Journey Along the Silk Road: Writing Your Own Rihla, or Travel Journal

(Middle/Upper School Social Studies Project)

Karima Diane Alavi, New Mexico


This lesson plan ties together the subjects of history, geography, religion, art and economics while taking into account the fact there are many ways in which children learn.

All students make up a 13th – 15th century character and write a Rihla, or Travel Journal describing their journey from their home to one of the great Islamic cities known for its grand markets and universities. Since people traveled primarily along the great trade routes, students will learn about the Silk Road as well as the Islamic world as they work on this project. The students can write their travel journal as if they’re traveling for the sake of trade, education, or religious pilgrimage, or even a combination within those options, since people often combined things like trade and intellectual pursuits on one trip. The focus of this lesson will be on the city of Cairo, with its Khan al Khalili Market which was built in 1382, and can still be visited today. The city also boasts Al Azhar University that was established in 972 and is the oldest continuously functioning university in the world. Students still travel to Al Azhar today to study Islamic science, law and theology. Of course teachers and students can select other cities as their interests direct them.

Students also select two additional activities from a list of options. Because of the broad scope of this subject, I've provided a list of activities students can select from that takes into account Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. This list suggests activities that accommodate various learning styles. Students must select activities from two different modes of learning: for instance, one from the Linguistics list and one from the Natural Science list. They can work in a group or alone. Teachers may want to add options to the list below, taking into account the specific interests of their students.

At the end of this program, students will share their projects with the class during a Celebration of Learning. This could be simple, or it could develop into a costumed banquet with food, music, and students playing the role of the character they made up for their Rihla, such as a Malaysian indigo merchant or a Syrian calligrapher.



National Curriculum Standards Met by this Lesson


Social Studies Thematic Strands

  1. Culture
  2. People, Places and Environment
  3. Individual Development and Identity
  4. Production, Distribution and Consumption
  5. Science, Technology and Society
  6. Global Connections


History Standards

  1. Historical Comprehension
  2. Historical Analysis and Interpretation
  3. Historical Research Capabilities


Geography Standards

  1. The World in Spatial Terms
  • How to use maps and other geographic representations
  1. Places and Regions
  • The physical and human characteristics of places
  1. Human Systems
  • The characteristics, distributions and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics
  1. The Uses of Geography
  • How to apply geography to interpret the past


Lesson objectives

  1. To develop basic research and writing skills.
  2. To understand how to read, interpret and make maps.
  3. To develop a global perspective.
  4. To understand the various components that make up a "society" and a "culture."
  5. To explore the relationship between geography, climate and the nature of various societies.
  6. To understand the difficulties that people encountered when traveling in the 13th to 15th centuries.
  7. To comprehend the changes that technology has made in our lives and travels.
  8. To gain awareness of the various religions that one found along the Silk Road and how the exchange of ideas effected world history.
  9. To appreciate the variety of peoples and cultures who shared the ancient trade and pilgrimage roads.
  10. To understand the links between Islamic religious duties and the high level of geographic knowledge amongst Muslims.
  11. To expand vocabulary and learn the meaning of such words as Rihla, Hajj, Hadith.
  12. To discover more about their own learning styles and preferred modes of study.


Time required for this project

This depends upon how much of the project the teacher elects to do. The range can be from 2 hours to one week, with a culminating Celebration of Learning at the end.




