Malik announced that he is leaving the group via the boy band's official Facebook Wednesday afternoon. "My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined. But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I'd like to apologize to the fans if I've let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart. I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight," he said.
Horan, Payne, Styles and Tomlinson will continue as a four-piece band and said they will honor their remaining world tour dates. The quartet will also record their fifth album, "due to be released later this year," without Malik's involvement.
"We're really sad to see Zayn go, but we totally respect his decision and send him all our love for the future. The past five years have been beyond amazing, we've gone through so much together, so we will always be friends. The four of us will now continue," the four singers said in a statement. "We're looking forward to recording the new album and seeing all the fans on the next stage of the world tour."
Simon Cowell, who formed the group on The X Factor in 2010, also issued a statement. "I would like to say thank you to Zayn for everything he has done for One Direction. Since I first met Zayn in 2010, I have grown very, very fond—and immensely proud—of him. I have seen him grow in confidence and I am truly sorry to see him leave. As for One Direction, fans can rest assured that Niall, Liam, Harry and Louis are hugely excited about the future of the band."
Less than a week ago, Malik announced he would not be performing with the group in Manila and Jakarta. After being "signed off with stress," he returned home to England. He was expected to return for 1D's March 28 performance in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The "What Makes You Beautiful" singer's exit occurred just after he was accused of cheating on his fiancée Perrie Edwards. The pop star denied the rumors on Wednesday, tweeting, "I'm 22 years old... I love a girl named Perrie Edwards. And there's a lot of jealous f--ks in this world I'm sorry for what it looks like."
Still, even the idea that he'd cheat on the Little Mix singer was a hard pill to swallow.
"He is completely in love with Perrie" a source told E! News. "What happened in Thailand was completely blown out of proportion."
"He is just a kid. He wants to make music, but the spotlight that comes with it is hard," an insider says of the "Kiss You" singer. "Fame is kind of catching up with all if them. It's been a grueling and intense few years and it's having a snowball effect now. Zayn would be happy with a low-key life. He has a problem with the fame—he doesn't handle the attention very well, and every so often he has a little wobble."