Last updated

The Kaaba during Hajj.jpg
Type Universal religion
Classification Abrahamic
Scripture Quran
Theology Monotheistic
Language Classical Arabic
Territory Muslim world
Founder Muhammad
OriginCE 610;1413 years ago (610)
Jabal al-Nour, Hejaz, Arabia
Separated from Arabian polytheism
Number of followersc. 1.9 billion [1] (individually referred to as Muslims, collectively referred to as the ummah )

Islam ( /ˈɪslɑːm/ ; Arabic : ۘالِإسْلَام, al-ʾIslām [ʔɪsˈlæːm] , transl."Submission [to the will of God]") [2] [3] [4] is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion centered on the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad. [5] [6] Adherents of Islam, called Muslims, [7] number approximately 1.9 billion globally and are the world's second-largest religious population after Christians. [8] [9]


Muslims believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times through earlier prophets, the most important being Adam (believed to be the first man), Noah (Nuh), Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa), and Jesus (Isa). [10] Muslims consider the Quran to be the verbatim word of God and the unaltered, final revelation. [11] Alongside the Quran, Muslims also believe in previous revelations, such as the Tawrat (the Torah), the Zabur (Psalms), and the Injeel (Gospel). These earlier revelations are also associated with Judaism and Christianity, which are regarded by Muslims as earlier versions of Islam. [12] They also consider Muhammad as the main and final Islamic prophet, through whom the religion was completed. The teachings and normative examples of Muhammad, called the sunnah, documented in accounts called the hadith, provide a constitutional model for Muslims. [13] Islam teaches that God (Allah) is one and incomparable. [14] It states that there will be a "Final Judgment" wherein the righteous will be rewarded in paradise (Jannah) and the unrighteous will be punished in hell (Jahannam). [15] The Five Pillars—considered obligatory acts of worship—comprise the Islamic oath and creed (shahada); daily prayers (salah); almsgiving (zakat); fasting (sawm) in the month of Ramadan; and a pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca. [16] Islamic law, sharia, touches on virtually every aspect of life, from banking and finance and welfare to men's and women's roles and the environment. [17] [18] Prominent religious festivals include Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The three holiest sites in Islam in descending order are Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. [19]

The religion of Islam originated in Mecca about 610 CE. [20] Muslims believe this is when Muhammad began receiving revelation. [21] By the time of his death, most of the Arabian Peninsula had converted to Islam. [21] Muslim rule expanded outside Arabia under the Rashidun Caliphate and the subsequent Umayyad Caliphate ruled from the Iberian Peninsula to the Indus Valley. In the Islamic Golden Age, mostly during the reign of the Abbasid Caliphate, much of the Muslim world experienced a scientific, economic and cultural flourishing. [22] The expansion of the Muslim world involved various states and caliphates as well as extensive trade and religious conversion as a result of Islamic missionary activities (dawah), [23] and through conquests. [24] [25]

There are two major Islamic denominations: Sunni Islam (85–90%) [26] and Shia Islam (10–15%). [27] [28] [29] While Sunni–Shia differences initially arose from disagreements over the succession to Muhammad, they grew to cover a broader dimension, both theologically and juridically. [30] Muslims make up a majority of the population in 49 countries. [31] [32] Approximately 12% of the world's Muslims live in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country; [33] 31% live in South Asia; [34] 20% live in the Middle East–North Africa; and 15% live in sub-Saharan Africa. [35] Sizable Muslim communities are also present in the Americas, China, and Europe. [36] [37] Due largely to a higher fertility rate than that of other religions, Islam is the world's fastest-growing major religious group, and if current trends hold it would slightly surpass Christianity as the world's largest religion by the end of the 21st century. [38]


In Arabic, Islam (Arabic : إسلام, lit. 'submission [to God]') is the verbal noun of Form IV originating from the verb سلم (salama), from the triliteral root س-ل-م ( S-L-M ), which forms a large class of words mostly relating to concepts of submission, safeness, and peace. [39] In a religious context, it refers to the total surrender to the will of God. [40] A Muslim (مُسْلِم), 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)". In the Hadith of Gabriel, Islam is presented as one part of a triad that also includes imān (faith), and ihsān (excellence). [41] [42]

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. [43]

Articles of faith

The Islamic creed ( aqidah ) requires belief in six articles: God, angels, revelation, prophets, the Day of Resurrection, and the divine predestination. [44]


Calligraphy showing the word Allah in Arabic in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul Turkey. Istanbul, Hagia Sophia, Allah.jpg
Calligraphy showing the word Allah in Arabic in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul Turkey.

The central concept of Islam is tawḥīd (Arabic: توحيد), the oneness of God. It is usually thought of as a precise monotheism , but is also panentheistic in Islamic mystical teachings. [45] [46] God is seen as incomparable and without partners such as in the Christian Trinity, and associating partners to God or attributing God's attributes to others is seen as idolatory, called shirk. God is seen as transcendent of creation and so is beyond comprehension. Thus, Muslims are not iconodules and do not attribute forms to God. God is instead described and referred to by several names or attributes, the most common being Ar-Rahmān (الرحمان) meaning "The Entirely Merciful," and Ar-Rahīm (الرحيم) meaning "The Especially Merciful" which are invoked at the beginning of most chapters of the Quran. [47]

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," [lower-roman 1] [48] and that the purpose of existence is to worship God. [49] He is viewed as a personal god [48] and there are no intermediaries, such as clergy, to contact God. Consciousness and awareness of God is referred to as Taqwa. Allāh is a term with no plural or gender being ascribed to it and is also used by Muslims and Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews in reference to God, whereas ʾilāh (إله) is a term used for a deity or a god in general. [50]


A 16th century Siyer-i Nebi image of the angel Gabriel visiting Muhammad Miniatura Maometto.jpg
A 16th century Siyer-i Nebi image of the angel Gabriel visiting Muhammad

Angels (Arabic: ملك, malak) are beings described in the Quran [51] and hadith. [52] They are described as created to worship God and also to serve in other specific duties such as communicating revelations from God, recording every person's actions, and taking a person's soul at the time of death. They are described as being created variously from 'light' (nūr) [53] [54] [55] or 'fire' (nār). [56] [57] [58] [59] Islamic angels are often represented in anthropomorphic forms combined with supernatural images, such as wings, being of great size or wearing heavenly articles. [60] [61] [62] [63] Common characteristics for angels include a lack of bodily needs and desires, such as eating and drinking. [64] Some of them, such as Gabriel (Jibrīl) and Michael (Mika'il), are mentioned by name in the Quran. Angels play a significant role in literature about the Mi'raj, where Muhammad encounters several angels during his journey through the heavens. [52] Further angels have often been featured in Islamic eschatology, theology and philosophy. [65]


A Quran manuscript resting on a rehal, a book rest for the holy text Qur'an and Rehal.jpg
A Quran manuscript resting on a rehal, a book rest for the holy text

The pre-eminent holy text of Islam is the Quran. Muslims believe that the verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad by God, through the archangel Gabriel, on multiple occasions between 610 CE and 632, the year Muhammad died. [66] While Muhammad was alive, these revelations were written down by his companions, although the primary method of transmission was orally through memorization. [67] The Quran is divided into 114 chapters ( sūrah ) which contain a combined 6,236 verses ( āyāt ). The chronologically earlier chapters, revealed at Mecca, are concerned primarily with spiritual topics, while the later Medinan chapters discuss more social and legal issues relevant to the Muslim community. [48] [68] Muslim jurists consult the hadith ('accounts'), or the written record of Muhammad's life, to both supplement the Quran and assist with its interpretation. The science of Quranic commentary and exegesis is known as tafsir . [69] [70] In addition to its religious significance, the Quran is widely regarded as the finest work in Arabic literature, [71] [72] and has influenced art and the Arabic language. [73]

Islam also holds that God has sent revelations, called wahy , to different prophets numerous times throughout history. However, Islam teaches that parts of the previously revealed scriptures, such as the Tawrat (Torah) and the Injil (Gospel), have become distorted—either in interpretation, in text, or both, [74] [75] [76] [77] while the Quran (lit. 'Recitation') is viewed as the final, verbatim and unaltered word of God. [68] [78] [79]


A 15th century Persian miniature depicting Muhammad leading Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets in prayer Medieval Persian manuscript Muhammad leads Abraham Moses Jesus.jpg
A 15th century Persian miniature depicting Muhammad leading Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets in prayer

Prophets (Arabic: أنبياء, anbiyāʾ) are believed to have been chosen by God to preach a divine message. Some of these prophets additionally deliver a new book and are called "messengers" (رسول, rasūl). [81] Muslims believe prophets are human and not divine. All of the prophets are said to have preached the same basic message of Islam – submission to the will of God – to various nations in the past, and this is said to account for many similarities among religions. The Quran recounts the names of numerous figures considered prophets in Islam, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, among others. [48] The stories associated with the prophets beyond the Quranic accounts are collected and explored in the Qisas Al-Anbiya (Stories of the Prophets).

