Following the Abrahamic belief system, we finally arrive at Islam. Among all the major religions in the world today, Islam is the most recent one, and yet, it comprises of around one quarter of the total world population. This tells us how quickly Islam has grown. Let’s take a look at the history of Islam.
Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was born in the year 570 in the Quraysh tribe in Mecca (present day Saudi Arabia). Orphaned at an early age, Muhammad was under the care of – first his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib and then his uncle Abu Talib.
Muhammad travelled frequently with his uncle and it was during one of those travels he met a Christian monk named Bahira who would teach him about the Abrahamic tradition and who also foresaw a prophet in Muhammad. It was considered to be a sign. Another sign was that Muhammad was chosen to return The Black Stone, a sacred object, to its place in Kaaba.
Soon, Muhammad became a well-known merchant in the present day Syria. In the year 595, he married Khadijah, a 40 year old widow. Soon, they had kids too, and the life was going good. Until the year 610 arrived. It was in 610, in a cave called Hira, where Muhammad often prayed alone, angel Gabriel appeared to him and the Quranic revelation began. And thus Islam was born.
It is worth noting that Mecca at that time was a place where many gods were worshipped. Not only Christianity and Judaism were present there, but the fact that there were a number of deities and idols were worshipped, meant that Muhammad was going to face a strong opposition. Many slaves had adopted Islam, and they stood up for it and even died for it. In 622, Muhammad, along with his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina. The journey is known as Hijrah.
At this point, there happens something which would not only determine the future of Muslims in 7th century but also bring a new order in the world. It was the merger of religion and politics. Back in Mecca, where the emigrated Muslims’ houses were seized by Meccans, a war would soon break out. Muhammad no longer remained only a religious leader but also became a military commander. This is where the conquest of Islam begins and does not stop until now. However, there is an important distinction. Muhammad’s conquests were only to seize his own homeland and provide justice. But then again, this remains open to debate.
After the death of Muhammad in 632, Islam got divided into Shia and Sunni. Sunni Islam, which is considered as the orthodox branch, believes in the leadership of Abu Bakr, who was Muhammad’s father-in-law and became the first Caliph. Shia Muslims believe that the leadership should have been passed directly to Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law instead of Abu Bakr. Throughout history, Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected Muslim leaders, choosing instead to follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or God Himself.
And last, but not the least, the five pillars of Islam (which have slight variations in terms of practice between Shia and Sunni Muslims):
Books on Islam: