Umar narrates, that one day when we were with God’s messenger, a man with very white clothing and very black hair came up to us. No mark of travel was visible on him, and none of us recognized him. Sitting down before the Prophet, leaning his knees against his, and placing his hands on his thighs, he said, “Tell me, Muhammad, about the rites of Submission.” He replied, ‘The rites of Submission are that you should bear witness that there is no deity other than God and that Muhammad is God’s messenger, that you should perform the Salat, pay the Zakat, fast during Ramadan, and make the pilgrimage to the sacred house if you are able.” The man said, “You have spoken the truth.” We were surprised at his questioning him and then declaring that he had spoken the truth. He said “Now tell me about faith.” He replied, “Faith is that you have faith in God, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you have faith in divine decree, the good and the bad… After he left, they asked who was that man? The Prophet (PBUH) said that was the angel Gabriel who came to teach you your religion.”
This tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is very famous. It simplifies and codifies many teachings found over and over throughout the Quran.
The pillars of the rites of worship in Islam are-
1- The Declaration of Faith. This is something one would do after researching the Quran and the person of Muhammad and thus concluding that indeed he is the messenger of God and that the Quran is the word of God. This is practiced through regular research in the Quran and the example of the Prophet (PBUH), living accordingly and spreading the message to others.
2- The Salat. This is referring to sticking to the 5 daily prayers. The various scriptures teach that the ultimate salvation for a believer is in the level of dedication one has to these prayers. It is all about putting God at the center of your life. We are to revitalize this spiritual truth at dawn, early afternoon, late afternoon, sunset and before bed. The prayer consists of an intimate connection with God by exalting and glorifying Him, seeking His guidance, asking his forgiveness and mostly importantly submitting to His will.
3- The Zakat. This is an obligatory alms due on those who have the value of 85 grams of gold saved throughout a year. They will calculate 2.5% of their saved wealth and give that either directly or to an organization for those in most need. These are defined in the Quran as the poor, those who work to serve the poor, bringing the hearts together, freeing slaves, those in sever debt, those in the path of God promoting truth and justice and the wayfarer.
4- Fasting Ramadan. This is about revitalizing our faith every 11 months in the 9th month of the lunar calendar. We leave all food, water and sexual relations from dawn to sunset. This is about a personal connection with God based on obedience and gratitude. No one truly knows if you have given up your basic necessities of nourishment, but you and God. It is about discipline and self-control for God’s sake. True patience is established in the life of a believer. Each night of the month the most devoted Muslims will follow the early practice of the Muslim community and spend an hour or two at the Mosque in prayers that double or triple the usual 5 daily prayers we pray every day. In mosques all over the world the entire Quran is recited during these prayers in a beautiful cadence and melody that captures the mind and soul often bringing the faithful to tears. A truly special intense spiritual awakening indeed!
5- The Hajj. This is referring to the yearly pilgrimage to Makkah made by millions of Muslims each year. This rite is all about celebrating the life and legacy of Abraham (PBUH), his wife Hagar (PBUH) and their son Ishmael (PBUH). Muslims walk through the steps of the famous story known in the Quran and the bible when God decreed that He has a plan for the progeny of Ishmael to bear the covenant and be made into a great nation. When they first settled in this barren dessert by the command of God, there was literally nothing. It all started with Hagar’s prayers and then God gave her the miraculous Zam Zam well which is a standing miracle and sign of God on Earth today as millions upon millions of pilgrims have been coming to drink and make ablution from it for many centuries. The climax of the Hajj is to recognize the example of ultimate submission of Abraham to God in his willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to the command of God. Muslims slaughter cows, sheep and goats and split the meat between their family, neighbors, friends and the poor.
The Pillars of Creed in Islam are to believe in-
- God. The Supreme Creator Provider and Maintainer of all that exists. Everything is dependent on Him while He needs nothing from anyone. His nature is Beneficent, Compassionate, Merciful and Forgiving. There is nothing like Him. He is the One and Only Deity Absolute Eternal Constant Above and Beyond time and space as we know it. The word “He” is a linguistic mechanism in that the word for him in all ancient languages is masculine. It is blasphemy to compare God to any of His creation. His qualities and attributes explain creation and the beauty and ultimate greatness of humanity. It is the detachment from God and His attributes and the devotion to the ego and selfish desires that is the ultimate loss and source of evil.
- Angels. Angels are the first celestial beings created with their own consciousness. They do not have creative choice and the dilemma of moral choice. They simply do as they are told. Angels have been given many duties in the heavens and Earth. There are angels that follow us and inspire us to what is best for us. There are also angels that inscribe our book of deeds with all that we say and do. This book in conjunction with the level sincerity we have thought to only be known by God will be the basis of our spiritual worth as it is weighed by God on the Day of Judgment. The angel Gabriel is known as the Holy Spirit and has been with the prophets with strength and support as well as being the revealer of scripture.
- Scripture. God has been revealing messages to His prophets to codify the correct understanding of faith, purpose, goodness, law and ultimate accountability. These scriptures have been revealed to prophets all over the world for thousands of years. As a result of the political power of the Roman Empire and the Islamic Caliphate throughout recent history we mostly think of the Bible and the Quran. The Quran was the final revelation sent to man and is the only one that has a divine directive as to its preservation.
- Prophets. God has been choosing men the world over to inspire with revelation. These prophets are people of a lofty standard of character whom God chooses with miraculous support and revelation. All prophets were sent specifically to their nations, except the final prophet who was chosen to be sent to all of mankind. The Quran and the authentic traditions of prophet Muhammad (PBUH) carry a complete manual of guidance with sufficient guidance for all peoples across the globe.
- The Hereafter. After death there are various phases the soul will go through. First Angels will take the soul from the body at death. The soul will be presented before God in the heavens and it will be declared the eventual reality of its abode. The soul will be returned to Earth to accompany the coccyx bone where it will remain with dreams and feelings of either heaven or hell until the trumpet is blown for the Day of Judgement in which God will destroy all of creation. He will recreate the Earth and bodies will be resurrected from their graves and all of mankind will come forth to be judged for their intentions and actions in life. Those who believed in God and tried to pious and benevolent for His sake will go to heaven. The people who rejected God and His prophets, worshipped creation or committed heinous sins will go to Hell. Those with an atom’s weight of faith in God will be admitted into Heaven after paying for their sins in Hell.
- Divine Decree. The concept of fate or predestination complicate this article of faith. What we know from Scripture is that God knows all and thus is omniscient. Time does not constrain God because He is the Creator of time. Before time – which is specific to creation – there was only the ultimate reality of Divine Truth. We feel compelled to judge all things according to the concept of time because we cannot imagine existence without time. God knows creation as one thing beginning middle and end. He has already not only witnessed our lives and everything in it, but He has even answered our prayers interactively while doing it! Once you have understood the concept (not necessarily the reality) of God’s omniscience, then you may understand his Omnipotence. God’s will is overarching and superseding all things. In general, God has programmed creation with a specific systemic functionality. The reality of human’s is more complicated in that He has given us a free will to make intentions and choices. He knows us better than we even know ourselves. He understands every detail of what makes us who we are and that is somehow mystically interconnected with His will. In many cases He doesn’t allow us to do what we have intended simply because He has a grand master plan that is His right over creation. At the same time it doesn’t encroach on our freedom of choice which is something in our hearts and minds, thus we are still fully responsible for our own intentions.