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...


    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.

    Circa 622: Muhammad migrates to Medina and establishes an Islamic community. The Muslim calendar begins.

    Circa 632: Death of Muhammad.

    632-661: Islamic rule extends to North Africa, Persia (Iran), Jerusalem, Damascus and Central Asia.

    732: Muslim advance into Europe is halted in France by Christian armies.

    750-925: Islam's "Golden Age." Under a unified empire, Islamic legal, religious and political thought flowers.

    1096: European Christians launch the first Crusade to take the Holy Land from Muslims.

    1099: Crusaders conquer Jerusalem.

    1258: Mongols conquer the Islamic center of Baghdad.

    1291: Islamic forces defeat the last Crusader stronghold in Palestine.

    1453: Constantinople (now Istanbul) becomes a Muslim city when it is conquered by the Ottoman Turks.

    1492: With fall of Grenada, Muslim rule ends in Spain.

    1683: Muslim Turks, controlling much of southeastern Europe, attack Vienna.

    1798: The French, under Napoleon, invade Egypt.