A very brief history of Muhammad and Islam

Muhammad: Among Muslims, imagery of Muhammad is widely considered idolatry. Credit: Conservapedia.

Muhammad: Among Muslims, imagery of Muhammad is widely considered idolatry. Credit: Conservapedia.

Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib was born in Mecca April 20, 570 AD and died in 632 AD. His youth was marked by poverty and rejection.  His father died soon after he was born. His mother gave him up for adoption at the age of 2 years old. His foster-mother raised him in the highlands south-east of Mecca, in a poor shepherd’s family.  Muhammad started having visions and fits at age 5.  The shepherds that he lived with were afraid he was possessed by the devil and returned him to his mother.  Some medical experts today believe he had epilepsy.  Orphaned at age 6. At age 8 he was cared for by an uncle, who hired him out as a shepherd and at age 10 as a guard and caravan camel driver.  He was probably illiterate.

Age 25: Married his first wife Khadija, a 40-year-old wealthy older widow.

Age 40: Received his first revelation. Khadija and a cousin of hers became his first disciples.

Mohammed_receiving_revelation_from_the_angel_Gabriel

A depiction of Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel. From the manuscript Jami’ al-tawarikh by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, 1307, Ilkhanate period. Credit: Wikimedia commons

Co-opts the moon-god Allah.  By picking, for the god of Islam, the name of the moon-god Allah, particularly revered by Muhammad’s own tribe, the Quraysh, Muhammad helped assure the early success of Islam by avoiding any too radical innovations.

Meccan establishment turns against him when he speaks out against idol worship.  Four years later, after additional visitations by angels, he started proselytizing in the streets of Mecca.  When he spoke out against worshipping idols he was almost lynched by a mob.

Muhammad Had To Flee

Flight to Medina in 622 AD: “Hijra” (Hejira). He negotiated with the city of Medina about taking him and his followers in. In 622 AD, the beginning of the Muslim calendar, the famous flight from Mecca to Medina took place– the “Hijra”, the breaking of bonds. He soon reigned in Medina like a king, and consolidated his power there as a base for future operations.

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The Kaaba or kabah (Arabic: الكعبة‎‎ al-Kaʿbah IPA: [alˈkaʕba], “The Cube”, in Mecca, which muslims make a pilgrimage to, once in their lives, in remembrance of Muhammad’s flight to Medina. It is where Muhammad threw out many idols and retained one only to the moon-god. The cube houses a black meteorite which muslim tradition says fell from their god.

Marriage to Ayesha at age 6. He took several wives (at least 9), one of them Aisha, whom he married when she was 6, and with whom he consummated the marriage when she was 9 years old and he was 54. This still serves as authority for arranged marriages with children and 9 years as the age of the girl at which the marriage may be consummated. This is still practiced today. See Sex in Islam.

Wooing of the Jews.  Muhammad initially wooed the Jews in Medina, granting them equal rights and even instructing his own followers to pray three times daily, according to the Jewish custom, and to face Jerusalem during prayers.  After some time, however, he realized that the Jews would never accept him as the Messiah.  From this time date the revelations that Muslims have to face toward Mecca to pray, and not Jerusalem, and that it was right and proper for the faithful to kill the infidel.

The beginning of the Years of the Sword.  Muhammad orders his followers to raid Meccan caravans, killing the guards and plundering the merchandise, even during the traditional holy month where fighting was forbidden. Plunder became a major source of income, and amongst radical jihadists today it still is.

Paradise Lies Beneath The Shadow Of Swords

One of the hadith (narrations about the life of the prophet, an authoritative source in Islam second only to the Quran) reads “Know that paradise lies beneath the shadow of swords”.  Probably alluding to this, Osama Bin Laden in a 2006 tape said: “Dying under the shade of the swords is the best that we wish for”.images

“I will cast terror into the hearts of the infidels!  Strike off their heads” (Quran 8:12).

After his forces’ first victory against Mecca in the battle of Badr, Muhammad received the revelations known as “The Spoils of War” (Sura 8), which commands the beheading of infidels and the killing of prisoners.  Several prisoners taken at Badr were killed after surrendering.

Battles, raids and caravan plundering

Massacre of the Bani Quraiza.  Muhammad started turning against the Jews, many of whom also happened to be very wealthy.  One Jewish tribe (Bani al-Nadir) was lucky and was allowed to emigrate, just leaving all their wealth behind.  But when another, the Bani Quraiza, surrendered after having been starved out of their fortress, every one of the men was beheaded in front of Muhammad. The women and children were sold into slavery.

Treaty of Hudaibiyah with Mecca.  In 627 Muhammad marched on Mecca at the head of a large army.  The Meccans met him half-way, and a 10-year truce, the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, was agreed to without fighting.  The truce allowed his followers to enter Mecca for pilgrimages.  This truce serves as background when those like Osama bin Laden offer a truce to the Europeans or to the US. To their followers it is not a sign of weakness but a truce offered from a position of strength, to gain time to regroup; a precursor to final victory.

