The Origins, Spread, and Features of the Islamic Religion


  • Origin of religion
    • Developed in the 7th century CE, 622 CE to be more precise. Formed in the Arabian peninsula, ancestry traces back to Ishmael, son of Hagar, concubine of Abraham
  • Basic Religious Beliefs:
    • Allah is the one and true God with no partner or equal
    • No idol worship
    • 5 Pillars of Islam

1. Shaddah-profession of faith, includes reciting "There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God."

2. Salah- prayer, facing Mecca, done 5 times a day (dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and evening)

3. Zakat- almsgiving, giving to those in need

4. Sawm- fasting during the month of Ramadan, ordered by the Quran, after sighting of the new moon, it is to be abstained from eating, drinking, and having sex

5. Hajj- pilgrimage to Mecca, required for all that are physically and financially able

  • Classification: Universalizing
  • Branches or Divisions
    • Sunnis are based more on customary practices and the oral history and traditions of the prophet Muhammad;they consider themselves keepers of the true faith
    • Shias or Shiites as they’re also called, trace their ancestry to the daughter of Muhammad; they considered Hussein (the son of Ali, a caliph, the son-in-law of Muhammad) as the rightful heir of the leadership of Islam. This led those believers to flee. The split came after a battle in 680 AD, when Hussein was surrounded with little support, captured, then beheaded along with 72 other men.

Islam's Global Distribution

  • How it diffused
    • From Arabian Peninsula, to Africa, Asia, and eventually Europe
    • Muhammad’s army converted many people with whom they eloped into Muslims in their travels
    • Soon after Muhammad died, Muslim armies had taken the Arabian Peninsula, and soon afterward, Saharan Africa
    • By 1300, most of India, the Caucasus, Spain, Greece and Turkey had been conquered by Muslims, and converted to Islam
    • Missionaries went to sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia (Indonesia) and trade continued with these areas, which caused the conversion of many people into Islam (1300s)
  • Holy Places
    • Based around Muhammad’s life
    • Mecca (Makkah) holiest place, in English, come to mean place of common visitation
    • Every Muslim in good health and economic situation is required to take a pilgrimage to Mecca
    • al-Ka’ba holy prism located in Mecca, dedicated to Allah by Muhammed
    • Great Mosque (al-Haram al-Sharif) located in Mecca
  • Where is it practiced today
    • In order from most practiced to least: Arabian Peninsula, Saharan Africa, and Southeastern Asia, Northern Sub-Saharan Africa, India, the Caucasus, Russia, and some countries north of Greece
  • Number of followers- 1.3 billion

Unique Features

  • Key Figures and Important People-
    • Adam, the first man
    • Abraham who is married to Sarah with their son Isaac, and was married to Hagar who bore his son Ishmael
    • Muhammad, The Prophet of Islam; a descendant of Ishmael
  • Holy Text
    • The Quran, written in Arabic
  • Religious Symbols
    • al-Ka’ba, cubelike structure thought to have been built by Abraham and Ishmael
      • Controversial, because some think it to be a tangible representation of Allah, which is not allowed
    • Star and crescent, a symbol representing Islam
    • Domes very prominent in Islamic architecture
  • Place of Worship
    • Muslims worship in Mosques (Masjid in Arabic)
  • Impact on Social and family structures
    • Women have the same rights as men but men are viewed to have a degree of power over them. It is said the Quran “…If they (husband wife) desire to wean the child by mutual consent and (after) consultation, there is no blame on them…” (Qur’an 2: 233). They recognize no caste system and do not see superiority on account of class or origin or wealth.
  • Impact on cultural beliefs and expectations
    • Marriage is very important and Muhammad says "marriage is half of religion"
    • Prayer five times a day (also known as namaz in Arabic) facing towards the al-Ka’ba,. Sunrise (fajr) Noon (zohr) afternoon (asr) sunset (maghrib) nighttime (isha)
    • Traditional women’s clothing (the hijab) which represents modesty and privacy

Images and a video about Islam and how Muslims worship

Essential Question - As a universalizing religion how does Islam appeal to everyone?