Islam is one of the major religions, the second biggest religion in the world behind Christianity. For one to understand Islam you must first know what Islam means. According to Carole Hillenbrand a professor of Islamic History says that Islam is “Surrendering to God in accordance with the message of the Qur’an” (introduction Islam). Islam is named after the submission to the will of their God (Allah). Islam is not named after their founder like Christianity is named after Jesus Christ or how Judaism is named after the tribe of Judah. Islam is the name of the religion that Muslims follow. Muslims are people who practice religion just like Christians are people who practice Christianity, but the word Muslim.
However, Muslims follow a different prophet than Christianity, “Muhammed is the prophet of Islam the “Seal of the Prophets”, chosen by God to bring His final message to humanity” (Introduction Islam). Islam believes that Muhammed came from a long line of prophets dating back to Abraham, when he is called the “Seal of the Prophet” they are referring to him being the last in the line of prophets. Every Muslim is taught to believe in him the same way Christianity teaches its children about Jesus. However, Muhammed has a different story than Jesus, Muhammed was a leader of men, a legislator, and a military commander. This essay will go over Muhammad’s life, his teachings, military agenda, and how he was a vehicle for a new monotheistic religion.
Before Islam was spread to the Arabia, it was cut off from the monotheistic religions like the Jews and Christians, Arabs believed in Pagan gods and idols. Muhammed started preaching the message of one God to his fellow Arabs, which resulted in the start of Muhammad’s journey to spread Islam. Muhammed stated his preaching’s after angel Gabriel came to him in a cave named Hira and gave him a revelation sent by God. Which marked the first versus in the Qur’anic revelation. “Islam is taught through the Qur’an; the Qur’an is the word of Allah revealed to the Prophet through revelations from the angel Gabriel” (Introduction Islam).
Unlike the Bible, which is long and contains different authors, the Qur’an is short and is believed to only be written by a single author God. The Qur’an serves as a guide to Muslims, providing them with constant spiritual comfort, reassurance and advice. Islamic faith is structured around the Five Pillars of Islam which Muslims believe and how their faith and practices shape their daily lives. A central theme of Islam tis that one can see throughout Islam is Jihad, which means defensive struggle against external aggression.
However, through todays mainstream media you can see how to use of jihad has become negatively used, but to Muslims it refers efforts used for defending their religion. Jihad means so much to Islam because it is described as having two meanings, first the greater Jihad is one’s own struggle against itself and the second is the struggle to defend Islam. These themes are important through Islam because Muslims make great effort towards living their lives as Allah had instructed them to, and during the time of Muhammad he used war when he could not come to peace with people attacking him.
When talking about Muhammed you must first talk about the time period he was born into and geographical location. Scholars who talk about Arabia during the time separate it into two separate areas South Arabia (South west corner, which corresponds to modern day Yemen) which was fertile and enjoyed mass amounts of rainfall; while the North was filled with vast areas of dessert and littered with oases. South Arabia was heavily populated, towns consisting of political institutions art, and architecture. While the north was very different, people there were nomads known as the Bedouin.
The Bedouin lived a hard lives as camel herders or as sheep and goat breeders. The Arabs in the north had no form of centralized government. They believed in tribal organization that applied equally to everyone in the clan or tribe. Although each tribe did have a leader, whose duties involved defending the people, protecting its sacred figures, and settling disputes (Introduction Islam). The Bedouin lived as a militarized society, who would compete with other tribes for pastures or conduct raids into other nomad groups. They lived by an honor system the consisted of courage, endurance, and military skills. The honor code that the Bedouin lived by meant more significance to them than the “formal observance of religion” (Introduction Islam).
Muhammad’s is said to be born around the time period of 570 CE. He was born into the Banu Hashim, a small tribe apart of the leading Quraysh tribe. Muhammad was an orphan early on in his life, his father, ‘Abdallah, died two months before his birth and he lost his mother, Amina, when he was only age six. He was brought up by his grandfather ‘Abd al-Muttalib and then his uncle Abu Talib. As a young adult Muhammad became a merchant, in search for a rich widow named, Khadija, whom he marries. Muhammed and Khadija produce six children four daughters and two sons who died in infancy. As a young man Muhammad was given the title al-Amin (the trust worthy one) by his associates, where he was entrusted to settle disputes among the tribe and tribes. It was not until Muhammad was around the age of forty, he became genuinely
Bothered by the pagan environment of Mecca and its shrine and the greed that followed his fellow Meccans. He became so displeased about Mecca that he would go to meditate and concentrate on religious devotions in a cave called Hira on the Jabal al-Nur (Mountain of Light). This is where Allah sends his revelations to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. At first Muhammad did not know what to think of this he was burdened by self-doubt. But with the help of Khadija love and encouragement, he became more comfortable with the idea that he truly was being called by God as his messenger. He started preaching to his fellow Meccans about the first prophetic messages of the Qur’an, “emphasize the imminence of the Last Day and the urgent need for human beings to repent and turn to the One God before it is too late. At first this went unheard, but Muhammad keep preaching and little by little he had assembled a small group of followers who “Surrendered themselves to God” (this is the word meaning Muslim).
