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Hadith 3: The five pillars of Islam

On the authority of Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar bin al-Khattab, radiyallahu ‘anhuma, who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, say:

Islam has been built upon five things – on testifying that there is no god save Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger; on performing salah; on giving the zakah; on Hajj to the House; and on fasting during Ramadhan.”

[Al-Bukhari & Muslim]


Background

This hadith is part of the previous Hadith (2). Most Scholars say that the reason why al-Imam al-Nawawi included this hadith in his collection, even though it seems that it repeats some portions of Hadith 2, is because of the importance of the 5 pillars of Islam.

This Hadith stresses the fundamental aspects of the outward submission to Allah. This submission is based on some pillars, similar to a structure. If a person fulfills these aspects, he has laid a solid foundation for his deen as a ‘home’.

The other acts of Islam, which are not mentioned in this hadith, can be taken as fine touches to complete this structure.

If a person fails to fulfill these obligations (building the pillars), then the entire structure of his deen/iman may be threatened. This depends on how much is being violated – e.g. violation of the shahadah is the most dangerous.


Lessons

The use of metaphors and similes

This hadith uses a metaphor (i.e. the image of the structure of a building) to affirm certain important meanings. This use of metaphors and similes can be found in many Surahs in the Quran and in many other hadiths. For example:

  • In Surah At-Taubah (9): ayat 109, a similar metaphor is used – the structure of the Mua’min’s deen/iman is based on a sound foundation, whereas the structure of the deen of the Munafiq is based on weak ground which may lead to the collapse of the structure, resulting in the Munafik entering the Hellfire.
  • Surah An-Nur (24): ayat 35, uses the metaphor of light as the light of guidance in the heart of the Mua’min.
  • A metaphor used to condemn those who fail to fulfill the amanah (i.e. religious obligations) can be found in Surah Al-Jumu’ah (62): ayat 5. The Bani Israel, having failed to obey Allah’s commandments in the Taurah, are described as a donkey which is burdened with heavy books on its back but doesn’t understand anything from them. Scholars have said that this metaphor also applies to other nations, which fail to fulfill their amanah.
  • In one hadith the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, divided the status of his ummah into three categories: those who benefit from the Message, those who benefit partially and those who fail to benefit at all. He, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, used the metaphor of rain (as the Message) falling down on different types of land, producing different results.

Using metaphors to convey the Message is a very important ‘tool’ and it is the methodology used in the Quran and by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. There are many modes of expression used in the Quran and Hadith and they are used for different purposes. E.g. Dealing with the misconceptions and false assumptions of the disbelievers, the Quran and Hadith use rational thinking. When describing Jannah and the Hellfire, the style used by the Quran and Hadith is the visual mode of expression – they are described in such detail that it is like we can actually visualize Jannah or the Hellfire in front of us.

One of the Sahabahs said that he had already seen Jannah and the Hellfire. The other Sahabahs were puzzled and asked him how this could be so as nobody is able to see them until the Hereafter. He replied, “I saw them through the eyes of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam. If I were to be given the chance to see Jannah and the Hellfire with my own eyes, I would not trust my sight. I trust the eyes of the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, more than I trust my own eyes.” Here we can conclude that if we read and understand the Quran and the Hadiths we too can visualize the paradise and the Hellfire.

These modes of expression (thinking styles) used by the Quran and Hadith should be well understood and used by Muslims today to convey the Message of Islam when doing da’wah as it is the most effective way. Different styles should be used to reach/convince different people – some people are more emotional, some are more rational, etc.

                                                                            Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi

 

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