Dates from: 622 CE in Mecca (in Saudi Arabia) Note: Muslims believe Islam is the only true religion and has no beginning; 622 CE is the date the Islamic calendar began, keyed to an important event in Muhammad's life
Adherents: 1.5 billion (940 million Sunni, 560 million Shia)
Ranking: Second, behind Christianity
Prophets: Muhammad (last and final prophet); also Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Joseph, Moses, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, and others
Texts: Holy Qur'an (Qur'an) – primary scripture; also the Hadith (literally "report" or "tradition"), a collection of books chronicling sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers. The original language of Qur'an and Hadith is Arabic. The Qur'an is considered sealed; that is, permanently unalterable.
Clergy: Sunni Islam does not have formal clergy; however, imam is a term of respect for one who leads prayers, or sometimes a religious professional. Shiite Islam has hierarchical clergy, from the mullah, who has made a serious study of Islamic law and literature, to the mujtahid, an Islamic religious scholar, to the very powerful ayatollah, who sometimes rule entire countries. An imam in Shiite Islam is the highest of all, with very specific requirements. Some branches of Shia believe there can no longer be an imam, but in any case only one can exist at a time.
Ramadan – a month-long holiday observed with fasting during daylight hours and prayer, commemorates when Muhammad was given the Qur'an by the angel Gabriel. The day after the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, is a holy day celebrated with decorations and gift giving.
Mawlid al-Nabi – celebrates the birth of the Prophet. Conservative Muslims do not celebrate this holiday or any birthdays.
Ashura – marks an occurrence in 680 CE when 70 Muslims were martyred
Eid al-Adha – marks the end of the Hajj. Traditionally, some Muslims celebrate this three-day festival by sacrificing an animal and sharing the meat with family and the needy.
Terms and Fundamental Precepts:
Five Pillars of Islam – profession of faith ("There is one God and Muhammad is his prophet"), prayer toward Mecca five times a day, giving to the poor and performing community service, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca
Muslim – a follower of Islam
Mecca – in Saudi Arabia, main holy city of Islam; location of the Kaa'ba
Shia – branch of Islam with 560 million adherents; grant authority to lineage of Ali (cousin of Muhammad) and direct descendants of Muhammad; Shia or Shiite is a shortening of Shiat Ali, which means "Partisans of Ali"
Sunni – branch of Islam with 940 million adherents; grant authority to lineage of caliphs who retained leadership over the claims of Muhammad's descendants (p.b.u.h.), meaning "peace be upon him," notation appearing after Muhammad's name in English; also appears as (s.a.w.), for the transliteration of the Arabic sallallahu alaihi wasallam of the same meaning
As Salaam Alaikum – traditional Muslim greeting; means "Peace be unto you."
Hijra – migration of Muhammad and his followers to Medina in year 622 CE, after which Islam spread rapidly; also the beginning of the Islamic calendar
Sunna (or Sunnah) – way of life prescribed in Islam, based on teachings and practices of Muhammad (therefore on both Qur'an and Hadith)
Hajj – a pilgrimage to Mecca which every Muslim is expected to undertake at least once during life; one of the Five Pillars of Islam
ummah – community, especially the community of believers; can refer to a group of individuals or the body of Islamic nations
ablution – cleansing with water, performed before prayer
hijab – headscarf worn by some Muslim women
halal – lawful; literally "allowed by Allah;" permitted under Islamic law
Kaa'ba – the black cubic building which houses relics of Muhammad; the point toward which all Muslims pray
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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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