Does Islam Only Have Five Pillars?

In one of the most well-known of all ahadith related by both Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar (ra), the Prophet said:

“Islam is built upon five – to testify that there is no deity but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, performing the prayers, paying the zakat, making the pilgrimage to the House and fasting in Ramadan.”

This widely reported hadith is also related in other famous collections, including the Ṣaḥīḥ of Ibn Hibban, who comments: “And this is what we say in our book, because when the Arabs mention something known in the language which has such enumeration, it does not mean that the listed number of matters is to the exclusion of all others.” [Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān, 1/158]

So Islam cannot be limited to these five. It should also be noted that neither the word ‘pillars’ (arkān) nor the word ‘only’ (faqaṭ) is used in the hadith.

Ibn Rajab says the following about the above hadith in his Jāmi‘ al-‘Ulūm wa al-Ḥikam: “What is meant is to strike the similitude of Islam as a building whose supports are these five, such that the building cannot stand firm without them. The rest of the attributes of Islam are added to the building to make it complete.” [Cf. English translation, The Compendium of Knowledge and Wisdom – Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, by Abdassamad Clarke, Turath Publishing, London, 2007, p. 61].

Thus a person’s Islam would be lacking if s/he only focused on these five to the exclusion of others. They are simply a firm foundation upon which the rest of the building stands.

Allah ﷻ says in the Qur’an:

“O You who believe! Enter into Islam completely [kāffah] and follow not the footsteps of Shaytan. Verily, he is to you a plain enemy.” [2:208]

In his tafsīr, Imam al-Qurtubi comments:

“Regarding this āyah, Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman said: ‘Islam is divided into eight parts. The prayer is one part, zakat is one part, fasting is one part, hajj is one part, ‘umrah is one part, jihad is one part, commanding what is known to be right is one part, and forbidding what is recognised as wrong is one part. Disappointed is he who has no part of Islam.’” [Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Qurtubi, Tafsīr al-Qurṭubī: The General Judgments of the Qur’an and Clarification of What it Contains of the Sunnah and Āyahs of Discrimination, Vol. 2, translated by Ustadha Aisha Bewley, Diwan Press, 2019, p. 341]

The same report is cited by al-Baghawi in his tafsīr of 2:208.

[A version of this narration is related in the Mukhtaṣar of al-Bazzar (1/186) and has been graded Ṣaḥīḥ Mawqūf by Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani. See here]

Ibn Kathir explains the verse:

“Allah commands His servants who believe in Him and have faith in His Messenger to implement all of Islam’s legislation and law, to adhere to all of its commandments, as much as they can, and to refrain from all of its prohibitions.”

He continues, “‘Kāffah’ means, in its entirety. This is the tafsīr of Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, Abu Al-‘Aliyah, ‘Ikrimah, Ar-Rabi‘ bin Anas, As-Suddi, Muqatil bin Hayyan, Qatadah and Ad-Dahhak.” [Cf. English translation, Vol. 1, p. 581]

The question that arises is how can we implement Islam in its entirety? Among other things, Islam includes an economic system, foreign policy, judiciary and penal code. Yet in present times, these aspects of Islam exist only in the books of classical jurisprudence (fiqh).

In his well-known translation of a fiqh manual entitled Reliance of the Traveller, the highly respected scholar Shaykh Nuh Keller (Allah Preserve him!) includes a section on The Caliphate. He explains: “This section has been added here by the translator because the Caliphate is both obligatory in itself and the necessary precondition for hundreds of rulings established by Allah Most High to govern and guide Islamic community life.” [Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, Amana Publications, Maryland, 1994, p. 628]

The Caliphate is an essential requirement, or the first foundation if you will, to bring into reality the Islamic systems of life. Imam al-Qurtubi describes in his tafsīr of verse number 30 of Surah al-Baqarah [“I am putting a caliph on the earth”]:

“This āyah is sound evidence for having a leader and a Caliph who is obeyed so that he will be a focus for the cohesion of society and the rulings of the Caliphate will be carried out. None of the Imams of the community disagree about the obligatory nature of having such a leader…All of this indicates that it [the Caliphate] is obligatory and is a pillar (rukn) from the pillars (arkān) of the dīn which support the Muslims. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.”
[Cf. Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Qurtubi, Tafsīr al-Qurṭubī: The General Judgments of the Qur’an and Clarification of What it Contains of the Sunnah and Āyahs of Discrimination, Vol. 1, translated by Ustadha Aisha Bewley, Diwan Press, 2019, p. 149]

The great Hanafi master of hadith and jurisprudence, Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari, writes:

“They reached consensus on the obligatory nature of the appointment of the Imam, the only difference being as to whether it is obligatory on Allah or on people, with transmitted or intellectual evidence. The position of the people of the Sunnah and the great majority of the Mu‘tazilah is that it is an obligation on people because of:

1. Evidence transmitted in his words,(ﷺ), in that which Muslim narrated in the hadith of Ibn ‘Umar (ra) , in this wording: “Whoever dies without an Imam dies the death of the time of ignorance,”

2. And because the Companions (ra) considered the most important of all matters to be the appointment of the Imam to such an extent that they gave it precedence over his burial, (ﷺ),

3. And because there is no avoiding the necessity of the Muslims having an Imam who undertakes to execute their legal judgements, establish their hudud limits, protect their borders, equip their armies, take their zakat, conquer insurgents, thieves and brigands, establish the jumu‘ahs and the Eids, marry off young people who have no guardians, divide up the spoils of battle, and the similar duties of the Shari‘ah which individual members of the Ummah cannot take upon themselves.”

[Minaḥ al-Rawḍ al-Azhar fi Sharḥ al-Fiqh al-Akbar, Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiyyah, Beirut, 1998, p. 410. Translated by Sidi Abdassamad Clarke]

In the above quote, aspects of both salah and zakat are mentioned as being duties which only the Caliph can fully implement. The obligation of hajj also needs a legitimate Imam to organise it fairly and justly (unlike the way it is organised today more for profit than religious necessity in the same way the pagan Quraysh did before the Islamic conquest of Makkah). The same authorities that organise present day hajj also cause chaos at the beginning and end of every Ramadan.

The announcement of the moonsighting by the Caliph would bring unity to the Muslim Ummah for both fasting and Eid. A giant among the Salaf and a contemporary of Imam Malik, Ibn al-Majishun is quoted in Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani’s commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari as stating that if the Imam of the Muslims sights the moon “in such a case, all the people are obliged [to fast], because all the towns with respect to him (the Caliph) are as one town, since his verdict is binding upon everyone.” [See here for the full quote].

Thus we would be in a situation to be able to fully complete our salah, zakat, hajj and siyam by re-instituting the Caliphate, the most basic and essential foundational pillar of our dīn.

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