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Islam (Arabic: الإسلام‎‎ al-’islām, pronounced [ʔislæːm] is the religion articulated by the Qur’an, a book considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of the single incomparable God (Arabic: الله‎‎, Allāh), and by the Islamic prophet Muhammad's demonstrations and real-life examples (called the Sunnah, collected through narration of his companions in collections of Hadith). The word Islam, a triliteral of the word salaam, is a homograph, having multiple meanings, including peace and surrender (to God). Adherents are known as Muslims, which is the active participle of the verb of which Islām is the infinitive. Muslims regard their religion as the completed and universal version of a monotheistic faith revealed at many times and places before, including, notably, to the prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Islamic tradition holds that previous messages and revelations have been changed and distorted over time. Religious practices include the Five Pillars of Islam, which are five duties that unite Muslims into a community. Islamic law (Arabic: شريعة Šarīʿah) touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, encompassing everything from dietary laws and banking to warfare, welfare, and Jihad. Almost all Muslims belong to one of two major denominations, the Sunni (87-90%) and Shi'a (10-13%). Islam is the predominant religion in much of Africa, the Middle East and major parts of Asia. Large communities are also found in China, Russia and the Caribbean. Converts and immigrant communities are found in almost every part of the world. With 1.57 billion Muslims (see Islam by country), Islam is the second-largest religion in the world and arguably the fastest growing religion in the world.

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Battle of Khandaq (Battle of the Trench)
The Battle of the Trench also known as Battle of the Confederates, was a fortnight-long siege of Yathrib (now Medina) by Arab and Jewish tribes. The strength of the confederate armies is estimated around 10,000 men with six hundred horses and some camels, while the Medinan numbered 3000. The battle began on March 31, 627. The outnumbered defenders of Medina, mainly Muslims led by Islamic prophet Muhammad, opted to dig and fight from a trench rather than face the tribes in the open. The trench together with Medina's natural fortifications rendered the confederate cavalry (consisting of horses and camels) useless, locking the two sides in a stalemate. Hoping to make several attacks at once, the confederates persuaded the Banu Qurayza to attack the city from the south. However, Muhammad's diplomacy derailed the negotiations, and broke up the confederacy against him. The well-organized defenders, the sinking of confederate morale, and poor weather conditions caused the siege to end in a fiasco. The siege was a "battle of wits", in which Muslims diplomatically overcame their opponents with very few casualties. Efforts to defeat the Muslims failed, and Islam became influential in the region. As a consequence, the Muslims besieged the Qurayza, and upon the latter's unconditional surrender. The defeat also caused the Meccans to lose their trade and much of their prestige.

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Palestinian costume
Credit: American Colony (Jerusalem) Photo Depart.

A young woman from Ramallah, c. 1898-1914. Until the 1940s, women of Palestine wore elaborate handcrafted garments. The creation and maintenance of these items played a significant role in their lives. A knowledgeable observer could determine a woman's village of origin and social status from her clothing. The circular band near this woman's forehead is a ring of coins made from a portion of her dowry money, and indicates that she is unmarried.

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Yasser Arafat in 1999
Yasser Arafat was a Palestinian militant and politician. As Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian National Authority, Arafat continuously fought against Israeli forces in the name of Palestinian self-determination. Arafat was constantly surrounded by controversy, as in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Fatah faced off with Jordan in a civil war. Forced out of Jordan and into Lebanon, Arafat and Fatah were the targets of Israel's 1978 and 1982 invasions of that country. Arafat was said to be a key planner of the Black September organization's murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics. The majority of the Palestinian people – regardless of political ideology or faction – viewed him as a heroic freedom fighter and martyr who symbolized the national aspirations of his people. However, many Israelis have described him as an unrepentant terrorist. In 1994, Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, for the negotiations in the Oslo Accords. In late 2004, after effectively being confined within his Ramallah compound for over two years by the Israeli Defense Forces, Arafat became ill and fell into a coma, and later died.

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