Ideas for Classroom set-up

  • Decorate the room with "stations" along the Silk Road or one of its many branches into places such as Europe or India. Each station will have artifacts and other manipulatives from a different part of the Old World trade routes. Let students spend time at the different stations and explore the items that represent that part of the world. Try to have a few pieces of clothing in the room as well, so they can try the clothes on. Set up stations as follows:
    1. Fez, Morocco 6. Isfahan, Iran
    2. Timbuktu, Mali 7. Bukhara, Central Asia
    3. Cairo, Egypt 8. Delhi, India
    4. Sana’a, Yemen 9. Guangzhow, China
    5. Jerusalem 10. Bruges, Flanders
  • Put a map on the classroom wall and have students circle cities that they've studied.
  • Have students fill in countries on a map in their notebooks, but don't allow them to write in the name until they've learned something about that country and written it on a list.
  • On another map, have students mark the journey taken by Marco Polo. On the same map, but in another color, have them mark the journey of Ibn Battuta. What places did they both visit? How did their journeys differ?
  • Let students decorate the bulletin board with visuals cut from magazines. They can find things such as pictures of people from across the Silk Road, or religions along the Silk Road, or animals along the Silk Road. (Aramco Magazine, which is free to educators, is a good source for this project.)
  • Write the word "welcome" in several languages on the door to the classroom.
  • Have CDs available with music from various parts of the Silk Road. Make sure there's a good combination of quiet music and active music.
  • When students are writing in their Rihla (imaginary Travel Journals) in the classroom, turn the lights off, draw the curtains and have them write by candle light.
  • Have scented candles in the room. Use them to tie in the subject they're studying. For instance:
    • Burn a coffee scented candle while students learn about the transfer of this popular beverage from Yemen to the cities of Europe.
    • Burn a floral scented candle when students learn about the path of tulips from the Middle East to Holland.
    • Burn a rose scented candle when studying the development of perfumes.
    • Burn a sandalwood candle when studying India, China or Buddhism
  • Have some basic percussion instruments available, even if it's wooden blocks for keeping the beat, and allow students to use them while listening to music.
  • Turn the classroom Quiet Space into a "Mongolian Yurt" with a tent over the top of the bookshelves.



Background information: For those who travel for the Sake of Knowledge

The Rihla and the Islamic concept of scholarship as a religious obligation.

Muslims are encouraged to study and if possible, to travel in search of knowledge. There are two primary sources of encouragement for scholarship amongst Muslims: the Qur'an or holy text of Islam and the Hadith or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Qur'an: The very first revelation of the Qur'an, which became verses 1-5 of Chapter 96, discusses reading, writing, reciting (or proclaiming/lecturing) and the pen, indicating the important links between scholarship and religion.

Iqra', Proclaim! (or Read)

In the Name of thy Lord and Cherisher,

Who created –

Created man, out of a mere clot

Of congealed blood

Iqra' Proclaim! And thy Lord

Is most bountiful-

He who taught

The use of the Pen

Taught man that

Which he knew not.

The Hadith:: There are also many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad that encourage people to combine travel and scholarship. Here are a few samples:

    • "Those who leave home in search of knowledge walk the path of God"
    • "Seek ye knowledge, from the cradle to the grave"
    • "Seek ye knowledge, even unto China"


Many people combined the idea of "Rihla fi talab al-ilm" [Travel for the Sake of Knowledge] with the religious obligation to make the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. (See Addendum A: The Five Pillars of Islam) Others traveled simply as merchants so they could participate in the economic activities of the vast markets that arose across the Islamic world. As cities grew into great economic and intellectual centers, they attracted people from as far away as Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, creating a tremendous melting pot of commercial and intellectual exchange. Buddhists, Jews, and Sabaean Star Gazers mingled with Muslims, Hindus and Christians during their travels along the great trade routes of the Old World, exchanging ideas as well as products.


The link between Islamic faith and the knowledge of geography:

Why Muslims?

There are many religious reasons for Muslim expertise in travel and geography. After reading the handout "The Five Pillars of Islam" see if your students can identify links between religious obligations and geography skills.


