Origins of Islam, History of Islam, Beliefs of Islam

Islam is a monotheistic religious tradition that developed in the Middle East in the 7th century AD. Islam, which literally means “surrender” or “submission”, was founded on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as an expression of submission to the will of Allah, the creator and sustainer of the world. The Quran, the sacred text of Islam, contains the teachings of the Prophet revealed to him by Allah. The essential element of Islam is the belief that Allah is the only and true God without partner or equal. Islam has many branches and a great variety within those branches. The two divisions within the tradition are Sunni and Shia, who each claim different ways of maintaining religious authority. One of the unifying characteristics of Islam is the five pillars, the fundamental practices of Islam. These five practices include ritual profession of faith, ritual prayer, zakat (charity), fasting, and hajj (a pilgrimage to Mecca). Many Muslims are characterized by their commitment to praying to Allah five times a day. One of the defining characteristics of Islam is the primacy of sacred places, including Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. Muslims gather in mosques to worship Allah, pray and study the scriptures. There is no sharp distinction between the religious and secular aspects of life in Islam; all aspects of a Muslim’s life should be geared towards the service of Allah. Islam spread almost immediately beyond its birthplace in the Arabian Peninsula and now has significant influence in Africa, throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Quick Details:

  • Form: This date reflects Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina, considered the beginning of the Islamic calendar.
  • sacred texts: While the Quran alone is considered sacred scripture, the Sunna, in its written form hadiths, is also part of the Islamic canon.

Quick Fact Sources include,, The Oxford Handbook of World Religions (2006), The Encyclopedia of Religion (2005), the Religious Movements page at the University of Virginia, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions (2002), and the Encyclopedia of World Religions (1999).

Valerie E. Frazier