The Five Pillars of Islam are important to Muslims because they comprise the mandatory deeds that devote Muslims must practice to manifest their faith. They include a profession of faith, daily prayer, alms-giving, fasting and a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The first pillar, the declaration of faith, is an affirmation that there is no god but God, and Muhammad is God's prophet. Recitation of this statement signifies conversion to Islam. The second pillar requires a Muslim to pray five times a day facing Mecca. Muslims perform the prayers at dawn, noon, afternoon, evening and night. Ritual washing precedes the prayer. The third pillar involves charitable giving to the poor. It reminds Muslims of their obligations to others less fortunate and helps balance inequalities. Traditionally, 2.5 percent of a person's wealth is donated each year. The fourth pillar involves fasting from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan. This includes abstaining from food, drink, sex or any other sensual pleasure. Exceptions to this rule are made for the elderly, the sick, children and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating.
The fifth pillar, hajj, requires that every Muslim who is healthy and has the financial ability make a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in a lifetime. During this journey, a Muslim wears special clothing and follows a ritualistic itinerary that has symbolic meaning to believers.