Allah, Angels, Idols, Saints and Creation in Islam

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20120509-Allah 12.jpg
Arabic calligraphy for the word Allah
Muslim believe first and foremost there is only one God Allah. Second they believe it is the purpose of their life on earth to serve him. Allah created the world, living creatures and humans. He sends messages to humans in the form of angels and prophets, who guided humans in an existence that is known only to Allah.

Allah is the Arabic word for “the God” (“al” means “the” and “ilah” means “God”). In the Qur’an, he is omnipotent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and just. It is said that Muslims have 99 different beautiful names for God, and they include “The Compassionate” and “The Merciful.” Allah is much more similar to the Old Testament God and the God of the Jews than the one willing to his sacrifice his son in the New Testament. Muslims regard the Muslim, Christian and Jewish god as one and the same.

Sura 2:255 reads: “Allah! There is no God save Him, the Living, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtake Him; to Him belongs what is in the heavens and earth. Who will not intercede with Him by His leave? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, while they grasp nothing of His knowledge except what he wills. His throne encompasses the heavens and the earth, and he never wearies of keeping them. He is the Supreme, the Tremendous.”

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Qur’an (Quran, Koran) and Hadith:
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Muslim Beliefs About Allah

Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion in which God (Allah) is both a pervasive presence and a somewhat distant figure. The Prophet Muhammad is not deified but rather is regarded as a human who was selected by God to spread the word to others through the Quran,

Allah in stone in Rohtas

“Allah is the name Muslims use for the supreme and unique God, who created and rules everything. According to the BBC: “1) The heart of faith for all Muslims is obedience to Allah's will. 2) Allah is eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent...Allah has always existed and will always exist. 3) Allah knows everything that can be known. 4) Allah can do anything that can be done. 5) Allah has no shape or form... Allah can't be seen. Allah can't be heard. Allah is neither male nor female. 6) Allah is just... Allah rewards and punishes fairly. But Allah is also merciful. 7) A believer can approach Allah by praying, and by reciting the Qur'an. 8) Muslims worship only Allah...because only Allah is worthy of worship. [Source: BBC, July 19, 2011 |::|]

“All Muslims believe that God is one alone: 1) There is only one God. 2) God has no children, no parents, and no partners. 3) God was not created by a being. 4) There are no equal, superior, or lesser Gods. The Qur’an reads: “It is he who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her in love. When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about unnoticed. When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord, saying: "If you give us a goodly child, we vow we shall ever be grateful." |::|

The Qur’an reads: “Say: "We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Ibrahim, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in the books given to Musa, Isa, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will in Islam. “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost all spiritual good. |The Qur’an reads: “And when they listen to the revelation received by the messenger, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth. They pray: "Our Lord! We believe; write us down among the witnesses." |::|

There are many attributes of God, one being “AsSalam” meaning “the Bestower of peace and love.” Man has been created to fashion himself to the attributes of God and Muslims must try to adopt this attribute of God. God says in the Quran: “This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion.” [Source: Imam Shamshad A. Nasir]

Nature of Allah

Allah is believed to be everywhere and people are said to be in his presence at all times, and are especially close during prayer times. Sura 50:16 reads: “He is closer than the vein in your neck.” He is “the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden” and is “the light of the heavens and of the Earth.”

Although God speaks through prophets and uses human language and gestures that does not mean God is accessible to humans. His nature is inaccessible to men and his acts are inscrutable. He created by the command “Be!” and “turns astray who he will and guided aright whom he will” and given authority to Satan and demons to seduce human who reject him. When Muslims utter the names of the Muhammad or Allah they usually follow it with a reverential term, such as “peace be upon him.” They would never think of uttering these words as expression of exclamation or anger as Christians do with Jesus Christ or god.

See Monotheism

Muslim Angels

from an Arabic manuscript

Muslims believe angels are Allah’s celestial servants and messengers. The archangel Gabriel acted as an intermediary between Allah and Muhammad. Gabriel and other angels acted as intermediaries between Allah and the other prophets. Some had certain responsibilities. Mikhail is the angels of providence. Azrail is angel of death. Other angels preside of over the seven levels of heaven, escort the dead to heaven and keep tabs on the living.

