Less that 2% of the United States population is made up of Muslims, and fewer than that are actually practicing Islam, their religion. Worldwide however, the Muslim population represents approximately 23% of the entire population, second only to Christianity in popularity.

Non-Muslims consider the prophet Muhammad to be the founder of the religion, but Muslims recognize him as the final and authoritative prophet from God, sent to restore the corrupted original monotheistic religion of previous prophets.

Prophet MuhammadCredit: 100ujelmenyvar.blog.huMuhammed was born around 570CE and began receiving visits from the angel Gabriel and revelations from God in the 40th year of his life. These messages make up the verses of the Quran, the Muslims’ holy book. Key themes of the book include the reverence that man owes his creator, God’s judgement of a person when he dies, the resurrection of the dead, and descriptions of Hell and Heaven. Also included in the Quran are the guidelines for Islamic laws, and managing business, community, and personal affairs in every day life.

In addition to following the precepts of the Quran, there are five pillars that are foundational to the Islam religion.

Faith: (Shahadah)
Muslims believe that there is only one God, and our purpose as human beings on earth is to worship God. They acknowledge that this is the same God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, whom they recognize as God’s prophets. However, they believe that Mohammad is God’s final authoritative prophet, sent to clear up misinterpretations and inaccuracies that had seeped into the original religion of the previous prophets.

Muslims prayingCredit: Images:Muslims PrayingPrayer: (Salat)
Muslims pray 5 times every day: before sunrise, midday, before sunset, after sunset, and at night. These prayers are done facing towards their holy city, Mecca, and in specific, designated poses. Praying may be done anywhere, but praying in a mosque with other believers is encouraged as it strengthens the Islamic community as a whole.

Alms: (Zakat)
Muslims are instructed to give 2.5% of their savings to the poor and needy. Easing the burden of the less fortunate is the goal, along with eliminating inequalities. Among the principles that guide the giver are paying the Zakat in-kind -- meaning that if the person’s surplus is in money, the Zakat, should be money. But, if the person has a lack of money and a surplus of time, the Zakat can be gifts of time or service. The Zakat must be distributed in the local community where the surplus originated.

fastingCredit: http://media.photobucket.com/Fasting: (Sawm)
Muslims practice various forms of fasting, all for the purpose of growing closer to God by expressing gratitude to him, dependence on him, and forgiveness for their sins. Fasting is also practiced as a means of repentance, and to strengthen oneself against falling into temptations.

Pilgrimage to the Holy City: (Hajj)
All Muslims are required to take at least one pilgrimage to Mecca, their Holy City during their lifetime. The sole purpose of this pilgrimage should be to express devotion to God, and should never be done to gain social status.

MosqueCredit: en.wikipedia.orgSeveral requirements of the pilgrimage ritual include walking around the most sacred building in the center of the most sacred mosque in Mecca seven times, touching the Black Stone in its wall (which they believe was sent to Adam and Eve from Heaven to show them where to build an alter to God), and traveling between two holy mountain sites seven times.

There are several Islamic denominations, the two largest being the Sunni and Shia denominations. Additional religious practices are followed by these groups. All Islamic denominations adhere to the five foundational pillars outlined above.

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