What is Islam?

Main Features of Two Major Branches of Islam

Sunni & Shia

Islam, The Fastest Growing Religion in the World

  • Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.
  • Indeed, one out of every five persons on this earth is a Muslim.
  • There are nearly 442 million Muslims living in Africa (47%) and the number is growing.
  • Yet, unfortunately, Islam is also the most misunderstood religion.
  • Muslims live in different parts of the world ranging from China to Argentina, Russia to South Africa. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia.
A. The Word “Islam”?
  • Islam means Peace.
  • Islam means the active submission to the one God.
  • Peace (the root from which the word Islam is derived) is attained through complete obedience to the commandments of God, for God is the source of all peace.
B. Two Major components of Islam
  • Articles of Faith (Roots of Religion)
  • Articles of Worship (Branches of Religion)

Articles of Faith (Roots of Religion)

1. Monotheism (Tauheed )
  • Muslims believe that God – Allah is ONE.
  • He was neither begotten nor does He beget.
  • He has no partner.
  • He is the Beginning and He is the End.
  • He is omniscient and omnipresent.
2. Prophethood (Nabuwat)
  • In Islam, We believe that God has sent 124,000 Prophets commencing from Adam to guide human beings and conveyed his message.
  • Amongst those specifically mentioned in Quran are Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Lot, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, Ezekiel, David, Solomon, Jonah, Zachariah, John the Baptist, Jesus and Muhammad.
Prophet Muhammad
  • Islam believes that Prophet Muhammad is the last and the most illustrious of all the Prophets who brought the final word of God.
  • Quran is the divine book which was revealed on him and has the ultimate message of salvation for all of Humanity.
3.  Resurrection (Ma’ad)
  • The world will come to an end on the Day of the Rising (Qiyamah), the day of final human accountability.
  • All of mankind will be resurrected and presented before God who will decide their fate according to their deeds.

Articles of Worship – (Branches of Religion)

The Mandatory Acts of Worship Accepted By Both the Sunni and the Shia Are:
  3. HAJJ

Note: All Islamic schools unanimously agree upon the above mentioned acts of worship; however they greatly differ on the method and juristic details of these institutions.

1. Prayers (Salah)
  • Every Muslim must perform the Five Salah/Prayers Daily.
  • Prayers are the pillars of faith. Through prayer people establish communication and dialogue with God.
2. Fast (Sawm)
  • Fasting in Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar is obligatory upon every Muslim. Fasting involves refraining from eating, drinking and sexual activity from the beginning of the nautical dawn till sunset.
  • According to Syed Husain Nasr “it is the means by which man pulls the reins of his animal desires and realizes that he is more than an animal.”
3. Hajj (Pilgrimage)
  • Every Muslim who is able must make the Hajj (pilgrimage) to the city of Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime following the footsteps of Prophet Abraham, who is known as “the father of the prophets.”
  • Besides being a great spiritual accomplishment, Hajj also resembles the universal brotherhood of all the faithful.


  • The split between the two main branches of Islam is nearly 1,400 years old – almost as old as Islam itself. It had started with a difference over who should lead the faithful after the Prophet Muhammad’s demise in 632.
  • One side believed that direct descendants of the Prophet better known as “AHLUL BAIT” should take up the mantle of the caliph – the leader of the world’s faithful. They were known as the Shiat-Ali, or “Partisans of Ali,” after the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali, whom they favoured to become caliph. In time, they came simply to be known as Shiites.
  • The other side – the Sunnis – thought that the Prophet had never appointed any Successor and left the Nation or Ummah without any appointment or instruction or even any guideline in this regard. Thus any worthy man could lead the faithful.
  • Abu Bakr, an early convert to Islam, was selected by a selective small group of people immediately after the demise of the Prophet and appointed as the First Caliph after the demise of Prophet.
  • Then Abu-Bakr before his death nominated another senior companion of the Prophet, Omar as his Successor.
  • Before his assassination, he appointed a six member committee to choose a New Leader which resulted in the Caliphate of Othman. Othman was also assassinated but left no specific directives for his succession.
  • Ali was chosen by the people as the Fourth Caliph. According to the Sunni interpretation, these individuals are the Four Rightly Guided Leaders of Islam after the Prophet Muhammad.
Much More Than a Political Rift….
  • This political rift over the succession and leadership between two groups of Muslims gradually became the source of major violent conflicts in the coming centuries of Islam. The differences didn’t stay in the confinement of the political arena but entered into the ideological, jurisprudential and even in cultural spheres of both denominations.
  • The Sunni School grew in corridors of power under the shadows of State influence, while Shiite thought evolved in camps of resistance and dissidence against establishment over the centuries.