What is Islam?
Islam is the religion, and the way of life, of about one-fifth of the, world's population. Its adherents, called Muslims, believe Islam is God's final message to humankind, a reconfirmation and perfection of the messages that God has revealed through earlier prophets.
What do Muslims believe?
The central Muslim belief is that there is only one God, unique, incomparable, eternal, absolute and without peer or associate. He cannot be perceived in this world but through His works.
Other important tenets of Islam are that God is the Creator of all that exists; that His will is supreme; that He has sent messengers to humankind, of whom Muhammad was the "seal"—that is, the last; that the Qur'an is the very Word of God; that angels, immortal creatures, exist, as does Satan; that humans are responsible to God for their actions; and that, on Judgment Day, an all-knowing and merciful God will judge all mortals according to their deeds in this life.
Who was the Prophet Muhammad?
Muhammad was the prophet through whom, Muslims believe, God sent his last revelation to humankind.
Muhammad was born around the year 570 in the Arabian city of Makkah, a city built on trade and on the flow of pilgrims to the Ka'bah, the shrine believed to have been erected by Adam, and which was then filled with idols from many cultures.
Muhammad was orphaned at age six. In his 20's, he went to work for a widow named Khadijah, who ran trading caravans. Working for her, he traveled widely and earned a reputation for trustworthiness. Later, and in spite of a considerable age difference, he married Khadijah.
In his late 30's, Muhammad took to meditating alone in a cave on Mount Hira, a few hours' walk outside the city. There, one day during the month of Ramadan, he heard a voice ordering him to "Recite!"
Three times, Muhammad replied that he could not: He was illiterate. But each time the command was repeated, and finally Muhammad received the first revelation:
"Recite: In the name of your Lord who created, Created man from a clot. Recite: And your Lord is Most Bounteous,Who taught by the pen, Taught man that which he knew not." The voice—it revealed itself as the Angel Gabriel—told Muhammad that he was to be the Messenger of God, and the revelations continued at irregular intervals for the 22 remaining years of Muhammad's life. The total of these revelations is the Qur'an, a word that means, literally, "recitation."
At first, Muhammad told only his wife and his closest friends of his experience. But as the revelations kept coming, they enjoined him to proclaim the oneness of God publicly—something that took courage, because most Makkans believed there were many gods (polytheism).
It was the eloquence of the revelations, and the ease with which listeners recognized in them true words of God, that led to the emergence of Muslims. But Muhammad also faced opposition from Makkan polytheists: To them, Muhammad's monotheism was a threat to their control of the Ka'bah—and the pilgrimage trade. In the early fall of 622, Muhammad and his followers emigrated from Makkah north to the town of Yathrib (later renamed al-Madinah). This emigration—known as the hijrah —marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, because it was in Yathrib that the followers of Muhammad's teachings developed a society organized along the reformist lines of God's revelations.
In 630, after a series of battles, Muhammad peacefully reentered Makkah, where he cleared the Ka'bah of idols. Two years later, he took ill, and died on June 8, 632. His close companion, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, told the grieving Muslim community, "Whoever worshiped Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad is dead, but whoever worships God, let him know that God lives, and dies not."
10 Masterpieces of Classical Islamic Art
"Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art," wrote Ruskin. "Of the three the only trustworthy one is the last." The objects listed below, chosen by historians of Islamic art Jonathan M. Bloom and Sheila S. Blair, are only 10 pages from the vast "manuscript" of Islamic civilization, but they offer a sample of the riches of the whole.
1. The Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, 692. The first great work of Islamic architecture. It was built over the rock from which the Prophet Muhammad made his miraculous ascent to heaven, which is described in Chapter 17 of the Qur'an.
2. The Malwiya minaret, Samarra, Iraq, mid-ninth century. This 50-meter (160') helicoidal tower of sun-dried and baked brick may have been modeled on ancient ziggurats. It symbolizes the power of Islam at the zenith of the Baghdad-based Abbasid caliphate.
