Friday, December 31, 2004

The Five Pillars of Islam: A 1400 Year Old Myth?

According to another reform group whose website is entitled www.free-minds.org, the five pillars of Islam are a long running myth. The “Free Minds” group and their reasoning for the decay of the Muslim umma is based on the idea that too many Muslims adhere to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam). The Muslim world’s decline of political independence, standard education and technological progress solely rests on the archaic words and sayings of our beloved Prophet (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam). And all this time we were thinking that the decline of Muslim power had more to do with colonization, exploitation of the poorer masses, the rich working in complicity with foreign powers who just want to control and manipulate rather than enhance and protect. Our failures have nothing to with the erosion of traditional education (secular or religious), debts owed to more powerful nations which many Muslim countries will never pay off (that’s the whole idea) and dictators who care more about adding more rooms to their palaces than providing their people with good leadership. So what is their beef against the five pillars of Islam: the testimony of faith, prayer, fasting during the month of Ramadan, charity or the poor tax and the pilgrimage? Let’s keep in mind that this is another “Qur’an only” group of Muslims. Shari’a, Hadith and all that do not apply for them. Let’s look at the pillars and see if this group is justified in tearing them down.

Charity (zakat)
“Those who spend in charity spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:274) There’s the verse confirming the necessity to give to those who are less fortunate. Why would the “Free Minds” want to discourage that? Why knock down the duty in Islam to help the poor? And according to the verse, those who give will receive God’s mercy and have peace in the afterlife. And it is only 2.5% of our yearly earnings. Think of how many people would benefit if everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, would give the same?

Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)
“And to complete the Hajj or ‘Umrah in the service of Allah. But if you are prevented from completing it, send an offering for sacrifice, such as you may find, and do not shave your heads until the offering reaches the place of sacrifice.” (2:196) Here is another verse explaining how it is incumbent upon Muslims to make the pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lives. And look at how merciful Allah subhana wa at’ala is. It is only necessary on those who can afford it and who are in good health. Why wouldn’t a Muslim want to visit the land purified by the Best of Creation?

Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan (Saum)
“Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear signs for guidance and judgment between right and wrong. So every one of you who is present at his home during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up days later.” (2:185) Here’s another verse explaining how fasting during Ramadan is an obligation unless you are ill, too young, too old, in the advanced stages in pregnancy, traveling and while menstruating. Actually, another one of reforms that the Free Minds are trying to push is that menstruating women should fast for Ramadan. I am sure most of you can imagine the health concerns of a person who is fasting while undergoing the hormonal and physiological changes during their monthly cycle. Hormones levels fluctuate which can lead to slight symptoms as a simple headache to larger symptoms such as backaches, abdominal pain, and an extreme form of menstrual cramps called dysmenorria. Why fast during a time when your body is vulnerable. But I guess “gender equality” comes before common health sense.

Prayer (Salat)
“As to those who hold fast to the Book and establish regular Prayer, never shall We suffer the reward of the righteous to perish.” (7:170) We must establish regular prayer which means the five daily prayers. We are all familiar with how the five daily prayers were established. Allah subhana wa at ala ordained that Muslims pray 50 times a day but the Prophet Musa (aleyhi salaam) convinced Mohammad (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam) to ask Him to reduce it until He settled on five times a day. Now we are living in a time when some Muslims will not even do that. During the time of the Prophet (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam), even the hypocrites prayed five times a day. Dr. Maxtor told us a Progressive Muslim meetup where one of the attendees advocated reducing salat to twice a day. There are many Muslims who do not pray or fast but at least most of them do not tell the other praying, fasting Muslims how and when to do it.

Last but not least, the Declaration of Faith (Shahada)
La ilah illa Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah. Anyone can submit to this. One God, that is easy. Anyone one can submit to “La ilah illa Allah.“ The Free Minds and other “Qur’an Only” Muslims have no problems with this. But what about “Muhammad Rasul Allah?” It is not simply saying that Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam) is the Messenger of God. So was Adam, Nuh, Ibrahim, Ismail and Ishaq, Musa, Dawud, Sulaiman, and Isa (may God bless them all). The Qur’an does not put one prophet over another. But it is confirming that Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam) brought the Message. Actually Brother Yahiya Emerick says it best, “By stating the Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam) is God’s Messenger, we are pledging ourselves to practicing what he preached, doing what he did, and look to him as our role model. There is even a special word, Sunnah, or Way of the Prophet, that is used to refer to his life’s example.” (Emerick, Idiot’s Guide to Islam, 119) I hope that I have proven that the five pillars are not a myth or a vice grip on the umma but rather another blessing from God that when followed, gives us success in this life and in the next.

