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DAV I D P. G I L K E Y / D E T R O I T F R E E P R E S S / M C T

Muslim men gather for Friday prayers and the official start of the holy month of Ramadan outside the Pul Khashti mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2004.

Understanding Islam
With more than a billion followers, Islam is one of the largest religions in the world,
yet many misconceptions persist about Muslims, their practices and their faith.
Common Practices
Islam is a diverse faith prac- BY HALIMAH ABDULLAH
McClatchy Newspapers
ticed in different ways by
Muslims across the globe. slam was founded in seventh century Arabia with African explorers on early expeditions and
However, some commonalities
exist across the spectrum.
Muslims are encouraged to read
the Quran — especially during
the holy month of Ramadan, and
I and shares many teachings with Judaism
and Christianity. Today the world’s second
largest religion, with 1.5 billion adherents,
Islam is a culturally diverse and multifaceted
faith. Whirling dervishes in Turkey practice an
later with Africans who came to the Americas
either as free blacks or slaves.
Muslim women often express pride that one
of their faith’s key figures was Khadijah, the
Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, a well educated
the Hadith. Most practicing ancient art of meditative spinning, while Muslim and wealthy businesswoman. Scholars argue that
Muslims offer Salat, or prescribed hip-hop groups such as Native Deen speak to a early Muslim societies granted women greater
prayer, five times a day at pre- more modern aesthetic. Egyptian bloggers and financial and property rights than their counter-
scribed intervals. Both men and Malaysian religious scholars might all consider parts of other faiths, and lament that some of ELIZABETH FLORES/
M I N N E A P O L I S S TA R T R I B U N E / M C T
women are encouraged to dress themselves Muslims, yet they those rights have been curtailed in
The chador is a full-body
modestly and generally pray in could spend hours debating how The Quran is modern times by ultra-conservative
cloak, sometimes covering
either separate rows, sections or to express devotion and adapt to the central Islamic groups in conflict-ridden parts of
the face, that some Muslim
rooms. Muslims view pork and 21st century global culture. holy text. the Islamic world.
women wear.
pork products as unclean and try Islam translates from the C H E RY L D I A Z M E Y E R /
DA L L A S M O R N I N G N E W S / M C T
Similarly narrow interpretations
to stay clear. And, whether a Arabic for “submission to God,” of Islam — such as those promoted reported sayings and deeds of
Muslim regularly attends Friday and the religion’s followers are by al-Qaida, the Islamist terror net- Prophet Muhammad recorded by
worship services or worships at known as Muslims, or “ones who work, and the Taliban, the hardline followers passed down and over
home, most Muslims rejoice at submit to God.” Most American Islamist movement in Afghanistan the centuries.
the end of the 30 day Ramadan Muslims follow a mainstream and — have been used to justify the Hijab (hee-jab): Means
fast, which culminates in a three- moderate version of the faith, are repression of women and assault “cover” or “curtain.” This is a ref-
day festival, Eid ul-Fitr “the Feast middle class, educated and live against civilians in several countries. erence to the modest style of
of Fast Breaking.” near urban centers where The headline-grabbing violence dress as proscribed in the Quran.
Five Pillars mosques have stood for genera- of such groups have left ordinary Muslims interpret hijab in varying
The religion of Islam is tions. Fewer than 10 percent of Muslims in an uneasy position in ways. Most Muslim women will
grounded on Five Pillars: Muslims are Arabs, and roughly a the West, where they’ve experienced wear a headscarf when praying or
Declaration of Faith quarter of Muslims in the United hate crimes, legal challenges to the entering a mosque. Some wear a
(Shahadah): Every Muslim States are native-born African building of mosques and other headscarf in public, others steer
states the phrase “There is no Americans. There are more than results of an anti-Muslim back- clear of revealing clothing, and
God but (Allah) and Muhammad 2.5 million and perhaps as many lash. The vast majority of Muslim still others cover completely with
is the messenger of God.” as 6 million American Muslims, groups in the West and abroad flowing robes known as burqas or
Prayer (Salat): Muslims pray according to different research have rejected terrorist attacks as a niqab.
five times a day facing Mecca — groups. distortion of their religion and point to Imam (ee-mahm): The reli-
at dawn, at noon, in mid-after- Islam has been a part of the Islam as a faith built primarily upon gious leader in Muslim communi-
noon, after sunset and at nightfall. American fabric for centuries, arriving principles of peace. ties. An imam’s position of
The prayers are usually spoken in importance and influence varies
Arabic and consist of a series of depending on denomination and
Shiites: Islam’s second largest leadership and observance. tice in Saudi Arabia and advo- community.
prostrations.
denomination. Shiites believe the Islamic feminism, which is con- cates a literalist approach to Jihad (gee-had): Though it
