World Religions Info

Overview of Islam

“There is no god but God; Muhammad is the prophet of God.” The word Islam means to surrender to god. As Muslim you to devote yourself to god, you hope for a better future life, and you have a deep sense of community within your religion. Starting in Saudi Arabia, the Islam religion has spread to being the 2nd largest religion in the world. As Muslin you pray in the Mosque, with an imam as your clergy. You study from the Koran, your sacred text. The Islam religion has two main divisions, the Sunnism and Shiism. The Sunnism division makes up majority of the Islamic faith. They believe in the teachings of Muhammad that are recorded in the Koran. The Shiites make up around 10% of the Muslims. They believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib is the true heir to Muhammad.

Both divisions must follow the five pillars of Islamic belief. Following the pillars means that you share the faith that Allah is the only god.The first pillar is to profess your faith, meaning that you must believe that, “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the prophet of God.” The second pillar is that you must pray five times daily. The daily prayer, salat, is performed with a sequence of kneeling, bending, and standing. The five prayers are performed facing Mecca. The third pillar is that you must pay the zakat. The zakat is a form of taxation; the tax is a percentage of your income which is then given to the poor. The fourth pillar is that you must fast during the month of Ramadan. When you fast you are not allowed to drink, smoke, or eat during the day. This pillar has exceptions for children who have not matured, the sick, and pregnant woman. The fifth pillar is that you must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your lifetime. This pillar has two forms of the pilgrimages, the hajj and the umra. The difference between these two is that the hajj has a restricted time period, the 12th month of the lunar calendar, unlike the umra, which can be done at anytime.

Woman and men are treated very differently. The Muslim women are not allowed to go to some of the mosques that the men are. There are also different tunnels for men and woman to use at Mecca. The women are not allowed to cut their hair more than an inch, unlike men who shave their heads. Women are supposed to dress modestly. An example of this is a burqa. A burqa is a dark piece of clothing that covers everything but their eyes. Not every aspect of men and women is different. The Sufism is a tradition where the men and women are treated almost equally. This tradition is when a Muslim is communicating with god or experiencing his presence. This takes the person’s mind into “God-thought.”

The Islamic belief is same and different from Judaism and Christianity. All the religions believe in one god and one god only. But all three believe in different gods. Islam and Christianity both believe in the second coming of a god, but Judaism does not. There are many things that are the same and many things that are different in the religions.

History of Islam

Islam was founded by Muhammad in 622 CE. Muhammad was the prophet of god. In 610, Muhammad was in his forties and he began to receive messages or revelations from god. On the year of 622, Muhammad and his follows left to Medina, because he was persecuted. He then lived until 632 CE, teaching and trying to make people believe in God. After Muhammad’s death, the Muslims split into two divisions, the Sunnis and Shiites. 

Muhammad’s death led to Adu Bakr being chosen as the caliph. After he is chosen, there is a series of Ridda wars also known as the as the Wars of Apostasy that happen. The wars begin because some of the Muslims disagreed with Adu Bakr being chosen and decided to rebel his authority. Adu Bakr heard this and started the wars by combating the defeat of all the apostates. There were a total of eight Riddas wars.

The third caliphate was Uthman ibn Affan. Uthman was the one that wrote down the Koran, in the year of 650. The Koran is the sacred text that contains the stories that Muhammad was taught by god and the angel Gabriel. The Koran is known as one of the best pieces of literature written in Arabic.

After the death of Uthman Ibn Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib became the caliphate.  This led to the battle of Siffin, also known as the first Muslim civil war. The war took place form May to June in the year 657. The war started because the govener of Syria wanted revenge on on murderers of Uthman and Ali didn't.  Mua       

In the late 900’s the Islam religion spread to West Africa. Islam also spread to central Asia, Turkey, and other countries of the northern Africa in the 13th century. Most of the countries changed over to Muslims because they liked the way that the religion represented brotherhood and had someone to follow.             

In the year of 1938 there was a discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia. With the oil it changed the way Muslims traveled their pilgrimage to Mecca. The fifth pillar is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca; on this pilgrimage you are seeing the cube. The cube, or Kabah, is the most sacred object in the Islamic faith. With the discovery of oil the Muslims would now travel by car or airplane, making it easier and faster.

