History of Islam
Islam has a rich and elaborate history that spans several thousand years and touches each and every continent. It is the duty of all people to learn about the past while acquiring knowledge throughout life. The overview of Islamic history presented here is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather to give you a starting point for further research.
The Prophet Muhammad (saw)
Hundreds of biographies exist on the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). Here is a snapshot of his (saw) life followed by links to other, more exhaustive works.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) was born in 569CE in Mecca. He is a direct descendant of Isma'il (as), the first son of Prophet Ibrahim (as) (Al-Baqara, 2:129). His mother and father had passed away by the time he was eight years old. Muhammad (saw) was an orphan. His uncle, Abu-Talib (ra), took him and watched over him. By the time he was in his mid twenties, a rich widow named Khadija (ra) employed him as a merchant. She did this in part because of his reputation as a hard worker and his reputation as being trustworthy. Soon after, they married.
In 605CE, the draperies on the outer wall of the Ka'aba caught fire. After severe rain, the building needed repair. A black stone had been placed in the spot where the ritual of circumambulation began. This stone had been a marker since Abraham's (as) time. After renovations were finished, the stone needed to be placed back in the proper spot. A feud broke out among the tribes as they fought over who would get the honor of replacing the artifact. Instead of resorting to violence, the group agreed to arbitration. By chance, Muhammad (saw) , known as Al-Amim -- the honest -- was present and was selected as the arbitrator. Muhammad (saw) placed a sheet of cloth on the ground, put the stone on it, and asked leaders of each tribe to lift the cloth together. Then he himself (saw) placed the stone in its proper place.
This event marked the traditional beginning of Muhammad's (saw) spiritual excursions into the Mountain of Light (Jabal-an-Nur). He would spend his time there in prayer and meditation. At this time, the Prophet (saw) also began to receive Wahy -- or inspirations -- from ALLAH Subhana Wa Ta'ala through dreams.
He was forty years old when the Angel Jibril brought to him the first revelation. It came toward the end of Ramadan:
Proclaim! In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created- Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful, -He Who taught (the use of) the pen, -Taught man that which he knew not. [Al-Alaq, 96:1-5]
The Prophet (saw) first told his wife Khadija (ra) about the Revelation. Soon after, he began telling friends and family. It was not long before the Message of Islam began to reach all corners of the city. He taught that there was One God, that we are all resurrected, and in the Day of Judgment.
He took necessary steps (see History of Quran) to preserve through writing the Revelations he was receiving. On Jibril's command, he ordered the Muslims to learn each Revelation by heart.
As the early Muslims were being persecuted by the pagans, the Prophet (saw) was granted mi'raj (or ascension), where he was given the details of Salaat. News of this event further enraged the pagans. The migration to Medina followed. This important event marks the start of the Islamic Calendar: The Hijrah, 622CE.
The Prophet (saw) went to work organizing the new community of believers in Medina. The City-State of Medina was established with representatives that included Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others. The first constitution in the world was created which defined the rights and duties of all citizens. Private justice was abolished in place of community justice. Social insurance was established, called ma'aqil. Equality among the Jews, Christians, and Muslims was ensured. Fasting during the month of Ramadan was also made a foundation of Islam during these years.
The pagan Meccans, feeling the pressure of Islam closing in around them, attacked the City-State of Medina in 624CE. Outnumbered three-to-one, the Muslims at Badr were victorious. A year later, they tried again, this time outnumbering the Muslims four-to-one. Again, they were turned away.
While at Medina, alcoholic drinks, gambling and games of chance were at this time declared forbidden for the Muslims.
Peace was finally struck with the Meccans. Soon the Prophet (saw) sent letters to the leaders of Byzantium, Iran, Abyssinia and other lands. In one case, a Byzantine autocrat priest was lynched at the hands of the local Christians because he embraced Islam. In another case, the prefect of Palestine was crucified by order of the emperor after he embraced Islam. Sensing weakness, the pagan Meccans broke the terms of their peace accord. Muhammad (saw), weary with fighting, launched an offensive on Mecca. With more than ten thousand supporters, Muhammad (saw) took Mecca for good without a single drop of bloodshed. Upon entering Mecca, the Prophet (saw) asked,
Now what do you expect of me? After a period of silence, the Prophet proclaimed,
May God pardon you; go in peace; there shall be no responsibility on you today; you are free
The mercy and bounty that Muhammad (saw) showed the Meccans had a profound psychological effect on them. It was not long (some reports say only a few hours) before the entire population of Mecca embraced Islam.
For the next several years, pagan tribes continued to convert to Islam. It is reported that less than 500 lives were lost (on both sides) during dozens of battles between the believers and nonbelievers. The early Muslims showed great restraint and mercy as the entire Arabian Peninsula became home to Islam. Anarchy and immorality were replaced with justice and ethics. Idol-worship and superstition was replaced with the Word of God. Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian groups were allowed to worship and given autonomy.
Ten years after the claiming of Mecca, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had participated in Hajj. At this particular pilgrimage, it is reported that the Prophet Muhammad (saw)addressed the pilgrims:
"Belief in One God without images or symbols, equality of all the Believers without distinction of race or class, the superiority of individuals being based solely on piety; sanctity of life, property and honor; abolition of interest, and of vendettas and private justice; better treatment of women; obligatory inheritance and distribution of the property of deceased persons among near relatives of both sexes, and removal of the possibility of the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few."
After that Hajj, the Prophet (saw) became ill. He died knowing that Islam was growing and that his work had been well accomplished.
Further details about the Prophet (saw) can be found throughout this web site. We as Muslims, look for guidance and clarity from his Sunnah.RSS feed.