Almsgiving (Zakat):
leadership following the prophet’s cerned with the role of women in Islam. translates to “struggle,” some
Almsgiving can be in the form of
death rightfully passed to Ali, Islam, is often closely aligned
money or food, but Muslims are
Muhammad’s cousin and son-in- with the movement’s key thrusts. Terms to Know interpret it as an internal battle to
required to donate as a form of Allah (ah-lah): The Arabic maintain the faith and others
law, and succession would contin- Sufi: Adherents focus on a interpret as holy war.
“social responsibility and service word for God.
ue through familial connection. mystical and ascetic approach to Jummah (joo-mah):
to God.” It is usually 2.5 percent Eid ul-Fitr (eed al-fitter): “the
Nation of Islam: A predomi- Islam. Sufis seek divine under- Congregational prayer held on
of a person’s wealth. Feast of Fast Breaking,” a three-
nately African-American religious standing through a direct and per- Friday.
Fasting (Sawm): During the day celebration that marks the
organization with about 100,000 sonal connection to God. Madrasah (mah-drah-sah):
ninth month of the lunar year, end of the Ramadan 30 day fast.
members that blends some tradi- Wahhabism: A Sunni Islamic The Arabic word for school and
Ramadan, Muslims are required Hadith (ha-deeth): The
tional Islamic beliefs and prac- sect that dominates religious prac- can include both religious and
to abstain from food, drink,
tices with a black empowerment secular institutions.
tobacco, chewing gum and sexual
and a racial separatist approach to
relations from sunrise to sunset.
Pilgrimage (Hajj): At least
the faith.
Progressive Muslims: A
Islam overview Masjid (mas-jeed) or
mosque: An Islamic house of
one pilgrimage to Mecca — Islam has exerted political, social and artistic influence worship.
small but growing liberal move- throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. Mecca: The holiest city in
Islam’s holiest city, located in
ment in Islam that focuses on
Saudi Arabia — is required of all Divinity Beliefs and afterlife Islam, located in Saudi Arabia.
individualist interpretation of reli- When Muslims pray they face
Muslims who are physically and Allah, the only God and Life and death: Life is a
gious scripture, interfaith dialogue Creator of the universe proving ground, death the Mecca and can use a compass to
financially able to take the trip
and gender equality in prayer, gateway to eternal life; believers find its direction.
during their lifetime. Symbol should follow a strict moral code Mullah (muh-lah): An Islamic
Denominations Crescent and star
Judgment day: Angels in scholar versed in traditions, sharia
Like Christianity, Judaism and Beginnings heaven record a person’s and theology.
many other faiths, Islam has Based on the revelations of deeds; on the last day, the book Quran (ko-rahn): The central
many denominations. As with Muhammad, a prophet born in is read and all the dead are
rewarded or punished Islamic holy text. Muslims
other faiths, practices within each Saudi Arabia around 570 A.D.
believe the angel Jibril (Gabriel)
denomination vary widely Practice Sacred writings began his revelations to the
depending on historical, cultural Duties: Profession of the unity The Quran, God’s word prophet Muhammad and these
and geo-political influences. of God and the prophethood of given to Muhammad; also revelations became the Quran.
Many Muslims do not affiliate Muhammad, prayer, almsgiving, contains some stories
Ramadan (rah-ma-dahn):
with a denomination at all and fasting and pilgrimage with Biblical references.
In Islam Jesus, Isa in Arabic, The ninth month of the Islamic
instead just refer to themselves as Pilgrimage, or hajj: All able
lunar calendar when many
“Muslim.” Muslims must make a pilgrimage to is honored as a prophet and
Mecca, the holy city, at least once messenger of God, and his Muslims believe the Quran was
Sunni: More than 80 percent
mother Mary, Maryum in revealed to the prophet
of Muslims are Sunni, making it Worship: Muslims worship
Muhammad.
Arabic, is one of the faith’s
Islam’s largest group. Sunnis five times a day, at home,
Zakat (za-kot): Stands for
most highly regarded women.
believe God did not name a leader at work or with
Muhammad, the faith’s purification; Muslims give up a
to succeed the Prophet a congregation;
founder, is revered as both portion of their wealth in excess
Muhammad after his death and an iman or
E V E LY N H O C K S T E I N / M C T a prophet and the final of what is needed for sustenance
that the first four religious leaders scholar leads
A whirling Sufi dervish spins messenger of God. to “purify” what they retain.
elected by the newly formed reli- special services
everyday both in public and at a mosque
Sources: Multifaith Resources,
Dictionary of World Religions, McClatchy Newspapers correspon-
gious community were the right- private as part of his reli- CIA World Factbook
on Fridays dent Hannah Allam contributed to
ful successors. gious practice.
Graphic: MCT
this report.
S O U R C E S : C O L O R A D O S TAT E U N I V E R S I T Y; T H E P E W F O RU M ; “ T H E C O N C I S E E N C Y C L O P E D I A O F I S L A M ” B Y C Y R I L G L A S S E ; “ I S L A M ” B Y PAU L L U N D E ; A B O U T. C O M

UNDERSTANDING ISLAM
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