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The World of Islam


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By Don Belt Photographs by Steve McCurry



Earth’s fastest growing religion, with six million followers in the U.S. alone, reveals striking diversity.



Get a taste of what awaits you in print from this compelling excerpt.

Borne aloft five times a day, from Shanghai to Chicago, Jakarta to Timbuktu, the music of Islam’s call to prayer stirs the soul of devout Muslims everywhere. Whether cast from metal loudspeakers over teeming city streets or lifted as the murmured song of camel drivers kneeling in the sand, it begins with the same Arabic phrase Muslims have used for nearly 1,400 years, Islam’s melodic paean to the Creator.

Allah . . . u akbar,” the faithful sing out.

Allahhhhh . . . u akbar!—God is great!”

Some 1.3 billion human beings—one person in five—heed Islam’s call in the modern world, embracing the religion at a rate that makes it the fastest growing on Earth, with 80 percent of believers now outside the Arab world. For these people Islam is an intimate personal connection to the same God worshiped by Jews and Christians, a source of strength and hope in a troubled world.

The term itself, Islam, is an Arabic word meaning “submission to God,” with its etymological roots firmly planted in salam, or peace. That may come as a surprise to many non-Muslims, whose perceptions of the faith have been skewed by terrorists, many from the Middle East, whose unspeakable acts in the name of Islam have been condemned by leaders everywhere.

“Peace is the essence of Islam,” says Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, brother of the late King Hussein and a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. Prince El Hassan helps lead the World Conference on Religion and Peace and spends much of his energy building bridges of understanding between the Muslim world and the West. “Respecting the sanctity of life is the cornerstone of our faith,” he says, “and of all great faiths.”

Get the whole story in the pages of National Geographic magazine.


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In Focus: World of Islam
VIDEO Author Don Belt sheds light on Islam and those devoted to it. Click Here.

AUDIO (recommended for low-speed connections)
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Online Extra
Learn about Muslims in America and the challenges they face in the aftermath of September 11.

Forum
How can Muslims and non-Muslims work together to separate Islam from the terrorist attacks of September 11? Voice your opinion.





In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.


The word mosque derives from the Arabic masjid, which means a place to prostrate oneself. There are no formal requirements to build a mosque, and the Koran gives no details about a special ceremony for consecration. After the Prophet Muhammad’s death, his place of prayer in Medina (a spacious courtyard surrounded by clay walls) served as a model for the structure of mosques. Mosques must be oriented so the direction of prayer is facing Mecca. The minaret became a defining feature early in Islam’s history, and it was from this tower that the call to prayer was offered. Today many such calls are made over loudspeakers. As the world of Islam grew, much of the time simple structures were built. The distinct look of a domed mosque wasn’t developed until the 14th century, during the Ottoman Empire. While Islamic law forbids the taking over of churches or temples to be transformed into mosques, this did happen—perhaps most famously with the Byzantine church Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

—Michelle R. Harris


Islam & the Global Muslim eCommunity
www.islamicity.org
Want to stay in touch with the Islamic world? Islamicity has everything from current events and information on social outreach programs, to Islamic commentaries and activities for kids. There are even links to sites where you can hear the Koran recited.

beliefnet
www.beliefnet.com
This site gives you access to online interfaith dialogue groups as well as general information about Islam, how it is practiced in the U.S., and reactions to the September 11 attacks.

The Council on American Islamic Relations
www.cair-net.org
The home page of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a nonprofit group that seeks to increase awareness and understanding of Islam and Muslim Americans, is a good place to check out current news and media coverage concerning Islam.

The Holy Quran
info.uah.edu/msa/quran.html
On this site you can search different translations of the Koran by passage.

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Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. Modern Library, 2000.

Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path, 3rd ed. Oxford University Press, 1998.

Esposito, John L., ed. Oxford History of Islam. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Jenkins, Everett, Jr. The Muslim Diaspora: A Comprehensive Reference to the Spread of Islam in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. McFarland and Company, Inc., 1999.

Lewis, Bernard. The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. Scribner, 1995.

Lippman, Thomas W. Understanding Islam: An Introduction to the Muslim World (2nd revised edition).Penguin, 1995.

Robinson, Francis, ed. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Swisher, Clarice, ed. The Spread of Islam. Greenhaven Press, 1999.

Weiss, Walter M. Islam: An Illustrated Historical Overview. Barron’s 2000.

Wolfe, Michael. One Thousand Roads to Mecca. Grove Press, 2000.

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Belt, Don. The World of Islam, National Geographic Books, 2001.

Dahlby, Tracy. “Indonesia: Living Dangerously,” National Geographic (March 2001), 74-103.

Cockburn, Andrew. “Libya: An End to Isolation?,” National Geographic (November 2000), 2-31.

Edwards, Mike W. “Eyewitness Iraq,” National Geographic (November 1999), 2-27.

Montaigne, Fen. “Iran: Testing the Waters of Reform,” National Geographic (July 1999), 2-33.

McCarry, John. “The Promise of Pakistan,” National Geographic (October 1997), 48-73.

Mairson, Alan. “The Three Faces of Jerusalem,” National Geographic (April 1996), 2-31.

Abercrombie, Thomas J. “When the Moors Ruled Spain,” National Geographic (July 1988), 86-119.

Alireza, Marianne. “Women of Saudi Arabia,” National Geographic (October 1987), 422-453.

Severy, Merle. “The World of Süleyman the Magnificent” National Geographic (November 1987), 552-601.

Judge, Joseph. “This Year in Jerusalem,” National Geographic (April 1983), 478-515.

Ellis, William S. “Pakistan Under Pressure,” National Geographic (May 1981), 668-701.

Abercrombie, Thomas J. “Islam’s Heartland, Up in Arms,” National Geographic (September 1980), 334-345.

Azzi, Robert. “Saudi Arabia: The Kingdom and Its Power,” National Geographic (September 1980), 286-333.

Abdul-Rauf, Muhammad. “Pilgrimage to Mecca,” National Geographic (November 1978), 578-607.

Putman, John J. “The Arab World, Inc.: Who Are Those Oil-Rich Arabs, and What Are They Doing With All That Money?,” National Geographic (October 1975), 494-533.

Abercrombie, Thomas J. “The Sword and the Sermon,” National Geographic (July 1972), 2-45.

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