Major Divisions of Islam

Sunnism- Sunnism is a form of Islamic faith, which its followers study from the Koran. They believe that the Koran is a series of teachings from Muhammad, who received them from the angel Gabriel.

Shiism- Shiism is another form of Islamic faith where its followers believe that Ali Ibn Abi Tablib was the true political and spiritual heir to Muhammad.

10 Common Misconceptions

1. All Muslims are violent, terrorists, and/or extremists. Not all Muslims are violent, terrorists, and/or extremists. There may be some that are, but that does not mean the whole Muslim religion is filled with these kind of people.

2. Islam oppresses women. When people think of Islam, they often think of the women having to wear veils, stay home, and are forbidden to do many things. Some Muslim countries may have laws that may oppress women, but this doesn’t mean it comes from Islam, because some countries don’t rule by the Islamic law.

3. Muslims worship a different God. Many people think Muslims worship a different God, called Allah, but Allah is just the Arabic name for God.

4. All Muslims are Arabs. Muslims are a large range of races, nationalities, and cultures from around the world, not all are Arabic.

5. All Muslim men have four wives. Muslim men do have permission to marry up to four women if he can provide separate housing for each and treat each fairly. No woman is forced into this type of marriage, but it is allowed. Not all Muslim men do this though.

6. Muhammad was the founder of Islam and Muslims worship him. Muhammad was not the founder of Islam. He was a prophet and messenger of God.Muslims don’t worship Muhammad, they honor him.

7. Muslims don’t believe in Jesus. Muslims believe in Jesus, but they do not worship him.

8. Going around the Kabah is worshiping an idol. Muslims do not worship the Kabah. They worship God only. The Kabah is a unifying way for Muslims to pray.

9. The Qur’an commands Muslims to kill disbelievers. People got this idea from this passage, “Kill the Mushrikoon where ever you find them.”  Found in Chapter 9, Verse 5. But if you read later on, you will find that this was stated in a battle field. The Qur’an doesn’t command killing, it forbids it, as it says in this passage, “Whosoever kills a human being for other than Murder or Creating Mischief in the Land, it is as if he had killed the whole of Human Kind and whoso saved the life of one as if he has saved the life of all Mankind.” Found in Chapter 5, Verse 12

10.Islam is intolerant of other religions. In the Qur’an, the messenger of Allah states, "One who kills a non-Muslim person under protection will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise."

Key Terms

Allah- Muslim word literally meaning “God” in Arabic. Meaning the same God Christians and Jews believe in.

Five Pillars- The five pillars of Islam are the five things that Muslims must do. Belief in Allah and Muhammad as his prophet, daily prayer, giving money to poor, fasting, and the trip to Mecca.

Hajj- The pilgrimage to Mecca that all adult Muslims are supposed to make in his or her lifetime at least once.

‘Id al-Adha- A major festival of the Islam religion held on the tenth day of the last month lasting for four days.

Kaaba- Cube shaped building in Mecca that is sacred to Muslims. Muslims face it’s direction in prayer. Literally meaning “cube”.

Koran- The sacred text of Islam that is divided into 114 different chapters. It is the foundation of Islamic law, religion, culture, and politics.

Mosque- A temple that serves as a place of warship and prayer for the Muslim community.

Shahadah- A statement of Islam saying “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

Shi’ite- A division of Islam that regards Ali as the successor of Muhammad and disregards the three caliphs.

Sunni- A division of Islam that regards the three caliphs as the successors of the prophet Muhammad.

Islam Symbols


Crescent Moon and Star- this became affiliated with Muslims after Ottoman Empire. Legend holds that the leader, Osman, had a dream that the moon reached from one end of the earth to another. He took this as an omen and made it a symbol for the empire, which ruled over Muslims.


Spread of Islam


Distribution of Islam


To Learn More Go To...

Islamic churches:

Islamic Center & Mosque:

Islamic Mosque Religious Institute:

Masjud Muhammad:  (616) 245-9175

Kingdom Hall-Jehovahs Witness:  (616) 459-7624