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Islam: Key facts

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(CNN) -- Islam is considered one of three major world religions, along with Judaism and Christianity. The following are some key facts about the religion.

• Islam is strictly monotheistic, and its central teaching is that there is one all-powerful, all-knowing God who created the universe. God is referred by the Arabic name, Allah.

• In Arabic, Islam means "surrender" or "submission" -- to the will of God. Followers are known as Muslims, an Arabic word that means "one who surrenders to God."

• Islam says all Muslims are equal before God, and all Muslims belong to one community, regardless of ethnic or national background.

• Islam was founded by the prophet Mohammed, who Muslims believe was the last and most important in a series of prophets, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

• According to Islam, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mohammed and informed him that he was God's chosen messenger.

• Mohammed was born in Mecca around A.D. 570, and settled in Medina around 622. Islam rejects the idea that God was ever born, a key difference with the Christian belief that Jesus was born the son of God.

• The holy book of Islam is the Koran, which means "the timeless words of God." It has 114 chapters and comprises the main teachings of Islam.

• The Koran portrays Mohammed as a human being who sometimes makes mistakes but who never sins against God. Mohammed's humanity serves as a reminder that other humans can also aspire to lead a good life.

• The core practices of Islam are known as the Five Pillars: daily prayer, faith, fasting, pilgrimage and alms giving. For more information, go here.

• There are an estimated 1 billion Muslims, with Indonesia being the most populous Muslim country. The faith is considered the world's fastest growing religion.

• There are several sects and traditions within Islam, including Shia Islam, Sunni Islam and Sufism. Sunni Muslims constitute the vast majority of the world's Muslims.

• Islamic law forbids the artistic representation of God, the prophets and -- sometimes -- of human beings in general.



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