“All praise belongs to Allah the Maker of the heavens and the earth, Who employs the angels as messengers, having wings, two, three and four.” — Quran 35:2

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad wrote:“Islam speaks of angels as celestial beings of a spiritual nature who have their own entity as persons. The major role they play is the transmission of messages from God to human beings. But they are misunderstood by many, even within Islam, as having human shape or some shape and form, which in fact is an inseparable idea from that of material existence. Matter must have shape and a well defined boundary. But spirit lies beyond the five dimensions of man’s understanding. One can only believe in the existence of spirit if he is a religious person; otherwise it is beyond his reach to conceive the shape and form of spirits. Perhaps to resolve this problem and to make it easier for man to visualise angels, they are sometimes mentioned in religious books as appearing to holy people in the form of human beings. Not only that; they are also known to have appeared to some messengers of God in the form of certain birds. The Holy Ghost appeared to Jesus in the form of a dove. [Source: Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (1928–2003), Khalifatul Masih IV. Hazrat is a leader of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He obtained an honours degree in Arabic from the Punjab University, Lahore and studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London]

“Let us now try to comprehend the nature of angels with reference only to the Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet(sa) of Islam, and not with reference to commonly held views. According to the Quran, the entire material universe as well as the entire religious universe is governed by certain spiritual powers, which are referred to as angels. Although some angels are referred to as single person, such as Gabriel, Michael or Israel, they in fact do not work alone. For each function there is one leader or one supreme angel who governs that function and under him works a host of angels, who are referred to in the Holy Quran as the Junood of the Lord. Whatever they do is completely subject to the will of God and the design that He has created for things. They cannot make the slightest deviation from the set course of functions allocated to them, or from the overall plan of things made by God.

“According to the Quran, for each human being two angels are appointed to record good deeds and misdeeds, as the case may be. In this way the task of the angels is to organise the most intricate and profound system of recording. It does not mean that each has a book in his hand, jotting down in it whatever he observes. In fact, angels are responsible for a very complex system of registering the effect of man’s deeds on his soul and personality so that a good man develops a healthy soul and a bad man breeds an unhealthy one.

20120509-angels 1009_IP.jpg “The soul, as it is takes shape in every man till his death, needs a conscious organiser who transfers the effects of human thoughts, actions etc. to the soul. This is an intricate process not fully comprehended by man. However, we do partially witness this in the case of criminals acquiring a different visage from people of noble conduct. It is not at all impossible for anyone to observe such a difference, although it cannot be described in terms of black and white or other material terms. In fact the administration of the huge universe, right from its inception through the entire course of the billions of years of its evolutionary history, requires an enormous organisation of constant attention and control. This is performed by innumerable angels, who literally govern the vast universe and its intricate system of laws, as agents of God.

“As far as the traditions go, we can comprehend to a degree the versatility of angels in being able to materialise in various forms or apparitions, which have no relation to their real form of existence which is beyond man’s comprehension and has different dimensions from those known to us.

Muhammad and Angels

There is one story about a stranger that suddenly entered a mosque where Muhammad of Islam was sitting with his companions. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad wrote:“This man approached the assembly, sat respectfully in the front row and started to ask questions regarding the nature of Islam. Having finished his list of questions, he took leave and departed. Those present were amazed because first this man was a complete stranger who must have travelled some distance to reach the mosque. In small townships the knowledge of such visits does not remain a secret and everybody seems to know who has arrived and for what purpose. In his case, the arrival was so sudden that it appeared mysterious. Secondly, there were no marks of a journey on his bearing or his clothes. A fresh looking gentleman, he was of immaculately clean dress. Moreover the manner in which he began to ask questions without any introduction, and his abrupt departure, was extremely unusual to say the least. [Source: Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (1928–2003), Khalifatul Masih IV. Hazrat is a leader of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He obtained an honours degree in Arabic from the Punjab University, Lahore and studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London]

“Before the companions of the Holy Prophet(sa) could say anything, the Holy Prophet (sa) himself informed them that the person had actually been the angel Gabriel, who had asked the leading questions so that the companions could become acquainted with the facts contained in the answers given. Some companions ran out of the mosque to meet the angel in disguise, as they thought, but there was no trace of him anywhere. No-one in the township admitted to seeing such a man. As this incident is reported in the highly authentic books of tradition, we can safely infer that angels sometimes appear in ordinary human form for the purpose of discharging sundry errands. We find mention of angels in many other traditions, particularly in relation to the battles of Badr and Uhad, but it would be inappropriate perhaps to enter into a lengthy discourse on this issue.

Idolatry and Islam

The Qur’an doesn’t explicitly ban images of animals and people as is commonly thought. It warns against the creation and worship of idols. According to the Qur’anic: "Those who endure the most grievances on the Day of resurrection are those who create a likeness."

