The next most commonly spoken languages are Uzbek and Turkmen, both Turkic languages
are spoken by minority groups. In addition to these languages, there are dozens
of others spoken in Afghanistan by the many minority groups in the country.
Nearly every citizen of Afghanistan is Muslim. 80% of
the population is Sunni Muslim while about 19% is Shia Muslim. Islam (the name of
the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose
holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of
God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred
over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't
believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent
to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham,
and Jesus among others.
Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting,
and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great
structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim
is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each
of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies
from person to person and community to community. Generally speaking, Afghanistan
is fairly conservative in how they practice Islam.
Most Muslims are Sunni, which is the branch of Islam that closely follows the teachings
of Muhammad and accepts Abu Bakr as the first Caliph (a ruler of an Islamic community);
the Sunni Muslims are sometimes referred to Orthodox. Shia Muslims believe only
God can chose who heads the Islamic community and believed it was Ali, Muhammad's
son-in-law who was first chosen; Ali became the first Imam (according to Shia Muslims,
this term only refers to the leaders of the faith, to Sunni Muslims Imam is often
times used in reference to the prayer leader in mosques).