Islam has a rich and complex history. It is important for Muslims to know the history surrounding Islam, which is why we’ve put together this article which covers the very beginning of Islam and how the religion was spread far and wide by the Prophets sharing the teachings of Allah (SWT).
When Was Islam Founded?
One of the most commonly asked questions about the history of Islam is ‘when did Islam begin?’. Its origins can be traced back to 610 A.D. which is when the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) first saw the Angel Jibril and shared the words of Allah (SWT).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born in 570 A.D. in Mecca, Arabia. His parents were Abdullah ibn Abd al-Muttalib and Amina bint Wahb. He had 13 wives, two of whom bore him children. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is considered to be the last of the 25 prophets Allah (SWT) selected to spread His teachings.
In 610 A.D., Muhammad (PBUH) and his first wife, Khadija, lived in Mecca which was ruled by the Quraysh. Khadija was a wealthy widow who held a considerable amount of influence in the city of Mecca, which was a very successful trading area. The city was in control of major trade routes that stretched from Arabia to Syria and Yemen. At the time, it was common for people living across the Arabian Peninsula to be polytheistic and to believe in several different Gods who they thought protected their prosperous trade.
Muhammad (PBUH) frequented a cave in Mount Hira to meditate in an attempt to seek clarity after he started hearing voices and having visions.
On one occasion, when Muhammad (PBUH) was in his cave meditating, the Angel Jibril descended upon Muhammad (PBUH) and told him that there was in fact only one God and His name was Allah (SWT). Muhammad (PBUH) was a merchant and could not read or write, but the Angel Jibril instructed him to recite the words of Allah (SWT). Muhammad (PBUH) was able to recite what the Angel Jibril was relaying to him, and after reciting the first passages of what would later go on to be the Qur’an, Muhammad (PBUH) found the teachings to be profound. He confided in his wife following the encounter and she supported him unwaveringly.
This night is now called Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Power, and is believed to have fallen on the 27th night of the ninth lunar month. However, some scholars argue this point, stating that this could have fallen on any of the odd-numbered nights over the last 10 days of Ramadan.
Over time, Muhammad (PBUH) started receiving more messages from Allah (SWT) through the Angel Jibril. He began sharing some of the teachings he was being told and attracted a small following, but Arabia was still predominantly polytheistic and many people became angry at Muhammad (PBUH), because they thought pagan gods protected their trade and were afraid of what might happen to their livelihoods should they believe in Muhammad’s (PBUH) monotheistic teachings.
For the most part, although many people did not agree with Muhammad (PBUH), his wife’s societal standing protected him from persecution, but when she died in 619 A.D. and his uncle, Banu Hashim clan chief Abu Talib, died that same year (the year of sorrow), he became vulnerable to attacks. He and his followers faced physical assaults and, as a consequence, had no choice but to move to Medina. The move is known as Hegira and happened in 622 A.D.
Muhammad (PBUH) was invited to Medina by city leaders in an attempt to bridge the differences between different clans living in Medina, mainly the Arab and Jewish. Muhammad (PBUH) was brought in to offer advice and delegation as a neutral outsider. In exchange for his adjudication duties, Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers were afforded the freedom to practice their religion and be protected.
Return to Mecca
In 628 A.D., Muhammad (PBUH) returned to Mecca. On his way, he was intercepted by the Quraysh, but they agreed to a treaty called the Hudaybiyyah treaty. This meant the Quraysh recognised and respected Muhammad (PBUH) and the religion of Islam, and as such agreed that followers of Islam would not face persecution and would be treated as equal.
The Evolution of Islam
Up until his death in 632 A.D., Muhammad (PBUH) continued to be visited by the Angel Jibril who shared more of Allah’s (SWT) teachings. Five core practices make up the basis of the religion of Islam, and they are:
- Shahada – the act of declaring your devotion and belief in Allah (SWT) and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
- Salat – the act of praying five times a day
- Zakat – the act of giving charity
- Sawm – the act of fasting during the sacred month of Ramadan
- Hajj – the act of undertaking the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once
There are now various different sects within the religion of Islam that follow different trains of thought, but all of them are based on the five pillars set out by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and the teachings he and the other 24 prophets shared.
Since 610 A.D., Islam has grown and is now the second most popular religion in the world. Muslims live in all corners of the globe and are widely respected by people of all other faiths and cultures.