  • No matter where they are on the globe, Muslims pray five times a day, facing in the direction of Mecca. This certainly helps Muslims to be aware of geography!
  • Muslims from the remotest lands made the journey to Mecca for the Hajj (pilgrimage). Even a 13th century Muslim living in a market town in China was expected to make the journey, and would have linked up with well-trodden trade routes toward Arabia by land or sea.
  • Guidelines for Islamic duties like prayers, fasting and celebrations require accurate time-keeping. Time was calculated by studying the positions of the stars, the sun and the moon. The skies became the calendar and "world map" for Muslim travelers who used these skills to traverse much of the eastern hemisphere. Without the knowledge of stars, desert journeys could become deadly.
  • The Qur’an and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) both encouraged the concept of "Rihla fi talab al-ilm" or Travel for the Sake of Knowledge. Muslims sought opportunities to literally sit at the feet of famous scholars and learn as much as possible before moving on to the next city in search of more lessons. Some traveled from as far as Baghdad to Granada to find teachers whom they admired.


Project for every student: Writing a Rihla

Make up a character who is traveling from a point along the ancient trade routes to a market and university town such as Cairo. Write a Rihla, or Travel Journal describing your travels. Use your imagination and have fun! Here are some character ideas to get you thinking:

  • A Muslim Chinese silk merchant who travels by boat to the Red Sea and then joins a camel caravan to Cairo.
  • A Buddhist scholar from Siam (Thailand) who sees that many Muslim traders are settling in his city of Bangkok. He wants to travel through Cairo and on to Fez so he can learn more about the language, faith and culture of these people who are new to his world.
  • A Christian merchant from Syria who sells fine glassware. She plans to travel to the markets of Cairo to sell her wares to European merchants who are buying at the Khan al Khalili Market. Then she’ll donate much of her profits to a church charity in Damascus.
  • A renowned woman archer from Bukhara who plans to trade some of her famous Ferghana horses for Arabian steeds.
  • An African textile merchant who’s making the Hajj and attending lectures at Cairo’s al-Azhar University along the way.
  • A Turkish book-binder in need of leather for repairing manuscripts in one of Istanbul’s magnificent libraries. He is heading to the leather markets of Samarkand.
  • A Rabbi from Cordoba who meets with his Muslim friends in Timbuktu every year for an exchange of rare scholarly manuscripts that they all copied since their last gathering. After stopping in Timbuktu he plans to study at Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo for a month before returning home.

You must write your Rihla in the first person, as if you are the individual who’s traveling.

  • Include the following information in your Rihla. (Keep in mind that you’re traveling in the 13th to 15th centuries.)
    1. Name of your character
    2. Gender
    3. Date of birth
    4. Place of birth
    5. Information about your hometown. Include:
    1. name of your city
    2. when your city was founded
    3. what makes you the proud of your city
    4. any monuments, churches, cathedrals, etc that your city is famous for
    5. rivers, mountains or deserts that are near your city
    1. The religion you follow
    2. A "brag sheet" (which was quite normal at that time.) Tell us why you’re so wonderful. Are you a beautiful woman, a scholar of mathematics, a Sufi sheik, a princess with a singing voice that’s envied by all who hear you?
    3. Why you plan to travel. (to trade? to study? to make a religious pilgrimage? to find a good wife?)
    4. Physical geography of your journey: identify mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, and deserts that must traverse to get to your destination.
    5. What cities do you pass through on your way to your destination? Tell what you like and dislike about those cities. How do they compare to your hometown?
    6. Technology of your travel: ships, horses, camels, donkeys, etc.
    7. Tell us about the obstacles you faced along the way. Again, use your imagination! For instance:
    • Are you sure you want to be going through Baghdad in the mid-13th century?
    • Does the Bubonic Plague cause you to take a detour? Are any people in your party lost to the plague?
    • What about battles that are raging at the time? What areas do you need to avoid?
    • Are you well protected from bandits?
    • If you’re coming from Spain, what problems might you encounter in Seville or Cordoba in the 13th century? Are you sure you want to take that route?
    • If you’re a European Christian coming to the markets of Cairo and you want to make a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem on your way, how will your travel plans have to change? How much more time will you have to give yourself?

