At the recommendation of a friend, I have started a brief study of Islam. I haven't put a lot of effort in, just reading while waiting for kids to get done in piano, or right before bedtime. It is quite possible that in all of the reading I've done in my life, this is some of the most difficult. I find that the Arabic words are nearly nonsensical to me, just from lack of experience. In addition, there are so very many different factions of Islam and so many different regimes influenced or caused by Islam, I have a hard time keeping them straight.
However, I am fascinated by the history of the religion itself, specifically the account of Muhammad and how he received the revelation which is now the Quran, or in American, the Koran. Many of the fundamental, early beliefs are similar to mine: the worship of one god, the Only God, according to Islam. Muslims wear white on their pilgrimage to Mecca in order to symbolize equality of all man. They are supposed to treat all Muslims as equals, with no distinction between orphans, beggars or rich men. Muhammad himself lived a very austere life style. The word Islam means "surrender" as in "to surrender to the will of the One God". In early Islam, Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in harmony, respecting each others' religions.
Anyway, I'm only 1/2 way through the books I'm reading and I expect that there is a lot more information than I can do justice to. If anyone else in interested in learning more about Islam, I think "Islam A Concise Introduction" by Neal Robinson is probably the most accessible. I just stepped into our library and checked a bunch of books out, so there are likely even better references if you were to check on Amazon.