Certain Muslim groups in present times have publicly monopolized and “normalized” an image of Islam where Islam equals the so-called “Five Pillars”: the Shahadah, ritual prayer (salah, namaz), pilgrimage (hajj) to Makkah, alms-giving (zakah), and fasting (sawm) from dawn to dusk in Ramadan. However, the idea of Islam = Five Pillars is a historical construct. The Qur’an never defines Islam as “five pillars” and hadiths where the Prophet Muhammad defines Islam as “Five Pillars” only start circulating at 200 years after the Prophet Muhammad’s death. When one sees how Islam has been practiced through 1,400 years of history and continues to be practiced today, the equation of Islam with “five pillars” simply does not hold up to reality.
Say: He is God, the Unique (al-ahad). God is Absolute (al-samad).
He does not beget nor is He begotten and there is none like unto Him.
– Holy Qur’an Surat al-Ikhlas
The Imam Ma‘add [al-Mu‘izz] summons
to the absolute oneness of God (tawhid), the Absolute (al-samad).
– Fatimid Coin Inscription
In honour of the Aga Khan’s upcoming Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University, Ismaili Gnosis presents the following primer on the Aga Khan and the Shia Ismaili Muslims. We encourage our readers to share this article widely.