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Islam (;[a] Arabic: ?, romanizedal-'Isl?m, [?s'la:m] "submission [to God]")[1] is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that Muhammad is a messenger of God.[2][3] It is the world's second-largest religion behind Christianity, with 1.9 billion followers or 24.9% of the world's population,[4][5] known as Muslims.[6] Muslims make up a majority of the population in 49 countries.[7][8] Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique,[9] and has guided humanity through prophets, revealed scriptures, and natural signs.[3][10] The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, believed to be the verbatim word of God, as well as the teachings and normative examples (called the sunnah, composed of accounts called hadith) of Muhammad (c. 570 - 632 CE).[11]

Muslims believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets such as Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.[12] Muslims consider the Quran, in Arabic, to be the unaltered and final revelation of God.[13] Like other Abrahamic religions, Islam also teaches a final judgment with the righteous rewarded in paradise and the unrighteous punished in hell.[14] Religious concepts and practices include the Five Pillars of Islam, which are obligatory acts of worship, as well as following Islamic law (sharia), which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, from banking and welfare to women and the environment.[15][16] The cities of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem are home to the three holiest sites in Islam.[17]

From a historical point of view, Islam originated in early 7th century CE in the Arabian Peninsula, in Mecca,[18] and by the 8th century, the Umayyad Caliphate extended from Iberia in the west to the Indus River in the east. The Islamic Golden Age refers to the period traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 13th century, during the Abbasid Caliphate, when much of the historically Muslim world was experiencing a scientific, economic, and cultural flourishing.[19][20][21] The expansion of the Muslim world involved various states and caliphates such as the Ottoman Empire, trade, and conversion to Islam by missionary activities (dawah).[22]


The Kaaba in Mecca is the direction of prayer and destination of pilgrimage

In Arabic, Islam (Arabic: lit.'submission [to God]') is the verbal noun originating from the verb (salama), from triliteral root ?-?-? (S-L-M), which forms a large class of words mostly relating to concepts of wholeness, submission, sincerity, safeness, and peace.[23] Islam is the verbal noun of Form IV of the root and means "submission" or "total surrender". In a religious context, it means "total surrender to the will of God".[1][24] A Muslim (Arabic: ?), the word for a follower of Islam, is the active participle of the same verb form, and means "submitter (to God)" or "one who surrenders (to God)". The word "Islam" ("submission") sometimes has distinct connotations in its various occurrences in the Quran. Some verses stress the quality of Islam as an internal spiritual state: "Whoever God wills to guide, He opens their heart to Islam."[i][24]

Others describe Islam as an action of returning to God--more than just a verbal affirmation of faith.[ii] In the Hadith of Gabriel, Islam is presented as one part of a triad that also includes im?n (faith), and ihs?n (excellence).[25][26]

The word "silm" (Arabic: ) in Arabic means both peace and also the religion of Islam.[27] A common linguistic phrase demonstrating its usage is "he entered into as-silm" (Arabic: ) which means "he entered into Islam," with a connotation of finding peace by submitting one's will to the Will of God.[27] The word "Islam" can be used in a linguistic sense of submission or in a technical sense of the religion of Islam, which also is called as-silm which means peace.[27]

Islam itself was historically called Mohammedanism in the English-speaking world. This term has fallen out of use and is sometimes said to be offensive, as it suggests that a human being, rather than God, is central to Muslims' religion, parallel to Buddha in Buddhism.[28] Some authors, however, continue to use the term Mohammedanism as a technical term for the religious system as opposed to the theological concept of Islam that exists within that system.

Articles of faith

The Islamic creed (aqidah) requires belief in six articles: God, angels, books, prophets, the Day of Resurrection and providence.

Concept of God

The central concept of Islam is tawd (Arabic:), the unity of God. Usually thought of as a precise monotheism, but also panentheistic in Islamic mystical teachings.[29] God is described in Chapter 112 of the Quran: Say, "He is God--One and Indivisible; God--the Sustainer ?needed by all?. He has never had offspring, nor was He born. And there is none comparable to Him." No human eyes can see God till the Day Of Judgement.[30] According to Islam, God is transcendent, therefore Muslims do not attribute human forms to God. God is described and referred to by several names or attributes, the most common being Ar-Rahm?n(?) meaning "The Entirely Merciful," and Ar-Rah?m( ) meaning "The Especially Merciful" which are mentioned before reciting every chapter of the Quran except chapter nine.[31][32]

Islam teaches that the creation of everything in the universe was brought into being by God's command as expressed by the wording, "Be, and it is,"[iii][33] and that the purpose of existence is to worship God without associating partners to Him.[iv][34][35] God is not a part of the Christian Trinity.[36] He is viewed as a personal god who responds whenever a person in need or distress calls him.[v][33] There are no intermediaries, such as clergy, to contact God, who states: "Your Lord has proclaimed, Call upon Me, I will respond to you."[vi] Consciousness and awareness of God is referred to as Taqwa. All?h is traditionally seen as the personal name of God,[37] a term with no plural or gender being ascribed to it. It is used by Muslims and Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews in reference to God, whereas ?il?h (Arabic: ) is a term used for a deity or a god in general.[38]


Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel. From the manuscript Jami' al-Tawarikh by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, 1307.

Belief in angels is fundamental to Islam. The Quranic word for angel (Arabic: malak) derives either from Malaka, meaning "he controlled", due to their power to govern different affairs assigned to them,[39] or from the triliteral root '-l-k, l-'-k or m-l-k with the broad meaning of a "messenger", just as its counterpart in Hebrew (mal?ákh). Unlike the Hebrew word, however, the term is used exclusively for heavenly spirits of the divine world, as opposed to human messengers. The Quran refers to both angelic and human messengers as rasul instead.[40]

The Quran is the principal source for the Islamic concept of angels.[41] Some of them, such as Gabriel and Michael, are mentioned by name in the Quran; others are only referred to by their function. In hadith literature, angels are often assigned to only one specific phenomenon.[42] Angels play a significant role in the literature about the Mi'raj, where Muhammad encounters several angels during his journey through the heavens.[42] Further angels have often been featured in Islamic eschatology, theology and philosophy.[43] Duties assigned to angels include, for example, communicating revelations from God, glorifying God, recording every person's actions, and taking a person's soul at the time of death.

In Islam, just as in Judaism and Christianity, angels are often represented in anthropomorphic forms combined with supernatural images, such as wings, being of great size or wearing heavenly articles.[44] The Quran describes "Angels as His messengers with wings--two, three, or four."[vii][45] Common characteristics for angels are their missing needs for bodily desires, such as eating and drinking.[46] Their lack of affinity to material desires is also expressed by their creation from light: angels of mercy are created from n?r ('light')[47] in opposition to the angels of punishment created from n?r ('fire').[48] Muslims do not generally share the perceptions of angelic pictorial depictions, such as those found in Western art.


The first chapter of the Quran, Al-Fatiha (The Opening), is seven verses

The Islamic holy books are the records that most Muslims believe were dictated by God to various prophets. Muslims believe that parts of the previously revealed scriptures, the Tawrat (Torah) and the Injil (Gospel), had become distorted--either in interpretation, in text, or both.[49] The Quran (lit. "Recitation") is viewed by Muslims as the final and literal revealed word of God and is widely regarded as the finest literary work in the classical Arabic language.[50][51] Although the Quran is the last verbatim of God towards mankind, communication with God is not enclosed, but an ongoing process.[52] Many Muslims believe that "friends of God" (?awliy) could communicate with God, for example, to predict future events, know God's will and interpret the Quran.[53]

Muslims believe that the verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad by God through the archangel Gabriel (Jibr?l) on many occasions between 610 CE until his death in 632.[54] While Muhammad was alive, these revelations were written down by his companions (sahabah), although the prime method of transmission was orally through memorization.[55] The Quran is divided into 114 chapters (suras) which combined contain 6,236 verses (?y?t). The chronologically earlier suras, revealed at Mecca, are concerned primarily with ethical and spiritual topics. The later Medinan suras mostly discuss social and legal issues relevant to the Muslim community.[33][56]

The Quran is more concerned with moral guidance than legislation, and is considered the "sourcebook of Islamic principles and values".[57] Muslim jurists consult the hadith ('accounts'), or the written record of Prophet Muhammad's life, to both supplement the Quran and assist with its interpretation. The science of Quranic commentary and exegesis is known as tafsir.[58][59] The set of rules governing proper elocution of recitation is called tajwid. Muslims usually view "the Quran" as the original scripture as revealed in Arabic and that any translations are necessarily deficient, which are regarded only as commentaries on the Quran.[56][60]

Prophets and sunnah

A Persian miniature depicts Muhammad leading Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets in prayer.

