Understand Difference

Understanding Islam: Beliefs Practices and Diversity

Introduction to Islam

Islam is a monotheistic religion founded in the seventh century in Saudi Arabia by the Prophet Mohammed. It is the fastest-growing religion in the world with an estimated 1.8 billion followers, who are referred to as Muslims.

The name Islam comes from the Arabic word ‘al-silm,’ which translates to “submission,” meaning submission to the will of Allah, the one true God.

Names for Muslims and the role of Prophet Mohammed

A Muslim is a person who follows Islam, and the terms used to refer to Muslims vary. Muslims may be referred to as Musalmaan, Moslem, or Mohammedan, although the latter is not commonly used due to its association with colonialism and inaccurately suggesting that Muslims worship Mohammed.

Muslims believe that Prophet Mohammed is the last prophet sent by God, who received revelations from the archangel Gabriel. He played a crucial role in spreading Islam and remains a role model for Muslims today.

Basic Tenets of Islam

Meanings of the term “Islam”

Islam is derived from the Arabic root word ‘istaslama,’ which means “to surrender,” and ‘al-silm,’ which means “peace.” Thus, Islam means submission to the will of Allah and peace that results from living in accordance with His guidance. It emphasizes the importance of monotheism, the belief in one God, who created the universe and everything in it, and who sustains it.

Similarities between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity

Islam is an Abrahamic faith, as is Judaism and Christianity. All three religions follow one God, believe in prophets, and have Holy Scriptures.

Muslims believe in the prophets mentioned in the Bible and Torah, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, who Muslims believe was a prophet but not the son of God.

Beliefs about Prophet Mohammed and the role of the Qur’an and Hadith

Muslims believe that Mohammed was the last and greatest prophet sent by God, who received revelations from the archangel Gabriel.

The revelations were compiled into the Holy Book of Islam, the Qur’an, which Muslims consider the literal word of God and a complete guide to life. The Hadith is a collection of sayings and actions of Mohammed that Muslims use to understand the Qur’an in greater detail.

Five pillars of Islam and their significance

The Five Pillars of Islam represent the five basic acts of worship that form the foundation of Muslim life. The first pillar is Tawhid, which is the belief in the Oneness of God.

The second is Salah, which is the five daily prayers; Sallah is essential to the Muslim faith and serves as a reminder of the presence of God throughout the day. The third is Zakah, which is the obligation to give a percentage of one’s wealth to charity.

The fourth is Sawm, which is fasting during the month of Ramadan. Finally, the fifth pillar is Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim who is physically and financially capable is required to undertake at least once in their lifetime.


Islam is a profound and complex religion that emphasizes monotheism, submission to the will of Allah, and peace. Muslims follow the Quran, live by the teachings of Prophet Mohammed, and practice the five pillars of Islam.

While there are differences in rituals and practices among Muslims, the core beliefs remain the same, including the importance of charity, compassion, and devotion to God. Understanding the tenets of Islam can and should contribute to religious harmony and an appreciation of the many diverse traditions and practices of human spirituality.

Jesus in Islam

Islam considers Jesus (Isa in Arabic) to be a prophet and messenger of God but does not view him as the son of God or a deity. Muslims believe that Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary through the power of God, and he performed many miracles, including healing the sick and raising the dead.

Jesus’ message was to worship only one God and to submit to His will. Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was instead taken up to heaven, and that he will return to Earth to defeat the Anti-Christ and establish peace before he dies a natural death.

Beliefs about Jesus as a prophet and messenger of God

Scholars disagree about the exact status of

Jesus in Islam. However, there is a consensus among Muslims that Jesus was a prophet and messenger of God, who conveyed the divine message to the people of his time.

According to the Qur’an, Jesus had a miraculous birth and was given special powers by God to perform miracles. Jesus’ message emphasized the importance of loving and worshipping only one God and treating others with compassion and respect.

Differences between Muslim and Christian beliefs about Jesus

The belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the belief in his death and resurrection are fundamental tenets of Christianity. However, Muslims do not subscribe to these beliefs but instead view Jesus as a prophet of God who was not crucified.

Muslims also reject the idea of the cross as a symbol of salvation and forgiveness.

Another significant difference between Muslim and Christian beliefs about Jesus is the concept of the second coming.

While Christians believe that Jesus will return to the world and judge the living and the dead, Muslims view his return as a precursor to the end of the world and not a time of judgment.

