most Arab Americans belong to the same religion?
Most Arab Americans are Christian, though this varies by region. In many
communities, Muslim and Christian Arabs live side by side with each other
and with non-Arab religious communities. Most Arab countries are
Islam mostly an Arab religion, then?
No. Only about 12 percent of Muslims worldwide are Arabs. There are more
Muslims in Indonesia, for example, than in all Arab countries combined.
Large populations of Muslims also live in India, Iran, other parts of East
Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Islam has a strong Arab flavor, though, as the
religion's holiest places are in the Middle East, and the Quran was
originally written in Arabic.
is the Quran?
The Quran is the holy book for Muslims, who believe it contains the word of
God revealed to the prophet Muhammad. The Quran has many passages that are
similar to those in the Bible, which Muslims also regard as a holy book. The
Quran has been translated into many languages, including English, and is
available on the Web. Quran is Associated Press style. Other spellings are
Qur'an and Koran. Variations come from transliterating Arabic into English.
is the difference between Islam and Muslim?
Islam is the religion, and a Muslim is a follower of the religion. It is
like the difference between Christianity and Christian. The adjective form
are the five pillars of Islam?
The five pillars are minimum sacred obligations for followers who are able
to observe them. They are: belief in the shehada, the statement that
"There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his prophet"; salat, or
prayer five times a day; zakat, the sharing of alms with the poor; fasting
during the holy month of Ramadan, and the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca in
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, is a month of fasting whose
end is marked with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. During this month of
self-discipline and purification, Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex
from before sunrise until sundown. At night, however, they may feast. The
Islamic calendar is based on the cycles of the moon and has 354 days, so
Ramadan does not always occur at the same time of year according to the
365-day civil calendar.
is the proper greeting during Ramadan?
You may say, "Ramadan Mubarrak." You could also say,
"Salaam," which means "peace" and is useful at any time.
If you are planning to meet with Muslims during Ramadan, be aware that they
may be fasting and a meal-time meeting may be awkward.
Arabs make a journey to Mecca?
This relates to Muslims, not all Arabs. Learn to keep that distinction in
mind. Muslims who are financially and physically able to do so are expected
to make the journey at least once in their lifetime.
does hajj mean?
Al hajj refers to the pilgrimage to Mecca by millions of Muslims once each
year. It is a milestone event in a Muslim's life. A man who makes the trip
is recognized with the title hajji, which means pilgrim. For women, the
title is hajjah.
is the difference between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims?
Historically, these are the two main branches of Islam, and their
distinction has to do with the successor of the prophet Muhammad. Sunnis
believe his successors were elected religious leaders; Shi'a believe that
the prophet appointed Ali ibn Abi Taleb. The answer is much more complicated
than this, though, because there are other differences and new ones have
arisen over the years. There also are separate groups and movements within
each branch. In the United States, Muslim unity often overshadows the
divisions. Most Muslims worldwide and in the United States are Sunni, though
Shi'as dominate in some communities. Most Muslims in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon
and the non-Arab country of Iran are Shi'a.
there restrictions on entering a mosque?
One generally must enter without shoes. Look for a sign from your host, or
for a place to leave your shoes. Women should dress modestly and may be
asked to cover their heads. Men should wear long pants and shirts. Men and
women generally pray in different areas.
it OK to take pictures there?
Each mosque has its own rules. Ask in advance and do not assume it will be
OK to photograph at will. Be prepared to make some accommodations if certain
angles or parts of the mosque are off limits.
is an imam?
The leader of prayer at a mosque. He might also be called a sheik. One of an
imam's responsibilities is to give sermons on Friday, the holiest day of the
typical Islamic week. In many American mosques, the imam is also the
administrator. To journalists, an imam can be an important community leader
and a good source of information about local Muslims.
are important Islamic holidays?
The most important Muslim observance each year is Ramadan. Muslims also
celebrate Eid al-Adha on the last day of the hajj -- the pilgrimage to Mecca
-- and Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan. Depending on the makeup of your
area, these are worthy of consideration as news events. There are other
holidays, as well, but do not assume that a holiday or practice observed at
one mosque is observed by all.
is the headquarters for Islam?
Islam does not have the same kind of hierarchy as some other religions.
There is no top official or ruling board for Islam. Muslim mosques, or
masjids, and associations are independent. Muslims are not required to be
members of a mosque.
do some Arab men decline to shake hands with women?
Some Muslim men, for religious reasons, avoid physical contact with women
other than close relatives. This is not true for all Muslims and exceptions
are made to help women who are injured, crossing the street, etc.
the Nation of Islam related to Islam?
This African American religious group is closely related to Islam, but
evolved in the 20th Century with some different practices than those
followed by most Muslims. Most African-American Muslims in the United States
are not part of the Nation of Islam.
is Eastern rite or Eastern Orthodox?
Be careful. These are designations for Christian churches that share some
similarities, but that have different histories. Eastern rite churches are
part of the Catholic church with roots in the Middle East and include
Maronites, Melkites and Chaldeans. Eastern Orthodox churches, which are
independent from Vatican authority, include the Syrian and Coptic churches.
The word Copt is derived from the Greek word for Egyptian and Coptic was the
native language of Egypt before Arabic prevailed. Today, the word refers to
Coptic Christians. Although linguistically and culturally classified as
Arabs, many consider themselves to be ethnically distinct from other
What does Allah mean?
Allah means God. The same word is used by Arabic-speaking Christians,
Muslims and Jews. When translating Arabic expressions, translate all the
words, for consistency. The translation of "Allahu Akbar," for
example, would be "God is great," not "Allah is great."
do Muslims face east when they pray?
They are facing Kaaba (the House of God) at Mecca, the holiest of the three
cities of Islam. Muslims in other countries face different directions,
depending on where they are in relation to Mecca.
are the other two holy cities?
Medina in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem.
Contents :: Overview
:: Origins :: Language
:: Demographics :: Family
Religion :: Politics :: Terminology
:: Stereotypes :: Coverage
:: Resources :: Credits
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