Idolatry ( “shirk” in Arabic) is regarded as the handiwork of the devil. It is one of the worst sins and even the worship of Muhammad is sacrilegious. The only being that a Muslim is allowed to worship is Allah.

Deities of Palmyra, idols of gods that existed in Muhammad's time

One of Muhammad's most important acts was expelling the Kaaba of idols. One early Arabic source wrote the kaaba contained paintings as well as statues and that Muhammad ordered them all destroyed except a mural of Jesus and the Virgin Mary which he spared, some suggest, so as not to offend his Christian converts. Presumably Muhammad and his successors had no problems with paintings. The movement to forbid painting is seen to have had something to do Jewish converts.

Muslim prohibition of “false idols” mirrors similar prohibitions in Judaism and Old Testament Christianity. The first of the Ten Commandants reads, “Thou shall have no other gods before me,” followed by the second Commandment, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images.” Buddhists also raised that point that images of Buddha distracted Buddhists from their pursuit of nirvana.

Ban on Images of Animals and People in Islamic Art

The Qur’an does not specifically ban images of animals and people. The basis of ban is rooted in the belief that if someone makes a image they will worship it, a view spread by conservative Muslims after Muhammad’s death. According to the Hadiths Ibn Abbas, an early disciple of Muhammad said, "The angels will not enter a house in which there is a picture of a dog."

Muslim scholars interpretation's produced the blanket statement against all visual images. Any picture or an animal or a person in a mosque or work or art is seen as idolatry.

Interpretations of the ban on idolatry and animal and human figures varies widely. The prophet reportedly allowed the depiction of animals on pillows, carpets and children's toys. Many Islamic cultures allowed images of animals and people to be used in non-religious buildings and works of art of created for private use. Some of the greatest works of Islamic art were miniature paintings of famous rulers, and court, hunting and battle scnes with lots of human figures found in manuscripts created for the private use of sultans and caliphs.

Muslim Saints, Shrines and Miracles

Some Muslims honor local saints and holy men, worship their relics and invoke their names for protection and blessings. Many Muslims look down upon this activity as a form of idolatry.

The worship of saints has been part of Islam since the very beginning. The Qur’an speaks of friends of God (“ awilya’ Allah” ). Among this whose have attracted a great deal of attention are Fatimah, Muhammad’s favorite daughter, and Ali, his cousin and son-in-law. A tall pole with a horsehair tassel is the traditional marker for the grave of a revered Islamic figure. Sunnis have traditionally frowned upon the worship of saints and shrines as a distraction from the worship of Allah that borders on the worship of idols. Shiites and Sufis look upon on visiting shrines of Muslim saints or revered imam as a meritorious form or religious worship. Visiting the shrines of important Imam is central to the Shiite faith.

Miracles play a prominent role in Islam as they do in Christianity and Judaism. A number of miracles were attributed to Muhammad himself, including splitting the moon in half, predicting the future, producing drinking water in the desert for his companions, multiplying food, curing a variety of ailments and blinding armies with a handful of dust. Foremost among his miracles was his night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and his accession to heaven on a winged horse after his death.

In the Qur’an, Muhammad turns down all requests to perform miracles, saying that Qur’an itself is a miracle and that is all that anyone needs. The miracles that are attributed to him are part of the oral traditions (“hadiths” ) of his life.

The main purpose of miracles in Islam appears to be to display God’s power. Islam distinguishes between two kinds of miracles: 1) “mujiza” , miracles performed by Allah’s Prophets; and 2) “karama" , miracles performed by later Muslim saints and mystics, many of whom are associated with Sufism.

Islamic Creation

"In the Qur’an," Boorstein asserts, "God never rests, for he can never be tired." He created the world in six days like the Biblical God, but on the seventh day, when the Christian God took a day of rest, Allah said no "sense of weariness" touched Him.μ

Creation was not the "beginning of a story but 'signs' of God's omnipotence" Boorstein says. It wasn't even really a creation it was a command: "He saith to it: 'Be," the Qur’an reads, "And it is." The Christian God made man is his own image but Allah told Muhammad "I created...humankind only that they might worship Me."μ

Many Muslims have the same regard for Darwin's theory of evolution as Christians who believe in "creation theory." They believe that the Qur’an is the word of God and it states that Allah made the world is seven days – -and that’s that. Muslims scholars also argue that evolution can not be proven scientifically and the theory of man’s evolution from apes is flawed because "the missing link" has never been found.

