Islam

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Row of domes and crescent moon finials at a mausoleum in Cairo

Islam is an Abrahamic, monotheistic, and universal religion teaching that Muhammad is a messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with 1.9 billion followers or 24.9% of the world's population, known as Muslims.

Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided humanity through prophets, revealed scriptures, and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, believed to be the verbatim word of God, as well as the teachings and practices (sunnah), in traditional accounts (hadith) of Muhammad (c. 570 – 632 CE).

Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world.

Beliefs

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

Early history

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

Denominations

Most Muslims are of one of two denominations: Sunni (85–90%) or Shia (10–15%), and make up a majority of the population in 49 countries. Sunni and Shia differences arose from disagreement over the succession to Muhammad and acquired broader political significance, as well as theological and juridical dimensions.

Demographics

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". 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".

  • 12% of Muslims live in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country.
  • 31% live in South Asia.
  • 20% in the Middle East–North Africa.
  • 15% in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sizable Muslim communities can also be found in the Americas, China, and Europe.

Mysticism

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. It is not a sect of Islam and its adherents belong to the various Muslim denominations. Ismaili Shias, whose teachings root in Gnosticism and Neo-Platonism, as well as by the Illuminationist and Isfahan schools of Islamic philosophy have developed mystical interpretations of Islam.

Hasan al-Basri, the early Sufi ascetic often portrayed as one of the earliest Sufis, 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 Jalaluddin Rumi (1207 – 1273), still one of the best-selling poets in America, writing his Persian poem Masnawi and the works of Hafez (1315 – 1390) are often considered the pinnacle of Persian poetry.

Sufis see tasawwuf as an inseparable part of Islam, just like the sharia. 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. Historian Nile Green argued that Islam in the Medieval period, was more or less Sufism. Popular devotional practices such as the veneration of Sufi saints have been viewed as innovations from the original religion from followers of salafism, who have sometimes physically attacked Sufis, leading to a deterioration in Sufi–Salafi relations.

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