CL online special: Quick facts about Islam

  • Islam officially began with the prophet Mohammed in Arabia in the sixth and seventh centuries after Christ and is more than 14 centuries old. “Islam,” itself means to “submission.” The Muslim is not asked to agree to the Islamic way of life but to submit.
  • No statement is more important to a Muslim than, “God is one.” The name of God dominates the Quar’an and the speech of Muslims.
  • The Quar’an is regarded as the last in a long series of books and supersedes former revelations. The Quar’an is four-fifths the length of the New Testament and is divided into 114 chapters called surahs.
  • Jihad means, “to struggle.” According to Islam, there are two kinds of jihad—the great jihad is to struggle spiritually with oneself and the lesser jihad is to avenge wrongs done to Islam. Sometimes this takes the form of “holy war” or “just war.” Similarly, Islamic fundamentalism is of two kinds—to recover Islamic values or to avenge wrongs done to Islam by non-Muslims, even violently if necessary. Sept. 11, 2001, confirms that one interpretation of jihad and one interpretation of fundamentalism is violent, even terroristic. Unfortunately, this interpretation often dominates our consciousness.
  • Mohammed identified five pillars upon which Islam is built: “bearing witness” in the Creed (“There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His Prophet”), prayer (said five times a day, bowing towards Mecca), almsgiving, fasting during the month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca (once in a lifetime).
  • Eighty-five percent of Muslims are Sunnis and they are regarded as orthodox. Within this group are schools of interpretation that vary in their understanding of the place of the Qur’an, the traditions and human reason. The second largest group is the Shi’ite, which consists of about 14 percent of the modern population. They are found mainly in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. In Islam the concern for mystical union with God and love for God was expressed by the Sufis.
  • Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion. The principal reason for this rapid growth is that one born into a Muslim family is automatically a Muslim. This is biological growth. But Islam also believes in mission (dawah) and they strive to attract people to their faith.
  • Islam is today the world’s second-largest religion, with an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide.
  • Although many associate Islam with the Middle East, only 20 percent of Muslims live in Arabic-speaking world. Most live in Pakistan, with Indonesia claiming the world’s largest Muslim population.
  • An estimated 7 million Muslims—2 percent of the population—live in the U.S., practicing their faith in almost 2,000 mosques, Islamic schools and centers. Only a quarter of U.S. Muslims are of Arab descent. Thirty-three percent are south-central Asian and 30 percent are African-American. States with the highest percentage of Muslim population are California, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.

From Third Way Café, "Mennonites and Muslims, Quick Facts." Adapted from Missio Dei: Understanding Islam. A Christian reflection on the faith of our Muslims neighbors by Calvin E. Shenk. Copyright 2002 by Mennonite Mission Network, Elkhart, IN 46515. All rights reserved. Used by permission. For booklet ordering information call (574-294-7523) or


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