Mecca falls, despite the truce.  Only two years into the 10-year truth, in 629, Muhammad’s army, strengthened by all its other victories, marched on Mecca and easily took the city.  This highlights an important element of a truce or “peace treaty” between Muslims and infidels – regardless of the terms, under Islam it is appropriate for the Muslims to resume hostilities whenever conditions are favorable for victory.

In 632 Muhammad dies at age 62.

The First Caliphs

Muhammad succeeded by his father-in-law Abu Bakr. Muhammad’s lack of a male offspring and his failure to nominate a successor had the foreseeable consequences.  When his old business partner Abu Bakr took power, tribes around Arabia revolted, resulting in two years of civil war. Abu Bakr ruled only two years.  He apparently died of natural causes, a fate not to be granted to his successors.

Second caliph Umar, another father in law, assassinated in 644.

Third caliph Uthman, a son-in-law, assassinated in 656.

Fourth caliph Ali, another son-in-law, assassinated in 661.

The first four are called the Righteous Caliphs (al-khulafa al-rashidun). They are considered to be the only caliphs who preserved the true tradition of Muhammad; all four were related to Muhammad (the daughters of Abu Bakr and Umar were married to Muhammad, and three of Muhammad’s daughters were married to Uthman and Ali).

The violence in the governance of the early Muslim state provides a preview of the supremacy of the sword in the spread of Islam and its rule. It also gives a picture of what government under an Islamic Caliph today might be like.

The Spread of Islam

  • Islam was spread by the sword, not conversion
  • 637: Jerusalem falls
  • 641: Alexandria falls
  • 677: Siege of Constantinople; Islam reaches from Tunisia to Afghanistan
  • 711: Spain falls
  • 846: Rome sacked

Islam Checked

718: Saracens repulsed at second siege of Constantinople.  Constantinople did fall to the Muslim Turks in 1453, but by that time Europe was strong enough so that the Muslim advance could be stopped at the gates of Vienna 76 years later.

732: Charles Martel defeats Muslim army at Poitiers in central France.  Edward Gibbon wrote that if ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi had won the battle of Poitiers, today there would be minarets rather than church spires over Oxford.

1529 and 1683: Turks besiege Vienna but fail to take it. The most important point about this brief history is that Islam spread by the sword, and its spread was stopped by the sword.  It never spread peacefully, like the other great religions, such as Christianity and Buddhism, did in their early days.

Maps of the spread of Islam

The following maps show the progressive spread of Islam starting in the Middle East but eventually reaching as far as Indonesia and south-east Africa’

600 ADMap 600AD 2

900 ADMap 900AD 2

1500 ADMap 1500 AD 2

Europe’s deciding battle

The Battle of Tours (10 October 732)— also called the Battle of Poitiers and, by Arab sources, the Battle of the Palace of the Martyrs (Arabic: معركة بلاط الشهداء)‎‎— was fought in an area between the cities of Poitiers and Tours, in north-central France, near the village of Moussais-la-Bataille, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Poitiers. The battle pitted Frankish and Burgundian forces under Charles Martel against an army of the Umayyad Caliphate led by ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, Governor-General of al-Andalus.
The Franks were victorious. ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi was killed, and Charles Martel subsequently extended his authority in the south. By the 17th century the might of Islam was stopped.

The following sculpture illustrates the eventual triumph of Christianity over Islam.

Christianity over Islam

These two photographs were taken in the Church of Our Lady in Dendermonde, Flanders (Belgium). They show the late 17th century pulpit, sculpted in wood by Mattheus van Beveren.  The person subdued by the angels and having a Quran in his hands is generally thought to be Mohammed. The sculpture represents the triumph of Christianity over Islam.

Islam in our society today

IslamDominateSignBeard-vi

Not a pretty picture or thought to contemplate

Considering what we are facing today, with again the rise of terrorism from fundamentalist radical Islamic agents in every Western country, I believe our sovereign God is using them and will use them to achieve His own ends–His own prescriptive will. And that is, ultimately, to bring people to know Christ. Anecdotally it is said that churches in Germany cannot meet the demands put on them by migrants enquiring about Christianity. Those churches are largely dead, so it is not easy to imagine how they could reasonably respond.

What I now believe is that in Western countries, where Islam begins to flex its muscles, people will look to God for their true salvation. Many may die though before their Western Governments, which seem to be asleep at the wheel, wake up and do anything about it. And perhaps they won’t wake up but God will get what He has planned and that is to bring people to their knees, to pray for their eternal redemption. God has His own way of getting our attention.

Recommended Reading

About John Gideon Hartnett

Dr John G. Hartnett is an Australian physicist and cosmologist, and a Christian with a biblical creationist worldview. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) and Ph.D. (with distinction) in Physics from The University of Western Australia, W.A., Australia. He was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA) fellow at the University of Adelaide, with rank of Associate Professor. Now he is retired. He has published more than 200 papers in scientific journals, book chapters and conference proceedings.
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