The Origins of Islam

Islam is a one of the world’s major monotheistic religions. It began in the early 7th century. Islam comes from the word “al-silm” and “istaslama” which means peace and surrender. The god in Islam is referred to as Allah, which in Arabic means “the god” or “the deity”. A person who is believe and practices the religion of Islam is called a Muslim. It’ founder was the Prophet Muhammad. 

Muhammad lived from 570-632. He was born in Mecca into a middle class family in a powerful tribe of nomadic herders and successful merchants. His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was only six years old. He was raised by an adopted family into his adult life. Muhammad worked as a merchant for several years on the trade routes between Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. He met a wealthy widow named Khadija who hired him to protect her caravans on the trade routes and they eventually married.

When Muhammad was 40 years old he began hearing voices and seeing visions of divine angels. To better understand these visions he would go to Mount Hira and meditate. On one such journey in 610, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that there was only one god, Allah, and he had chosen him as a prophet. Muhammad believed he was the last and greatest in a series of prophets along with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

Muhammad would continue to have these revelations and began preaching his message. He soon gained many followers however, his belief in only one god upset the people who worshiped many gods. They were afraid that Muhammad’s teachings would upset the pagan gods that protected their trade.

In 622, Muhammad, his family, and his followers became persecuted for their beliefs and had to flee Mecca. The flight from Mecca to Medina is called the Hijra. They were welcomed into the city of Medina and were able to freely practice their religion. There the first mosque was built and he and his followers would pray towards Mecca.

At this time the pagans in Mecca tried to go to war with the Muslims in Medina. After several battles the Muslims defeated the pagans, and in 629 Muhammad returned to Mecca with 1500 converts and took control of the city. Over the next 2 years most of the Arabian Peninsula converted to Islam. Muhammad died in 632 as the effective leader of Islam and ruler of Southern Arabia.