What Are the Origins of Islam?
Approximately 500 million people, about one-seventh of the world’s population, are Moslems. The founder of the religion is Mohammed, who, according to Moslems, was the greatest of all the prophets.
Mohammed was born in a.d. 570 in Mecca. His early years were relatively uneventful as a manager of camel caravans and a keeper of his wife’s estate. However, one evening in a cave on Mt. Hira, where he often went to pray, he is said to have heard a loud voice telling him to “read.”
Protesting that he could not read, he heard the voice command him again. He was then shown a scroll on which words were emblazoned with fire. Although he had never previously read a word, Mohammed miraculously read the scroll.
He left the cave fearing that he had gone mad, but he heard the voice again. Looking up, Mohammed saw in human form the angel Gabriel, who said to him, “Oh Mohammed! You are Allah’s messenger, and I am Gabriel.”
This did not yet convince him, the story goes. Later he received another call, which he obeyed. His mission as an apostle of God was to proclaim to his idolatrous people a pure monotheism.
At the outset, his message met with great resistance, which included persecution and exile from his own people. He claimed to receive further revelations from Allah, which proclaimed himself as successor of the prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Mohammed eventually viewed himself as the final messenger Allah would send to the world, making him the prophet.
In a.d. 622, a group of 150 Moslems left Mecca secretly for the town of Yathrib. Mohammed journeyed to Yathrib later that year, on September 20, the date which begins the Moslem calendar. The city was later renamed Medina in honor of Mohammed’s eight-year residence there.
At sixty years of age, Mohammed and his army marched upon Mecca in an attempt to claim this as the Holy City of Islam, eventually conquering it against overwhelming odds. Two years later the prophet of Allah died.
The pattern had been set for the followers of Mohammed. The enemies of Allah must be overthrown. Islam quickly spread beyond the Arabian borders, capturing Jerusalem by a.d. 636.
By 715, the empire had spread from the Chinese frontier westward to the Atlantic Ocean. Thus Islam began its quest to follow the principles of Allah, and has subsequently grown into one of the world’s major religions.
This is an excerpt from Answers to Tough Questions.
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