Since coming to believe in Islam, I must have performed a certain ritual over eleven thousand times and may have prostrated before my Lord around eighty thousand times. These irrelevant numbers only indicate that there are duties which Muslims are obliged to perform as part of their day to day lives.
Once I believed that no one has the right to be worshipped except God and that Muhammad is his Messenger, it was necessary to establish the routine of formal prayer in my daily life. This prayer is performed five times each day at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and night. Its purpose is to remind us of the reality of our life in this world, to give us more opportunities to please our Lord and to wash away the sins which we accumulate during the day. It is our means of maintaining a continuous link with God.
Other duties follow in due course, such as Zakat, Fasting and Pilgrimage (Hajj). Zakat, which means purification, is the process of giving a proportion of one’s wealth to the poor and needy each year. Fasting is a voluntary act throughout the rest of the year, but it is obligatory during the month of Ramadan for all Muslims who are able. Those who are sick, on a journey, pregnant or nursing are permitted to break the fast, although they are required to make up an equal number of days later in the year.
A person who is physically unable to fast is required to feed a needy person for each day he or she missed instead. Fasting is regarded principally as a means of purification. By abstaining from normal pleasures and comforts, the fasting person achieves growth in their spiritual life, learning discipline, self-restraint, patience and flexibility. The pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a Muslim’s life is also obligatory for all who are able. Each year nearly two million Muslims from all over the world come together in Mecca and stand toe to toe in prayer.