abdullah bin umar (may allah be pleased with him) narrates that he heard the prophet (pbuh) saying:
"islam is founded on five pillars: bearing witness that there is no god but allah, and muhammad (pbuh) is his servant and apostle; establishment of salaat; paying of zakaat; performance of hajj; and fasting in ramadhaan."
the prophet (pbuh) has compared islam to a canopy resting on five supports. the kali-mah is the central support and the other four pillars of islam are, so to say, the remaining four supports, one at each corner of the canopy. without the central support, the canopy cannot possibly stand, and if any one of the corner supports is missing a collapse will result in the defective corner. now, let us judge for ourselves how far we have kept up the canopy of islam. is there really any pillar that is being held in its proper place?
the five pillars of islam mentioned in this hadith signify the most essential duties of a muslim. although a muslim cannot do without any one of them, yet salaat in islam occupies a position next only to imaan. abdullah bin mas'ood (may allah be pleased with him) says:
"once, i inquired of the holy prophet (pbuh), which act (of man) was the dearest to allah. the prophet replied, 'salaat'. i then inquired which act came next (in order of merit) and the prophet replied, 'kindness to parents'. i again asked what was next and he answered 'jihaad'."
mulla ali qari has versed this hadith in support of the belief that salaat is the most important religious duty after imaan. this is further corroborated by a hadith, in which the holy prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said:
"salaat is the best of all that has been ordained by allah."