Today we write on the historical content of the origins formation, and expansion on one of the world’s oldest religions – Origins of Islam
This will be a two-part series and the next article will have information about the recent developments in the Islamic community
The Arabs call the pre-Islamic period of their history the jahiliyyah – the Age of Ignorance. Not much is known about the early religious beliefs of Arabs, They worshipped many deities, among them Allah Tallah, the name by which they still address the Almighty.
The religion of Islam, founded by Muhammad in Arabia in the seventh century CE, is the third major Semitic Faith after Judaism and Christianity. It accepts the Prophets of the Jews Christ but states that Muhammad is the Final Messenger of God.
Muhammad was born in Mecca in CE 570, in the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe. An orphan, he was raised by his relatives. He accompanied his uncle on trading journeys to Syria and himself assumed charge of the merchandise of a rich widow, Khadijah, whom he subsequently married.
Muhammad had his first vision around CE 610, when he heard a voice telling him, “You are the Messenger of God”. He perceived several such messaged. His teachings were perceived as critical of the idolatrous practices in Mecca and opposition to him grew among the Quraysh.
The small Muslim community got a reprieve when some residents of Medina (280 miles north of Mecca) accepted his teachings. His followers in Mecca then began to migrate secretly to Medina. Informed of Quraysh plans to slay him, Muhammad himself reached Medina by a circuitous route in CE 622. This migration is known as the hijra and the Muslim calendar commences from this year.
While at Medina, Muhammad organised razias(raids) on Meccan caravans en route to Syria. These led to battles with the Quraysh in CE 624-627. In each instance, military success was followed by attacks on the Jews and Christians of Medina, who were charged with falsifying the scriptures to conceal prophecies of Muhammad’s advent.
In CE 630, Muhammad made a triumphal entry into Mecca. He circumambulated Kaaba seven times( an ancient ritual) and ordered the removal of all the 360 idols(in the pre-Islamic era, the Kabba housed many idols and holy stones, popularly numbered at 360, which were worshipped by the Arabs) barring one, known as the Black Stone installed here. The people of Mecca submitted to Muhammad, and gradually the various tribes of Arabia acknowledged his spiritual and temporal supremacy.
The New Community: Origins of Islam
The polity that Muhammad created was based on the twin concepts of ummah (the Muslim community of believers) and jihad. It had a religious basis and all its members had to be Muslims. The ummah has remained a potent reality throughout Muslim history. There has been no occasion when ideas and movements originating in one area have not resonated in the rest of the Islamic world.
Islam incorporated the reversed symbols of the Arabs and distanced symbols of the Arabs and distanced itself from Judaism and Christianity, the two religions it had to contend with in its homeland. As a part of this process, Friday was substituted for Sabbath azaan(call to prayer) for trumpets and gongs, and the direction of prayer changed from Jerusalem to Mecca.
The ancient practice of pilgrimage to Kaaba was integrated into the Islamic rituals. Origins of Islam was the first attempt in Arab history at a social formation based on religious rather, therefore, viewed it as a manifestation of Arab nationalism.
The Quran – Muslim regard the Quran the true word of God of revealed to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel over a period of 20 years. The authoritative text of the Quran was prepared around CE 650 on the basis the revelations that many Muslims had learnt by heart and others had written down. The Quran consists of 114 chapters(Surahs), the first chapter, called the Fatihah, is short prayer. Muslims regard the Quran as the final authority on all religions about legal matters.
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