Islam is monotheistic Abrahamic religion that originated in Saudi Arabia in the 7th century CE. A Muslim is an adherent of Islam. There are over 1.8 billion Muslims — a quarter of the world's population, making Islam the second-largest religion in the world. It is also the fastest-growing major religion in the world.
A Muslim may also be called Musalmaan in Hindi or Urdu, Moslem or Mohammedan, because the religion of Islam was founded by Prophet Mohammed.
Basic Tenets of Islam
The word Islam comes from the term "al-silm" which means peace, and the word "istaslama" (استسلاما) means to "surrender" or "submission (to Allah)".
Many people don't realize that there are many similarities between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. All three religions are monotheistic i.e., they believe in one God. All three are Abrahamic religions; Old Testament figures like Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses are considered prophets in Islam. Jesus is also a revered as a prophet by Muslims.
Muslims believe that Mohammed was the last prophet of God, and that the archangel Gabriel revealed the word of God to Prophet Mohammed. These revelations are recorded in the Qur'an, which along with the Hadith constitutes the scripture of Islam.
Five Pillars of Islam
Islam calls for Muslims to practice the "five pillars":
- Tawhid (faith): Believe in God, believe that there is only one God, and that Prophet Muhammad was his messenger.
- Sallah (prayer): Muslims pray 5 times a day — dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and nightfall. When they pray, they face the city of Mecca. This prayer ritual is called namaz in Persian, Turkish and Urdu.
- Zakah (charity): All Muslims who can afford to donate money are obligated to do so to help the community.
- Sawm (fasting): Fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. Muslims do not eat or drink from dawn till sunset for one lunar month. After Ramadan, there is a holiday called Eid al-Fitr (which means "festival of end-fast" in English). On Eid al-Fitr, Muslims usually go to the mosque in the morning for a special religious service, and then have a party with families and friends.
- Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca): Every able-bodied Muslim, whether man or woman, is obliged to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life. Muslims believe Mecca to be a holy city because the Masjid al-Haram ('Sacred Mosque') — the holiest site in Islam — is in Mecca. In 630 CE Prophet Mohammed declared it a site of pilgrimage after his triumphant return to the city after years of exile in Medina.
Jesus in Islam
Jesus is a revered prophet in Islam. The Arabic name for Jesus is Isa. Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet and a messenger of God but unlike Christians, Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus but do not believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. They do not believe that he died on the cross but believe that one of his disciples took his place on the cross for him. Muslims do believe in the second coming of Jesus, that Jesus will return to earth near the Day of Judgment to restore justice and to defeat al-Masih ad-Dajjal ("the false messiah", or the Antichrist).
Sects of Islam
The two main branches of Islam are Sunni and Shia.
Sunnis are in the majority, accounting for 80-90% of all Muslims. Countries where Shia Muslims are in the majority are Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Lebanon. Other countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE, Egypt and Turkey have Sunni Muslims constituting the vast majority.
Both Shia and Sunni Muslims follow the basic tenets of Islam, including the five pillars. A lot of the division is political i.e., about who was the rightful successor of Prophet Mohammed. A detailed comparison of Shia and Sunni beliefs is available for a deep dive.
Muslims Around the World
There are two ways to look at Muslim population around the world: by absolute numbers and as a percentage of the total population of a country. For example, Muslims are about 15% of India's population but India is home to about 200 million Muslims.