The History and Development of Islam
Islam is the Arabic word for *submission’, in the sense of surrendering to God’s will. It is the religion of about 1.6 billion people around the globe as of 2010, according to the Pew Research Center, which also ranks the Abrahamic, monotheistic faith as the fastest growing religion in the world. How Islam Began It was in the small desert town of Mecca, located in what is now Saudi Arabia and surrounded by the Byzantine and Sassanian empires, that Islam emerged in the early 7th century through revelations that Muslims believe were made to Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, by the archangel Gabriel – Jibril in Arabic. Muhammad began receiving revelations in 610 while he was meditating in a cave on the summit of Mount Hira, outside Mecca. Muslims believe that those revelations are the words of God, conveyed by Gabriel, and that they constitute the Koran, Islam’s holy book. Muhammad only confided in his wife and close family and friends that he had received the revelations, and it was more than two years later that he started preaching publicly. A Religio-Social Reform Movement According to certain historians and religious scholars, such as Vernon O. Egger, Islam emerged essentially as a ‘religio-social reform movement’, as its leader grew up an impoverished orphan who lived with his grandfather, then with an uncle after his grandfather’s death. At the time, Mecca was home to the pagan Kaaba shrine and the few hundred pagan idols surrounding it, as well as a regional trade centre with unequal distribution of wealth between a rich elite and poor, underprivileged families and clans. Muhammad called on the people of Arabia “to share wealth and create a society where the weak and vulnerable were treated with respect”, according to Karen Armstrong, who emphasized Muhammad’s social message in her book on Islam’s history. It is little wonder that the early believers – with the exception of a few prominent Meccans such as Uthman ibn Affan came mainly from among the poor, such as freed slaves and those who belonged to lesser clans and families.
The staunchest opposition to Muhammad’s message came from his own tribe, the Quraysh, which was the dominant tribe in Mecca at the time. Muhammad belonged to the Quraysh’s Banu Hashim clan, a prominent but not the most important clan in the tribe. Scholars and observers have put forward various possible explanations for such opposition. Egger and Armstrong, for example, attribute it to the nature of Muhammad’s teachings. Egger wrote, ‘Muhammad’s teachings were .. particularly galling to the aristocrats of Mecca. On the one hand, he used the traditional value of generosity against them and exposed. the fact that they had betrayed those [tribal] values by becoming greedy and stingy; on the other hand, he turned upside down the traditional criterion for status, which was a prominent position in a powerful tribe. According to him, individuals with undistinguished backgrounds who submitted to God and His Prophet would fare better in eternity than the most revered tribal leader who rejected the new teaching. The renowned Montgomery Walt highlighted the threat Muhammad posed to the political power and influence of rich merchants: they feared that if he succeeded in attracting a mass following, he would acquire political power and possibly run Mecca’s affairs. Their fears were eventually realized because Muhammad would indeed later control Mecca and all of Arabia. What’s more, Muslims after his death would form an empire that would stretch over thousands of miles. Hijra: The Muslim Era Begins Muhammad’s main protector in Mecca, his uncle All ibn Abi Talib, passed away in 619. Following his death, the Quraysh’s persecution (e.g. economic boycott and physical beatings) of Muhammad’s followers intensified. It was in 622 that the early Muslim community took a step that would become a turning point in Islam’s history: the hijra (migration), moving to Yathrib, which is today the Saudi Arabian city of Medina. Medina is located around 220 miles to Mecca’s north. Islam had already started to make its way to the city by 620, after a group of its people came to Mecca and heard Muhammad preaching. Later, a full delegation representing Medina’s Arabs visited the prophet, expressed their conversion to Islam and invited him to move to their city. Vowing to obey him, they asked him to arbitrate in the city’s tribal conflicts. The hijra marked the beginning of the “Muslim era’. In fact, the year of the hijra (622 in the Gregorian Christian calendar) marks the first year in the Islamic calendar, also known as the hijri calendar.
