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Islam is one of the world's major religions, with large populations of adherents in the Arab world, northern Africa, and western Asia. Practitioners are known as Muslims, the central holy scripture is called the Qu'ran (or Koran), and a mosque is the local house of worship.

A monotheistic religion, Islam was founded by the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century, and quickly spread across the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East and North Africa. Muslims believe that God delivered his final message to the Prophet Mohammed through an angel. They believed that Mohammed was the last in the line of prophets including Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, but that the Bible had become distorted.

By the ninth century, Islamic states formed a vast empire across the Middle East, with the religion eventually spreading along eastern Africa, through Persia and central and south Asia, and even to Malaysia and Spain. While European civilization was mired in feudal barbarism, the Islamic world made advancements in science, law, medicine, and commerce, and allowed greater tolerance for non-believers living in their lands, such as for Jews and Christians. In the 11th century, Christian Europe began a series of wars against the Islamic power in the Crusades, though the European powers were ultimately unsuccessful in reclaiming the Holy Land. Schisms over succession and ideology divided Islam into several main denominations, the largest of which are Sunni and Shi'a.

During the latter part of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the term Mohammedan was incorrectly used by Europeans to denote Muslim.

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