Prophets (Arabic: , anbiy) communicate with God and receive a divine message. A prophet delivering a message to a nation is called a rasul (Arabic: , ras?l).[61] Muslims believe prophets are human and not divine, though some can perform miracles to prove their claim.[] According to Islam, all of God's messengers preached the message of Islam--submission to the will of God. The Quran mentions the names of numerous figures considered prophets in Islam, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, among others.[33]

Muslims believe that God finally sent Muhammad as the last law-bearing prophet ("Seal of the prophets") to convey the divine message to the entire world (to sum up and to finalize the word of God). In Islam, the "normative" example of Muhammad's life is called the sunnah (literally "trodden path"). Muslims are encouraged to emulate Muhammad's actions in their daily lives, and the Sunnah is seen as crucial to guiding interpretation of the Quran.[62] This example is preserved in traditions known as hadith, which recount his words, his actions, and his personal characteristics. Hadith Qudsi is a sub-category of hadith, regarded as God's verbatim words quoted by Muhammad that are not part of the Quran. A hadith involves two elements: a chain of narrators, called sanad, and the actual wording, called matn. Hadiths can be classified, by studying the narration as: "authentic" or "correct" (?, ?a); "good", hasan (, ?asan); or "weak" (?, ?af), among others. The Kutub al-Sittah are a collection of six books, regarded as the most authentic reports in Sunnism. Among them is Sahih al-Bukhari, often considered by Sunnis to be one of the most authentic sources after the Quran.[63][64] Another famous source of hadiths is known as The Four Books, which Shias consider as the most authentic hadith reference.[65][66][67]

Because the Quran only briefly covered the lives of biblical prophets, scholars, poets, historians, and storytellers elaborate their stories in Tales of the Prophets. Many of these scholars were also authors of commentaries on the Quran; however, unlike Quran commentaries which follow the order and structure of the Quran itself, the Tales of the Prophets told its stories of the prophets in chronological order--which makes them similar to the Jewish and Christian versions of the Bible.

Besides prophets, saints possess blessings (Arabic:? , "baraka") and can perform miracles (Arabic:?, Kar?m?t). Saints rank lower than prophets, and they do not intercede for people on the Day of Judgment. However, both the tombs of prophets and saints are visited frequently (Ziyarat). People would seek the advice of a saint in their quest for spiritual fulfilment. Unlike saints in Christianity, Muslim saints are usually acknowledged informal by consensus of common people, not by scholars. Unlike prophets, women like Rabia of Basra were accepted as saints.[68]

Resurrection and judgment

Belief in the "Day of Resurrection" or Yawm al-Qiy?mah (Arabic), is also crucial for Muslims. It is believed that the time of Qiy?mah is preordained by God but unknown to man. The Quran and the hadith, as well as in the commentaries of scholars, describe the trials and tribulations preceding and during the Qiy?mah. The Quran emphasizes bodily resurrection, a break from the pre-Islamic Arabian understanding of death.[69]

On Yawm al-Qiy?mah (Arabic: ?), Muslims believe all humankind will be judged by their good and bad deeds and consigned to Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (hell). The Quran in Surat al-Zalzalah describes this as: "So whoever does an atom's weight of good will see it. And whoever does an atom's weight of evil will see it." The Quran lists several sins that can condemn a person to hell, such as disbelief in God (, kufr), and dishonesty. However, the Quran makes it clear that God will forgive the sins of those who repent if he wishes. Good deeds, like charity, prayer, and compassion towards animals,[70][71] will be rewarded with entry to heaven. Muslims view heaven as a place of joy and blessings, with Quranic references describing its features. Mystical traditions in Islam place these heavenly delights in the context of an ecstatic awareness of God.[72] Yawm al-Qiy?mah is also identified in the Quran as Yawm ad-D?n (Arabic? "Day of Religion");[viii] as-Sah (Arabic: "the Last Hour");[ix] and al-Q?ri?ah (Arabic:? "The Clatterer");[x]

Divine destiny

The concept of divine decree and destiny in Islam (Arabic: , al-qad wa l-qadar) means that every matter, good or bad, is believed to have been decreed by God and is in line with destiny. Al-qadar meaning "power" derives from a root that means "to measure" or "calculating".[73][74] The Quran emphasises that nothing occurs outside of His divine decree: "Say, 'Nothing will ever befall us except what God has destined for us'."[75] Muslims often express this belief in divine destiny with the phrase "Insha-Allah" meaning "if God wills" when speaking on future events.[76][77]

Acts of worship

There are five obligatory acts of worship - the Shahada, the five daily prayers, the Zakat alms-giving, fasting during Ramadan and the Hajj pilgrimage - collectively known as "The Pillars of Islam" (Ark?n al-Isl?m).[78] Apart from these, Muslims also perform other supplemental religious acts.


Silver coin of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, inscribed with the Shahadah

The shahadah,[79] which is the basic creed of Islam, must be recited under oath with the specific statement: "?a?hadu ?al-l? ?il?ha ?ill?-ll?hu wa ?a?hadu ?anna mu?ammadan ras?lu-ll?h" (? ? ? ?), or, "I testify that none deserves worship except God and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God."[80] This testament is a foundation for all other beliefs and practices in Islam. Non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed in front of Muslim witnesses.[81][82][83]


Muslim men prostrating in prayer, at the Umayyad Mosque, Damascus.

Prayer in Islam, called salah or ?al?t (Arabic|?), is seen as a personal communication with God and consists of repeating units called rakat that include bowing and prostrating to God. Performing prayers five times a day is compulsory. The prayers are recited in the Arabic language and consist of verses from the Quran.[84] The prayers are done in direction of the Ka'bah. Salat requires ritual purity, which involves wudu (ritual wash) or occasionally, such as for new converts, ghusl (full body ritual wash). The means used to signal the prayer time is a vocal call called the adhan.

A mosque is a place of worship for Muslims, who often refer to it by its Arabic name masjid. Although the primary purpose of the mosque is to serve as a place of prayer, it is also important to the Muslim community as a place to meet and study with the Masjid an-Nabawi ("Prophetic Mosque") in Medina, Saudi Arabia, having also served as a shelter for the poor.[85] Minarets are towers used to chant the adhan.[86]


Righteousness is not in turning your faces towards the east or the west. Rather, the righteous are those who believe in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Books, and the prophets; who give charity out of their cherished wealth to relatives, orphans, the poor, needy travellers, beggars, and for freeing captives; who establish prayer, pay alms-tax, and keep the pledges they make; and who are patient in times of suffering, adversity, and the heat of battle. It is they who are true ?in faith?, and it is they who are mindful ?of God?.

-- Quran (2:177)

Zak?t (Arabic: ?, zak?h, 'alms') is a means of welfare in a Muslim society, characterized by the giving of a fixed portion (2.5% annually)[87] of accumulated wealth by those who can afford it to help the poor or needy, such as for freeing captives, those in debt, or for (stranded) travellers, and for those employed to collect zakat.[xi][88] It is considered a religious obligation (as opposed to supererogatory charity, known as Sadaqah) that the well-off owe to the needy because their wealth is seen as a "trust from God's bounty". Conservative estimates of annual zakat are that it amounts to 15 times global humanitarian aid contributions.[89] The first Caliph, Abu Bakr, distributed zakat as one of the first examples of a guaranteed minimum income, with each man, woman and child getting 10 to 20 dirhams annually.[90]

Sadaqah means optional charity practiced as a religious duty and out of generosity.[91] Both the Quran and the hadith put much emphasis on spending money for the welfare of needy people,[92] and have urged Muslims to give more as an act of optional charity.[xii][93] The Quran says: "Those who spend their wealth in charity day and night, secretly and openly--their reward is with their Lord."[xiii] One of the early teachings of Muhammad was that God expects men to be generous with their wealth and not to be miserly.[xiv][94] Accumulating wealth without spending it to address the needs of the poor is generally prohibited and admonished.[95] Another kind of charity in Islam is waqf, meaning a perpetual religious endowment of property.


