10 Common Questions About Islam, Answered

Kaaba, Saudi Arabia
Muslim worshippers circle the Kaaba, Islam's most sacred sanctuary and pilgrimage shrine, within the Masjid Al-Haram mosque in December 2002 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Reza/Getty Images

For many Westerners, the religion of Islam remains a mystery. In the United States, Muslims — those who follow Islam — made up only 1.1 percent of the population (3.45 million) in 2017, and while Muslim Americans live in every state, the most sizable communities are clustered in certain places like New Jersey and Washington, D.C. [source: Mohamed]. Since many Americans don't know any Muslims personally, they're likely to get all of their information about Islam from the news and social media.

And that's a problem.

If you just read the news headlines, you might think that one of the main tenets of Islam is terrorism. We hear about militant groups like al-Qaida and ISIS committing acts of atrocity in the name of Allah. And moments before the 9/11 attackers flew their planes into the World Trade Center towers they proclaimed "Allah Hu Akbar!" (God is great!) [source: Bergen].

But Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, is at its core a religion of peace and tolerance. Like every religion, the acts of a few people don't necessarily reflect the beliefs and the behavior of the majority. Allah, Muslims believe, is the same God who spoke to Moses and sent Jesus to the world. Muslims are found all over the globe -- in Asia, Africa and Europe, as well as in the Middle East and the Americas.

If you've always wanted to learn more about Islam, to go beyond the politicized rhetoric and get to the heart of the second-largest religious tradition in the world, this is your chance. Here are answers to 10 frequently asked questions about Islam. First, let's get to know its founder.