1. Shahada – The declaration of faith
To be a muslim, one must believe in and pronounce words that mean, ‘There is no deity worthy of being worshipped except Allah and Muhammad is His messenger.’ This declaration testifies that Allah exists, that He is unlike and superior to His creation and that none is worthy of worship but Him. It also testifies that He is the Creator and Proprietor of all that exists and Disposer of all affairs. Allah says in the Quran:
Behold! verily to Allah belong all creatures, in the heavens and on earth. What do they follow who worship as His “partners” other than Allah? They follow nothing but fancy, and they do nothing but lie.
The ‘Shahadah’ testifies that Muhammad is among the prophets who conveyed Allah’s revelation to humankind:
We have not sent thee but as a universal (Messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men understand not.
In fact, it is stated in the Quran that Muhammad is the last of Allah’s messengers. Allah says:
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.
The Quran also confirms that Muhammad’s teachings are infallible and conveyed from Allah:
Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him”
Thus, the Quran, and Sunnah of the final prophet, are the basis of the religion, and they define every aspect of the Islamic way of life.
2. Salah – The obligatory prayers
Prayer was practiced in some form throughout history by all prophets and their followers as an indispensable part of Allah’s religion. Islam, the final message to humanity, considers prayer essential. A muslim is required to pray five times daily within specified intervals, as taught by the Prophet. These prayers are obligatory, and form a direct bond between the worshipper and his Creator. Islam does not call upon muslims to merely perform this act of worship; rather; it wants of them to purify their souls. Allah says, regarding Prayer:
and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do.
3. Zakah – obligatory annual charity
The word “Zakah” means purification and growth. An important principle of Islam is that all things belong to Allah. muslims are enjoined to earn and spend their wealth in ways that are acceptable to Allah. The divinely ordained system of Zakah is the right of Allah within His dominion. It is neither a charity nor a tax, but an obligation due from muslims who possess wealth in excess of their basic needs. Thus, the difference between Zakah and tax is that a muslim pays Zakah willfully and on their own accord; they are the ones who supervise its payment.
Zakah is only due when a person has the minimum required amount, which varies with the type of wealth.
Zakah cleanses a muslim of greed, selfishness, base covetousness, and the love of this temporal world:
And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls,- they are the ones that achieve prosperity. (Quran 59:9)
It is the ideal way to meet the needs of the poorer sections of society without causing hardship to the wealthy.
4. Fasting the month of Ramadan
Allah has enjoined fasting upon the muslims as He enjoined it upon previous nations. He, the Exalted, says:
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.
Islamic fasting, which involves abstinence from eating, drinking, sexual intercourse and all prohibited habits such as smoking, is observed throughout the daylight hours of the lunar month of Ramadan. When done in obedience to God’s command, fasting teaches believers patience and self-control, as well as reminding them of their responsibility toward the millions of human beings who lack provisions or are victims of their unjust distribution. The month of fasting is accompanied by increased efforts toward good manners and righteous deeds, along with additional worship at night. Fasting is not a retreat from life; rather, it is a supplement to the muslim’s ordinary activities.
5. Hujj – pilgrimage to Mecca
Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia), is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who are physically and financially able to perform it:
In it are Signs Manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah,- those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures.
Nevertheless, millions of muslims journey to Mecca each year from every corner of the globe, providing a unique opportunity for people of various nations to meet one another as guests of Allah. Hajj is an expression of pure faith and total submission to His command, and the pilgrim performs rites of unqualified obedience, seeking nothing but the acceptance of their efforts and forgiveness of their past sins. A person who has completed the Hajj returns with a fresh outlook on life, a purified soul and blessings from Allah.