1. Faith (iman) in the oneness of Allah and the finality of theprophethood of Muhammad (indicated by the declaration [theShahadah] that, "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is themessenger of Allah").2. Keeping of the five scheduled daily prayers (salah).3. Almsgiving (zakat).4. Fasting (sawm).5. Pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca for those who are able.
The five pillars in and of themselves do not tell us a lot about the faith or what a Muslim issupposed to believe or how he should act. The second through fifth pillars -- prayer, almsgiving,fasting, pilgrimage -- are aspects shared by many religions. The finality of the prophethood of Muhammad, however, is unique to Islam. To understand Islam and what it means to be a Muslim, we must come to understand Muhammad as well as the revelations given through him by Allah, which make up the Quran.
b. The Quran -- the Book of Allah
According to Islamic teaching, the Quran came down as a series of revelations from Allah throughthe Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad, who then dictated it to his followers.Muhammad's companions memorized fragments of the Quran and wrote them down on whatever was at hand, which were later compiled into book form under the rule of the third Caliph,Uthman, some years after Muhammad's death.The Quran is about as long as the Christian New Testament. It comprises 114 suras (not to beconfused with the Sira, which refers to the life of the Prophet) of varying lengths, which may beconsidered chapters. According to Islamic doctrine, it was around 610 AD in a cave near the city of Mecca (now in southwest Saudi Arabia) that Muhammad received the first revelation from Allah by way of the Archangel Gabriel. The revelation merely commanded Muhammad to "recite"or "read" (Sura 96); the words he was instructed to utter were not his own but Allah's. Over thenext twelve or so years in Mecca, other revelations came to Muhammad that constituted amessage to the inhabitants of the city to forsake their pagan ways and turn in worship to the one Allah.