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Islam (Arabic: الإسلام, Al-Islam) is a religion that believes in one god. In Islam, Allah is always Allah, which is the Arabic word for 'the god' or 'the deity'. Therefore the Qur'an is named The Criterion, the criterion between right and wrong, good and evil.
Some of its teachings and beliefs are written out in the Qur'an. People who follow Islam are called Muslims. They believe that the Qur'an was spoken to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, and that it consists of words of Allah. They view Muhammad as a Prophet. Other beliefs and rules about what Muslims should do come from reports of what Muhammad taught and did. Muslims believe Muhammad was Allah's last prophet.
Muslims believe that there were many other prophets before Muhammad, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. They believe that all these prophets were given messages by God. They believe that the Qur'an (written in Arabic) is the unchanged, final word of God.
With about 1.8 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.
The country in the world where the most people are Muslim is Indonesia.
Meaning of the word "Islam"
The word Islam comes from the term "al-silm" which means peace, and the word "istaslama" (استسلاما) means to "surrender" or "submission (to Allah)".
Beliefs and practices
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":
- Tawhid: The Testimony (faith in English) is the Muslim belief that there is no god but Allah himself, and that Muhammad is his messenger.
- Sallah: Muslims pray five times a day, at special times of the day. When they pray, they face 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.
- Zakah: Muslims who have money must give 1/40th of their money (charity in English) to help people who do not have money or need help.
- Sawm: 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.
- Hajj (Pilgrimage in English): During the pilgrimage season, many Muslims go to Mecca, the holiest city of Islam. If a Muslim cannot make the hajj because they do not have the money or are not healthy enough, they do not have to.
The Qur'an is the holy book of Islam. Muslims believe the Qur'an is the sayings of God.
Islam teaches that God told Muhammad exactly what to write in the Qur'an, with the help of an angel called Jibreel. The Qur'an teaches Muslims to follow the right path by only doing good to please God. Muslims believe Allah alone decides who goes to Jannah (Heaven), and that doing good in this lifetime will bring them closer to God.
The Qur'an has a total of 114 chapters. In each chapter, there are many verses. Many Muslims try to memorize the entire Qur'an. A Muslim who does this is called a Hafiz or Hafez.
Place of worship
Muslims pray in a place of worship called the mosque. A mosque is called a masjid in Arabic. Most masjids have at least one dome, and some have one or more towers. But a masjid does not need to have a dome or tower.
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 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 prayer is a normal part of daily life for most people in Muslim countries.
Sometimes, 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 will figure out the direction of Qibla - the direction they are supposed to pray in, towards Mecca. They then roll out their prayer mat, and say 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 Muhammad's name. In this way, they show respect to Muhammad.
Islam in the world
In 2009, a study was done in 232 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. In about fifty countries, more than half of the people are Muslim. Arabs account for around twenty percent of all Muslims worldwide. Islam has three holy sites; Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina.
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, non-Arab countries such as Turkey and Iran are the largest Muslim-majority countries; in Africa, Egypt and Nigeria have the biggest Muslim communities.
Most estimates indicate that the People's Republic of China has about 20 to 30 million Muslims (1.5% to 2% of the population). However, data provided by the San Diego State University's International Population Center to U.S. News & World Report suggests that China has 65.3 million Muslims. Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity in many European countries, and is slowly catching up to that status in the Americas.
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 the 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.
- 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 sole 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 who 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-American, also known as Nation of Gods and Earths.
Women in Islam
Many non-Muslims believe that women are oppressed and that men are superior in this religion. This belief is false. In Islam, women are treated equal to men. Men are not allowed to beat their wives. Women are required to dress modestly. Their dress code is to cover everything but their hands and face. Some women even cover their hands and faces, however that is a personal decision to protect their identity. This practice is done only because Muhammad's (pbuh) wives would do it so that nobody would recognize them. Men also have a dress code. They must cover themselves from navel to knee at least. Muslims are allowed to uncover when they are with family members, for example parents, spouses, children, siblings, etc.
Women dress modestly to protect themselves from evil vision. Men and women in Islam are required to lower their gaze towards the other gender, unless they are one of the exceptions mentioned above, such as family members. The common analogy used is of a candy. If there was a lollipop without a wrapper and a lollipop with a wrapper, which one would you rather take? Another analogy is if you had diamonds, would you advertise them to the world or would you keep them safe? These relate to why women cover up in Islam. They don't want to advertise their bodies to the world. They would rather protect their bodies and keep them for their husbands.
Some of the first people who criticised Islam in writing were Christians, like John of Damascus (born about 676). In the medieval period, some Arab philosophers like the poet Al-Ma'arri also criticised Islam. The Jewish philosopher Maimonides compared Islamic views of morality to the Jewish approach that he himself believed in. He believed that Islam was a copy of the Jewish and Christian religions with a few minor changes. He thought these changes were made to suit Muhammad's desire for fame and his quest to start a new religion. He thought Muhammad wanted to be seen as equal to the likes of Moses and Jesus. Medieval Christian writers thought that Islamic beliefs were not valid. They tried to show Muhammad was possessed by Satan. In the 19th century, the Orientalist (eastern countries and beliefs) scholar William Muir wrote harshly about the Qur'an.
In modern times, critics also say that Islam does not tolerate the view that parts of Islamic law may be too harsh. Other critics see Muhammad's personal life negatively. Still others question how authentic the Qur'an is and if it can impose moral guidelines.
Some people have responded to these forms of criticism. Montgomery Watt and Norman Daniel say that some of the criticisms are the product of old myths and prejudice. Carl Ernst writes that Islamophobia has played a part in establishing what he calls "myths".
Muslim scholars like Muhammad Mohar Ali argue against claims of discrepancies in the Qur'an and allegations that Muhammad was unduly influenced by Judeo-Christian tradition.
- Nation of Islam
- Circumcision in Islam
The first chapter of the Quran, Al-Fatiha, consisting of seven verses.
Silver coin of the Mughal Emperor Akbar with inscriptions of the Islamic declaration of faith
Men reading the Quran in a mosque
The dome of the Carol I Mosque in Constanța, Romania, topped by the Islamic crescent
Dome of the Rock built by Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan; completed at the end of the Second Fitna.
The Imam Hussein Shrine in Karbala, Iraq is a holy site for Shia Muslims.
Great Mosque of Djenné, in the west African country of Mali
Geometric arabesque tiling on the underside of the dome of Hafiz Shirazi's tomb in Shiraz
Islam for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.