Diversity and Unity
Islam: For All People
All Muslims are not Arab, Middle-Eastern or of African descent. Islam is a universal religion and way of life that includes followers from all races. There are Muslims in and from virtually every country in the world. Arabs only constitute about 20% of Muslims worldwide. The countries with the largest Muslim populations are not located in the Middle East. They are Indonesia (over 200 million Muslims) and Pakistan and India (over 350 million Muslims combined).
In the five daily prayers Muslims face the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is a cube-shaped stone structure that was built by Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael on the same foundations where Prophet Adam is believed to have built a sanctuary for the worship of the One God. Muslims do not worship the Kaaba. It serves as a focal point for Muslims around the world, unifying them in worship and symbolizing their common belief, spiritual focus and direction. Interestingly the inside of the Kaaba is empty.
The hajj is an annual pilgrimage to the Kaaba made by about 3 million Muslims from all corners of the Earth. It is performed to fulfill one of the pillars of Islam. The rituals of hajj commemorate the struggles of Abraham, his wife Hagar and their son Ishmael in surrendering their wills to God.
Over the past 1400 years Muslim intellects have made substantial contributions in the areas of physics, medicine, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, philosophy and geography. At no time was this more evident than in the Middle Ages, a period commonly referred to as the “Golden Age of Islam”. It produced such luminaries as Jabir ibn Hayyan (considered the father of early chemistry), al-Khwarizmi (one of the fathers of algebra), al-Zahrawi (a father of surgery), al-Razi (father of pediatrics), Ibn Sina (one of the greatest medical scholars in history), Jabir ibn Aflah (promoter of trigonometry in Europe), Ibn Rushd (reviver of Aristotle) and Ibn Khaldun (a father of modern sociology, historiography, demography and economics) to name only a few. Their contributions ultimately helped to usher in the European Renaissance. This influence on Western civilization is recognized in a mural painted in the 1890s on the ceiling of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Islam is included along with England, France, America, Greece, Rome and others in a depiction of the “Evolution of Civilization”.