The Man from Mecca: The Origins of Islam
The Arabic word Islam means submission, and its root comes from the word salam, meaning peace. Along with Judaism and Christianity, Islam is one of the world’s great monotheistic (belief in one God) religions. Its uncompromising monotheism is demonstrated in the profession of faith, “There is no God but God, and Mohammed is the prophet of God.” From a once-undefined land, Mohammed established a culture and religion that today claim one-fifth of the world’s population. Islam is not solely a religion but is also a way of life that has bridged diverse cultural and artistic traditions since its origins.
The Islamic religion began historically with the birth of the Prophet Mohammed in Mecca, now Saudi Arabia, in A.D. 570. Muslims, or followers of Islam, believe that Islam dates back to the creation of the world, before Mohammed was born. They believe that God sent prophets, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Jesus, to summon people away from rebellion and sin. Muslims believe that Mohammed was the last of the prophets sent by God, making it his role to establish and clarify the faith.
Mohammed was born to an average family of the Quraysh tribe, during economic hardship, political deadlock, violence, polytheism, and paganism. After the death of his parents when he was quite young, his uncle willingly adopted him. He became known and respected early on as a modest, simple young man who worked as an honest trader. He was sensitive to human suffering and always willing to help those in need. When he was 25, a rich widow proposed to marry him. After the wedding, he began spending much of his time in meditation and prayer on Mount Hira, just outside Mecca, constantly wondering about creation and the phenomena of nature. He had always believed that there was some greater power governing the world.