The crescent moon, (hilal) is the accepted symbol of Islam, and this particular form of the moon has a religious significance. It is the symbol of rebirth, because it possesses both an open and closed form, like a person caught in the throes of death, before opening up and reviving. Thus the crescent is an image of heaven and a symbol of revival.
Apart from pork, blood, alcohol and narcotics, everything is permissible. Muslims are forbidden to eat the meat of any animal that dies of natural causes instead of being slaughtered in the prescribed manner. Traditionally, animals are slaughtered after first pronouncing the name of Allah and then the blood is drained, a method similar to that used by the Jews.
Muslim women may not marry non-Muslim men, but Muslim men are permitted to marry other “Peoples of the Book”, i.e., Christians and Jews.
Like Jewish males, Muslim males are circumcised, but Muslim circumcision is performed on no fixed date just before reaching puberty and is a festive occasion, with special clothes for the boy, and entertainment provided. Islam forbids usury.
In Islam, conduct and practices which are in accordance with the words of the Prophet Mohammed are known as Sunna. The branch of study which organises this learning is called Hadith. SUNNISM is the collective name for the doctrines based on the form of belief determined and practised by the disciples according to the Prophet Mohammed’s Sunna. Sunni Muslims regard the first four Caliphs as the true successors of the Prophet. In Sunnism it is held that the Caliphs should be chosen through decisions of the Islamic community. They may be chosen from people of any race or region.
The four schools of law that have survived in Sunni Islam are Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali. The Hanafi is the most followed and which was accorded official recognition by the Ottoman Empire. Most Muslims in central Asia, India and Turkey, and many throughout the Middle East, follow Hanafi. The Maliki School prevails throughout northern and western Africa, in the Sudan and parts of the Persian Gulf, The Shafi’I is found mostly in eastern Africa, parts of Arabia and throughout southeastern Asia, and the Hanbali, now the least followed among the Wahhabis of central Arabia and parts of the Persian Gulf.
There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world that is one person in every five. 20% of Muslims are from the Arabic-speaking world. 5% of Arabs are not Muslims. 83% of Muslims are Sunni, 16% Shi’ite and 1% other sects.