The Islamic faith, from its origin to the present day, has always posed the greatest political and military threat, and the most awe-inspiring missionary challenge, to the followers of Jesus Christ. [Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, 16] The story of Islam begins with the story of Mohammad. One serious problem is that no biography of Mohammad was written until roughly 150 years after Mohammad’s death. [Needham] As Mohammad goes, so goes Islam.
Mohammad was born in the city of Mecca.Mecca is located in the Sirat Mountains in western Saudi Arabia. Entrance into Mecca is only extended to followers of Islam. Mecca was given to idolatry prior to Mohammad. His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was six. It fell to Mohammad’s uncle, Abu Talib, to raise him. Talib belonged to a branch of the family that was poor. Mohammad worked for his uncle as a lowly shepherd. Mohammad had been expelled from Mecca in 622, but upon his return and conquest of the city eight years later, he purged the city of idols and declared it a refuge for Islam. Ever since that time Mecca has been the most important city in all of Islam.
Prior to Mohammad, most Arabs were members of nomadic tribes, and believed in human excellence more than in any divine power. They were firm believers in Fate or Time, which they thought or, not as a being to be worshipped, but simply as ‘the course of events.’ [Partridge & Dowley, Introduction to World Religions, 388] There were Jewish and Christian communities in Medina. Mohammad was born around 570 and around 610 he came to believe that he was receiving divine revelations from God. Over the course of 23 years, these revelations were collected and eventually became known as the Qur’an. Mohammad began to assert that God was One (Allah). In a city of polytheists, this did not go over very well. Mohammad began to experience opposition.
In order to encourage his followers, Mohammad pointed to other prophets of God who had experienced opposition: Noah, Lot, and Moses. Each of them escaped from flood, destructive fire, and captivity. Mohammad used these stories to encourage his followers not to quite in the face of opposition. However, as the opposition grew, Mohammad eventually had to take his followers, about seventy men and their families, and emigrate to Medina. This emigration, known as the Hijrah, became the event that marked the beginning of the Islamic era, around 622.
It was in Medina that Islam began to take shape. The main ritual forms were worship, almsgiving, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Jewish clans in Medina reject Mohammad as a prophet as well as the Qur’an. Some even openly opposed the Muslims. As a result, Mohammad managed to expel two of the Jewish clans and killed the men of a third clan executed. Over the next eight years, Mohammad’s followers grew to the point that they were strong enough to conquer Mecca.
In order to channel the energies of the tribesmen, Mohammad continued the tradition of raiding expeditions. The goals was not just to provide a means of release, but it also included obtaining of booty. These raids eventually became military expeditions and were dignified with the title, jihad, ‘holy war.’ The foundations for Islam had firmly been laid.
Click the link below for a detailed documentary on the history of Islam.