3. The Mughira pyxis, carved at Córdoba, Spain, 968. This small, exquisite box, carved from a cylindrical section of elephant tusk, is the most beautiful of the handful ofknown Islamic ivory carvings. Now in the Louvre in Paris.
4. The minbar from the Kutubiyya Mosque,Marrakesh, Morocco, 1137. This wooden pulpit, nearly four meters (13') tall, was carved in Córdoba by the descendants of the workmen who carved the Mughira pyxis. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of wood and bone are carved and fitted together with consummate artistry.
5. The mihrab from the Maydan Mosque, Kashan, Iran, 1226. (A mihrab is a niche in a wall of a mosque indicating the direction of the Ka'bah.) Composed of glazed ceramic slabs fitted into a complex, harmonious ensemble of calligraphy and arabesques, this is the acme of the difficult luster technique of overglaze decoration perfected by Persian ceramists. Now in the Islamic Museum of Berlin.
6. The Baptistère of Saint-Louis, Cairo, 1300. This hammered bronze basin, inlaid in silver and gold, is decorated on both the interior and the exterior with marvelous figural scenes showing hunters, servants and warriors. First made to catch water after hand-washing before prayers, it was only later used as a baptismal font by the French court. Now in the Louvre.
7. The Ahmad al-Suhrawardi Qur'an manuscript, Baghdad, 1307. This is arguably the finest display of the calligrapher's art. The paper was polished to an impeccable smoothness, allowing the pen to glide effortlessly across a pearly surface. This was a multivolume manuscript for an anonymous patron, and it is now dispersed. The colophon is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
8. The Ardebil Carpets, Iran, 1539-40. These two enormous carpets were worked in 10 colors of silk and wool. Each has more than 25 million knots, making them one of the most splendid examples of the weaver's art. This one is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the other is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
9. The Selimiye Mosque, Edirne, Turkey, 1574. The breathtaking interior of the mosque is the masterpiece of the Ottoman architect Sinan, who created a huge and uninterrupted space under a towering dome. The centralized space of the prayer hall literally and symbolically embraces the community of believers and unites them under God's radiance.
10. The Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1647. This enormous white marble monument is set in a garden along the banks of the Jumna River, centerpiece of a complex designed to evoke the gardens of paradise that await believers.
What is the Qur'an?
The Qur'an is the holy book of Islam. Muslims believe that it is the Word of God, transmitted by the Angel Gabriel, in Arabic, through the Prophet Muhammad. It is meant for all humanity, not for any exclusive group. At its heart is the teaching of monotheism, but the Qur'an provides guidance for every part of a believer's life, including aspects that in the West would be considered social, political or legal, and not religious. The Qur'an is considered by Muslims to complete God's earlier revelations.
Unlike the Bible, there is only one version of the Qur'an, unchanged since Muhammad received it. A number of his followers had carefully memorized each of the revelations, word for word—an achievement still common among serious scholars—and the text we know today was written down by the year 651. The Qur'an is also considered to be untranslatable, because no other language carries the full range of often subtle meaning that the Arabic of the Qur'an can convey. Thus Muslim scholars regard versions of the Qur'an in other languages to be interpretations rather than true translations, and in Arabic literature there is no work whose eloquence, clarity and erudition approach those of the Qur'an.
What is Ka’bah?
The Ka'bah is the black cubical stone structure in the courtyard of the Great Mosque at Makkah. Muslims believe it was built by Adam and rebuilt by Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael). The Ka'bah is empty, and it is not entered except for a ritual cleaning each year. A black cloth covering, called the kiswah, embroidered in gold with Qur'anic calligraphy, is made for it each year. When Muslims pray, wherever in the world they are, it is the direction of the Ka'bah that they face. During the Hajj, pilgrims circle the Ka'bah seven times in a ritual called the tawaf, or circumambulation, which is also performed throughout the rest of the year.
How do Muslims Practice their faith?
Islam, in Arabic, means "submission," meaning submission to the will of God. It also means "peace," the peace one finds through submission to God's will. Muslims accept five primary obligations, commonly called the "Five Pillars of Islam." In practice, of course, Muslims can be seen observing all of these to varying degrees, for the responsibility of fulfilling the obligations lies on the shoulders of each individual.