8 Comments:

Blogger DrMaxtor said...

How much you wanna bet these are the same guys behind FaithFreedom and other anti-Muslim websites ? I wonder what kind of hallucinogenic drug these guys are hopped up on ? Just for my medical curiosity...

9:18 PM  
Blogger Umm Zaid said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

Free-Minds are 19'ers, aka "Qur'an Onlies." They say that they are not part of the Submitters in Tucson, but I gather that they do use the Rashad Khalifa translation of the Qur'an, which is full of deviance, omits two ayat if I remember correctly, and is built upon Khalifa's numerology theories about the Qur'an.

There aren't that many of them in the world. I'd say less than 2,000 in the US, if even that many, and that includes the Tucscon people. Many of the websites they link to are all made by the same people.

The Submitters and the 19'ers and all of their various off shoots have discovered, these past two years, that if they affix the labels "liberal" and "progressive" to themselves, they might get a little bit more attention than they did before. I notice they've also become more subtle with their 19 stuff than they were in the past, making it harder for people to recognize and dismiss their fringieness from the get-go.

1:53 PM  
Blogger izzymo said...

Salaam alaikum guys,
I'll tell you something about Faith Freedom.org. You know they endoursed Irshad Manji's book before it hit the shelves. They didn't even read it. They just knew that she had her own warped understanding of Islam so they thought, "Great, let's support her." That is the extent of their credibility. Thankfully there is a website that reputes their claims called Faithfreedom.com.

Before the term "progressivism" became chic, Free Minds and Progressive Muslims.org did not use those terms for their brand of Islam. They need to give it up because MWU.com has already cornered the market on that term and they probably don't have anyone as media savvy and connected as Ahmed Nassef.

12:16 PM  
Blogger altaf said...

Salaam Ailaikum,

Thank you for your site, and while I don't agree with everything here, I appreciate the critique you have of PMU/MWU - much needed.

Just for the record - by way of chronology. The first "progressive muslim" e-list was called Progressive Muslims Network (PMN) - this list no longer exists (I was on the admin. team of that list for some years). A second list was formed by some folks who split off from PMN - this is the only "progressive muslim" e-list around at this time... called Network of Progressive Muslims (NPM).

Free Minds used the word "Progressive" to define themselves sometime before MWU came around, at a time when PMN was using the domain name "progressivemuslims.com." In any case - as I see it, these words have become meaningless - for all of the reasons you've pointed out here in many of your posts.

But more importantly, I think given the situation we are living in these days (especially in North America) - we need to find ways that we can build bridges across the varied understandings of Islam. And not resort to insults and labeling such as: "extremists" "neo-salafis" "fundamentalists" etc. etc. All of these terms are then used to justify even more attacks on Muslims who do not fit in with the Rand corp. strategy of divide and conquer.

The original concept of "progressive muslim" was, as i understood it, not meant to be a launching pad for insults against the various schools of Islam.

Altaf

2:17 AM  
Blogger Hassan said...

Assalaamu Alaikum,
Just a comment about the free-minds five pillar myth idea. While I have only briefly browsed the free-minds website, I don't think that what they have to say concerning the 5 pillars is too crazy. I should say that I do support the 5 pillars of islam, and think that they are very good things.

However, there is also a lot more to islam than just the five pillars. We have been given a whole book with lots of good stuff in it. I think that one of the aims of the 5 pillar criticism done by this group was to point out many of the other commandments of Allah, maybe some that aren't taken seriously enough due to the great importance laid upon the five pillars. For example, this is taken right from their article:
""
"Say: 'come let me recite to you what your Lord Has forbade for you:

that you should not set-up anything with Him.

And be kind to your parents;

and do not kill your unborn children for fear of poverty, We provide for you and for them;

and do not come near evil, what is openly of it, or secretly;

and do not kill the soul which GOD Has forbidden, except in justice. That is what He enjoined you that you may comprehend'.