A fast-breaking feast, known as Iftar, is served traditionally with dates

During the month of Ramadan, it is obligatory for Muslims to fast. The Ramadan fast (Arabic: , ?awm) precludes food and drink, as well as other forms of consumption, such as smoking, and is performed from dawn to sunset. The fast is to encourage a feeling of nearness to God by restraining oneself for God's sake from what is otherwise permissible and to think of the needy. Certain groups are exempt, including pregnant women.[96][better source needed] In addition, there are other days when fasting is supererogatory.


Pilgrims at the Great Mosque of Mecca during the Hajj season

The obligatory Islamic pilgrimage, called the "?ajj" (Arabic?), is to be done at least once a lifetime by every Muslim with the means to do so during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. Rituals of the Hajj mostly imitate the story of the family of Abraham. Pilgrims spend a day and a night on the plains of Mina, then a day praying and worshipping in the plain of Mount Arafat, then spending a night on the plain of Muzdalifah; then moving to Jamarat, symbolically stoning the Devil,[97] then going to the city of Mecca and walking seven times around the Kaaba, which Muslims believe Abraham built as a place of worship, then walking seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah recounting the steps of Abraham's wife, Hagar, while she was looking for water for her baby Ishmael in the desert before Mecca developed into a settlement.[98] All Muslim men should wear only two simple white unstitched pieces of cloth called ihram, intended to bring continuity through generations and uniformity among pilgrims despite class or origin.[99][100] Another form of pilgrimage, umrah, is supererogatory and can be undertaken at any time of the year. Medina is also a site of Islamic pilgrimage and Jerusalem, the city of many Islamic prophets, contains the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which used to be the direction of prayer before Mecca.

Quranic recitation and memorization

Muslim men reading the Quran

Muslims recite and memorize the whole or parts of the Quran as acts of virtue. Reciting the Quran with elocution (tajwid) has been described as an excellent act of worship.[101] Pious Muslims recite the whole Quran during the month of Ramadan.[102] In Muslim societies, any social program generally begins with the recitation of the Quran.[102] One who has memorized the whole Quran is called a hafiz ("memorizer") who, it is said, will be able to intercede for ten people on the Last Judgment Day.[101] Apart from this, almost every Muslim memorizes some portion of the Quran because they need to recite it during their prayers.

Portrait of the Mughal Emperor Akbar supplicating to God.

Supplication and remembrance

Supplication to God, called in Arabic du (Arabic:  IPA: [du'?æ:?]) has its own etiquette such as raising hands as if begging or invoking with an extended index finger.

Remebrance of God (Arabic: , Dhikr') refers to phrases repeated referencing God. Commonly, this includes Tahmid, declaring praise be due to God (Arabic: , al-?amdu lill?h) during prayer or when feeling thankful, Tasbih, declaring glory to God during prayer or when in awe of something and saying 'in the name of God' (Arabic: , basmalah) before starting an act such as eating.


A panoramic view of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi (the Mosque of the Prophet) in Medina, Hejaz region, today's Saudi Arabia, the second most sacred Mosque in Islam

Muhammad (610-632)

Born in Mecca in 571, Muhammad was orphaned early in life. New trade routes transformed Meccan society from a semi-bedouin society to commercial urban society, leaving out weaker segments of society without protection. He acquired the nickname "trustworthy" (Arabic: ), [103] and was sought after as a bank to safeguard valuables and an impartial arbitrator. Affected by the ills of society and after becoming financially secure as a caravan merchant, he began retreating to a cave to contemplate. During the last 22 years of his life, beginning at age 40 in 610 CE, Muhammad reported receiving revelations from God, conveyed to him through the archangel Gabriel,[104][105] thus becoming the seal of the prophets sent to the mankind according to Islamic tradition.[106][104]

During this time, while in Mecca, Muhammed preached first in secret and then in public, imploring them to abandon polytheism and worship one God. Many early converts to Islam were women, the poor, foreigners, and slaves like the first muezzin Bilal ibn Rabah al-Habashi. The Meccan elite profited from the pilgrimages to the idols of the Kaaba and felt Muhammad was destabilizing their social order by preaching about one God and that in the process he gave ideas to the poor and slaves.[107][108] Muhammad, who was accused of being a poet, a madman or possessed, presented the challenge of the Quran to imitate the like of the Quran in order to disprove him. The Meccan authorities persecuted Muhammad and his followers, including a boycott and banishment of Muhammad's clan to starve them into withdrawing their protection of him. This resulted in the Migration to Abyssinia of some Muslims (to the Aksumite Empire).

After 12 years of the persecution of Muslims by the Meccans, Muhammad and his companions performed the Hijra ("emigration") in AD 622 to the city of Yathrib (current-day Medina). There, with the Medinan converts (the Ansar) and the Meccan migrants (the Muhajirun), Muhammad in Medina established his political and religious authority. The Constitution of Medina was signed,[b] by all the tribes of Medina agreeing to defend Medina from external threats and establishing among the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and pagan communities religious freedoms and freedom to use their own laws, security of women and the role of Medina as a sacred place barred of weapons and violence.[114] Within a few years, two battles took place against the Meccan forces: first, the Battle of Badr in 624--a Muslim victory--and then a year later, when the Meccans returned to Medina, the Battle of Uhud, which ended inconclusively.[] The Arab tribes in the rest of Arabia then formed a confederation, and during the Battle of the Trench (March-April 627) besieged Medina, intent on finishing off Islam. In 628, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah was signed between Mecca and the Muslims and was broken by Mecca two years later. After signing the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, many more people converted to Islam. At the same time, Meccan trade routes were cut off as Muhammad brought surrounding desert tribes under his control.[115] By 629 Muhammad was victorious in the nearly bloodless conquest of Mecca, and by the time of his death in 632 (at age 62) he had united the tribes of Arabia into a single religious polity.[116]

The earliest three generations of Muslims are known as the Salaf, with the companions of Muhammad being known as the Sahaba. Many of them, such as the largest narrator of hadith Abu Hureyrah, recorded and compiled what would constitute the sunnah.

Caliphate and civil strife (632-750)

Rashidun and Umayyad expansion
Dome of the Rock built by caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan; completed at the end of the Second Fitna

Following Muhammad's death in 632, Muslims disagreed over who would succeed him as leader. The first four successors - Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman ibn al-Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib - are known in Sunni Islam as al-khulaf?' ar-r?shid?n ("Rightly Guided Caliphs").[117] Abu Bakr's leadership oversaw the beginning of the compilation of the Qur'an and reunification of Arabia through the Ridda wars.[118] Under Umar, the caliphate expanded rapidly as Muslims scored major victories over the Persian and Byzantine empires.[119] Uthman was elected in 644 and oversaw the compilation of the Quran. The assassination of Uthman in 656 plunged the caliphate into the first civil war. The next caliph, Ali, fought against three separate factions in the Battle of the Camel, Battle of Siffin and Battle of Nahrawan, respectively. The Kharijites assassinated Ali in 661. To avoid further fighting, Ali's son Hasan ibn Ali signed a peace treaty abdicating to Mu'awiyah, which began the Umayyad dynasty.[120] These disputes over religious and political leadership would give rise to the Sunni-Shia schism, with the Shia believing leadership belonging to Ali and the ahl al-bayt.[121] The succession of Mu'awiyah by his son Yazid I sparked the "second civil war". During the Battle of Karbala, Husayn ibn Ali and other descendants of Muhammad were massacred; the event has been annually commemorated by Shia ever since. Sunni Islam and Shia Islam differ in some respects.[122]

The Murji'ah was an early Islamic sect that taught that people's righteousness could be judged by God alone and that wrongdoers might be considered misguided but not denounced as unbelievers.[123] They urged unity among Muslims, and their conciliatory principles made them popular. Abu Hanifa, founder of the Hanafi (c. 699-767) school of Sunni jurisprudence, was often associated with the Murji'ah.[124] In his al-Fiqh al-Akbar I he lay down probably the oldest surviving work regarding early Muslim creed, advocating respect for all the companions of Muhammad, withholding judgment regarding Uthman and Ali and predeterminism. His works were fundamental to later Sunni theology, Hanbalism being an exception.[124]

The Umayyad dynasty conquered the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Narbonnese Gaul and Sindh.[125] Local populations of Jews and indigenous Christians, persecuted as religious minorities and taxed heavily to finance the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars, often helped Muslims take over their lands from the Byzantines and Persians, resulting in exceptionally speedy conquests.[126][127]

The generation after the death of Muhammad but contemporaries of his companions are known as the Tabi'un, followed by the Tabi' al-Tabi'in. The Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz set up the influential committee, The Seven Fuqaha of Medina,[128][129] headed by Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr.[130] Malik ibn Anas wrote one of the earliest books on Islamic jurisprudence, the Muwatta,[131] as a consensus of the opinion of those jurists.[132][133][134]

The descendants of Muhammad's uncle Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib rallied discontented non-Arab converts (mawali), poor Arabs, and some Shi'a against the Umayyads and overthrew them, inaugurating the Abbasid dynasty in 750.[135][136]

The first Muslim states independent of a unified Islamic state emerged from the Berber Revolt (739/740-743).