The profession of faith (shahadab): This is a simple statement: "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God."
Prayer (salah): Muslims pray five times a day—at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening—facing toward the Ka'bah, the House of God, in the Great Mosque in Makkah. They may pray wherever they are when prayer-time arrives, in any clean place, preferably in the company of other Muslims. On Fridays at noon, Muslims are encouraged to pray as a gathered community in congregational mosques. There is a sequence of physical postures, fixed by tradition, for ritual prayer, and the prayers are said in Arabic regardless of the local language.
Charity (zakah): A fixed proportion of a Muslim's net worth—not just his or her income—is prescribed as a donation for the welfare of the community, whether that community is made up of Muslims, non-Muslims or a mixture.
Fasting (sawm): Every day from dawn to dusk during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims must abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual contact; even more than at other times, they must also avoid cursing, lying, cheating and otherwise abusing or harming others.
Pilgrimage (Hajj): The journey to Makkah is obligatory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to make it. Pilgrimage need be made only once in a lifetime, but it can be made several times if a Muslim wishes. The Hajj proper is made between the eighth and 13th days of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, and every pilgrim carries out specified rituals at specific times. At any other time of year, Muslims can perform similar prayers and rituals and thus complete the 'Umrah, or "lesser pilgrimage."
Why are Modern numerals called Arabic numerals?
The modern numerals widely used today were probably developed in India, but it was Arabs who transmitted this system to the West. In 771, an Indian scholar arrived in Baghdad bringing with him a treatise on astronomy that used the Indian numerical system, which the Arabs admired because it was more economical than the Roman system. In time, they added a further improvement: the sifr ("cipher"), or zero.
Most scholars believe that Arabic developed from Nabataean and/or Aramaic dialects spoken in northern Arabia and much of the Levant during the last thousand years before the Islamic era.
The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters. More complex than differing capital and small letters in English, each Arabic letter may have up to four forms, depending on where it appears in the word and which letters precede or follow it. The Arabic script is read from right to left.
The cursive nature of the script and the variability of the letterforms made it difficult to adapt Arabic for use with early printing presses. It is for this reason that the Arab world continued for some centuries after the time of Gutenberg to rely on handwriting for the production of books, especially the Qur'an. This was one of the reasons that calligraphy—"beautiful writing"—emerged as perhaps the most important Arab art form.
What is Jihad?
The Arabic word jihad means "to struggle or strive, to exert oneself" for a praiseworthy aim. The "greater struggle" is the personal one: the struggle to resist temptation, combat one's own evil traits and imperfections, and become a better person in God's sight. The "lesser struggle" is exertion for the sake of Islam, such as working for the betterment of Muslim society or trying to persuade nonbelievers, by tongue or pen or by example, to embrace Islam. The lesser struggle may also include physical combat for the sake of Islam and the Muslim community, especially in self-defense and if carried out according to the explicit limitations imposed by the Qur'an. Some modern thinkers liken jihad to the Christian concept of "just war."
The Islam Calender
The Islamic calendar is based on a lunar year of 12 full lunar cycles taking exactly 354 and 11/30 days. Each new year in the Islamic calendar thus begins 10 or 11 days earlier in the 364 ¼-day solar calendar commonly used in the West. The 12 months of the Islamic year are:
Muharram, Safar, Rabi' al-Awwal ("Rabi' I"), Rabi' al-Thani ("Rabi II"), Jumada al-Ula ("Jumada I"), Jumada al-Akhirah ("Jumada II"), Rajab, Sha'ban, Ramadan, Shawwal, Dhu al-Qa'dah and Dhu al-Hijjah.
The first day of year one of the Islamic calendar was set as the first day of the hijrah, the Prophet's move from Makkah to Madinah: July 26, 622. The western convention in designating Islamic dates is thus by the abbreviation AH, which stands for the Latin anno hegirae, or "Year of the Hegira."
To roughly convert an Islamic calendar year (AH) into a Gregorian equivalent (AD), or vice versa, use one of the following equations.
