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aa Understanding Muslims - 1 Understanding Muslims What Is...

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1 Understanding Muslims What Is Islam, and Who Are Muslims? Islam is a religion and Muslims are its members. Islam is the second largest religion in the world, and there are over 1.4 billion Muslims worldwide. Many Arabs are Muslims, but 88 percent of the Muslim population resides outside the Arab World, throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas, and Oceania. Muslims are very ethnically diverse and do not belong to a particular race, culture, region, or nationality. Indonesia is home to the greatest number of Muslims, almost 200 million. In the United States, where it is illegal to ask questions about religion on the Census, the number of Muslims living in the US is not easy to determine. Estimates range from a conservative two million to as many as 7 million. Regardless of the exact population of Muslims in the US, the Muslim population is growing. Muslims believe that Allah sent many prophets, including Adam, Moses (Musa), Abraham (Ibrahim), and Jesus ('Isa). For Muslims, Muhammad is the last of the prophets and is the person to whom God revealed his final message. Muhammed lived during the 7th century. He is not worshipped by Muslims, but held in very high esteem. The Qur'an is the message that was spoken to Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. It was memorized by Muhammed and written down during his lifetime; not one word has been changed since. Islam recognizes the preceding religious histories of Jews and Christians, referring to them as Ahl al-Kitab, People of the Book. The Muslim faith has five pillars: 1) Shahada is the profession of faith: "There is none worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is the messenger of God"; 2) Salat are the prayers that are performed five times per day by all Muslims over the age of 10. Prayers are required before sunrise, and at noon, midday, sundown, and night. Prayers are preceded by a ritual ablution, wudu , washing face, neck, arms and ankles. The practice of praying includes the recitation of Qur'anic verses and prostration toward Mecca; 3) Zakat, or charitable giving, is compulsory for all devout Muslims and is expected to amount to about 2.5 percent of one's wealth every year; 4) Sawm is religious fasting from food, drink, and sexual activity from dawn until dusk and is followed during the month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the lunar calendar. Fasting is practiced to obtain physical and spiritual purity; 5) Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca, which is a goal of every Muslim if physically and economically able, at least once during his or her lifetime.
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