Classical era (750-1258)

The eye, according to Hunain ibn Ishaq from a manuscript dated c. 1200

Al-Shafi'i codified a method to determine the reliability of hadith.[137] During the early Abbasid era, scholars such as Bukhari and Muslim compiled the major Sunni hadith collections while scholars like Al-Kulayni and Ibn Babawayh compiled major Shia hadith collections. The four Sunni Madh'habs, the Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, and Shafi'i, were established around the teachings of Ab? ?an?fa, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Malik ibn Anas and al-Shafi'i. In contrast, the teachings of Ja'far al-Sadiq formed the Ja'fari jurisprudence. In the 9th century, al-Shafi'i provided a theoretical basis for Islamic law and introduced its first methods by a synthesis between the proto-rationalism of Iraqi jurisprudence and the pragmatic approach of the Hejaz traditions, in his book ar-Ris?lah.[138] He also codified a method to determine the reliability of hadith.[137] However, Islamic law would not be codified until 1869.[139] In the 9th century Al-Tabari completed the first commentary of the Quran, that became one of the most cited commentaries in Sunni Islam, the Tafsir al-Tabari.

Some Muslims began questioning the piety of indulgence in worldly life and emphasized poverty, humility, and avoidance of sin based on renunciation of bodily desires. Ascetics such as Hasan al-Basri would inspire a movement that would evolve into Tasawwuf or Sufism.[140][141] Hasan al Basri opposed the Umayyad governors of Iraq and the violent rebellion of the Kharijites. Connected to his political dissent was his rigorist view of sin: He denied that God was the source of all human actions and emphasized responsibility and free will instead. For Hasan al Basri, although God knows people's actions, good and evil come from abuse of free will and the devil.[142][c] Basran al Wasil ibn Ata (d. 748), an associate of Hasan al-Basri is usually considered the originator, along with Amr ibn Ubayd (699-761) of Mu'tazilism, a school of thought ultimately rooted in Greek philosophy and known for upholding the doctrine of free-will.[144] However, the main doctrine, the Five Principles, is probably developed by Abu'l-Hudhayl al-Allaf (c. 753-841).[145]

Abbasid Caliphs Mamun al Rashid and Al-Mu'tasim made the Mu'tazilite theology an official creed. Ahmad ibn Hanbal opposed most of the Mu'tazilite doctrines, for which he was imprisoned and sent to an unlit Baghdad prison cell for nearly thirty months.[146] He became a representative for traditionalistic Sunni theology, trying to minimalize reason and applying to literal readings. Later Sunnis also condemned the Mutazilite idea of the creation of the Quran.[142] Al-Ash'ari and Maturidi founded the scholastic theology of Sunni Islam (kalam) Ash'arism and Maturidism, respectively.

By the end of the 9th century, Ismaili Shias spread in Iran, whereupon the city of Multan became a target of activistic Sunni politics.[147] In 930, the Ismaili group known as the Qarmatians rebelled unsuccessfully against the Abbassids, sacked Mecca and stole the Black Stone, which was eventually retrieved.[148]

With the expansion of the Abbasid Caliphate into the Sasanian Empire, Islam adapted many Hellenistic and Persian concepts, imported by thinkers of Iranian or Turkic origin.[149][150] Philosophers such as Al-Farabi (872 - 950/951) and Avicenna (c. 980 - June 1037) sought to incorporate Greek principles into Islamic theology, while others like Al-Ghazali (c. 1058 - 1111) argued against such syncretism and ultimately prevailed.[151]

This era is sometimes called the "Islamic Golden Age".[152] Avicenna pioneered the science of experimental medicine,[153] and was the first physician to conduct clinical trials.[154] His two most notable works, The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine, were used as standard medicinal texts in the Islamic world and later in Europe. Amongst his contributions are the discovery of the contagious nature of infectious diseases,[153] and the introducing clinical pharmacology.[155] In mathematics, the mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi gave his name to the concept of the algorithm, while the term algebra is derived from al-jabr.[156] Public hospitals established during this time (called Bimaristan hospitals), are considered "the first hospitals" in the modern sense of the word,[157][158] and issued the first medical diplomas to license doctors.[159][160] The Guinness World Records recognizes the University of Al Karaouine, founded in 859, as the world's oldest degree-granting university.[161] The doctorate is argued to date back to the licenses to teach in Islamic law schools.[162] Standards of experimental and quantification techniques, as well as the tradition of citation,[163] were introduced. An important pioneer in this, Ibn al-Haytham (c. 965 - c. 040) is regarded as the father of the modern scientific method and often referred to as the "world's first true scientist".[164][165][166][167] The government paid scientists the equivalent salary of professional athletes today.[163] It is argued that that Al-Jahiz (776-868/869) proposed a theory of natural selection.[168][169] The Persian poet Ferdowsi (940-1019/1025) wrote his epic poem Shahnameh. Legal institutions introduced include the trust and charitable trust (Waqf).[170][171]

While the Abbasid Caliphate suffered a decline following the reign of Al-Wathiq (842-847) and Al-Mu'tadid (892-902),[172] the Mongol Empire put an end to the Abbassid dynasty in 1258.[173] During its decline, the Abbasid Caliphate disintegrated into minor states and dynasties, such as the Tulunid and the Ghaznavid dynasty. The Ghaznavid dynasty was a Muslim dynasty established by Turkic slave-soldiers from another Islamic empire, the Samanid Empire.[174] Two other Turkish tribes, the Karahanids and the Seljuks, converted to Islam during the 10th century. Later, they were subdued by the Ottomans, who share the same origin and language. The Seljuks played an important role in the revival of Sunnism when Shi'ism increased its influence. The Seljuk military leader Alp Arslan financially supported sciences and literature and established the Nezamiyeh university in Baghdad.[175]

Religious missions converted Volga Bulgaria to Islam. In the Indian Subcontinent, during the Delhi Sultanate, the Indian Islamic missionaries achieved their greatest success in terms of dawah and the number of converts to Islam.[176][177] The Delhi Sultanate is known for enthroning one of the few female rulers in Islamic history, Razia Sultana.[178] Many Muslims also went to China to trade, virtually dominating the import and export industry of the Song dynasty.[179]

Pre-Modern era (1258-18th century)

Ghazan Khan, 7th Ilkhanate ruler of the Mongol Empire, converts to Islam

Through Muslim trade networks, the activity of Sufi orders, and the conquests of the Gunpowder Empires, Islam spread into new areas.[24][180] Conversion to Islam, however, was not a sudden abandonment of old religious practices; rather, it was typically a matter of "assimilating Islamic rituals, cosmologies, and literatures into... local religious systems",[181] as illustrated by Muhammad's appearance in Hindu folklore.[182] The Turks probably found similarities between Sufi rituals and Shaman practices.[183] Muslim Turks incorporated elements of Turkish Shamanism beliefs to Islam.[d][183] Muslims in China, who were descended from earlier immigrants, were assimilated, sometimes by force, by adopting Chinese names and culture while Nanjing became an important center of Islamic study.[184][185]

While cultural influence used to radiate outward from Baghdad, after the Mongol destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate, Arab influence decreased.[186] Iran and Central Asia, enjoying increasing cross-cultural exchanges with East Asia under Mongol influence, flourished and developed more distinctively from Arab influence, such as the Timurid Renaissance under the Timurid dynasty.[187] Jalaluddin Rumi (1207 - 1273), still one of the best selling poets in America,[188][189] wrote his Persian poem Masnawi and the works of Hafez (1315 - 1390) are often considered the pinnacle of Persian poetry. Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201 - 1274) proposed the mathematical model that was later adopted by Copernicus unrevised in his heliocentric model and Jamsh?d al-K?sh?'s estimate of pi would not be surpassed for 180 years.[190] Many Muslim dynasties in India chose Persian as their court language.

