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Some Muslims – and non-Muslims as well – answer critics of Islam that the heart of Islam essentially is based on five generally recognized acts of faith. All points of criticism of islamic violence such as the dogma of Jihad, for example, or hate against the infidels through the dogma of “love and hate in Allah, the treatment of “slave girls for sexual acts, the so-called “Malakat Al-Yamin,” the disastrous person of Mohammed in the western idea of morality… all this is only marginal subjects because Islam is based on five principles that anyone could certainly accept.

(By Barino Barsoum — Islam-Analysen von Al Hayat TV)

Are these principles really acceptable? Can they be reconciled with the values of our fundamental order and with universally accepted human rights? We would like to explain this here.

The fundamental principles or pillars of Islam are:

1. Shahada (confession of faith)
2. Salat (prayer)
3. Zakat (alms tax)
4. Saum (fasting during Ramadan)
5. Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca)

Most notably, these five pillars cannot be found anywhere in the Koran, not in this form nor in any other form because they were taken from one of Mohammed’s hadiths:

“Allah’s apostle said: Islam was built on five things:

– the testimony that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad is Allah’s apostle,
– the exercise of prayer,
– the payment of the zakah,
– the Hajj,
– the fast during Ramadan” (Source: Sahih Al Bukhari No. 8)

Let’s put these five pillars, one after the other, under a magnifying glass.

First, the confession of faith

It states: I attest that there is no deity besides Allah and that Mohammed is his apostle.

Is this a spiritual confession where a person expresses his innermost conviction of faith and in doing so converts to Islam of his own accord? It should be, and the idea that it would be such leads many people who hear of it to believe that the confession of faith is a pillar of the islamic faith.

We find out by way of islamic sources, however, that the confession of faith was something for the non-Muslims to say in order to get around Mohammed and his cohorts so that they could save their life and property. Mohammed stated in a hadith: “I was sent to fight the people until they confess that there is no deity but Allah and that I am Allah’s apostle. If they do this, then their life and property are safe from me.”

Consequently, the confession of faith for the people surrounding Mohammed was not a confession of a deeply rooted conviction of faith, but rather protection from murder and pillaging. A confession that is forced upon people cannot be of a spiritual nature. Many people under the rule of Islam had to lose their lives only because they refused to pronounce this shahada, also many of them left Islam or converted to Christianity because their only salvation from execution and persecution by the sharia and by the power of their own families was the pronouncement of the shahada.

Second, the payment of the zakah, that is the islamic tax. This payment is often portrayed as a voluntary extra performance for ignorant people in the West, which is not true in islamic law. In islamic sources we find out that the first caliph, Abu Bakr waged war against a certain Arab-Muslim tribe because they actually didn’t want to pay this islamic tax to the islamic rulers. This tribe was a Muslim tribe. They prayed, the did the pilgrimage and held to other islamic commands. The only reason for their persecution and killing was that they refused to pay the zakah, the islamic tax.

This tribe saw the payment of the zakah as a personal economic support of Mohammed and his army but did not consider the zakah, though, to be religious duty. Even great companions like Umar Ibn Al-Khatab, Abu Ubaida and others withstood the plans of caliph Abu Bakr to establish the zakah as a religious duty.

This behavior by Abu Bakr and the disunity in the ranks of his companions raise a few questions. If the five pillars of Islam during Mohammed’s lifetime was a solid component of Islam, why do they not find consensus among the companions? Why were they never mentioned together in a Koran verse? All of this causes us most of all to doubt the genuineness of the hadith that comes from centuries after Mohammed’s death, and like a number of hadiths, served in the establishment of political Islam.

Third, the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage is a duty that each Muslim must perform at least once in his life. Muslims have the opportunity to wash themselves clean of their sins through this pilgrimage to Mecca at a certain time of the year.

The walking around of the Ka3ba is a tradition of the old Arabic pagans that were taken over and islamized by Mohammed. Many Muslims during Mohammed’s time had a giant problem with this pagan tradition, since it could not be reconciled with monotheism. Al Syouti in „Asbab Nizul Al Baqara 2.158, Al Tabari regarding Sure 7.31, Iben Kathir and Al Qurtobi regarding Sure 106, Tarikh Al Yakoubi 1/254, Al Raud Al Anaf 1

Fourth, the prayer. When a person from a Judeo-Christian tradition of culture hears the word ‘prayer,’ he thinks of a intellectual and spiritual action where he stands in direct contact with his God. Prayer in this context is an expression of freedom: he enters into a relationship with his God out of love and an internal need, that is prayer. In Islam, however, prayer is a matter of a required ritual that the Moslem must perform in Arabic and toward Mecca five times a day at certain intervals. In an omission, he has to make it up on the same day. If he doesn’t do this, he will be put on a level with those who worship idols.

Mohammed said: “Whoever neglects the prayer has rejected the islamic faith.” Sahih Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, Al Tirmithi

If he doesn’t perform the prayer according to the prescribed choreography, then his prayer is invalid. The prayer can even become invalid by means of a false movement. In islamic prayer, it primarily is not a matter of expressing a personal relationship between man and God, but rather that of fulfilling a ritual prayer obligation.

A further aspect to consider is the fact that prayer, like the confession of faith, can also be a protection from being killed, for we read in Sura 9:5:

“And when the months of prohibition have passed, then kill the idolaters wherever you meet them, and seize them and besiege them, and lie in wait for every ambush upon them. But if they repent and perform the prayer and pay the zakat, then let them go away free. Truly Allah is all forgiving, merciful.”

And last of all, fasting during the month of Ramadan. As with prayer, the person shaped by the West thinks that fasting during Ramadan is a matter of a spiritual act where one attempts to draw closer to his God. However, fasting in the sense of a complete abstention from food and drink from the crack of dawn until the evening is in Islam a religious duty. Paramount is not that of voluntary spiritual purification, but rather the observance of a religious duty. Anyone that doesn’t fast without an islamically accepted excuse is considered to be a great sinner.

Jihad, the sixth pillar

Some Islam scholars in history have added yet another pillar to these five, namely that of the battle for Islam, or jihad.

This interpretation is plausible because just as the command went out for fasting, so also did the command for battle. In Sura 2:183, we read: “…fasting is mandatory for you…”. With the exact same rhetoric, the God of the Koran also gives the command for battle in Sura 2:216: “Battle is mandatory for you.”

Summarizing all of this, we can conclude: The five pillars of Islam are quite far from being the expression of a spiritual faith, rather it is much more about forced conduct.


Original article on Istlam-Analysen von AlHayatTV (Islam Analyses from AlHayatTV)


Translation by Anders Denken

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