There are five obligatory acts of worship that every Muslim must dutifully carry out. Failure to do so is a grave sin. The edifice of Islam rests upon these five pillars. One cannot be considered a Muslim if he or she denies that any one of these acts is obligatory.
The five obligations of Muslims are as follows:
- The declaration of faith, to Testify that there is no true deity except God, and that Muhammad is His Messenger’ (Shahadah)
- To pray five times a day (Salah)
- To pay the yearly alms (Zaleah)
- To fast during the month of Ramadan (Sawm)
- To make the pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj)
The Declaration of Faith (Shahadah)
It is obligatory for every person intending to enter Islam to believe and to say, ‘I testify that there is no true deity except God, and that Muhammad is His Messenger.’ With this simple, important, and powerful declaration, a person is considered a Muslim. There is no initiation into the fold of Islam.
The concepts within the testimony of faith can be explained by analyzing each of three parts within the testimony. The first part ‘No true deity… ‘ is a negation of polytheism. It is a negation of the existence of any true deity other than God, or any entity that shares in any of the divine attributes of God. The second part “… except God” is an affirmation of monotheism. God is the only one worthy of worship.
“Muhammad is God’s Messenger*’ is the third part of the declaration of faith. It is an affirmation of the Prophethood of Muhammad as the final Prophet and Messenger of God. This requires the unconditional acceptance of the Qur’an and the authentic sayings and traditions of Muhammad.
By believing and saying the testimony of faith, a person rejects all false objects of worship and asserts that God is the only one to be worshipped. God is without equal or partner. God promises that once a person affirms and sincerely says, “I testify that there is no true deity except God, and that Muhammad is His Messenger,” all of his or her previous sins are forgiven. One’s previous good deeds may also be rewarded by God, The Most Forgiving.
Praying Five Times a Day (Salah)
It is required for every Muslim to perform five obligatory prayers a day. A Muslim turns toward Makkah (Mecca) when performing these prayers, facing the first house built for the worship of The One God. This house is called the Ka’bah, an empty cube-like structure which is located in what is now Saudi Arabia. It was erected by Abraham and his son Ishmael for the worship of The One and Only True God.
One must remember that Islam does not have any sacred relics or symbols. We are not worshipping the Ka ‘bah; we simply worship God while facing the Ka’bah. Facing the Ka’bah to pray unifies the worshippers In their prayer to The One God. Anyone who worships the Ka’bah or any other created thing would be considered an idol worshipper. To put it plainly, the building materials that make up this house are no more sacred than any other building materials.
These prayers take place throughout the day and night, and are a constant reminder of a person’s duty and surrender to God. The prayers are a direct link between the worshipper and God. It is a chance to turn to God in worship, to give thanks, to ask for forgiveness, and to ask for His guidance and mercy.
A Muslim may voluntarily perform prayers more often. Prayers, in the general sense of supplication, can be offered practically at any time or place.
Paying the Yearly Alms (Zakah)
Fasting During Ramadan (Sawm)
Making the pilgrimage to Makkah (Hajj)
Every Muslim is to make the pilgrimage to the Ka’bah, in Makkah, once in a lifetime if he or she has the ability and means to do so. Muslims from all over the world gather together for the purpose of worshipping and pleasing God alone. Millions of pilgrims visit the Ka’bah and perform hajj annually.
The rite of hajj originated from the Prophet Abraham and was restored by Muhammad. The pilgrimage to Makkah compels the pilgrims to break down the racial, economic, and social barriers that may still plague their societies. It also invites each pilgrim to practice patience, self-restraint, and piety. The pilgrims wear simple garments that strip away the distinctions of class and culture. Each of these obligatory acts of worship keeps the remembrance of God alive and reminds all Muslims that from God we come and to God we will all return.