Mohammad was born into the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraish tribe. The Quraish tribe was a mercantile tribe that inhabited and controlled Mecca. Religiously speaking, the tribe was polytheistic. At one point, history tells us that the tribe sought to do Mohammad harm but he was protected by his uncle, Aby Talib. Mohammad’s father died before he was born and his mother died when he was just six years old. He was raised by his uncle, who was from the poor side of the family. Mohammad worked for his uncle as a shepherd but eventually learned commerce and quickly became a successful merchant, working for a wealthy widow named Khadijah. When Mohammad was 25 and Khadijah was 40, the two married in 595.

Mohammad’s business travels through Arabia and Syria brought him into contact with Christians and Jews. He took these opportunities to discuss religion with them. These groups included an economically powerful Jewish minority, a large number of Monophysites, Nestorians, and even orthodox Chalcedonians.[1] At this time there was a number of various native groups who were beginning to worship the “Creator-God alone.” They did this without embracing Judaism or Christianity. Mohammad, being dissatisfied with paganism was one of them. Mohammad begin to practice meditation when he was not on a trade journey. He would engage in meditation in a cave on Mount Hira, near Mecca. In as in this cave during one of his meditations in 610 that everything changed. According to Mohammad, the angel Gabriel appeared to him with the following message:

Read, in the name of your Lord, who has created all things;

Who has created man of congealed blood.

Read, by your most beneficent Lord,

Who taught the use of the pen;

Who teaches man that which he does not know. (Qur’an, sura 96)

Mohammad was terrified, returned from the experience and told his wife, Khadijah what had happened. Khadijah encouraged Mohammad to accept the revelation as genuinely from God, believing that God would not let such a good man as Mohammad was to be deceived. Mohammad did exactly this and began slowly to criticize the paganism and idolatry in Mecca. Mohammad’s view of God’s oneness as being one individual person led to his belief that the supreme sin was the claim that there was any god other than Allah. This, of course, was an outright contradiction of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Slowly, Islam began to take shape.

This was a mercantile tribe that controlled Mecca. Originally, this tribe rejected Mohammad’s teachings until later, somewhere around 630 when it began to fully embrace his teachings. At the first, Mohammad’s condemnation of idolatry threatened the economic power enjoyed by many in Mecca. Mohammad was ridiculed by the pagans and some of his followers were beaten and even killed. Mohammad was safe as long as his uncle was alive because his uncle afforded him protection. But when Abu Talib died in 619, leadership of the clan passed to Abu Lahab who was no fan of Mohammad. It was also in this year that Mohammad’s wife died. It is known as the year of sorrow. Mohammad and his followers had to flee Mecca for their own safety. This happened in 622. After a number of battles, Mohammad was able to return to Mecca in 630 with 10,000 warriors. He won over the pagans by sparing their lives. Prior to this event, Arabia had was a smattering of independent nomadic tribes. Mohammad unified Arabia under his own leadership.

It should be noted that from the outset, Islam was a faith which spread its territory by the sword. After Mohammad’s death, the Muslim armies moved through the Byzantine Empire conquering, besieging and capturing as they went. They capture Damascus in 635 and Jerusalem in 637. By 641, Muslim armies had conquered much of Byzantium and had even taken Alexandria, Egypt. It wasn’t until the siege on Constantinople that the Muslim armies met their match. For five years the Muslims attempted to take the city. Finally, the Byzantine secret weapon, Greek fire, was used to repel the invaders. Greek fire was a chemical that, when mixed with water, would burn with great intensity. This, along with a crippling storm that destroyed most of the Muslim fleet brought the siege to an end. The Muslim armies continued their push for conquest, into Africa and up into Spain. Islam was truly a religion that owed its spread more to the use of the sword than to the message of a prophet.

Mohammad died in his wife, Aisha’s apartment. His death was uneventful. He fell under a fever and after several days, he died in 632. Aisha was Mohammad’s youngest wife. He married her when he was in his early fifties and she was 6 years old. She wrote that she was 9 years old when Mohammad consummated the marriage. Mohammad had accomplished a considerable feat in Arabia. He had unified the people and established a new religion that would compete with Christianity for being the largest religion in the world.

[1] Nicholas R. Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, newly revised ed. (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, U.K.: Christian Focus Publications Ltd, 2016), 18.