Gunpowder empires consolidated much of the previously splintered territories. The Ottoman Caliphate, under the Ottoman dynasty of the Ottoman Empire, was the last caliphate of the late medieval and the early modern era. It is important to note that a symbiosis between Ottoman rulers and Sufism strongly influenced Islamic reign by the Ottomans from the beginning. According to Ottoman historiography, the legitimation of a ruler is attributed to Sheikh Edebali who interpreted a dream of Osman Gazi as God's legitimation of his reign.[191] Since Murad I's conquest of Edirne in 1362, the caliphate was claimed by the Turkish sultans of the empire.[192] During the period of Ottoman growth, claims on caliphal authority were recognized in 1517 as Selim I became the "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" in Mecca and Medina through the conquering and unification of Muslim lands, strengthening their claim to the caliphate in the Muslim world.[193] The Mevlevi Order and Bektashi Order had a close relation to the sultans,[194] as Sufi-mystical as well as heterodox and syncretic approaches to Islam flourished.[195][196] Under the Ottoman Empire, Islam spread to Southeast Europe.[197] In Ottoman understanding, the state's primary responsibility was to defend and extend the land of the Muslims, and to ensure security and harmony within its borders in the overarching context of orthodox Islamic practice and dynastic sovereignty.[198]

The Shia Safavid dynasty rose to power in 1501 and later conquered all of Iran.[199] At that time, the majority and oldest group among the Shia, the Zaydis, named after the great-grandson of Ali, the scholar Zayd ibn Ali, used the Hanafi jurisprudence, as did most Sunnis.[200][201][202] The ensuing conversion of Iran to Twelver Shia Islam ensured the final dominance of the Twelver sect within Shiism over the Zaidi and Ismaili sects.[203] Nader Shah, who overthrew the Safavids, attempted to improve relations with Sunnis by propagating the integration of Twelverism into Sunni Islam as a fifth madhhab, called Ja'farism.[204] However, Ja'farism failed to gain recognition from the Ottomans.[205]

In South Asia, Babur founded the Mughal Empire. The Mughals made major contributions to Islamic architecture, including the Taj Mahal and Badshahi mosque, and compiled the Fatwa Alamgiri. Mughal India surpassed Qing China to become the world's largest economy, worth 25% of world GDP,[206][207][208] with the Bengal Subah signalling the proto-industrialization and showing signs of the Industrial revolution.[209] After Mughal India's collapse, Tipu Sultan's Kingdom of Mysore based in South India, which witnessed partial establishment of sharia-based economic and military policies i.e. Fathul Mujahidin, replaced Bengal ruled by the Nawabs of Bengal as South Asia's foremost economic territory.[210][211] After Indian independence, the Nizams of Hyderabad remained as the major Muslim princely state until the Annexation of Hyderabad by the modern Republic of India.[212]

Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) promoted a puritanical form of Islam,[213] rejecting philosophical approaches in favor of simpler theology[213] and called to open the gates of itjihad rather than blind imitation of scholars.[214] He called for a jihad against the Crusaders, the Mongols, and those he deemed heretics.[215] His writings only played a marginal role during his lifetime.[216]

Modern era (18th - 20th centuries)

Abdülmecid II was the last Caliph of Islam from the Ottoman dynasty.

During the 18th century in Arabia, Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, influenced by the works of Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim, founded a movement, called Wahhabi with their self-designation as Muwahiddun, to return to what he saw as unadultered Islam.[217][218] He condemned many local Islamic customs, such as visiting the grave of Muhammad or saints, as later innovations and sinful[218] and destroyed sacred rocks and trees, Sufi shrines, the tombs of Muhammad and his companions and the tomb of Husayn at Karbala, a major Shiite pilgrimage site.[219][220] He formed an alliance with the Saud family, which, by the 1920s, completed their conquest of the area that would become Saudi Arabia.[221] Ma Wanfu and Ma Debao promoted salafist movements in the nineteenth century such as Sailaifengye in China after returning from Mecca but were eventually persecuted and forced into hiding by Sufi groups.[222] Other groups sought to reform Sufism rather than reject it, with the Senusiyya and Muhammad Ahmad both waging war and establishing states in Libya and Sudan respectively.[223] In India, Shah Waliullah Dehlawi attempted a more conciliatory style against Sufism and influenced the Deobandi movement.[224] In response to the Deobandi movement, the Barelwi movement was founded as a mass movement, defending popular Sufism and reforming its practices.[225][226] The movement is famous for the celebration of the Muhammad's birthday and today, is spread across the globe.[227]

The Muslim world was generally in political decline starting the 1800s, especially regarding non-Muslim European powers. Earlier, in the fifteenth century, the Reconquista succeeded in ending the Muslim presence in Iberia. By the 19th century; the British East India Company had formally annexed the Mughal dynasty in India.[228] As a response to Western Imperialism, many intellectuals sought to reform Islam.[229] Islamic modernism, initially labelled by Western scholars as Salafiyya, embraced modern values and institutions such as democracy while being scripture-oriented.[230][231] Notable forerunners include Muhammad 'Abduh and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani.[232] Abul A'la Maududi helped influence modern political Islam.[233]

The Ottoman Empire disintegrated after World War I and the Caliphate was abolished in 1924[234] by the first President of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as part of his secular reforms.[235][236] Pan-Islamists attempted to unify Muslims and competed with growing nationalist forces, such as pan-Arabism. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), consisting of Muslim-majority countries, was established in 1969 after the burning of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.[237]

Contact with industrialized nations brought Muslim populations to new areas through economic migration. Many Muslims migrated as indentured servants (mostly from India and Indonesia) to the Caribbean, forming the largest Muslim populations by percentage in the Americas.[238] Migration from Syria and Lebanon was the biggest contributor to the Muslim population in Latin America. The resulting urbanization and increase in trade in sub-Saharan Africa brought Muslims to settle in new areas and spread their faith, likely doubling its Muslim population between 1869 and 1914.[239] Muslim immigrants began arriving largely from former colonies in several Western European nations since the 1960s, many as guest workers.

Postmodern times (20th century-present)

Forerunners of Islamic modernism influenced Islamist political movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and related parties in the Arab world,[240] which performed well in elections following the Arab Spring,[241] Jamaat-e-Islami in South Asia and the AK Party, which has democratically been in power for decades. In Iran, revolution replaced a secular monarchy with an Islamic state. Others such as Sayyid Rashid Rida broke away from Islamic modernists[242] and pushed against embracing what he saw as Western influence.[243] While some were quietist, others believed in violence against those opposing them even other Muslims, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, who would even attempt to recreate the modern gold dinar as their monetary system.

Secular powers clamped down on Islamic practice such as Communist Albania, which became the first country to ban the practice of every religion,[244] and the Khmer Rouge killed about half a million Muslims as they were viewed as their primary enemy to be exterminated since they stood out and worshiped their own god.[245] In Turkey, the military carried out coups to oust Islamist governments, and headscarves were banned in official buildings, as also happened in Tunisia.[246][247] In other places, such as in Saudi Arabia, the state monopolized religious scholarship and are often seen as puppets of the state[248] with Egypt nationalizing Al-Azhar University, previously an independent voice checking state power. Saudi Arabia campaigned against revolutionary Islamist movements in the Middle East, in opposition to Iran,[249] Turkey[250] and Qatar.

Muslim intellectuals are increasingly striving to separate scriptural Islamic beliefs from archaic cultural traditions.[251] Salafism has deepening worldwide.[252][253] The internet has also led to more "individualized" interpretations of Islam.[254] Liberal Muslims attempt to reconcile religious tradition with secular governance and human rights.[255][256] Women's issues receive significant weight in the modern discourse on Islam.[257] In many places, the prevalence of the hijab is growing increasingly common[258] and the percentage of Muslims favoring sharia has increased.[259]


World Muslim population by percentage (Pew Research Center, 2014).