Sects of Islam

There are two major branches of Islam: Sunni and Shia. The majority of Muslims belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, while the minority are Shia.

The divide between the two sects of Islam goes back to the death of Prophet Mohammed, who did not leave clear instructions on who would be his successor.

Sunni and Shia branches of Islam

The Sunni branch of Islam believes that the rightful successor to Prophet Mohammed was elected through a process of consultation among his companions, known as the caliphate. Sunni Muslims believe that the caliphs who succeeded Prophet Mohammed were the rightful leaders of the Islamic community.

On the other hand, the Shia branch of Islam believes that the rightful successor to Prophet Mohammed was his cousin and son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib. Shia Muslims consider the twelve Imams, of whom Ali was the first, as the rightful leaders of the Islamic community.

Differences in beliefs and political factors behind sect division

Beliefs and political factors play a significant role in the division between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Shia Muslims believe that the imams are infallible and possess divine knowledge, which Sunni Muslims reject.

The political divide is also a significant factor in the division between the two sects. Many Shia Muslims believe that the caliphs who succeeded Prophet Mohammed usurped the rightful position of the imams.

The division between Sunni and Shia Muslims has resulted in different practices and traditions. For example, both sects have different legal systems and customs.

Shia Muslims also observe the mourning of the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, during the month of Muharram, which Sunni Muslims do not observe.


In conclusion, understanding different beliefs and practices in Islam contributes to a better appreciation of the diverse religious traditions of human spirituality. Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet and messenger of God, but they do not view him as the son of God.

Additionally, political and theological differences have led to the division of Islam into two major sects: Sunni and Shia. The divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims is significant, and it is important to recognize the rich diversity within the Islamic faith.

Muslims Around the World

With more than 1.8 billion followers, Islam is the second-largest religion in the world after Christianity. It has a significant presence on every continent, and Muslims have contributed to various fields, including science, art, literature, and architecture.

Muslim population as a percentage and in absolute numbers

Muslims make up approximately 23% of the world’s population. The largest Muslim population is found in Asia, which has around 60% of the world’s Muslims.

The Middle East and Africa account for most of the remainder. The ten countries with the largest Muslim populations are Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, and Sudan.

Combined, these countries contain more than two-thirds of the total Muslim population globally.

Countries with majority Shia and Sunni Muslim populations

The divide between the two major branches of Islam, Sunni and Shia, is reflected in the distribution of the Muslim population worldwide.

The majority of Muslims in the world are Sunni, including around 85% of all Muslims.

Sunni Islam is the dominant form of Islam in most of the Arab world, as well as in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Malaysia. In contrast, the Shia population accounts for around 15% of all Muslims.

Iran is the world’s largest Shia country, with the majority of the population following the Twelver Shia branch of Islam. Iraq and Bahrain also have significant Shia populations, while Lebanon has a sizable Shia Muslim minority.

The divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims has also had significant geopolitical implications. In some countries, such as Iraq and Syria, political instability and conflict have been fueled by sectarian tensions.

In Iran and Saudi Arabia, the rivalry between the two factions has geopolitical and economic dimensions, such as in the competition for regional dominance. Muslims have made significant contributions to the world, such as in the fields of mathematics, medicine, and philosophy.

Famous Muslim scientists include Al-Khwarizmi, who developed algebra, and Ibn Sina, who wrote extensively on medicine and philosophy. Muslim scholars also contributed to the preservation and translation of ancient Greek and Roman texts, which helped lay the foundations for the European Renaissance.


The Muslim population worldwide is diverse, with the majority of followers belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam. However, significant Shia communities are found in countries such as Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain.

Muslims have contributed to various fields and cultures throughout history, and Islam remains an important and influential force in the world today. As with any religious group, it’s essential to approach Islam with an open mind and explore the vast array of perspectives, beliefs, and practices it offers.

Understanding the diversity of Islam can help promote religious tolerance and understanding worldwide. In conclusion, Islam is a global religion with a significant presence in various regions of the world.

With over 1.8 billion followers, Muslims contribute to diverse fields and cultures. While the majority of Muslims follow the Sunni branch, there are significant Shia populations in countries like Iran and Iraq.

Understanding the distribution and diversity of the Muslim population is crucial for fostering religious tolerance and promoting global understanding. By appreciating the contributions and perspectives of Muslims worldwide, we can create a more inclusive and harmonious society for all.

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