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Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity,
with about 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. Although its roots go back
further, scholars typically date the creation of Islam to the 7th
century, making it the youngest of the major world religions. Islam
started in Mecca, in modern-day Saudi Arabia, during the time of the
prophet Muhammads life. Today, the faith is spreading rapidly
throughout the world.
Islam Facts
The word Islam means submission to the will of God.
Followers of Islam are called Muslims.
Muslims are monotheistic and worship one, all-knowing God,
who in Arabic is known as Allah.
Followers of Islam aim to live a life of complete submission
to Allah. They believe that nothing can happen without
Allahs permission, but humans have free will.
Islam teaches that Allahs word was revealed to the
prophet Muhammadthrough the angel Gabriel.
Muslims believe several prophets were sent to teach Allahs
law. They respect some of the same prophets as Jews and
Christians, including Abraham, Moses, Noah and Jesus.
Muslims contend that Muhammad was the final prophet.
Mosques are places where Muslims worship.
Some important Islamic holy places include the Kaaba shrine
in Mecca, the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the
Prophet Muhammads mosque in Medina.
The Quran (or Koran) is the major holy text of Islam. The
Hadith is another important book. Muslims also revere some
material found in the Judeo-Christian Bible.
Followers worship Allah by praying and reciting the Quran.
They believe there will be a day of judgment, and life after
death.
A central idea in Islam is jihad, which means struggle.
While the term has been used negatively in mainstream
culture, Muslims believe it refers to internal and external
efforts to defend their faith. Although rare, this can include
military jihad if a just war is needed.
Muhammad
The prophet Muhammad, sometimes spelled Mohammed or Mohammad, was born in
Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 570 A.D. Muslims believe he was the final prophet sent by
God to reveal their faith to mankind.
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According to Islamic texts and tradition, an angel named Gabriel visited Muhammad
in 610 A.D. while he was meditating in a cave. The angel ordered Muhammad to
recite the words of Allah.
Muslims believe that Muhammad continued to receive revelations from Allah
throughout the rest of his life.
Starting in about 613, Muhammad began preaching throughout Mecca the messages
he received. He taught that there was no other God but Allah and that Muslims should
devote their lives to this God.
Hijra
In 622, Muhammad traveled from Mecca to Medina with his supporters. This journey
became known as the Hijra (also spelled Hegira or Hijrah), and marks the beginning
of the Islamic calendar.
Some seven years later, Muhammad and his many followers returned to Mecca and
conquered the region. He continued to preach until his death in 632.
Abu Bakr
After Muhammads passing, Islam began to spread rapidly. A
series of leaders, known as caliphs, became successors to
Muhammad. This system of leadership, which was run by a
Muslim ruler, became known as a caliphate.
The first caliph was Abu Bakr, Muhammads father-in-law and
close friend.
Abu Bakr died about two years after he was elected and was
succeeded in 634 by Caliph Umar, another father-in-law of
Muhammad.
Caliphate System
When Umar was assassinated six years after being named
caliph, Uthman, Muhammads son-in-law, took the role.
Uthman was also killed, and Ali, Muhammads cousin and son-
in-law, was selected as the next caliph.
During the reign of the first four caliphs, Arab Muslims conquered
large regions in the Middle East, including Syria, Palestine, Iran and
Iraq. Islam also spread throughout areas in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
The caliphate system lasted for centuries and eventually evolved
into the Ottoman Empire, which controlled large regions in the
Middle East from about 1517 until 1917, when World War I ended
the Ottoman reign.
Sunnis and Shiites
When Muhammad died, there was debate over who should replace
him as leader. This led to a schism in Islam, and two major sects
emerged: the Sunnis and the Shiites.
Sunnis make up nearly 90 percent of Muslims worldwide. They
accept that the first four caliphs were the true successors to
Muhammad.
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Shiite Muslims believe that only the caliph Ali and his descendants
are the real successors to Muhammad. They deny the legitimacy of
the first three caliphs. Today, Shiite Muslims have a considerable
presence in Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Other Types of Islam
Other, smaller Muslim denominations within the Sunni and Shiite
groups exist. Some of these include:
Wahhabi: This Sunni sect, made up of members of the
Tameem tribe in Saudi Arabia, was founded in the 18th
century. Followers observe an extremely strict interpretation
of Islam that was taught by Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab.
Alawite: This Shiite form of Islam is prevalent in Syria.
Followers hold similar beliefs about the caliph Ali but also
observe some Christian and Zoroastrian holidays.
Nation of Islam: This mostly African-American, Sunni sect
was founded in the 1930s in Detroit, Michigan.
Kharijites: This sect broke from the Shiites after disagreeing
over how to select a new leader. They are known for radical
fundamentalism, and today are called Ibadis.
Quran
The Quran.
Nazaruddin Abdul Hamed/EyeEm/Getty Images
The Quran (sometimes spelled Quran or Koran) is considered
the most important holy book among Muslims.
It contains some basic information that is found in the Hebrew
Bible as well as revelations that were given to Muhammad. The
text is considered the sacred word of God and supercedes any
previous writings.
Most Muslims believe that Muhammads scribes wrote down
his words, which became the Quran. (Muhammad himself was
never taught to read or write.)