A 2015 demographic study reported that 24.1% of the global population, or 1.8 billion people, are Muslims.[260] In 1900, this estimate was 12.3%,[261] in 1990 it was 19.9%[262] and projections suggest the proportion will be 29.7% by 2050.[263] It has been estimated that 87-90% of Muslims are Sunni and 10-13% are Shia,[264] with a minority belonging to other sects. Approximately 49 countries are Muslim-majority,[265][266] with 62% of the world's Muslims live in Asia, and 683 million adherents in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh alone.[267][268] Most estimates indicate China has approximately 20 to 30 million Muslims (1.5% to 2% of the population).[269][270] Islam in Europe is the second largest religion after Christianity in many countries, with growth rates due primarily to immigration and higher birth rates of Muslims in 2005.[271] Religious conversion has no net impact on the Muslim population growth as "the number of people who become Muslims through conversion seems to be roughly equal to the number of Muslims who leave the faith".[272] It is estimated that, by 2050, the number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world, "due to the young age and high fertility-rate of Muslims relative to other religious groups".[263]


Distribution of Sunni, Shia and Ibadi branches


The nine volumes of Sahih Al-Bukhari, one of the six Sunni hadith books

Sunni Islam or Sunnism is the name for the largest denomination in Islam.[273] The term is a contraction of the phrase "ahl as-sunna wa'l-jamaat", which means "people of the sunna (the traditions of the prophet Muhammad) and the community".[274] Sunnis believe that the first four caliphs were the rightful successors to Muhammad and primarily reference six major hadith works for legal matters, while following one of the four traditional schools of jurisprudence: Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki or Shafi'i.[16][275]

Sunni schools of theology encompass Asharism founded by Al-Ash?ar? (c. 874-936), Maturidi by Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (853-944 CE) and traditionalist theology under the leadership of Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855 CE). Traditionalist theology is characterized by its adherence to a literal understanding of the Quran and the Sunnah, the belief in the Quran is uncreated and eternal, and opposition to reason (kalam) in religious and ethical matters.[276] On the other hand, Maturidism asserts, scripture is not needed for basic ethics and that good and evil can be understood by reason alone,[277] but people rely on revelation, for matters beyond human's comprehension. Asharism holds that ethics can derive just from divine revelation but not from human reason. However, Asharism accepts reason regarding exegetical matters and combines Mu?tazila approaches with traditionalist ideas.[278]

In the 18th century, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab led a Salafi movement, referred by outsiders as Wahhabism, in modern-day Saudi Arabia.[279] A similar movement called Ahl al-Hadith also de-emphasized the centuries' old Sunni legal tradition, preferring to directly follow the Quran and Hadith. The Nurcu Sunni movement was by Said Nursi (1877-1960);[280] it incorporates elements of Sufism and science,[280][281] and has given rise to the Gülen movement.


The Imam Hussein Shrine in Iraq is a holy site for Shia Muslims

Shia Islam or Shi'ism is the second-largest branch of Islam, having split doctrinally from Sunnism in the early centuries of Islam over in the designation of Abu Bakr, instead of Ali ibn Abi Talib, as the successor to the Prophet Muhammad.[282] Although there are many Shia subsects, modern Shia Islam is mainly divided into three main groupings: Twelvers (the largest and most influential group), Ismailis and Zaidi, divided along the lines of contrasting beliefs about the succession of the imams.[283]


Ibadi Islam or Ibadism is practised by 1.45 million Muslims around the world (~ 0.08% of all Muslims), most of them in Oman.[284] The movement rose to prominence in the Hejaz region in the 740s, when the Ibadis launched an armed insurrection against the Umayyad Caliphate. Ibadims is often associated with and viewed as a moderate variation of the Khawarij movement, though Ibadis themselves object to this classification. Unlike most Kharijite groups, Ibadism does not regard sinful Muslims as unbelievers.

An overview of the major sects and madhahib of Islam

Other denominations

  • Quranists are Muslims who generally believe that Islamic law and guidance should only be based on the Quran, rejecting the Sunnah, thus partially or completely doubting the religious authority, reliability or authenticity of the hadith literature, which they claim are fabricated.[285] From the 19th century onward, hadith were questioned by Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Abdullah Chakralawi, Ghulam Ahmad Parwez,[286] and Muhammad Tawf?q Sidq? .[287][288] Quranists differ in the practice of Islamic rituals from other Muslims in frequency of prayer, details of prayer, zakat, fasting, or the Hajj.[285]
  • Bektashi Alevism is a syncretic and heterodox local Islamic tradition, whose adherents follow the mystical (ben?) teachings of Ali and Haji Bektash Veli.[289] Alevism incorporates Turkish beliefs present during the 14th century,[290] such as Shamanism and Animism, mixed with Shias and Sufi beliefs, adopted by some Turkish tribes. It has been estimated that there are 10 million to over 20 million (~ 0.5% - ~ 1% of all Muslims) Alevis worldwide.[291]
  • The Ahmadiyya movement was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad[292] in India in 1889.[293][e] Ahmad claimed to be the "Promised Messiah" or "Imam Mahdi" of prophecy. Today the group has 10 to 20 million practitioners, but is rejected by most Muslims as heretical,[294] and Ahmadis have been subject to religious persecution and discrimination since the movement's inception.[295]
  • Mahdavia is an Islamic sect that believes in a 15th-century Mahdi, Muhammad Jaunpuri.

Non-denominational Muslims

Non-denominational Muslims is an umbrella term that has been used for and by Muslims who do not belong to or do not self-identify with a specific Islamic denomination.[296][297][298] Prominent figures who refused to identify with a particular Islamic denomination have included Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani,[299] and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.[300] Recent surveys report that large proportions of Muslims in some parts of the world self-identify as "just Muslim", although there is little published analysis available regarding the motivations underlying this response.[301][302][303] The Pew Research Center reports that respondents self-identifying as "just Muslim" make up a majority of Muslims in seven countries (and a plurality in three others), with the highest proportion in Kazakhstan at 74%. At least one in five Muslims in at least 22 countries self-identify in this way.[304]

Sufism (ascetic mysticism)

The Whirling Dervishes, or Mevlevi Order by the tomb of Sufi-mystic Rumi

Sufism (Arabic: ?, tasawwuf), is a mystical-ascetic approach to Islam that seeks to find a direct personal experience of God. Classical Sufi scholars defined Tasawwuf as "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God", through "intuitive and emotional faculties" that one must be trained to use.[305][306] Hasan al-Basri, the early Sufi ascetic often portrayed as one of the earliest Sufis,[307] emphasized fear of failing God's expectations of obedience. In contrast, later prominent Sufis, such as Mansur Al-Hallaj and Jalaluddin Rumi, emphasized religiosity based on love towards God. It is not a sect of Islam and its adherents belong to the various Muslim denominations. Ismaili Shias, as well as by the Illuminationist and Isfahan schools of Islamic philosophy have developed mystical interpretations of Islam.[308]

Sufis see tasawwuf as an inseparable part of Islam, just like the sharia.[309] Traditional Sufis, such as Bayazid Bastami, Jalaluddin Rumi, Haji Bektash Veli, Junaid Baghdadi, and Al-Ghazali, argued for Sufism as being based upon the tenets of Islam and the teachings of the prophet.[310][311][309] Historian Nile Green argued that Islam in the Medieval period, was more or less Sufism.[53] Popular devotional practices such as the veneration of Sufi saints have been viewed as innovations from the original religion from followers of salafism, who have sometimes physically attacked Sufis, leading to a deterioration in Sufi-Salafi relations.

