Do you agree with the "Five Pillars of Islam"
- Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
- Establishment of the daily prayers;
- Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;
- Self-purification through fasting; and
- The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able
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I'm an atheist, so I can't really say I agree with the first one, but the rest all have their merits. I don't necessarily agree with them, but I see their practical benefits to Muhammad and the early Muslims.
Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
I'm an atheist, so I can't claim any belief in the oneness of God, or any other somethingness of God. I also definitely don't believe in the finality of Muhammad. I think he was a prophet, like many before him and many after. I think Gandhi was also a prophet of about the same caliber, and his message was equally important to us.
Establishment of the daily prayers;
I can see some benefit in this. I certainly don't believe in prayers per se, but I do believe in spending some time contemplating the path that your life is taking, what's right and what's wrong, etc. Some people might call this meditation.
I also believe that in Muhammad's time, this was very important because it reminded Muslims who they were and helped them identify themselves as a community. Without this, it's doubtful whether that would have banded together as they did, and they would probably not have survived the attempts of other groups to wipe them out.
Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;
I'm not an expert on this subject, but I do remember reading that Muhammad saw several things about his society that he thought were wrong, and he tried to correct them, so it seems to me that this is a pretty good candidate for being one of those things.
I think that there are a lot of problems that giving to the needy creates, but I also do believe that people in power have a natural tendency to try to horde all of the wealth, and that it isn't good for a society to concentrate too much wealth with just a few people. I think it's important to try to spread the wealth and reduce the divide between the various classes. However, I think a better way to do that is through the minimum wage and having Unions to band workers together so that they can negotiate for higher pay.
Giving some money to beggars is okay, but it shouldn't be so much that it becomes a viable profession.
Self-purification through fasting;
Clearly Muhammad saw some benefit to this, and other cultures have as well, so there very well could be some merit to this. However, for me, I would have to say that this is still an open question. I neither believe nor disbelieve this one.
The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able
Just like the English used to make their sailors swab the decks even when they didn't need it, I think it's important to keep people busy, and tasks that remind them that they're Muslims will help them keep their community together. Just doing prayers every day would probably just become automatic after a while if you didn't have some larger task to focus on as well.
In summary, I would say that Muhammad's genius lie, not just in seeing what changes needed to be made in the world, but in understanding what motivates people, and how to get them to work as a group to achieve their goals.
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