Sultan Hassan Mosque
The Mihrab and Minbar in the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo, Egypt.

Islam is almost 1,300 years old and recognizes Moses, Jesus, and many others as prophets. The Prophet Muhammad (570-632 CE) was born in Mecca, in present-day Saudi Arabia, and is considered the last of the prophets. Muslims believe that Islam began in 610 CE when Muhammad started receiving revelations from God, or Allah in Arabic. These revelations are recorded in the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam.

There are two main branches in Islam: Sunni and Shi’a. A split occurred shortly after the death of Muhammad over the question of who was to lead the Muslims. The Shi’a believed that Muhammad pre-selected Imam Ali, his cousin and son-in-law. The Sunnis believed that the leader should be chosen through consultation and election. Today about 85-90% of the Muslim population worldwide are Sunni. In the Arab World most of the Shi’a live in Lebanon and Iraq. A small minority of Muslims are Druze, a branch of Islam found mostly in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.