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Islam is a monotheistic religion founded by Muhammad in the 7th century. It is currently the second-largest religion in the world, with about 1.4 billion adherents. Believers in Islam are called Muslims. "Islam" means "submission", referring to total surrender  to God, while Muslim means "one who submits."

Muslims believe that God revealed the true religion to Muhammad, as related in the Qur'an and that Muhammad is God's final prophet. They revere all the previous prophets of the Old Testament and New Testament, but consider that Jesus was not the Son of God and did not rise from the dead. The Qur'an and the traditions of Muhammad in the Sunnah are regarded as the fundamental sources of Islam. Muslims believe that Muhammad was the restorer of the monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Jesus, Moses, Noah, and other prophets. He is the last "messenger," sent to correct the distortion of the messages of previous messengers and the corrupted texts of the Bible. Like Judaism, and Christianity, Islam is an Abrahamic religion, but most Muslims believe that Abraham sacrificed Ishmael (Isma'il) on the Kaaba stone in Mecca, rather than Isaac.

It should be emphasized that Islam is composed of a wide variety of sects and individuals, and that there are many variants of the faith. Caution should be used in concluding that "Muslims" as a group believe in any specific doctrine or interpret the Quran or a particular doctrine in a particular way.

Islam is the major religion in North Africa, West Africa the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and parts of the Indian subcontinent, and it is the religion of the state, enshrined in the constitution of several Middle Eastern countries. Large communities can also be found in China, the Balkans and Russia. Only about a fifth of all Muslims originate from Arab countries. However, Arab culture dominates Islam through the Quran, which must be read in the original. Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity in many European countries, such as France, which has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe and the United Kingdom.

Muslim sects and branches:  

Synonyms and alternate spellings:  Mohammedan Religion

Further Information: See History of Islam and the Arabs Quran

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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