The prophet Mohammed founded Islam in Arabia during the 7th century A.D. Arab travelers introduced the religion to North Africa in the 10th century and it spread through the trans-Saharan trade routes to West and Central Africa.

The Qur’an (Koran) is the holy book that contains the religious laws and doctrines of Islam. Muslims believe it is the direct word of God as revealed to Mohammed.

Islam is the religion of Muslims. The Arabic word “Islam” means submission to Allah. “Muslim” means one who submits. Allah is the Arabic word for God.

All Muslims work to fulfill what they call the Five Pillars of Faith. Most Muslims believe that in doing so, they can atone for their sins and merit a place in paradise.

The Five Pillars of Islam

1. Shahada – the profession that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.

2. Salat – ritual prayers that are prayed in Arabic, facing toward Mecca, five times each day. Prayers are preceded by a ceremonial washing of face, hands, and feet.

3. Zakat – the giving of alms, or sharing 2.5% of one’s wealth with those in need.

4. Sawm – a month-long fast from dawn to dusk, during the Islamic lunar month of Ramadan.

5. Hajj – a pilgrimage to Mecca required of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it, at least once in their lifetime.

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