The five fundamental duties of Muslims are outlined in the Arkan al-Islam (Pillars of Islam). Faithful Muslims are expected to follow each of these duties as a show of faith. Ranging from daily and annual rites to once-in-a-lifetime feats of faith, the fulfillment of these duties is believed to bolster and spiritual purify both individuals and the Muslim community as a whole.
Shahadah: The Declaration of Faith
The first pillar of Islam is Shahadah, entailing a simple statement that affirms faith in the oneness of God (tawheed) and the prophetic mantle of His Messenger: "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God". Faithful utterance of the Shahadah is all that is required for new converts to Islam to become a part of the Muslim community.
One of the foremost duties in Islam is prayer. A public demonstration of faith, Muslim prayers are performed five times daily: before dawn (Fajr), at noon (Zuhr), in the afternoon (Asr), following sunset (Maghrib) and in the evening (Isha). Prayers are directed towards Islam's holiest site in Mecca, and a ritual sequence of reverent motions is followed, including bowing, prostration and kneeling in show of devotion to God. Prayers repeat lines from the opening surah (chapter) of the Qur'an, known as al-Fatihah, following which worshippers repeat the Shahadah.
It is every Muslim's duty to pay a tax of 2.5% of their wealth to further charitable causes. Such include feeding the poor, aiding in Muslim missionary work, paying ransoms for captives and supporting anyone at all in need. Specific thresholds have been designated regarding different types of wealth, and anyone who does not meet such is exempted from paying this religious tax.
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims have a duty to fast from sunrise until sunset. This fast entails a complete abstention from food, drink, smoking and sexual activity, representing each Muslim's willingness to put God before all bodily desires while drawing attention to the plight of poor. Muslim women who are pregnant, nursing or recovering from childbirth, and any Muslims who are traveling, sick or undertaking Jihad, are not obligated to fast during Ramadan, although they are expected to make up for missed fasts as soon as they are able.
The last of the Five Pillars of Islam is the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, a trip which all Muslims hope to complete at least once during their lifetimes. There are numerous rites and rituals involved in the hajj, including circumambulation of the Kaaba (a structure holy to Muslims and believed to represent the throne of God on earth), standing vigil on the plains by Mount Arafat and casting stones at representations of Satan. This pilgrimage is undertaken by all Muslims who are capable of the journey both physically and financially.
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