Building upon the beliefs Judaism, Christianity (“the people of the book”) and local Arabian religion, Muhammad became the prophet of a new faith, Islam.  After ultimately overcoming the opposition of his fellow Arabs in Mecca, Muhammad focused the energies of the Arabs into a religious movement destined to conquer the Middle East, northern India, North Africa, and Spain.


Allah:  The one Almighty God of Islam.  Has no sons/children.


*Muhammad (c. 570-632):  The founding prophet of Islam.  Born poor, his father died before his birth, his mother when he was about six.  Worked as a trader/caravan driver, married an older wife, Khadija.  After he started reciting revelations, his fellow

Meccans drove him from his native city, and attempted to destroy the Islamic religion.  Fled to Medina (the Hegira/Hijra, A.D. 622).  After various battles over the years, eventually takes Mecca in A.D. 630.  His recitations became the *Quran (Koran), Islam’s sacred scriptures.  Hadith:  recorded sayings of the prophet.


The Five pillars of Islam:


1.      Shahadah:  “basic creed”:  “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”  A convert saying this becomes a Muslim immediately.

2.      Five prayers daily (dawn, midday, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall).

3.      Giving to the poor (Zakat, 2.5% voluntary tax).

4.      Fasting during the month of Ramadan (no eating or drinking during daylight hours for a lunar month).  Helps remove sins.

5.      Pilgrimage (“hajj”) to Mecca:  If at all financially possible, each Muslim should visit Mecca, the site of the Kaaba (probably an meteorite seen to strike the earth).


Possible sixth pillar:  Jihad, or holy war, to spread the faith.


Special Muslim duties:  Must never drink alcohol or eat pork.

Making graven images/idols especially evil, “Verily, the makers of these pictures will be severely punished on the Day of Judgment.”  Good Muslims should not have more than four wives, “But if you fear that you will act unjustly among them, then marry only one.”  Strong emphasis on right living, good works, helping the poor (especially orphans), avoiding crimes.  Should not take interest/usury on loans.  Strong emphasis on Day of Judgment, having good works exceed sins in weight.


Caliph:  Successor to the prophet.  Abu Bakr,  Umar, Uthman.  These men lead the expansion of Islam into a world empire and (ultimately) under the Umayyads (A.D. 661-750) and Abbasids (750-1258), a civilization of much higher culture and learning than then-contemporary Medieval Europe.


Sunnis:  Believe the successor to the Prophet should be elected/chosen by consensus of Muslim community.  Recognized the above Caliphs, unlike the . . .


Shiites:  Believe the successor to the Prophet should be of family descent from Muhammad, particularly through the line of Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and adopted son, who Muhammad’s daughter Fatima married.  Ali was opposed by Aishah, one of Muhammad’s later wives, and his favorite.  The twelve Imams:  Last one in 873 disappeared into a cave, will return as Savior (“Mahdi”). 


Islam’s relative degree of religious tolerance:  Conquered “People of the Book,” Jews and Christians, had to pay a (discriminatory) special tax, had own self-administered villages (“millets”).  Dhimmis endured second class citizenship.