In Medina, Mutammad’s tollowers inmesed and ho became meogrized as the citys p:alitical leader. He sr abILI arganixn, lhe allairs ofa new LUILIULL.y, wliili cump:ised de imnigrant tusl’ms (known n lalamic tacirion as muhajicor). Medina’s cnrverts ta Isian (anser) and the Jewisl: Lrines tha. ware aleady wll estallisliei. iu Ute ly. Thu: Koranir: vurses fhat Muharinad xail were revealed u l wlile ne was in Medinafocua cn rulrca and legslatons tha: were velevan: to his new rale in rumns thr affair: ofa vet the ciry: Jecish rihes wererar alwaysnmiertable with t’hia rale. Pe:l:aps, accurding l1 sie saures, Itie fewisi leibes were wuepyy abvu. the new balance of pcwer Fe created after mcdiatine hetween the ty’s tribrsand elans i, who Far bean elg aged izn a l:g eEnlici priur ir bis arival Samr hisrarians a’natrib:te thr Pws losriliny ewar:l Murnad tate veliyiou: dille:ences Lelween l:e. The fews dic not accep: dat Lie he prophet was rat Jevh, Muhamnad, for his part. develnaed a moe negative juxsitiari kenward ih: peapli: sf thi: Juak (Cluistiurs and Jews wtie had sCr.pIuree) ater the Lra. Arxurding o nanıy NaureN, InTkers ul’Metina’s Jewislı ulalis alallelkill Muhammad nore :hen once M:h:mnad expelled twe reish :lans fr:m thi riry, Amid hi: Hartle of Trerch lewr. te Muslns and th: Quayslı Mea, ad elles Uue Jerisl. Bauu Quravzah clan ibetrayed an naremeat wnth the Muslirıs andi sided with he (Juraysh. Maslims in Mdina lil:l the Ir:ale rribarx af the lan ad eusleved lue wenen aut chldren Tlis went don in histors as a pardenlarly cort’eversi:lincident. While n Mudiua, Mulianuat gaged in condnucus cortict w.h the Quraysh.Mecca, markec te a serles c three bottles, until hia hano town ceerilr:aly f:ll o lhe Muslins ir 30. lullowing Meccaus viula.iuu al ule blateral tueaty e lucaylaiyali. By Uhe tme Mutamnad died in 632, the Muslhms conralIrr all af tha Hijnx, the ngina hat rales up inast of thu: wesleii par. ul adern-dey Saudi Arabia. Hillrwing hia dart, four of Muliaitud’s eaily arnga:ians sus.eeded lin i raling u.e Muslin cornnunty, which would condaue to cxpanc to inclni: Iraq. Syria, kypt. Palsrine. an, Ayhanisran and men. Thes sucsIIN vere gven th: tille ul caliylı. During u.e reiyus ol lue liiuc and tourct. callphs, dleagree:nents hraks ant among the M1slin leaders, rsulting in civi warardrhe einergane al the Shiu Muslin sect us I:tiet lio. Lie ual sect Te lis day. ShEtes condue to play mator religrons and pa’irica oles in the Muslin warli, deupita being in rh: iri:orily. The Islamic Doctrine S:holars gree an a Tumber af kry Tu:ndarnenals tl:al dacterize (slari. Tlie; el.de, hut are at Juitet. w. Le tollowing. Alurabaunic Tradiliun Mushns belevo tha Muhammad is Cds messenger, the last ir a sers of pruplats Gud xenl lu xipile.e or ‘eal proptets that p:receded him, such as ahraham, Mnsos. 1Awd and Jests. M:1st holars akree t’at klun rlongs wili, Uue Judec-Clcistia.i, Alalani T’acition
Muslims hwever. clain thar uny rejesion al Mulanais puplethard alid teachinga en :lie pari of Jewi e.1 Christans 1: che to ‘d1sccrtlons’ that aralated n the Chrisian and Jewist tradiriars Ver tiru. Ihe thru: reliviars bavE ILITIeraus kuy ccepis iti comnor, euch as moneclieista, the impertance oť glete charty to the poar, hodly YPSIYraon afrer death. th: last juriganr, heaven. hel and Sulai. T’atvhid: God’s Oneness Many satu:lars bave piripain.ed lawhid as de acst ngc:lait concept le: Musliris Musl’ms are reouired te arkncelodgr Cads ancirs as the only Cind (al ilat in Arakie), which is why Ihie:e are Mrabic-speaking Caristia:s whic call Goc. Allalı as well). Allali I: lie geztest, to whcY. AL the sirtaous traita areattrib:tod n taerutnrst, ahac’ute form: he is the ruosr rurcifi:l, ninst ererous and the must just. Al’ah hos no wife ar affspring. H and carly le ray bu: woslipp:l. Isla:n stric.ly rejects all larnis ul puly.lieist: and pagarism. Ts partieularly dstnershec tharmad’s nessage when t: srarta praarting in Ma leca us: lhe Quraysti alrealy lelievH: iu Gud, bul itiey wuslipped lin rough icleli. Sulbeequendy, Mualiras be ters that thore 1s no re imons a:fhorty feg a clargy) herwaar ini iviin.ls ani Grd. The Koran Tn a puxeli: la ng nge au! liurary sy!, itie Kuan Lells sturies ul Lie past ed nakes vows about the future, addessing tahammad and M:ims at rir:sand umankind ar rher times. I. also lays aul nanbar al ruling: or lww Muslius slwuld Lve l.ei: Lves and organize ter comnuty, and it descr bes lied’s treies, such as rerry. jr:srirr and pawar. There is a near consensis amons Mushns har rhe Karan is the weri af Ca:d, ti:liverl hrnagh reveletiurs that Mulhaitu:ad reeived via Gabriel. Many coservers lave noted tlist almest all Mustms around the woOrld agree on thr aurtantiriry ofhr Koan, desptr thr:r diierar:xH and lisagrecinents en XL:ares ul issues, balh minur and :major, alid despite heu divisions across sects and proups Mauy Listoria:is leve ulu ayeed au the Koran’s auLientici:ş as a hrcrical Scree on Muharnmac’s life. eren it thr; find i unsctisacrery on its wn antl in rl af supplenemary LIKEN. Maulyc:leny Wa.t descriles Ue Ke:a as ‘conterap0Ary and aadhentie as a primary scvee for the tfe e M:hammad’, ven if ir is frigmantiry and ‘difficulı ka ierrel”. ‘Ihis cn rt: Kevans fragmentarien can he untintund in ht IN of tht lwaks divisiur: iuta 11: burali: (eliapters) lat were celected and organized accor’ding to Muhanac’s insnicriors, which is not hr sane cırder as t’e chapiteni verI! r::partedly Jevealed in him. ancther h’stcYIan, F.E. P’erers. NTote Ihers is alnosT univeral corarN Iha. Ihe Krn is uullienl:: thai the Leal ilial sauuls Jeue us js le product of or.e rnan Obvinusly. secularist and n-Muiiien Lterie who coasicer te Koraa authentic clo not see it as the word of ind, as Mslims do; rathr”, thry corside: ir as a ered E: sour: fur wtiat Muliarnnad xaid during his Ele. httrs:tanack.com.re.irons-Ln-the -riddle-cast-ani-ncrth-airicacan SEliast.