Q. How did the five pillars in Islam originate? Is there any authoritative statement in the Qur'an or Hadith that specifically mentions the "five pillars" as the foundation of our faith? The only verse I found that mentions four of the so-called five pillars is below - Hajj is not mentioned and the verse includes other criteria:

[Al-Baqarah 2:177] It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the east or west; but it is righteousness to believe in God and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which you have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing.

A. The ayah you cited is indeed one of the bases from which the concept of the five pillars is based; and verse 22:27 informs us about the Hajj. There are also hadith that indicate that there are five pillars, one of them being, for example: “Islam is built on five: testimony that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah and that Muhammad is his servant and messenger, Salat, pilgrimage for who is able to do it with security, etc.” One may question the historicity of the inclusion of prophethood and messengership of Muhammad in the shahadah. To which the response would be simply that Muhammad's message would have no weight unless one were to accept him as prophet and messenger. This is what distinguishes a Muslim monotheist from a non-Muslim monotheist. Therefore, the two sources unequivocally point to the authenticity of the five pillars, and the sources are also uniform in making the Hajj conditional, done only when one can perform the ritual with security.

Some scholars focus on the selection of the number five. They claim that this is because in Judaism, the temple was supposed to have five entrances, and the Torah is also known as the Pentateuch (five books). This suggestion is intriguing, but to the best of my knowledge evidences parallelism only, and not importation of Judaic themes into the Islamic Weltanschauung. Even if the Muslims did do so, there is nothing wrong with this. After all, Islam acknowledges Judaism as being a religion of God, and necessarily shares and builds upon several Judaic motifs.

Some point out that at times jurists have attempted to include a sixth pillar: that of Jihad, with Jihad meaning bellum justum. There is sanction in the Qur’an for this too, except that such Jihad is to be deemed a duty only when war is forced upon the Muslims. One need not look at the Qur’an for provenance then, for logic demands that self-preservation and attempts to ensure survival be a duty on all of us. Jihad, like the Hajj then, is something deemed a pillar depending on the prevailing conditions. Many detractors of Islam have attempted to mention Jihad as a pillar without explaining the conditions for when Jihad becomes a duty. Such detractors forget that Islam is the only religion that makes war conditional -- a response to enemy aggression. Since this website attempts to avoid polemic, we will not show the sanctimoniousness of those who make these charges, nor the fact that war is unfettered and violent in other scriptures. Instead, I will paraphrase a saying of the late Elijah Muhammad: "You show the beauty of your own beliefs on its own, not by pointing out the ugliness of other beliefs." And Allah knows best.

Posted January 19, 2002