Muslims believe that God sent Muhammad as the final prophet ("Seal of the prophets") to convey the completed message of Islam. In Islam, the "normative" example of Muhammad's life is called the sunnah (literally "trodden path"). Muslims are encouraged to emulate Muhammad's moral behaviors in their daily lives, and the sunnah is seen as crucial to guiding interpretation of the Quran. [82] [83] [84] This example is preserved in traditions known as hadith, which are accounts of his words, actions, and 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 . There are various methodologies to classify the authenticity of hadiths, with the commonly used grading grading scale being "authentic" or "correct" (صحيح, ṣaḥīḥ ); "good", hasan (حسن, ḥasan ); or "weak" (ضعيف, ḍaʻīf ), among others. The Kutub al-Sittah are a collection of six books, regarded as the most authentic reports in Sunni Islam. Among them is Sahih al-Bukhari , often considered by Sunnis to be one of the most authentic sources after the Quran. [85] Another well-known source of hadiths is known as The Four Books , which Shias consider as the most authentic hadith reference. [86] [87]

Resurrection and judgment

The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, where Islamic tradition says Isa (Jesus, seen as an Islamic prophet) will appear on the Day of Judgment Syria, Damascus, The Umayyad Mosque.jpg
The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, where Islamic tradition says Isa (Jesus, seen as an Islamic prophet) will appear on the Day of Judgment

Belief in the "Day of Resurrection" or Yawm al-Qiyāmah (Arabic: يوم القيامة) is also crucial for Muslims. It is believed that the time of Qiyāmah is preordained by God, but unknown to man. The Quran and the hadith, as well as the commentaries of scholars, describe the trials and tribulations preceding and during the Qiyāmah. The Quran emphasizes bodily resurrection, a break from the pre-Islamic Arabian understanding of death. [88] [89] [90]

On Yawm al-Qiyāmah, 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. 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 [91] 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. [92] [93] [94] Yawm al-Qiyāmah is also identified in the Quran as Yawm ad-Dīn (يوم الدين "Day of Religion"); [lower-roman 2] as-Sāʿah (الساعة "the Last Hour"); [lower-roman 3] and al-Qāriʿah (القارعة "The Clatterer"); [lower-roman 4]

Divine predestination

The concept of divine predestination in Islam (Arabic : القضاء والقدر, al-qadāʾ wa l-qadar) means that every matter, good or bad, is believed to have been decreed by God. Al-qadar, meaning "power", derives from a root that means "to measure" or "calculating". [95] [96] [97] [98] Muslims often express this belief in divine destiny with the phrase "In-sha-Allah" meaning "if God wills" when speaking on future events. [99]

Acts of worship

There are five acts of worship that are considered duties – the Shahada (declaration of faith), the five daily prayers, Zakat (alms-giving), fasting during Ramadan and the Hajj pilgrimage – collectively known as "The Pillars of Islam" (Arkān al-Islām). [16] In addition, Muslims also perform other optional supererogatory acts that are encouraged but not considered to be duties. [100]

Declaration of faith

Silver coin of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, c. 16th century, inscribed with the Shahadah Silver Rupee Akbar.jpg
Silver coin of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, c. 16th century, inscribed with the Shahadah

The shahadah [101] is an oath declaring belief in Islam. The expanded statement is "ʾašhadu ʾal-lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāhu wa ʾašhadu ʾanna muħammadan rasūlu-llāh" (أشهد أن لا إله إلا الله وأشهد أن محمداً رسول الله), or, "I testify that there is no deity except God and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God." [102] Islam is sometimes argued to have a very simple creed with the shahada being the premise for the rest of the religion. Non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the shahada in front of witnesses. [103] [104]


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

Prayer in Islam, called as-salah or aṣ-ṣalāt (Arabic: الصلاة), is seen as a personal communication with God and consists of repeating units called rakat that include bowing and prostrating to God. There are five timed prayers each day that are considered duties. The prayers are recited in the Arabic language and performed in the direction of the Kaaba. The act also requires a state ritual purity achieved by means of the either a routine wudu ritual wash or, in certain circumstances, a ghusl full body ritual wash. [105] [106] [107] [108]

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 an important social center for the Muslim community. For example, the Masjid an-Nabawi ("Prophetic Mosque") in Medina, Saudi Arabia, used to also serve as a shelter for the poor. [109] Minarets are towers used to call the adhan, a vocal call to signal the prayer time. [110] [111]


A slot for giving zakat at the Zawiya of Moulay Idris II in Fez, Morocco Slot at the Zaouia Moulay Idriss II 1.jpg
A slot for giving zakat at the Zawiya of Moulay Idris II in Fez, Morocco

Zakat (Arabic: زكاة, zakāh), also spelled Zakāt or Zakah, is a type of almsgiving characterized by the giving of a fixed portion (2.5% annually) [112] 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. It acts as a form of welfare in Muslim societies. [113] It is considered a religious obligation that the well-off owe the needy because their wealth is seen as a trust from God's bounty, [114] and is seen as a purification of one's excess wealth. [115] The total annual value contributed due to zakat is 15 times greater than global humanitarian aid donations, using conservative estimates. [116] Sadaqah, as opposed to Zakat, is a much-encouraged optional charity. [117] [118] A waqf is a perpetual charitable trust, which finances hospitals and schools in Muslim societies. [119]


A fast-breaking feast, known as Iftar, is served traditionally with dates. Iftar for Ramadhan.jpg
A fast-breaking feast, known as Iftar , is served traditionally with dates.

In Islam, fasting (Arabic: صوم, ṣawm) precludes food and drink, as well as other forms of consumption, such as smoking, and is performed from dawn to sunset. During the month of Ramadan, it is considered a duty for Muslims to fast. [120] 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. In addition, there are other days, such as the Day of Arafah, when fasting is optional. [121]


Pilgrims at the Great Mosque of Mecca during the Hajj season A packed house - Flickr - Al Jazeera English.jpg
Pilgrims at the Great Mosque of Mecca during the Hajj season

The Islamic pilgrimage, called the "ḥajj" (Arabic: حج), 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. In Mecca, pilgrims walk seven times around the Kaaba, which Muslims believe Abraham built as a place of worship, and they walk seven times between Mount Safa and Marwah, recounting the steps of Abraham's wife, Hagar, who was looking for water for her baby Ishmael in the desert before Mecca developed into a settlement. [122] [123] [124] The pilgrimage also involves spending a day praying and worshipping in the plain of Mount Arafat as well as symbolically stoning the Devil. [125] All Muslim men 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. [126] [127] Another form of pilgrimage, Umrah, is optional and can be undertaken at any time of the year. Other sites of Islamic pilgrimage are Medina, where Muhammad died, as well as Jerusalem, a city of many Islamic prophets and the site of Al-Aqsa, which was the direction of prayer before Mecca. [128]