Sufi congregations form orders (tariqa) centered around a teacher (wali) who traces a spiritual chain back to Muhammad.[312] Sufis played an important role in the formation of Muslim societies through their missionary and educational activities.[140][313][314] Sufi influenced Ahle Sunnat movement or Barelvi movement defends Sufi practices and beliefs with over 200 million followers in south Asia.[315][316][317] Sufism is prominent in Central Asia,[318][319] as well as in African countries like Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Chad and Niger.[304][320]

Religious law

Sharia is the religious law forming part of the Islamic tradition.[16] It is derived from the religious precepts of Islam, particularly the Quran and the Hadith. In Arabic, the term sharah refers to God's divine law and is contrasted with fiqh, which refers to its scholarly interpretations.[321][322] The manner of its application in modern times has been a subject of dispute between Muslim traditionalists and reformists.[16]

Traditional theory of Islamic jurisprudence recognizes four sources of sharia: the Quran, sunnah (Hadith and Sira), qiyas (analogical reasoning), and ijma (juridical consensus).[323] Different legal schools developed methodologies for deriving sharia rulings from scriptural sources using a process known as ijtihad.[321] Traditional jurisprudence distinguishes two principal branches of law,?ib?d?t (rituals) and mumal?t (social relations), which together comprise a wide range of topics.[321] Its rulings assign actions to one of five categories called ahkam: mandatory (fard), recommended (mustahabb), permitted (mubah), abhorred (makruh), and prohibited (haram).[321][322] Some areas of sharia overlap with the Western notion of law while others correspond more broadly to living life in accordance with God's will.[322]

Historically, sharia was interpreted by independent jurists (muftis). Their legal opinions (fatwa) were taken into account by ruler-appointed judges who presided over q's courts, and by malim courts, which were controlled by the ruler's council and administered criminal law.[321][322] In the modern era, sharia-based criminal laws were widely replaced by statutes inspired by European models.[322] The Ottoman Empire's 19th-century Tanzimat reforms lead to the Mecelle civil code and represented the first attempt to codify sharia.[324] While the constitutions of most Muslim-majority states contain references to sharia, its classical rules were largely retained only in personal status (family) laws.[322] Legislative bodies which codified these laws sought to modernize them without abandoning their foundations in traditional jurisprudence.[322][325] The Islamic revival of the late 20th century brought along calls by Islamist movements for complete implementation of sharia.[322][325] The role of sharia has become a contested topic around the world. There are ongoing debates whether sharia is compatible with secular forms of government, human rights, freedom of thought, and women's rights.[326][327][328]


Crimean Tatar Muslim students (1856)

Islam, like Judaism, has no clergy in the sacerdotal sense, such as priests who mediate between God and people. However, there are many terms in Islam to refer to religiously sanctioned positions of Islam. In the broadest sense, the term ulema (Arabic?) is used to describe the body of Muslim scholars who have completed several years of training and study of Islamic sciences. A jurist who interprets Islamic law is called a mufti (?) and often issues legal opinions, called fatwas. A scholar of jurisprudence is called a faqih (?). Someone who studies the science of hadith is called a muhaddith. A qadi is a judge in an Islamic court. Honorific titles given to scholars include sheikh, mullah, and mawlawi. Imam (?) is a leadership position, often used in the context of conducting Islamic worship services.

Schools of jurisprudence

A school of jurisprudence is referred to as a madhhab (Arabic: ?). The four major Sunni schools are the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali madhahs while the three major Shia schools are the Ja'fari, Zaidi and Isma'ili madhahib. Each differs in their methodology, called Usul al-fiqh ("principles of jurisprudence"). The following of decisions by a religious expert without necessarily examining the decision's reasoning is called taqlid. The term ghair muqallid literally refers to those who do not use taqlid and, by extension, do not have a madhab.[329] The practice of an individual interpreting law with independent reasoning is called ijtihad.[330]


Mainstream Islamic law does not distinguish between "matters of church" and "matters of state"; the scholars function as both jurists and theologians. Currently, no government conforms to Islamic economic jurisprudence, but steps have been taken to implement some of its tenets.[331][332][333] Terms used to refer to traditionally Muslim leaders include Caliph and Sultan and terms associated with traditionally Muslim states include Caliphate, Emirate, Imamate and Khanate.

Within Islamic jurisprudence, jihad is usually taken to mean military exertion against non-Muslim combatants.[334][335] Jihad is the only form of warfare permissible in Islamic law and may be declared against illegal works, terrorists, criminal groups, rebels, apostates, and leaders or states who oppress Muslims.[336][334] Most Muslims today interpret Jihad as only a defensive form of warfare.[337] Jihad only becomes an individual duty for those vested with authority. For the rest of the populace, this happens only in the case of a general mobilization.[334] For most Twelver Shias, offensive jihad can only be declared by a divinely appointed leader of the Muslim community, and as such, is suspended since Muhammad al-Mahdi's occultation is 868 AD.[338][339]


Family life

The dome of the Grand Mosque in Constan?a, Romania, topped by the Islamic crescent

In a Muslim family, some religious ceremonies attend the birth of a child. Immediately after the birth, the words of Adhan are pronounced in the right ear of the child.[340] On the seventh day, the aqiqah ceremony is performed, in which an animal is sacrificed and its meat is distributed among the poor.[341] The child's head is shaved, and an amount of money equaling the weight of its hair is donated to the poor.[341] Apart from fulfilling the basic needs of food, shelter, and education, the parents or the elderly family members undertake teaching moral qualities, religious knowledge and religious practices to the children.[342] Marriage, which serves as the foundation of a Muslim family, is a civil contract that consists of an offer and acceptance between two qualified parties in the presence of two witnesses. The groom is required to pay a bridal gift (mahr) to the bride, as stipulated in the contract.[343] Most families in the Islamic world are monogamous.[344][345] Polyandry, a practice wherein a woman takes on two or more husbands, is prohibited in Islam.[346] However, Muslim men are allowed to practice polygyny and can have up to four wives at the same time, per Surah 4 Verse 3. A man does not need approval of his first wife for a second marriage as there is no evidence in the Qur'an or hadith to suggest this. With Muslims coming from diverse backgrounds, including 49 Muslim-majority countries, plus a strong presence as large minorities throughout the world, there are many variations on Muslim weddings. Generally, in a Muslim family, a woman's sphere of operation is the home and a man's corresponding sphere is the outside world. However, in practice, this separation is not as rigid as it appears.[347] Regarding inheritance, a son's share is double that of a daughter's.[xv] Respecting and obeying one's parents, and taking care of them especially in their old age have been made a religious obligation.[342][348] The Quran forbids harsh and oppressive treatment of orphaned children while urging kindness and justice towards them, and rebukes those who do not honor and feed them.[xvi]

Certain religious rites are performed during and after the death of a Muslim. Those near a dying man encourage him to pronounce the Shahada as Muslims want their last word to be their profession of faith. After death, according to Islamic burial rituals, members of the same gender bath the body appropriately and enshrouded it in a threefold white garment called kafan.[349] The Salat al-Janazah ("funeral prayer") is said over the bathed and enshrouded body. Placing it on a bier, the body is first taken to a mosque where the funeral prayer is offered for the deceased and then to the graveyard for burial.

Etiquette and diet

Many practices fall in the category of adab, or Islamic etiquette. This includes greeting others with "as-salamu 'alaykum" ("peace be unto you"), saying bismillah ("in the name of God") before meals, and using only the right hand for eating and drinking. Islamic hygienic practices mainly fall into the category of personal cleanliness and health. Circumcision of male offspring is practised in Islam. Muslims are restricted in their diet. Prohibited foods include pork products, blood, carrion, and alcohol. All meat must come from a herbivorous animal slaughtered in the name of God by a Muslim, Jew, or Christian, except for game that one has hunted or fished for themself. Food permissible for Muslims is known as halal food.[350]


Islamic veils represent modesty

The Quran and the sunnah of Muhammad prescribe a comprehensive body of moral guidelines for Muslims to be followed in their personal, social, political, and religious life. Proper moral conduct, good deeds, righteousness, and good character come within the sphere of the moral guidelines.[351] In Islam, the observance of moral virtues is always associated with religious significance because it elevates the religious status of a believer[352] and is often seen as a supererogatory act of worshiping.[353] One typical Islamic teaching on morality is that imposing a penalty on an offender in proportion to their offense is permissible and just; but forgiving the offender is better. To go one step further by offering a favor to the offender is regarded as the peak of excellence.[352] The Quran says: "Good and evil cannot be equal. Respond ?to evil? with what is best, then the one you are in enmity with will be like a close friend."[xvii] Thus, a Muslim is expected to act only with good manners as bad manners and deeds earn vices.[354] The fundamental moral qualities in Islam are justice, forgiveness, righteousness, kindness, honesty, and piety.[351] Other mostly insisted moral virtues include but are not limited to charitable activities, fulfillment of promise, modesty (haya) and humility, decency in speech, tolerance, trustworthiness, patience, truthfulness, anger management, and sincerity of intention.

