The Quran (sometimes spelled Qur’an or Koran) is considered the most important holy book among Muslims.
It contains some basic information that is found in the Hebrew Bible as well as revelations that were given to Muhammad. The text is considered the sacred word of God and supercedes any previous writings.
Most Muslims believe that Muhammad’s scribes wrote down his words, which became the Quran. (Muhammad himself was never taught to read or write.)
The book is written with Allah as the first person, speaking through Gabriel to Muhammad. It contains 114 chapters, which are called surahs.
Scholars believe the Quran was compiled shortly after Muhammad’s death, under the guidance of Caliph Abu Bakr.
READ MORE: Why the Quran Was a Bestseller Among Christians in 18th Century America
The Islamic calendar, also called the Hijra calendar, is a lunar calendar used in Islamic religious worship. The calendar began in the year 622 A.D., celebrating the journey of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina.
The Islamic calendar indicates the proper days of Islamic holidays and celebrations, including the period of fasting and prayer known as Ramadan, which occurs during the ninth month of the calendar.
As in many religions, there is no single image or symbol of Islam that is universally accepted by all Muslims worldwide.
The crescent moon and star has been adopted in some predominantly Muslim countries as a symbol of Islam, though the crescent moon and star image is believed to pre-date Islam and was originally a symbol of the Ottoman Empire.
In some other applications, such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent humanitarian aid movement, a red crescent indicates that followers of Islam are respected and treated accordingly.
The color green is also sometimes associated with Islam, as it was reportedly a favorite color of Muhammad's and is often featured prominently in the flags of predominantly Muslim countries.
Muslims follow five basic pillars that are essential to their faith. These include:
Islam’s legal system is known as Sharia Law. This faith-based code of conduct directs Muslims on how they should live in nearly every aspect of their lives.
Sharia law requires men and women to dress modestly. It also outlines marriage guidelines and other moral principles for Muslims.
If crimes are committed, Sharia law is known for its harsh punishments. For example, the punishment for theft is amputating a person’s hand. Adultery can carry the penalty of death by stoning. However, many Muslims do not support such extreme measures.
The prophet Muhammad is credited with building the first mosque in the courtyard of his house in Medina. Mosques today follow some of the same principles he established in 622 A.D.
Muslim prayer is often conducted in a mosque's large open space or outdoor courtyard. A mihrab is a decorative feature or niche in the mosque that indicates the direction to Mecca, and therefore the direction to face during prayer.
Men and women pray separately, and Muslims may visit a mosque five times a day for each of the prayer sessions. In addition to hosting prayers, mosques often function as public gathering places and social centers.
The two major Muslim holidays are:
Eid al-Adha: celebrates the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for Allah.
Eid al-Fitr: marks the end of Ramadan—the Islamic holy month of fasting.
Muslims also celebrate other holidays, such as the Islamic New Year and the birth of Muhammad.
In recent years, Islam’s supposed association with terrorism and mass murder has sparked a political debate in many countries. The controversial term “radical Islam” has become a well-known label to describe the religion’s connection to acts of violence.
While some Muslims use their faith to justify terrorism, the vast majority do not. In fact, Muslims are frequently victims of violence themselves.
Recent surveys have found that in countries with high Muslim populations, the majority of Muslims have overwhelmingly negative views of terrorist groups like ISIS.
While Muslims aim to clear up misconceptions about their faith, the religion continues to spread rapidly. Today, Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion. Experts predict Islam will surpass Christianity as the largest religion by the end of the century.
Islam: The Second Largest World Religion…And Growing, Religious Tolerance.
Islam Fast Facts, CNN.
Basic Facts About Islam, PBS.
What is Sharia Law and How is it Applied? BBC.
In nations with significant Muslim populations, much disdain for ISIS. Pew Research Center.
Islam Rituals and Worship: Symbolism, The Religion Library.
The Islamic Calendar: TimeandDate.com.
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