Supererogatory acts

Muslim men reading the Quran Men reading the Koran in Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria.jpg
Muslim men reading the Quran

Muslims recite and memorize the whole or parts of the Quran as acts of virtue. Tajwid refers to the set of rules for the proper elocution of the Quran. [129] Many Muslims recite the whole Quran during the month of Ramadan. [130] One who has memorized the whole Quran is called a hafiz ("memorizer"), and hadiths mention that these individuals will be able to intercede for others on Judgment Day. [131]

Supplication to God, called in Arabic ad-duʿāʾ (Arabic : الدعاء IPA: [duˈʕæːʔ] ) has its own etiquette such as raising hands as if begging. [132]

Remembrance of God (ذكر, Dhikr') refers to phrases repeated referencing God. Commonly, this includes Tahmid, declaring praise be due to God (الحمد لله, al-Ḥamdu lillāh) 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' (بسملة, basmalah) before starting an act such as eating. [133]


Madina Haram at evening.jpg
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 and the birth of Islam (570–632)

According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad was born in Mecca in 570 CE and was orphaned early in life. Growing up as a trader, he became known as the "trusted one" (Arabic : الامين) and was sought after as an impartial arbitrator. He later married his employer, the businesswoman Khadija. [134] In the year 610 CE, troubled by the moral decline and idolatry prevalent in Mecca and seeking seclusion and spiritual contemplation, Muhammad retreated to the Cave of Hira in the mountain Jabal al-Nour, near Mecca. It was during his time in the cave that he is said to have received the first revelation of the Quran from the angel Gabriel. [135] The event of Muhammad's retreat to the cave and subsequent revelation is known as the "Night of Power" (Laylat al-Qadr) and is considered a significant event in Islamic history. During the next 22 years of his life, from age 40 onwards, Muhammad continued to receive revelations from God, becoming the last or seal of the prophets sent to mankind. [74] [75] [136]

During this time, while in Mecca, Muhammad preached first in secret and then in public, imploring his listeners 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. [137] The Meccan elite felt Muhammad was destabilizing their social order by preaching about one God and giving questionable ideas to the poor and slaves because they profited from the pilgrimages to the idols of the Kaaba. [138] [139]

After 12 years of the persecution of Muslims by the Meccans, Muhammad and his companions performed the Hijra ("emigration") in 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 by all the tribes of Medina. This established religious freedoms and freedom to use their own laws among the Muslim and non-Muslim communities as well as an agreement to defend Medina from external threats. [140] Meccan forces and their allies lost against the Muslims at the Battle of Badr in 624 and then fought an inconclusive battle in the Battle of Uhud [141] before unsuccessfully besieging Medina in the Battle of the Trench (March–April 627). In 628, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah was signed between Mecca and the Muslims, but it was broken by Mecca two years later. As more tribes converted to Islam, Meccan trade routes were cut off by the Muslims. [142] [143] 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. [144]

Early Islamic period (632–750)

Rashidun and Umayyad expansion Mohammad adil-Rashidun empire-slide.gif
Rashidun and Umayyad expansion
Dome of the Rock built by caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan; completed at the end of the Second Fitna Dome of the Rock1.jpg
Dome of the Rock built by caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan; completed at the end of the Second Fitna

Muhammad died in 632 and the first successors, called CaliphsAbu Bakr, Umar, Uthman ibn al-Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib and sometimes Hasan ibn Ali [145] – are known in Sunni Islam as al-khulafā' ar-rāshidūn ("Rightly Guided Caliphs"). [146] Some tribes left Islam and rebelled under leaders who declared themselves new prophets but were crushed by Abu Bakr in the Ridda wars. [147] [148] [149] [150] [151] Local populations of Jews and indigenous Christians, persecuted as religious minorities and heretics and taxed heavily, often helped Muslims take over their lands, [152] resulting in rapid expansion of the caliphate into the Persian and Byzantine empires. [153] [154] Uthman was elected in 644 and his assassination by rebels led to Ali being elected the next Caliph. In the First Civil War, Muhammad's widow, Aisha, raised an army against Ali, attempting to avenge the death of Uthman, but was defeated at the Battle of the Camel. Ali attempted to remove the governor of Syria, Mu'awiya, who was seen as corrupt. Mu'awiya then declared war on Ali and was defeated in the Battle of Siffin. Ali's decision to arbitrate angered the Kharijites, an extremist sect, who felt that by not fighting a sinner, Ali became a sinner as well. The Kharijites rebelled and were defeated in the Battle of Nahrawan but a Kharijite assassin later killed Ali. Ali's son, Hasan ibn Ali, was elected Caliph and signed a peace treaty to avoid further fighting, abdicating to Mu'awiya in return for Mu'awiya not appointing a successor. [155] Mu'awiya began the Umayyad dynasty with the appointment of his son Yazid I as successor, sparking the Second Civil War. During the Battle of Karbala, Husayn ibn Ali was killed by Yazid's forces; the event has been annually commemorated by Shias ever since. Sunnis, led by Ibn al-Zubayr and opposed to a dynastic caliphate, were defeated in the siege of Mecca. These disputes over leadership would give rise to the Sunni-Shia schism, [156] with the Shia believing leadership belongs to Muhammad's family through Ali, called the ahl al-bayt. [157]

Abu Bakr's leadership oversaw the beginning of the compilation of the Quran. The Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz set up the committee, The Seven Fuqaha of Medina, [158] [159] and Malik ibn Anas wrote one of the earliest books on Islamic jurisprudence, the Muwatta , as a consensus of the opinion of those jurists. [160] [161] [162] The Kharijites believed there was no compromised middle ground between good and evil, and any Muslim who committed a grave sin would become an unbeliever. The term "kharijites" would also be used to refer to later groups such as Isis. [163] The Murji'ah taught that people's righteousness could be judged by God alone. Therefore, wrongdoers might be considered misguided, but not denounced as unbelievers. [164] This attitude came to prevail into mainstream Islamic beliefs. [165]

The Umayyad dynasty conquered the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Narbonnese Gaul and Sindh. [166] The Umayyads struggled with a lack of legitimacy and relied on a heavily patronized military. [167] Since the jizya tax was a tax paid by non-Muslims which exempted them from military service, the Umayyads denied recognizing the conversion of non-Arabs, as it reduced revenue. [165] While the Rashidun Caliphate emphasized austerity, with Umar even requiring an inventory of each official's possessions, [168] Umayyad luxury bred dissatisfaction among the pious. [165] The Kharijites led the Berber Revolt, leading to the first Muslim states independent of the Caliphate. In the Abbasid revolution, non-Arab converts ( mawali ), Arab clans pushed aside by the Umayyad clan, and some Shi'a rallied and overthrew the Umayyads, inaugurating the more cosmopolitan Abbasid dynasty in 750. [169] [170]

Classical era (750–1258)

The eye, according to Hunain ibn Ishaq from a manuscript dated c. 1200 Cheshm manuscript.jpg
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. [171] During the early Abbasid era, scholars such as Muhammad al-Bukhari and Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj 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 Abū Ḥanīfa, 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-Tabari completed the first commentary of the Quran, the Tafsir al-Tabari, which became one of the most cited commentaries in Sunni Islam. 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 inspired a movement that would evolve into tasawwuf or Sufism. [172] [173]

