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- Last Updated: February 14, 2013
- Originally Published: July 22, 2012
- The Faithology Editorial Staff
Islam is the second largest religion in the world; its adherents are called Muslims. Islam began in Arabia when Muhammad, Islam's final and most important prophet, proclaimed that the angel Gabriel had visited him and instructed him to preach on behalf of the one God, Allah. The revelations Muhammad claimed to have received were later recorded and compiled in the Quran, Islam's most sacred text. Muhammad moved from to in 622 CE, an event Muslims refer to as the Hijrah. This date marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, 1 AH. Since that time, Islam has grown to over 1.5 billion followers worldwide, all of whom accept Allah as the one God and Muhammad as his final and most important prophet. There are two major divisions within Islam, Sunnism and Shi'ism, which disagree, among other things, over the proper succession of leadership after the death of Muhammad.
The Five Pillars: The Five Pillars of Islam comprise the core of both and Shia beliefs:
- Declaration of Faith: To become a Muslim, one must declare, "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Apostle of God."
- : Muslims are expected to offer set prayers at five set times throughout the day.
- Alms giving: Muslims are expected to pay 2.5 percent of their wealth and assets to the poor annually.
- Fasting: Each year during the month of Ramadan, Muslims are expected to fast each day from dawn to sunset.
- Pilgrimage: Every Muslim who is physically and financially able is expected to visit Mecca at least once during his or her lifetime.
- Sacred Texts: The sacred text of Islam is the Quran. Commonly transliterated Quran or Koran, it comprises 114 chapters. The Sunnah and Hadith, which are accounts of Muhammad's traditions, sayings, actions and deeds, are also regarded highly by Muslims.
- Prophets: Messengers and prophets were sent by Allah from the beginning of the world to warn all mankind. Muhammad is the last and principal of these prophets.
- Deity: Islam is a monotheistic religion. Muslims Allah, creator and master of the universe.
Muhammad is said to have received the first revelation of the Quran, as well as his calling as Allah's messenger, in 610 CE. He began preaching publically in Mecca in 613.
Rejected by the polytheistic culture of Mecca, Muhammad and his followers moved to(present-day Medina) and established the first Islamic state. Islam became both a religious and a political organization.
As a religio-political body, Islam quickly expanded to become a world empire. Throughout the centuries, the ruling power of Islamic empires changed hands, and various factions emerged within Islam, but Islam maintained political and religious ties that transcended modern-day national boundaries.
With the fall of theEmpire after World War I and the emergence of present-day Arabic nations, Islam lost a great deal of its political unity, though the governments of individual Arabic nations often still rely heavily on Islamic religious law.
Islam is now the world’s second largest religion, with adherents numbering more than 1.55 billion. Followers of Islam live in almost every country of the world.