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The book is written with Allah as the first person, speaking
through Gabriel to Muhammad. It contains 114 chapters, which
are called surahs.

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Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity, with about 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. Although its roots go back further, scholars typically date the creation of Islam to the 7th century, making it the youngest of the major world religions. Islam started in Mecca, in modern-day Saudi Arabia, during the time of the prophet Muhammad’s life. Today, the faith is spreading rapidly throughout the world. Islam Facts • • • • • • • • • • • • • The word “Islam” means “submission to the will of God.” Followers of Islam are called Muslims. Muslims are monotheistic and worship one, all-knowing God, who in Arabic is known as Allah. Followers of Islam aim to live a life of complete submission to Allah. They believe that nothing can happen without Allah’s permission, but humans have free will. Islam teaches that Allah’s word was revealed to the prophet Muhammadthrough the angel Gabriel. Muslims believe several prophets were sent to teach Allah’s law. They respect some of the same prophets as Jews and Christians, including Abraham, Moses, Noah and Jesus. Muslims contend that Muhammad was the final prophet. Mosques are places where Muslims worship. Some important Islamic holy places include the Kaaba shrine in Mecca, the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Medina. The Quran (or Koran) is the major holy text of Islam. The Hadith is another important book. Muslims also revere some material found in the Judeo-Christian Bible. Followers worship Allah by praying and reciting the Quran. They believe there will be a day of judgment, and life after death. A central idea in Islam is “jihad,” which means “struggle.” While the term has been used negatively in mainstream culture, Muslims believe it refers to internal and external efforts to defend their faith. Although rare, this can include military jihad if a “just war” is needed. Muhammad The prophet Muhammad, sometimes spelled Mohammed or Mohammad, was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 570 A.D. Muslims believe he was the final prophet sent by God to reveal their faith to mankind. • • • • • • • • • • • According to Islamic texts and tradition, an angel named Gabriel visited Muhammad in 610 A.D. while he was meditating in a cave. The angel ordered Muhammad to recite the words of Allah. Muslims believe that Muhammad continued to receive revelations from Allah throughout the rest of his life. Starting in about 613, Muhammad began preaching throughout Mecca the messages he received. He taught that there was no other God but Allah and that Muslims should devote their lives to this God. Hijra In 622, Muhammad traveled from Mecca to Medina with his supporters. This journey became known as the Hijra (also spelled Hegira or Hijrah), and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Some seven years later, Muhammad and his many followers returned to Mecca and conquered the region. He continued to preach until his death in 632. Abu Bakr After Muhammad’s passing, Islam began to spread rapidly. A series of leaders, known as caliphs, became successors to Muhammad. This system of leadership, which was run by a Muslim ruler, became known as a caliphate. The first caliph was Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s father-in-law and close friend. Abu Bakr died about two years after he was elected and was succeeded in 634 by Caliph Umar, another father-in-law of Muhammad. Caliphate System • When Umar was assassinated six years after being named caliph, Uthman, Muhammad’s son-in-law, took the role. • Uthman was also killed, and Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and sonin-law, was selected as the next caliph. During the reign of the first four caliphs, Arab Muslims conquered large regions in the Middle East, including Syria, Palestine, Iran and Iraq. Islam also spread throughout areas in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The caliphate system lasted for centuries and eventually evolved into the Ottoman Empire, which controlled large regions in the Middle East from about 1517 until 1917, when World War I ended the Ottoman reign. Sunnis and Shiites When Muhammad died, there was debate over who should replace him as leader. This led to a schism in Islam, and two major sects emerged: the Sunnis and the Shiites. Sunnis make up nearly 90 percent of Muslims worldwide. They accept that the first four caliphs were the true successors to Muhammad. Shiite Muslims believe that only the caliph Ali and his descendants are the real successors to Muhammad. They deny the legitimacy of the first three caliphs. Today, Shiite Muslims have a considerable presence in Iran, Iraq and Syria. Other Types of Islam Other, smaller Muslim denominations within the Sunni and Shiite groups exist. Some of these include: • • • • Wahhabi: This Sunni sect, made up of members of the Tameem tribe in Saudi Arabia, was founded in the 18th century. Followers observe an extremely strict interpretation of Islam that was taught by Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab. Alawite: This Shiite form of Islam is prevalent in Syria. Followers hold similar beliefs about the caliph Ali but also observe some Christian and Zoroastrian holidays. Nation of Islam: This mostly African-American, Sunni sect was founded in the 1930s in Detroit, Michigan. Kharijites: This sect broke from the Shiites after disagreeing over how to select a new leader. They are known for radical fundamentalism, and today are called Ibadis. • Quran • • The Quran. • Nazaruddin Abdul Hamed/EyeEm/Getty Images • The Quran (sometimes spelled Qur’an or Koran) is considered the most important holy book among Muslims. It contains some basic information that is found in the Hebrew Bible as well as revelations that were given to Muhammad. The text is considered the sacred word of God and supercedes any previous writings. Most Muslims believe that Muhammad’s scribes wrote down his words, which became the Quran. (Muhammad himself was never taught to read or write.) • • • The book is written with Allah as the first person, speaking through Gabriel to Muhammad. It contains 114 chapters, which are called surahs. Name: Description: ...
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