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The Many Faces of Islam

Only 23 percent of the world's Muslims are Arab; most are Asian and African, living in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria. The two major groups of Muslims are the Sunni  comprising about 85 percent of all adherents of Islam  and Shiite. The Shiite 15 percent is divided into three branches: the Ithna Ashari (also known as the "Twelvers"), Ismaili, and Zaydi. Contrary to contemporary impressions, there are many interpretations of Islam, with diverse theological and legal schools of thought, resulting in a range of political, social and religious expression. Islam is built upon five pillars: profession of faith, prayer/worship, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca. These are a few of the facts about Islam provided in a primer by John L. Esposito, the founding director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, archived on the Association of Religion Data Archives, a source of high quality research databases and articles based on them. The primer provides basic facts about Islam, including adherence, structure, beliefs, and history. For more on Islam, see the Muslim Faith Group page on the website of Faith Communities Today, the online outreach of the Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership, a multi-faith group of religious researchers and faith leaders. Also see our feature article, "Best Resources for Denominational Research."

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