Islam is an Arabic word which translates as “submission or surrender of one’s will to the only true god worthy of worship ‘Allah’. ” All those who do are called Muslims. According to Muslims, Islam is Allah’s true religion. They contend that Islam was the religion which Allah gave to the first man, Adam, who was also Allah’s first prophet. Muslims further state that “Islam” likewise denotes “peace” which, according to them, is the only consequence after an individual totally submits to Allah’s will (Philips, n.d. ).
Allah, on the other hand, is the Arabic word for “the One True God” (Robinson, 2007). Although the Qur’an, the sacred text of Islam, was only revealed to their Prophet Muhammad more than five centuries after the death of Christ, Muslims nevertheless insist that their religion was the original monotheistic religion. According to them, it is true that the Qur’an was divulged to Muhammad through a series of revelations which started only in 610 CE in a cave in Mount Hira, Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
However, the revelation of the Qur’an, Muslims maintain, marked only the renaissance of a religion which had the misfortune of sinking into insignificance and obscurity when the people of Mecca rejected the monotheism which was earlier preached by Abraham. Since the first revelation in Mount Hira, Islam has rapidly grown, becoming the second largest religious denomination next only to Christianity, claiming a following of almost twenty percent of the population of the world.
The Muslims not only claim that Islam was the original monotheistic religion but that it also provided the foundations from which Judaism and Christianity developed (Fisher, 2005). So, while Allah is the center of Islam, Adam its first prophet, and Abraham the head of the tribe from which Muhammad traced his lineage, all Muslims believe that Muhammad was destined as Allah’s messenger and instrument for the resurgence of their religion. As a matter of fact, it was told that a Christian monk once noticed several marks on Muhammad’s body when he was only a teenager.
The marks, according to the monk, were an indication that Muhammad was born to be a prophet and a messenger. The story of his life is considered very important to all Muslims because he serves as their role model. For this reason, his life, including his sayings which were collectively called Sunnah, were carefully preserved in Hadith. Although Hadith, as a form of literature was not properly authenticated, it is widely referred to by Muslims for the lessons that it provides (Fisher, 2005).
Muhammad Muhammad, whose name was taken from the Arabic word hamada which means “to praise, to glorify,” was born in Mecca, Western Arabia, in 570 CE to Abd bin Al-Muttalib and Amina bint Wahb. His parents were believed to be descendants of Abraham and Hagar, the Egyptian slave who mothered Abraham’s son, Ishmael. The story goes that Abraham fled to Mecca with Hagar and Ishmael after his wife, Sarah, also gave birth to a baby boy (Isaac) and became extremely jealous of Hagar and Ishmael.
It was with the assistance of Ishmael that Abraham later built the Ka’bah, Islam’s holiest sanctuary, in Mecca. It is now the destination of pilgrims during the hajj (Fisher. 2005). Muhammad married at the age of twenty-five to Khadijah, a forty-year-old businesswoman who owned the caravans which he was managing at the time. His wife later became his main source of support when he was experiencing difficulties during the early years of his mission. Muhammad recounted an incident which happened when he was forty years old.
As his story went, an angel appeared to him when he was in a cave in Mt. Hira during one of his spiritual retreats and told him to recite something. Because he was illiterate, he reportedly refused three times. However, the angel insisted and when Muhammad, at last, relented, the angel gave him the words that would later become the Qur’an’s first words. That was the first of a series of revelations, the exact words of which had been. That first revelation undoubtedly referred to the creation. It was followed by more revelations which occurred intermittently.
Muhammad described the revelations as follows: “Revelation sometimes comes like the sound of a bell; that is the most painful way. When it ceases I have remembered what was said. Sometimes it is an angel who talks to me like a human, and I remember what he says. ” Initially, Muhammad only shared what was revealed to him with his wife and the few people who believed him. However, after three years had elapsed, he was instructed to start preaching to the public what he had received from the revelations (Fisher, 2005).