According to Muslims, Islam as a religion is the culmination of spiritual revelations that were brought into the world by the efforts of a number of prophets as foretold in the Judaic-Christian tradition. The original monotheistic religion of the world was restored by a glorious line of prophets including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, according to the followers of Islam. Prophet Muhammad was the final among these and preached the “true religion” among the faithful. On June 8, 632 CE, the prophet who had become one of the most influential men in the history of the world breathed his last in the city of Medina.
Muhammad was born in 570 CE in Mecca, in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Young Muhammad was soon orphaned and was taken up to be fostered by his uncle Abu Talib. He trained as a shepherd and as a merchant. Naturally pious, Muhammad was known to spend many nights in caves in prayer and isolation. At the age of 25, Muhammad married a wealthy widow and led the life of a trader for the next 15 years. In 610 CE, he is believed to have encountered the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) in a cave in Mount Hira, to the north of Mecca. Gabriel is thought to have become the medium for him to speak to God. Muhammad’s divine revelation left him convinced of his role as the prophet of the “true religion.”
Back in Mecca, Muhammad soon gathered a faithful following and he quickly became famous. His revelation in Hira was one of many others. The word of God was collected by Muhammad and his followers in the Qur’an. The Qur’an is the religious text which forms the very basis of Islam. Muhammad built upon the theology of the Judaic traditions and wove into the religion a number of doctrines that form the fabric of Islamic culture. Muhammad’s teachings started to unite people from across Arabia.
Muhammad’s growing influence started to seriously undermine the authority of the Meccan rulers who were worshippers of the pagan religion. In 622 CE, Muhammad and his followers fled to Medina to avoid persecution. In Medina, some 200 miles north of Mecca, Muhammad’s wisdom and influence grew manifold and he soon became one of the eminent political leaders. At Medina, he established a model state and quickly expanded the empire further than it had ever been. Muhammad set his heart on conquering Mecca and in 629 CE the city of his birth acknowledged his rule. Over the next few years, Muhammad set about uniting most of southern Arabia. His religious sway far outreached his political influence. His followers spread out across Persia, and Ethiopia and the Bedouin tribes took his words across geographies.
On June 8, 632, Muhammad died in the arms of Aishah, his third and favorite wife, in the city of Medina. Muhammad’s death did not stop the advance of Islam. Through the next century and half, Muhammad’s successors and other Muslim emperors built up a vast empire stretching from across northern India, Persia, through the Middle East right across to Europe. Islam is currently the second-largest religion in the world.
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