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Islam facts for kids

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Islam ( Arabic: ٱلْإِسْلَام, romanized: al-Islām) is one of the world religions. Believers of Islam are called Muslims. The holy scripture of Islam is the Quran (also spelled Qur'an or Koran). Muslims believe that the Quran was spoken to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, and that it is the word of God (or Allah). They view Muhammad as a prophet and messenger of God. Other beliefs and rules about what Muslims should do come from reports of what Muhammad taught or hadith.

Muslims believe that there were many other prophets before Muhammad, beginning with the Prophet Adam and including the Prophet Noah (Nuh), the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim), the Prophet Moses (Musa), and the Prophet Jesus (Isa). They believe that all these prophets were given messages by God, but those messages become distorted—either in interpretation, in text, or both. The Quran, in contrast, is viewed as the final, unaltered word of God.

Most Muslims belong to one of two groups. The most common is Sunni Islam (75–90% of all Muslims are Sunni Muslims). The second is Shia Islam (10–20% of all Muslims are Shias – also called Shiites).


Hira Cave
Cave of Hira

According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad was born in Mecca in 570 CE and was orphaned early in life. Growing up as a trader, he became known as the "trusted one" (Arabic: الامين) and was sought after as an impartial arbitrator. He later married his employer, the businesswoman Khadija. In the year 610 CE, Muhammad retreated to the Cave of Hira in the mountain Jabal al-Nour, near Mecca. It was during his time in the cave that he is said to have received the first revelation of the Quran from the angel Gabriel. The event of Muhammad's retreat to the cave and subsequent revelation is known as the "Night of Power" (Laylat al-Qadr) and is considered a significant event in Islamic history. During the next 22 years of his life, from age 40 onwards, Muhammad continued to receive revelations from God, becoming the last prophet sent to mankind.

During this time, while in Mecca, Muhammad preached first in secret and then in public, imploring his listeners to worship one God. Many early converts to Islam were women, the poor, foreigners, and slaves. The Meccan elite felt Muhammad was destabilizing their social order by preaching about one God and giving questionable ideas to the poor and slaves because they profited from the pilgrimages to the idols of the Kaaba.

After 12 years of the persecution of Muslims by the Meccans, Muhammad and his companions performed the Hijra ("emigration") in 622 to the city of Yathrib (current-day Medina). There, Muhammad established his political and religious authority. The Constitution of Medina was signed by all the tribes of Medina. This established religious freedoms and freedom to use their own laws among the Muslim and non-Muslim communities as well as an agreement to defend Medina from external threats. Meccan forces and their allies lost against the Muslims at the Battle of Badr in 624 and then fought an inconclusive battle in the Battle of Uhud before unsuccessfully besieging Medina in the Battle of the Trench (March–April 627). In 628, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah was signed between Mecca and the Muslims, but it was broken by Mecca two years later. As more tribes converted to Islam, Meccan trade routes were cut off by the Muslims. By 629 Muhammad was victorious in the nearly bloodless conquest of Mecca, and by the time of his death in 632 (at age 62) he had united the tribes of Arabia into a single religious polity.

Beliefs and practices

Men praying in a mosque.
Biggest Quran book -Bait al- Quran
The Qur'an is the holy book to Muslims. They believe it holds the revealed word of God

Muslims believe in God, his angels, his books, his messengers, the Last Day, and Fate.


Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Allah
Calligraphy showing the word Allah in Arabic in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul Turkey

The central concept of Islam is tawḥīd (Arabic: توحيد), which means the oneness of God. God is seen as incomparable and without partners such as in the Christian Trinity.

Islam teaches that the creation of everything in the universe was brought into being by God's command as expressed by the wording, "Be, and it is," and that the purpose of existence is to worship God. He is viewed as a personal god and there are no intermediaries, such as clergy, to contact God. Allāh is a term with no plural or gender being ascribed to it and is also used by Muslims and Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews in reference to God, whereas ʾilāh (إله) is a term used for a deity or a god in general.


Miniatura Maometto
A 16th century Siyer-i Nebi image of the angel Gabriel visiting Muhammad

Angels (Arabic: ملك, malak) are beings created to worship God and also to serve in other specific duties such as communicating revelations from God, recording every person's actions, and taking a person's soul at the time of death. They are described as being created variously from 'light' (nūr) or 'fire' (nār). Islamic angels are often represented in anthropomorphic forms combined with supernatural images, such as wings, being of great size or wearing heavenly articles. Common characteristics for angels include a lack of bodily needs and desires, such as eating and drinking. Some of them, such as Gabriel (Jibrīl) and Michael (Mika'il), are mentioned by name in the Quran.