At this time, theological problems, notably on free will, were prominently tackled, with Hasan al Basri holding that although God knows people's actions, good and evil come from abuse of free will and the devil. [174] [lower-alpha 1] Greek rationalist philosophy influenced a speculative school of thought known as Muʿtazila, who famously advocated the notion of free-will originated by Wasil ibn Ata. [176] Caliph Mamun al Rashid made it an official creed and unsuccessfully attempted to force this position on the majority. [177] Caliph Al-Mu'tasim carried out inquisitions, with the traditionalist Ahmad ibn Hanbal notably refusing to conform to the Muʿtazila idea that the Quran was created rather than being eternal, which resulted in him being tortured and kept in an unlit prison cell for nearly thirty months. [178] However, other schools of speculative theologyMāturīdism founded by Abu Mansur al-Maturidi and Ash'ari founded by Al-Ash'ari – were more successful in being widely adopted. Philosophers such as Al-Farabi, Avicenna and Averroes sought to harmonize Aristotle's ideas with the teachings of Islam, similar to later scholasticism within Christianity in Europe and Maimonides' work within Judaism, while others like Al-Ghazali argued against such syncretism and ultimately prevailed. [179] [180]

This era is sometimes called the "Islamic Golden Age". [181] [182] [183] [184] [154] Islamic scientific achievements spanned a wide range of subject areas including medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and agriculture as well as physics, economics, engineering and optics. [185] [186] [187] [188] Avicenna was a pioneer in experimental medicine, [189] [190] and his The Canon of Medicine was used as a standard medicinal text in the Islamic world and Europe for centuries. Rhazes was the first to identify the diseases smallpox and measles. [191] Public hospitals of the time issued the first medical diplomas to license doctors. [192] [193] Ibn al-Haytham is regarded as the father of the modern scientific method and often referred to as the "world's first true scientist", in particular regarding his work in optics. [194] [195] [196] In engineering, the Banū Mūsā brothers' automatic flute player is considered to have been the first programmable machine. [197] In mathematics, the concept of the algorithm is named after Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, who is considered a founder of algebra, which is named after his book al-jabr, while others developed the concept of a function. [198] The government paid scientists the equivalent salary of professional athletes today. [199] Guinness World Records recognizes the University of Al Karaouine, founded in 859, as the world's oldest degree-granting university. [200] Many non-Muslims, such as Christians, Jews and Sabians, [201] contributed to the Islamic civilization in various fields, [202] [203] and the institution known as the House of Wisdom employed Christian and Persian scholars to both translate works into Arabic and to develop new knowledge. [204] [201]

Soldiers broke away from the Abbasid empire and established their own dynasties, such as the Tulunids in 868 in Egypt [205] and the Ghaznavid dynasty in 977 in Central Asia. [206] In this fragmentation came the Shi'a Century, roughly between 945 and 1055, which saw the rise of the millennialist Isma'ili Shi'a missionary movement. One Isma'ili group, the Fatimid dynasty, took control of North Africa in the 10th century [207] and another Isma'ili group, the Qarmatians, sacked Mecca and stole the Black Stone, a rock placed within the Kaaba, in their unsuccessful rebellion. [208] Yet another Isma'ili group, the Buyid dynasty, conquered Baghdad and turned the Abbasids into a figurehead monarchy. The Sunni Seljuk dynasty campaigned to reassert Sunni Islam by promulgating the scholarly opinions of the time, notably with the construction of educational institutions known as Nezamiyeh, which are associated with Al-Ghazali and Saadi Shirazi. [209]

The expansion of the Muslim world continued with religious missions converting Volga Bulgaria to Islam. The Delhi Sultanate reached deep into the Indian Subcontinent and many converted to Islam, [210] in particular low-caste Hindus whose descendants make up the vast majority of Indian Muslims. [211] Trade brought many Muslims to China, where they virtually dominated the import and export industry of the Song dynasty. [212] Muslims were recruited as a governing minority class in the Yuan dynasty. [213]

Pre-Modern era (1258–18th century)

Ghazan Khan, 7 Ilkhanate ruler of the Mongol Empire, converts to Islam. 14th-century depiction GhazanConversionToIslam.JPG
Ghazan Khan, 7 Ilkhanate ruler of the Mongol Empire, converts to Islam. 14th-century depiction

Through Muslim trade networks and the activity of Sufi orders, Islam spread into new areas [214] and Muslims assimilated into new cultures. Under the Ottoman Empire, Islam spread to Southeast Europe. [215] Conversion to Islam often involved a degree of syncretism, [216] as illustrated by Muhammad's appearance in Hindu folklore. [217] Muslim Turks incorporated elements of Turkish Shamanism beliefs to Islam. [lower-alpha 2] [219] Muslims in Ming Dynasty China who were descended from earlier immigrants were assimilated, sometimes through laws mandating assimilation, [220] by adopting Chinese names and culture while Nanjing became an important center of Islamic study. [221] [222]

Cultural shifts were evident with the decrease in Arab influence after the Mongol destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate. [223] The Muslim Mongol Khanates in Iran and Central Asia benefited from increased cross-cultural access to East Asia under Mongol rule and thus flourished and developed more distinctively from Arab influence, such as the Timurid Renaissance under the Timurid dynasty. [224] Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201–1274) proposed the mathematical model that was later argued to be adopted by Copernicus unrevised in his heliocentric model, [225] and Jamshīd al-Kāshī's estimate of pi would not be surpassed for 180 years. [226]

After the introduction of gunpowder weapons, large and centralized Muslim states consolidated around gunpowder empires, these had been previously splintered amongst various territories. The caliphate was claimed by the Ottoman dynasty of the Ottoman Empire and its claims were strengthened in 1517 as Selim I became the ruler of Mecca and Medina. [227] The Shia Safavid dynasty rose to power in 1501 and later conquered all of Iran. [228] In South Asia, Babur founded the Mughal Empire. [229]

The religion of the centralized states of the gunpowder empires influenced the religious practice of their constituent populations. A symbiosis between Ottoman rulers and Sufism strongly influenced Islamic reign by the Ottomans from the beginning. The Mevlevi Order and Bektashi Order had a close relation to the sultans, [230] as Sufi-mystical as well as heterodox and syncretic approaches to Islam flourished. [231] The often forceful Safavid conversion of Iran to the Twelver Shia Islam of the Safavid Empire ensured the final dominance of the Twelver sect within Shia Islam. Persian migrants to South Asia, as influential bureaucrats and landholders, help spread Shia Islam, forming some of the largest Shia populations outside Iran. [232] 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, [233] which failed to gain recognition from the Ottomans. [234]

Modern era (18th–20th centuries)

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

Earlier in the 14th century, Ibn Taymiyya promoted a puritanical form of Islam, [235] rejecting philosophical approaches in favor of simpler theology, [235] and called to open the gates of itjihad rather than blind imitation of scholars. [236] He called for a jihad against those he deemed heretics, [237] but his writings only played a marginal role during his lifetime. [238] 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 to return to what he saw as unadultered Islam. [239] [240] He condemned many local Islamic customs, such as visiting the grave of Muhammad or saints, as later innovations and sinful [240] and destroyed sacred rocks and trees, Sufi shrines, the tombs of Muhammad and his companions and the tomb of Husayn at Karbala, a major Shia pilgrimage site. [241] [242] He formed an alliance with the Saud family, which, by the 1920s, completed their conquest of the area that would become Saudi Arabia. [243] Ma Wanfu and Ma Debao promoted salafist movements in the 19th century such as Sailaifengye in China after returning from Mecca but were eventually persecuted and forced into hiding by Sufi groups. [244] 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. [245] In India, Shah Waliullah Dehlawi attempted a more conciliatory style against Sufism and influenced the Deobandi movement. [246] In response to the Deobandi movement, the Barelwi movement was founded as a mass movement, defending popular Sufism and reforming its practices. [247] [248]

The Muslim world was generally in political decline starting the 1800s, especially compared to non-Muslim European powers. Earlier, in the 15th 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. [249] As a response to Western Imperialism, many intellectuals sought to reform Islam. [250] Islamic modernism, initially labelled by Western scholars as Salafiyya, embraced modern values and institutions such as democracy while being scripture oriented. Notable forerunners in the movement include Muhammad 'Abduh and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani. [251] Abul A'la Maududi helped influence modern political Islam. [252] Similar to contemporary codification, sharia was for the first time partially codified into law in 1869 in the Ottoman Empire's Mecelle code. [253]

