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Islam, began in Mecca, claimed to be the revelation of God (Allah) through the angel Gabriel to a man named Muhammad. Muhammad was born in approximately AD 570-571. He was born to the powerful tribe of the Quraish in Mekkah (Mecca). His father's name was Abdullah. His mother's name was Aminah.
Apparently Abdullah was a merchant who made caravan trips. He died on a trading trip soon after his marriage to Aminah, leaving Muhammad fatherless at birth. Aminah, his mother, died when he was only six years old. Muhammad was taken in by his grandfather, only to have him die when Muhammad was eight years old. At this time, his uncle, Abu Talib, one of the leaders of the Quraish tribe took him in and raised him.
Muhammad was taught the family business and apparently quite successful. A wealthy widow named Khadijah arranged for Muhammad to oversee her trading business, and was so impressed with his skill and appearance that she proposed marriage to him. Muhammad was twenty-five and Khadijah was forty when they married. They had six children, two boys and four girls. Both of the sons died early in life. The daughters lived to see Muhammad become the founder of Islam.
Having married the wealthy Khadijah, Muhammad now became a gentleman of leisure and somewhat of a philosopher. He would retreat from society, take trips into the desert and mountains. He would spend his hours in meditation, greatly concerned about the condition of the civilization he saw around himself. He had a personal mission to find "truth." One of his frequent places of seclusion was a cave on Mount Nur. It was while in this cave, during the month of the Ramadan, a pagan festival, that he received his first visitation from Gabriel and recited the verses found in Qur'an 96:1-5.
At first, Muhammad shared his new revelations with only his family and close friends. During the next three years the message of Muhammad quietly spread among the people of Mekkah, especially among the youth. Then Muhammad is believed to have received instructions from Allah to go public with his message and openly condemn the paganism and idolatry of Mekkah. This open condemnation of idolatry became an economic threat to the prosperity of Mekkah, and as a consequence, organized opposition to Muhammad and Islam began. At this point, Islam was politically weak, and many Muslims died for their faith.
Persecutions became so great that many Muslims fled to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) for refuge. When Mekkan delegates tried to extradite them, after hearing the Muslim's defense, the ruler refused their extradition on the basis that his faith was similar to theirs, and he could not allow them to be harmed.
Muhammad continued to proclaim his message, and his following slowly grew. At one point, in 621, a group of delegates from Madinah (Medina) responded to his call and made a covenant with Muhammad and declared themselves to be Muslims.
A year later, in 622, some seventy people from Madinah made a similar declaration and pledged to fight to protect Muhammad against any and all odds. This pledge or covenant from some who were leaders of Madinah was a turning point for Islam
It provided Muslims with a secure base of operations and allowed them to expand from it. Muhammad commanded the Muslims in Mekkah to migrate to Madinah. After some struggle, Medina was declared to be wholly a Muslim community. For thirteen years, Muhammad had preached in Mekkah with minimal success. He had followed a quiet, non-political approach and merely preached. Now, however, his tactics changed. He established himself as religious, political, and military leader. Under his guidance, the community of believers became more important than family or tribe. Islam began to be spread through intimidation and force. Entire tribes and cities were "converted" under threat of war or by conquest. Success led to greater success. Inthe year 630, eight years after he had been forced to leave Mekkah, Muhammad returned with such an overwhelming force that the Mekkans made no resistance. Muhammad's forces destroyed all the idols of Mekkah, and declared the Kabah to be the place of worship for Allah.
With the subjugation of Mekkah, Islam became the power on the Arabian peninsula Tribe after tribe, city after city declared allegiance to Islam and it's prophet. They were given no choice. Muhammad returned to Madinah and continued to rule his kingdom from there. Muhammad died in 632 at the age of sixty-three. In twenty-three years he established a religion and social order that is still dominant in the Arab world today.
With Muhammad's death, Islam continued to flourish under the leadership of Muhammad's companions. The first Caliph (successor to the prophet - Kalifah) was his father in law and long time friend, Abu Bakr. In his two years of leadership, Abu Bakr consolidated Islamic influence over the entire Arabian peninsula.
The second caliph was Umar. He was in power from 634 to 644. Under Umar, Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia were added to the growing list of Islamic subjects. Others followed, continually expanding the borders of Islam. Under the leadership of the Kalifahs, Islam spread into Europe, Africa, and Asia. The caliphate lasted centuries, shifting from one dynasty to another, but always claiming the religious right to lead. Eventually the caliphate evolved into the Ottomon Empire which lasted until the early 20th century.
Islam spread as a social system, a political system, and a religious system and it was spread by force of arms. That was its philosophy in the beginning, and it is still the philosophy of Islam today.
Today Islam is one of the world's dominant religions, and claims as much as one fifth of the world's population.
Islam claims to be a united religion with no divisions; however, one does not have to be an astute observer to realize that Islam is, in reality, fragmented into many different branches, some of which are militantly hostile to each other. There is no unity among Muslims as they would have us believe. Two prominent groups, the Shiites and Sunnites had their origins around 660 over who was the legitimate caliph. Other sects followed.
With the end of the colonial system, Islamic states were given their autonomy again. With the wealth from petro-dollars, Islam as a religion is being successfully spread over the world. Islam is one of the greatest opponents in existence to the gospel of Christ today, and is one of the fastest growing religions in the world.