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Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys: Background Information

A project of the National Endowment for the Humanities is aimed to familiarize public audiences in the United States with the people, places, history, faith and cultures of Muslims in the United States and around the globe.

Quick Facts

Islam is a monotheistic religion.  Adherents to Islam worship the God of Abraham, as do Jews and Christians.  Islam is the name for the religion; Muslim is the name of the practitioner. The literal meaning of Muslim: one who submits himself to Allah.  

Central to Islam are the Six Articles of Faith and the Five Pillars of Practice.

'PBUH'  found in many writings, is an initialism for "Peace Be Upon Him" and expression Muslims use after writing or saying the name of the prophet Muhammad.  It is an expression of respect and honor.  The letter 'SAW' or 'SAWS' might also be seen in writings, used to represent the Arabic version of the expression.   

The Muslim world population is between 1.5 and 2 billion. In context, about one in five people on earth practice the Muslim faith.   Only about 15% of Muslims are Arabs.  The majority of countries are found in North Africa, and increasingly East Africa, the Middle East and Souteast Asia but Muslim populations exist in nearly every country in the world. 

Countries with Muslim majority populations include: Afganistan, Albania, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Chad, Dahomey, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-ssau, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Maldive Islands, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, U.A.E., Yemen.


History of Islam: An Encyclopedia of Islamic History

Maintained by the American Institute of Islamic History and Culture based in California

The Islamic World to 1600 

A multimedia introduction to the first millennium of Islam

Lost Islamic History

Islam and the Ottman Empire

Muslim Spain 711 - 1492

A BBC presentation of what is often considered an era of significant achievement in civilization.

Country Information

Several news and government sites provide background information including history, culture, politics, and current affairs.  Search countries by name on any of the sites listed below. 

BBC News Country Profiles

Full profiles provide an instant guide to history, politics and economic background of countries and territories, and background on key institutions. They also include audio and video clips from BBC archives (text from the Website).

CIA World Factbook 

The CIA World Factbook online provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities and is updated weekly (from the CIA factbook website).

Country Studeis, from the Library of Congress 

Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world. The series examines the interrelationships of those systems and the ways they are shaped by cultural factors (from the 'About' section of the Website).


LookLex is a Norway based media house presenting North Africa and the Middle East to a mainly western audience. This is done through three main channels; reference material organized into an encyclopedia, traveller's guides to the North African countries and a basic language course in Arabic (text from the Website).  

U.S. State Department Background / Country Factsheets

The Fact Sheets listed on the website are the most recently published versions. Previous versions are available in the archive section. These are particularly useful as primary documents for a hsitorical view and  contemporary perspective of a country or territory.  


 Other Maps to Review Include:

The Islamic World

An interactive map of the Islamic world from

Perry-Casañeda Library Map Collection

Housed at the University of Texas, Austin, the PCL Map Collection includes more than 250,000 maps. Only 20% of the collection is currently online. 

CIA Regional and World Maps

Regional and World Maps are part of the CIA World Factbook Website.