The name Islam is derived from the word salam, which is often interpreted as “peace.” However “submission” is a more accurate translation. Followers of Islam are called Muslims, which is an Arabic word that refers to a person who submits themselves to the will of God.
Most religious historians view Islam as having been founded in 622 CE by Muhammad the Prophet. Islam is the youngest of the world’s very large religions (those with over 300 million members) which include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
There are two important texts used by Muslims. The Qur’an (written Koran in English), contains the words and teachings of God. Muslims believe that it was revealed to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel. It was originally in oral and written form and was later assembled together into a single book.
The Hadith is the second text, and are collections of the sayings of Muhammad. These writings are not regarded as having the same status as the Qur’an.
Islam encompasses six fundamental concepts in which all Muslims believe: one single, invisible god, often referred to as Allah; angels; the divine scriptures (the Torah, Bible, and the Qur’an); the messengers of God; the Day of Judgment; and the supremacy of God’s will.
Some other beliefs include: God did not have a son, rather Jesus was a prophet born of the Virgin Mary; Jesus was not executed on the cross, but escaped and was taken into Paradise; Satan drives people to sin, and those who repent return to a state of sinlessness; and that all people are born to Islam, and some are converted to other religions by their parents.
Muslims have many duties to God and their faith as described in the Five Pillars of Islam. The most important of these duties is the recitation of their creed which must be done at least once in their lifetime, although most Muslims recite it every day. Muslims must also perform the salat (prayer) five times a day while facing Mecca.
Donations of 2.5 % of their income to charity are expected, and additional donations to the needy are encouraged. Followers of Islam must fast during the lunar month of Ramadan, which is believed to be the month that Mohammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an from God.
Muslims must also, if physically able, make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca during their lifetimes.
The number of Muslims is estimated to be 1.2 billion worldwide, with several million living in the United States. Muslims are currently concentrated from the West coast of Africa to the Philippines. In Africa, in particular, they are increasing in numbers, largely at the expense of Christianity.
About 21% of all people on earth follow Islam. This religion is currently in a period of rapid growth, and if current trends continue, Islam is predicted to become the most popular world religion in the mid-21st century.