More than quarter of world's population is Muslim
Every year, during the new moon of the Islamic lunar month of Dhul-Hijjah, millions of Muslims from all over the world descend upon Mecca.
CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- While Islam grows in popularity in the United States, its deepest roots are in Middle Eastern and north African nations. In Egypt, for example, 90 percent of the population is Muslim. The faithful are called to prayer five times a day. In mosques and homes and even on the streets, they kneel and proclaim the basic tenant of the Muslim faith: There is only one God and Mohammed is his prophet.
"If you have to pray five times a day and face God each time, then you feel embarrassed to do something he forbade you from doing," explained religious scholar Hamdi Sakrout.
Twenty-eight percent of the people in the world are Muslims, making Islam second only to Christianity in sheer numbers of followers. The Saudi Arabian city of Mecca is where Mohammed lived and preached in the 7th century A.D., and it is considered the most holy of cities. That's why all Muslims face Mecca when they pray and the faithful make a pilgrimage, called the Hajj, to the holy city. Muslims believe that God revealed the Koran, or holy book, to Mohammed. And it is by this written word that faithful Muslims live.
The religion is conservative -- no drinking or gambling allowed. Women are prohibited from extramarital sex and some Muslims interpret the Koran to mean that women must cover their faces in public.
Islamic women -- veiled and unveiled
If you really believe in God, the veil is unimportant, one veiled Egyptian woman told CNN. And not all Muslims see a need to cover up. One young woman who chooses not to wear a veil said she follows a strict moral code.
Under Islam, there is no separation between religion and state. The Koran is considered the highest authority and laws are based on its teachings. As a result, men are allowed up to four wives each, so long as he can "deal justly with them.". They can divorce at will and retain custody of the children. Women are allowed to inherit property and are taken care of financially by their parents or husbands. Some Westerners have accused Islam of being sexist, but "don't believe everything you hear. It's not true," an unveiled Egyptian woman told CNN.
"There is a verse in the Koran that says God can forgive everything but not believing in God" - Hamdi Sakrout, religious scholar
Faithful Muslims fast during daylight hours during the month
of Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam. They give money to the
poor and help their neighbors. Some believe in a more mystic
form of Islam called Sufism. They go into a trance-like state
when they pray in Islamic festivals, called Mulids. Although
Muslims may proclaim their faith in different ways, they still
worship one God, known in Arabic as Allah.
Did you know that Ramadan, is celebrated by over one billion
Muslims throughout the world?
It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self-control.
Ramadan is also a time of daylight fasting, intensive worship, reading of the Qur'an, giving charity, purifying one's behavior, and doing good deeds.
The fasting month is known as 'Puasa' in South East Asia. Its the Malay word for 'fasting'. 'Hari Raya' (without the 'h') means day of celebration. Hence 'Hari Raya Puasa' is the day of celebration for the fasting month.