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World Religions
Islam is a monotheistic religion, and is the second largest religion in the world with over 1 billion followers.
“Islam” means "submission to the will of God" in Arabic.
Followers of Islam are called Muslims.
There are multiple sects of Islam that have somewhat varying beliefs and practices.
People practice Islam all over the world, including Europe, the US, and Asia. The largest population of
Muslims is in South Asia (~28%). Other regions with a high percentage of Muslims are the Middle East
(~17%), Southeast Asia (~16%), and Northern Africa (~12%).
Basic Beliefs
Muslims believe in one God, Allah. They believe that He sent many prophets to teach mankind how to live
according to His law. Some of these prophets include: Ibrahim (Abraham), Moses, and Jesus. The final
prophet is Muhammad.
o This means that Muslims share the same God as Jews and Christians.
This also means that Muslims respect Jews and Christians and believe that both the Old and New
Testaments were sent by God.
Muslims believe that Allah is eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient. (He has always and will always
exist, He can do all things, and He knows all things.)
Muslims believe that Islam has always been in existence, but it was not until Muhammad that the final and
complete revelation was made to the world.
Five Pillars of Islam
Carrying out the Five Pillars demonstrates that the follower is putting their faith first, and not just trying to
fit it in around their secular lives. No matter how sincerely a person may believe, Islam regards it as
pointless to live life without putting that faith into action and practice.
Shahadah: sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith
Salat: performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day
Zakat: paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy
Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan
Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca
 It is expected that every Muslim go on Hajj at least once in their adult life, assuming that
they are financially and physically able. This pilgrimage promotes Islamic brother- and
sisterhood and equality.
 History: Ibrahim and his followers established Mecca as a thriving city and he built a
gathering place for all those who wanted to worship Allah, called the Kaaba. Allah then sent
Muhammad to restore Kaaba to the worship of Allah only, because over time, polytheistic
worship had developed in Mecca. Thus, Muhammad went to Mecca with 1400 followers,
which became the first pilgrimage of Islam, and established the tradition of the hajj.
World Religions
The Islamic Holy Book is the Qur'an. It was revealed to Muhammad over the course
of 23 years.
Oral traditions of reports made about sayings and conduct of the Prophet Muhammad during his life. Muslims
look to these accounts to help determine how to live their lives. These reports and accounts were eventually
written down during the 8th and 9th centuries.
Sharia is the Islamic moral, religious code of law that comes from a combination of sources including the Qur'an,
the Hadith, and fatwas (the rulings of Islamic scholars). Sharia also includes a legal structure that explains how
to deal with everyday issues relating to politics, economics, family, business, and social issues. Therefore, Sharia
regulates conduct of the individual relating to both secular and religious issues.
Place of Worship
Muslims worship in mosques, although being in a mosque is not a requirement for worship. Before entering a
mosque, worshipers must remove their shoes and perform a ritual washing of their feet. Women and men
customarily sit in separate areas of the mosque during worship.
Title of Islamic leadership used to identify local and global Islamic leaders. During the first centuries of Islam,
Imams were both religious and political leaders.
Jihad literally means "struggle" or "effort", and it goes deeper than a holy war. Muslims use the word “jihad” to
describe three different kinds of struggle:
A believer's internal struggle to live out the Muslim faith as well as possible
The struggle to build a good Muslim society
Holy war: the struggle to defend Islam, with force if necessary
Hijab is the principle of modesty for both men and women. The most commonly seen example of hijab is the
head covering that many Muslim women wear.
Muslims all over the world have different interpretations and understandings about the definition of modesty,
and different global regions have different requirements for exemplifying hijab. Many groups collectively
believe that when in the presence of someone of the opposite sex (other than a close family member), a woman
should cover her body, and walk and dress in a way which does not draw sexual attention to her.
World Religions
Sects of Islam
Two main divisions: Sunni and Shi'a. Their differences initially were political, and emerged when the Prophet
Muhammad died, and there was a dispute as to who should be the next Muslim leader. Over time, there grew
differences between these two groups regarding religious practices and beliefs, social customs, and other
However, both Sunni and Shiite Muslims share the same fundamental beliefs about Islam.
Holy Days and Festivals
o The 9th month in the Islamic calendar. It marks the month when the Qur'an was first revealed to
o Muslims believe that their good actions will bring greater reward during this month.
o During this month, Muslims try to give up bad habits and become better Muslims through more
prayer and recitation of the Qur'an.
o Fasting during daylight hours is obligatory during the entire month of Ramadan for those that
are able – meant to increase self-control in a variety of personal areas.
Eid Ul Fitr
o Occurs on the last day of Ramadan
o Muslims are not only celebrating the end of fasting, but thanking Allah for the help and strength
that given to them throughout the previous month.
o Celebrants wear their best or new clothes, and decorate their homes.
o There are special services out of doors and in mosques, processions through the streets and a
special celebratory meal - eaten during daytime, the first daytime meal Muslims will have had in
a month.
o It is also a time of forgiveness and making amends.
Eid Ul Adha
o This is a four-day public holiday in Muslim countries.
o The festival remembers the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered
him to.
o Each Muslim, as they celebrate, reminds themselves of their own submission to God, and their
own willingness to sacrifice anything to God's wishes.
o During the festival Muslims who can afford to, sacrifice domestic animals, usually sheep, as a
symbol of Ibrahim's sacrifice. The meat is distributed among family, friends and the poor, who
each get a third share.