The Quran is the holy book of Islam. Muslims believe that the verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad by God (Allah), through the archangel Jibraeel between 610 CE and 632.

The Quran is divided into 114 chapters (sūrah) which contain a combined 6,236 verses (āyāt). The Quran also contains stories and tales of old civilizations and past prophets and their life chronicles.

In addition to its religious significance, the Quran is widely regarded as the finest work in Arabic literature, and has influenced art and the Arabic language.

Other important teachings in Islam are the Sunnah (which tell about Muhammad's life) and the Hadith (which are collections of dialogues of conversation that Muslims believe Muhammad said).

Muslim jurists consult the hadith ('accounts') to both supplement the Quran and assist with its interpretation. The Qur'an is considered in Islam as a manual to all of humanity and its teachings are to be implemented and shared by its readers.


Medieval Persian manuscript Muhammad leads Abraham Moses Jesus
A 15th century Persian miniature depicting Muhammad leading Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets in prayer

Prophets (Arabic: أنبياء, anbiyāʾ) have been chosen by God to preach a divine message. Some of these prophets additionally deliver a new book and are called "messengers". Muslims believe prophets are human and not divine. All of the prophets are said to have preached the same basic message of Islam – submission to the will of God – to different nations in the past, and this explains why there are many similarities among religions. The Quran mentions the names of many figures considered prophets in Islam, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, among others.

Muslims believe that God sent Muhammad as the final prophet ("Seal of the prophets"). Muslims are encouraged to emulate Muhammad's moral behaviors in their daily lives.

Resurrection and judgment

Syria, Damascus, The Umayyad Mosque
The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, where Islamic tradition says Isa (Jesus, seen as an Islamic prophet) will appear close to the Day of Judgment

Belief in the "Day of Resurrection" or Yawm al-Qiyāmah (Arabic: يوم القيامة) is also crucial for Muslims.

Muslims believe all humankind will be judged by their good and bad deeds and consigned to Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (hell). The Quran lists several sins that can condemn a person to hell. However, the Quran makes it clear that God will forgive the sins of those who repent if he wishes. Good deeds, like charity, prayer, and compassion towards animals will be rewarded with entry to heaven. Muslims view heaven as a place of joy and blessings.

Divine predestination

The concept of divine predestination in Islam (Arabic: القضاء والقدر, al-qadāʾ wa l-qadar) means that every matter, good or bad, is believed to have been decreed by God. Muslims often express this belief in divine destiny with the phrase "In-sha-Allah" meaning "if God wills" when speaking on future events.

The Five Pillars of Islam

According to Islamic tradition, there are five basic things that Muslims should do. They are called "The Five Pillars of Islam":

  1. Shahadah: The Testimony (faith in English) is the core of the Muslim belief that there is no god but Allah himself, and that Muhammad is his last messenger.
  2. Salaat: Muslims pray five times per day, at special times of the day. When they pray, they face Kaaba, a large cubic structure located at the holy city of Mecca. Salat is namaz in Persian, Turkish and Urdu. Shia Muslims can pray the afternoon and evening prayers right after each other.
  3. Zakat: Muslims who have money must give a fixed percentage (2.5% annually) of accumulated wealth to help people who do not have money or need help.
  4. Sawm or Siyam: Fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. Muslims do not eat or drink from dawn till sunset for one lunar month. After Ramadan, there is a holiday called Eid al-Fitr (which means "festival of end-fast" in English). On Eid al-Fitr, Muslims usually go to the mosque in the morning for a special religious service, and then have a party with families and friends.
  5. Hajj (Pilgrimage in English): During the month of Zulhejja, the 12th month of the Islamic Calendar is the pilgrimage season where many Muslims go to Mecca, the holiest city of Islam. However, if a Muslim is financially unable to perform the Hajj, it is not necessary for them to do so. Those who possess great financial capacity were the most obligated to perform the Hajj.

Note: The Five Pillars of Islam is a term in the view of Sunni Islam. There is another term Osul al-Din (Religion Principles) in Shia Islam. That contains five beliefs : Tawheed, Adl, Nabovah, Imamah, Maad.


Jerusalem Al-Aqsa Mosque BW 2010-09-21 06-38-12
Muslims pray in a mosque, such as this located at Jerusalem.

Muslims pray in a place of worship called the mosque. A mosque is called a masjid in Arabic. Most mosques were mostly recognized having at least a single dome, and some have one or more towers. However many mosques were built without either domes or towers.

