Islam is one of the world's great monotheistic religions. The followers of Islam, called Muslims, believe in one God (Allah in Arabic) and that Muhammad is His Prophet. Today, the worldwide community of Muslims, which embraces the people of many races and cultures, numbers nearly one billion. There are approximately two million Muslims in the United States.
Historically, Saudi Arabia has occupied a special place in the Islamic world as the very heartland of Islam. Indeed, it is toward the sacred Ka'abah in Makkah that Muslims turn devoutly in prayer five times a day. The Qur'an, the sacred scripture of Islam, was revealed and is universally recited in Arabic.
A Muslim has five obligations, called the Five Pillars of Islam. First is the profession of faith: "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God." Second is praying five times a day, facing the holy city of Makkah. Third is zakat (alms giving), which prescribes payment of fixed proportions of a Muslim's possessions for the welfare of the entire community and, in particular, for its neediest members. Fourth is fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, at which time Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset. The fifth pillar is performing the hajj, or pilgrimage, to Makkah at least once in a lifetime. The hajj is a gathering of millions of Muslims from around the world.
The Kingdom continues to dedicate considerable financial and human resources to enable even more pilgrims to perform the hajj in comfort and safety. To Saudi Arabia, the holy cities of Makkah, the birthplace of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, and Madinah, the Prophet's burial place, are a sacred trust exercised on behalf of all Muslims. Recognizing the unique and historic tradition these holy sites represent, King Fahd adopted the official title of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques as an expression of his deep sense of responsibility toward Islam.