Ibn Battuta's Rihla

It always helps to look at someone else’s Rihla to see what they looked like. Perhaps the most famous Muslim traveler of all times is Ibn Battuta, a 14th century Moroccan who departed for the Hajj at a young age and traversed 75,000 miles before returning home late in his life. His route, as well as quotes from his Rihla can be found on the web. A particularly good site is


List of optional, additional activities. Each student selects two in addition to writing a Rihla.

(Chose from two different learning styles.)

1) Linguistic Learners

  • Read poetry from ancient China, Persia or Africa.
  • Make a chart with five columns. At the top, write: English, Chinese, Thai, Swahili and Arabic. Under each heading, write the word they use for numbers 1 – 9.
  • Fill out a cross-word puzzle that has names of cities from along the Silk Road.
  • Find ancient names of countries- and fill them in on a map. For example:
    • Persia = Iran
    • Hindustan = India
    • Mesopotamia = Iraq
    • Siam = Thailand
  • Learn how to write your name in Arabic
  • Select a name for yourself that comes from a country along the Silk Road. Make yourself a name tag.
  • Create a newspaper called "The Battuta Bugler". Tell of Ibn Battuta's arrival home in Morocco after traveling 75,000 miles.

2) Visual Learners

  • Find photographs of art and architecture along the Silk Road and make a poster of the pictures, or do a drawing of your favorite piece of art.
  • Compare the design of mosques with cathedrals in Europe. How do they differ? How are they the same?
  • Make a collage from National Geographic magazine with photos from places that Ibn Battuta would have visited.
  • Do one of the Islamic Art exercises (from the Doorways Book. See list of resources.)
  • Read some Rumi poems and make a poster that depicts what you visualized while reading the poem.
  • Draw African geometric patterns from fabrics onto cotton cloth. Hang them on the wall, or wear them if you’d like.

3) Musical Learners

  • Learn songs from different parts of the world.
  • Make up a song as if you're traveling along the Silk Road from Morocco to China. Teach it to other students so you can all sing it to the class together.
  • Make a collage of various musical instruments from along the Silk Road.
  • Select music from along the Silk Road to play some during class time. Use CDs and tapes from the library, or bring in your own.
  • Study the life of Hildegard of Bingen and how she tried to stop the Crusades from happening. Play a CD of her music for the other students while you give an oral report about her fascinating life.
  • Listen to a tape of Buddhist chants and write a response sheet, telling how the sound makes you feel, what you like (or dislike) about it, and why you think these chants would be popular in much of the world, even today.

4) Body-Kinesthetic Learners

  • Teach the class how to do the Debka Dance from Arabia. (You can find information on this dance on the web.)
  • Make a wall mural of Debka dancers by having someone outline you while you lie on the floor in various positions of the Debka dance. Draw colorful costumes on the outlines of your body.
  • Build a model of a city along the Silk Road.
  • Make stained glass windows using dyed glue, brushes and plexiglas. (see instructions in "A Medieval Banquet in the Alhambra Palace. See resource list below.) If you don’t have plexiglas, you can make Islamic designs on paper and hang them in the window. As the sun shows through them, they’ll look like windows. (You can find Islamic art patterns in Dover books. See resource list below.)
  • Study the English Morris (Moorish) Dance and teach it to the class.
  • Make African masks from paper mache.

5) Math Logic Problem-Solving Learners

  • Study the history of mathematics beginning with India's use of numbers.
  • Learn to write the Arabic Numerals that we use today, in Arabic. (0 to 9)
  • Try to do this mathematical problem by using Roman Numerals: 54+12 x 2
  • Make an abacus and the learn how to use it to calculate.
  • Calculate mileage from one major city to the next on Ibn Battuta's journey. Begin with Marakkesh and finish in Canton, China.
  • Make a list of all the modes of transportation a Silk Road traveler would have used in the 13th to 15th centuries. List the modes that are available today.
  • On a map, write the mode of transportation most commonly used in the regions where you would have traveled. For instance, in the Sahara Desert, write the word Camel. On the Red Sea write the word Boat.
  • List the various geometric shapes found in African fabrics such as a Kente Cloth that was worn by Ashanti Chiefs.
  • Make a poster describing early Muslim use of "rocket science." Use the web to find information -