'And do not come near the money of the orphan, except for what is best, until he reached his maturity;

and give honestly full measure and weight equitably. We do not burden a soul except by what it can bear.

And if you speak then be just even if against a relative;

and with pledges made to GOD you shall observe. This He Has enjoined you that you may remember'.

And this is *My path, a Straight One, so you shall follow it, and do not follow the other paths lest they divert you from His path. That is what He has enjoined you to that you may be righteous." (6:151-153)
""

I think this is meant to indicate other things that Allah commands and forbids, that many muslims may not be honoring around the world-which may have lead to our current troubled state in this world.

They also have other links about the 5 pillars individually with more verses from the Qur'an itself providing an insight about what these pillars truly are. One can look into that on his/her own and decide if it is contradictory to the ideas presented in mainstream islam or not.

I think that one of the points made is that we all need to study the Qur'an much more, and reflect on its teachings as it commands us. The Hadith issue is a long discussion within itself, and I think that may go on forever...but I don't think anyone can argue with the fact that we as Muslims should honor the Qur'an as our Primary source of guidance and look to It first in all matters of dispute.

I welcome some more discussion on this issue, rather than any criticism of other groups, as we are here only to seek the truth in a civil, humble manner.

I apologize if I have offended anyone's views on Islam, and if so, do let me know.

Wasalaam,

11:38 PM  
Blogger Umm Zaid said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

I've read the Free-Minds information on prayer, which basically seems to be the same stuff the Submitters have been saying as far back as I can remember. It's pure deviance. Speaking for myself, I can't take nasiha on the deen from people who deny fundamentals of the deen.

The problem is that they are presenting the pillars and the other things we're commanded to do in the Qur'an as mutually exclusive. It's part of their attack on the Ummah (Shi'a or Sunni) -- that we worship the pillars and all these things while neglecting the "forbidding of the wrong, and commanding of the good" given to us in the Qur'an outside of the five pillars. Such a claim is ridiculous, and needs to be recognized as such. One needn't be a member of Mensa to see that following the five pillars *and* the rest of the commands of the Qur'an *in accordance with the Sunnah* is not mutually exclusive.

I've read their stuff for years, and almost all of it is used as a launchpad for attacks on the majority of the Muslims (and a spreading of their deviance). When the "Wahabiya" do this (attack the Ummah), people get all upset.

Do you seriously know of any scholar, Shi'a or Sunni, or any average Muslim who says that we should do the pillars and neglect killing unborn children, or forget about not consuming the wealth of the orphan?

12:32 PM  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Free mind are not progressive or anything, they are just simply Koranist. There is nothing in the koran about the 5 prayers. Many in that website accept 5, others don't. Its not a real issue for them since they all believe people can pray however they want.

As far as the 5 rituals and where it could have come from:

THE RITUAL PRAYER (NAMAAZ) AND MORE Ardeshir Spencer

I am a Zoroasrtrian. Dr. Shabbir's research is quite right. Your NAMAAZ was stolen from Zoroastrianism by your Parsi Imams from Persia.

It would be appropriate if we can discuss the startling similarities between some practices of Islam and Zoroastrianism. These parallels go beyond the co-incindental normal ones. I will endeavour to enumerate a few here:

01. Requirements of prayers: Islam enjoins its followers to pray 5 times a day and is called by the Muezzin to his prayers.These prayers are at i) Dawn ii) Noon iii) Afternoon iv) Sunset v) Night.
Zoroastrianism also enjoins prayers 5 times a day called "Geh". The devotee is summoned by the ringing of a bell in the AtashBehram / Agiary. These prayers are also at the same time as in Islam and their respective names are:

Time: Islamic/ Zorastrianism
Dawn: Fajar/ Havaan
Noon: Zohar/ Rapithwan
Afternoon: Asr/ Uziren
Evening: Mazreem or Maghrib/ Aiwisuthrem
Night time: Isha or Ishan/ Ushaen.

02. Pre-requisites of Prayer: On entering the mosque and prior to commencing prayers a Muslim has to cover his head and wash his face and limbs. Similarly, a Zoroastrian on entering the Agiary will cover his head, wash his face and limbs and perform the Padyaab Kusti before commencing his prayers.

