the human agent exists on. Human mind is like a memory with
a processing unit which runs program it installs. These programs are ideological unit or
worldviews which shape and guide human thought and activities. The purpose of the first pillar
of Islam is to make your ego (kibriya nafs) submit to a higher power. When you are your God
you do what you want and the consequences you fear are as much as you fear of your material
harm, but by faith in a higher power you submit yourself to this power. Islam defines this power
and the living God. So Islamic faith prepares you and establishes a platform of thought
utilization before you act in this world. Without faith all other activities are null and void to God
with respect to the hereafter success and God’s pleasure. So Islamic faith is the very first step
towards God because at this point you are submitting your ego, your race, your tribe, your
nationality, your class and your family under God's system and guidance. Nothing is above or
more important than God.
Once you have mentally prepared yourself by submitting to God in your heart it is time to take
the next step through prayer. The five times prayers remind the Muslim that his or her life
means a life defined by Islam, in every capacity of their lives. Islam is not something partial to
social life and followed occasionally as social formalities. The prayer obligates that you have to
invoke God by making the religion sincere for Him. This is both personal and collective
achievement. Personally, you cannot continue in haram beliefs and acts while invoking God so
you must not live a double life, one during prayer and one when outside prayer. In political side
the Muslim leaders too must not live a double life. Their policies must be Islamic just like their
prayer. They must establish Islamic rule, laws and protocols and then their Islam will be sincere
when praying. Prayer such as Jum’a prayer is a place for raising Muslim issues and problems of
their society and governance as the Prophet and His ahl bayt did. The Friday prayer thus also
acts as a social problem-solving event. So, considering all these collectively the prayer protects
the Muslim from evil and thus the second pillar.
This nature of prayer can be established from Quran. Let’s look at Quran 11:87:
"They said, "O Shu'ayb, does your prayer command you that we should leave what our fathers
worship or not do with our wealth what we please? Verily, you are the forbearer, right-minded!"
(They said this sarcastically).
Worshipping of forefathers would be similar to ideological foundation such as secularism,
racism, nationalism etc. i.e., godless TRADITION as an authority and economic would be
dismantling capitalist corporate economic and financial system.
Fasting teaches us self-sacrifice, patience for God and in God. That is why Imam Khomeini said:
“If our enemies besiege us economically, we are the children of 'Ramadhan”. It also teaches us
to feel for the poor, the needy and of their hunger. It prepares us by some suffering and
hardship for Jihad and encourages us with perseverance and determination. This is all true for
the sincere fasting which is free from all the faults that Islamic texts identified. Only a sincere
fasting will teach you and prepare you.
Zakat as the foundation of Islamic socio-political welfare and taxation under the supervision of
the Islamic state through state appointed zakat collector as mentioned in Quran 9:60. Zakat is
the principle Islamic tax even though there are other types of Islamic taxes to be paid. Zakat
ensures that the wealth is not stuck only among the rich rotting in their bank accounts. Islamic
economic system centered around the Zakat proposes a welfare system of exhaustive taxation
models for both Muslims and non-Muslims. Such a system is designed to minimize the
inequality gap by maintaining a quantified wealth flow between the rich and the poor. Welfare
economy such as proposed by Islamic system is based on the idea that not everyone will
become champions and not everyone will become successful in business and knowledge.
Hajj is the symbol of accepting God's authority and rejecting the tyrants and persecutors as
stated in Quran 9:3. Hajj is the preparation to be ready to abandon world for God and it is also a
preparation to travel to the next life. Hajj is also a symbol of Islamic unity of Humanity that
under God all humanity is one through faith and servitude. Malcolm X highlighted this when in
1964 he stated “There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of
all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the
same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led
me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white.”
The pillar and light of Islamic Ummah. Without this Muslims have been disunited since the
demise of Prophet of Islam. Imamate in Islam is the concept of leadership in which both
political and religious leadership conjoins. All prophets were imams but not all imams prophets
hence prophets are greater than imams. God appointed, as he did on Children of Israel, twelve
Imams through Prophet of Islam, and these twelve Imams are successors of Prophet
Muhammad. Prophetic succession is a necessity for religious consistency, coherency and Islamic
political unity. It is a religious necessity because the successor of prophet has the duty to clarify
and interpret religion in its complete existence. Apart from giving religious interpretation they
also are political leaders implementing the divine rule from God and the prophet. They are the
ones to keep the Muslims united and coherent in their political existence. Imams are sinless
and cannot err in their acts because they like Prophets are guide of their community. It was the
Imams who empowered Islam by their knowledge, policies and piety. These twelve imams
trained countless scholars both Shia and Sunni teaching in whether religious, scientific,
philosophical or mathematical disciplines who empowered the Muslim empires. The twelfth
Imam is waiting for the correct atmosphere to be created to come out. The prelude to such an
atmosphere started since 1979 Islamic revolution and today various Islamic resistances in the
middle east have risen. According to Hadiths prophecies, Iraq will be the first place for Imam
Mahdi’s movement to emerge. Imam Mahdi will establish and complete the divine caliphate on
In conclusion we can see why these five aspects have been named as the foundation of Islam.
These include the whole of religion.