The Ottoman Empire disintegrated after World War I and the Caliphate was abolished in 1924. [254] 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. [255]

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. [256] Migration from Syria and Lebanon contributed to the Muslim population in Latin America. [257] 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. [258]

Contemporary era (20th century–present)

Leaders of Muslim countries during session of the Islamic Summit Conference in Istanbul, Turkey 13. Session of the Islamic Summit Conference.jpg
Leaders of Muslim countries during session of the Islamic Summit Conference in Istanbul, Turkey

Forerunners of Islamic modernism influenced Islamist political movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and related parties in the Arab world, [259] [260] which performed well in elections following the Arab Spring, [261] Jamaat-e-Islami in South Asia and the AK Party, which has democratically been in power in Turkey for decades. In Iran, revolution replaced a secular monarchy with an Islamic state. Others such as Sayyid Rashid Rida broke away from Islamic modernists [262] and pushed against embracing what he saw as Western influence. [263] The group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant would even attempt to recreate the modern gold dinar as their monetary system. While some of those who broke away were quietist, others believed in violence against those opposing them, even against other Muslims. [264]

In opposition to Islamic political movements, in 20th century Turkey, the military carried out coups to oust Islamist governments, and headscarves were legally restricted, as also happened in Tunisia. [265] [266] In other places, religious authority was co-opted and is now often seen as puppets of the state. For example, in Saudi Arabia, the state monopolized religious scholarship [267] and, in Egypt, the state nationalized Al-Azhar University, previously an independent voice checking state power. [268] Salafism was funded in the Middle East for its quietism. [269] Saudi Arabia campaigned against revolutionary Islamist movements in the Middle East, in opposition to Iran. [270]

Muslim minorities of various ethnicities have been persecuted as a religious group. [271] This has been undertaken by communist forces like the Khmer Rouge, who viewed them as their primary enemy to be exterminated since their religious practice made them stand out from the rest of the population, [272] the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang [273] and by nationalist forces such as during the Bosnian genocide. [274] Myanmar military's Tatmadaw targeting of Rohingya Muslims has been labeled as a crime against humanity by the UN and Amnesty International, [275] [276] while the OHCHR Fact-Finding Mission identified genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity. [277]

The advancement of global communication has facilitated the widespread dissemination of religious knowledge. The adoption of the hijab has grown more common [278] and some Muslim intellectuals are increasingly striving to separate scriptural Islamic beliefs from cultural traditions. [279] Among other groups, this access to information has led to the rise of popular "televangelist" preachers, such as Amr Khaled, who compete with the traditional ulema in their reach and have decentralized religious authority. [280] [281] More "individualized" interpretations of Islam [282] notably involve Liberal Muslims who attempt to align religious traditions with contemporary secular governance, [283] [284] an approach that has been criticized by some regarding its compatibility. [285] [286] Moreover, secularism is perceived as a foreign ideology imposed by invaders and perpetuated by post-colonial ruling elites, [287] and is frequently understood to be equivalent to anti-religion. [288]


Muslim distribution worldwide, based on latest available data MuslimWorldDemographics2022.png
Muslim distribution worldwide, based on latest available data
World percentage of Muslims by country Islam percent population in each nation World Map Muslim data by Pew Research.svg
World percentage of Muslims by country

As of 2015, about 24% of the global population, or about 1.8 billion people, are Muslims. [290] [1] [291] In 1900, this estimate was 12.3%, [292] in 1990 it was 19.9% [35] and projections suggest the proportion will be 29.7% by 2050. [38] The Pew Research Center estimates that 87–90% of Muslims are Sunni and 10–13% are Shia. [29] Approximately 49 countries are Muslim-majority, [293] [294] with 62% of the world's Muslims living in Asia, and 683 million adherents in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh alone. [295] [296] Arab Muslims form the largest ethnic group among Muslims in the world, [297] followed by Bengalis [298] [299] and Punjabis. [300] Most estimates indicate China has approximately 20 to 30 million Muslims (1.5% to 2% of the population). [301] [302] 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, [303] accounting for 4.9% of all of Europe's population in 2016. [304]

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." [305] Although, Islam is expected to experience a modest gain of 3 million through religious conversion between 2010 and 2050, mostly from Sub Saharan Africa (2.9 million). [306] [307]

According to a report by CNN, "Islam has drawn converts from all walks of life, most notably African-Americans". [308] In Britain, around 6,000 people convert to Islam per year and, according to an article in the British Muslims Monthly Survey, the majority of new Muslim converts in Britain were women. [309] According to The Huffington Post, "observers estimate that as many as 20,000 Americans convert to Islam annually", most of them being women and African-Americans. [310] [311]

By both percentage and total numbers, Islam is the world's fastest growing major religious group, and is projected to be the world's largest by the end of the 21st century, surpassing that of Christianity. [312] 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." [38]

Main branches or denominations


The nine volumes of Sahih Al-Bukhari, one of the six Sunni hadith books Sahih Al-Bukhari in English.png
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. [313] [314] 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". [315] Sunnis, or sometimes Sunnites, 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. [17] [316]

Traditionalist theology is a Sunni school of thought, prominently advocated by Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780–855 CE), that is characterized by its adherence to a textualist understanding of the Quran and the sunnah, the belief that the Quran is uncreated and eternal, and opposition to speculative theology, called kalam, in religious and ethical matters. [317] Mu'tazilism is a Sunni school of thought inspired by Ancient Greek Philosophy. Maturidism, founded by Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (853–944 CE), asserts that scripture is not needed for basic ethics and that good and evil can be understood by reason alone, [318] but people rely on revelation, for matters beyond human's comprehension. Ash'arism, founded by Al-Ashʿarī (c. 874–936), holds that ethics can derive just from divine revelation but accepts reason regarding exegetical matters and combines Muʿtazila approaches with traditionalist ideas. [319]

Salafism is a revival movement advocating the return to the practices of the earliest generations of Muslims. In the 18th century, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab led a Salafi movement, referred by outsiders as Wahhabism, in modern-day Saudi Arabia. [320] 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); [321] it incorporates elements of Sufism and science. [321] [322]


The Imam Hussein Shrine in Iraq is a holy site for Shia Muslims. Kerbela Hussein Moschee.jpg
The Imam Hussein Shrine in Iraq is a holy site for Shia Muslims.

Shia Islam, or Shi'ism, is the second-largest Muslim denomination. Shias, or Shiites, split with Sunnis over Muhammad's successor as leader, who the Shia believed must be from certain descendants of Muhammad's family known as the Ahl al-Bayt and those leaders, referred to as Imams, have additional spiritual authority. [323]

According to both Sunni and Shia Muslims, significant event that took place at Ghadir Khumm, during Muhammad's return from his final pilgrimage to Mecca. At Ghadir Khumm, Muhammad appointed his cousin Ali as the executor of his last will and testament, as well as his Wali (authority). [324] [325] Shias recognise that Muhammad nominated Ali as his successor (khalīfa) and Imam (spiritual and political leader) after him. [326] Some of the first Imams are revered by all Shia groups and Sunnis, such as Ali. The Twelvers, the first and the largest Shia branch, believe in twelve Imams, the last of whom went into occultation to return one day. They recognise that the prophecy of the Twelve Imams has been foretold in the Hadith of the Twelve Successors which is recorded by both Sunni and Shia sources. [327]

Zaidi, the second-oldest branch, reject special powers of Imams and are sometimes considered a 'fifth school' of Sunni Islam rather than a Shia denomination. [328] [329] The Isma'ilis split with the Twelvers over who was the seventh Imam and have split into more groups over the status of successive Imams, with the largest group being the Nizaris. [330]


