“There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Prophet of God.” Shahada (Islamic statement of faith)
Islamic Art
Colorful Islamic geometric designs and Arabic calligraphy on a wall in the Saadian Tombs, Marrakesh, Morocco, late 16th century. Holly Hayes
Definition: Islam
(Arabic, "submission") Monotheistic faith based on the Qur'an and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Fast Facts on Islam
Adherents 1.6 billion
Locations Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia
Date Founded 622 CE
Place Founded Arabian Peninsula
History Founded by the Prophet Muhammad in 622 CE, Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Founders Muhammad
Sects/Branches Sunni (majority), Shi'a, Sufism
Beliefs There is no God but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his Prophet. The Qur'an is a perfect record of God's revelation to Muhammad. Angels exist to serve Allah. Afterlife is Paradise or Hell. Predestination.
Ethics/Lifestyle Alms to the poor (one of the Five Pillars of Islam); no alcohol or pork; dietary law (Halal).
Rituals/Practices Five Pillars: Faith, Prayer, Alms, Pilgrimage, Fasting. Mosque services on Fridays. Ablutions before prayer. No alcohol or pork. Holidays related to the pilgrimage and fast of Ramadan.
Day of Worship Friday
Holidays Al-Hijra, Ramadan, 'Id Al-Fitr
Scriptures/Texts Qur'an (sacred text); Hadith (tradition)
Symbols Star and crescent; name of Allah in Arabic; color green; mosque silhouette

Islam is one of the largest religions in the world, with over 1 billion followers. It is a monotheistic faith based on revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad in 7th-century Saudi Arabia. The Arabic word islam means “submission,” reflecting the faith's central tenet of submitting to the will of God. Followers of Islam are called Muslims.

According to Islamic tradition, the angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet over the course of 20 years, revealing to him many messages from God. Muslims recognize some earlier Judeo-Christian prophets—including Moses and Jesus—as messengers of of the same true God. But in Islam, Muhammad is the last and greatest of the prophets, whose revelations alone are pure and uncorrupted.

The Prophet dedicated the remainder of his life to spreading a message of monotheism in a polytheistic world. In 622, he fled north to the city of Medina to escape growing persecution. This event marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Eight years later, Muhammad returned to Mecca with an army and conquered the city for Islam. By Muhammad's death, 50 years later, the entire Arabian Peninsula had come under Muslim control.

The sacred text of Islam, the Qur'an, was written in Arabic within 30 years of Muhammad's death. Muslims believe it contains the literal word of God. Also important is the tradition of the sayings and actions of Muhammad and his companions, collected in the Hadith.

Islamic practices center on the Five Pillars of Islam—faith; prayer; fasting; pilgrimage to Mecca; and alms—and include several holidays and rituals as well.

Sources & Further Reading

  1. Godlas, Alan. "Islam and Islamic Studies Resources: For Studying Islam and the Diverse Perspectives of Muslims." . Accessed 26 Nov 2016.
  2. Welch, Alford T. "Islam." The Penguin Handbook of the World's Living Religions.Penguin Books, 2010. .