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The Islamic religion encompasses many rituals and practices, designed to assist the worshipper in becoming closer to God, or Allah. There are five basic principles and practices in Islam, however, that all devout Muslims respect and observe. These are called the Five Pillars of Islam.

The first pillar is the profession of faith, or shahada. When a Muslim, in full sincerity, says, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Messenger," he or she is fulfilling the shahada. Muslims make this statement of faith quite often, and sometime believe that the more it is said, the more good it can do.

The second pillar of Islam is prayer. Muslims are expected to pray at least five times a day. Prayers can be done anywhere, and indeed, in countries where Islam is the major religion, one can witness people kneeling and praying in all public places. The Muslim prayer is accompanied by physical movements, usually kneeling or bowing. The Muslim sabbath is observed on Friday, and it is on this day that devout Muslims worship and say at least one prayer in a mosque. A mosque is little more than a place of prayer, as the Islamic religion does not support a priesthood or ceremony above and beyond the praying. Each mosque contains a richly decorated alcove called a mihrab, which indicates the direction of Mecca, and which is the direction toward which all prayers should be offered. Each mosque has at least one minaret, which is a tower for the muezzin. A muezzin is a person who calls Muslims to prayer five times a day. Today, many mosques use recorded calls rather than a live person.

The third pillar of the Islamic faith is the practice of almsgiving, or sakat. Muslims are expected to give at least two and a half percent of their income for the poor and the needy. Today, many Islamic countries merely impose a sakat tax, which is used for the benefit of the needy. Beggars are treated with respect, and often supported by a town.

The fourth pillar is fasting. Muslims observe a month-long fast during Ramadan, which is a holy month for followers of Islam. Ramadan is the month that Muhammed received his initial call from Allah. During Ramadan, no food or drink can be consumed between sunrise and sunset. After the sun goes down, the fasters can replenish themselves with food and drink.

The fifth, and last, pillar of Islam is the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. Every Muslim who has the means and ability must make this pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime. The pilgrimage is a time for rededicating oneself to Allah, and a time to reaffirm the covenants of obedience and repentance that have been made. The pilgrimage is rife with symbolism and ceremony, and is usually the spiritual capstone in a Muslim’s life. It can take several months, and it is said that whoever has made the pilgrimage is changed forever.