Ibadi Islam or Ibadism is practised by 1.45 million Muslims around the world (~ 0.08% of all Muslims), most of them in Oman. [331] Ibadism is often associated with and viewed as a moderate variation of the kharijites, though Ibadis themselves object to this classification. The kharijites were groups that rebelled against Caliph Ali for his acceptance of arbitration with someone they viewed as a sinner. Unlike most kharijite groups, Ibadism does not regard sinful Muslims as unbelievers. Ibadi hadiths, such as the Jami Sahih collection, use chains of narrators from early Islamic history they consider trustworthy, but most Ibadi hadiths are also found in standard Sunni collections and contemporary Ibadis often approve of the standard Sunni collections. [332]

An overview of the major sects and madhahib of Islam Islam branches and schools..png
An overview of the major sects and madhahib of Islam

Other denominations

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. [347] [348] 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. [349] [350] [351] 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-identifies in this way. [352]


The Whirling Dervishes, or Mevlevi Order by the tomb of Sufi-mystic Rumi Mevlana Konya.jpg
The Whirling Dervishes, or Mevlevi Order by the tomb of Sufi-mystic Rumi

Sufism (Arabic: تصوف, 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. [353] [354] [355] [356] It is not a sect of Islam, and its adherents belong to the various Muslim denominations. Isma'ilism, whose teachings are rooted in Gnosticism and Neoplatonism [357] as well as by the Illuminationist and Isfahan schools of Islamic philosophy, has developed mystical interpretations of Islam. [358] Hasan al-Basri, the early Sufi ascetic often portrayed as one of the earliest Sufis, [359] 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. Such devotion would also have an impact on the arts, with Rumi, still one of the bestselling poets in America. [360] [361]

Sufis see tasawwuf as an inseparable part of Islam. [362] 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. [363] [362] Historian Nile Green argued that Islam in the Medieval period, was more or less Sufism. [364] Popular devotional practices such as the veneration of Sufi saints have been viewed as innovations from the original religion from followers of the Sunni revivalist movement known as Salafism. Salafists have sometimes physically attacked Sufis, leading to a deterioration in Sufi–Salafi relations. [365]

Sufi congregations form orders ( tariqa ) centered around a teacher ( wali ) who traces a spiritual chain back to Muhammad. [366] Sufis played an important role in the formation of Muslim societies through their missionary and educational activities. [172] Sufism influenced Ahle Sunnat movement or Barelvi movement claims over 200 million followers in South Asia. [367] [368] [369] Sufism is prominent in Central Asia, [370] [371] as well as in African countries like Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Chad and Niger. [352] [372]

Law and jurisprudence

Sharia is the religious law forming part of the Islamic tradition. [17] It is derived from the religious precepts of Islam, particularly the Quran and the Hadith. In Arabic, the term sharīʿah refers to God's divine law and is contrasted with fiqh , which refers to its scholarly interpretations. [373] [374] The manner of its application in modern times has been a subject of dispute between Muslim traditionalists and reformists. [17]

Traditional theory of Islamic jurisprudence recognizes four sources of sharia: the Quran, sunnah (Hadith and Sira), qiyas (analogical reasoning), and ijma (juridical consensus). [375] Different legal schools developed methodologies for deriving sharia rulings from scriptural sources using a process known as ijtihad . [373] Traditional jurisprudence distinguishes two principal branches of law, ʿibādāt (rituals) and muʿāmalāt (social relations), which together comprise a wide range of topics. [373] Its rulings assign actions to one of five categories called ahkam: mandatory ( fard ), recommended ( mustahabb ), permitted ( mubah ), abhorred ( makruh ), and prohibited ( haram ). [373] [374] Forgiveness is much celebrated in Islam [376] and, in criminal law, while imposing a penalty on an offender in proportion to their offense is considered permissible; forgiving the offender is better. To go one step further by offering a favor to the offender is regarded as the peak of excellence. [377] 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. [374]

Historically, sharia was interpreted by independent jurists (muftis). Their legal opinions (fatwa) were taken into account by ruler-appointed judges who presided over qāḍī's courts, and by maẓālim courts, which were controlled by the ruler's council and administered criminal law. [373] [374] In the modern era, sharia-based criminal laws were widely replaced by statutes inspired by European models. [374] The Ottoman Empire's 19th century Tanzimat reforms lead to the Mecelle civil code and represented the first attempt to codify sharia. [253] While the constitutions of most Muslim-majority states contain references to sharia, its classical rules were largely retained only in personal status (family) laws. [374] Legislative bodies which codified these laws sought to modernize them without abandoning their foundations in traditional jurisprudence. [374] [378] The Islamic revival of the late 20th century brought along calls by Islamist movements for complete implementation of sharia. [374] [378] The role of sharia has become a contested topic around the world. There are ongoing debates as to whether sharia is compatible with secular forms of government, human rights, freedom of thought, and women's rights. [379] [380]

Schools of jurisprudence

Islamic schools of law in the Muslim world Madhhab Map3.png
Islamic schools of law in the Muslim world

A school of jurisprudence is referred to as a madhhab (Arabic : مذهب). The four major Sunni schools are the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali schools while the three major Shia schools are the Ja'fari, Zaidi and Isma'ili schools. Each differs in their methodology, called Usul al-fiqh ("principles of jurisprudence"). The conformity in following of decisions by a religious expert or school is called taqlid . The term ghair muqallid refers to those who do not use taqlid and, by extension, do not have a madhab. [381] The practice of an individual interpreting law with independent reasoning is called ijtihad . [382]


Religious personages

Crimean Tatar Muslim students (1856) Karlo Bossoli. Tatarskaia shkola dlia detei (cropped).jpg
Crimean Tatar Muslim students (1856)

Islam has no clergy in the sacerdotal sense, such as priests who mediate between God and people. Imam (إمام) is the religious title used to refer to an Islamic leadership position, often in the context of conducting an Islamic worship service. [383] Religious interpretation is presided over by the 'ulama (Arabic: علماء), a term used describe the body of Muslim scholars who have received training in Islamic studies. A scholar of the hadith is called a muhaddith , a scholar of jurisprudence is called a faqih (فقيه), a jurist who is qualified to issue legal opinions or fatwas is called a mufti, and a qadi is an Islamic judge. Honorific titles given to scholars include sheikh, mullah and mawlawi . Some Muslims also venerate saints associated with miracles (كرامات, karāmāt). [384]


In Islamic economic jurisprudence, hoarding of wealth is reviled and thus monopolistic behavior is frowned upon. [385] Attempts to comply with sharia has led to the development of Islamic banking. Islam prohibits riba , usually translated as usury, which refers to any unfair gain in trade and is most commonly used to mean interest. [386] Instead, Islamic banks go into partnership with the borrower, and both share from the profits and any losses from the venture. Another feature is the avoidance of uncertainty, which is seen as gambling [387] and Islamic banks traditionally avoid derivative instruments such as futures or options which has historically protected them from market downturns. [388] The Rashidun and Umayyad Caliphate used to be involved in distribution of charity from the treasury, known as Bayt al-mal, before it became a largely individual pursuit around the year 720. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr, distributed zakat as one of the first examples of a guaranteed minimum income, with each citizen getting 10 to 20 dirhams annually. [389] During the reign of the second Caliph Umar, child support was introduced and the old and disabled were entitled to stipends, [390] [391] while the Umayyad Caliph Umar II assigned a servant for each blind person and for every two chronically ill persons. [392]

Jihad means "to strive or struggle [in the way of God]" and, in its broadest sense, is "exerting one's utmost power, efforts, endeavors, or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation". [393] Shias in particular emphasize the "greater jihad" of striving to attain spiritual self-perfection [394] [395] [396] while the "lesser jihad" is defined as warfare. [397] [398] When used without a qualifier, jihad is often understood in its military form. [393] [394] 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. [397] [398] Most Muslims today interpret Jihad as only a defensive form of warfare. [399] 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. [398] 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 CE. [400] [401]

Daily and family life

Islamic veils represent modesty. Salat Eid al-Fitr, Tehran (113344343).jpg
Islamic veils represent modesty.

