PILLARS OF ISLAM:
Islam is like a big beautiful tree. Its Pillars make up the roots and the branches.
The roots of the tree: Called Usool al-Deen. These are the BELIEFS a person must have to be a Muslim. Just like a plant, only when the roots are there can the tree grow and make branches!
It is important that a person believes in the Usool al-Deen after thinking about them deeply. It is not enough to believe in them just because we are told to.
The branches of the tree: Called Furoo al Deen. These are mainly actions which Muslims must make. Just like in a tree, the branches can only grow when the roots are firm!
So therefore Islam is made up of BELIEFS and ACTIONS
1. Tawheed: Oneness of God
Tawheed is accepting that Allah is one and that he has no parts, partners or family members. Allah created everything and nothing existed before him therefore he does not need anything or anyone.
2. Adl: Jusice of God
Allah is just; He does not do injustice to anyone. He does not hurt or take the right of any human being.
However he put us on this earth to test us and to see how we treat each other. Some times we are tested with hardships (such as poverty and illness) and some times with blessings (such as wealth and safety).
Allah knows each person's test and might reward them in this life by granting them with blessings or he might reward them in the next life by giving them a high status in heaven or he might reward them with both.
Allah's justice also means that who ever does anything evil and does not try to change his or her actions, Allah will punish them. That person might be punished in this life, in the next, or in both.
Allah knows how best to bring about justice because he has knowledge about everything and everyone.
It is important to understand that Allah's justice is perfect because he knows everything about us. He sees what we do, knows what we feel and how we think and does not forget anything.
3. Nubuwah: Prophethood
Allah sent Prophets (messengers) to mankind to guide them towards him. These Prophets taught people about Allah and how to worship him. Allah gave his Prophets high morals and perfect characters so that people can follow their exact steps and not be led astray. Allah also made them 'infallible' which means that although they could sin, they never did because they could see the true ugliness of sinning.
Allah sent many Prophets to different parts of the world during different times. He sent so many Prophets that there are many we simply do not know about. The first Prophet was Prophet Adam and the last was Prophet Mohammad who was the seal of all the Prophets.
Believing in all Prophets is important because it remind us how patient Allah is with his creation. There are many stories of Allah's Prophets in the Quran, which help us understand the history of Islam and give us lessons for our everyday life.
4. Imamah: Leadership of Mankind
Allah appointed twelve Imam's to look after the spirituality and religion of the Muslims after the death of Prophet Mohammad. The first Imam was Ali ibn Abi Talib who was the Prophet's cousin and closest companion. Imam Ali married Prophet Mohammad's daughter Fatima al-Zahra. The remaining eleven Imam's are therefore the Prophet's direct descendants.
The Imams are infallible. This means that they are like the Prophets- they have not committed any sin because of their closeness to Allah and their ability to see the true ugliness of sinning.
4. Me'ad: Ressurection
After we die there will come a day when we are all brought back to life. This day is known as the day of resurrection or the day of judgement.
All people will die; then the whole mankind will be brought back to stand before Allah. Each person will have a book which will have their whole life story written in it. Most importantly, it will have all the details about what kind of deeds the person made.
On that day if a person's book has many good deeds in it (such as being kind, giving food to the poor) they will be happy and Allah will be pleased with them. That person will be allowed to enter heaven.
Those who spent their life committing sins and bad deeds (such as cheating, hurting others and stealing) will not have the pleasure of Allah and will be placed in the hell fire.
The furu' al-din: These are the actions which we must perform to help us stay good Muslims. They are like the branches of the tree. They include the following:
Salat – Praying five times a day
Sawm – Fasting in Ramadan
Hajj – Performing the yearly Hajj ritual at least once in a lifetime if possible
Zakat – This is a tax for Muslims on certain things. The money that is taxed is then used to help other poor Muslims.
Khums – a religious tax for Muslims. Half of it goes to poor living relatives of the Prophet Mohammad and the remaining half is called the portion of Imam religious authorities towards helping Muslim communities. For example, the marji may decide that the money may go towards feeding and housing orphans.
Jihad – defending Muslim community when they are attacked during war. It involves fighting in the path of Allah in response to the call from the Prophet or the Imam of that time.
Amr bi l-Ma'ruf: This means to encourage and praise actions which make Allah (swt) happy. For example it would be a duty on a Muslim to remind people to give money to the poor and to help those who are in need.
Nahi 'an al-munkar: forbidding the evil actions. This includes reminding our family and friends to stay away from doing things which Allah does not allow us to do. For example it is the duty of a Muslim to remind his or her brother not to lie or steal money.
Tawalli : This means to love our Prophet and the 12 Imams and stay friends with their followers.
Tabarri It means that we should remain stay away and dislike the enemies of our Prophet and the Imams.
In all parts of our lives we take advise from experts. When we are sick, we see a doctor, when we want to build a house, we speak to an engineer. Likewise, when it comes to Islamic rulings regarding the above furoo al deen, we must obey the rulings of the experts of that Law. Those experts are called Mujtahids and they help us understand and follow the everyday rules of being a good Muslim; and the act of obeying their rulings is called taqlid.