Islam is one of the largest religions in the world, with over 1 billion followers. It is a monotheistic faith based on revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad in 7th-century Saudi Arabia. The Arabic word islammeans “submission,” reflecting the faith's central tenet of submitting to the will of God. Followers of Islam are called Muslims.

According to Islamic tradition, the angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet over the course of 20 years, revealing to him many messages from God. Muslims recognize some earlier Judeo-Christian prophets—including Moses and Jesus—as messengers of of the same true God. But in Islam, but Muhammad is the last and greatest of the prophets, whose revelations alone are pure and uncorrupted.

The Prophet dedicated the remainder of his life to spreading a message of monotheism in a polytheistic world. In 622, he fled north to the city of Medina to escape growing persecution. This event marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Eight years later, Muhammad returned to Mecca with an army and conquered the city for Islam. By Muhammad's death, 50 years later, the entire Arabian Peninsula had come under Muslim control.

The sacred text of Islam, the Qur'an, was written in Arabic within 30 years of Muhammad's death. Muslims believe it contains the literal word of God. Also important is the tradition of the sayings and actions of Muhammad and his companions, collected in the Hadith.

Islamic practices center on the Five Pillars of Islam—faith; prayer; fasting; pilgrimage to Mecca; and alms—and include several holidays and rituals as well.

Islam and the Judeo-Christian West have had a challenging relationship for centuries and today's conflicts in the Middle East are religiously charged. Thus a focus on the facts and efforts towards mutual understanding are particularly important when it comes to Islam.

  • Islamic Beliefs

    Beliefs are important in Islam. Right beliefs about God, the universe, and humanity is of primary concern to Muslims. The Quran, the sacred text of Islam states, "Righteous is... read more

  • Islamic Sects and Schools

    In the religion of Islam, sects are not really "denominations," if that word is understood to mean various valid approaches to the same religion. The division... read more

  • History of Islam

    The story of Islam starts with the prophet Muhammad. However, Islam rose in a certain historical and geographical context. What was Arabia like before Muhammad and the rise of... read more

  • Islamic Holidays and Festivals

    What are the sacred days in Islam? Islam has relatively few holidays compared to most other religions; nevertheless, their sacred days and times are very important to Muslims. When... read more

  • Muslim Rituals and Practices

    Certain sacred practices and rituals are very important to Muslims. They are a significant way that followers of Islam remember history, express conviction, and grow in devotion. Some rituals... read more

  • Islamic Sacred Texts

    In Islam, there are two main sacred texts: the Quran (also spelled "Koran") and the Hadith (or Hadeeth). These books teach and illustrate Islamic beliefs, values... read more

  • Islamic Symbols

    The primary symbol of Islam is the star and crescent, which is featured on a number of flags in the Middle East. Other symbols include the name of Allah in... read more

Article Info

UpdatedNovember 13, 2015
MLA Citation“Islam.” 13 Nov. 2015. Web. Accessed 30 Nov. 2015. <>