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Islam, in Arabic meaning submission to God, or having peace with God, is the youngest of the three largest monotheistic ("one God") religions - Judaism and Christianity being the other two. It was founded in the seventh century after Jesus Christ by Muhammad, who was born about 570 AD in Mecca, in what is today Saudi Arabia. At the age of forty, Muhammad began to believe himself to be a prophet of God. Muhammad's teachings, which are recorded in the Koran, form the basis of Islam, the followers of which are called Muslims.

The Dome Of The Rock Islam became the dominant religion throughout large areas of the Middle East, Asia and Africa, where, since the Koran was written in Arabic, God is known as Allah. Muhammad regarded himself as the last of God's prophets, of which he included Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ. Muhammad apparently believed, at first, that his beliefs and leadership would be welcomed by Christians and Jews, but when that did not happen, it marked the beginning of what has become an often resentful and conflicting relationship.

Islamic religious practice includes 5 essential duties:

  • to say that "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet"
  • to pray 5 times per day (dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk and after dark) facing Mecca
  • to give alms
  • keep the fast of Ramadan
  • to, if possible, make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Islamic law also prohibits the consumption of alcohol, the eating of pork, fraud, slander, gambling, usury and the making of images. Although it has no priestly class such as in Judaism or Christianity, religious and legal officials are viewed as having a similar authority since there is generally no division between civil and religious law.

Regardless of where they live, the majority of Islamic people are good, peaceful and law-abiding (many cities in Islamic countries are far safer to walk in at night than some cities in North America or Europe) - all should not be condemned based on the actions of a relatively few violent fanatics, such as those who have committed recent terrorist attacks in Israel and the United States. Christians and Jews throughout history have had their share of violent fanatics too.

One of the greatest focal points of the struggle between Judaism and Islam is Mount Moriah, or the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem. It was there that Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac, and it was there that God commanded King David (the legal owner of the Temple Mount) and Solomon to build the Temple (see Temples) - and it was there that, according to Islamic tradition, that Muhammad ascended into heaven.

The "Dome of the Rock" was constructed between about 685 to 691 A.D. by Muslims who then had control of Jerusalem (The Crusades of the Middle Ages were generally a Christian effort to retake the city from Muslims). The gold-colored Islamic dome on the Temple Mount (the dome is seen in the top-center part of the above photograph, as is part of The Mount Of Olives, in the top-right corner of the picture, where The Return Of Jesus Christ will occur) has become a world-famous part of the Jerusalem skyline. Despite the Jewish state of Israel being a reality, Muslim presence, and effective control, of the Temple Mount has been permitted and tolerated by all Israeli governments, so far.

Fact Finder: Whose descendants were the founders of Islam?
See Ishmael

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