This concise introduction to Islam offers a sophisticated and informative exploration of the history, beliefs, tenets, and practices of the second-largest religion in the world. There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world today, yet Islam remains a misunderstood faith. In this day and age, when issues related to Islam are dominating current affairs, The Beliefnet Guide to Islam takes readers into the heart of this global religion, describing its origins, its links to Judaism and Christianity, and its place and practices in the modern world. In clear, unbiased language, the authors outline the core beliefs that shape the daily lives of practicing Muslims: faith, prayer, charity, fasting and self-purification (during the period of Ramadan), and the Hajj (the annual pilgrimage to Mecca). They clarify the differences between the Sunni and the Shia, the two main branches of Islam, shedding light on a topic that has garnered attention during the current crises in Iraq and other parts of the Muslim world. Hassaballa and Helminski also look at the many misinterpretations of basic terms and beliefs that have had a serious impact on the relationship between Muslims and those who practice other religions, explaining such essentials as the meaning of jihad, Islamic teachings on the role of women in society, and much more. From the premier source of information on religion and spirituality, the Beliefnet Guides introduce you to the major traditions, leaders, and issues of faith in the world today.