Central beliefs in islam and the five pillars
Islam is defined as a “set of teachings that has been revealed by Allah Almighty to mankind”. The word “Islam” means ‘submission to God” and is founded in the concept of peace in and through one’s submission to the authority and will of Allah Almighty.
The first central belief in Islam pertains to strict monotheism which is closer to that of Judaism than Christianity. Muslims rebuff the Christian concept of having God in three divine persons. Moreover, they also reject the anthropomorphization of God which is provided in the theology of other monotheistic religions. For them, “God does not talk, does not walk and does not do anything like humans”.
The second belief is on continued revelation that Muhammad was the only messenger God has ever sent and instead acknowledges the general validity of earlier revelations contained in the Jewish and Christian traditions. Differences between Islam and those earlier religions are accounted for by the premise that those traditions had been corrupted by humans over time. Although Jesus is regarded as a prophet of God, they reject the Christian claim of the deity of Jesus as blasphemous because God is one and indivisible.
The first two beliefs are reflected in the first of the Five Pillars in Islam. This declaration of faith is called the Shahadah. It pertains to the faith in the Oneness of God and that Muhammad received and delivered God’s final revelation to humanity.
Thirdly, Muslims believe that those who submit to the will of God will be saved and will live in Paradise after they die, where believers will experience both spiritual and physical pleasure for all eternity. Those who do not repent and follow God will spend in Hell. In the Qur’an 98:1-8, it states: “The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures.” (“People of the Book” refers to Christians, Jews and Muslims). This belief is reflected in second of the Five Pillars which is salat. Salat is the obligatory prayers which each Muslim must recite five times each day and are a direct link between the worshipper and God. Prayer provides communication between a Muslim and God.
The fourth aspect of Muslim belief is the principle that all Muslims are members of the ummah, or community of believers. There are not supposed to be any distinctions based upon race, class, income, ethnicity, nationality, or any other of those superficial distinctions. This belief is reflected in the third of the Five Pillars which is zakat. Zakat pertains to the “financial obligations which every Muslim has to the ummah, or community of believers. An important principle of Islam is that everything belongs to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust”.
The last belief is on the concept of purity which is indispensable in Islam. And there are varied ways in which this purity will be guarded such as avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol, engaging in gambling and not eating certain foods, like pork. This is reflected in the fourth of the five pillars which is sawm, which refers to self-purification through fasting. Here fasting means abstaining from all food, drink and sexual relations. Although fasting is beneficial to health, it is mainly a method of self-purification and self-restraint. By cutting oneself from worldly comforts, even for a short time, a fasting person focuses on his or her purpose in life by constantly being aware of the presence of God.
And finally, there is the matter of maintaining a measure of ritual cleanliness following seven principles: Tawheed which means the unity of God; Risallah means acceptance of the Prophethood of Muhammed, a messenger of God. Mala’ikah which is the belief in angels; Kutubullah which means the belief in God’s books (like the Koran and the Psalms of David); Yawmuddin which pertains to belief in a Day of Judgment.; al-Qadr meaning acceptance of pre-destination and Akhriah which means faith in a resurrection after death.
All these beliefs can also be reflected in the last of the Five Pillars in Islam which is the hajj which is the pilgrimage to Mecca and which each Muslim is supposed to make at least once in his or her life, if they are physically and financially able. During the hajj, pilgrims are supposed to wear simple clothing which is supposed to eliminate national, cultural, and class differences between those attending. After all, Islam is a “religion which is supposed to create a community of believers within which there are no such divisions”. The hajj, then, serves as a reminder of this despite the great distances which separate Muslims around the world. Pilgrims who complete the Hajj consider it as one of the greatest spiritual experiences of their lives. Many Muslims regard the Hajj as one of the great achievements of civilization, because it unifies them from all the rest of the Muslims around the world and focuses them upon a single goal: completing the Hajj.
In my opinion, it is the Zakat which is the easiest thing to fulfill because it is not limited to the material things one has, such as wealth and possessions. Rather, it also pertains to simple charity such as giving our brethren smiles, hopes of words of encouragement. It is not limited to the rich but the poor are challenged to fulfill it. Kind words and kind deeds are great manifestations of charity. Although it is obligatory, those who are less fortunate can still participate in this means of purification. In this way, a Muslim could easily reach out to his/her brethren without the worries of financial obligations. Through charity, a Muslim can have the chance to purify himself as well as their possessions by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth. “Zakat does not only purify the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed. Also, it purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness and it fosters instead good-will and warm wishes for the contributors”.
On the other hand, I think that it is the hajj which is the most difficult to fulfill. I say so because not all people have the fortunes of financial freedom and comfort. Some people, particularly those in the third world countries could never be able to participate in this holy pilgrimage. Although it is not obligatory for those who are financially unstable, still, it would make them feel that something in them will never be complete due to the fact that they have not been to Mecca. Unfortunately, some people consider the hajj experience as a pride; a prestige and that having been to Mecca will give them fame and special treatments in the community. Because of this, many will resort to indecent acts such as gambling, drug trafficking, illegal transactions, kidnap-for-random cases etc. (which are evident in the third world countries), in order to accumulate money and perform such task. It no longer serves as a pilgrimage for purification but rather for fame and prestige. Here, the purpose of the holy pilgrimage is defeated and puts Islam’s reputation at risk.