The Islamic Empire (and its religion) all began with a man named Mohammed. Mohammed’s early upbringing gave no indication whatsoever as to the great man he would become. He was orphaned at an early age and brought up by his uncle. He was illiterate and nothing special in his demeanor. Later on he married a wealthy widow and became a high class merchant.
One day Mohammed was meditating in a small cave outside his home in Mecca, when he heard a heavenly voice talking to him. It was the Angel Gabriel, come to tell him of his mission. Gabriel told him to read and a fiery scroll appeared in front of Mohammed’s face, and that illiterate man read it. Gabriel told him that he needed to go out and preach the word of Allah (God) to the people. Then he vanished in a cloud of dazzling white.
Mohammed, excited to the point of madness, ran all the way home to tell him family what had happened. They believed him.
Mohammed started preaching to the people, at first unsure, then growing more confident. A few believed him, but most didn’t. Mohammed’s ideas were not in the favor of the wealthy rulers of the city. And so, because they were afraid for their wealth and reputation, they persecuted him. He fled to the nearby city of Medina, which welcomed him and his close friend Abu Bakr with open arms. The Muslims start their calendar year from this point.
The Medinans were overjoyed to have Mohammed in their city. They sampled his teachings and they liked them so much that they made him the leader of the city. He had many converts and these were the start of what we know as Muslims.
With his new power, Mohammed marched on Mecca and conquered it, immediately making it a Muslim city. When the campaign was over, Mohammed gave what we now call the ‘Farewell Sermon.’ Although he did not know it at the time, it would be his last. He became ill, and died not long after.
The Caliphs, or religious rulers, after Mohammed were called the Rashiduns. They were, in order, Abu Bakr, the friend who had fled with Mohammed to Mecca, Umar, Uthman and Ali. With Ali, the people divided themselves in their beliefs, and out of this were born three sects—Sunni, Shia and Sufi. The Sufi are famous for their unending twirling dance.
After Ali the Umayyad dynasty was established. This dynasty ruled over the now huge Islamic Empire at its peak.
Then the Abbasids came to power. They kept it for 500 years, until the Ottoman Turks took over most of the empire.
There are five pillars in Islam, which every devout believer is supposed to follow:
- Fast of Ramadan
Jihad is an Islamic word meaning ‘holy war.’ This war, according to Muslims, can be inner or outer.
I personally am a fan of the original Islam. Mohammed now watches, from heaven, over his flock of Muslim sheep.