03. The Prayers: Prayers in Islam are in Arabic only, though
translations/transliterations are available. The liturgy has to be conducted in Arabic only. In Zoroastrianism too, prayers have to be recited in Avesta or in Pazend only. In fact in Aveatan prayers Pazend portions have to be recited in an undertone so as not to break the seamless flow of Avestan Manthravani.

04. Sanctum Sanctorum and its veneration: The holiest spot in a Mosque is the wall facing Mecca and is called the Qiblah. In the Atashbehram/Agiary the room where the Atash Padshah is enthroned is also called the Keblaah. A Muslim will perform the Sajdah in front of the Qiblah and so also will the Zoroastrian perform the Sezdah before his Keblaah. Both involve kneeling down and touching the forehead to the ground.

05. A Holy Month: In Islam Ramzan is the holy month in which all Muslims are required to fast in the day and only break their fast after sunset. In Zoroastrianism the month of Bahman has similiar connotations wherein all are requested to particularly abstain from flesh. Perhaps in the age of the Sassanian dynasty the month of Bahman was observed as Ramzan is now.

06. Ascent into Heaven: The hagiography of Islam assures us that Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven from Jerusalem on the mythical beast Burrrak. He crossed the 7 spheres, exchanged greetings with the patriarchs and beheld the glory of God.

The Dinkard tells us that at the entreaties of Asho Zarthustra Bahman Ameshaspand transcendentally elevated his consciousness to the realm of heaven wherein Asho Zarthustra looked at the reflugent majesty of God. A similiar journey was attributed to the virtuous Ardaviraf who visited hell, purgatory and heaven during his spiritual journey.
The above similarities are obvious. A more careful research would reveal more parallels. However even these points are too close to be dismissed as mere coincidences. This means Zoroastrianism has had an enormous impact on Islam which is not acknowledged. Everyone agrees Islam owes a lot to Judaism and Christianity but I feel that the scholars of Islam borrowed very heavily from Iran and this can be perhaps attributed to that shadowy figure of Dastur Dinyar (Salman Farsi). This debt is so impressive that it had to be consistently downgraded and later denied. After all if Islam is supposedly directly inspired by God it cannot be seen to be acknowledging any debt to an older faith, specially the faith of a nation which Islam has defeated. This may perhaps explain the devotion of your Persian Imams to my Faith.
07. Chinvat Bridge (The SIRAAT BRIDGE): According to ancient Persian myth, when a person dies, the soul remains by the body for three days. On the fourth, it travels to Chinvat Bridge (the Bridge of the Separator, also call
Al-Sirat), accompanied by gods of protection. The bridge is "finer than a hair and sharper than a sword" and spans a deep chasm teeming with monsters. On the other side of the bridge is the gateway to paradise.

08. Hell: Demons guard the foot of the bridge and argue with the gods over the soul's fate. The actions of the dead person, both good and bad, are weighed, and the soul is either allowed to cross or denied access to the bridge. Spirits whose evil outweighs their good fall into the demon-infested pit to face eternal torment. In this abyss of the damned, each soul is tortured by a GHOUL that represents its sins in life. Once fallen into the gulf, no soul can escape the horrors of hell through its own power.

Zoroaster, a sixth century BC religious leader, had warned his followers of this obstacle to heaven but he promised to lead his flock safely across. The ancient manuscript Gathas (Songs of Zoroaster) explains that the Bridge of the Separator "becomes narrow for the wicked," whereas the holy can easily pass unharmed. (In Gathas, the fair god Rashnu is named as the judge who helps determine who is worthy of salvation and who must be damned.) All infidels (non-believers) fall into hell, which the prophet says has been created especially for the "followers of the lie."
The legends are sketchy but assert that Chinvat Bridge is located somewhere in the far north. It is a place of filth where the damned endure physical tortures and spiritual agony. Souls who are unsuccessful in crossing the Chinvat Bridge suffer these torments until AHRAMAN, the evil god of ZOROASTRIANISM, is destroyed by the good god Orzmahd during the LAST JUDGMENT. As this time, lost spirits are restored to the truth since "the lie" has been eradicated, or they face final ANNIHILATION.

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2:33 PM  

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