A Brief History of Islam

Islam’s history

Muhammad wanted to change society

Muhammad was born around 570 AD. It is hard to know more precisely because the sources of history at this time are not entirely reliable. He became orphaned early and began to work as a caravan driver during his youth. At the age of 25, he married his first wife, Khadidja. She was widow, very wealthy, and owner of a “caravan fleet”.

Khadidiah came to be of great importance to Islam’s origin. It was for her as Muhammad first told of her revelations. She gave Muhammad her full support in his new role as the prophet of God. Muhammad was about 40 years old when appeared for the first time in the city of Mecca.

His intention was to reform the ancient Arab religion (as Jesus in his day had wanted to change Judaism). Muhammad’s message was based on revelations that had been sent to him from God via the Archangel Gabriel.

He then felt a great call after becoming a prophet when he wanted to complete all previous revelations sent from God to other prophets (like Moses and Jesus), which formed the foundation of Judaism and Christianity. Muhammad was convinced that he was the last prophet of God. He had received a new and definitive message from God, which must now be spread to all the people.

Excesses of the Merchants

In Muhammad’s time, there was great concern in the city of Mekka, on the Arabian peninsula. The community that had previously been there, the tribal communities, were falling apart.

The trade had grown larger with Syria and Yemen , which resulted in large, powerful businessmen based there. The rich businessman became something of an ideal and example that more and more wanted to imitate.

These businessmen often acted entirely in their own interests, which resulted in the least successful of society being cast aside. It was among these social and economic classes that Muhammad sought supporters. Muhammad offered them a community, a new foundation – Islam – which required generosity and consideration for all fellow human beings.

Learn more about how Islam appeared in the introduction text to the section>

Muhammad advocated monotheism and generosity

There is only one God. Allah is the only God, all other gods are idols. Allah is the Creator and the one who gave life to creation. He is also the almighty judge, which man must be very aware of. Gratitude and empathy are the chief of human virtues, greed is a considered a sin.

This did not meet with unprecedented joy in the Mekka trading city. It was believed by the rulers of the city that revenues from the temples would fall, if there was now only one god. And that this would affect their profits.

In Mecca there were a number of temples for different gods and goddesses at that time. Muhammad’s talk that of the one and only one god made many merchants worried because most of the city’s revenues came largely from pilgrims who visited the temple of the city to pray to their gods. Even the demands of generosity and compassion provoked a backlash from the rich inhabitants of Mecca.

The Rise of Islam

After the rulers in Mecca persecuted and threatened Muhammad for a long time, he fled from his hometown to the neighboring town of Medina. This happened in the year 622 and has become a very important year for all Muslims since the flight to Medina was the starting year for Islam’s beginnings.

In Medina, it was easier for Muhammad and his supporters to realize their ideas. Here Muhammad founded the first Muslim assembly and established an Islamic society. In 630, Muhammad was at the forefront of a major Muslim army against Mecca. Mecca was subsequently conquered almost without too much controversy.

When Muhammad took the city, he cleansed the temple area from God’s images. The Kaaba and temple area were then transformed into Muslims most holiest site and the prime place for pilgrimage. Mekka’s residents now joined the Prophet’s followers.  Both the Hajj and the Umrah are performed around the Kaaba and form the basis of the rites performed by all pilgrims today.


In 632, Muhammad conducted a carefully planned pilgrimage to Mecca. Shortly afterwards, in 632, Muhammad passes away. According to tradition, Muhammad rose to heaven on a horse from a cliff in Jerusalem . There is now the Rock Mosque.

By his death in 632, Muhammad had managed to unite the entire Arabian Peninsula into a single kingdom based on the new religion.

Important Islamic Words

  • Prophet: Person who comes with message from God. Islam’s most important profit is called Muhammad.
  • Allah: The Arab Name of God.
  • Monotheism: Faith on a god (mono = a | teos = god).
  • Pilgrim: A person who performs a holy journey. A pilgrim has both an inner and outer goal with its migration. Pilgrims can increase self-awareness, feeling peace and feeling God’s presence. The outer target is the geographical location where the trip ends.
  • Pilgrimage: Visit a holy place to fulfill a religious duty, to pray and receive a blessing.
  • Mecca or Mekka : The holy place of Islam (a city located in the present Saudi Arabia
  • Kaaba: A sacred building in Mecca, located in al-Masjid al-Haram mosque.
  • Medina or Madinah: The first city that went to Islam. Muhammad lived there a large part of his life.
  • Ramadan: the nieth month in the Islamic calendar when a person refrains from food, drink, etc; from dawn to sunset.
  • Sunni: The main focus in Islam. Elected Abu Bakr as heir to Muhammad. Their leaders are called kalif. Read more about sunni
  • Shia: A smaller grouping of Muslims so called because they chose to follow Ali ibn Abi Talib (Muhammad’s cousin) as Muhammad’s succesor. Read more about shia
  • Caliph: Sunni spiritual and worldly leader.
  • Hajj: The important Islamic Pilgrimage to Mekka and must be carried out at least by every Muslim if they are fit and financially able. further reading
  • Umrah: Is a similar pilgrimage to the Hajj, although not obligatory but can be carried at all year round. further reading