Muslims take their shoes off before entering the masjid to pray. Prayer is one of the most important things that a Muslim does.

The Muslim is called to prayer or solah five times a day. This call to prayer is called Adhan. The muezzin, a man chosen to make the call to prayer, uses a loudspeaker, which carries his voice to the people nearby. The call to prayer is often done out loud, in public, in Muslim countries. Being called to solah is a normal part of daily life for most people in Muslim countries.

A prayer mat

Muslims pray on a mat, which is called a prayer mat or prayer rug in English. Common Arabic names for the prayer mat include sajjāda and namazlık.

When it is time to pray, Muslims face the direction of Qibla - the direction they are supposed to pray in, towards Mecca. They then roll out their prayer mat, and perform their prayers to God.

Peace be upon him

According to Islamic teachings, Muslims must say "Peace be upon him" (PBUH or pbuh) whenever they hear Prophet's name. In this way, they show respect to Muhammad and other prophets.

Islam in the world

Muslim majority countries2
Countries where more than half the people are Muslim

In 2009, a study was done in 193+1+=(195)+37 countries and territories. This study found that 23% of the global population or 1.57 billion people are Muslims. Of those, between 75% and 90% are Sunni and between ten and twenty five percent are Shi'a. A small part belong to other Islamic sects.

Most Muslims live in Asia and Africa. Around 62% of the world's Muslims live in Asia, with over 683 million followers in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

In the Middle East: The non-Arab countries such as: Turkey, and Iran are the largest Muslim-majority countries. In Africa: Egypt and Nigeria have the biggest Muslim communities.

Different denominations

Like with other religions, over time different movements have developed in Islam. These movements are based on different interpretations of the scriptures. The following sections list the most common movements.

  • Non-denominational Muslims are Muslims who don't follow any branch and simply call themselves Muslim. They are also called Ghayr Muqallids.
  • The Muwahidin or Muwahid Muslims are a Muslim restoration movement that accepts mainstream Islam, but prefer to orient themselves towards a primacy of God's commands on issues pertaining to sharia law. Muwahidists believe that modern Islam has been mixed with many cultural traditions and they want to change that.
  • The Shi'ites believe that just as only God can appoint a prophet, he can appoint a second leader after the prophet. Shi'a Muslims believe that God chose Ali as the leader after Muhammad. About 10-20% of Muslims are Shi'a which means that there are about 120 million world wide. Shi'a Muslims form the majority of Muslims in Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iraq, and Lebanon. The largest adhab in Yemen is Zaydi Shia. Shias commonly gather for Day of Ashura in Karbala. They accept four hadiths.
  • Sunnism considers Abu Bakr to be the successor of Muhammad. Sunnis make up roughly 75% of Muslims. Sunnis believe that leaders of Islam should be chosen by the people of the Muslim world. After Abu Bakr died, Omar took his place, then Uthman, and then Ali. All of them were companions of Muhammad and lived in Medina. Sunni beliefs are typically based on the Qur'an and the Kutub al-Sittah (six hadiths). Sunnis are sometimes called Bukharists.
Whirling Dervishes 2
Sufi whirling dervishes in Turkey
  • The Sufi are a branch in Islam that focuses more on the spiritual and mystic elements of Islam. Sufis usually conclude their prayers with dhikr recitations.
  • The Quraniyoon generally reject the authority of the hadiths. Such Muslims, also known as Quranists and Ahle Quran, believe that the Quran is the only source of guidance. They say the hadiths are not endorsed by the Quran, and some call them an innovative bid'ah.
  • Ibadis are Muslims who originated from the Kharijites. Ibadis today have reformed beliefs from original Kharijites.
  • Ahmadiyyas are Muslims who follow Mirza Ghulam Ahmed whom they consider to be the mahdi. They are divided into two subgroups; the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement.
  • The Nation of Islam is a denomination in Islam primarily geared towards African Americans.
  • The Five-Percent Nation, a denomination predominantly consisting of African Americans, also known as Nation of Gods and Earths.

Interesting facts about Islam

  • With about 1.75 billion followers (24% of the world's population), Islam is the second-largest religion in the world.
  • Islam is also the fastest-growing religion in the world.
  • Islam has three holy sites:Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina.
  • Arabs account for around twenty percent of all Muslims worldwide.
  • A Hafeez is a Muslim who has committed the Quran to memory and can accurately recite every word in the Quran without flipping a single page and apply them to daily life.

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