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Basic Tenets of the Islamic Faith

There are five fundamental practices that are generally common to Muslims worldwide. These are commonly known as the Five Pillars of Islam. They include:

Declaration of Faith - This is what people say to become Muslim, and it is repeated during prayer, in the call to prayer, and at other times during the day. This declaration of faith, called the shahada, states, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger."

Prayer - Muslims are supposed to make five daily ritual prayers -- one at dawn, one at noon, another in the afternoon, at sunset, and before bed. These prayers may be performed alone or in a group. Friday is the Muslim Sabbath, so people may gather in a mosque for the noon prayer. This is called juma'a.

Giving charity - Muslims are required to give of their bounty to those who have less. This is called zakat, which literally mean "purification." It is a tax of 2.5% of one's annual savings.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan- Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. They abstain from food, water, sex, cigarettes, gossip, anger, backbiting, and other negative behaviors. The fast is designed to encourage self-discipline and sympathy. Ramadan is the month when the first revelation was given to the prophet.

Pilgrimage, or hajj - If they are financially and physically able, Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca once during their lives. Mecca is in Saudi Arabia, and is the site of the Kaaba, the building Muslims believe was the first house of worship dedicated to the one God. Several rituals are performed during hajj: circling the Kaaba; running between the hills of Safa and Marwa (echoing Hagar's search for water for her son, Ishmael); traveling to the plain of Arafat, outside of Mecca; and throwing stones at pillars that symbolize the devil.

Basic Beliefs of the Islamic Faith

Muslims share certain beliefs, including:

The oneness of God (Allah) - For Muslims, there is no entity worthy of worship but Allah. Allah has no partners, no progeny and no gender.

Belief in God's prophets - Muslims believe that Allah's message was given to numerous prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, and other prophets common to Christianity and Judaism, as well as Muhammad. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last prophet, in part because he had the most success instituting God's word in his lifetime.

Belief in angels - Muslims believe in spiritual beings who do the will of God.

Belief in sacred books - These include the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the Quran.

The day of judgment and resurrection - Muslims believe that human beings are accountable for their behavior during their lifetimes. At death, that behavior is part of what determines how the person will be judged.

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