AD = 622 + (32/33 x AH)
AH = 33/32 x (AD - 622)
Cultural Timeline of the Islamic World
(italicized dates are approximate)
570 Birth of Prophet Muhammad, Makkah
670 Muhammad's first revelation
622 Muhammad and Muslims emigrate to Madinah; Year 1 of Muslim calendar
630 Muslims return to Makkah
632 Death of Muhammad
632-661 Rule of the "rightly guided" caliphs
643 Al-Fustat (Old Cairo) founded
661 Umayyad caliphate established, Damascus
691 Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
706 Great Mosque of the Umayyads, Damascus
711 Muslims enter Spanish Peninsula from Morocco
715 Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem
750 Abbasid caliphate founded, Iraq
751 Arabs capture Chinese papermakers at Battle of Talas in Central Asia
762 Baghdad founded by Abbasids
785 Mosque of Córdoba begun
794 State-owned paper mills established in Baghdad
800 Harun al-Rashid sends embassy to Charlemagne
825 Al-Khwarizmi writes of the zero in mathematical computation
830 Bayt al-Hikmah ("House of Wisdom") established, Baghdad
848 Mosque of al-Mutawakkil begun, Samarra, Iraq
850 Earliest Arabic treatises on the astrolabe
862 Qarawiyin Mosque founded, Fez
879 Mosque of Ahmad ibn Tulun, Cairo
900 Compilation of The 1001 Nights
936 Madinat al-Zahra palace complex, Cordoba
972 Al-Azhar University founded, Cairo
1001 Ibn al-Bawwab produces earliest still-extant Qur'an copy on paper, Baghdad
1010 Firdawsi presents Shahnama at Ghaznavid court, Persia
1062 Marrakech founded
1099 First Crusade begins rule in Jerusalem
1187 Salah al-Din returns Jerusalem to Muslim rule
1237 Yahya al-Wasit illustrates al-Harir's Maqamat, Baghdad
1258 Mongols sack Baghdad
1325 Ibn Battuta leaves Tangier
1362 Mosque of Sultan Hassan, Cairo
1370 Timur (Tamerlane) begins rebuilding Samarqand
1429 Ulugh Beg completes astronomical observatory, Samarqand
1453 Ottomans begin rule from Constantinople
1474 Mosque of Qa'itbay, Cairo
1492 End of Muslim states in Spain
1498 Vasco da Gama and his Arab navigator sail to India from Portugal
1526 Mughal dynasty established in India
1617 Sultan Ahmet ("Blue") Mosque, Istanbul
1638 Shah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran
1647 Taj Mahal
1802 Napoleon orders publication of Description de I'Egypte
1821 Jean-François Champollion deciphers hieroglyphics
1869 Suez Canal opens
1908 Hijaz Railway from Damascus to Madinah
1922 Tutankhamun's tomb opened
1932 Saudi Arabia founded by 'Abd al-'Aziz Al Sa'ud
1945 Arab League founded
1967 Aga Khan Foundation established
1968 Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North
1970 Hassan Fathy's Architecture for the Poor
1979 Edward Said's Orientalism; Abdus Salam wins Nobel Prize for Physics
1983 Muhammad Yunus founds Grameen Bank, Bangladesh
1988 Naguib Mahfouz wins Nobel Prize for Literature
1998 Petronas Towers, world's tallest building, opens in Kuala Lumpur
1999 Ahmed H. Zewail wins Nobel Prize for Chemistry
Cultural Timeline Elsewhere
532 Hagia Sophia, Constantinople
618 Tang dynasty, China
650 Wood-block printing, China
650 Lindisfarne Gospels
732 Battle of Poitiers, France
800 Charlemagne crowned in Rome
855 Polyphonic music
1000 Climax of Mayan civilization
1066 Normans invade Britain
1143 First Latin version of Qur'an
1167 Oxford University founded
1215 Magna Carta
1260 Marco Polo leave Venice
1348 Black death reaches Europe
1400 Chaucer's Cantebury Tales
1445 Gutenberg prints the first book with moveable type
1492 Columbus sets sail
1504 Michelangelo's David
1519 Magellan sets sail
1558 Accession of Elizabeth I
1601 Shakespeare's Hamlet
1620 Pilgrims arrive in Massachusetts
1632 Galileo's Dialogue on the Two Chief
1687 Newton's Principia Mathematica
1734 First direct English version of Qur'an
1776 United States Declaration of Independence
1815 Battle of Waterloo
1837 Accession of Queen Victoria
1838 Dicken's Oliver Twist
1903 Wright brothers fly
1914-1918 First World War
1939-1945 Second World War
Abu Bakr “al-Siddiq”, ca. 570–634: One of the first followers of the Prophet who, in 632, became the first of the four “rightly guided” caliphs.
‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, 592–644: Second of the four “rightly guided” caliphs. He originated most of the major political institutions of the Muslim state and helped stabilize the rapidly expanding Arab empire.
‘Uthman ibn Affan, d. 656: Third of the “rightly guided” caliphs, married successively to two of the Prophet’s daughters. Elected caliph in 644, he ordered the official collation of the Qur’an.
‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, ca. 596–661: Cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. In 656 he became the last of the “rightly guided” caliphs.
Harun al-Rashid, 786–809: Fifth caliph of the Abbasid empire, he ruled during its apogee, as described in The 1001 Nights. Founder, with his son and successor al-Ma’mun, 813–833, of the Bayt al-Hikmah, or House of Wisdom, in Baghdad, where works from classical Greece were translated, studied and preserved.
Ziryab (Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Nafi), b. 789: Baghdadi musician, ‘ud master and cultural innovator who became chief musician and arbiter elegantiarum at the court of Abd al-Rahman II in Córdoba in 822.
Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, 817–875: Collector of the traditions of the Prophet Muhammed (hadith).
Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, ca. 800–847: Mathematician, astronomer, geographer of Baghdad. He introduced algebra and Indian/ Arabic numerals—as well as the words algebra and algorithm —to Europe in the 12th century.
Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari, 810–870: Compiler of hadith .
Zubayda, d. 831: Wife of Harun al-Rashid. Sponsored mosques, hostelries and schools and backed improvements to the pilgrims’ road from Kufa to Makkah, the darb Zubayda .
Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, 841–926: Physician, philosopher, alchemist, musician and mathematician, born in Rayy, Persia. Called Rhazes in the West. Islam’s greatest physician and most freethinking philosopher, author of more than 200 books, including the first pediatric work, the first treatise on smallpox and measles, and a 25-volume medical survey.
Firdawsi (Abu ’l-Qasim Mansur), 940–1020: Great Persian poet, author of the 60,000-verse Shahnama (Book of Kings), the Persian national epic.
Abu ‘Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, 965–1040: Combined physical doctrines with mathematics. Known in the West as Alhazen. Wrote the Kitab al-Manazir (On Optics), in which he proposed a new theory of vision. Influenced Kepler and Descartes; extended Euclid’s Elements .
Abu al-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni, 973–1048: Astronomer, mathematician, geographer, physicist, historian. Born in (today’s) Uzbekistan, he wrote A History of India, and A Chronology of Ancient Nations as well as other major works.
Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Sina, 980–1037: The “Leonardo da Vinci of the Muslim world,” known as Avicenna in the West. Born in Bukhara, (today’s) Uzbekistan. Wrote on theology, metaphysics, astronomy, philology, poetry, and medicine, including Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine), a codification of all existing medical knowledge that was used as a reference in Europe well into the 15th century.
‘Aisha bint Ahmad al-Qurtubiya, ca. 1000: Famed woman poet and calligrapher of Andalusia.
Omar Khayyam, ca. 1048–1125: Persian mathematician, astronomer and poet best known for the Rubaiyat ; also helped reform the solar calendar.
Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali, 1058–1111: Persian astronomer, jurist, philosopher and mystic; Algazel to the West. Author of some 70 works, al-Ghazali won early fame as a lawyer in Baghdad but later relinquished his post to pursue the nature of knowledge.
