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Islam is a major world religion founded in Arabia. Based on the teachings of a man named Muhammad, one who practices Islam is called a Muslim. A practicing Muslim follows the teachings from the Koran, (sometimes written as Qu’ran). It is the written revelation from Allah to Muhammad. The Muslim population is estimated at more than 1 billion covering many different areas of the world. It is most common in Africa, the Middle East, and sections of Asia and Europe. There are 6 million Muslims in the United States alone.

Central Belief

Monotheism is the central theme of Islam—a belief in only one God, Allah, who is omnipotent. According to Islam, God has four fundamental functions: creation, sustenance, guidance, and judgment. The overall purpose of humanity is to serve Allah, to worship him alone and to construct a moral lifestyle. The Koran declares that making the earth a better place is every human’s job in this world. The Koran criticizes humans for their selfishness, which causes them to lose sight of their Creator. Because of this, individuals must go beyond their selfishness and develop an inner moral quality of taqwa (meaning, "to guard against danger"). Each individual goal is for the good of humankind, not themselves. Islam teaches that, because of humanity's moral weakness, God sent prophets to teach both individuals and nations correct moral and spiritual behaviors. Since the messages of all prophets emanate from the same divine source, religions are basically one. All prophets are human, but they are the most perfect examples of what humans should be. Muslims believe that Muhammad was the final prophet and that the Koran is the final and most perfect revelation of God. The Koran is supposed to be superior to all earlier revelations from God. Muslims also believe in a final judgment when individuals will be judged according to their deeds. The Five Pillars of Faith Once a Muslim, each member must carry out five essential duties, called The Five Pillars of Faith. They are listed below:


A Muslim must acknowledge that "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet."
A Muslim must pray five times daily facing Mecca: at dawn, at noon, in the midafternoon, at dusk, and after dark.
Each Muslim must pay a zagat to the government.
A Muslim must fast for the month of Ramadan. During the fasting month, one must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual intercourse from dawn until sunset.
A Muslim must make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Every adult Muslim who is physically and financially able to do so must make this pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime.

The Koran or Qu’ran

The Koran is a record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Muhammad. Muhammad memorized the words and then taught his Companions. Then scribes, who checked with Muhammad during his lifetime, wrote down the words. Not one word of its 114 chapters has been changed over the centuries. The Koran is the primary source of every Muslim's faith and practice. It deals with all the subjects that concern all human beings: wisdom, beliefs, worship, and law. However, it focuses on the relationship between God and His creatures. It also provides guidelines for a just society, proper human relationships and equal divisions of power.


Muhammad was born in Mecca in the year 570 AD. At this time, Christianity was not yet fully established in Europe. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and honesty. With these qualities, he was sought after for his ability to solve problems. He meditated often in the Cave of Hira near the summit of Jabal al-Nur, "Mountain of Light". At the age of 40, while meditating, Muhammad received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. This revelation continued for twenty-three years and is now known as the Koran. From the Koran, he preached his message to all those of The Middle East. Before the he died at the age of 63, most of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China.


Mosques serve as the main place of worship for all Muslims. The first mosque was the courtyard of the house Muhammad, located in Medina, Saudi Arabia. The wall of the courtyard facing Mecca called the qibla wall—had a roof covering the area where prayers were recited. The other three walls were covered with shallow arcades. This setup has became the mosque design throughout time. In Islamic societies, mosques also serve as social and political centers. They serve as courts, schools, and assembly halls. Libraries, hospitals, and treasuries are often connected to the mosques.


This tax was originally imposed by Muhammad (and later by Muslim states) on the wealthy members of the community, primarily to help the poor. In most Muslim states zakat has become voluntary, but it is still recognized as an essential duty. Every Muslim must give generously.


Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year. It is the holy month of fasting commanded by the Koran for all adult Muslims. According to the Koran, the fast was established so that believers could become more holy. This month was designated because it was the month in which Muhammad received his first revelation from God. The fast begins each day at dawn and ends at sunset. During the fast, Muslims are forbidden to eat, drink, or smoke.


Mecca is a city in western Saudi Arabia. The population is about 1,500,000. Mecca is the birthplace of Muhammad, founder of Islam, and is the most sacred of city in Islam. According to Islamic tradition, Muslims around the world must face Mecca during their daily prayers. Every year, during the last month of the Islamic calendar, more than one million Muslims make a pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca.


Jerusalem is the capital and largest city of Israel. It is located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. Jerusalem is considered the holiest city of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Because of this, Jerusalem has been the center of many battles for the rights of the city. Throughout history, the Persian, Syrian, Jewish, Roman, and Muslim Empires have controlled Jerusalem.