There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger. This declaration of faith is called the Shahada, a simple formula which all the faithful pronounce. In Arabic, the first part is la ilaha illa Llah - 'there is no god except God'; ilaha (god) can refer to anything which we may be tempted to put in place of God - wealth, power, and the like. Then comes illa Llah: 'except God', the source of all Creation. The second part of the Shahada is Muhammadun rasulu'Llah: 'Muhammad is the messenger of God.' A message of guidance has come through a man like ourselves.
Muslims perform five obligatory prayers each day. The prayers are direct link between the worshipper and God. Prayers are said at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall, and thus determine the rhythm of the entire day. These five prayers contain verses from the Quran and are said in Arabic, the language of the Revelation, but personal supplication can be offered in one's own language. There is no hierarchical authority in Islam, and no priests, so the prayers are led by a learned person who knows the Quran, chosen by the congregation. Although it is preferable to worship together in a mosque, a Muslim may pray almost anywhere, such as in fields, offices, factories and universities. Visitors to the Muslim world are struck by the centrality of prayers in daily life. By reciting "The Opening", the first chapter of the Quran, as required in all prayers, the worshipper stands before God, thanks and praises Him, and asks Him for guidance along the Straight Path. In addition, the daily prayers remind Muslims to give thanks for Allah's blessings and that Islam takes precedence over all other concerns, thereby revolving their life around Allah (God) and submitting to His will. Prayer also serves as a formal method of remembering Allah, or dhikr in Arabic. From the Quran: "The true believers are those who feel fear in their hearts (of the consequences of violating the commands of God) when God is mentioned. And when His Revelations are recited to them, they find their faith strengthened. They do their best and then put their trust in their Lord." [The Quran, 8:2]
One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held in trust by human beings. The word zakat means both 'purification' and 'growth'. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a proportion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth. The obligation of giving zakat is mentioned several times in the Quran: And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: And whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah. For Allah sees Well all that ye do. [Qur’an 2:110] “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise.” [The Quran, 9:60] Zakat is given mostly to the poor. Each Muslim calculates his or her own zakat individually. For most purposes, this usually is a yearly payment of 2.5% of one's capital. A person must also have reached a certain threshold of wealth in order to become obliged to pay zakat.
Every year during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining during this time from food, drink, and sexual relations with one’s spouse. It is mentioned in the Quran: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious). [The Quran, 2:183] The ultimate goal of fasting is greater God-consciousness. The Qur’anic word is taqwa, signifying a state of constant awareness of God. From this awareness a person should gain discipline, self-restraint and a greater incentive to do good and avoid wrong. Muslims welcome Ramadan as an opportunity for self-evaluation, spiritual improvement and growth. Those who are sick, elderly, or on a journey, and women who are pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast and make up an equal number of days later in the year. If they are physically unable to do this, they must feed a needy person for every day missed. Children begin to fast (and to observe the prayer) from puberty, although many start earlier.
The annual pilgrimage to Makkah – called the Hajj - is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it. In the Quran, Allah (God) states: The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakkah (Makkah); full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings: 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 creatures. [Qur’an 3:96-7] The annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). About two million people go to Makkah each year for the Hajj from every corner of the globe. Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments which strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God. The rites of the Hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include circling the Ka'ba seven times, and going seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa as did Hagar during her search for water. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafat and join in prayers for God's forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment. In previous centuries the Hajj was an arduous undertaking. Today, however, Saudi Arabia provides millions of people with water, modern transport, and the most up-to-date health facilities. The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere. This, and the Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating the end of Ramadan, are the two main holidays in Islam.