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Religious Tolerance logo

About the religion of Islam

Introduction to Islam: Quotations.
A note.
Population growth. Traditions.

Islamic termsQuotations:

bullet

"The messenger of Allah said: "Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, to perform the prayers, to pay the zakat, to fast in Ramadan, and to make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to do so." He said: " You have spoken rightly", Jebreel (Gabriel) from Number 2 of "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths." 1

(The reference to "the House" describes the Hajj: a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a person's lifetime if they are physically and economically able to do so.)


bullet"If anyone harms (others), God will harm him, and if anyone shows hostility to others, God will show hostility to him." Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 1625.

bullet "Beware! Whoever is cruel and harsh to a non-Muslim minority, curtailing their rights, overburdening them, or stealing from them, I will complain [to God] ." Abu Dawudi; attributed to the Prophet Muhammad.

bullet "Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians...and (all) who believe in God and the last day and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve."  The Qur'an, 2:62

bullet"Jim Jones, David Koresh and Meir Kahane do not typify Christianity and Judaism in the eyes of the civilized West, but those same eyes are prone to see Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar as typifying Islam," Richard Bulliet 2

Webmaster's note. [bias alert]:

One of the themes running through some holy books is that of "scapegoating." 5 This is the concept that guilt and punishment can be transferred from those responsible for an evil act, to others who are innocent of that act. This theme is rarely -- if ever -- discussed in religious homilies or sermons. Yet it seems fundamentally unjust and evil according to every moral code that I have seen. By not holding perpetrators directly responsibility for their actions, innocent people become marginalized and denigrated.

Islamophobia and Christianophobia are becoming common in the U.S. For example:

  • When some Muslims think of Christianity in America, they think of Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World  Outreach Center in Florida as a typical Christian. He supervised the burning of several hundred copies of the Qur'an.

  • When some Christians think of Islam in the Middle East, they think first of Osama Bin Laden, or Musab al-Zarqawi as typical Muslims. Both were leaders of Al-Qaeda, and are now deceased.

People confuse the beliefs or practices of an individual or a small minority of believers for the entire religion. As one example, in the minds of some Islamophobic Americans, responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City and Washington has expanded from 19 radical, violent, fundamentalist, terrorists who were atypical Muslims and their Al-qaeda handlers to all 1.6 billion followers of Islam.

We ask our visitors to consider two items when reading this section of our web site:

  • The irrationality of blaming innocent persons for the sins of a small minority within a group. One of this web site's mottos is: "When some people deviate from reality, others are often hurt."

  • When we mention any religion, we are generally referring to more than the beliefs and teachings of its founder. The culture in which the religion developed has generally had a major impact as well. So, for example, the four main versions of Sharia law are all based on the Qur'an -- and to a lesser degree on the Hadith (a record of the teachings and life of Muhammad). However, each has been profoundly influenced by the specific cultures in which they grew.

  • All of the major religions of the world have split into many different parts, called traditions, denominations, branches, sects, faith groups, etc. Within Islam, the two main divisions are Sunni and Shiíte. The split occurred after the death of the Prophet Muhammad who died unexpectedly in 632 CE. He had not specifically chosen a successor and conflict developed over how to choose a leader. The split remains to the present time and continues to cause much strife, terrorism, and assassination among Muslims, particularly in the Middle East.

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About Islam:

Most authorities believe that Islam was founded by the Prophet Muhammad during the early 7th Century CE in Mecca and Medina, cities located in what is now Saudi Arabia. Within a century, it had expanded to cover the territory between the Indus River in modern-day west India to central and southern Spain and Portugal in the West. In 1529, Islamic influence approached Vienna in modern-day Austria.

Estimates of the total number of Muslims range from 0.7 to 1.8 billion worldwide with 1.1 to 7 million living in the U.S. 3 We accept the estimate of the world's Muslim population at 1.57 billion, as measured by the Pew Forum. About 22% of all people on Earth follow Islam. The religion is currently in a period of rapid growth.

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Birth rates and total numbers of Muslims, compared to Christians:

Christianity is currently the largest religion in the world. It is followed by about 33% of all people -- a percentage that has remained stable for many decades. In comparison, the percentage of U.S. adults who identify themselves as Christians has been dropping over the past decade by about 1 percentage point per year.

If current trends continue, Islam continue its present period of rapid growth. It will become the most popular world religion sometime later in the 21st century. The Pew Research Center predicts that, by 2060, the 31.1% of the total world's population will be Muslim. The number of Christians will be almost identical, at 31.8%. The overtaking of Islam by Christianity is largely due to the higher birth rate among Musims.

Pew Research Center noted that in early 2017, 223 million babies are being born each year to Christian mothers around the world. This compares to 213 million babies born to Muslim mothers annually. They base this data on more than "2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers." 5 During the early 2030's, about 225 million babies are expected to be born to Muslim mothers, and a similar number to Christian mothers. These values are expected to remain close to each other until the 2040s, when births to Christian mothers will level out, and later start to drop, reaching about 226 million by the year 2055. During the same interval, births to Muslim mothers are expected to continue to increase and reach 232 million by 2055. These expected trends are primarily caused by the young population of Muslims and their higher fertility rate compared to Christians.

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Current geographical distribution of Sunni and Shiite Islam

Distribution of Shiite and Sunni Islam 4

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Important resources on the Internet:

  • GuidedWays has a number of translations of the Qur'an available for free:
    • For an English translation, go to http://www.guidedways.com/. Click on the "Quran" button underneath the graphic; select "translation;" select "English" (or any of eight other languages), and select from one of up to four translations. You can select any of the chapters and display the translation.

    • A Qur'an reader for Java-enabled mobile phones is available at: http://www.guidedways.com/

    • For a Qur'an reciter in many languages, see: http://www.guidedways.com/

  • Frederic A. Moritz has written a web guide for journalists and others titled: "Islam under a human rights spotlight," at: http://www.worldlymind.org/

  • Abid Qureshi has written an essay: "Islam’s View on War and Terrorism: A Survey of the Qur’an and Prophetic Traditions." It is available on his blog at: http://abidnyc.wordpress.com

  • Ramadan Times published timetables for the next observance of Ramadan at: http://www.ramadantimes.co.uk/

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Yahya bin Sharaf Ul-Deen An-Nawawi , "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths." This is a compilation of 43 sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). See: http://www.dartmouth.edu/
  2. Richard Bulliet, "The case for Islamo-Christian civilization," Columbia University Press, (2004). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  3. The estimate of 1.1 million Muslim in the U.S. was derived from the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) of 2001. It was based on a telephone survey. See: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/The seven million estimate was obtained from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) web site. It was based on the number of immigrants from Islamic countries. See: http://www.cair-net.org/
  4. Map courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin. The original is at: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/
  5. "The changing of global religious landscape," Pew Research, 2017-APR-05, at: http://www.pewforum.org/

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Copyright © 1995 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2017-APR-09
Author: B. A. Robinson

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