The Muslim community is one of the most diverse in the world, ranging from Chinese rice farmers to Bosnian steelworkers; from Indonesian fishermen to Tuareg nomads. Islam spans nearly every continent and plays a key role in the modern political world. Twenty percent of people on Earth consider themselves Muslim.
Despite their differences in language and culture, Muslims share a common faith that brings them a sense of peace and stability in their individual and community lives. Islam guides every aspect of their day-to-day lives, from their choice of work and leisure activities to the food they eat and the way they interact with other people.
Islam has more in common with other religious faiths than many people realize. Muslims believe in One Almighty God and the guidance that He has sent to prophets. Their holy book, the Qur'an, contains stories of such familiar figures as Noah, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus. They honor universal values such as equality, honesty, mercy, and humility.
Yet in today's world, Muslims are often associated with extremism and intolerance; their beliefs are misunderstood and even despised. Stereotypes and misinformation are spread out of ignorance or deliberately promoted for political or social purposes. Isolated cases of violence, many times without any religious motive, stand as examples of what is now considered “normal” Muslim behavior. Unfortunately, Muslims themselves often promote such misunderstandings due to their own selfish motivations or lack of knowledge.
When exploring any faith, it's important to look at the totality of its teachings: its basic vocabulary, its holy texts, its prophets, the history of its early faith community, and the interpretations of its modern scholars.
The word “Islam,” at its core, means “peaceful worship of and submission to One Almighty God.” Those who believe in and practice Islam are known as Muslims, or “those who find peace through trusting submission to and worship of God Alone.”
From small and humble beginnings 1,400 years ago, the Muslim community expanded to cover three continents and to lead some of the greatest empires of ancient history. As the foundation for one of the most advanced intellectual and cultural environments of all time, Islam was the embodiment of tolerance, scholarship, and justice. Indeed, it was Muslim leadership that helped to propel Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the modern era. Today, Islam continues to inspire millions of people into lives of integrity, innovation, and kindness.
This revised edition of The Everything® Understanding Islam Book will help you learn about Islam and the people who practice this faith, answering the many questions you may have about this major world religion.