As a religion, Islam emphasizes the idea of having a good character as Muhammad said: "The best among you are those who have the best manners and character."[xviii] In Islam, justice is not only a moral virtue but an obligation to be fulfilled under all circumstances.[355] The Quran and the hadith describe God as being kind and merciful to His creatures, and tell people to be kind likewise. As a virtue, forgiveness is much celebrated in Islam, and is regarded as an important Muslim practice.[356]

Jihad means "to strive or struggle [in the way of God]". In its broadest sense, it is "exerting one's utmost power, efforts, endeavors, or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation". Depending on the object being a visible enemy, the Devil and aspects of one's own self (like sinful desires), different categories of jihad are defined.[357] Jihad also refers to one's striving to attain religious and moral perfection.[358][359] When used without a qualifier, jihad is understood in its military form.[357][358] Some Muslim authorities, especially among the Shia and Sufis, distinguish between the "greater jihad", which pertains to spiritual self-perfection, and the "lesser jihad", defined as warfare.[336][334]


To reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, Islamic economic jurisprudence encourages trade,[360] discourages the hoarding of wealth and outlaws interest-bearing loans (i.e. usury; Arabic: riba).[361][362] Therefore, wealth is taxed through Zakat, but trade is not taxed. Usury, which allows the rich to get richer without sharing in the risk, is forbidden in Islam. Profit-sharing and venture capital where the lender is also exposed to risk is acceptable.[363] Hoarding of food for speculation is also discouraged.[364]

The taking of land belonging to others is prohibited. The prohibition of usury and the revival of interest-based economies has resulted in the development of Islamic banking. During the time of Muhammad, any money that went to the state was immediately used to help the poor. Then, in AD 634, Umar formally established the welfare state Bayt al-Mal ("House of Wealth"), which was for the Muslim and Non-Muslim poor, needy, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. The Bayt al-Maal ran for hundreds of years under the Rashidun Caliphate in the 7th century, continuing through the Umayyad period, and well into the Abbasid era. Umar also introduced child support and pensions.[365][366][367]


Caliph Umar reportedly chose the formal beginning of the Muslim era to be the Hijra in 622 CE, which was an important turning point in Muhammad's fortunes. It is a lunar calendar with days lasting from sunset to sunset.[368] Islamic holy days fall on fixed dates of the lunar calendar, meaning they occur in different seasons in different years in the Gregorian calendar. The most important Islamic festivals are Eid al-Fitr (Arabic| ) on the 1st of Shawwal, marking the end of the fasting month Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha (Arabic| ) on the 10th of Dhu al-Hijjah, coinciding with the end of the Hajj (pilgrimage).[369]


The term "Islamic culture" can be used to mean aspects of culture that pertain to the religion, such as festivals and dress code. It is also controversially used to denote the cultural aspects of traditionally Muslim people.[370] Finally, "Islamic civilization" may also refer to the aspects of the synthesized culture of the early Caliphates, including that of non-Muslims,[371] sometimes referred to as "Islamicate".

In Islamic architecture, varying cultures show influence such as North African and Spanish Islamic architecture such as the Great Mosque of Kairouan containing marble and porphyry columns from Roman and Byzantine buildings,[372] while mosques in Indonesia often have multi-tiered roofs from local Javanese styles.

Islamic art encompasses the visual arts including fields as varied as architecture, calligraphy, painting, and ceramics, among others.[373] While the making of images of animate beings has often been frowned upon in connection with laws against idolatry, this rule has been interpreted in different ways by different scholars and in different historical periods. This stricture has been used to explain the prevalence of calligraphy, tessellation, and pattern as key aspects of Islamic artistic culture.[374]

Derived religions

Some movements, such as the Druze,[375][376][377][378][379] Berghouata and Ha-Mim, either emerged from Islam or came to share certain beliefs with Islam, and whether each is a separate religion or a sect of Islam is sometimes controversial. Yazdânism is seen as a blend of local Kurdish beliefs and Islamic Sufi doctrine introduced to Kurdistan by Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir in the 12th century. Bábism stems from Twelver Shia passed through Siyyid 'Ali Muhammad i-Shirazi al-Bab while one of his followers Mirza Husayn 'Ali Nuri Baha'u'llah founded the Bahá'í Faith.[380] Sikhism, founded by Guru Nanak in late-fifteenth-century Punjab, incorporates aspects of both Islam and Hinduism.[381]


John of Damascus, under the Umayyad Caliphate, viewed Islamic doctrines as a hodgepodge from the Bible.[382]

Criticism of Islam has existed since Islam's formative stages. Early criticism came from Christian authors, many of whom viewed Islam as a Christian heresy or a form of idolatry, often explaining it in apocalyptic terms.[383] Later, criticism from the Muslim world itself appeared, as well as from Jewish writers and from ecclesiastical Christians.[384][385]

Christian writers criticized Islamic salvation optimism and its carnality. Islam's sensual descriptions of paradise led many Christians to conclude that Islam was not a spiritual religion. Although sensual pleasure was also present in early Christianity, as seen in the writings of Irenaeus, the doctrines of the former Manichaean, Augustine of Hippo, led to the broad repudiation of bodily pleasure in both life and the afterlife. Ali ibn Sahl Rabban al-Tabari defended the Quranic description of paradise by asserting that the Bible also implies such ideas, such as drinking wine in the Gospel of Matthew.[386]

Defamatory images of Muhammad, derived from early 7th century depictions of the Byzantine Church,[387] appear in the 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.[388] Here, Muhammad appears in the eighth circle of hell, along with Ali. Dante does not blame Islam as a whole but accuses Muhammad of schism, by establishing another religion after Christianity.[388]

Other criticisms focus on the question of human rights in modern Muslim-majority countries, and the treatment of women in Islamic law and practice.[389] In the wake of the recent multiculturalism trend, Islam's influence on the ability of Muslim immigrants in the West to assimilate has been criticized.[390] Both in his public and personal life, others objected to the morality of Muhammad, therefore also the sunnah as a role model.[391]

See also


  1. ^ There are ten pronunciations of Islam in English, differing in whether the first or second syllable has the stress, whether the s is or , and whether the a is pronounced , or (when the stress is on the first syllable) (Merriam Webster). The most common are (Oxford English Dictionary) and (American Heritage Dictionary).
  2. ^ Watt argues that the initial agreement came about shortly after the hijra and that the document was amended at a later date--specifically after the battle of Badr (AH [anno hijra] 2, = AD 624).[109] Serjeant argues that the constitution is, in fact, eight different treaties that can be dated according to events as they transpired in Medina, with the first treaty written shortly after Muhammad's arrival.[110] See also Caetani (1905) who argue that the document is a single treaty agreed upon shortly after the hijra.[111] Wellhausen argues that it belongs to the first year of Muhammad's residence in Medina, before the battle of Badr in 2/624.[112] Even Moshe Gil, a sceptic of Islamic history, argues that it was written within five months of Muhammad's arrival in Medina. [113]
  3. ^ "Hasan al Basri is often considered one of the first who rejected an angelic origin for the devil, arguing that his fall was the result of his own free-will, not God's determination. Hasan al Basri also argued that angels are incapable of sin or errors and nobler than humans and even prophets. Both early Shias and Sunnis opposed his view.[143]
  4. ^ "In recent years, the idea of syncretism has been challanged. Given the lack of authority to define or enforce an Orthodox doctrine about Islam, some scholars argue there had no prescribed beliefs, only prescribed practise, in Islam before the sixtheenth century.[53]
  5. ^ A figure of 10-20 million represents approximately 1% of the Muslim population. See also: Ahmadiyya by country.


Citations of Qur'an and hadith

  1. ^ Q6:125 Quran 6:125, Q61:7 Quran 61:7, Q39:22 Quran 39:22
  2. ^ Q9:74 Quran 9:74; Quran 49:14
  3. ^ Q2:117 Quran 2:117
  4. ^ Q51:56 Quran 51:56
  5. ^ Q2:186 Quran 2:186
  6. ^ Q40:60 Quran 40:60
  7. ^ Q35:1 Quran 35:1
  8. ^ Quran 1:4;
  9. ^ Quran 6:31;
  10. ^ Quran 101:1
  11. ^ Quran 9:60. "Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect (Zakat) and for bringing hearts together and for freeing captives and for those in debt (or bonded labour) and for the cause of Allah and for the (stranded) traveller--an obligation (imposed) by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise"
  12. ^ Quran 2:177
  13. ^ Quran 2:274
  14. ^ Quran 107:1-7
  15. ^ Quran 4:11.
  16. ^ Quran 89:17-18
  17. ^ Quran 41:34
  18. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:73:56


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