The author gratefully acknowledges the support of the MidAmerica Arab Chamber of Commerce in connection with the cost of preparing the manuscript for publication, which was approved by its Board of Directors, and expresses his deep appreciation to Rand McNally Corporation of Chicago for publishing this book as a sign of their interest in the world of Islam.

Most of the illustrations contained in this book have been graciously provided by Aramco World Magazine and Rand McNally whose assistance in this respect was most useful.

In the selection of illustrations, their integration in the text and other ministerial functions, I was assisted by Olfat El-Mallakh of the MidAmerica Arab Chamber of Commerce to whom I express my appreciation as well as to Tom Malueg who edited an earlier version of the text, and appreciation to Alfred Polus for proofreading the final text. The design and layout of the book was done by John Wetzel whom I wish to thank, especially for his patience in redoing the layout repeatedly to produce this excellent result. My appreciation is also extended to Walid M. Shaar who did the calligraphy on the cover and the Qur'anic verse at the conclusion of the book, and to Dr. Shafiq Ismail who prepared the current map of the "Muslim world" (based on a map from the Chicago Tribune) and the "Distribution of the Shia" map. Specific acknowledgments for maps and illustrations appear in the text.

Finally, my appreciation to the American Arab Affairs Council (Washington, D.C.) for having published in 1985 an abbreviated text with the same title, which subsequently and with significant changes became this book.