Knowing Islam

Knowing Islam - The Three Fundamental Principles

The Three Fundamental Principles

Written by: Shaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abdul Wahhab Islam defines submitting to Allāh by way of tawheed, surrendering one’s full obedience to Him, and disavowing oneself from shirk (polytheism) and its people. It is inferred from this notion that Islam is comprehensive of 3 ranks: Islam, iman and ihsan, each rank has specific pillars to it.

The Rank of Islam

The Pillars of Islam are five:

1. The testification that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah (testifying with heart and utterance) dan that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; 2. Establishment of salāh; 3. Payment of zakāh; 4. Fasting of Ramadān; 5. Undertaking hajj to the sacred House of Allāh.

1. The proof for the testimony of shahādah is Allah [Ta’āla]’s saying:

شَهِدَ اللَّهُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ وَأُولُو الْعِلْمِ قَائِمًا بِالْقِسْطِ ۚ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

“Allāh witnesses that there is no deity except Him, and [so do] the angels and those of knowledge – [that He is] maintaining [creation] in justice. There is no deity except Him, the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” [Ali ‘Imrān, 3: 18]

LāIlāhaiIlallāh means ‘there is no deity in truth except Allāh.Shahādah comprises 2 consequences: nafyu and itsbāt. Lā Ilāha” negates everything that is worshiped besides Allāh. Illallāh” affirms the worship of only Allāh, free from any partner being mixed in from His worship, just as there is no partner mixed in with His Dominion. The explanation that clarifies it further is His [Ta’āla] saying:

وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ لِأَبِيهِ وَقَوْمِهِ إِنَّنِي بَرَاءٌ مِمَّا تَعْبُدُونَ﴿٢٦﴾إِلَّا الَّذِي فَطَرَنِي فَإِنَّهُ سَيَهْدِينِ﴿٢٧﴾وَجَعَلَهَا كَلِمَةً بَاقِيَةً فِي عَقِبِهِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham said to his father and his people, “Indeed, I am disassociated from that which you worship. Except for He who created me; and indeed, He will guide me.” And he made it a word remaining among his descendants that they might return [to it].” [az-Zukhruf, 43: 26-28] And His [Ta’āla] saying:

قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ تَعَالَوْا إِلَىٰ كَلِمَةٍ سَوَاءٍ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمْ أَلَّا نَعْبُدَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ وَلَا نُشْرِكَ بِهِ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا أَرْبَابًا مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ ۚ فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَقُولُوا اشْهَدُوا بِأَنَّا مُسْلِمُونَ

“Say, “O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah.” But if they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him].”” [Ali ‘Imran, 3: 64]

The proof for the testifying that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allāh is His [Ta’āla] saying:

لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُمْ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ

“There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful.” [at-Taubah, 9: 128]

The meaning of the testimony that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allāh is to obey him in what he commands; believe him in what he informs about; to avoid what he prohibits or rebukes and [it also signifies] that Allāh is not to be worshiped except with what he legislated.

2. The proof for salāh (prayer) and zakāh and the explanation of tawheed is His [Ta’āla] saying:

وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ حُنَفَاءَ وَيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُوا الزَّكَاةَ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ دِينُ الْقَيِّمَةِ

“And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah. And that is the correct religion.” [al-Bayyinah, 98: 5]

3. The proof for fasting [siyām] is His [Ta’āla] saying:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” [al-Baqarah, 2: 183]

4. The proof for hajj is His [Ta’āla] saying:

وَلِلَّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلًا ۚ وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ

“In it are clear signs [such as] the standing place of Abraham. And whoever enters it shall be safe. And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way. But whoever disbelieves – then indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds.” [Ali ‘Imran, 3: 97]

The Rank of Iman

Īmān consists of more than seventy branches. The highest level is the declaration, “Lā Ilāha Iilallāh”, and its lowest part is removing something harmful from a pathway, and modesty is a part of [shu’bah] of īmān. Its pillars are six. The obligation to have:

