By: Sagher Mahmood Bajwa
If you’re someone who is interested in Islam, or simply wishes to learn what being a Muslim entails, then you’re in the right place. This article will first provide you with a brief introduction to the elementary teachings of Islam and then will walk through the basic fundamental beliefs and obligatory practices that Islam requires from a Muslim.
What is Islam?
Islam means peace. Therein lies the soul and spirit of Islam. When translated literally, the second meaning of Islam is submission. Therefore, peace and submission together paint the complete picture of Islam. While peace is in relation to humankind, submission alludes to the relation between man and his Creator. It’s unfortunate indeed, that Islam is ignorantly misunderstood as a violent religion by the West today, while, 24% of the world’s population has found Islam to be the origin of peace and tranquility in their lives.
It is only natural to discuss the primary articles of faith in Islam before we get to the main practices of Muslims. Islam has six fundamental articles of faith:
- Believe in Allah
- Believe in His Angels
- Believe in His Books
- Believe in His Prophets
- Believe in the Day of Resurrection
- Believe in His Divine Decree
So, in summary, in order to be a Muslim, a person must first believe in Allah i.e. in his absolute oneness and shun every idolatrous thought. Secondly, it is necessary to believe in His Angels as their own entities, who’s major role is to communicate the message of God to humanity. Then comes the belief in His Books, which is a distinct quality unique to the religion of Islam. Islam is the only religion in the history of mankind which teaches the truth of all past divine scriptures. Likewise, believing in all His Prophets is also an obligation of all Muslims. Believing in the day of Resurrection is also a fundamental requirement of Islam; as this belief assures that its followers remain cautious of their actions, knowing well that a day is yet to come when they will be answerable for their deeds. Lastly, Islam requires that all Muslims believe in Divine Decree. Muslims believe that Divine Decree is the law or measure under which the universe is functioning. Within the boundaries of Divine Decree, man is given free will.
Five Pillars of Islam
The five pillars of Islam represent the principle acts of worship which are required to practice the faith. Observance and practice of these acts is obligatory for all Muslims. In the words of the founder of Islam, The Prophet Muhammad (sa):
الإِسْلاَمُ أَنْ تَشْهَدَ أَنْ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَتُقِيمَ الصَّلاَةَ وَتُؤْتِيَ الزَّكَاةَ وَتَصُومَ رَمَضَانَ وَتَحُجَّ الْبَيْتَ إِنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلاً
Islam implies that you:
- Testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah
- And you establish prayer,
- Pay Zakat,
- Observe the fast of Ramadan,
- And perform pilgrimage to the (House) if you are solvent enough (to bear the expense of) the journey.
Let us turn to a more detailed study of these pillars one by one
Kalima – Verbal Declaration
The Kalima is a verbal declaration that Muslims constantly announce as an affirmation to their faith that “There is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad (sa) is the messenger of Allah.” Islam has ordained Muslims to constantly recite the Kalima throughout the day in their daily worship which serves as a constant reminder for them towards their responsibilities towards Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (sa).
Salat – Prayer
Allah has taught Muslims in the Holy Quran:
وَ مَا خَلَقۡتُ الۡجِنَّ وَ الۡاِنۡسَ اِلَّا لِیَعۡبُدُوۡنِ
And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.
 Sahih Muslim, The Book of Faith
 The Holy Quran, 51:57
Thus, worshiping Allah is the very purpose of a Muslim’s life. Hence, Allah has prescribed five daily prayers named Fajr, Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha, which are offered at fixed times throughout the day.
Fasting in the month of Ramadhan
Following your regular worship by way of Salat, Allah has also instructed thirty days of fasting once a year. Thus, every Muslim is obliged to abstain from food and drink from dusk till dawn and spend his and her time in the remembrance of Allah. Fasting is not an innovation of Islam, rather we find historical records that previous Prophets also practiced intense worship of Allah while refraining from food. Fasting helps one sympathise with the less fortunate and also represents true yearning for spiritual sustenance from Allah. The holy month of Ramadhan is also an opportunity for those who have been careless of their faith throughout the year to rejuvenate themselves.
Zakat is the fourth pillar of Islam, which can more appropriately be understood as the purification of wealth. In a world where the division of wealth is so tremendous, this is Islam’s solution to promote the circulation of wealth in society. It is a kind of tax which requires a Muslim to give up a certain amount of his possessions for the upkeep of the poor and those who have no earning capacity. This tax is levied on still capital, or any liquid assets such as jewellery.
Lastly, the fifth pillar of Islam is Hajj i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims, who are able-bodied and have the means, are required to perform at least once in their lifetime. It is an elaborate series of religious rituals which extend over several days for their accomplishment, performed at the Holy Ka’aba, Mecca (Arabia) and other special holy sites. The Hajj serves as a striking reminder of the Oneness of Allah and it emphasizes the brotherhood and equality of human beings, as well as the importance of man’s willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of his Creator.
Muslim vs Momin
To simply put it, anyone who declares him or herself a Muslim is a Muslim, and no human authority can under any lawful grounds declare him or her a non-Muslim. This is a God given right that no one can take from you. Allah has a made a clear distinction between a Muslim and Momin. A Momin is a Muslim who has exceeded the commencing stage of merely submitting and has begun to follow through with the commands of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad (sa). Allah states in the Holy Quran:
قَالَتِ الۡاَعۡرَابُ اٰمَنَّا ؕ قُلۡ لَّمۡ تُؤۡمِنُوۡا وَ لٰکِنۡ قُوۡلُوۡۤا اَسۡلَمۡنَا وَ لَمَّا یَدۡخُلِ الۡاِیۡمَانُ فِیۡ قُلُوۡبِکُمۡ ؕ وَ اِنۡ تُطِیۡعُوا اللّٰہَ وَ رَسُوۡلَہٗ لَا یَلِتۡکُمۡ مِّنۡ اَعۡمَالِکُمۡ شَیۡئًا ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ غَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِیۡمٌ ﴿۱۵﴾
The Arabs of the desert say, ‘We believe.’ Say, “You have not believed yet; but rather say, ‘We have accepted Islam,’ for the true belief has not yet entered into your hearts.” But if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not detract anything from your deeds. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.
Hence, it is imperative for a Muslim to “obey Allah and His Messenger,” lest he falls in the class of “true belief has not yet entered into your hearts.” Today, the entire Muslim Ummah can boldly declare اَسْلَمْنَا i.e. “We have become Muslim”, but how many are certain enough to announce اٰمَنَّا i.e. “We believe”? The reason this is questioned is because the Holy Prophet (sa) stated:
فَإِذَا رَأَيْتُمُوهُ فَبَايِعُوهُ وَلَوْ حَبْوًا عَلَى الثَّلْجِ فَإِنَّهُ خَلِيفَةُ اللَّهِ الْمَهْدِيُّ
“When you find the Mahdī, perform Bai‘at (pledge of allegiance) at his hands. You must go to him, even if you have to reach him across ice-bound mountains crawling on your knees. He is the Mahdī and the Caliph of Allāh.”
Therefore, if the Muslim Ummah wishes to be true believers in the eyes of Allah, they must search for this latter-day Messiah and Mahdi. Because until they don’t, they can never claim to be obedient to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa). In 1891, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian (as), claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah and Mahdi foretold by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa). Since then, his community has flourished all over the world and is now established in over 200 countries with tens of millions of followers. The community is headed by his fifth successor, Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aa); a man who strives in spreading the true Islam of peace and harmony.
 The Holy Quran, 49:15
 Sunan Ibn Majah, The Book of Tribulations
The Promised Messiah and Mahdi (AS)
Mirza Masroor Ahmad