Dilip Hiro, MA, author and journalist, in his 2003 book The Essential Middle East: A Comprehensive Guide, wrote:
"The last of the three important monotheistic religions, which draws upon Judaism and Christianity, Islam was founded by the Prophet Muhammad (A.D. 570-632), who was born in Mecca. Those who follow Islam are called Muslims. Their scripture is the Quran, the Word of Allah, which was revealed to Muhammad (lit. praiseworthy) ibn Abdullah al Hashem, the last of a series of messengers of Allah to humans, beginning with Adam and including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Next in importance to Muslims is the sunna (custom) -- the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad. The Quran and the sunna, later codified as the Hadith, together form the Sharia (Islamic Law), which covers all aspect of religious, social, and political life, including state administration and conduct of war.
The Islamic credo rests on belief in Allah, the revealed books, the prophets, and the day of judgment. Five duties (called Pillars of Islam) are prescribed for Muslims. Believers must say at least once in their life: 'There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the prophet of God.' They must pray five times daily facing Mecca, and must take part in collective noon prayers on Fridays. They must pay zakat (Arabic: purification), a religious tax, to support the poor and needy. They must fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadan. They must undertake a hajj to Mecca once in their lives, if they can afford it."
Bernard Lewis, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, in his 2003 book The Crisis of Islam, wrote the following:
"It is difficult to generalize about Islam...In one sense it denotes a religion, a system of belief and worship; in the other, the civilization that grew up and flourished under the aegis of that religion. The word Islam thus denotes more than fourteen centuries of history, a billion and a third people, and a religious and cultural tradition of enormous diversity...
In space, the realm of Islam extends from Morocco to Indonesia, from Kazakhstan to Senegal. In time it goes back more than fourteen centuries, to the advent and mission of the Prophet Muhammad in Arabia in the seventh century C.E. and the creation under him of the Islamic community and state."
The PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), in a listing on its website for the 2004 program entitled "Islam, Empire of Faith," contained the following description of Islam:
"Islam, followed by more than a billion people today, is the world's fastest growing religion and will soon be the world's largest. The 1.2 billion Muslims make up approximately one quarter of the world's population, and the Muslim population of the United States now outnumbers that of Episcopalians. The most populous Muslim countries are Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India. The number of Muslims in Indonesia alone (175 million) exceeds the combined total in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, the traditional heartlands of Islam. There are also substantial Muslim populations in Europe and North America, whether converts or immigrants who began arriving in large numbers in the 1950s and 1960s. In keeping with tradition, the two main branches of Islam today are Sunni and Shiite.
Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s Islam remerged as a potent political force, associated with both reform and revolution. Given the large number of adherents, it is no surprise that Muslims incorporate a broad and diverse spectrum of positions in regard to liberalism and democracy. Some are secularists who want to disengage religion from politics. Others are reformers, who reinterpret Islamic traditions in support of elective forms of government. Still there are others who reject democracy entirely."
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Washington, DC, in an article posted on its website titled "Understanding Islam," (accessed Aug. 3, 2007) included the following:
"What Do Muslims Believe?
Muslims believe in One, Unique, Incomparable God; in the Angels created by Him; in the prophets through whom His revelations were brought to mankind; in the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for actions; in God's complete authority over human destiny and in life after death. Muslims believe in a chain of prophets starting with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elias, Jonah, John the Baptist, and Jesus, peace be upon them. But God's final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message and a summing-up of all that has gone before was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through Gabriel.
How Does Someone Become A Muslim?
Simply by saying 'there is no god apart from God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.' By this declaration the believer announces his or her faith in all God's messengers, and the scriptures they brought.
What Does 'Islam' Mean?
The Arabic word 'Islam' simply means 'submission', and derives from a word meaning 'peace'. In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of God.
'Mohammedanism' is thus a misnomer because it suggests that Muslims worship Muhammad rather than God. 'Allah' is the Arabic name for God, which is used by Arab Muslims and Christians alike."
Islam.com, an online resource and information center about Islam, included the following text in an article titled "Introduction to Islam" on its website (accessed Aug. 3, 2007):
"The literal meaning of Islam is peace; surrender of one's will i.e. losing oneself for the sake of God and surrendering one's own pleasure for the pleasure of God. The message of Islam was revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) 1,400 years ago. It was revealed through angel Gabriel (on whom be peace) and was thus preserved in the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran carries a Divine guarantee of safeguard from interpolation and it claims that it combines the best features of the earlier scriptures.
The prime message of Islam is the Unity of God, that the Creator of the world is One and He alone is worthy of worship and that Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) is His Messenger and Servant. The follower of this belief is thus a Muslim - a Muslim's other beliefs are: God's angels, previously revealed Books of God, all the prophets, from Adam to Jesus (peace be on them both), the Day of Judgment and indeed the Decree of God. A Muslim has five main duties to perform, namely; bearing witness to the Unity of God and Muhammad (peace and blessings on him) as His Messenger, observing the prescribed prayer, payment of Zakat, keeping the fasts of Ramadhan and performing the pilgrimage to Mecca."