Many daily practices fall in the category of adab, or etiquette. Specific prohibited foods include pork products, blood and carrion. Health is viewed as a trust from God and intoxicants, such as alcoholic drinks, are prohibited. [402] 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 oneself. [403] [404] [405] Beards are often encouraged among men as something natural [406] and body modifications, such as permanent tattoos, are usually forbidden as violating the creation. [lower-alpha 3] [408] Silk and gold are prohibited for men in Islam to maintain a state of sobriety. [409] Haya , often translated as "shame" or "modesty", is sometimes described as the innate character of Islam [410] and informs much of Muslim daily life. For example, clothing in Islam emphasizes a standard of modesty, which has included the hijab for women. Similarly, personal hygiene is encouraged with certain requirements. [411]

In Islamic marriage, the groom is required to pay a bridal gift ( mahr ). [412] [413] [414] Most families in the Islamic world are monogamous. [415] [416] Muslim men are allowed to practice polygyny and can have up to four wives simultaneously. Islamic teachings strongly advise that if a man cannot ensure equal financial and emotional support for each of his wives, it is recommended that he marry just one woman. One reason cited for polygyny is that it allows a man to give financial protection to multiple women, who might otherwise not have any support (e.g. widows). However, the wife can set a condition, in the marriage contract, that the husband cannot marry another woman during their marriage. [417] [418] There are also cultural variations in weddings. [419] Polyandry, a practice wherein a woman takes on two or more husbands, is prohibited in Islam. [420]

After the birth of a child, the adhan is pronounced in the right ear. [421] On the seventh day, the aqiqah ceremony is performed, in which an animal is sacrificed and its meat is distributed among the poor. [422] The child's head is shaved, and an amount of money equaling the weight of its hair is donated to the poor. [422] Male circumcision, called khitan , [423] is often practised in the Muslim world. [424] [425] Respecting and obeying one's parents, and taking care of them especially in their old age is a religious obligation. [426]

A dying Muslim is encouraged to pronounce the Shahada as their last words. [427] Paying respects to the dead and attending funerals in the community are considered among the virtuous acts. In Islamic burial rituals, burial is encouraged as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours. The body is washed, except for martyrs, by members of the same gender and enshrouded in a garment that must not be elaborate called kafan. [428] A "funeral prayer" called Salat al-Janazah is performed. Wailing, or loud, mournful outcrying, is discouraged. Coffins are often not preferred and graves are often unmarked, even for kings. [429]

Arts and culture

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. [430] Finally, "Islamic civilization" may also refer to the aspects of the synthesized culture of the early Caliphates, including that of non-Muslims, [431] sometimes referred to as "Islamicate". [432]

Islamic art encompasses the visual arts including fields as varied as architecture, calligraphy, painting, and ceramics, among others. [433] [434] 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. [435] Additionally, the depiction of Muhammad is a contentious issue among Muslims. [436] 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, [437] while mosques in Indonesia often have multi-tiered roofs from local Javanese styles. [438]

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar that begins with the Hijra of 622 CE, a date that was reportedly chosen by Caliph Umar as it was an important turning point in Muhammad's fortunes. [439] 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 : عيد الفطر) on the 1st of Shawwal , marking the end of the fasting month Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha (عيد الأضحى) on the 10th of Dhu al-Hijjah, coinciding with the end of the Hajj (pilgrimage). [440]

Cultural Muslims are religiously non-practicing individuals who still identify with Islam due to family backgrounds, personal experiences, or the social and cultural environment in which they grew up. [441] [442]

Influences on other religions

Some movements, such as the Druze, [443] [444] [445] 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. [446] The Druze faith further split from Isma'ilism as it developed its own unique doctrines, and finally separated from both Ismāʿīlīsm and Islam altogether; these include the belief that the Imam Al-Ḥākim bi-Amr Allāh was God incarnate. [447] [448] 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. [449] 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 Baháʼí Faith. [450] Sikhism, founded by Guru Nanak in late 15th century Punjab, primarily incorporates aspects of Hinduism, with some Islamic influences. [451]


John of Damascus, under the Umayyad Caliphate, viewed Islamic doctrines as a hodgepodge from the Bible. John Damascus (arabic icon).gif
John of Damascus, under the Umayyad Caliphate, viewed Islamic doctrines as a hodgepodge from the Bible.

Criticism of Islam has existed since its formative stages. Early criticism came from Jewish authors, such as Ibn Kammuna, and Christian authors, many of whom viewed Islam as a Christian heresy or a form of idolatry, often explaining it in apocalyptic terms. [453]

Christian writers criticized Islam's sensual descriptions of paradise. 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. Catholic theologian Augustine of Hippo's doctrines led to the broad repudiation of bodily pleasure in both life and the afterlife. [454]

Defamatory images of Muhammad, derived from early 7th century depictions of the Byzantine Church, [455] appear in the 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. [456] Here, Muhammad is depicted 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. [456]

Other criticisms center on the treatment of individuals within modern Muslim-majority countries, including issues related to human rights, particularly in relation to the application of Islamic law. [457] Furthermore, 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. [458]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hadith</span> Collections of sayings and teachings of Muhammad

Ḥadīth or Athar refers to what most Muslims and the mainstream schools of Islamic thought believe to be a record of the words, actions, and the silent approval of the Islamic prophet Muhammad as transmitted through chains of narrators. In other words, the ḥadīth are transmitted reports attributed to what Muhammad said and did.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Imam</span> Islamic leadership position

Imam is an Islamic leadership position. For Sunni Muslims, Imam is most commonly used as the title of a prayer leader of a mosque. In this context, imams may lead Islamic prayers, serve as community leaders, and provide religious guidance. Thus for Sunnis, anyone can study the basic Islamic sciences and become an Imam.

Shīʿa Islam, otherwise known as Shīʿism or as Shīʿite or Shīʿī Islam, is the second-largest branch of Islam. It holds that the Islamic prophet Muhammad designated ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib as his successor (khalīfa) and the Imam after him, most notably at the event of Ghadir Khumm, but was prevented from succeeding Muhammad as the leader of the Muslims as a result of the choice made by some of Muhammad's other companions (ṣaḥāba) at Saqifah. This view primarily contrasts with that of Sunnī Islam, whose adherents believe that Muhammad did not appoint a successor before his death and consider Abū Bakr, who was appointed caliph by a group of senior Muslims at Saqifah, to be the first rightful (rāshidūn) caliph after Muhammad. Adherents of Shīʿa Islam are called Shīʿa Muslims, Shīʿites, or simply Shīʿa, Shia, or Shīʿīs.

Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam, followed by 85–90% of the world's Muslims. Its name comes from the word Sunnah, referring to the tradition of Muhammad. The differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims arose from a disagreement over the succession to Muhammad and subsequently acquired broader political significance, as well as theological and juridical dimensions. According to Sunni traditions, Muhammad left no successor and the participants of the Saqifah event appointed Abu Bakr as the next-in-line. This contrasts with the Shia view, which holds that Muhammad appointed his son-in-law and cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib as his successor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ali</span> 4th Rashidun Caliph (r. 656–661) and first Shia Imam

ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib was the last Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate, the successor state to the Islamic prophet Muhammad's political dominions. A senior companion of Muhammad, he is considered by Shia Muslims to be the first Imam, the rightful religious and political successor to Muhammad. The issue of succession caused a major rift between Muslims and divided them into two major branches: Shia following an appointed hereditary leadership among Ali's descendants, and Sunni following political dynasties. Ali's assassination in the Grand Mosque of Kufa by a Kharijite coincided with the rise of the Umayyad Caliphate. The Imam Ali Shrine and the city of Najaf were built around Ali's tomb and it is visited yearly by millions of devotees.

