God has laid down for a Muslim four major exercises of faith, some are daily, some weekly, some monthly, some annually and some are required as a minimum of once in a lifetime. These exercises of faith are to serve man's spiritual purposes, satisfy his human needs and to mark his whole life with a Divine touch. These major exercises of faith are:
Praying, to the Creator on a daily basis, is the best way to cultivate in a man a sound personality and to actualize his aspiration. Allah does not need man's prayer because He is free of all needs. Salah is for our benefit which are immeasurable and the blessings are beyond imagination.
In salah, every muscle of the body joins the soul and the mind in the worship and glory of Allah. Salah is an act of worship. It is a matchless and unprecedented formula of intellectual meditation and spiritual devotion, of moral elevation and physical exercise, all combined.
Offering of salah is obligatory upon every Muslim male and female who is sane, mature and in case of women free from menstruation and confinement due to child birth. Requirements of salah: performing of ablution (Wudu), purity of the whole body, clothes and ground used for prayer, dressing properly and having (or declaring) the intention and facing the Qiblah; the direction of the Ka'bah at Mecca.
Obligatory Salah: Five daily salahs, the Friday's noon congregation salah and the funeral salah.
Highly recommended salah: Those accompanying the obligatory salah and the two great festival salahs.
Optional salah: Voluntary salah during the day and night.
Times of Obligatory Salah:
- Early Morning - after dawn and before sunrise.
- Noon - after the sun begins to decline from its zenith until it is about midway on its course to set.
- Mid-afternoon - after the expiration of the noon salah time until sunset.
- Sunset - immediately after sunset until the red glow in the western horizon disappears.
- Evening - after the expiration of the sunset salah until dawn.
Salah should be offered in its due time, unless there is a reasonable excuse. Delayed obligatory salah must be made up. In addition to the prescribed salah, a Muslim expressed gratitude to God and appreciation of His favours and asks for His mercy all the time. Especially at times of, for example: childbirth, marriage, going to or rising from bed, leaving and returning to his home, starting a journey or entering a city, riding or driving, before or after eating or drinking, harvesting, visiting graveyards and at time of distress and sickness.
Fasting is abstaining completely from eating, drinking, intimate sexual contacts and smoking from the break of dawn till sunset. It is a matchless Islamic institution which teaches man the principle of sincere love to God. Fasting teaches man a creative sense of hope, devotion, patience, unselfishness, moderation, willpower, wise saving, sound budgeting, mature adaptability, healthy survival, discipline, spirit of social belonging, unity and brotherhood.
Obligatory fasting is done once a year for the period of the month of Ramadan; the ninth month of the Islamic year. Recommended fasting every Monday and Thursday of every week, three days in the middle of each Islamic month, six days after Ramadan following the Feast Day and a few days of the two months before Ramadan. Fasting of Ramadan is a worship act which is obligatory on every adult Muslim, male or female if he/she mentally and physically fit and not on a journey. Exception: women during their period of menstruation and while nursing their child and also in case of travel and sickness.
Charity giving is an act of worship and spiritual investment. The lateral meaning of Zakah is purity and it refers to the annual amount in kind or coin which a Muslim with means must distribute among the rightful beneficiaries. Zakah does not only purifies the property of the contributor but also purifies his heart from selfishness and greed. It also purifies the heart of the recipient from envy and jealousy, from hatred and uneasiness and it fosters instead good-will and warm wishes for the contributors.
Zakah has a deep humanitarian and social-political value; for example, it frees society from class welfare, from ill feelings and distrust and from corruption. Although Islam does not hinder private enterprise or condemn private possession, it does not tolerate selfish and greedy capitalism. Islam adopts a moderate but positive and effective course between individual and society, between the citizen and the state, between capitalism and socialism, between materialism and spiritualism.
Zakah is paid on the net balance after paying personal expenses, family expenses, due credits, taxes, etc. Every Muslim, male or female who at the end of the year is in possession of the equivalent of 85 g of gold (approx. $1400 in 1990) or more in cash or articles of trade, must give Zakah at minimum rate of 2.5%. Taxes paid to government do not substitute for this religious duty. Contributor should not seek pride or fame but if disclosing his name and his contribution is likely to encourage others, it is acceptable to do so.
The recipient of Zakah are: the poor, the needy, the new Muslim converts, the Muslim prisoners of war (to liberate them), Muslim in debt. Also employees appointed to collect Zakah, Muslim in service of research or study or propagation of Islam, wayfarers who are foreigners in need of help.
It is a pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in a lifetime and it is obligatory upon every Muslim male and female who is mentally, physically and financially fit. It is the largest annual convention of faith on earth (in 1989: 2.5 million). Peace is the dominant theme. Peace with Allah, with one's soul, with one another, with all living creatures. To disturb the peace of anyone or any creature in any shape or form is strictly prohibited.
Muslim from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe assemble in Mecca in response to the call of Allah. There is no royalty but loyalty of all to Allah, the Creator. It is to commemorate the Divine rituals observed by the Prophet Abrahim and his son Ishmael, who are the first pilgrim to the house of Allah on earth; the Ka'bah. It is also to remember the grad assembly of the Day of Judgement when people will stand equal before Allah.
Muslims go to Mecca in glory of Allah, not to worship a man. The visit to the tomb of Prophet Muhammad at Madena is highly recommended but not essential in making the Hajj valid and complete.