6) Interpersonal - People Smart Learners

  • Become an e-mail pen pal with a student who lives in a country along the Silk Road.
  • Perform a play that comes from along the Silk Road.
  • Make poster-biographies of historical characters from along the Silk Road and hang them on the class wall.
  • Study the different ethnic groups in China and mark their locations on a map. Make a list of how their lives are different in terms of

Language Religion

Costume Housing

Transportation Foods they eat

Where they live Animals they raise

  • Study the symbolism used in African ceremonial fabrics and make a poster describing what the symbols mean. (For example: Zig-zag for the power of nature, or a circled dot for the sun.)
  • Make shadow puppets out of poster board and perform a shadow play from either India, Indonesia or China.

7) Intrapersonal - Self Smart Learners

  • Read some Tales of Aladdin and write what you think the morals of the stories are.
  • Research the life stories of some people who have traveled along the Silk Road. Make a poster about their lives and hang it on the classroom wall.
  • Put together a jigsaw puzzle that has something to do with a country that Ibn Battuta would have traveled to.
  • If you could enter a time machine and visit any place along the Silk Road where would you go. When? Why? Who would travel with you? What would you take along?
  • Study Haiku poetry and write two Haiku poems about leaving home for a long journey. Draw a picture of your departure. Think about how you feel and write it in a journal.

8) Natural World Learners

  • Draw plants, insects or animals from along the Silk Road.
  • Make a collage of pictures of animals, insects, birds and trees that one would encounter in their travel along the Silk Road.
  • Study the movement of the Bubonic plague and mark it on a world map, noting where it arrived and when. Use the unit from the Emergence of Renaissance book or a web site to study how the plague was treated in various parts of the world.
  • On a map, identify every mountain range, desert, river and ocean that Battuta would have crossed.
  • Study the difference between salt-water and fresh-water seas. What kind of fishes can survive in salt water? Draw them and identify them on a poster.
  • Study the history of the Coffee Bean. Trace its path from Yemen to Turkey to Europe where it became a 17th century fad. Draw a picture of the coffee plant and the bean. What different colors do coffee beans come in?
  • What does Ibn Battuta have to do with the Moon? Go to the NASA web site to find out.
  • Make a model of the moon, using chicken wire, and paper mache. On your moon, indicate ten craters that were named after Arab and Islamic scholars. Use the web to learn about them. Find out what each scholar was famous for.
  • Make a collage of animals that people would have used to travel along the Silk Road.

9) Existential Learners

  • Make a chart that compares the beliefs of the major faiths along the Silk Road. Include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Animism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Hinduism
  • Consider what you would have felt like if you lived in Paris during the 13th century and you knew the Bubonic Plague was on its way to your city. A meteor fell in Paris at that time, and people thought it signaled the end of time. Write a diary entry as if you lived in Paris on that day. How would you have felt? What would have been your hopes and fears? How do you think your neighbors would have reacted to the news of the "meaning" of the comet?
  • Read some Haiku poems and discuss what you think the real meaning of these poems is.
  • Study Buddhism and fill out a cross-word puzzle with words that have to do with that faith. Do the same with other religions.


The Rihla /Travel Journal -- Final Celebration of Learning

This serves as a final event in the Rihla unit. The Final Celebration of Learning gives all students an opportunity to share the work they did, both in and out of the classroom and to share what they learned along their imaginary "journey for the sake of knowledge". This event will vary, depending upon how elaborate the teacher wants it to be, and how much time is available for such an event.

At the least, students should use class time to share something they learned while writing their Rihla. A list of these things could be hung on the wall for several days.

For those teachers who want to spend more time on this celebration, parents could be invited to attend a party where they enjoy classroom decorations, music, and some small food items that parents bring. Students dress in costumes and introduce themselves to the audience as the traveler they created for their Rihla. Each student would have a few minutes to share the story of their journey. Other projects that were done as Optional Activities could be placed around the room for parents and other students to view. If students selected something such as music, dance or poetry, they could perform it during the Celebration of Learning.