1. Īmān in Allāh 2. Īmān in His Angels 3. Īmān in His Books 4. Īmān in His Messengers 5. Īmān in the Last Day 6. Īmān in Qadar [Divine Pre-decree], its good and bad.[1]

The proof of these six pillars is His [Ta’āla] saying:

لَيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَنْ تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ

“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the East or the West, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allāh, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakāh; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous…” [al-Baqarah, 2: 177]

And the proof of Qadar is His [Ta’āla] saying:

إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ

“Indeed, all things We created with predestination.” [al-Qamar, 54: 49]

The Rank of Ihsan

It comprises one pillar, which is

اَنْ تَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ كَاَنَّكَ تَرَاهٌ، فَاِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ تَرَاهُ فَاِنَّهُ يَرَاكَ

”to worship Allah as though you see Him, and if you cannot see Him, and He indeed sees you.”[2]

The proof is His [Ta’āla] saying: “And rely upon the Exalted in Might, the Merciful, Who sees you when you arise. And your movement among those who prostrate. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” [ash-Shu’araa, 26: 217-220]

And His saying:

وَمَا تَكُونُ فِي شَأْنٍ وَمَا تَتْلُو مِنْهُ مِنْ قُرْآنٍ وَلَا تَعْمَلُونَ مِنْ عَمَلٍ إِلَّا كُنَّا عَلَيْكُمْ شُهُودًا إِذْ تُفِيضُونَ فِيهِ

“And, [O Muhammad], you are not [engaged] in any matter or recite any of the Qur’an and you [people] do not do any deed except that We are witness over you when you are involved in it. And not absent from your Lord is any [part] of an atom’s weight within the earth or within the heaven or [anything] smaller than that or greater but that it is in a clear register.” [Yunus, 10: 61]

The proof from the Sunnah is the famous hadīth from Jibrīl[3] which is related by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab may Allāh be pleased with him.

بَيْنَمَا نَحْنُ جُلُوْسٌ عِنْدَ رَسُوْلِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم ذَاتَ يَوْمٍ إِذْ طَلَعَ عَلَيْنَا رَجُلٌ شَدِيْدُ بَيَاضِ الثِّيَابِ شَدِيْدُ سَوَادِ الشَّعْرِ, لاَ يُرَى عَلَيْهِ أَثَرُ السَّفَرِ وَلاَ يَعْرِفُهُ مِنَّا أَحَدٌ, حَتَّى جَلَسَ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم, فأَسْنَدَ رُكْبَتَيْهِ إِلَى رُكْبَتَيْهِ, وَوَضَعَ كَفَّيْهِ عَلَى فَخِذَيْهِ, وَ قَالَ : يَا مُحَمَّدُ أَخْبِرْنِيْ عَنِ الإِسْلاَمِ, فَقَالَ رَسُوْلُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم : اَلإِسْلاَمُ أَنْ تَشْهَدَ أَنْ لاَإِ لَهَ إِلاَّ اللهُ وَ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُوْلُ اللهِ, وَتُقِيْمُ الصَّلاَةَ, وَتُؤْتِيَ الزَّكَاةَ, وَتَصُوْمَ رَمَضَانَ, وَتَحُجَّ الْبَيْتَ إِنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيْلاً. قَالَ : صَدَقْتُ. فَعَجِبْنَا لَهُ يَسْئَلُهُ وَيُصَدِّقُهُ. قَالَ : فَأَخْبِرْنِيْ عَنِ الإِيْمَانِ, قَالَ : أَنْ بِاللهِ, وَمَلاَئِكَتِهِ, وَكُتُبِهِ, وَرُسُلِهِ, وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ, وَ تُؤْمِنَ بِالْقَدْرِ خَيْرِهِ وَ شَرِّهِ. قَالَ : صَدَقْتَ. قَالَ : فَأَخْبِرْنِيْ عَنِ الإِحْسَانِ, قَالَ : أَنْ تَعْبُدَ اللهَ كَأَنَّكَ تَرَاهُ فَإِنْ لَمْ تَكُنْ تَرَاهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَرَاكَ. قَالَ : فَأَخْبِرْنِيْ عَنِ السَّاعَةِ قَالَ : مَا الْمَسْؤُوْلُ عَنْهَا بِأَعْلَمَ مِنَ السَّائِلِ. قَالَ : فَأَخْبِرْنِيْ عَنْ أَمَارَاتِهَا, قَالَ : أَنْ تَلِدَ الأَمَةُ رَبَّتَهَا, وَأَنْ تَرَى الْحُفَاةَ الْعُرَاةَ الْعَالَةَ رِعَاءَ الشَّاءِ يَتَطَاوَلُوْنَ فِيْ الْبُنْيَانِ, ثم اَنْطَلَقَ, فَلَبِثْتُ مَلِيًّا, ثُمَّ قَالَ : يَا عُمَرُ, أَتَدْرِيْ مَنِ السَّائِل؟ قُلْتُ : اللهُ وَ رَسُوْلُهُ أَعْلَمُ. قَالَ : فَإِنَّهُ جِبْرِيْلُ أَتَاكُمْ يُعَلِّمُكُمْ دِيْنَكُمْ. رَوَاهُ مُسْلِمٌ

