Prayer is the backbone of Muslim worship.

Muslims worship God by submitting to "Allah" in all facets of life. This includes the traditional five pillars of Islam -- saying the shahada, praying five times a day, paying the zakat, going on pilgrimage if one is able and fasting during Ramadan -- but also making every effort to follow God's words in the Quran and the example of Muhammad and the other prophets.

Witness and Prayer

The shahada is the Muslim profession of faith and the bedrock of Islamic theology. The words are: "La ilaha ihl Allah; Muhammad rasul Allah." In English, this means "there is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God." Saying the shahada among witnesses is what makes a person a Muslim. Once one is a Muslim, the five daily prayers become obligatory. These ritual prayers, called "salat," are highly regimented and offered directly to God. Salat are offered at specific times throughout the day, require ritual purity and vary in length depending on which daily prayer is being said. Muslims also pray through "dua," which is a non-obligatory prayer of petition or praise.


Fasting -- refraining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset -- is obligatory during the month of Ramadan for those healthy enough to do it. Among the purposes of the Ramadan fast are to increase spirituality and promote sympathy with the poor and hungry.


A major part of Muslim charity is the zakat -- an obligatory charity on accumulated goods. The funds collected for the zakat go directly to the poor, and it is a means of discouraging hoarded wealth. Worshipping God through charity also includes non-zakat almsgiving and acting with concern toward others.


Imam Muslim, one of the most famous early hadith collectors, recorded this saying from Muhammad: "O people, Allah has made Hajj obligatory for you; so perform Hajj." The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is obligatory on every Muslim who can afford it. The Hajj pilgrimage features circling the sacred Kaba, a trip to Mount Arafat, throwing stones at the devil, an animal sacrifice and, for some, a trip to Medina -- the city where Muhammad was buried.

Shia Rituals

The Shia sect, which comprises about 10 to 11 percent of Muslims, has several worship variations from the Sunni. The Shia, for example, are allowed to combine the five daily prayers into three daily prayers. Another worship activity exclusive to the Shia is the Day of Ashura, which commemorates the martyrdom of Husayn -- the grandson of Muhammad and the third infallible imam of the Shia sect. There is also a pilgrimage related to the Day of Ashura in which Shia Muslims go to Karbala in Iraq, which is where Husayn was killed.