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Revisiting five pillars of Islam

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Five pillars of Islam are its core beliefs and practices. These include Shahada (profession of faith), Salat (prayer), Zakat (obligatory charity to needy believers), Sawm (fasting in Ramadan) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). The Hajj is not mandatory for all Muslims. It is for those believers who can afford the cost and time.

Shahada is the first pillar of Islam. In Quran 37:35 and Quran 47:19, the first part of Shahada are found in a little different forms: Allahu La Ilaha Illa Huwa (God, there is no deity but Him) and La Ilaha Illa Huwa (There is no deity but Him) respectively. The second part of the Shahada is found in the opening line of Quran 48:29 in form of Muhammad Ur Rosul Allah. But nowhere in Quran, has it been prescribed that both parts of Shahada need to be recited to become a Momin. The Shahada, as we know it today, has come from Sahih Hadith.

Though different versions of both the parts of Shahada began to appear in coins and monumental architecture in the late seventh century Islamic Umayyad Caliphate, it in the present form had not been officially established as an obligatory practice until compilation of Sahih Hadith in mid ninth century.

Five daily prayers (Salat) is the second pillar of Islam. It was in Miraj that Muhammad got instruction from Allah for five daily prayers for the Momin. However Quran 11:114 stipulated thrice daily prayer for the Momin. Again, while Wudu (the ritual cleaning before prayer) came from Quran 5:6, the Holy Book did not tell what to be done or recited in prayer. All these came from Sahih Hadith.

The Quran 17:1 gave a brief idea of Miraj, the nocturnal journey of Muhammad on a winged horse from Mecca to Jerusalem and then to heaven and back to Mecca. But the details of Miraj came from Sahih Hadith only. As per Standard Islamic Narrative, Muhammad undertook that night journey to heaven and back in 621 AD, that is, one year before his migration (Hijrat) to Medina.

The whole event of Muhammad’s heavenly night journey is mentioned in great detail in two very long Hadith (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Hadith number 429 and Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith number 309). There are different explanations of Miraj. The unkind critics also claim that Miraj was a fairy tale copied from Zoroastrian scripture. The first Sahih Hadith, where we find about Miraj, was compiled in Bukhara, 215 years after Muhammad’s death. Bukhara is located in the present day Uzbekistan and is about 3500 KM to the North and East of Medina.

The third pillar of Islam is Zakat (obligatory charity). It has been mentioned 32 times in Quran. Quran 2:110 revealed “And establish prayer and give zakat, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah”. The categories of believers eligible for receiving Zakat are specified in Quran 9:60. However the detailed mechanism of Zakat has come from Sahih Hadith only.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan is the forth pillar of Islam. Quran has mandated fasting by the able bodied Muslims who are not on journey and Quran 2:183 revealed “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous”. Then Quran 2:185 revealed “The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion”. But nowhere Quran instructed the Muslims to perform dawn to dusk absolute fasting for the whole of month of Ramadan. Other details of the fasting, dos and don’ts, as well as, Iftar and Sehri were also not mentioned. All came from Sahih Hadith compiled 200 to 300 years after Muhammad’s death in places far away from Mecca and Medina.

Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is the fifth and last pillar of Islam. Chapter 22 of Quran is called Al Hajj. Quran 22:27 revealed “Call all people to the pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel from every distant path”. A few more verses of the said chapter revealed about Hajj. But again, the details of Hajj performance have come from Sahih Hadith.

As per Standard Islamic Narrative, the capitals of the first Caliphate (632 AD to 661 AD), after the death of Muhammad, were located first in Medina and then in Kufa (Central Iraq). During next Umayyad Caliphate (661 AD to 750 AD), the capital was located in Damascus (South-Western Syria). The next Abbasid Caliphate (750 AD to 1258 AD) had its capital first in Kufa for 12 years and then shifted to Baghdad (Central-East Iraq).

Abbasid Caliphate of 508 years was the Islamic Golden Age, which came to an end following the brutal Mongol invasion. Formalization of the religion of Islam, which started in late seventh century under Umayyad Caliphate, was completed during next 200 to 300 years under Abbasid Caliphate. The Quran, Sahih Hadith, and Sirat came into existence during that period side by side. However Sharia and Tafsir continued to be written for some more years.

These factual positions stated above have made the five pillars of Islam very fragile to the point of being innovations during Abbasid Caliphate. The present Quran we see today is falsely claimed to be compiled between 650 AD and 656 AD by Uthman, the third Caliph of the first Islamic Caliphate called Rashidun Khilafat. In mid-seventh century Arabia (in the time of Uthman), there was no system of using Nuqta (diacritical marks) in written Arabic language which we find in the present Quran. The present Quran was canonized as late as in 1924 AD in Cairo.  

The five pillars of Islam have some sort of direct or indirect mention in the present Quran. But all the five pillars were formalized at a much later time after Muhammad by the Ulema in connivance with the Caliphs. Allah was the alter ego of Muhammad and Muhammad was the alter ego of Ulema. There was nothing divine about these pillars of Islam. These pillars were/are meant to standardize the core practices among the Muslims for giving a common and regimented identity to the believers.

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