”While we were sitting in the company of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ), there suddenly appeared before us a man dressed in pure white clothes, his hair was extraordinarily black. There were no signs of travel on him and none among us recognized him. At length, he sat before the Messenger (ﷺ); he knelt before him placing his knees right to his knees and his palms on his thighs and said, ‘Muhammad, inform me about Islam.’ The Messenger (ﷺ) of Allah said, ‘Islam implies that you testify that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish prayer and pay zakāh [obligatory alm tax], observe the fast of Ramadān, and perform pilgrimage to the House if you have the means to make the journey.’ He [i.e. the inquirer] said, ‘You have told the truth.’ [‘Umar ibn Khattāb] said, ‘It amazed us that he would put the question and then he himself would verify the truth.’ He [i.e. the inquirer] then said, ‘inform me about the īmān.’ He [the Prophet] replied, ‘That you have īmān in Allah, in His Angels, in His Books, in His Messenger, in His Last Day, and and you have īmān in Qadar, its good and bad.’ He [i.e. the inquirer] said, ‘You have told the truth.’ He then said, ‘Inform me about ihsān.’ He [i.e. the Prophet] said, ‘That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for though you do not see Him, He, verily, sees you.’ He said, ‘Inform me about the Hour.’ He [i.e. the Prophet] remarked, ‘The one being asked about it knows no more than the questioner.’ He [i.e. the inquirer] said, ‘Then tell me some of its indications.’ He [i.e. the Prophet] said, ‘That the slave-girl will give birth to her rabbah [i.e. mistress], and that you will find barefooted, unclothed, destitute goat-herders vying with one another in the construction of buildings.’ He [i.e. the narrator, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb] said, ‘Then he [i.e. the inquirer] went on his way but I stayed with him [i.e. the Prophet] for a while. He then, said to me, ”Umar, do you know who this inquirer was?’ I replied, ‘Allah and His Messenger knows best.’ He remarked, ‘He was Jibrīl, he came to you all to instruct you in the matters of your religion.'[4] [Copied from The Three Fundamental Principles, by Shaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abdul Wahhab, printed and distributed by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Waqf, Da’wah and Counseling of the Government of Saudi Arabia Publishing and Publications]


[1]. Qadar: Divine Pre-decree. Meaning: Allah, the Most High’s, ordainment of creation, in accordance with His knowledge that preceded everything, and in accordance with His wisdom.

[2]. The notion of Ihsān is quoted from hadith of Jibrīl, mentioned by ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb, may Allah be pleased with him.

[3]. This hadith is named after “hadith Jibrīl” because it is Angel Jibrīl who came to the Prophet asking him about Islam, imān, and matters pertaining to the Hour. It is intended to be a lesson for Muslimin concerning matters of religion.

[4]. Hadith related by Imam Muslim in Sahih Muslim, Book al-Imān, chapter 1, hadith no. 1. Also related one hadith with this utterance from Abu Hurairah by Imam al-Bukhari in Sahih al-Bukhari, Book al-Imān, chapter 37, hadith no. 1.


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