Salam (Peace) Dear Conner,
Thank you very much for the question and your willingness to know and communicate knowledge to others. I assure you that there is a mighty reward for those who strive in the path of knowledge, whether teaching or learning.
I am more than happy upon hearing about you sincere efforts to present Islam to people. I assure you also that on the path of doing this, you will reap two great things; learning as well as rewards.
Regarding your question about the six pillars of belief, I normally tend to call them ‘six main beliefs’ as the word pillars creates an image in the minds of the audience and may lead them to be distracted from the main message you want them to grasp.
People start thinking of a building and pillars upon which it stands and things like these which you can save yourself from by being simple, direct and concise.
In fact, belief comes first before action and therefore a Muslim is not considered a Muslim until he believes in six main things that are accumulative; which means when he professes the first one it will be so easy for him to go ahead with the rest.
These six main beliefs are simply; to believe in Allah as the One True God, in the angels of God, in the books revealed by God, in the messengers sent by God, in the Day of Judgment, and in Divine Destiny. Here, I think a quick demonstration is very effective and much needed.
Belief in God
Muslims believe that this universe has come into existence by the creation of God and we, part of that creation, are required to show our gratefulness to Him by submitting ourselves to Him.
The first form of this submission is to believe in Him. Allah is the Arabic name for the One True God and it is very similar to the Hebrew Elohim and the Aramaic Ella.
The word “God” cannot be acceptable as an accurate translation or representation of the One True God, simply as it has derivatives and can be descriptive of other things like true gods, false gods, gods, and goddess, and so on.
Muslims believe that Allah is unique. He does not look like His creation or otherwise He would have been part of His creation. He does not have a wife, nor a son, nor parents, because He needs none and He is the One who has created the universe and takes care of everything in it.
This belief is very focal in the life of a Muslim as it governs all his conduct, feeling connected to Allah all the time, dedicating all his actions to Him and seeing in Him the protection and the authority to which He can return.
Allah tells us that by looking into His creation, we can realize the fact that He is there all the time.
Belief in Angels
The angels are creatures created from light. They have no free will or choice and therefore will not be held accountable for anything. So, what are they there for then?
They are there to do specific tasks and jobs; some to record the deeds of human beings, some to carry the Divine message to the messengers of Allah and some to protect human beings as well as part of their fulfillment to the commands of Allah.
Belief in the Divine Books
As Muslims, we are always required to believe that Almighty Allah has sent down books containing His guidance to people. These books were revealed to the messengers of Allah to deliver to their people, who subsequently are supposed to refer to them in every word and deed and use them for a better life and connection with Allah.
Muslims believe that Allah has revealed many books the knowledge of which is known only to Him and namely, He has mentioned five of these books which are the Quran, the Gospel, the Torah, the Psalms and the Scriptures of Abraham.
Belief in the Messengers of Allah
A Muslim is required to believe that for the communication of the Divine message to happen, chosen individuals amongst mankind were chosen to receive Divine revelation and deliver the message of the Creator to people.
Such are the messengers of Allah who came with one exact message in its essence; that is to worship Allah alone and associate no partners with Him.
Obviously, these messengers are the best of creation simply because they are the choice of Allah and when Allah chooses He chooses very well. Therefore, Muslims believe that all messengers do not commit sins. Yes, they are all humans and none of them is Divine; yet, they are the best of humans.
In addition, Muslims believe that being sent by Allah, they were supported by Him and they are like graduates of the same school; the school of God.
Belief in the Day of Judgment
Every Muslim believes from the heart of his heart that this life is not the end. It is just a temporary and transient one and definitely there is another life.
In the next life, people will be brought to justice in front of Allah and will answer for every deed and word and the wronged will be given the rights.
Muslims believe that the other life is eternal and it is one of two destinies that people will end up at; either Paradise or Hellfire but it is definitely Allah who decides who ends up where.
Belief in Divine Destiny
Belief in Divine Destiny means to believe that whatever happens in this universe is already known to Allah. Yet, this does not affect our choices of things basically because we have no clue to know it.
The benefit of belief in Divine Destiny is that it saves us from being over upset and being over-joyful and just makes you feel you are in safe hands as you do your part and work hard and then leave it to Almighty Allah.
Finally, I would like to highlight an important point which is that although these are the six main beliefs a Muslim is required to fulfill, Islam is not confined to these six things; rather, it is wider than this.
It is the behavior and the character that reflect people’s faith rather than anything else. Actions speak louder than words, let alone beliefs that are hidden in the heart and cannot be shown to people.
In fact, Islam places a big importance that faith is a composition of many things.
It is just like a tree with so many branches; the basic one of which is to believe in Allah and then from this branch, many other branches emanate.
These include good conduct, modesty, respect, and even removing harm from the way of people.
Faith is not a lip service; it is a practice, and it is this practice that is the core of the message of Islam
I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archive)