By Arvind Vora

Chairman, Long Island Multi Faith Forum


Founded: Over 1500 years ago

Founder: Prophet Mohammed (also spelled Muhammad) – Born in Mecca circa 570 and died in Medina circa 632

Origin: Mecca (present day Saudi Arabia)

Belief: “There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his apostle”

Place of Worship: Masjid or mosque, may have minaret (tower) to call to prayer

Scripture: Koran (Qur’an). Consists of 114 suras (chapters) in Arabic language. Each sura (except the 9th) begins with “In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate.”

Five Pillars: 1. Shahada – Recitation of the profession of faith (at least once in a lifetime as prescribed) 2. Salat – Five daily prayers preceded by ablutions 3. Zakat – The obligatory parting of wealth 4. Sawm – The fast from sunrise to sunset during the entire month of Ramadan 5. Hajj – The pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime is incumbent on every Muslim who is financially and physically able

Priestly Clan: Islam sees no need for an intermediary between humanity and God, as such no need for clergy. Though some congregations hire an Imam (scholar) to lead daily prayers, teach, advise, and deliver sermon

Peak Period: Still expanding worldwide

Population: Over 1.8 billion. Ten countries with more than 40 million populations are: Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, and Sudan. There are around fifty countries with Muslim majority. 23 countries have Islam as official religion including seven where it is also State religion

Schism: Split into two sects, despite Mohammed’s urging to his followers in his last sermon not to split up after his death.

Holidays: Id–ul–Fitr marks breaking of the fast after Ramadan; Id–ul-Adha is the festival of sacrifice at the conclusion of Hajj; Islamic New Year; Ashura, a ten-day festival by Shia Muslims


Sunni: The main body of Islam, referring to the followers of the Way (Sunna) of the Prophet as recorded in the Tradition (Hadith). It has the largest following with 85% of Muslim followers. Sunnis believe that Mohammed died without appointing a successor; therefore the community’s election of Abu-Bakr (one of Mohammed’s earliest companions whom Mohammed designated to preside over the pilgrimage ceremonies a year before his death) as first Caliph (Khalifah – successor) was legitimate.

Shi’a: The Shi’as, in minority, believe that Mohammed designated his son-in-law Ali to succeed him. The main body of the Shi’as is the “Twelvers” who believe that the 12th and last Imam disappeared in the year 878 but that he is still living and will appear before the last day to save the world. It is a State religion in Iran. Most of them are in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, and India. They even believed the text of the Koran is incomplete and the part specifically devoted to the praise of Ali has been expunged. They added “and Ali is his comrade” (waliy– chosen friend) at the end of “There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his apostle”. Instead of Pilgrimage to Mecca, Shi’a may visit tombs of Shi’a saints – Ali at Najaf (Iraq), Hussain (son of Ali) at Karbala (Iraq), or of Fatima at Qom (Iran). There are several branches of Shias. Some of them are:

Isma’ilis: They are the followers of Ismail, whom they regard as the seventh Imam as opposed to his younger brother Musa recognized by “Twelvers”, hence also known as “Seveners”. Their main body is led by Aga Khan who is their spiritual and temporal head. The Karmatians, the Fatimids of Egypt, the Assassins and the Druze also belong to Ismailis. Another branch, Bohras in India, have their own separate leader

Zaidites: The followers of Zaid, a grandson of Hussain, are the Shias closest to Sunnis

Ahmadiyya: Founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad  (1835–1908), who claimed to be the manifestation (buruz) of Mohammed the Prophet. Because of the laws passed in Pakistan, Ahmadiyyas cannot vote in the election (Christian, Hindu, Parsi and other minority religions can vote) and their passport is stamped with “Non-Muslim” so they cannot go to Mecca or Medina

Claims to Fame: 12 Nobel Prizes including the first Muslim and first from Pakistan Abdus Salam (for Physics – Ahmadiyya Muslim), and youngest ever at age 17, Malala Yousafzai (born in Pakistan) in 2014 for Peace

General: Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity. Islamic arts, architecture have left a great impression. Sharia which prescribes religious and secular duties of Muslims has remained a matter of dispute within the countries as well as modern societies. Violence among Sunnis and Shias has left too many dead. At present many deaths occur daily due to war/conflict in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and many Muslim majority countries. Loss of Ottoman and Mughal Empires greatly diminished Islamic spread and influence

USA: Muslims have been in America since 1539. The first formal Islamic prayer group was founded in North Dakota in 1900. The first mosque was built in 1934 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There are 3 to 4 million Muslims in the country

Long Island:  There are more than 25 mosques with some 80,000 Muslims on Long Island. Three largest mosques are: The Islamic Association of Long Island (also known as Selden Masjid) founded in 1974; Islamic Center of Long Island (Westbury mosque) was incorporated in 1982; The Muslim Center of Long Island (Masjid Darul Quran) in Bay Shore.

Image courtesy of (Photo courtesy Newsday)

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