Muhammad’s preaching’s of one God became more pronounced, which threatened Meca’s way making large profits due to the pagan’s ceremonies, fairs, and pilgrimage activity around the Ka’ba shrine. To stop Muhammad’s preaching’s, the Meccans started persecuting the Muslims, they fled to Abyssina where they were protected by Christian ruler, the Negus. However, Muhammad stayed in Mecca and left his people under the watch of his uncle Abu Talib. The years following are hard on Muhammad, he loses his wife Khajia and his uncle Abu Talib. His tribe is taken over by another uncle of his Abu Lahab who beomes hostile towards Muhammad’ preaching’s, leaving him without tribal protection. It was not until people coming from Yathrib to perform religious rites in Mecca listened to Muhammad’s teachings, and accepted Islam. Muslims would then leave the city in small groups going to Yathrib. Muhammad was still being persecuted but waited two years before journeying to Yathrib himself. “The city is the re-named Madinat al-nabi the city of the prophet and known thereafter as Medina” (Introduction Islam).
Medina provide Muhammad with the opportunity to “preach freely, worship openly, and to create the Umma, the Umma are a theocratic Islamic Community” (Introduction Islam). Muhammad would use his excellent arbitrary skills to from the different elements from the Medinan society into one unified community. However, the prophets support became stronger, pushing him to realize the need for an exclusive Muslim community. Muhammad wanted to gain the acceptance of the Medinan Jews whom he wished to include in his community. Many of the versus that Muhammad was preaching were in the form of refutation to use against the false statements of his enemies. “Muhammad believed that his religion was the true faith of Abraham who through his son Isma’il, the ancestor of the Arabs, had established the Ka’ba at Mecca” (Introduction Islam). These beliefs are the reason he changed from praying towards Jeruselum, and pointing towards the Ka’ba at Mecca. In the goal to build a beautiful community from within.
While Muhammad was building his community he also had to consistently fend of Meccans, who threatened the very existence of the umma. These battles are shown through Islamic history, which became the “prototype of Jihad” (Introduction Islam). The first major victory between Muhammad and the Meccans, the battle of Badr in 624. The victory over the Meccans showed that Islam was the new faith that was watched over by God. Not trusting the Jews of Banu Qaynuqa, Muhammad attacked their forts forcing them to leave Medina and live with other Jewish settlements. Meccans wishing to avenge the death of their comrades at the battle of Badr, sent an army to Medina said to have three thousand men, under their command.
Muhammad would meet them outside of Medina where he would lose to the Mecans. This lose became a lesson for Muhammad as well as his followers, the lesson being that God did this in order to test everything inside of you and in order to prove what is in their hearts (Introduction Islam). The Jews who did not fight with Muhammad were forced to leave Medina and migrate to Khaybar and other Jewish settlements to the north. Relizing that Muhammad was not hurt in the last battle the Meccans together with the Jews of Khaybar raised a large army of around ten thousand men to attack Medina. Muhammad acted quickly and dug a deep trench around the areas of Medina that were unprotected.
With the trench there the enemy was not able to attack the city and the siege failed. After the battle Muhammad then declared war on the remaining Jews in Medina. This time Muhammad showed them no mercy, he executed all the men (around six hundred to nine hundred) and had the women and children enslaved. This was a turning point for Muhammad and the new Muslims community. With the Jews gone he was one step closer to creating a community of just Muslims. After Muhammad hear about Mecca’s gradually becoming more liked minded towards his teachings, he decided rather to use violence but to uses his exceptional legation skills allowing him to form alliances with the Meccans. After the Meccans broke the alliance, Muhammad sent an army to take over Mecca. The leaders came out and gave the city to Muhammad in parley was agreed for all Meccans who laid down their Arms. Muhammad enter his new city without struggle and removed all the pagan idols that were around the Ka’ba. His message was clear that monotheism was the only religion that reigned supreme.
Throughout Muhammad’s life you can see that he displayed courage, brilliance, and leadership. Muhammad was a lot of things a prophet, statesman, lawmaker, and a military leader. Muhammad saw himself as being charged with establishing a community that would spread Islam even after his death. For him to create this community he had to poses his wide range of skill. Through Islamic sacred history the prophet Muhammad is sometimes seen as a warrior. For Muhammad to have a valid reason for fighting the Meccans since he has blood times to the people, Allah reassured him by saying this is the only way forward. The Qur’an says “to block others from God’s path, to disbelieve in Him, prevent access to the sacred Mosque and expel its people, are still offences in God’s eye: persecution is worse than killing” (Introduction Islam). This means that persecution towards Islam means that Muslims have a just cause to fight against its oppressors.