Increasingly Muslim scholars are rejecting Darwinism and telling believers that belief in God and evolution are incompatible. Nidhal Guessoum, a professor of physics at the American International School at Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates told a conference hosted by the British Council in November 2009 that in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia only 15 percent of those surveyed said that Darwin’s theory was “true” or “probably true.” A survey at his own university found that 62 percent of Muslim professors and students believed that evolution was an “unproven theory.” Guessoum told the conference that some Muslims were being influenced by Creationist Christians.

See Shiites, Sufism

Sunnah on Creation

Persian angel

The Sunnahs are the practices and examples drawn from the Prophet Muhammad's life. Along with the Hadiths they are the most important texts in Islam after the Qur’an. They must adhere to a strict chain of narration that ensures their authenticity, taking into account factors such as the character of people in the chain and continuity in narration. Reports that fail to meet such criteria are disregarded.

The Sunnah reads: “When God created the creation he wrote a book, which is near him upon the sovereign throne; and what is written in it is this: "Verily my compassion overcometh my wrath." “Say not, if people do good to us, we will do good to them, and if people oppress us, we will oppress them: but resolve that if people do good to you, you will do good to them, and if they oppress you, oppress them not again. [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 11-32]

“God saith: Whoso does one good act, for him are ten rewards, and I also give more to whomsoever I will; and whoso does ill, its retaliation is equal to it, or else I forgive him; and he who seeketh to approach me one cubit, I will seek to approach him two fathoms; and he who walketh toward me, I will run toward him; and he who cometh before me with the earth full of sins, but joins no partner to me, I will come before him with an equal front of forgiveness.

“There are seven people whom God will draw under his own shadow, on that day when there will be no other shadow: one a just king; another, who hath employed himself in devotion from his youth; the third, who fixes his heart on the mosque 'till he return to it; the fourth, two men whose friendship is to please God, whether together or separate; the fifth, a man who remembereth God when he is alone, and weeps; the sixth, a man who is tempted by a rich and beautiful woman, and saith, Verily I fear God; the seventh, a man who hath given alms and concealed it, so that his left hand knoweth not what his right hand doeth.

“The most excellent of all actions is to befriend anyone on God's account, and to be at enmity with whosoever is the enemy of God. Verily ye are in an age in which if ye abandon one-tenth of what is ordered, ye will be ruined. After this a time will come when he who shall observe one-tenth of what is now ordered will be redeemed.

Al Biruni on Creation

Al Biruni (973-1048 CE) was one of the earlist Arabic historians. The scholar Charles F. Horne (1897-1942) wrote: “The earliest Arab writer, who may perhaps be regarded as a genuine historian, in contrast to the previous romancers, was Al Biruni. Al Biruni was far more than an historian; he was a leading scientist of his day and also a geographer. [Source: Al Biruni (973-1048): “The Existing Monuments or Chronology” (c. 1030),Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 92-96., Internet Islamic History Sourcebook,]

Islamic Cosmology

Al Biruni wrote in “The Existing Monuments or Chronology” (c. 1030): “Praise be to God who is high above all things, and blessings be on Muhammed, the elected, the best of all created beings, and on his family, the guides of righteousness and truth. One of the exquisite plans in God's management of the affairs of his creation, one of the glorious benefits which he has bestowed upon the entirety of his creatures, is that categorical decree of his, not to leave in his world any period without a just guide, whom he constitutes as a protector for his creatures, with whom to take refuge in unfortunate and sorrowful cases and accidents, and upon whom to devolve their affairs, when they seem indissolubly perplexed, so that the order of the world should rest upon—and its existence be supported by—his genius. And this decree (that the affairs of mankind should be governed by a prophet) has been settled upon them as a religious duty, and has been linked together with the obedience toward God, and the obedience toward his prophet, through which alone a reward in future life may be obtained—in accordance with the word of him, who is truth and justice—and his word is judgment and decree, "O ye believers, obey God, and obey the prophets, and those among yourselves who are invested with the command."

“The first and most famous of the beginnings of antiquity is the fact of the creation of mankind. But among those who have a book of divine revelation, such as the Jews, Christians, Magians, and their various sects, there exists such a difference of opinion as to the nature of this fact, and as to the question how to date from it, the like of which is not allowable for eras. Everything, the knowledge of which is connected with creation and with the history of bygone generations, is mixed up with falsifications and myths, because it belongs to a far remote age; because a long interval separates us therefrom, and because the student is incapable of keeping it in memory, and of fixing it (so as to preserve it from confusion). God says: "Have they not got the stories about those who were before them? None but God knows them." (Surahix, 71.) Therefore it is becoming not to admit any account of a similar subject, if it is not attested by a book, the correctness of which is relied upon, or by a tradition, for which the conditions of authenticity, according to the prevalent opinion, furnish grounds of proof. [Source: Al Biruni (973-1048): “The Existing Monuments or Chronology” (c. 1030),Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 92-96., Internet Islamic History Sourcebook,]

