Islam is an Abrahamic religion that originated in the 7th century in Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula. It is currently the 2nd-largest religion in the world and takes up a quarter of the world population. Muslims believe that Muhammad (570-632 A.D.) was the seal of prophets who was sent by God. At age forty, Muhammad started receiving revelations from God that were given to him by the archangel Gabriel while he was in a cave. These revelations were recorded by his followers in a book called the Quran.
Muhammad preached to people in Mecca to abandon polytheism and become monotheistic. This was because many rulers of Mecca were profiting from the poor visiting Mecca for pilgrimages. Muhammad was persecuted with his followers for twelve years before they emigrated in 622 to the city of Medina. There, Muhammad established political authority and created the Constitution of Medina that included security of the community, religious freedoms, the role of Medina as a sacred place, tribal relations with Medina, tax systems, political alliances, protection of individuals, and a judicial system.
By the end of his life, there had been several Muslim battles, but Muhammad managed to unite the tribes of Arabia into a single religious civilization. After his death, there were debates about who should be Muhammad’s successor. His first four successors are known as the Rightly Guided Caliphs.
In the modern era, the Muslim world has been declining since the 1800s. Muslims have started to reform Islam and united Muslims into an international brotherhood with collective opinions and goals. One movement that has emerged emphasizes Islamic law over personal devotion to Muhammad. There have been several revivals during the 20th century that have created political Islamic groups. Many Muslims are striving to separate Islamic scripture from ancient cultural traditions.
Muslims have also been subjected to hardships in the past century, such as Red Guards in China closing mosques and destroying Qurans, millions of Muslims were killed in the Cambodian genocide, and the Turkish military carried out coups against Islamist governments.
Islam is founded upon belief in six articles: God, angels, books, prophets, the Day of Resurrection, and providence.
The central belief is in the unity of God. God is transcendent and has no human form. He is sometimes referred to as Allah by Muslims and Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews. It is said that God created the entire universe and that the purpose of existence is to worship God. He is a personal god that responds to need or distress.
Angels are known as heavenly messengers. They are frequently mentioned in the Quran, such as the angels Gabriel and Michael. Many just have one function to serve such as communicating revelations from God, glorifying God, recording the actions of humanity, and taking a person’s soul at the time of death. Similar to Judaism and Christianity, angels are represented in anthropomorphic forms and may contain wings or heavy articles. They are created out of light and don’t require material needs.
Islamic holy texts are different from previous holy texts including the Torah and Gospel that Muslims believe have become distorted. They believe that the Quran was dictated to prophets directly from God and that it is the literal word of God. Prophets can communicate with God and are believed to be human and not divine, though it is said that some can perform miracles. Some prophets of Islam are found in Jewish or Christian texts such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
It is believed that Muhammad is the last prophet to convey the divine message to the entire world. Muslims are encouraged to follow the actions of Muhammad in their daily lives.
The Day of Resurrection is the apocalypse for Muslims. It is believed that this date is predestined by God but unknown to mankind. There will be several trials and tribulations before the end, but all humankind will be judged before God on this day and assigned to either paradise or hell depending on their deeds. There are several sins that can condemn a person to hell such as disbelief in God and dishonesty. God will forgive sins if they are repented to him. Good deeds such as charity, prayer, and compassion to nature will be rewarded with entry to paradise.
Muslims also believe in divine decree and destiny, meaning that every good or bad action in somebody’s life was predestined by God.
There are five acts of worship known as the Five Pillars of Islam. The first is Shahadah, which is the creed of Islam. It must be recited under oath, especially by non-Muslims wishing to convert. The second is daily prayer. There are five daily ritual prayers called salah. It is meant to focus the mind on God and express gratitude to him. They must be performed five times daily, and this includes bowing to God and praising God. They are composed of verses from the Quran and are recited in Arabic. Many times, Muslims will pray in a mosque, though this is not the only purpose of a mosque.
Charity is very important to Muslims. They are required to give 2.5% of their earnings to charity annually. In the past, this has served in Muslim states as the first guaranteed minimum income in the world. There is also optional charity that is practiced out of generosity.
Fasting is practiced during special holidays such as Ramadan. This is performed from dawn to sunset to restrain oneself for God’s sake and to think of the needy. A famous practice of Muslims is the obligatory pilgrimage to Mina, the plain of Mount Arafat, the plain of Muzdalifah, Jamarat, and Mecca. This is supposed to be done at least once in the lifetime of every Muslim. An optional pilgrimage can be taken to Medina or Jerusalem.
Muslims will memorize either the entire Quran or parts of the Quran. This is supposed to be a symbol of virtue. Some will recite the entire Quran during the month of Ramadan. It is believed that if one memorizes the entire Quran, they can intercede for ten people on the Last Judgment Day.
The central holy text of Islam is the Quran. It is believed to be a revelation from Allah that was revealed to Muhammad through the archangel Gabriel over the course of 23 years. It is known as Muhammad’s most important miracle, a proof of his prophethood, and the final messages of God after the Torah, Psalms, and Gospel.
It is believed to be the literal word of God, and the Quran was compiled by Muhammad's scribes that were his companions. Some sections were memorized by the companions who wrote it down after his death. It retains major narratives from Christian and Jewish scriptures and offers detailed accounts of historical events. It is meant to be a book of guidance for humanity. It is also the basis for Islamic law in many denominations.
There are several major denominations of Islam. The largest denomination of Islam is Sunni Islam, making up 85-90% of all Muslims. They believe that the first four caliphs were the rightful successors to Muhammad and God didn’t specify anybody in particular to succeed Muhammad. They follow traditional theology that has a literal understanding of the Quran.
Shia is the second largest denomination at 10-15% of Muslims. They believed that Muhammad decreed Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor. This denomination includes several sub sects such as the Twelvers, Ismailis, and Zaidis.
Ibadi is the last major denomination with over 1 million followers in Oman. Some other denominations include Quranists, Bektashi Alevism, Ahmadiyaa, and Mahdavia. There are also many non-denominational Muslims.