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An Islam Primer

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


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...

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