Unit Evaluation

Due to time constraints, teachers may select to only have their students write the Rihla. Or they may decide to have students select only one option from the list of additional activities. For this reason, a rubric is difficult to create as it can vary widely depending upon how much time and effort a teacher devotes to various aspects of this project.

If all suggestions are followed, (Rihla, two short activities and a Celebration of Learning) a suggested rubric would be divided as follows:


Rihla 50% of overall grade

Optional Activity # 1 15% of overall grade

Optional Activity # 2 15% of overall grade

Involvement in class set-up 5% of overall grade

Celebration of Learning 15% of overall grade

Total 100%


The Rubric for the Rihla:


Possible points

Points earned

(1) Following instructions


A) Name of your character



B) Gender of your character



C) Date of "your" birth



D) Place of your birth



E) Information about your hometown



a) name of your city



b) when your city was founded



c) what makes you proud of your city



d) any monuments, churches, cathedrals, etc that your city is

famous for



e) rivers, mountains or deserts that are near your city



f) what religion you follow



g) A "brag sheet" about yourself



h) why you plan to travel



i) Physical geography of your journey



j) What cities do you pass through on your way to your destination.

Tell what you like and dislike about those cities. How do they

compare to your hometown?



k) Technology of your travel: ships, horses, camels, donkeys, etc.



l) Tell us about the obstacles you faced along your journey.



of 56


(2) Research


A) student did sufficient research to answer questions correctly



B) student used a variety of sources such as books, and web sites



c) student exhibits an acceptable level of knowledge about the subject



of 18


(3) Writing


A) student writes in concise manner that is easily understood



B) accuracy of grammar and spelling



C) neatness



of 11

(4) Creativity

A) student was creative in their development of the character



B) student was creative in their description of place and time



C) student was creative in their description of their travels (including

obstacles met along the way)



D) story is feasible (they didn’t go home on a train)



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Resources and Bibliography



Dunn, Ross. The Adventures of ibn Battuta, a Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century. (University of California Press, Berkeley) 1989.

Eickelman, Dale and Piscatori, James. Muslim Travelers: Pilgrimage, Migration and the Religious Imagination. (University of California Press, Berkeley) 1990.

Fletcher, Richard. Moorish Spain. (Henry Holt & Co., NY) 1992.

Le Goff, Jacques. Intellectuals in the Middle Ages. (Blackwell, MA) 1993.

Levathes, Louise. When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne. (Simon and Schuster, NY) 1994.

Smith, Huston. The Illustrated World’s Religions. (Harper and Collins, NY) 1994.



Saudi Aramco World ( Great color photos to use for bulletin boards, art projects and student posters. Free to teachers and students. Class set available at no cost.


Web sites

Background Information for the Teacher on the Silk Road

Travelers on the Silk Road

Traveling the Silk Road

The Islamic City

Mapping the World

Journey of a Thousand Li

The Rihla of Ibn Battuta

NASA photo of evening light going across the entire earth. You can scroll to the north, south, east and west. You can see the pattern of settlement along the Silk Route this way.

Marco Polo and China

Arab and Islamic names of moon craters.

Ben Ezra Synagogue of Cairo; one of the oldest in the world.

Ben Ezra Synagogue of Cairo


Khan al Khalili Market of Cairo:

Article on the great market of Cairo in The World and I Magazine

Photo tour of the market

A virtual tour of Cairo’s mosques, markets and old universities, with maps


Al Azhar Mosque and University:

History of the mosque, with photos

Expansion on the history of the mosque


The African city of Timbuktu:

BBC report on the historical and the modern city of Timbuktu

Description of Timbuktu by Hasan al Wasan, (Leo Africanus), the 16th C. Muslim scholar

