An Islam Primer

Everything you always wanted to know, from Islam's 'golden age' to the meaning of 'jihad.'

QUICK FACTS | TIMELINE | GLOSSARY

Quick Facts

Islam is the second-largest religion in the world. Religion estimated followers:
  • Christianity 1.9 billion
  • Islam 1.3 billion
  • Hinduism 900 million


  • There are two main branches of Islam:
  • Sunni 83%
  • Shi'ite 16%
  • Other 1%


  • Largest Muslim populations (in millions) by Country
    Number of Muslims:
  • Indonesia 170.3
  • Pakistan 136
  • Bangladesh 106
  • India 103
  • Turkey 62.4
  • Iran 60.7
  • Egypt 53.7
  • Nigeria 47.7
  • China 37.1


  • FIVE PILLARS OF FAITH: Followers of Islam share a core of basic beliefs on which they base their daily lives.

    Profession of faith ("shahadah," in Arabic) - "There is no deity but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger." Followers repeat this phrase several times a day to remind themselves of God's central position in their lives.

    Ritual worship ("salah") - Muslims are required to pray formally five time a day-at dawn, midday, afternoon, evening and night.

    Almsgiving ("zakah") - Muslims pay a specified amount of money, typically 2.5 percent of their accumulated wealth each year, to assist the poor and sick.

    Fasting ("sawn") - During the monthlong Ramadan, Muslims are to refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual activities from dawn to sunset.

    Pilgrimage to Mecca ("hajj") - Islam requires every believer to make at least one visit to Mecca in their lifetime if means are available. More on the Hajj...


    More on the Five Pillars...



    TIMELINE

    Circa 610: Prompted by what he says are divine revelations, the Prophet Muhammad begins espousing a new version of pure monotheism in pagan Mecca, a town located in what is now Saudi Arabia.
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