Islam is built on five [pillars]: To single out Allah in worship (and in other narration: “The testimony that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is the slave of Allah and His Messenger”) and to establish the prayers and to offer the Zakaah and to fast Ramadan and to perform the pilgrimage.
A person said (to the narrator)
“Pilgrimage or the fast of Ramadan?”
To this (the narrator) replied:
No (it is not the pilgrimage first) but the fast of Ramadan precedes the pilgrimage this is how I have heard it from Allah’s Messenger. (al-Bukhari and Muslim reported this hadeeth and this wording is Muslim’s)
The five pillars in this hadeeth indicate the following:
“The Shahaadah (testimony and witness) that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah” is belief with firm resolve expressed by the tongue that this testimony is true. The person testifying makes a firm commitment that the testimony is true as if he or she is an eyewitness to the event testified about.
Even though more than one thing is being testified about1 this testimony is considered only one pillar. This may be for one of two possible reasons. Either it is because the Messenger () is he who conveys the message of Allah () and thus the testimony that he is the slave and Messenger of Allah is a necessary completion and in reality part of the testimony of LA ILAAHA ILL-ALLAH or it is because these two testimonies are necessary for the soundness and acceptance of deeds. No deed is good or acceptable unless it fulfills two conditions: that the act be done purely for Allah (Ikhlaas) and that it be done in accordance to the way shown to us by the Messenger ()2. By doing the act purely for Allah the testimony of LA ILAAHA ILL-ALLAH is brought into reality and fulfilled and by obeying the Messenger the testimony 'Muhammad abdullaahi wa rasooluh' (Muhammad is the slave of Allah and His Messenger) is brought into reality and fulfilled.
There are many great benefits of the declaration of the testimony one of which is the liberation of the heart mind and soul of man from slavery and servitude to created things and from following others besides the Messengers.
“To establish Salaah” (the obligatory prayers) means worshipping Allah in the complete and proper manner with full compliance to its prescribed times and postures. There are many benefits of the prayer including tranquility inner peace happiness and contentment and the fact that it prevents one from evil acts and atrocities.
“To offer the Zakaah” (obligatory charity) means worshipping Allah by giving the determined amount of obligatory alms from one’s wealth and possessions. The benefits of charity include purifying the heart from the ugly traits of greed and miserliness besides the obvious benefit of providing for the needy Muslims and needs of the community at large.
“To perform the Sawm (fast) of Ramadan” means worshipping Allah by fasting during the days of the Islamic month of Ramadan from early dawn to after sunset by not eating or drinking (or engaging in legal sexual intercourse). The benefits of fasting include training oneself to hold back from prohibited and that which causes the displeasure of Allah the Most Almighty and Majestic.
“To perform the Hajj” (pilgrimage to Makkah) means worshipping Allah by traveling to Makkah to perform all the sacred rites of pilgrimage. The benefits of pilgrimage include training oneself to spend the utmost of one’s wealth and physical exertion for Allah’s pleasure. For this reason Hajj is a type of “Jihad” (striving and exerting oneself) in the way of Allah.
The benefits that we have mentioned here and many others not mentioned are the means to purify the Muslim nation and community and establish it upon the religion of truth worshiping Allah (the Creator) sincerely and acting with justice towards all His creatures. If these basic foundations of Islamic Law are correct then whatever other actions are built upon them will also be correct. The Islamic nation and community will only prosper and be successful by fulfilling its religious obligations. Falling short in fulfilling this obligation will proportionally deprive them of success and prosperity.
To see a clear evidence of this principle read the following verse from the Book of Allah:
And if the people of the town had believed and had piety and fear of Allah We would have opened for them the blessings from the heaven and the earth but they rejected (the truth and the Messengers). So we took them for what they used to do. Do people of the towns feel secure against that coming of our Punishment by night while they are asleep? Or do the people of the towns feel secure against the coming of our Punishment in the afternoon while they play? Do they feel secure against the plan of Allah? None feels secure from the plan of Allah except the people who are lost and doomed. [Surah al-A’raaf (7):96-99]
Examine the histories of the peoples of the world and you will see lessons for those that take heed and are unbiased. We indeed seek Allah’s aid.