Islam is a monotheistic religion that started in the Arabian Peninsula in A.D. 610 when, according to believers, God revealed his word to the Prophet Muhammad. Islam is the world's second largest religion, behind Christianity. Among the most fundamental concepts in Islam is unity. This is revealed in the attributes of God, in the revelations in the Quran and in the global community of believers, called Muslims.

Background of the Islamic Religion

Islam is a monotheistic faith. Its followers, called Muslims, believe in the supremacy of Allah (the Arabic word for God), which is the same deity worshipped in Judaism and Christianity. Muhammad is considered the final messenger of God in Islam, but Muslims also believe that God revealed himself to the prophets of Judaism and Christianity, notably Abraham and Jesus, before Muhammad. Muslims hold that these two preceding faiths were moved off course by human interference. Therefore, Islam is the third, final and best example of God's true religious intentions for man, based namely around a comprehensive belief in the oneness of God.

The Oneness of God, a Unity of Attributes

Although Jewish and Christian monotheism existed in the Middle East in the seventh century, the Arabian Peninsula was chiefly a place of polytheism, especially in Mecca, the birthplace and holiest site of Islam. Each of these gods represented a unique attribute of life, such as fertility or agriculture. Muslims do not just worship a god, they worship God (Allah). God has 99 names in Islam, each describing different attributes, because he encompasses the unity of all possible attributes. In Muslim thought, God must never be assigned human qualities or be affiliated with other (polytheistic) gods -- this is, in fact, the only unforgivable sin in Islam -- because such affiliations are inadequate representations of his all-encompassing power. This is the oneness of God in Islam.

The Quran, a Unity of Revelation

The Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God through the angel Gabriel in a cave on Mount Hira in A.D. 610. He continued to receive revelations until his death in 632 in Medina, Islam's second holiest site. As a leader of the Muslim faithful, Muhammad had several successors, or caliphs, the third of which was Uthman (who ruled from 634 to 656). Under Caliph Uthman, the compendium of revelations from God to Muhammad was codified into the Quran, which contains the teachings and mandates about the lifestyle Muslims are supposed to lead through what are regarded as the literal words of God -- the ultimate unity of his revelations.

The Ummah, a Unity of Muslims

The unity of the Muslim people is represented in Islam by the concept of the “ummah.” Originating as a unifying classification to describe the community of the Muslim faithful in the Arabian Peninsula during the life of Muhammad, ummah in modern times represents the communal unity of all Muslims globally. Islam teaches egalitarianism, meaning that all Muslims are equal, regardless of culture, nationality or gender. Further, the Quran being the written word of God in the Arabic language, it cannot be translated because doing so might lead to the loss of God's literal meaning. Since the bulk of Muslims are non-Arabs, the Arabic language is a unifying conveyor of Islamic teachings and prayers. According to Islam, human differences between Muslims are natural, but the unity of God's word is equally supreme to all.