Averroes on the Creation of the Universe

On “Problem First: the Creation of the Universe”,Averroes 1126-1198) wrote in “On the Harmony of Religions and Philosophy” (1190): “The Law teaches that the universe was invented and created by God, and that it did not come into being by chance or by itself. The method adopted by the Law for proving this is not the one upon which the Asharites have depended. For we have already shown that those methods are not specially certain for the learned, nor common enough to satisfy all the classes of men. The methods which are really serviceable are those which have a very few premises, and the results of which fall very near to the commonly known ideas. But in instructing the common people the Law does not favor statements composed of long and complete reasoning, based upon different problems. So everyone who, in teaching them, adopts a different course, and interprets the Law according to it, has lost sight of its purpose and gone astray from the true path. And so also, the Law in giving illustrations for its reasoning uses only those which are present before us.


“Whatever has been thought necessary for the common people to know, has been explained to them by the nearest available examples, as in the case of the day of Judgment. But whatever was unnecessary for them to know, they have been told that it was beyond their knowledge, as the words of God about the Soul [Qur'an 22.85]. Now that we have established this, it is necessary that the method adopted by the Law for teaching the creation of the universe to the common people be such as would be acknowledged by all. It is also necessary that since there cannot be found anything present to illustrate the creation of the universe the Law must have used the examples of the creation of things in the visible world. [Source: “Ibn Rushd: On the Harmony of Religions and Philosophy, in Arabic Kitab fasl al-maqal, with its appendix (Damina). Appended is an extract from Kitab al-kashfan manahij al-adilla, published and translated as: “Averröes, The Philosophy and Theology of Averroes, trans. Muhammad Jamil-al-Rahman (Baroda: A. G. Widgery, 1921), pp. 14-19, 122-131, 204-229, 242-249, 260-283, 300-308. A more recent edition is edited by George Hourani, (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1959).]

“So the method adopted by Law is that the universe was made by God. If we look intently into the verse pertaining to this subject we shall see that the method adopted is that of divine solicitude, which we know to be one of those which prove the existence of God. When a man sees a thing made in a certain shape, proportion and fashion, for a particular advantage is derived from it, and purpose which is to be attained, so that it becomes clear to him, that had it not been found in that shape, and proportion, then that advantage would have been wanting in it, he comes to know for certain that there is a maker of that thing, and that he had made it in that shape and proportion, for a set purpose. For it is not possible that all those qualities serving that purpose be collected in that thing by chance alone. For instance, if a man sees a stone on the ground in a shape fit for sitting, and finds its proportions and fashion of the same kind, then he would come to know that it was made by a maker, and that he had made it and placed it there. But when he sees nothing in it which may have made it fit for sitting then he becomes certain that its existence in the place was by chance only, without its being fashioned by any maker.

“Such is also the case with the whole of the universe. For when a man sees the sun, the moon, and all the stars, which are the cause of the four seasons; of days and nights, of rain, water and winds, of the inhabitation of the parts of the earth, of the existence of man, and of the being of all the animals and the plants and of the earth being fit for the habitation of a man, and other animals living in it; and the water fit for the animals living in it; and the air fit for birds, and if there be anything amiss in this creation and edifice, the whole world would come to confusion and disorder, then he would come to know with certainty that it is not possible that this harmony in it for the different members of the universe — man, animals, and plants — be found by chance only.

“He will know that there is one who determined it, and so one who made it by intention, and that is God, exalted and magnified may He be. He would know with certainty that the universe is a created thing, for he would necessarily think that it is not possible that in it should be found all this harmony, if it be not made by someone, and had come into existence by chance alone. This kind of argument, is quite definite and at the same time clear, and some have mentioned it here. It is based upon two principles which are acknowledged by all. One of them being, that the universe, with all its component parts, is found fit for the existence of man and things; secondly, that which is found suitable in all its parts, for a single purpose, leading to a single goal, is necessarily a created thing. So those two principles lead us naturally to admit that the universe is a created thing, and that there is a maker of it. Hence "the argument of analogy" leads to two things at one and the same time, and that is why it is the best argument for proving the existence of God. This kind of reasoning is also found in the Qur'an in many verses in which the creation of the universe is mentioned.

Islamic celestial globe

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994). “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, BBC, Al Jazeera, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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