Islam begins with a man named Mohammad. He was born in 570 AD in Mecca and lost both of his parents at a very young age. Mohammad was taken on a trip to Syria as a young boy. It was during this trip that a Christian monk proclaimed Mohammad as the last prophet and warned him of the Jewish people.
Mohammed married a 40 year old wealthy woman when he was 25. He continued to interact with Arabs during his trading caravans. At this time, Arabs held some Christian and some Jewish beliefs, but spent time in Mecca meditating and praying. When Mohammed reached the age of 40 he experienced his first vision. The year was 610 AD and he was in a cave. Believing he had been possessed, he shared his experience with his wife and was comforted by her uncle, who explained the vision had been delivered from God. This man declared Mohammed a prophet and within a short time, Mohammed’s wife converted to Islam. The tenets of the faith proclaimed Allah the one true God and rejected idol worship.
The teachings of Islam are in the book the Quran. Muslims believe Allah revealed the world of God to Mohammed through an angel, which led to
the writing of the book. It was originally only a spoken story composed of several parts. These parts eventually became chapters in the Quran and included the Surahs. These were revelations given to Mohammed over 23 years. The book also includes the history of Mohammed traveling to Medina, the times of Jihad, and the final two years of Mohammed’s life.
Initially, Muslims were not accepted and had to make a Hejira. The small group of 150 Muslims moved from Mecca to Medina. When Mecca heard of this, they attempted to kill Mohammed, but he escaped successfully. The Arab tribes of Medina accepted Mohammad and Islam. However, the Jewish tribes in the area rejected Mohammed. It was during this time Jihad was created. Muslims in Medina needed work and turned to robbing caravans on their way to Mecca. When this method of survival began to fail, Muslims began building an army, but were defeated by the Jewish tribes. In 627, Jews from Mecca attacked Medina, and when the attack failed, the Muslims from Medina returned the effort and Mecca was surrendered.
Mohammed’s power grew in the coming years and Muslims continued to wage Jihad on the surrounding areas, forcing people to accept Islam. His final effort occurred in 632, three months prior to his death in June of that year.
Mohammad had several successors after his death called Caliphs. The second Caliph, Umar, led the Muslim armies into Jerusalem where they took control. Despite the accomplishment there was a great deal of splintering within the religion. The Shi’a Muslims accepted Ali, Mohammad’s son-in-law as the rightful Caliph, believing the previous three men to hold the title were not legitimate. The Sunnis also accept Ali, but refuse to accept his successors. Muslim armies continued their march forward, in spite of the infighting, and within a century of Mohammed’s death, they had advanced into France. This is where the conquering ended.
Today, some Muslims struggle with Western culture. Muslim Fundamentalists have a desire to return to the traditional Islamic culture and the ways of the Quran. Moderate Muslims have less difficulty with the world’s advancements than Fundamentalists do, which often leads to strife within the religion.