(1) Profession of Faith, or shahada in Arabic, requires the believer to profess the unity ofGodand the mission of Muhammad, this involves the repetition of the formula: "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." This assertion forms part of every prayer and in a critical situation, one may repeat the first part in order to establish one's identity as a Muslim.
(2) Prayer, sala, is required five times a day: at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset and dusk. It must be performed in a state of ritual purity and every word must be in Arabic. The worshipper has the choice of pray: ng privately, in the open air or in a house; or with a group, outdoors, or in a mosque. Islam opposes the practice of withdrawing into ascetic life. For this reason, there is no priesthood, as is known in the West, only 'ulema, learned men, who are well-versed in Islamic law and tradition. Throughout the Muslim world, services are held at noon on Fridays in mosques. Muhammad did not explicitly designate Friday as a day of rest, only a part of which is devoted to a special religious service. Merchants are free to open their shops before and after the service.
(3) The third Pillar of Islam, Almsgiving, zaka or zakat, embodies the principle of social responsibility. This precept teaches that what belongs to the believer also belongs to the community in the ultimate sense, and that only by donating a pro-portion of his wealth for public use does a person legitimize what he or she retains. The zaka, in addition to the other tenets of islam, is a religious obligation and believers are expected to treat it seriously.
(4) The ancient Semitic institution of Fasting is the fourth Pillar of Islam, known as saum. To a Muslim, it means observing Ramadan, the month during which, it is written, God sent the Qur'cin to the lowest heaven where Gabriel received it and revealed it in time to Muhammad. Fasting demands complete abstinence from food and drink from dawn to sunset every day during Ramadan.
 
   
 
     
  (5) The last cherished Pillar of Islam is the Pilgrimage to Mecca, al-hajj, where God's revelation was first disclosed to Muhammad. Believers worship publicly at the Holy Mosque, expressing the full equality among Muslims with a common objective-all performing the same actions, all seeking to gain the favor of God. All pilgrims, from various cultures and classes, wear identical white robes as they assemble around a single center, the Ka ~ba, which inspires them with a strong sense of unity. Every Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once during his or her lifetime. Attached to the experience of the pilgrimage is added status: after the individual returns home, he or she is addressed as ~al- Hail" or '~l-Hajjah"(the pilgrim), a title which carries great prestige.

While the Islamic community throughout the world is united by the two essential beliefs in(l)the Oneness of God and (2) the divine mission of His Prophet, there developed shortly after Muhammad's death a debate within the Islamic community over who should succeed the Prophet as leader of the faithful. This debate split the community into Sunni and Shi'ize Muslims. It is important to remember, however, that on fundamental issues, Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims are in basic agreement since they both draw on the Qur'an and the Shari'ah, body of Islamic Law.

 
   
 
     
       
     
  Home Page == > Click on Arab Civilization :)