A history of Timbuktu with links to other sites

Short history of Mansa Musa, famed African King

Information on Mansa Musa and African History



Curriculum guides

Arts of the Islamic World : A Teacher’s Packet, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler

Gallery. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2002 (

The Crusades from European and Muslim Perspectives. Council on Islamic Education (

Douglass, and Alavi, Emergence of Renaissance: Cultural Interactions Between Europeans and Muslims, 2000. (Council on Islamic Education, CA) (

Douglass, Susan, Beyond a Thousand and One Nights: A Sampler of Literature from Muslim Civilization. (Council on Islamic Education, CA) (

Godlas, Sylvia. Doorways to Islamic Art. (AWAIR) 1997 (

Shabass, Audrey, A Medieval Banquet in the Alhambra Palace.( AWAIR) (

Teaching About Islam and Muslims in the Public School Classroom, (Council on Islamic Education, CA) (

Vogt, Sharon. Multicultural Math: A Teacher Resource Book for Middle and Upper School Grades. (Frank Schaffer Publications, CA) 1995.


Dover art books (copyright free patterns for art projects)

Chinese Designs and Motifs. Dover Publications (

Islamic Designs for Artists and Craftspeople. Dover Publications (

Persian Designs and Motifs. Dover Publications (

Traditional Designs from India. Dover Publications (


The Silk Road (CD), DNA Multimedia Corporation, c1995.





1) SHAHADAH : " I bear witness that there is no deity except God, and that

Muhammad is the Messenger of God."

With this declaration of faith a person joins the rest of the world’s Muslims in stating that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is his Prophet. This also indicates belief in a long line of prophets prior to Prophet Muhammad in the history of Islam (submission to the will of God.)

2) SALAH : (Formal Worship)

With this obligation to participate in formal prayer five times per day, (before sunrise, midday, afternoon, immediately after sunset, and at night) a Muslim is assured of "remembering God" from morning till night. This enables a Muslim to step back from his or her daily activities and reflect on things of a spiritual nature. Prayers can be said within a large group or alone. The formal prayer is usually followed by a personal prayer.

3) ZAKAH : (Almsgiving Tax)

Zakah is an annual tax of 2.5% on excess wealth which is collected from those who are eligible. Some of this money is used for support of travelers, poor people and other beneficiaries. This is an act of worship which offers an opportunity to purify one’s wealth (to avoid greed and arrogance which can accompany wealth) and to give thanks to God for one’s material well being.

4) SAWM : (Fasting during Ramadan)

Muslim fast (no food or water) from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan. Fasting helps to develop the strength to control temptation and learn self-restraint; it offers a time of reflection and commitment to one’s religious faith, and builds compassion for those who must go hungry out of need during the entire year. Children start fasting when they feel they are ready. They frequently begin fasting in stages, rather than fasting the entire month on their first try.

5) HAJJ : (Pilgrimage to Mecca)

Muslims who are financially and physically able are expected to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. This journey is meant to reaffirm the individual’s commitment to Islam as they take the opportunity to leave the secular world behind and to participate in the world’s largest annual gathering. While in Mecca they perform a series of rites which commemorate Abraham, his wife Hajar and their son Ishma’il (who helped the prophet Abraham build the Ka’bah, a cubical structure in Mecca considered to be the first house of worship dedicated to the One God.)




Hadith Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad

Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca. One of the Five Pillars of Islam

Hajja (f) or Hajji (m) A person (female or male) who has completed the Hajj.

Haram al Sharif Sacred region of Mecca, where only Muslims who are on the Hajj can enter.

Madressah School that is linked to a mosque

Mecca (or Makkah) One of the three major Islamic holy cities. (The other two are Madinah and Jerusalem)

Mosque Islamic place of worship

Qur'an The Islamic holy script, considered by Muslims to be the literal word of God

Rihla Travel journal

Rihla fi talab al-ilm Travel for the sake of knowledge


This lesson was submitted by Karima Diane Alavi, Director, Islamic World Educational Services, Abiquiu, New Mexico.