The Life and Teachings of Muhammad
ESSENTIAL QUESTION 1 Why did Muhammad spread Islam?
Muhammad was born into a powerful Meccan family around A.D. 570. But he was orphaned as a child and had to work in the caravan trade. At age 25, he married a wealthy businesswoman. Eventually, Muhammad prospered as a merchant.
Muhammad the Prophet
At about the age of 40, Muhammad’s life abruptly changed. One day when meditating, he later taught, a voice called out to him, “You are the Messenger of God.” Muhammad believed that God spoke to him through the angel Gabriel. He then began preaching that there is only one God (named Allah) and that all other gods must be rejected. People who believed in this basic principle of Islam were called Muslims. In Arabic, Islam means “peace through submission to the will of God.” A Muslim is one who believes in Islam.
Muhammad Begins Preaching
Muhammad had little success at first. In fact, Meccans persecuted the early Muslims. In 622, he left Mecca with supporters to Yathrib, more than 200 miles to the north. This migration is called the Hijrah. Muhammad’s followers renamed the town Medina. It means “city of the Prophet.” In Medina, Muhammad’s teachings won many converts to Islam. People found his simple message to obey the will of Allah appealing. They also were attracted to Muhammad’s strength as a leader.
Meccans continued to fight against Muhammad and his followers. There were several battles. In 630, Muhammad and 10,000 Muslims returned to Mecca. They forced the city to surrender. Muhammad then forgave the Meccans and went to the Ka’aba. There, he dedicated the shrine to Allah.
Muhammad was a religious leader, but also a political and military leader. Muhammad ruled Medina and united his followers with other Arabs, Jews, and Christians. He made treaties of alliance with nomadic tribes in the peninsula, which helped Islam to find acceptance and be spread during his lifetime. He used his military skills to defend Medina against attacks. By the time of his death in 632, Muhammad had unified much of the Arabian peninsula under Islam.
ESSENTIAL QUESTION 1 Why did Muhammad spread Islam? He was told by the angel that he was the Messenger of God.
Islamic Beliefs, Practices, and Law
ESSENTIAL QUESTION 2 How do the teachings of Islam provide laws and guidelines for religious practice and everyday life?
Muslims find guidance on how to live their lives in two primary sources of authority.
The Qur’an and the Sunnah
The main teaching of Islam is that there is only one God, Allah. Muslims believe God revealed his words through the angel Gabriel, who passed them on to Muhammad. While Muhammad lived, his followers listened to his teachings. They also memorized and recited the revelations, which formed the scripture called the Qur’an. After Muhammad’s death, his followers collected the Qur’an into a written book in Arabic. It is the Muslim holy book.
Muslims believe that Muhammad’s mission as a prophet was not only to receive the Qur’an but also to show how to apply its teachings to everyday life. To them, the Sunnah, or Muhammad’s words and deeds, are guides for proper living.
Legal thinkers later organized the guidelines of the Qur’an and Sunnah into a system of law. This body of law is used by Muslim communities to decide legal matters. These include rules for inheritance and punishment for criminals.
Muslim Daily Life
Muslims try to connect their personal and religious lives. They live their religion and serve their community by following the Five Pillars of Islam. These are the five duties all Muslims must perform to demonstrate their submission to the will of God. (See chart below.)
Other Islamic customs and laws also affect the daily lives of Muslims. Believers are forbidden to eat pork or to drink alcoholic beverages. Friday afternoons are set aside for community worship and prayer. Those who are able gather at a mosque, a building used for Muslim worship. All mosques face Mecca so that Muslims pray in the proper direction.
ESSENTIAL QUESTION 2 How do the teachings of Islam provide laws and guidelines for religious practice and everyday life? Muslims believe that the Qur'an and the are the guides for their lives.
Connections to Judaism and Christianity
ESSENTIAL QUESTION 3 What are the connections between Islam and Judaism and Christianity?
Muslims trace the beginnings of their religion to Abraham. They believe he was a prophet of God, as do Jews and Christians. To Muslims, Allah is the same God that is worshiped by Christians and Jews. However, Muslims view Jesus as a prophet, not as the son of God as Christians do.
People of the Book
Muslims called both Christians and Jews “people of the book” because their religions have holy books with teachings similar to the Qur’an’s. Muslims believe the Qur’an is the word of God as revealed to Muhammad. Jews and Christians also believe that God’s word is revealed in their holy books. But Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the final book. They also think that Muhammad is the last prophet. Followers of all three religions believe in heaven, hell, and a final judgment day.
Muslim law requires that Muslim leaders offer religious toleration to non-Muslims, though non-Muslims have restricted rights and must pay extra taxes. This policy of toleration of non-Muslims would play an important role in the expansion of the Muslim Empire under Muhammad’s successors.
ESSENTIAL QUESTION 3 What are the connections between Islam and Judaism and Christianity?Muslims believe that is the same God worshiped by Christians and Jews.