Growing up a muslim, you are taught the 5 pillars of Islam is the fundamentals of the faith. There are some merits to this however, our understanding of the 5 pillars of Islam is not supported whole heatedly by the Quran.
The pillars are focused on the rituals associated with being a traditional muslim as opposed to the fundamental teachings in the quran of what is a good and righteous muslim.
The 5 pillars are as follows with an explanation of what it means, if it’s supported by the Quran and if there are anything wrong with what we are currently taught.
1. Shahada (declaration of faith)
Shahada is a declaration of faith that professes that there is only one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is God’s messenger. It is a set statement normally recited in Arabic: lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāhu muḥammadun rasūlu-llāh (لَاإِلٰهَإِلَّااللهمُحَمَّدٌرَسُولُالله) “There is no god but God (and) Muhammad is the messenger of God.” It is essential to utter it to become a Muslim and to convert to Islam. (from Wikipedia)The ritual of saying this to become a muslim has become the standard way of becoming a muslim. But how can just saying something make you a muslim? It’s become an initiation ceremony to join club Islam which completely trivialises Islam. The claim that you need to make this declaration is not supported by the Quran and only the first part of the Shahada itself can be found in the Quran at 3:18 declaring that is no God but God.
The issue of bearing witness that ‘Muhammed is God’s messenger’ is that you can’t bear witness to something you have never observed. This promotes blind faith which goes against the teachings in the Quran and elevates Muhammeds position to someone who is in partnership with God and somehow better than all the other messengers and prophets who are not worthy of a mention. Because of this, Islam has become the religion of following Muhammed as opposed to following the teachings of the Quran
2. Salah (ritual prayer)
We are told that Salah means to worship God and this is done by a ritualistically standing, bowing and prostrating in a sequence at set times, facing Mecca 5 times a day. You are taught that it is a sin not to do this ritual salah as God created us to worship him. this being the benchmark of a ‘good muslim’ meant that I was always a very bad muslim.
I always took it for granted that this comes from the Quran. However, recent research has revealed that this is not in the Quran. The Quran mentions doing salah but doesn’t give any details as to how to do salah if you look at it as a ritual.
So the question is what does Salah actually mean? Doing salah means to follow closely God’s commands and is supposed to stop you from committing a sin. But we all know people who pray 5 times a day but still commit sins so ritual prayers don’t stop you from committing a sin. So confining salah to a ritual to be done 5 times a day does not fit with God’s claim that salah stops you from committing sin. So from this we understand that to do salah is to fulfil you obligations and not do bad deeds so not committing any sins.
3. Zakat (annual charity donation)
Most people understand Zakat to be a donation of 2.5% of your wealth paid during Ramadan before Eid-ul-Fitre. There are also various stipulations on what counts as wealth and who you can and cannot give it to.
From the Quran, we understand that Zakat is our route to purifying ourselves of our sins.
[He] who gives [from] his wealth to purify himself 92:18
Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Makka which starts 10 days before Eid-Ul-Adha. Everyone who can afford to should in their lifetime make this pilgrimage. It is supposedly to cleanse us of our sins and fulfil and obligation.
I have many unanswered questions on this subject as follows:
Why is Makka not mentioned in the Quran if it is so important that every muslim make a pilgrimage to it if they can, in their life time?
If their poor are exempt for pilgrimage, then are their sins wiped? Why do they have this privilege without having to put in any effort?
Considering the Kaba is supposed to be ‘God’s house’, how was it possible for it to be destroyed and rebuilt many times?
What is the black stone that is not mentioned in the Quran?
If God is within us all, then why do we need to pay Saudi so much money to visit God’s house? why are the rituals associated with hajj not mentioned in the Quran?
If Islam is the only true religion, why are not all of mankind obliged to do hajj? Why are non muslims banned from the sacred mosque?
Why when I watch people do hajj, do I get a sense of it being a form of idolworship just like the hindus worshipping a stone idol?
Why do people wear a white cloth also not mentioned in the Quran?
The Quran mentions 4 sacred months but hajj in reality has been confined to 10 days?
5. Soum (fasting)
Fasting takes place in the month of Ramadan in the Islamic lunar calendar. We are supposed to fast from dusk until dawn for 30/29 days from the sighting of the moon until the next moon which indicates the beginning of Eid-Ul-Fitre. It is commonly believed that fasting is an obligation so missed fasts must be made up and it is sinful to break a fast or not fast at all. The reason for fasting is supposedly for empathy, to understand what it is like to be hungry and exercise self control as well as there being all sorts of health benefits associated with fasting.
The first thing to note is that the term Soum translates to abstinence and not fasting. So the Quran tells us to abstain and not necessarily fast. The second issue is the Quran does not tell us to fast/abstain for a whole month. It states if we observe ‘Ramadan’ we should abstain for it. There was no month called Ramadan during the prophets lifetime.
A few questions on this topic: If a person can’t fast, they are supposed to feed a poor person for every fast they miss but what if you are poor yourself and you can’t afford to feed another poor person, what do you do? If fasting is about empathy then surely the poor don’t need to fast? Why are they not exempt? If the Quran doesn’t stipulate a month then why do people fast for a whole month? There is also no mention of either eids in the Quran so what marks the end of Ramadan?
I do not fully understand this topic but what I do know is that fasting for 30 days in the month of Ramadan is not supported by the Quran. I will add more when I further my understanding on the topic.