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There are approximately more than one billion Muslims worldwide. It is the principal religion of much of Asia, including Arabian Peninsula states, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Despite popular image, Arabs comprise approximately only one fifth of the total followers of this religion, with Indonesians comprising the majority. India, although following Hinduism as the country’s principal religion, also has one of largest Muslim populations in the world.
Islam is also the principal religion in some African countries, including Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Guinea, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia. Also Muslims comprise significant portions of population in such African countries as Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania (with Zanzibar island being predominantly Muslim territory).
In Europe aboriginal population is mostly Christian, except for Albania which is predominantly Muslim. Historically, some of the countries such as Bosnia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Georgia have had Muslim populations. Elsewhere in Europe Muslims are mostly represented by immigrant communities from North Africa, Turkey and Asia, which are significant in such countries as Germany, Great Britain, France and some other nations.
Islamic population share in the Americas has grown substantially in recent decades, both due to immigration of the Muslims from different parts of the world and from conversion of local inhabitants to the Islam, predominantly within Afro-American population.
The cornerstone central to Islam is the Qur'an, a major sacral text, believed to be the final revelation of Allah (Arabic – “God”) to the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam. As this text was originally in Arabic this language is used by the Muslims in their religious practice worldwide (Esposito: 1-5).
The word Qur'an means "recitation" and Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the literal word of God revealed to Muhammad by God through the angel Gabriel in peiod between 610 and 632 (year of Muhammad’s death). The Qur'an consists of 6,236 verses (ayah) grouped into 114 chapters (suras). The earlier suras are primarily concerned with spiritual and ethical topics, while later suras are mostly concerned with social and moral issues related to the community. In general, the Qur’an could be considered to be an ethical guidance outlining Islamic principles and values.
Another sacral source for Islam is the Sunnah (literally "trodden path"), the spoken and acted "normative" example of Prophet Muhammad's life. These examples are gathered in hadith ("reports"), which cite Muhammad's words, his actions and personal characteristics. The importance of the Sunnah in Islamic law is as almost as important as Qur’an itself and Muslims are encouraged to mimic Muhammad actions in their daily lives. The Sunnah is considered to be an inseperable complement of the Qur’an crucial for its proper interpretation.
The distinctive characteristic of Islam is its attitude toward God, as devotees are expected to “submit” themselves to Him, to praise and glorify Him and to hope in Him alone. However, in popular forms of Islam, Muslims also worship the saints, prophets, and angels and ask their intercession, however preserving the distinction between the “creatures” and “Creator”.
The Message of Muhammad is viewed by Muslims as the fulfillment and continuation of a lineage of Prophecy. This Prophecy includes as well figures from Judaism (the Old Testament) and Christianity (the Old Testament and the New Testament). These common figures include Adam, the first man, Noah, patriarch of the only lineage to survive the Flood, Abraham, the founder of the Hebrew people, Moses, prophet who led the Israelites out of Egypt, and Jesus, the Savior and Son of God, according to Christianity. Similarly the chief angels in Islam are the same as in Judaism and Christianity - Gabriel and Michael. Islamic texts provide a communal entity status for the so called ahl al-kitab, People of the Book, i.e., those with revealed religions, such as Judaists and Christians.
Similarly to two otherr world religions, Judaism and Christianity, Islam provides for the existence of final (after-life) reward and punishment, where righteous life will be rewarded and sinful will be punished.
One of the central constructions of the Islam are the so called “five pillars” (shahadah) through which Muslims “submit” themselves to Allah (arkan ad-din). First of the pillars is Shahadah, an acceptance and affirmation of that "there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God". The second pillar is Salat, being performing the five daily ritual prayers at fixed times during the day, namely at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and at night. The third pillar, Zakat, the giving of alms, a charitable donation based on accumulated wealth (1/40 of one's wealth) obligatory to all who are capable to do so to poor, needy and travelers. Sawm, the forth pillar, is a following a dawn-to-sunset fast during the holy lunar month of Ramadan. And the last, the fifth pillar is Hajj, conducting at least one pilgrimage to holy city of Mecca, where Islam was first proclaimed by the Prophet Muhammad in 7th century. Pilgrimage to Mecca, besides being a personal religious quest, is a great annual gathering which unites Islam and its believers from around the globe.
Other obligations set out by Islam to its followers are the duty to "commend good and reprimand evil". The exertion of such efforts by the Muslims for the cause of Allah is a duty to be fulfilled both, at the individual and at the communal level. At the individual level, it implies that one should make all efforts to follow the path ordained by Allah and to live righteous life. At the communal level, it implies encouraging righteous behavior within a community, while taking measure to correct improper. Also, at the communal level, it is expected to protect Islam from enemies, which often debatable regarding applicable methods and definition of “enemy”.
Islam is not limited to the traditional definition of religion as it is inseparable from communal life and social membership. Islam has unitary nature being a system governing relations between an individual and God, an individual and society, and society and God.
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