Islam is the religion of 924 million people worldwide. About 95 percent of the followers of Islam, known as "Muslims," live in Africa and Asia. There are about 6 million Muslims in the United States.
The Middle East, the site of the Persian Gulf war, is the birthplace of Islam. The religion was founded there, on the Arabian peninsula, in the early seventh century by an Arab merchant named Mohammed. He believed he was directed by God to reform the ways of the people of Mecca, who worshiped various idols. Mohammed set out to teach that there is only one God. The Arabic word "Islam," in fact, means submission to the supreme, all-powerful being, called "Allah" by Muslims.
Since the time of Mohammed, Muslims have split into different groups, or sects. The two largest sects are the "Sunnis," which includes about 85 percent of all Muslims, and the "Shiites," the dominant religious group in Iran.