The Five Pillars of Islam Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein There are five pillars of Islam. 1. The first is its creed, namely, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammed is His prophet." 2. The second is the requirement to "be constant" in prayer. So Muslims pray five times a day. 3. The third pillar is charity. Muhammed established that Muslims must tithe two and one half percent of all their holdings, i.e., one fortieth of all they possess annually. 4. The fourth pillar is the observance of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, generally with fasting. 5. The fifth pillar is a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime, if possible. Among the social changes Muhammed brought about were the following: All wealth was to be shared widely. Improvement of the status of women (at least while Muhammed was alive): Muhammed by all accounts respected his wives and loved his daughters. He forbade infanticide of female children, and for the first time girls were permitted to share in a portion of inheritance. Islam sanctified marriage and tightened the marriage bond; required a woman’s full consent before marriage; and made divorces more difficult. Although men were allowed to have four wives, the ideal was monogamy, though when war had reduced the male population, it was appropriate for men to maintain more than one woman, in order that all women might thereby be maintained. The practice of having women veil themselves from head to foot in public was a means of restricting the widespread promiscuity of Muhammed’s time—it has unfortunately become a rigid practice today. As so often has happened in history, rules established to assist the plight of women and help equalize their status have been used against them to keep them in submission, as your textbooks note. (Unfortunately, female genital mutilation, practiced primarily in Arab countries, is perhaps the worst indictment against this culture’s treatment of women. Its origin is under question, and education is probably the most potent tool against the practice.) Islam stresses absolute racial equality, the test of which is the willingness of Muslims to intermarry. Tradition says Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah, who gave birth to Abraham’s son Ishmael, was a Negro; Muhammed took a Negro as one of his wives and gave one of his daughters in marriage to a Negro. As Smith observes, "Today his followers are drawn from all colors—black men from Africa, brown men from Malaya, yellow men from China, white men from Turkey." The use of force is to be minimized but not necessarily avoided. The Koran teaches forgiveness, but not turning the other cheek. It calls for punishment of wrongdoers to the extent of the crime they have committed; this is "An eye for an eye," and becomes the justification for the jihad, the holy war in which the martyrs who die are assured of heaven. However, the tenets of fair standards in war were first laid down by Muhammed: agreements were to be honored; treachery avoided; the wounded were not to be mutilated, nor the dead disfigured; women, children, and the elderly were not to be harmed; and crops, orchards, and sacred objects were to be spared. In a righteous war, according to the Koran, "Defend yourself against your enemies; but attack them not first; God hateth the aggressor" (Sura 2: 190). There was to be no compulsion for others, even conquered peoples, to take up Islam: Let there be no compulsion in religion. (Sura 2: 257) To every one have we given a law and a way . . . . And if God had pleased, he would have made you all one people. But He hath done otherwise, that He might try you in that which he hath severally given unto you: wherefore press forward in good works. Unto God shall ye return, and He will tell you that concerning which ye disagree. (Sura 5: 48) Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion. (Sura 109: 6) (Smith’s translations.) (See: Selections from the Koran) Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily