Islam, according to the Prophet, was built upon five tenets: “The sworn testimony that nothing is worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad is His Servant and Apostle; ritual prayer; the giving of alms; pilgrimage to the House of God, and the fast of Ramadhan.”
A building, when looked at in the mass, appears to be the sum of its many intricate parts. But what is it which bears aloft the entire soaring edifice? One comes inevitably to the pillars, the underpinnings of the whole structure. Thus, the above-cited articles of faith, are, figuratively speaking, the “pillars” of Islam, without which the entire Islamic edifice would come crashing to the ground.
Human individuals are like pieces of land on which such an edifice can be raised. But, if that edifice is to be pleasing to God, it must be set firmly on those five pillars of Islamic tradition. Without this, the structure of Islam cannot be built up and supported at the level either of the individual or of society.
According to Islam, all individuals should lead lives of worship of and devotion to God. The different observances which are the warp and weft of such an existence – faith, prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage – are not mere rituals, but are integral virtues of the Islamic awareness. Faith, to take the most important, is, in essence, belief in the truth of divine realities. Prayer is an exercise in physical and mental prostration before God, such as will banish all notions of personal greatness. Fasting – perhaps the most difficult – teaches one to be steadfast in one’s trust of God. Charity entails the recognition of others’ claims upon one, so that one shall not forfeit one’s own share in God’s bounty. Lastly, the pilgrimage to Mecca at once in a lifetime serves to unite God’s servants around their Maker. Once an individual attains the high degree of piety engendered by the observance of these Islamic requirements, he can be judged to have acquired such characteristics – selflessness, patience, readiness to acknowledge the rights of others – as will gain him God’s blessings for all time to come.