In Shia Islam, the Imamah is a doctrine which asserts that certain individuals from the lineage of the Islamic prophet Muhammad are to be accepted as leaders and guides of the ummah after the death of Muhammad. Imamah further says that Imams possess divine knowledge and authority (Ismah) as well as being part of the Ahl al-Bayt, the family of Muhammad. These Imams have the role of providing commentary and interpretation of the Quran as well as guidance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Companions of the Prophet</span> Companion, disciple, scribe or family members of prophet Muhammad

The Companions of the Prophet were the disciples and followers of Muhammad who saw or met him during his lifetime, while being a Muslim and were physically in his presence. "Al-ṣaḥāba" is definite plural; the indefinite singular is masculine صَحَابِيٌّ, feminine صَحَابِيَّةٌ.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Succession to Muhammad</span> Overview and history of the succession to Muhammad, the original split between Shias and Sunnis

The issue of succession following the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad is the central issue in the schisms that divided the early Muslim community in the first century of Islamic history into numerous schools and branches. The two most prominent branches that emerged from these divisions are Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Sunni Islam asserts that Abu Bakr rightfully succeeded Muhammad through a process of election. In contrast, Shia Islam maintains that Ali ibn Abi Talib was Muhammad's designated successor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ahl al-Bayt</span> Family of Muhammad

Ahl al-Bayt refers to the family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, but the term has also been extended in Sunni Islam to all descendants of the Banu Hashim and even to all Muslims. In Shia Islam, the term is limited to Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, his cousin and son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib, and their two sons, Ḥasan and Husayn. A common Sunni view adds the wives of Muhammad to these five.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Islamic schools and branches</span> Overview of sectarian divisions within Islam

Islamic schools and branches have different understandings of Islam. There are many different sects or denominations, schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and schools of Islamic theology, or ʿaqīdah (creed). Within Islamic groups themselves there may be differences, such as different orders (tariqa) within Sufism, and within Sunnī Islam different schools of theology and jurisprudence. Groups in Islam may be numerous, or relatively small in size. Differences between the groups may not be well known to Muslims outside of scholarly circles, or may have induced enough passion to have resulted in political and religious violence. There are informal movements driven by ideas as well as organized groups with a governing body. Some of the Islamic sects and groups regard certain others as deviant or accuse them of not being truly Muslim. Some Islamic sects and groups date back to the early history of Islam between the 7th and 9th centuries CE, whereas others have arisen much more recently or even in the 20th century. Still others were influential in their time but are not longer in existence. Muslims who do not belong to, do not self-identify with, or cannot be readily classified under one of the identifiable Islamic schools and branches are known as non-denominational Muslims.

Criticism of Islam is questioning or challenging the beliefs, practices, and doctrines of Islam. Criticism of Islam can take many forms, including academic critiques, political criticism, and personal opinions.

The hadith of the thaqalayn refers to a statement, attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, that introduces the Quran, the principal religious text in Islam, and his progeny as the only two sources of divine guidance after his death. Widely reported by both Shia and Sunni authorities, the hadith of the thaqalayn is of particular significance in Twelver Shia, where their Twelve Imams are viewed as the spiritual and political successors of Muhammad.

Ahl al-Ḥadīth was an Islamic school of Sunni Islam that emerged during the 12/13th Islamic centuries of the Islamic era as a movement of hadith scholars who considered the Quran and authentic hadith to be the only authority in matters of law and creed and even allows according to layman interepration. They even encourage layman's do the interepration of Quran and Hadith from themselves that's why other group refer them as extremist in islam. They were known as "Athari" for championing traditionalist theological doctrines which rejected rationalist approaches and advocated a strictly literalist reading of Scriptures. Its adherents have also been referred to as traditionalists and sometimes traditionists. The traditionalists constituted the most authoritative and dominant bloc of Sunni orthodoxy prior to the emergence of mad'habs during the fourth Islamic century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fatima</span> Daughter of Muhammad (c. 605–632)

Fāṭima bint Muḥammad, commonly known as Fāṭima al-Zahrāʾ, was the daughter of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his wife Khadija. Fatima's husband was Ali, the fourth of the Rashidun Caliphs and the first Shia Imam. Fatima's sons were Hasan and Husayn, the second and third Shia Imams, respectively. Fatima has been compared to Mary, mother of Jesus, especially in Shia Islam. Muhammad is said to have regarded her as the best of women and the dearest person to him. She is often viewed as an ultimate archetype for Muslim women and an example of compassion, generosity, and enduring suffering. It is through Fatima that Muhammad's family line has survived to this date. Her name and her epithets remain popular choices for Muslim girls.

Ahl al-Kisa, also known as the 'Al al-Aba, are the Islamic prophet Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, his cousin and son-in-law Ali, and his two grandsons Hasan and Husayn. The name has its origins in the hadith of the kisa and the event of the mubahala, both widely reported by Sunni and Shia authorities as evidence of the high spiritual rank of the Ahl al-Kisa in Islam. Ali, Hasan, and Husayn are the first three imams in Shia Islam, where they are viewed as the rightful political and spiritual successors of Muhammad. Non-Zaydi Shias also regard the Ahl al-Kisa as infallible and believe in the redemptive power of their pain and martyrdom.

The verse of purification refers to verse 33:33 of the Quran, the central religious text in Islam. The verse concerns the status of purity of the Ahl al-Bayt, the last passage of which reads,

God only desires to remove defilement from you, O Ahl al-Bayt, and to purify you completely.

Twelver Shīʿism, also known as Imāmiyya, is the largest branch of Shīʿa Islam, comprising about 85 percent of all Shīʿa Muslims. The term Twelver refers to its adherents' belief in twelve divinely ordained leaders, known as the Twelve Imams, and their belief that the last Imam, Imam al-Mahdi, lives in Occultation and will reappear as the promised Mahdi.

Criticism of Twelver Shia Islam dates from the initial ideological rift among early Muslims that led to the two primary denominations of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shias. The question of succession to Muhammad in Islam, the nature of the Imamate, the status of the twelfth Shia Imam, and other areas in which Shia Islam differs from Sunni Islam have been criticized by Sunni scholars, even though there is no disagreement between the two sects regarding the centrality of the Quran, Muhammad, and many other doctrinal, theological and ritual matters. Shia commentators such as Musa al-Musawi and Ali Shariati have themselves, in their attempts to reform the faith, criticized practices and beliefs which have become prevalent in the Twelver Shia community.

The verse of obedience is verse 4:59 of the central religious text in Islam, the Quran. It reads

O you who believe! Obey God and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you differ among yourselves concerning any matter, refer it to God and the Messenger, if you believe in God and the Last Day. That is better, and fairer in outcome.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Contributions of Ali to Islamic sciences</span>

Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, played a pivotal role in the formative early years of Islam. Later, after the death of Muhammad in 632 CE, through his numerous sayings and writings, Ali helped establish a range of Islamic sciences, including Quranic exegesis, theology, jurisprudence, rhetoric, and Arabic grammar. He also trained disciples who later excelled in gnostics, exegesis, theology, and jurisprudence. Numerous traditions, attributed to Ali, elucidate the esoteric teachings of the Quran, the central religious text in Islam. As the first Shia imam, he is also regarded in Shia Islam as the interpreter, par excellence, of the Quran after the death of Muhammad. Ali is considered a reliable and prolific narrator of prophetic traditions, while his own statements and practices are further studied in Shia Islam as the continuation of prophetic teachings. Ali is also viewed as the founder of Islamic theology. Some contributions of Ali to Islamic sciences are highlighted below.



  1. "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. [175]
  2. "In recent years, the idea of syncretism has been challenged. 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 16th century. [218]
  3. Some Muslims in dynastic era China resisted footbinding of girls for the same reason. [407]

Quran and hadith

  1. Quran 2:117
  2. Quran 1:4;
  3. Quran 6:31;
  4. Quran 101:1


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