Six Pillars – Introduction

For the past year, I’ve attended the After Shahada Project classes with Imam Nick Pelletier at the Islamic Center of Irving. In Season 1, we covered the 3 questions of the grave (I might dig into those in the future) from “The Three Fundamental Principles,” a 12th century tract by Imam Abdul Wahhabi, and it was a blessing to get the basics of the faith from one madhab, one source, one solid perspective.

Season 2 started in late July, and we’re working our way through the 6 Pillars of Iman. For those unaware, being a practicing Muslim requires us to strive in three aspects: Islam, Iman, and Ihsan. Islam is the practical, active part, and it’s composed of five different actions of the tongue and limbs. Iman is the set of beliefs we hold, of which there are six. Ihsan is the more metaphysical side of the faith, and achieving Ihsan is a lofty goal to which all Muslims aspire.


‘Islam,’ commonly translated as “peace,” really means something different: means “submission to the will of God” and there surely is a peace that comes from following God’s commands.

God has mandated five things that all believers must do. We must

  1. Testify that there is only One God and that Muhammad is one of His messengers
  2. Perform specific, ritualized prayers five times per day
  3. Give in charity, a minimum of 2.5% on all assets held for longer than one year
  4. Fast, at least during the Holy month of Ramadan, if you’re physically able to do so
  5. Perform the sacred pilgrimage to Mecca (the Hajj), if you’re financially able to do so

Adhering to these 5 (only 2 are strictly mandatory: the others have escape clauses of sorts) is the first level of the religion. They form the base, the active part of the faith. Ideally, they help us to stay focused, but if we’re not careful, if we don’t strive to stay focused and sincere, they can become empty rituals. May God protect us and keep us focused on Him, on seeking His pleasure in our worship and in all our acts, Amen.

Activity alone isn’t enough, though, and so the next level of the faith covers belief.


There are six things all Muslims must believe in:

  1. God
  2. The Prophets
  3. The Angels
  4. The Books
  5. The Day of Judgement
  6. The Divine Decree

I’ll get into these in some detail in coming weeks, but it’s important to note there is no blind belief in Islam, and we’re meant to use logic and reason to arrive at belief. Given my background in Philosophy, I’m sympathetic to this and I’ve yet to read or hear anything that didn’t make sense with some reflection.

Still, on some of the minutiae, I’m maybe a bit shaky: I believe because Allah and His messenger tell me to believe, but as far as believing based on witnessing or understanding or reasoning, I’m not quite there yet. Astaghfirullah, and may God help me to recognize (in the sense of ‘seeing’ and in the sense of ‘accepting’) the things that I’m missing and guide me to full understanding and sincere belief, amen.


Ihsan is to worship as if you can see God, and if you can’t see Him, know that He sees you.

It’s harder than it sounds, really. If I can master that, InshaAllah I’ll feel some more comfort and peace in my worship.

InshaAllah, over the coming weeks, I’ll go through the six pillars of Iman in a reasoned and articulate manner. May Allah guide my fingers as I type.

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