Abu Marwan ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Zuhr, 1091–1162: Physician, born Seville. Known to the West as Avenzoar and renowned for his surgical skills.
Wallada bint al-Mustakfi, d. ca. 1091: Poet of Umayyad Córdoba famous for her wit and eloquence, literary parties and love poetry.
Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad al-Idrisi, 1099–1180: Geographer, born Ceuta, Morocco and educated in Córdoba. Served in the court of Roger II of Sicily, for whom he produced al-Kitab al-Rujari, a geographical treatise which included the first scientific map of the world.
Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Rushd, 1126–1198: Philosopher, physician, jurist. Known as Averroës in the West. Active in Seville, Córdoba and Marrakech. “The Great Commentator” on Aristotle whose works, translated into Latin, gave Europeans their first substantive introduction to Greek philosophy.
Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, 1138–1193: Founder of Ayyubid dynasty of Egypt and Syria; known as Saladin in the West. Ejected the Crusaders from Jerusalem in 1187 and garnered fame through chivalric battles with Richard the Lion-Hearted.
Muhyi ’l-Din al-Ta’i ibn al-’Arabi, 1165–1240: Mystic, born in Murcia, Spain. Author of some 400 works, including a summary of the teaching of 28 prophets from Adam to Muhammad.
Hafsa bint al-Hajj al-Rakuni, ca. 12th c.: Greatest woman poet of al-Andalus.
Badi‘ al-Zaman Isma‘il ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari, ca. 1150–1200: Engineer, inventor. His prescient Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices gives detailed descriptions and drawings of clocks, irrigation machines, fountains, automata, and other technologies.
Jalal al-Din Rumi, 1207–1273: Mystic, poet, born in Balkh, (today’s) Afghanistan. After his death, his disciples organized the Mevlevi order, sometimes called the “whirling dervishes.”
Ibn al-Nafis, d. 1288: Physician of Damascus. Wrote compendium of Arab knowledge of ophthalmology. Proposed the theory of the pulmonary circulation of the blood.
‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Khaldun, 1332–1406: Historian, sociologist. Born in Tunis, he served at courts in Andalusia and North Africa and taught at al-Azhar in Cairo. Author of Kitab al-‘Ibar (Universal History), in which he treated history as a science and outlined reasons for the rise and fall of civilizations.
Timur (Tamerlane), ca. 1336–1405: Conqueror of an empire that included all or parts of today’s Afghanistan, Persia, India, Turkey, Syria and Egypt. Equally famed for ruthlessness and the monuments he commissioned, especially in his capital, Samarqand.
Sinan, 1488–1587: Master architect of the Ottoman empire who designed, among many others, the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul and the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne.
Süleyman I, 1494–1566: Ottoman Sultan who guided the empire to the fullest extent of its power and prestige. A patron of the arts and sponsor of vast public works; the present city walls of Jerusalem are one of his many projects in that city alone.
Shihab al-Din ibn Majid, 15th c.: Navigator on Vasco da Gama’s voyage from Portugal to India in 1497–1498.
Mirza Asad Ghalib, 1797–1869: Great poet of India, father of modern Urdu prose.
Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, 1838–1897: Journalist, reformer. A founder of modern Muslim anti-colonialism, he advocated a religious and cultural revival to counteract European influence.
Muhammad Iqbal, 1876–1938: Poet, philosopher, jurist and social reformer. He advocated the creation of a Muslim state in northwest India.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, 1876–1948: First president of Pakistan.
Um Kulthum, 1908–1975: She combined traditional Arabic love poetry, contemporary musical forms and the cadences of religious songs to become the Arab world’s greatest popular singer.
Naguib Mahfouz, b. 1911: Egyptian writer, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988. His work features realistic depictions of middle-and lower-class Egyptians.
Malcolm X, 1925–1965: American civil rights leader.
Muhammad Ali, b. 1942: Three-time world heavyweight champion boxer; became a Muslim in 1964.
Ahmed H. Zewail, b. 1946: Egyptian-born American chemist, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize for imaging chemical interactions on an atomic scale.